In March of 1927, the young German physicist Werner Heisenberg discovered what was to become known as ?The Uncertainty Principle?- a theory that later proved instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. Heisenberg showed that it is impossible to know at any given moment both the velocity and the position - two fundamental properties - of an electron with equal precision because, roughly speaking, if you shine enough light on an electron to see it, the light itself will alter the electron?s velocity. This discovery had a tremendous impact in the world of physics, in that it effectively sealed off the physical world from full knowability.

Coincidentally, around the same period as Heisenberg's groundbreaking discovery, Krishnamurti underwent a mystical ? for want of a better word - experience through which he realized something remarkably similar with regard to the observer?s capability to ?know? his surroundings. As he later put it, ?The action of the thinker upon the fact is shaped by his memory, by his past experience; therefore, the fact is always shaped by the thinker, and therefore he never understands the fact.?

The impact of the observer on reality ? which we have come to know as conditioning - runs much deeper than we might be inclined to believe. Conditioning is not, as Krishnamurti points out, a cloak, which we can throw off should we decide to do so, but rather is an intricate framework that determines our very identity. At its most fundamental level, the framework is thought with its system of interlocking words, images, knowledge ? a structure into which things have to fit, or be made to fit, in order for us to become conscious of them.

Thinking is a response of memory. Thoughts become the slave of words, the slave of symbols, of ideas, and the mind is the word and the mind becomes slave to words like god, communist, the principal, the vice-principal, the prime minister, the police inspector, the villager, the cook. See the nuances of these words and the feelings that accompany these words. You say sannyasi and immediately there is a certain quality of respect. So the word for most of us has immense significance. For most of us the mind is the word. Within the conditioned, verbal, technical symbolic framework, we live and think; that framework is the past, which is time. If you observe this process taking place in yourself, then it has significance.

On Education, Talk to Teachers, Chapter 10

This explains why, no matter how profoundly we search the depths of our beings, what is unearthed at every level is another pattern, a structure, something unoriginal, formulaic and predictable. It is not so much that we are conditioned beings - in the sense that conditioning has been thrust upon us - but rather that we are indistinguishable from our conditioning.

Krishnamurti sometimes refers to this framework of conditioning simply as ?the past?. ?The past looks upon the present, as if they were something separate,? he suggests further. To us the present is the ultimate portal to reality - where real things occur in real time and where we can have impact through our actions.

Krishnamurti, however, radically calls into question the belief that we contact reality through the present. His descriptions of human experience depict a self laboring to establish a future, but all the while being borne backward into the past: "We see with the eyes of time, and translate the present in terms of the past; and this translation meets the tomorrow." In this perpetually unfolding story of our consciousness, the present is choked out.

You will say, 'What am I to do? Tell me what to do. What practice? What method? How am I to think, to break this tremendous burden of time?' These questions indicate that you are still thinking in terms of time: practice implies time, method implies time, to wait for somebody to tell you what to do implies time. And your doing it according to what has been said is within the field of time; therefore within that field of time, there is no hope; there is only despair and mounting sorrow.

Choiceless Awareness, Bombay, 3rd Public Talk, February 20, 1966

One of the most striking ramifications of conditioning is that in our very attempt to understand - or feel - ?reality?, we inevitably transform the very thing we seek to elucidate. This is reminiscent of the Heisenberg effect in the physical world where the light beam of the electron microscope alters the velocity of the particle even as it tries to uncover its properties.

It is somewhat difficult to comprehend how "shedding light" on something can be so invasive. Light has almost exclusively positive connotations in language, and so does "seeing" and "understanding". Small wonder, then, that the one is often used as a metaphor for the other. Yet, as we have seen, at the microscopic level light can be a rather blunt instrument. Similarly, while our ability to perceive may seem perfectly sane, rational and lucid at the macroscopic level of our everyday lives, if we zero in to take a much closer look, the purity of thought/feeling becomes increasingly questionable. What we find is that thought is not untainted, but spiked with value - value being directly proportional to the gratification it affords to the self. The imposition of value clouds our judgment in every instance, especially since its trace is not visible to the naked eye.

In that field [of consciousness] every action is the result of thought, conscious or unconscious; and that thought creates certain values, and those values are based on pleasure. All our values are based on pleasure. The moral, ethical, so-called noble values are essentially based on pleasure. And as long as we are functioning and bringing about, or trying to bring about, a change within that field through thought, there is no change at all because thought can only create conflict.

