One of the most appealing aspects of Krishnamurti's teaching is that it is a purely individual affair. He was most adamant that, other than for practical matters, no organization should be formed around his teachings: "To have power over others through an organization is surely evil, is it not?" By organizations, he wasn't just referring to external institutions, but also to what is perhaps the most perfidious of organizations - the association of ideas which we know as "the self".
The relationship of ideas, the association of experiences that one has gathered, of memories that one has consciously or unconsciously stored up, the racial instincts, the traditions that one has inherited, the innumerable influences to which one is subject - all this makes up what we call consciousness.
Bombay, India 2nd Public Talk, 27th December 1959
When Krishnamurti speaks of the danger of authority, however, he is not advocating the wholesale rejection of ideas, opinions or desires. Rather, he is speaking of a completely "new mind", one that does not adopt any pattern, including that of rejection. This mind functions wholly, non-fragmentarily, not according to a system and can therefore meet the challenge of life afresh from moment to moment. Nothing adheres to the new mind and as such it has nothing to reject. Most importantly, Krishnamurti tells us, there is no way for the "old mind" to become the new mind. The old mind has to die for the new mind to be.
Whenever we try to apply our take on what it means to die psychologically in our daily life - be it through the practice of awareness/meditation, controlling the free flow of thought and so on - we invariably end up being disappointed. In fact, it is this very sort of imposition of our intellectual understanding on living, Krishnamurti suggests, that perpetuates the self.
You have to die to find out what death is, and that, apparently man cannot do, for he is too frightened of dying to everything he knows, to his most intimate, deep-rooted hopes and pleasures.
Generally speaking, the self comes into being when the content of our consciousness divides into the "me" - specifically those ideas, opinions and desires that we feel represent our being - and the "not me". This identification with the dominant set of ideas is not fixed, but highly dynamic. As challenges are encountered, the self has the ability to imperceptibly reorganize its identity to meet them. The seamless fashion in which this re-structuring is accomplished confers to the self the illusion of continuity.
The self is put together, made up, and the self is not when the parts are dissolved. But in illusion the self separates itself from its qualities in order to protect itself, to give itself continuity, permanency. It takes refuge in its qualities through separating itself from them. The self asserts that it is this and it is that; the self, the I, modifies, changes, transforms its thoughts, its qualities, but this change only gives strength to the self, to its protective walls. But if you are aware deeply you will perceive that the thinker and his thoughts are one; the observer is the observed. To experience this actual integrated fact is extremely difficult and right meditation is the way to this integration.
Ojai, California - 6th Public Talk 1946
The manner in which this sense of continuity is maintained is so subtle that self-identity persists despite our best efforts to do away with it. For example, we can see that an over-readiness to judge gives rise to conflict, often culminating in us hurting both ourselves and others. But seeking to suspend prejudice is itself a judgment in its own right.
It would appear one cannot get any closer to dissolving the "old mind", than to harbor a deep sense of discontent with the very nature of self. However, here again the instantaneous recreation of the self manages to slip through the cracks of our attention, since the feeling of discontent is in itself a reaction with which one is strongly identified.
How is it that the self manages to be so resilient? Krishnamurti suggests that the self, rather than being an integral entity, can actually be better described as a process. Or more specifically, the sense of self is produced by the process of comparison that we use to navigate the world. The process of comparison delegates authority to a particular set of ideas, which collectively comprise the "controller". And it is also comparison that can shift that authority if need be, allowing a different grouping of ideas to become dominant. The self owes its resilience to this fluidity, to this ability to easily switch affinity - instead of ending it morphs into something perceived to be of greater benefit.
How do you observe the self? You understand? The movement of the self. The self is not static, it is moving, living, acting. Now how do you observe something that is tremendously moving, active - urges, desires, ambitions, greed, romanticism, all that - how do you observe?
"So our conditioning is to measure - the better, the more." Comparison is not only tied to such value-judgments, but is the fundamental process by which we name and recognize all the things we are conscious of. Choosing one thing over another, liking and disliking, judging, accepting and rejecting, taking sides, accusing and defending - these are all more or less complex examples of comparison.
Krishnamurti implores us not to agree with what he is saying, not to "use" the understanding that we have garnered from his words. This is not to encourage independent thinking, but is meant to warn how easy it is to identify with that which appears to be more noble, more true. Any effort to end self must inevitably create a "higher" or "truth seeking" part that has dominion over the "lower" or meaner parts.
