Today, Krishnamurti is more valued for the philosophical insights that his teachings afford than for the radical transformation that he himself was most passionate about. This despite the fact that he routinely expressed impatient disregard for psychological reform, pointing out that after thousands of years of contemplation, of turning our attention to the most profound human problems, man still finds himself riven by war within and without. It would appear that whenever we try to free our lives from circumstances that oppress us, we inevitably create others of the same order.
To Krishnamurti, the reason for this recurring pattern lies not with the quality of the solutions, but rather hinges on how each and every response contains the seed of another problem.
The following and the acceptance of an ideology, whether it is good or bad, whether it is holy or unholy, is a fragmentary activity and it therefore causes conflict. Conflict will inevitably arise for there will be a division between 'what is' and 'what should be', and that conflict is a dissipation of energy. Can one see the truth of it? Again, it is not 'how am I to be free of conflict?' If one puts that question to oneself: 'how am I to be free of conflict?' then one creates another problem and hence increases conflict. Whereas if one sees, - 'sees' as one sees the microphone, clearly, directly, - then one would understand the essential truth of a life in which there is no conflict at all.
Saanen, 1967, Second Public Talk
Krishnamurti's discourses all culminate in positing, not only the existence, but also the necessity of an unpolluted "seeing", of an "observation" that is not partial, not born from a particular point of view. Seeing "clearly" and "directly", not mediated through thought - before or beyond thought. At times, he characterizes this amplified perception as "from a height, the whole valley", all the while not allowing for an omniscient witness or observer with a bird's-eye view.
This seeing, he maintains, is a facet of what he usually refers to as "insight", a flash of revelation. It is with this introduction of insight that Krishnamurti's ideas become for many an irrelevant philosophy ? one that is either regarded as obscurely esoteric, or else ludicrous.
That very insight implies action. And you act. And that action is always right, right being accurate, precise, without any regret, without any effort, without any reward or punishment, it is so.
Brockwood Park, 1st Conversation w/Buddhist Scholars
A question frequently put to Krishnamurti is: If all that we think and feel is second-hand, if we are conditioned through and through, then how can we see unconditionally? And, from a certain angle, Krishnamurti?s own model of human consciousness appears to bear out this objection.
Your mind is conditioned right through; there is no part of you which is unconditioned. That is a fact, whether you like it or not. You may say there is a part of you - the watcher, the super-soul, the Atman - which is not conditioned; but because you think about it, it is within the field of thought, therefore it is conditioned. You can invent lots of theories about it, but the fact is that your mind is conditioned right through, the conscious as well as the unconscious, and any effort it makes to free itself is also conditioned. So what is the mind to do?
New Delhi, 1956, 6th Public Talk
He describes consciousness as a closed system, as being contained within a perimeter. At the center of this system is the "me" - a specialized subsection of the content itself. The floating boundaries of consciousness might expand and contract, but the basic set-up stays the same.
It is the content that makes up consciousness. And therefore the content makes the borders of that consciousness, fixes the frontiers, draws the line, because it is the content, however wide, however narrow, that determines what consciousness is.
Facing a World in Crisis, Saanen, 23 July 1972
How then can the insight he speaks of "enter" into this closed system? Under what conditions does it enter? Can it enter?
From a purely logical point of view the possibilities are limited: There could be an ever so tiny, diaphanous, dimension-less splinter that is able to have an insight into its own nature. This option is off the table since nothing, absolutely nothing in our consciousness, according to Krishnamurti, is capable of insight.
Insight could also theoretically enter from the outside, a divine grace of sorts, if we were to prepare the ground in some way or another. But the introduction of an external force espouses belief and superstition - and therefore is also dismissed by Krishnamurti.
A third possibility is to find a means of sedulously purging consciousness of all desires, prejudices, motives ? a procedure that would leave the spectator self with a single, tenacious desire. Krishnamurti's objection to this approach is that it ineluctably creates a new center around which a new periphery can gather.
While it opens up so much of the teaching and reveals much of the workings of our own minds, this type of critical thinking leaves us with little clue as to what Krishnamurti means by insight.
