J. Krishnamurti Fifteenth Conversation with Dr Allen W. Anderson (1974)
A Wholly Different Way of Living: Religion & Authority 1
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J. Krishnamurti Fifteenth Conversation with Dr Allen W. Anderson in San Diego, California
A Wholly Different Way of Living
Anderson: Mr Krishnamurti, we were talking last time together about death in the context of living, and love. And as I remember just as we came to the close of what we were discussing we thought it would be good to pursue this in terms of a further enquiry into education, what really goes on between teacher and student when they begin looking together. And what are the traps that immediately appear, and shock? You mentioned the terror of death, not simply externally, but internally in relation to thought. And it seemed to me perhaps it would be a splendid thing if we just continued that and went deeper into it.
Krishnamurti: Sir, I would like to ask why we are educated at all. What is the meaning of this education that people receive? Apparently they don't understand a thing of life, they don't understand fear, pleasure, the whole thing that we have discussed, and the ultimate fear of death and the terror of not being. Is it that we have become so utterly materialistic that we are only concerned with good jobs, money, pleasure and superficial amusements, entertainments, whether they be religious or football. Is it that our whole nature and structure has become so utterly meaningless? And when we are educated to that, and to suddenly face something real is terrifying.
And as we were saying yesterday, we are not educated to look at ourselves, we are not educated to understand the whole business of living, we are not educated to look and see what happens if we face death. So I was wondering as we came along this morning, religion, which we were going to discuss anyhow, has become merely not only a divisive process but also utterly meaningless. Maybe 2,000 years as Christianity, or 3,000, 5,000 as Hinduism, Buddhism and so on, it has lost its substance. And we never enquire into what is religion, what is education, what is living, what is dying, you know, the whole business of it. We never ask, what is it all about. And when we do ask, we say, well, life has very little meaning. And it has very little meaning, as we live, and so we escape into all kinds of fantastic, romantic nonsense, which has no reason, which we can't discuss, or logically enquire, but it is mere escape from this utter emptiness of the life that one leads. I don't know if you saw the other day, a group of people adoring a human being, and they were doing the most fantastic things, and that's what they call religion, that's what they call God. They seem to have lost all reason. Reason apparently has no meaning any more, either.
A: I did see a documentary that was actually put on by this station, in which the whole meeting operation was being portrayed between the public and this individual in this young 15 year old guru, Maharajji. It was extraordinary.
A: Amazing. It was in many respects revolting.
K: And that's what they call religion. So shall we begin with religion and go on?
A: Yes, I think that would be a splendid thing to do.
K: All right, sir. You know man has always wanted or tried to find out something beyond the everyday living, everyday routine, everyday pleasures, every activity of thought, he wanted something much more. I don't know whether you have been to India, I do not know if you have been to villages. They put a little stone under a tree, put some marking on it, the next day they have flowers, and for all the people that are there it has become divinity, it has become something religious. That same principle is continued in the cathedrals. Exactly the same thing when you have mass and all the rituals in India, all that, it begins there: the desire for human beings to find something more than what thought has put together. Not being able to find it they romanticise it, they create symbols, or somebody who has got a little bit of this, they worship. And round that they do all kinds of rituals, Indian puja, you know all that business goes on. And that is called religion. Which has absolutely nothing to do with behaviour, with our daily life.
So seeing all this, both in the west and the east, in the world of Islam, in the world of Buddhism and all this, it is the same principle going on: worshipping an image which they have created, whether it is the Buddha, or Jesus or Christ, it is the human mind that has created the image.
A: Oh yes, oh, certainly.
K: And they worship the image which is their own. In other words they are worshipping themselves.
A: And the division, the split, grows wider.
K: Wider. So religion, when one asks what is religion, obviously one must negate in the sense not brutally cut off, understand all this. And so negate all the religions: negate the religion of India and the multiple gods and goddesses; and here the religion of Christianity, which is an image which they have created, which is idolatry. They might not like to call it idolatry but it is. It is an idolatry of the mind. The mind has created the ideal, and the mind through the hand created the statue, the cross and so on, so on. So if one really puts all that aside, the belief, the superstition, the worship of the person, the worship of an idea, and the rituals and the tradition, all that, if one can do it, and one must do it to find out.
