Wednesday, November 17, 2010

on the mechanical activity of thought

We were talking of the importance of thought and yet of its
unimportance; of how thought has a great deal of action and within
its own field only limited freedom. We spoke of a state of mind
that is totally unconditioned. This morning we can go into this
question of conditioning; not only the superficial, cultural
conditioning, but also why conditioning takes place. We can
enquire about the quality of mind that is not conditioned, that has
gone beyond conditioning. We have to go into this matter very
deeply to find out what love is. And in understanding what love is,
perhaps we shall be able to comprehend the full significance of
So, first we will find out whether the mind can be totally and
completely free of conditioning. It is fairly obvious how we are
superficially conditioned by the culture, the society, the
propaganda around us, and also by nationality, by a particular
religion, by education and through environmental influences. I
think it is fairly clear and fairly simple to see how most human
beings, of whatever country or race, are conditioned by the
particular culture or religion to which they belong. They are
moulded, held within a particular pattern. One can fairly easily put
aside such conditioning.
Then there is the deeper conditioning, such as an aggressive
attitude towards life. Aggression implies a sense of dominance, of
seeking power, possessions, prestige. One has to go very deeply to
be completely free of that, because it is very subtle, taking many
different forms. One may think one is not aggres- sive, but when
one has an ideal, an opinion, an evaluation, verbal and non-verbal,
there is a sense of assertiveness which gradually becomes
aggressive and violent. One can see this in oneself. Behind the very
word `aggression' though you may say it very gently - there is a
kick, there is a furtive, dominant, compulsive action which
becomes cruel and violent. That aggressive conditioning one has to
discover, whether one has derived it from the animal, or has
become aggressive in one's own self-assertive pleasure. Is one
aggressive in the total sense of that word, which means `stepping
Another form of conditioning is that of comparison. One
compares oneself with what one thinks is noble or heroic, with
whit one would like to be, as opposed to what one is. The
comparative pursuit is a form of conditioning; again, it is
extraordinarily subtle. I compare myself with somebody who is a
little more intelligent or more beautiful physically. Secretly or
openly, there is a constant soliloquy, talking to oneself in terms of
comparison. Observe this in yourself. Where there is comparison
there is a form of aggression in the feeling of achievement; or,
when you cannot achieve, there is a sense of frustration and a
feeling of inferiority. From childhood we are educated to compare.
Our educational system is based on comparison, on the giving of
marks, on examinations. In comparing yourself with somebody
who is cleverer, there is envy, jealousy, and all the conflict that
ensues. Comparison implies measurement; I am measuring myself
against something I think is better or nobler.
One asks: `Can the mind ever be free of this social and cultural
conditioning, of the mind measuring and comparing, the
conditioning of fear and pleasure, of reward and punishment?' The
whole of our moral and religious structures are based on this. Why
is it that we are conditioned? We see the outward influences which
are conditioning us and the inward voluntary demand to be
conditioned. Why do we accept this conditioning? Why has the
mind allowed itself to be conditioned? What is the factor behind it
all? Why do I, born in a certain country and culture, calling myself
a Hindu, with all the superstition and tradition imposed by the
family, the society, accept such conditioning? What is the urge that
lies behind this? What is the factor that is constantly demanding
and acquiescing, yielding to or resisting this conditioning? One can
see that one wants to be safe and secure in the community which is
following a certain pattern. If one does not follow that pattern one
may lose one's job, be without money, not be regarded as a
respectable human being. There is a revolt against that, and that
revolt forms its own conditioning - which all the young people are
going through now. One must find out what is the urge that makes
one conform. Unless one discovers it for oneself, one will always
be conditioned one way or the other, positively or negatively. From
the moment one is born until one dies, the process goes on. One
may revolt against it, one may try to escape into another
conditioning, withdrawing into a monastery as do the people who
devote their life to contemplation, to philosophy, but it is the same
movement right through. What is the machinery that is in constant
movement, adjusting itself to various forms of conditioning?
Thought is everlastingly conditioned, because it is the response
of the past as memory. Thought is always mechanical; it falls very
easily into a pattern, into a groove, and then you consider you are
being tremendously active, whether you are confined to the
Communist groove, the Catholic groove, or whatever it is. It is the
easiest, the most mechanical thing to do - and we think we are
living! So although thought has a certain limited freedom in its
field, everything it does is mechanical. After all, to go to the moon
is quite mechanical, it is the outcome of the accumulated
knowledge of centuries. The pursuit of technical thinking takes you
to the moon, or under the sea and so on. The mind wants to follow
a groove, wants to be mechanical and that way there is safety,
security, there is no disturbance. To live mechanically is not only
encouraged by society, but also by each one of us, because that is
the easiest way to live.