Choiceless Awareness, Bombay, 3rd Public Talk, February 20, 1966

Facts in and of themselves have no inherent value. They are what they are. The observer, however, subconsciously consumes the fact in a way that corroborates its framework of conditioning. Perception as we exercise it, then, is a form of assertion. Thought ? the means by which we perceive, name and ultimately understand reality - can be construed as the end-result of a chain of events that begins as a certain pressure ? a desire of the framework to express itself, a desire of consciousness to push its content outward.

As long as you pretend to yourself that you are seeking something more than mere compensation, you cannot see the matter clearly.

Alpino, Italy 1st Public Talk 1st July, 1933

Through serious, diligent, thoughtful inquiry we find ourselves facing two equally true, but mutually negating realizations: firstly, that observation - in the sense of ?knowing? - necessitates the presence of an observer, meaning that it is impossible to look without the backdrop of conditioning; secondly, the understanding that unpolluted perception is absolutely necessary for right action. Faced with this paradox, the analytical mind immediately seeks to transcend the contradiction by allowing one truth to alternately dominate the other. As is commonly experienced, this descent into conclusion causes oscillation between feelings of resignation or inspiration depending on whichever conclusion is stronger at the time. In sharp contrast to this, and because it isn?t limited by logic or the need to control, the mind able to assume what Krishnamurti terms a "state of attention" is fully capable of letting these two ?opposing truths? coexist with equal intensity in one and the same moment.

As the framework of conditioning seeks expression, it often causes grief to the self, whose own interest is personal benefit. We find ourselves assailed by fear, sorrow and other problems that derive from the impositions of conditioning. Recognizing ?conditioning? as the source of conflict, there is a natural desire to be free from it. Attention, however, does not perceive the self as separate from the authority that is conditioning. With the blurring of this distinction, the tug-of-war between what is perceived as beneficial versus that which is harmful also wanes.

So if you see that the 'I' is separate from the conditioning then you act upon it. This action is called positive. The positive action of this kind is to struggle with it, to find out the causes of conditioning, how deeply you are conditioned, whether you can do something about it, or go to somebody and ask them what to do, they will tell you what to do, which is practice, you know all the rest of it. Whereas the actual fact is the entity that says, 'I am conditioned and I want to be free from it', that entity is also conditioned. Therefore there is only conditioning, not 'I am conditioned'. You have understood this simple fact? So the battle is over between me and the conditioning. Then we can examine without division.

Saanen, 1st Public Dialogue, 26 July 1978

Unlike the reactionary mind which condemns conditioning as an unacceptable impediment to freedom, the attentive mind is not bogged down by the urge to interfere. As such, it is free to keep moving with whatever happens and thereby able to see emotional reactions and attempts at resolution as further manifestations of influencing "what is?. Krishnamurti suggests that attention, being devoid of the need for self-expression, takes an ?inactive? role in perception and as such, reality is allowed to imprint on consciousness in almost camera-like fashion. It is only in such circumstances that there can be the kind of un-tethered thought, the kind of discrimination that naturally leads to right action.

Understanding is not mere intellection; it is not the outcome of argumentation; it has nothing to do with acceptance, denial, or conviction. On the contrary, acceptance, denial, and conviction prevent understanding. To understand, surely, there must be a state of attention in which there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of the thing we are talking about, in order to agree or disagree. There is an abeyance or suspension of all opinion, of all sense of condemnation or comparison; you are just listening to find out. Your approach is one of inquiry, which means that you don't start from a conclusion; therefore you are in a state of attention, which is really listening.

Choiceless Awareness, Bombay, 3rd Public Talk, February 20, 1966

Given Krishnamurti's wondrous descriptions, it is understandable that the mind in its turmoil turns to ?attention? as a panacea. There is an underlying hope that attention can in some way "sanitize" thought in order to bring about the order, sanity and tranquility we desire.

Explanation and definition only make the mind more dull. I will give you a brief explanation, but the explanation is not the fact. Don't stay with the explanation, spit it out as something which doesn't taste good.

Meeting Life, Bombay, India, February 1968

The main "feature" of attention being non-interference, it is not a direct solution to the problems caused by conditioning. On the contrary, if it has any tangible effect at all, it will more likely involve dissolution rather than a salvaging of the things that have the greatest meaning to us in life. Which might explain why the attentive mind continues to be just beyond grasp for most of us. Even this negation cannot be attributed to attention per se, but to thought itself which naturally self-corrects as it is fed more accurate information. The role that attention plays appears to be that of highlighting those mechanisms of thought that are unnecessary, false, and misleading. In other words, the ones that pervert or misrepresent reality. Not that attention chooses to reveal the filter of conditioning, but since it wants nothing, nothing remains hidden from the mind.