A: Exactly. There is a point of terror here that is many, many faceted it seems to me, it has so many different mirrors that it holds up to one's own dysfunction. To reach the place where one is willing to begin at the point where he makes this negation in order to find out, he thinks very often that he is being required to assume something in advance in order to make the negation.
K: Oh, of course.
A: Therefore he balks at that, and he won't do it.
K: No, because sir the brain needs security, otherwise it can't function.
A: That's right.
K: So it finds security in a belief, in an image, in rituals, in the propaganda of 2,000 or 5,000 years. And there, there is a sense of safety, comfort, security, well-being, somebody is looking after, the image of somebody greater than me who is looking after me, inwardly he is responsible. All that. When you are asking a human being to negate all that, he is faced with an immense sense of danger, an immense sense - he becomes panicked.
K: So to see all that, to see the absurdity of all the present religions, the utter meaninglessness of it all, and to face being totally insecure, and not be frightened.
A: I sense a trick that one can play on himself right here. Again I am very grateful to you that we are exploring together this pathology in its various facets. One can begin with the notion that he is going to make this negation in order to attain to something better.
K: Oh no, that's not negation.
A: And that's not negation at all.
K: No. Negation is to deny what is false not knowing what is, what is truth. To see the false in the false and to see the truth in the false, and it is the truth that denies the false. You don't deny the false, but you see what is false, and the very seeing of what is false is the truth. I don't know...
A: Yes, of course, of course.
K: And that denies, that sweeps away all this. I don't know if I am making myself clear.
A: Well, I had a very interesting experience in class yesterday. I had given the class an assignment. I think I mentioned this in a conversation we had yesterday, that I had given the class an assignment to go and look at the tree. So in fact I am making a report as to what happened after they came back. Well, one young woman described what happened to her; and she described it in such a way that the class was convinced, and I was convinced that there was no blockage of her looking between herself and this tree. She was calmly ecstatic in her report. That sounds like a curious juxtaposition of words, but it seems to me to be correct. But then I asked her a question. And I said, well, now were you thinking of yourself as looking at this tree? And she hesitated - mind you she had already gone through this whole statement, which was very beautifully undertaken - and I come along playing the role of the serpent in the garden (laughs) and I said, well now might it not have been the case that any time when you were doing this that you thought of yourself looking at the tree?
K: As the observer.
A: And with this hesitation she began to fall more and more out of her own act. Well, we had a look at that, she and I and the class, we all had a look at what she was doing. Finally she turned around and said, well, the reason that I stopped was not because of what went on between me and the tree - I am very clear about that - it's because I am in class now and I am thinking that I ought to say the right thing, and so I have gone and ruined the whole thing. (Laughs) It was a revelation not only to her but you could see with respect to the faces all around the room that we are all involved in this nonsense.
K: Yes, sir.
A: And her shock that she could so betray this relationship that she had had in doing her exercise in just a couple of words, was almost...
K: Very revealing.
A: Yes, extremely revealing, but at the same time desperately hard to believe that anybody would do such a thing to himself.
A: Yes. Please, please do go on.
K: So, sir, that's it. Negation can only take place when the mind sees the false, the very perception of the false is the negation of the false. And when you see the religions based on miracles, based on personal worship, based on fear that you, yourself, your own life is so shoddy, empty, meaningless, and it is so transient, you will be gone in a few years, and then the mind creates the image which is eternal, which is marvellous, which is the beautiful, the heaven, and identifies with it and worships it. Because it needs a sense of security, deeply, and it has created all this superficial nonsense, a circus - it is a circus.
A: Oh, yes.
K: So can the mind observe this phenomenon, and see its own demand for security, comfort, safety, permanency, and deny all that? Deny in the sense see how the brain, thought, creates the sense of permanency, eternality, or whatever you like to call it. And to see all that. Therefore one has to go much more deeply, I think, into the question of thought because both in the west and the east thought has become the most important movement in life. Right, sir?
A: Oh yes, oh yes.