So thought being a mechanical, repetitive pursuit, accepts any
form of conditioning which enables it to continue in its mechanical
activity. A philosopher invents a new theory, an economist a new
system, and we accept that groove and follow it. Our society, our
culture, our religious prompting, everything seems to function
mechanically; yet in that there is a certain sense of stimulation.
When you go to Mass, there is a certain excitement, emotion, and
that becomes the pattern. I do not know if this is something you
have ever tried - do it once and you will see the fun of it: take a
piece of stick or a stone, any odd piece with a little shape to it, put
it on the mantlepiece and put a flower beside it every morning.
Within a month you will see that it has become a habit, as a
religious symbol, and you have begun to identify yourself with
Thought is the response of the past. If one has been taught
engineering as a profession, one adds to and adjusts that
knowledge, but one is set in that line; similarly if you are a doctor
and so on. Thought is somewhat free within a certain field, but it is
still within the limits of mechanical functioning. Do you see that,
not only verbally and intellectually, but actually? Are you as aware
of it as when you hear that train? Sound of passing train.)
Can the mind free itself from the habits it has cultivated, from
certain opinions, judgments, attitudes and values? Which means,
can the mind be free of thought? If this is not completely
understood, then the next thing which I am going to talk, about will
have no meaning. The understanding of this leads to the next
question, which is inevitable, if you go into it. If thought is
mechanical, if it inevitably conforms to the conditioning of the
mind, then what is love? Is love the product of thought? Is love
nurtured, cultivated by thought, dependent on thought?
What is love? - bearing in mind that the description is not the
described, the word is not the thing. Can the mind be free of the
mechanical activity of thought so as to find out what love is? For
most of us love is associated, or equated, with sex. That is a form
of conditioning. When you are enquiring into this really very
complex, intricate and extraordinarily beautiful thing, you must
find out how that word `sex' has conditioned the mind.
We say we will not kill - we will not go to Vietnam or some
other place to kill, but we do not mind killing animals. If you
yourself had to kill the animal which you eat, and saw the ugliness
of it, would you eat that animal? I doubt it very much. But you do
not mind the butcher killing it for you to eat; in that there is a great
deal of hypocrisy.
So one asks not only what love is, but also what is compassion.
In the Christian culture the animals have no soul, they are put on
earth by God for you to eat; that is the Christian conditioning. In
certain parts of India to kill is wrong, whether to kill a fly, an
animal or anything else. So they do not kill the least thing, they go
to the extreme of exaggeration; again, that is their conditioning.
And there are people who support antivivisection, yet wear
marvellous furs: such hypocrisy goes on!
What does it mean to be compassionate? Not merely verbally,
but actually to be compassionate? Is compassion a matter of habit,
of thought, a matter of the mechanical repetition of being kind,
polite, gentle, tender? Can the mind which is caught in the activity
of thought with its conditioning, its mechanical repetition, be
compassionate at all? It can talk about it, it can encourage social
reform, be kind to the poor heathen and so on; but is that
compassion? When thought dictates, when thought is active, can
there be any place for compassion? Compassion being action
without motive, without self-interest, without any sense of fear,
without any sense of pleasure.
So one asks: `Is love pleasure?, - sex is pleasure, of course. We
take pleasure in violence, we take pleasure in achievement, in
assertion, in aggression. Also we take pleasure in being somebody.
And all that is the product of thought, the product of measurement
- `I was that' and `I will be this'. Is pleasure, in the sense in which
we have been speaking, is that love? How can a mind which is
caught in habit, in measurement and comparison, know what love
is? One may say, love is this or that but that is all the product of
From that observation arises the question: what is death? What
does it mean, to die? It must be the most marvellous experience! It
must imply something that has completely come to an end. The
movement that has been set going the strife, struggle, turmoil, all
the despairs and frustrations - all that suddenly comes to in end.
The man who is trying to become famous, who is assertive, violent,
brutal - that activity is cut off! Have you noticed how anything that
continues psychologically becomes mechanical, repetitive. It is
only when psychological continuance comes to an end, that there is
something totally new - you can see this in yourself. Creation is not
the continuation of what is, or what was, but the ending of that.
So psychologically can one die? You understand my question?
Can one die to the known, die to what has been - not in order to
become something else - which is the ending of and the freedom
from the known? After all, that is what death is.
The physical organism will die, naturally; it has been abused,
kicked around, frustrated; it has eaten and drunk all kinds of things.
