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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)


We have talked about the complex problem of existence, about the forming of images in our relationships with each other and the images which thought projects and which we worship. We have talked about fear, pleasure and the ending of sorrow and the question of what love is, apart from all the travail that is involved in so-called love. We have talked about compassion with its intelligence and about death. We ought now to talk about religion.

Many intellectuals, throughout the world, shy away from the subject of religion. They see what religions are in the present world, with their beliefs, dogmas, rituals and the hierarchical set-up of their established existence; and they rather scoff at and run away from anything to do with religion. And as they age and come near to that threshold called death, they often revert to their old conditioning: they become Catholics or pursue some guru in India or japan. Religion throughout the world has lost its credibility and no longer has any significance in daily life. The more you examine, the more you are aware of the whole content of all the religious structures, the more sceptical you become about the whole business and like the intellectuals, you have nothing to do with them. And those who are not sceptical, treat religions romantically, emotionally, or as a form of entertainment.

If one puts aside the intellectual, the romantic and sentimental attitudes towards religions, one can then begin to ask, not with any naivety, but with seriousness: what is religion? - not looking for the mere meaning of that word, but deeply. Man, from ancient times, has always thought that there must be something beyond ordinary daily life, the ordinary misery, confusion and conflict of daily life. In his search he has invented aU kinds of philosophies, created all kinds of images - from those of the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Hindus to modern times - always getting caught apparently in some kind of delusion. He deludes himself and out of those delusions he creates all kinds of activities. If one could brush all that aside, not hypnotizing oneself, being free from illusion, then one can begin to examine, enquire very profoundly if there is something beyond all the contagion of thought, all the corruption of time, if there is something beyond one's usual existence in space and time and if there is any path to it, or no path, and how the mind can reach it, or come to it. If one asks that of oneself then how shall one set about it? Is any kind of preparation necessary - discipline, sacrifice, control, a certain period of preparation and then advance?

First of all it is important to understand that one should be free of all illusions. So, what creates illusions? Is it not the desire to reach something, to experience something out of the ordinary - extrasensory perception, visions, spiritual exPeriences? One must be very clear as to the nature of desire and understand the movement of desire, which is thought with its image and also have no motive in one's enquiry. It may seem very difficult to have no intention, to have no sense of direction so that the brain is free to enquire. There must be order in one's house, in one's existence, in one's relationships, in one's activity. Without order, which is freedom, there can be no virtue. Virtue, righteousness, is not something that is intellectually cultivated. Where there is order there is virtue; that order is something that is living, not a routine, a habit.

Secondly: is there something to be learnt? Is there something to be learnt from another? One can learn from another, history, biology, mathematics, physics; the whole complex knowledge of the technological world one can learn from another, from books. Is there something to be learned from psychology about our lives, about that which is eternal? - if there is something eternal. Or is it that there is nothing to learn from another because all the human experience, all the psychological knowledge that humanity has gathered together for millions of years, is within oneself. If that is so, if one's consciousness is that of the whole of mankind then it seems rather absurd, rather naive, to try to learn from somebody else about oneself. It requires complete clarity of observation to learn about ourselves. That is simple. So there is no psychological authority and no spiritual authority, because the whole history of mankind, which is the story of humanity, is in oneself. Therefore there is nothing to exPerience. There is nothing to be learnt from somebody who says: `I know' or, `I will show you the path to truth' - from the priests throughout the world, the interpreters between the highest and the lowest. To learn about, to understand, oneself, all authority must be set aside. Obviously. authority is part of oneself, one is the priest, the disciple, the teacher, one is the experience and one is the ultimate - if one knows how to understand.

There is nothing to be learnt from anybody, including the speaker; especially one must not be influenced by the speaker. One has to be free to enquire very, very deeply, not superficially. One may have done all the superficial enquiry during the last five or fifty years, and have come to the point when one has established order, more or less, in one's life, and as one goes along one may establish greater order, so that one can ask: what is the religious mind which can understand what meditation is?

Within the last fifteen years, that word meditation has become very popular in the West. Before that, only very few, who had been to Asia, enquired into the Eastern forms of meditation. The Asiatics have said that only through meditation can you come to, or understand, that which is the timeless, which has no measure. But during recent years, those who have nothing to do but call themselves gurus, have come over to the West bringing that word. It has become a word that has made meditation seem like a drug. There are also the various systems of meditation - the Tibetan, the Hindu, the Japanese Zen, and so on. These systems have been invented by thought and thought being limited the systems must inevitably be limited. And also they become mechanical, for if you repeat, repeat, your mind naturally goes dull, rather stupid and utterly gullible. It is common sense all this, but there is such eagerness to experience something spiritual, either through drugs, through alcohol, or by following a system of meditation which it is hoped will give some kind of exciting experience; there is such boredom with the daily life of going to the office for the next forty years and at the end of it to die. There is such boredom with the established religions that when somebody comes along with some fantastic notions people fall for them. This is happening; this is not exaggeration, this is not attacking anybody personally but a statement of the nonsense that is going on.