K: Thought, which has created this marvellous world of technology, marvellous world of science, and all that, and thought which has created the religions, all the marvellous chants, both the Gregorian and the Sanskrit chants, thought which has built beautiful cathedrals, thought which has made images of the saviours, the masters, the gurus, the father - image. Unless one really understands thought, what is thinking, we will still play the same game in a different field.
K: Look what is happening in this country. These gurus come from India, they shave their head, put on the Indian dress, a little tuft of hair hanging down, and repeat endlessly what somebody has said. A new guru. They have had old gurus, the priests.
A: Oh yes.
K: The Catholic, the Protestant, and they have denied them but accept the others! (Laughs) You follow?
K: The others are as dead as the old ones because they are just repeating tradition: traditionally repeating how to sit, how to shave, how to meditate, how to hold your head, breathe. And finally you obey what the old guru says, or the young guru says. Which is exactly what took place in the Catholic world, in the Protestant world. You follow? They deny that and yet accept the other. Because they want security, they want somebody to tell them what to do, what to think, never how to think.
A: No. This raises a question that I hope we can explore together, that concerns the word 'experience'.
K: Oh, yes, it's another word.
A: It's amazing how often in these times this word crops up to represent something that I desperately need, which somehow lies outside myself. I need the experience of an awakening. It isn't an awakening that I need, apparently, it's an experience of this awakening. The whole idea of religion as experience seems to me to need very, very careful thought, very, very careful penetration.
K: Quite right. Sir, if I may ask, why do we demand experience? Why is this craving for experience? We have sexual experience, experiences of every kind, don't we?
K: As we live: insults, flattery, happenings, incidents, influences, what people say, don't say, we read a book, and so on, so on. We are experiencing all the time. We are bored with that. And we say we will go to somebody who will give me the experience of god.
A: Yes, that's precisely what is claimed.
K: Yes. Now what is involved in that? What is involved in the demand of our experience, and the experiencing of that demand? I experience what that guru or master, or somebody tells me, how do I know it is real? And I say, I recognise it, don't I, sir? Look, I experience something, and I can only know that I have experienced it only when I have recognised it. Right?
K: Recognition implies I have already known.
K: So I am experiencing what I have already known, therefore it is nothing new. I don't know if I am making it clear.
A: Yes, you are making yourself very, very clear.
K: So all they are doing is a self-deception.
A: It is actually lusted after.
K: Oh, good lord, yes.
A: Yes, the drive for it is extraordinary. I have seen it in many, many students, who will go to extraordinary austerities - really.
K: I know all this.
A: We sometimes think that young people today are very loose in their behaviour. Well, some are, but what is so new about that, that has been going on since time out of mind. I think that what is rarely seen is that many young persons today are extremely serious about acquiring something that someone possesses that they don't have, and if someone claims to have it, naively they are on their way. And they'll go through any number of cartwheels, they'll stand on their head indefinitely for that.
K: Oh, yes, I have seen all that.
A: Which is called an experience, as such.
K: That's why one has to be very careful, as you pointed out, sir, to explore this word. And to see why the mind, why a human being demands more experience, when his whole life is a vast experience with which he is so bored. He thinks this is a new experience, but to experience the new how can the mind recognise it as the new, unless it has already known it? I don't know if I'm...
A: Yes. And there is something very remarkable here in terms of what you said earlier in other previous conversations that we have had: in the recognition of what is called the new, the linkage with old thought, old image establishes the notion that there is something gradual in the transition. That there really is some kind of genuine link here with where I am now, and where I was before. Now I become the next guru who goes out and teaches the person how gradually to undertake this discipline.
K: Yes, sir, yes, sir.
K: Yes, sir.
A: And somnolence takes over. But it is within the very same. And I said to myself, well maybe Mr Krishnamurti would say a word about the relation of beauty to this in terms of one's own relation to the beautiful, when that relation is not seen for what it is. Since there is a narcosis present that I can generate. It isn't in those words. And yet we think that the language must be at fault, there must be something demonically hypnotic about this, we do. And then religious groups will separate themselves totally from all this. We had a period in Europe when Protestants, Calvinists, wouldn't allow an organ, no music, because music is seductive. I am not the self-seducer, it is the music's fault!
