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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

The Mirror of Relationship

Ommen Camp, Holland
1st Public Talk 25th July, 1936

Friends, I am very glad to see you all here after many years, and I hope this Camp will be of some definite help to each one of you. I hope too that you will make every possible effort to understand what I shall try to explain, and carry that comprehension into action.

I should like you to consider what I say without prejudice, without those instinctive reactions that hinder clear and true thinking.

We are not as yet a select body of people who are outside this conflicting world. We are part of it, with its confusion, misery, uncertainty, with its opposing political groups, with its racial and national hatreds, with its wars and cruelties. We are not, as yet, a separate group, nor are we definitely active individuals who, with deep comprehension, are against this present civilization. We are here to understand for ourselves that process of consciousness focussed in each individual, and, in so doing, we shall inevitably put away the false values that have become guiding principles throughout the world.

Though you as an individual belonging to a certain class or nation and holding certain beliefs may not be involved in these hatreds and conflicts - you may have by some misfortune protected yourself with different forms of security - yet you must have a definite attitude towards this civilization with its political, social, aesthetic and religious activities. This attitude leading to action must be the comprehension of the process of individual consciousness.

The emphasis on the comprehension of individual consciousness is not to be taken as a further encouragement of self-centredness and the narrowing down of comprehensive action. It is only through understanding the process of individual consciousness that there can be spontaneous and true action, without creating or further increasing sorrow and conflict. Please try to understand this point fully. When I talk about individual consciousness I do not mean that process of introspection and self-analysis which gradually limits all activity. To bring about the plenitude of action there must be the comprehension of the process of individuality. I am not concerned with individual or collective progress or with mass activity, but only with right comprehension which will bring about right attitude and action towards work, towards the neighbour, towards the whole of society. So we must deeply comprehend the process of individuality with its consciousness. We must be able to discern in ourselves comprehensively the influence of the mass through traditions, racial prejudices, ideals and beliefs to which we have sur- rendered ourselves, consciously or unconsciously. As long as these dominate us, we, as individuals, are not capable of clear, direct, simple and comprehensive action. So my emphasis on individuality is not to be mistaken as an encouragement to selfish self-expression, nor is it to be understood as a collective acquiescence in an idea or a principle. It is not to be used as an excuse for subjugating oneself to a group of people or to a set of leaders. It is to bring about the right comprehension of the process of individual consciousness, which alone can give rise to spontaneous and true action.

To understand this process of individuality there must be the urge to know, not to speculate, not to dream.

This comprehension of the process of individuality is not to be confounded with the acceptance of beliefs or of faith, or the giving of oneself over to logical conclusions and definitions. To know really, there must be no inclination to be satisfied by the immediate superficial solution of problems. Many people think that by mere economic rearrangement, most human problems will be solved. Or again, many are easily satisfied with the explanations concerning the hereafter, or with the belief in reincarnation, and so on. But this is not knowledge, this is not comprehension, this is merely a dope that satisfies and dulls the sorrowing mind-heart. To know, to comprehend, there must be will, there must be persistence, there must be a continual and essential curiosity.

So, then, what is individuality? Please understand that I am not laying emphasis on egotism, or on your getting rid of it. But when you understand for yourself the process of the "I", then there is a possibility of bringing it to an end. To comprehend this process you must begin fundamentally. Is the so-called soul real or an illusion, is it unique? Does it exist apart and exert its influence over the physiological or psychological being? Shall we, by studying the tissues and organic fluids, know what is thought, what is mind, what is that consciousness which is hidden in living matter? By studying his sociological behaviour shall we know what man is? Economists and physicists have left all this aside, and we, as individuals, we who are suffering, must go into this question deeply and sincerely. As we are dealing with ourselves we need great persistence, right effort and patience to comprehend ourselves. Physicists, economists, sociologists may give us theories, systems and techniques, but we ourselves have to make the right effort to understand the process of our consciousness, to penetrate through the many illusions to reality.

Philosophers have given out certain theories and concepts regarding consciousness and individuality. There are many conflicting views, beliefs and assertions concerning reality. Each one of us through introspection and observation realizes that there is a living reality concealed in matter, but it plays very little part in our daily life. It is denied in our activities, in our everyday conduct. Because we have built up a series of walls of self-protective memories, it has become almost impossible to know what is the real. As I said, there are many beliefs, many theories, many assertions about individuality, its processes, its consciousness and its continuity, and the choice of what is true among these varied opinions and beliefs is left to you. Choice is left to those who are not utterly in subjugation to the authority of tradition, belief, or ideal, and to those who have not committed themselves intellectually or emotionally to faith.