You know how you live and you go on that way till it dies. The
body, through accident, through old age, through some disease,
through the strain of constant emotional battle within and without,
becomes twisted, ugly, and it dies. There is self pity in this dying
and also pity for oneself when somebody else dies. When
somebody dies whom we consider we love, is there not in that
sorrow a great deal of care? For you are left alone, you are exposed
to yourself, you have nobody to rely on, nobody to give you
comfort. Our sorrow is tinged with this self-pity and fear and
naturally in this uncertainty one accepts every form of belief.
The whole of Asia believes in reincarnation, in being reborn in
another life. When you enquire what it is that is going to be born in
the next life, you come up against difficulties. What is it?
Yourself? What are you? a lot of words, a lot of opinions,
attachments to your possessions, to your furniture, to your
conditioning. Is all that, which you call the soul, going to be reborn
in the next life? Reincarnation implies that what you are today
determines what you will be again in the next life. Therefore
behave! - not tomorrow, but today, because what you do today you
are going to pay for in the next life. people who believe in
reincarnation do not bother about behavior;t all; it is just a matter
of belief, which has no value. Incarnate today, afresh not in the
next life! Change it now completely, change with great passion, let
the mind strip itself of everything, of every conditioning, every
knowledge, of everything it thinks is `right' - empty it. Then you
will know what dying means; and then you will know what love is.
For love is not something of the past, of thought, of culture; it is
not pleasure. A mind that has understood the whole movement of
thought becomes extraordinarily quiet, absolutely silent. That
silence is the beginning of the new.
Questioner: Sir, can love have an object?
Krishnamurti: Who is asking the question? Thought or love?
Love is not asking this question. When you love, you love! - you
do not ask, `Is there an object, or no object, is it personal or
impersonal?'. Oh, you do not know what is means, the beauty of it!
Our love, as it is, is such a trial; our relationship with each other is
such a conflict. Our love is based on your image of me and my
image of you. Look at it very carefully, at the relationship between
these two isolated images which say to each other, `We love'. The
images are the product of the past, of memories, memories of what
you said to me and I said to you; and this relationship between the
two images must inevitably be an isolating process. That is what
we call relationship. To be related means to be in contact not
merely physically which is not possible when there is an image,
when there is the self-isolating process of thought, which is the
`me', and the`you'. We say: `Has love an object? Or is love divine
or profane?, - you follow? Sir, when you love, you are neither
giving nor receiving.
Questioner: When one goes behind these words, `beauty' and
`love', don't all these divisions disappear?

Krishnamurti: Have you ever sat, not day-dreaming, but very
quietly, completely aware? In that awareness there is no
verbalization, no choice, no restraint or direction. When the body is
completely relaxed, have you noticed the silence that comes into
being? That requires a great deal of investigation, because our
minds are never still but endlessly chattering and therefore divided.
We divide living into fragments.
Can all this fragmentation come to an end? Knowing that
thought is responsible for this fragmentation, we ask: `Can thought
be completely silent yet respond when it is necessary, without
violence, objectively, sanely, rationally - still let this silence
pervade?' That is the only way: to find for oneself this quality of
the mind that has no fragments, that is not broken up as the `you'
and the `me'.
Questioner: Sir, is the killing of a fly on the same level as the
killing of an animal or a human being?
Krishnamurti: Where will you begin the comprehension of
killing? You say you will not go to war, kill a human being ( I do
not know if you say it or not, it is up to you), but you do not mind
taking sides your group and my group. You do not mind believing
in something and standing by what you believe. You do not mind
killing people with a word, with a gesture - and you will be careful
not to kill a fly! Some years ago the speaker was in a country
where Buddhism is the accepted religion. If you are a practising
Buddhist, it is one of the accepted principles not to kill. Two
people came to see the speaker and said, `We have a problem: we
do not want to kill. We are ardent Buddhists, we have been brought
up not to kill; but we like eggs and we do not want to kill a fertile
egg - so what are we to do?' You understand? Unless inwardly you
are very clear as to what killing implies - not only with a gun, but
by a word, by gesture, by division, by saying `my country', `your
country', `my God', `your God" there will inevitably be killing in
some form. Do not make a lot of ado about killing a fly and then go
and `kill' your neighbour with a word.
The speaker has never eaten meat in his life, does not know
what it tastes like even, and yet he puts on leather shoes. One his to
live,and although in your heart you do not want to kill anything,
hurt anybody - and you really mean it - yet you have to `kill' the
vegetable which you eat; for if you do not eat anything you come
very quickly to an end. One has to find out for oneself very clearly
without any choice, without any prejudice, one has to be highly
sensitive and intelligent and then let that intelligence act - not say,
`I will not kill flies', yet say something brutal about one's husband.
~ J. Krishnamurti
from a public talk in Saanen on July 28th 1970