K: That's just it, sir.
A: Let's look at it.
K: As we were saying the other day, sir, beauty can only be when there is the total abandonment of the self. Complete emptying the consciousness of its content, which is the 'me'. Then there is a beauty which is something entirely different from the pictures, chants, all that. And probably most of these young people, and also the older people, seek beauty in that sense through the trappings of the church, through chants, through reading the Old Testament with all its beautiful words and images, and all that, and that gives them a sense of deep satisfaction. In other words, sir, what they are seeking is really gratification through beauty - beauty of words, beauty of chant, beauty of all the robes and the incense, and the light coming through those marvellous pieces of colour. You have seen it all in cathedrals, Notre Dame and Chatres, and all these places - marvellous. And it gives them a sense of sacredness, sense of feeling happy, relieved, at last there is a place where I can go and meditate, be quiet, get into contact with something. And then you come along and say, look, that's all rubbish, it has no meaning. What has meaning is how you live in your daily life.
K: Then they throw a brick at you.
A: Of course, it is like taking food away from a starving dog.
K: Exactly. So this is the whole point, sir: experience is a trap, and all the people want this strange experience which the gurus think they have.
A: Which is always called the knowledge. Interesting.
K: Very, very.
A: Isn't it? It is always called the knowledge. Yes. Of course, I was thinking about previous conversations, about this self transformation that is not dependent on knowledge.
K: Of course not.
A: Not dependent on time.
A: And eminently requires responsibility.
K: And also, sir, we don't want to work. We work very strenuously in earning a livelihood. Look what we do, year after year, year after year, day after day, day after day, the brutality, the ugliness of all that. But here, inwardly, psychologically, we don't want to work. We are too lazy. Let the other fellow work, perhaps he has worked, and perhaps he will give me something. But I don't say I am going to find out, deny the whole thing and find out.
A: No, the assumption is that the priest's business is to have worked in order to know, so that I am relieved of that task; or if I didn't come into the world with enough marbles then all I need do is simply follow his instructions and it's his fault if he gets it messed up.
K: Yes, and we never ask the man who says, 'I know, I have experienced', what do you know?
K: What have you experienced? What do you know? When you say, I know, you only know something which is dead, which is gone, which is finished, which is the past. You can't know something that is living. You follow, sir?
K: A living thing you can never know, it's moving. It is never the same. And so I can never say, I know my wife, or my husband, my children, because they are living human beings. But these fellows come along, from India specially, and they say, well, I know, I have experienced, I have knowledge, I will give it to you. And I say, what impudence. You follow sir?
K: What callous indifference that you know and I don't know. And what do you know?
A: It's amazing what has been going on in terms of the relation between men on the one hand, and women on the other, or man and woman with respect to this, because a whole mythology has grown up about this. For instance we say, our sex says, woman is mysterious, and never is this understood in terms of the freshness of life, which includes everything not just woman. Now we have an idea that woman is mysterious. So we are talking about something in terms of an essence, which has nothing to do with existence. Isn't that so?
K: Yes, sir. Exactly.
A: Goodness me! And as you said earlier we are actually taught this, this is all in books, this is all in the conversations that go on in class rooms.
K: So that why, sir, I feel education is destroying people - as it is now. It has become a tragedy. If I had a son - which I haven't got, thank god - I would say, where am I to educate him? What am I to do with him? Make him like the rest of the group? Like the rest of the community? Taught, memories, accept, obey. You follow, sir? - all the things that are going on. And when you are faced with that, as many people are now, they are faced with this problem.
A: Oh, they are, yes, yes. There's no question about that.
K: So we say, look, let's start a school, which we have in India, which I am going to do in California, at Ojai. We are going to do that. Let's start a school where we think totally differently, where we are taught differently. Not just the routine, routine, routine, to accept, or to deny, react, you know, the whole thing.
So from that arises, sir, another question: why does the mind obey? I obey the laws of the country, I obey keeping to the left side of the road, or the right side of the road. I obey what the doctor tells me - obey. I am careful what he tells me - personally I don't go near doctors. If I do, I am very careful, I listen very carefully what they have to say, I am watchful. I don't accept immediately this or that. But politically in a so-called democratic world they won't accept a tyrant.
