Question and Answer Session

24.05.03, P. Krishna

We are going to have some questions now.

Question : Can it be that we need some illusions to begin with for our growth and have to outgrow them later on ? Could the illusions be stages in which the mind goes to the truth ?

PK : The questioner is asking if it is necessary to have some illusion in order to discover what is true. No illusion is necessary for the discovery of truth. Different religions promulgate different illusions in the form of beliefs. Why do I have to go through them in order to discover what is true? There are no stages to truth. Socially the consequence of one illusion may be less bad than another, but from the point of view of perception of what is true; all illusion is a barrier. There is biological evolution, which is part of nature; but there is no psychological evolution. We were egotistic 5,000 years ago, we are still egotistic, and I am not sure that evolution will eradicate the ego, because each one of us creates it through the capacity for imagination, memory and thought. These capacities are present in each person and they are not going to go away. The instinct of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain also exists and is not going to go away. So I don't think we can rely on evolution, we need to learn this as part of right living.

Question : Isn't pain as natural as pleasure ? So how can we eliminate it ?

P.K. :Physical pain is a biological process. You fall down and break your bones and there is pain, that is so for animals, that is so for us. What is there additionally for us is that that pain can create self-pity. So it is what we additionally make in addition to the physical pain, is due to the ego process. Physical pain is just a natural consequence, but self-pity is not a natural consequence, it is our creation. I'd like to give you an example of this. One can look at one's own life factually and you can know that you have this much money, you have this house, you have this family, you are so many years old, you have this much knowledge, you don't have that and so on. In all this factual perception there is no ego. But if I evaluate these conditions and say I am unfortunate in life, or I look at them and I feel I am very fortunate in life, then that feeling is our own creation andwe must understand why we do that. It is a psychological process, a self-created process. What the mind does is, it compares these conditions with some other conditions or somebody else. It chooses whom to compare with, it chooses what to compare about, it evaluates and it feels fortunate or unfortunate.It is a game our mind plays. It is like asking, is the number 50 big or small? The question cannot be answered. It is bigger than 49 and smaller than 51! So the elation and the depression are both created by our own mind and therefore all frustration is the creation of our own mind. A difficulty in life may not be the creation of our own mind, but the frustration is. It is the result of an unintelligent response to life.

So these ego processes are psychological processes, and come to an end if we free our mind of comparison, not through a voluntary decision but by learning about how it happens and what it does. For instance, if we discover for ourself that comparing oneself with others is just a disease of one's own mind and it produces a lot of complications in life, you stop comparing. And if you stop comparing, then there is no inferiority, there is no superiority, no jealousy, no envy.Then you are not influenced by what is happening to the other person. So you lead your own life and you're friends with others.You share their joys and you share their sorrows too, but there is no comparison. This not something very difficult to learn. Anyone can learn this and then a big burden is gone. All this complication of feeling jealousy , rivalry, competition and enmity with others, that whole baggage is dropped off. And that's an actual transformation because you live differently now. Your consciousness functions differently. It may not be total enlightenment in the sense that you're not free from all illusion but at least one illusion you have dropped, which conserves a lot of energy, which was being wasted earlier in friction. And we need energy to learn, to explore further.

So this is a very energising quest because the ego process is a very dissipating process, it dissipates energy tremendously. It corresponds to friction in physical systems.

Question : Can you tell us what the 'process' which Krishnamurti went through was ?