How can you choose what is true among these contradictions? Is the comprehension of truth a question of choice involving the study of various theories, arguments and logical conclusions which demand only intellectual effort? Will this way lead us anywhere? perhaps to intellectual argumentation; but a man who is suffering desires to know, and to him concepts and theories are utterly useless. Or is there another way, a choiceless perception? It is absolutely essential for our well-being, for our action and fulfilment, to understand what is individuality. You go to religious leaders, psychologists, and perhaps to scientists, and study and experiment with their theories and conclusions. You may go from one specialist to another, trying, according to your pleasure, their methods, but suffering still continues. What is one to do?

Action is vital, but not opinions and logical conclusions. You as individuals have to comprehend the process of consciousness through direct, choiceless discernment. The authority of ideal and of desire prevents and perverts true discernment. When there is want, when the mind is caught up in opposites, there cannot be discernment. Psychological reactions prevent true discernment. If we depend on choice, on the conflict of opposites, we shall ever create a duality in our actions, thus engendering sorrow.

So we have to discern for ourselves truth, through choiceless life or action. Discernment alone can end this self-poisoning process of suffering that is going on through the action of limitation.

Now to discern truth thought must be unbiased, mind must be without want, choiceless. If you observe yourself in action you will see that your want, through the background of tradition, false values and self-protective memories, renews each moment the "I" process which impedes true discernment.

So there must be deep, choiceless perception to comprehend the process of consciousness. Such a necessity arises only when there is suffering. To discover the cause of suffering, mind must be acute, pliable, choiceless, not dulled by want nor subdued by theories. If there is no discernment of the process of individual consciousness, then action will ever create confusion, limitation, and so bring about suffering and conflict. As long as we are in this process, our inquiry should be concerned with the cause. But unfortunately most of us are seeking remedies. The comprehension of the cause of suffering brings about a choiceless change of will in the plenitude of our being. Then experience without its accumulative memories which impede comprehension and action, has deep significance.

So true experience leads to the discernment of the process of consciousness which is individuality, and cannot intensify the individual consciousness. To discern deeply the cause of suffering you cannot separate yourself from the world, from life, and contemplate consciousness apart, for only in the very process of living can you comprehend consciousness.

This deep discernment of choiceless life implies great alertness and right effort. I am going to explain what to me is consciousness from which arises individuality, but please bear this in mind, that it is not an actuality to you, it can only be a theory. To know its actuality your mind must be capable of discernment, of choiceless perception, free from the craving for comfort and security. It is not enough to be merely logical. You will know whether what I say is true only through your own experience, and to experience, the mind must be free of self-created barriers. It is most difficult to be vulnerable, so that the movement of life can be comprehended with a sensitive mind, able to discern that which is enduring and true. To understand the process of individuality you require great intelligence and not the intervention of intellect. To awaken that intelligence there must be the deep urge to know but not to speculate.

Please bear in mind that what to me is a certainty, a fact, must be to you a theory, and the mere repetition of my words does not constitute your knowledge and actuality; it can be but an hypothesis, nothing more. Only through experimentation and action can you discern for yourself its reality. Then it is of no person, neither yours nor mine.

Now, all life is energy; it is conditioning and conditioned, and this energy in its self-acting development creates its own material, the body with its cells and sensation, perception, discrimination and consciousness. Both energy and forms of energy are ever intermingling, and this makes consciousness appear conceptual as well as actual. Individual consciousness is the result of ignorance, tendency, want, craving. This ignorance is without a beginning, and is compounded with energy, which in its self-acting development is unique, and this is what gives uniqueness to individuality.

Ignorance has no beginning but it can be brought to an end. The very comprehension that ignorance is self-sustaining brings that process to an end. That is, you observe how through your own activities you are sustaining ignorance, how through craving, which engenders fear, ignorance is maintained, and how this gives continuity to the "I" process, to consciousness. This ignorance, this "I" process, is maintaining itself through its own volitional activities born of want, craving. With the cessation of self-nourishment the "I" process comes to an end. You will ask me: Can I live at all without want? In the lives of most people, want, craving, plays a tremendous part; their whole existence is the vigorous process of want, and so they cannot imagine life, its richness and beauty, its relationship and conduct, without want. When you begin to discern, through experimentation, how action born of want creates its own limitation, then there is a change of will. Till then there is only a change in will. It is the self-sustaining activity of ignorance that gives to consciousness continuity, ever reforming itself. The fundamental change of will is intelligence.