A: No, no, they won't accept a tyrant.
K: They say no authority, freedom. But spiritually, inwardly, they accept every Tom, Dick and Harry - specially when they come from India.
A: Oh, yes.
K: The other day I turned on the London BBC and there was a man interviewing a certain group of people. And the boy and the girl said, 'We obey entirely what our guru says.' And the interviewer said, 'Will he tell you to marry?' 'If he tells me I will marry. If he tells me I must starve, I will starve', fast. Just a slave. You understand sir? And yet the very same person will object to political tyranny.
A: Absurd. Yes.
K: There he will accept the tyranny of a petty little guru, with his fanciful ideas, and he will reject politically a tyranny or a dictatorship. So why does the mind divide life into accepting authority in one way, in one direction, and deny it in another? And what is the importance of authority? That is, sir, the word 'authority', as you know, means the one who originates.
A: Author, yes.
K: 'Author', yes of course. And these priests, gurus, leaders, spiritual preachers, what have they originated? They are repeating tradition, aren't they?
A: Oh, yes, precisely.
K: And tradition, whether it is from the Zen tradition, the Chinese tradition, or Hindu, is a dead thing. And these people are perpetuating the dead thing. The other day I saw a man, he was explaining how to meditate - put your hands here, and close your eyes.
A: Yes, that's the one I saw.
K: And do this, that and the other - I said good god.
A: Appalling. It was appalling.
K: And people accept it.
A: And on the same thing there was this woman who had run out of money and every blessed thing, and she had nowhere to go to sleep and so forth, and hysterically she was saying, 'I'm in line, I've got all these people ahead of me, but I must have this knowledge - I must have this knowledge.' The hysteria of it, the desperation of it.
K: (Laughs) That's why, sir, what is behind this acceptance of authority? You understand, sir? The authority of law, the authority of the policeman, the authority of the priests, the authority of these gurus, what is behind the acceptance of authority? Is it fear? Fear of going wrong spiritually, of not doing the right thing in order to gain enlightenment, knowledge, and the super-consciousness, whatever it is, is it fear? Or is it a sense of despair? A sense of utter loneliness, utter ignorance? I am using the word 'ignorance' in the deeper sense of the word.
A: Yes, yes, I follow.
K: Which makes me say, well, there is a man there who says he knows, I'll accept him. I don't reason. You follow, sir? I don't say, what do you know? What do you bring to us, give to me, your own tradition from India? Who cares! You are bringing something dead, nothing original - you follow, sir? - nothing real, but repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat what others have done - which in India they themselves are throwing out. (Laughs)
A: Yes. I was just thinking of Tennyson's lines that apropos of this, though in a different context when he wrote it: 'Theirs not to reason why, but to do and die'.
K: Yes, that's the good old thing. So what is behind this acceptance of authority?
A: It is interesting that the word 'authority' is radically related to the self - autos, the self. There is this sensed, gaping void, through the division.
K: Yes, sir, that's just it.
A: Through the division. And that immediately opens up a hunger, doesn't it? And my projection of my meal, I run madly to.
K: When you see this, you want to cry. You follow sir?
K: All these young people going to these gurus, shaving their head, dressing in Indian dress, dancing in the streets. Fantastic things they are doing! All on a tradition which is dead. All tradition is dead. You follow? And when you see that you say, my god, what has happened? So I go back and ask, why do we accept? Why are we influenced by these people? Why are we influenced when there is a constant repetition in a commercial, 'Buy this, buy this, buy this'? It is the same as that. You follow sir?
K: Why do we accept? The child accepts, I can understand that. Poor thing, he doesn't know anything, it needs security, it needs a mother, it needs care, it needs protection, it needs to sit on your lap and affection, kindness, gentle. It needs that. Is it they think the guru gives him all this? Through their words, through their rituals, through their repetition, through their absurd disciplines. You follow? A sense of acceptance as I accept my mother when a child, I accept that in order to be comfortable, in order to feel, at last something, somebody is looking after me.