P.K. :No, it is a great mystery to me, what that process was, which Krishnamurti apparently went through all his life and it is described in his biographies. I don't think anybody knows, but different people have different guesses and a good scholarly guess about this you can find in the new book by Aryel Sanat, who has researched into it (The Inner Life of Krishnamurti). But I think it is not important for us to understand what happened to Krishnamurti. You can do that for your own academic interest, but from the point of view of one's own learning it has no value. For writing a book on Krishnamurti it has value; but Krishnamurti is asking us to understand ourselves and to understand life, not to understand him ! I am also curious to know about him, because I look upon him as a wise friend I had in my life but It would be an illusion to think that that understanding is going to bring any wisdom to our mind. I don't think there is any point in speculating ; I just don't know what that process was. But I don't think everybody needs to go through that. And I am also not sure if Krishnamurti himself knew what it was because he was questioned about it and he himself also questioned what it was, he was not sure. But this enquiry is not for becoming like him. The truth about life is independent of Krishnamurti. Just as the scientific truths are independent of the scientists. Gravitation existed before Newton, it exists after Newton. The ego problems were there before Krishnamurti and they are there after Krishnamurti. So understanding what happened to him is only of academic interest. Nothing is wrong with having an academic interest, I am myself an academic, but to think that that will bring some understanding is an illusion.

Question: Is there a difference between the ego and the self?

P.K. : This is a question of semantics, I think. These words are not precisely defined like scientific terms, like mass, force and energy. In science we define terms precisely. Different people use the words self and ego in somewhat different senses, and they are often also interchangeable. You will find that in religious literature they often use self with a small s and Self with a capital S. The self with a small s is used to imply the ego and the self with a capital S implies pure awareness that we are capable of, which Krishnamurti called choiceless awareness, because the choice comes from the ego. You have to anyway go behind the word andunderstand the actuality. And that is why this is like an art; you can't learn it from definitions and from guidelines. You cannot make a beautiful painting with any kind of instructions and similarly you can't lead a life of high quality, free from the ego, through any instructions. That's why Krishnamurti never bothered to define his terms precisely. He said, you must discover the meaning behind them for yourself anyway. That's why professors of philosophy, who define these terms very precisely are no closer to the truth ! As an academic exercise it has value, but in the religious quest it has no value.

Question : Since we are conditioned by our past and it sits in our memory, how can we ever be free of it ?

P.K. : The observer is a product of the past. It is the conditioned part of our consciousness. It is what is held in our memory, from which the mind responds. So all thought is tied down to the past. No thought is ever completely new. It may be an addition of two different thoughts and therefore nobody may have made that thought but it is still arising from the past. The only faculty, which we have, which is not based on the past, is awareness. I can even be aware of my conditioning. I can be aware of the thought process and awareness is something in the present. So that is the only hope for man. Otherwise we are completely trapped in the past. So Krishnamurti pointed out that so long as we are attached and identified with our conditioning, that becomes the content of our consciousness. It is only when we free ourself of this content, which doesn't mean that this content does not exist anymore, but that it does not dominate in our consciousness, only then is there the possibility of something totally new taking place. This is true even in the scientific quest. If you consider how a totally new discovery is made in science, like for instance Einstein's discovery that space and time and connected to each other. This was not known in classical physics. People had always considered that space is something totally different from time and that is our experience too. So it was not in Einstein's experience either. So, from where did he see this connection? It was not in his knowledge; it was not in his experience. It was something totally new, which came as a flash to him. This is the capacity for insight, which the human consciousness has. We have not valued it sufficiently. We are terribly attached to the thought process and we feverishly work with it and that's what continues the ego, continues the past.

If you don't use the thought process to solve your problems and stay silently with them and watch, you will find that something different takes place in your mind.We don't let that happen because we are scared and feverishly working with our thought process. So when the observer is very actively working, there is not sufficient energy available for observation. But when the observer is silent, which means that the thought process is silent, then there is the possibility of something new, since the observer is not interfering and there is only observation taking place.This is connected with what I was talkingabout this morning, whether we have to identify with this computer, which is sitting there in our brain and must therefore accept everything that it says. Can I not look at my own reactions in the same way as I look at my friends' reactions ? I am not trapped in that, but I listen to it, I consider it. So if I can listen to my own brain, but not necessarily accept it, I am free.

It is a bit subtle. Once I asked Krishnamurti,"Sir, I have read in your biographies that as a young boy you were very shy. How did you overcome that shyness?" And he said, " I have not overcome it, Sir. I am still shy."