Is it possible to bring about a fundamental transformation without conflict, without one part of the mind trying to dominate another part? It seems to me that this is possible only if we realize the urgency of a total change, and see the falsity of one part of ourselves, which we call 'higher', striving to dominate the 'lower', for surely the 'higher' is still within the field of the mind, and is therefore also the outcome of conflict.
Athens, Greece - 3rd Public Talk, 30th September 1956
"How can we learn to die?" was a question Krishnamurti was asked once in India, and he replied, "I say first learn how to live." This answer might appear paradoxical, even evasive at first sight, but it is evident that psychological death is not something that can happen through direct intervention. In fact, any form of control, interference or resistance just serves to fuel the self instead of weakening it.
So then what does Krishnamurti mean by "learn how to live"? Our consciousness with its shifting affiliations to ideas, with its constant moving, pushing, seeking seems very much alive to us. We feel able to respond to outer challenges not only instantly, but also to anticipate them.
Krishnamurti, however, cuts to the chase with this question: "Are my ideas living?" The richness, fullness and freshness of our experiences are certainly a thing of the past, he continues to argue. Only their residue, the remembrances are moving through our consciousness, bestowing it with the semblance of life. "So what we call living is that which has happened and gone. See Sir, what you are doing. That which has gone and dead, our minds are so dead, and the remembrance of all that is called living. That is the tragedy of our life." And it is indeed tragic to live a life that unconsciously accepts that the universe can be held within the frontiers of our minds.
Even just to entertain the idea that we are but a collection of specters, of lifeless imagery is not only shocking, but has tremendous implications. If the "old mind" is in actuality a dead mind, how then is it that it can wield such power, that it can effectively enshroud the living? The answer lies in what Krishnamurti describes as "control" - a current-like force permeating our consciousness, bringing the memories, the dead experiences to life.
Control is the means by which we manipulate reality in order to meet the self's constant demand for security. Wherever control is being exerted, life is essentially warped, made to fit. Control is much more ubiquitous than we might imagine. Not only can it be found in our assertive tendencies, but it is equally present in emotions like fear, for instance, which we consider to be rather weak and submissive. But fear, like any other idea, assumption, emotion, when dominant, not only governs our person but also distorts the perception of reality.
Krishnamurti urges us to become aware of how control underpins the entire mechanism of consciousness as we know it - to such an extent that one could say that our very reality is largely self-determined. Since control manifests in each and every moment, it cannot be fully understood in the abstract, but only directly by diligent observation. Without this first-hand discovery, this "self-knowledge", Krishnamurti insists, there is no basis for "right thinking", "right action".
As we said, we ought to consider what it means to be attentive. This may be the clue to a harmonious existence. As things are, the intellect, the whole activity of the brain, which is thinking, dominates our existence. This naturally brings about contradiction in ourselves, peculiar behaviour. When only one part of our whole being is in dominance, it will inevitably bring about neurotic behaviour. Attention is the awareness of this dominance of intellect, without the instinctive urge to control it, or allowing emotion to take its place. This awareness brings about subtlety, clarity of mind.
Letters to the Schools, Volume 2, 15th February 1982
Krishnamurti ultimately asks us whether it would be possible to "live without the shadow of control", that is, to live without the constraints in our consciousness. That, in essence, is unadulterated awareness. Unlike control, awareness floods the mind with freedom, even as it sheds light on the self-imposed restriction of thought.
So the first thing for all enquiry, for all new life, for all understanding and comprehension is freedom. But you do not demand freedom, you demand security. And the moment you want physical security you plan to create it; which means you establish various forms of authority, dictatorship, control, while at the same time you want freedom. So the conflict begins within the mind. But a mind which is aware of its conflict must find out which is of primary importance - freedom or security. After all, is there such a thing as security at all? You may want it, but is there such a thing? Events are showing that there is no such thing as security. Yet the mind clings to the idea. If the mind demands freedom first then security will follow, but if you seek security first you will never have freedom and so you will always have different forms of conflict, misery and sorrow.
Madras, India - 2nd Public Talk, 26th October 1958
"The fact," Krishnamurti says, "never creates a problem. You create a problem of the fact, but the fact never creates a problem." It is obvious that the fact of control cannot be ended through discipline. What can end is frustration, the demand for thought to stop. And it is only in the ending of demand, in the ending of desire, that control ceases to be.