It is possible to acquire a high degree of objectivity in the mode of investigation, to become wary of the influence of motives and desires. As such - perhaps by dint of exposure to Krishnamurti's teachings - one is not seeking "insight" per se, but only has a sincere interest in finding out whether or not there can be "a non-fragmented way of seeing, a quality of mind that is not touched by conflict".
Surely, Krishnamurti proposes, to discover the truth of anything, inquiry has to be free, unhampered, uninfluenced, without "the pressure of ideals, the pressure of wanting to change 'what is'". However, can our thinking, even if it be rational to the nth degree, ever be free? The critical thinking we are employing may well be factual, non-fanciful, but is it free? Despite our best efforts, is there an insoluble remainder that binds the inquiry?
The question ? whether insight is possible or not - is, to our mind, perfectly valid and objective and thus, the answer arrived at will be seen as equally valid. This stems from our perception that the inquiry is bathed in freedom, not tied to any conditions and that we don't endorse one answer over another.
To Krishnamurti, however, reasoned inquiry can never be free. He views questions as mere stepping-stones toward a resolution, or as he also puts it, the question is born of an answer ? even if it doesn't actually have an answer, even if it doesn't find an answer, the question is not free from the answer.
Now, what is a problem? A problem is about something; and if I do not know about that something, there is no problem. Because I know something about it, I begin to assemble various particulars of knowledge in order to answer. So knowledge creates the problem and the assemblage and putting together of knowledge finds the answer. So I know the problem and the answer. You see, Sir, what it does; if you will go into it, it frees the mind from the problems and from the search for solutions for problems.
Bombay, 1961, 4th Public Talk)
Why are questions by necessity tethered to an answer? Every question emerges from a particular context and has a unique history. The context is the experience and the knowledge that produced the question. If one doesn't have a background in engineering then one would not come up with a question regarding the hydraulics of levees, for instance. Questions are designed to resolve obscurities in the body of knowledge and the answer refers directly back to the repository of information that the question was derived from.
Consequently, our experience towers over any problem or question. And, in the same way that the question is wrought of experience, experience itself, as Krishnamurti ceaselessly iterates, cannot be reasonably construed as being independent of us. He maintains that experience is not, as our subjective feeling suggests, comprised of external events that happen to us. Furthermore, he suggests it is precisely because our experience ? which includes our thoughts and feelings - is seen as something separate from us that it has the ability to affect us, to prompt a response or to influence action.
Although intimately connected to us, our thinking is "objectified", felt as something that is fundamentally external, free-standing - the classic separation between the observer and the observed. Therefore, we hold and turn our questions as real, integral things, wholly independent, absolutely bona fide. Full weight is given to our feelings with regard to the possibility of insight. Throughout this process, experience remains the measure of all things, whether we rebuff the concept of transformation or whether we wholeheartedly embrace it.
The ruling principle of experience is that every move we make is based on the past. Thus, even if we elect to renounce aspects of experience, the very renunciation is subject to the laws of experience.
The conscious appreciation of free inquiry, then, is a false sense of freedom: "If one says 'I am free', then one is not free". This paradox takes us to the heart of the matter. There is only freedom within the confines of experience, which is no freedom at all. My inquiry, my questions and their answers are all inexorably tied to me, or put differently they are all the product of the past, knowledge, my personal history and the history of mankind.
Should the sameness of the question and the answer be seen as an actuality, to use Krishnamurti's words, "as one sees the microphone", then one's entire relationship to inquiry would undergo a dramatic shift: the inquiry itself would quietly dissolve as the wider implications of our un-free state move to the center of attention. Awareness springs into being as the fact of bondage is perceived. When there is true freedom, inquiry comes to an end.
A mind which has responded to challenges partially, and therefore created misery for others and for itself, sees that all responses and all challenges are limited; therefore the mind asks itself: Can the mind be the challenge as well as the response? This means an astonishing state of questioning itself and itself responding and knowing its limitations and the limitations of its own challenge. And the next step is: can the mind be in a state in which there is no challenge and no response? Where will that lead to? Why should it lead anywhere? Please follow this, the thing of beauty is in itself, there is no need for it to be something else, to be more. You understand? A thing that in itself is pure - what need is there for it to be more?
Bombay, 1961, 4th Public Talk