Now to me that meant that he was pointing out that he had just become aware of the fact that K's brain is shy. He didn't fight with it, but did not always accept what it said. So I could see that sometimes when we were walking in front of his house, and he was looking from the terrace, he would withdraw out of shyness. But, surely, when he was going to give his talk and there were thousands of people sitting in that hall, the shyness must have come up and said, there's all kinds of strangers sitting there, don't go in,but he did not accept it and said ' I don't listen to you this time ! ' So, by neither fighting with it, nor identifying with it, you are free ! So to me that is all implied in this choiceless awareness. It implies that the observer is not actively interfering with the observed. If I separate myself from the observed, then that is already a division between me and what I am observing. And in that space the me wants to manipulate and that becomes the ego process.

So I don't give tremendous importance to this computer. Awareness is not in that computer, which is why the religious literature addresses it as the Self with a capital S. But Krishnamurti never accepted that. He said, there is only the ending of this. And before you have freed yourself from this, to talk about the Self with a capital S is only speculation. But you can ask the question, if he had freed himself from the self, from where was he talking and from where was he acting? After all, there was still thinking going on, there was still action being taken, only the ego process was absent..One can know that state only after the ego process has come to an end. But when we speculate about it, then we are only.academically discussing it, we do not know what it is. It is said that the sages lived with the Self with a capital S; to me there is no difference between that and living with choiceless awareness. You can't deliberately cultivate the capital S. Any deliberate attempt on our part belongs to the self with the small s!

I see it in the following way. We live on two planes. On one plane is will and effort and knowledge and there are paths and new achievements and so on. The entire thought process belongs in this plane. There is another plane, which often we are not aware of, which is not a thought process. In that plane lie awareness, perception, observation, attention, silence, meditation, insight. They are not thought processes. One can be aware of the thought process also, so awareness is not a thought process. And there is a mysterious connection between that plane and this plane of our thoughts. Though we live in live in the lower plane,occasionally,a channel opens up from the higher plane and through that perception we grasp the truth.That is the only way things fundamentally change in the lower plane. It is a mysterious process, it is pathless and it is timeless. Krishnamurti said that truth enters the mind like a burglar. When a burglar enters your house, you don't know by which path he enters, you cannot specify when he will enter and he has to break through the defences of your house in order to enter. Similarly, truth has to enter through the defences we have built around our brain, which are our attachments, our illusions and so on. And there is no method for this. And yet it is a capacity which our consciousness is capable of. Otherwise, as we discussed in the morning, we are completely trapped in the past.And if I am completely trapped in my past then I am not responsible for my actions because my decisions are inevitable. Since it is not so, that is why freedom is possible. We are not like a computer, a very complex computer, which is programmed. A computer has no awareness.

That's why K talks about the emptying of consciousness as we know it. It's only awareness that is not influenced by the past. All thought is influenced by the past. He makes a very radical statement. He says, thinking cannot solve our problems, because on the one hand, your thinking process is creating the problems and on the other hand you are relying on the thought process to solve them. You have to go above that to see the source of the problem. It's a little like, sitting in front of the sea and trying to make the waves flat ! You can keep counting how many waves you have flattened today, but it is all stupid activity because the waves will keep coming so long as the source of the waves is not eliminated.

So you can very intelligently go on solving your problems but the kind of thinking that creates problems is still going on. It's more important to understand the mechanism that creates problems than to solve individual problems. For that you have to watch how these problems are arising and what is happening in your life.

You know, wise people in different cultures have expressed similar thoughts in different times. So there is this beautiful verse in the Upanishads about two birds on a tree. One bird is nibbling at the fruit and tasting the sourness or sweetness of it and the other bird is only watching what this bird is doing. The human consciousness, it says, is both these birds in one.The first bird is the ego, the second bird is awareness, it's just watching. That reflective, silent, quiet watching brings far more wisdom than all your effort to solve the problems. And a single perception may be worth more than one million thoughts !


Back to the lecture these questions were asked about
Back to the first lecture
On to the next lecture