So, if one is sufficiently aware of all this one will have put it aside, for it is utterly meaningless; one does not have to go to India, or Tibet, or to Rome, if one uses common sense and has a critical mind that is questioning what others say and also questioning oneself. It is important to question anything that one considers to be correct, noble, or a real experience and it is essential to maintain a mind that is capable, rational, sane, free from all the illusions and any form of self-hypnosis.

Then what is a human being? The human being has lived on thought; all the architecture, all the music, the things that are inside the churches, the temples and mosques, they are all invented by thought. All our relationships are based on thought, though we say, `I love you', it is still based on the image which thought has created about another. Thought, to the human being, is astonishingly important; and thought itself is limited; its action is to bring about fragmentation - the fragmentation between people - my religion, my country, my god, my belief as opposed to yours, all that is the movement of thought, space and time.

Meditation is the capacity of the brain which is no longer functioning partially - the brain which has freed itself from its conditioning and is therefore functioning as a whole. The meditation of such a brain is different from the mere contemplation of one conditioned as a Christian or a Hindu, whose contemplation is from a background, from a conditioned mind. Contemplation does not free one from conditioning. Meditation demands a great deal of enquiry and becomes extraordinarily serious in order not to function partially. By partially is meant to function in a particular specialization or particular occupation that makes the brain narrow in accepting beliefs, traditions, dogmas and rituals, all of which are invented by thought. The Christians use the word `faith' - faith in god, in providence so that things will come out all right. The Asiatics have their own forms of faith - karma, reincarnation and spiritual evolution. Meditation is different from contemplation in the sense that meditation demands that the brain acts wholly and is no longer conditioned to act partially. That is the requirement for meditation, otherwise it has no meaning.

So the question is: is it possible to live in this world, which demands certain forms of specialization, a skilful mechanic, mathematician, or housewife, yet to be free from specialization? Suppose I am a theoretical physicist and have spent most of my life in mathematical formulation, thinking about it, questioning it, cultivating considerable knowledge about it, so that my brain has become specialized, narrowed down and then I begin to enquire into meditation. Then in my enquiry into meditation I can only partially understand the significance and the depth of it because I am anchored in something else, in the theoretical physics of my profession; anchored there I begin to enquire theoretically whether there is meditation whether there is the timeless; so my enquiry becomes partial again. But I have to live in this world; I am a professor at a university; I have a wife and children, I have that responsibility and perhaps I am also ill; yet I want to enquire very profoundly into the nature of truth, which is part of meditation. So the question is: is it possible to be specialized as a theoretical physicist and yet leave it at a certain level so that my brain (the brain which is the common brain of all humanity) can say: yes, it has that specialized function but that function is not going to interfere?

If I am a carpenter, I know the quality of the wood, the grain, the beauty of the wood and the tools with which to work it. And I see that that is natural and I also see that the brain that has cultivated the speciality cannot possibly understand the wholeness of meditation. If as a carpenter I understand this, the truth of it, that I, as a carpenter have a place, but also that that specialization has no place in the wholeness of comprehension, in the wholeness of understanding meditation, then that specialization becomes a small affair.

So then we begin to ask: what is meditation? First of all, meditation demands attention, which is to give your whole capacity, energy, in observation. Attention is different from concentration. Concentration is an effort made by thought to focus its capacity, its energy, on a particular subject. When you are in school you are trained to concentrate, that is to bring all your energy to a particular point. In concentration you are not allowing any other kind of thoughts to interfere; concentration implies the controlling of thought, not allowing it to wander away but keeping it focused on a particular subject. It is the operation of thought which focuses attention, focuses energy, on that subject. In that operation of thought there is compulsion, control. So in concentration there is the controller and the controlled. Thought is wandering off; thought says it should not wander off, and I bring it back as the controller who says, `I must concentrate on this.' So there is a controller and the controlled. Who is the controller? The controller is part of thought and the controller is the past. The controller says,-I have learnt a great deal and it is important for me, the controller, to control thought.' That is: thought has divided itself as the controller and the controlled; it is a trick that thought is playing upon itself. Now, in attention there is no controller, nor is there the controlled, there is only attention. So a careful examination is required into the nature of concentration with its controller and the controlled. All our life there is this controller - `I must do this, I must not do that, I must control my desires, control my anger, control my impetus.'

