Question: It is perfectly clear to me that the "I" consciousness is the result of environment, but do you not see that the "I" did not originate for the first time in this life? From what you say it is obvious that the "I" consciousness, being the result of environment, must have begun in the distant past and will continue in the future.
Krishnamurti: I know this is a question to catch me about reincarnation. But that doesn't matter. Now let's look into it.
First of all you will admit, if you think about it, that the "I" is the result of environment. Now to me it doesn't matter whether it is the past environment or present environment. After all, environment is of the past also. You have done something which you haven't understood, you did something yesterday which you haven't understood, and that pursues you till you understand it. You cannot solve that past environment till you are fully conscious in the present. So it doesn't matter whether the mind is crippled by past or present conditions, What matters is that you shall understand the environment and this will liberate the mind from conflict.
Some people believe that the "I" has had a birth in the distant past and will continue in the future. It is irrelevant to me, it has no significance at all. I will show you why. If the "I" is the result of the environment, if the "I" is but the essence of conflict, then the mind must be concerned, not with that continuance of conflict, but with freedom from that conflict. So it does not matter whether it is the past environment which is crippling the mind, or the present which is perverting it, or whether the "I" has had a birth in the distant past. What matters is that in that state of suffering, in that consciousness, that conscious acuteness of suffering, there is the dissolution of the "I".
This brings in the idea of karma. You know what it means, that you have a burden in the present, the burden of the past in the present. That is, you bring with you the environment of the past into the present, and because of that burden, you control the future, you shape the future. If you come to think of it, it must be so, that if your mind is perverted by the past, naturally the future must also be twisted, because if you have not understood the environment of yesterday it must be continued today; and therefore, as you don't understand today, naturally you will not understand tomorrow either. That is, if you have not seen the full significance of an environment or of an action, this perverts your judgment of today's environment, of today's action born of environment, which will again pervert you tomorrow. So one is caught up in this vicious circle, and hence the idea of continual rebirth, rebirth of memory, or rebirth of the mind continued by environment.
But I say mind can be free of the past, of past environment, past hindrances, and therefore you can be free of the future, because then you are living dynamically in the present, intensely, supremely. In the present is eternity, and to understand that, mind must be free of the burden of the past; and to free the mind of the past there must be an intense questioning of the present, not the considering of how the "I" will continue in the future.
2nd Public Talk 17th June, 1934