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J. Krishnamurti on Self-Knowledge (The Complete Version)

This piece of writing of Jiddu Krishnamurthy  has been provided by Dr. Samarender Reddy. 

Self-knowledge is to know the total process of oneself, the ways of one's own thinking, feeling, and action; and without knowing oneself, there is no basis for broader action. So, self-knowledge is of primary importance. One must obviously begin to understand oneself in all one's actions, thoughts and feelings, because the self, the mind, the "me" is so very complex and subtle. So many impositions have been placed upon the mind, the "me", so many influences - racial, religious, national, social, environmental - have shaped it, that to follow each step, to analyze each imprint, is extremely difficult; and if we miss one, if we do not analyze properly and miss one step, then the whole process of analysis miscarries. So, our problem is to understand the self, the "me" - not just one part of the "me", but the whole field of thought, which is the response of the "me". We have to understand the whole field of memory from which all thought arises, both the conscious and the unconscious; and all that is the self - the hidden as well as the open, the dreamer and what he dreams.


Now, to understand the self, which alone can bring about a radical revolution, a regeneration, there must be the intention to understand its whole process. The process of the individual is not opposed to the world, to the mass, whatever that term may mean; because, there is no mass apart from you - you are the mass. So, to understand that process, there must be the intention to know what is, to follow every thought, feeling and action; and to understand what is is extremely difficult, because what is is never still, never static, it is always in movement. The what is is what you are, not what you would like to be; it is not the ideal, because the ideal is fictitious, but it is actually what you are doing, thinking and feeling from moment to moment. What is is the actual, and to understand the actual requires awareness, a very alert, swift mind. But if we begin to condemn what is, if we begin to blame or resist it, then we shall not understand its movement. If I want to understand somebody, I cannot condemn him: I must observe, study him. I must love the very thing I am studying. If you want to understand a child, you must love and not condemn him. You must play with him, watch his movements, his idiosyncrasies, his ways of behaviour; but if you merely condemn, resist or blame him, there is no comprehension of the child. Similarly, to understand what is, one must observe what one thinks, feels and does from moment to moment. That is the actual. Any other action, any ideal or ideological action, is not the actual; it is merely a wish, a fictitious desire to be something other than what is.


So, to understand what is requires a state of mind in which there is no identification or condemnation, which means a mind that is alert and yet passive. We are in that state when we really desire to understand something; when the intensity of interest is there, that state of mind comes into being. When one is interested in understanding what is, the actual state of the mind, one does not need to force, discipline, or control it; on the contrary, there is passive alertness, watchfulness. If I want to understand a picture or a person, I must put aside all my prejudices, my preconceptions, my classical or other training, and study the picture or the person directly. This state of awareness comes when there is interest, the intention to understand.


Now, the next question is whether transformation is a matter of time. Most of us are accustomed to think that time is necessary for transformation: I am something, and to change what I am into what I should be requires time. I am greedy, with its results of confusion, antagonism, conflict and misery; and to bring about the transformation, which is non-greed, we think time is necessary. That is, time is considered as a means for evolving something greater, for becoming something. Do you understand the problem? The problem is this: One is violent, greedy, envious, angry, vicious, or passionate. Now, to transform what is, is time necessary? First of all, why do we want to change what is, or bring about a transformation? Why? Because what we are dissatisfies us; it creates conflict, disturbance; and disliking that state, we want something better, something nobler, more idealistic. So, we desire transformation because there is pain, discomfort, conflict. Now, is conflict overcome by time? If you say it will be overcome by time, you are still in conflict. That is, you may say it will take 20 days or 20 years to get rid of conflict, to change what you are; but during that time you are still in conflict, and therefore time does not bring about transformation. When we use time as a means of acquiring a quality, a virtue, or a state of being, we are merely postponing or avoiding what is; and I think it is important to understand this point. Greed or violence causes pain, disturbance, in the world of our relationship with another, which is society; and being conscious of this state of disturbance, which we term greed or violence, we say to ourselves, "I will get out of it in time. I will practise non-violence, I will practise non-envy, I will practise peace". Now, you want to practise non-violence because violence is a state of disturbance, conflict, and you think that in time you will gain nonviolence and overcome the conflict. So, what is actually happening? Being in a state of conflict, you want to achieve a state in which there is no conflict. Now, is that state of no-conflict the result of time, of a duration? Obviously not. Because, while you are achieving a state of nonviolence, you are still being violent and are therefore still in conflict.