We must be very clear in understanding what con- centration is and what attention is. In attention there is no controller. So, is there in daily existence, a way of living in which every form of psychological control ceases to exist? - because control means effort, it means division between the controller and the controlled; I am angry, I must control my anger; I smoke, I must not smoke and I must resist smoking. We are saying there is something totally different and this may be misunderstood and may be rejected altogether because it is very common to say that aIl life is control - if you do not control you will become permissive, nonsensical, without meaning, therefore you must control. Religions, philosophies, teachers, your family, your mother, they all encourage you to control. We have never asked: who is the controller? The controller is put together in the past, the past which is knowledge, which is thought. Thought has separated itself as the controller and the controlled. Concentration is the operation of that. Understanding that, we are asking a much more fundamental question, which is: can one live in this world, with a family and responsibilities, without a shadow of control?

See the beauty of that question. Our brain has been trained for thousands of years to inhibit, to control, and now it is never operating with the wholeness of itself. See for yourself what it is doing; watch your own brain in operation, rationally, critically examining it in a way in which there is no deception or hypnosis. Most of the meditations that have been put forward from the Asiatic world involve control; control thought so that you have a mind that is at peace, that is quiet, that is not eternally chattering. Silence, quietness and the absolute stillness of the mind, the brain, are necessary in order to perceive and to achieve this these forms of meditation, however subtle, have control as their basis. Alternatively you hand yourself over to a guru, or to some ideal and you can forget yourself because you have given yourself over to something and therefore you are at Peace, but again it is the movement of thought, desire and the excitement of attaining something you have been offered.

Attention is not the opposite of concentration. The opposite has its root in its own opposite. If love is the opposite of hate, then love is born out of hate. Attention is not the opposite of concentration, it is totally divorced from it. Does attention need effort? That is one of our principal activities; I must make an effort; I am lazy, I do not want to get up this morning, but I must get up, make an effort. I do not want to do something but I must. See how extraordinary it is that we cannot catch the significance of this immediately. It has to be explained, explained, explained. We seem to be incapable of direct perception of the difference between concentration and attention; unable to have an insight into attention and be attentive.

When does attention take place? Obviously not through effort. When one makes an effort to be attentive, it is an indication that one is inattentive and is trying to make that inattention become attention. But to have quick insight, to see instantly the falseness of all religious organizations, so that one is out of them. To see instantly that the observer is the observed and therefore one makes no effort, it is so. Effort exists when there is division. Does it not indicate that one's brain has become dull because one has been trained, trained, so it has lost its pristine quickness, its capacity to see directly without all the explanations and words, words, words. But unfortunately one has to go into this because one's mind, one's brain, cannot, for example grasp instantly, that truth has no path; it is unable to see the immensity of that statement, the beauty of it and put aside all paths so that one's brain becomes extraordinarily active. One of the difficulties is that one has become mechanical. If one's brain is not extraordinarily alive and active it will gradually wither away. Now one's brain has to think, it has to be active, if only partially, but when the computer can take over all the work and most of the thought, operating with a rapidity which the brain cannot, then the brain is going to wither. This is happening, it is not an exaggerated statement of the speaker, it is happening now and we are unaware of it.

In concentration there is always a centre from which one is acting. When one concentrates one is concentrating for some benefit, for some deep rooted motive; one is observing from a centre. Whereas in attention there is no centre at all. When one looks at something immense - like the mountains with their extraordinary majesty, the line against the blue sky and the beauty of the valley - the beauty of it for a moment drives out the centre; one is for a second stunned by the greatness of it. Beauty is that perception when the centre is not. A child, given a toy, is so absorbed by it that he is no longer mischievous, he is completely with the toy. But he breaks the toy and he is back to himself. Most of us are absorbed by our various toys; when the toys go, we are back to ourselves. In the understanding of ourselves without the toy, without any direction, without any motive, is the freedom from specialization which makes the whole of the brain active. The whole of the brain when it is active is total attention.

One is always looking or feeling with part of the senses. One hears some music, but one never really listens. One is never aware of anything with all one's senses. When one looks at a mountain, because of its majesty, one's senses are fully in operation, therefore one forgets oneself. When one looks at the movement of the sea or the sky with the slip of a moon, when one is aware totally, with all one's senses, that is complete attention in which there is no centre. Which means that attention is the total silence of the brain, there is no longer chattering, it is completely still - an absolute silence of the mind and the brain. There are various forms of silence - the silence between two noises, the silence between two notes, the silence between thoughts, the silence when you go into a forest - where there is the great danger of a dangerous animal, everything becomes totally silent. This silence is not put together by thought, nor does it arise through fear. When one is really frightened one's nerves and brain become still - but meditation is not that quality of silence, it is entirely different. Its silence is the operation of the whole of the brain with all the senses active. It is freedom which brings about the total silence of the mind. It is only such a mind, such a mind-brain, that is absolutely quiet - not quietness brought about by effort, by determination, by desire, by motive. This quietness is the freedom of order, which is virtue, which is righteousness in behaviour. In that silence alone is there that which is nameless and timeless. That is meditation.