A: This relates to what you said in a previous conversation, we looked into fear, the reaction of the infant is a reaction with no intermediary of any kind, of his own contrivance. He simply recognises that he has a need, and this is not an imagined want, it is a radical need. He needs to feed, he needs to be affectionately held.
K: Of course, sir.
A: The transition from that to the point where as he gets older he begins to think about the source of the meeting of that need, emerges as the image that is interposed between the sense of danger and the immediate action. So if I am understanding you correctly, there is a deflection here from the radical purity of act.
K: That's right, sir.
A: And I've done that myself. I have done that myself. It isn't because of anything that I was told, that actually coerced me to do it, even though what you say is true, we are continually invited, it's a kind of siren-like call that comes to us throughout the entire culture, in all cultures to start that stuff.
K: So sir, that's what I want to get at. Why is it that we accept authority? In a democratic world, politically, we shun any dictator. But yet religiously they are all dictators. And why do we accept it? Why do I accept the priest as an intermediary to something which he says he knows? And so it shows, sir, we stop reasoning. Politically we reason, we see how important it is to be free, free speech, everything free, as much as possible. We never think freedom is necessary here. Spiritually we don't feel the necessity of freedom. And therefore we accept it - any Tom, Dick and Harry. It is horrifying. I've seen intellectuals, professors, scientists, falling for all this trash. Because they have reasoned in their scientific world, and they are weary of reasoning, and here, at last I can sit back and not reason, be told, be comfortable, be happy, I'll do all the work for you, you don't have to do anything, I'll take you over the river. You follow?
A: Oh, yes.
K: And I'm delighted. So we accept where there is ignorance, where reason doesn't function, where intelligence is in abeyance, and you need all that: freedom, intelligence, reasoning, with regard to real spiritual matters. Otherwise what? Some guru comes along and tells you what to do, and you repeat what he does? You follow, sir, how destructive it is?
A: Oh, yes.
K: How degenerate it is. That is what is happening. I don't think these gurus realise what they are doing. They are encouraging degeneracy.
A: Well, they represent a chain of the same.
K: Exactly. So can we - sir, this brings up a very important question - can there be an education in which there is no authority whatsoever?
A: I must say, yes, to that in terms of the experience that I had in class yesterday. It was a tremendous shock to the students when they suspended their disbelief for a moment, just to see whether I meant it when I said, now we must do this together, not your doing what I say to do.
K: You have to walk together.
A: We will do this together.
K: Share it together.
A: Right. You will question, and I will question, and we will try to grasp as we go along - without trying. And I went into the business, about let's not have this shoddy little thing 'trying'. (Laughter)
K: Quite right.
A: That took a little while. That increased the shock because the students who have been to their own great satisfaction what you would call devoted, those who do their work, who make effort, are suddenly finding out that this man has come into the room and he is giving 'trying' a bad press. This does seem to turn the thing completely upside down (laughs). But they showed courage in the sense that they gave it a little attention before beginning the true act of attention. That's why I was using 'courage' there because it is a preliminary to that. I've quite followed you when you have raised the question about the relation of courage to the pure act of attention. It seems to me that is not where it belongs.
A: But they did get it up for this preliminary step. Then we ran into this what I think I called in an earlier conversation, dropping a stitch - where they really saw this abyss, they were alert enough to stand over the precipice. And that caused them to freeze. And it's that moment that seems to me absolutely decisive. It is almost like one sees in terms of events, objective events. I remember reading the Spanish philosopher, Ortega who spoke of events that trembled back and forth before the thing actually tumbles into itself. That was happening in the room. It was like water that moved up to the lip of the cup and couldn't quite spill over.
K: Quite, quite.
A: I have spoken about this at some length because I wanted to describe to you a real situation, what was actually happening.
K: I was going to say, sir, I have been connected with many schools, for forty years and more, and when one talks to the students about freedom and authority and acceptance, they are completely lost.
K: They want to be slaves. My father says this, I must do this. Or, my father says, I won't do that. It is the same.
A: Exactly. Do you think in our next conversation we could look at that moment of hesitation?
K: Yes, sir.
A: It seems to me so terribly critical for education itself. Wonderful.