So, our problem is, can a conflict, a disturbance, be overcome in a period of time, whether it be days, years, or lives? What happens when you say, "I am going to practise nonviolence during a certain period of time"? The very practice indicates that you are in conflict, does it not? You would not practise if you were not resisting conflict; and you say the resistance to conflict is necessary in order to overcome conflict and for that resistance you must have time. But the very resistance to conflict is itself a form of conflict. You are spending your energy in resisting conflict in the form of what you call greed, envy, or violence, but your mind is still in conflict. So, it is important to see the falseness of the process of depending on time as a means of overcoming violence, and thereby be free of that process. Then you are able to be what you are: a psychological disturbance which is violence itself.


Now, to understand anything, any human or scientific problem, what is important, what is essential? A quiet mind, is it not? A mind that is intent on understanding. It is not a mind that is exclusive, that is trying to concentrate - which again is an effort of resistance. If I really want to understand something, there is immediately a quiet state of mind. That is, when you want to listen to music or look at a picture which you love, which you have a feeling for, what is the state of your mind. Immediately there is a quietness, is there not? When you are listening to music, your mind does not wander all over the place; you are listening. Similarly, when you want to understand conflict, you are no longer depending on time at all; you are simply confronted with what is, which is conflict. Then immediately there comes a quietness, a stillness of mind. So, when you no longer depend on time as a means of transforming what is because you see the falseness of that process, then you are confronted with what is; and as you are interested to understand what is, naturally you have a quiet mind. In that alert yet passive state of mind, there is understanding. As long as the mind is in conflict, blaming, resisting, condemning, there can be no understanding. If I want to understand you, I must not condemn you, obviously. So, it is that quiet mind, that still mind, which brings about transformation. When the mind is no longer resisting, no longer avoiding, no longer discarding or blaming what is, but is simply passively aware, then in that passivity of the mind you will find, if you really go into the problem, that there comes a transformation. So, transformation is not the result of time: it is the result of a quiet mind, a steady mind, a mind that is still, tranquil, passive. The mind is not passive when it is seeking a result; and the mind will seek a result as long as it wishes to transform, change, or modify what is. But if the mind simply has the intention to understand what is and is therefore still, in that stillness you will find there is an understanding of what is, and therefore a transformation. We actually do this when we are confronted with anything in which we are interested. Observe yourself, and you will see this extraordinary process going on. When you are interested in something, your mind is quiet. It has not gone to sleep, it is extremely alert and sensitive, and is therefore capable of receiving hints, intimations; and it is this stillness, this alert passivity, that brings a transformation. This does not involve using time as a means of transformation, modification, or change.


Revolution is only possible now, not in the future; regeneration is today, not tomorrow. If you will experiment with what I have been saying, you will find that there is immediate regeneration, a newness, a quality of freshness; because, the mind is always still when it is interested, when it desires or has the intention to understand. The difficulty with most of us is that we have not the intention to understand, because we are afraid that, if we understood, it might bring about a revolutionary action in our life; and therefore we resist. It is the defence mechanism that is at work when we use time or an ideal as a means of gradual transformation.


So, regeneration is only possible in the present, not in the future, not tomorrow. A man who relies on time as a means through which he can gain happiness, or realize truth or God, is merely deceiving himself; he is living in ignorance, and therefore in conflict. But a man who sees that time is not the way out of our difficulty, and who is therefore free from the false, such a man naturally has the intention to understand; therefore his mind is quiet spontaneously, without compulsion, without practice. When the mind is still, tranquil, not seeking any answer or any solution, neither resisting nor avoiding - it is only then that there can be a regeneration, because then the mind is capable of perceiving what is true; and it is truth that liberates, not your effort to be free.