ON LEARNING AND THE
SEARCH FOR MEANING
This article was excerpted from the book Life Ahead: On Learning and theSearch for Meaning, ©2005, by J. Krishnamurti. Reprinted with permission ofthe publisher,
It seems to me that a totally different kind of morality and conduct, and an action that springs from the understanding of the whole process of living, have become an urgent necessity in our world of mounting crises and problems. We try to deal with these issues through political and organizational methods, through economic readjustment and various reforms; but none of these things will ever resolve the complex difficulties of human existence, though they may offer temporary relief. All reforms, however extensive and seemingly lasting, are in themselves merely productive of further confusion and further need of reformation. Without understanding the whole complex being of man, mere reformation will bring about only the confusing demand for further reforms. There is no end to reform; and there is no fundamental solution along these lines.
Political, economic, or social revolutions are not the answer either, for they have produced appalling tyrannies, or the mere transfer of power and authority into the hands of a different group. Such revolutions are not at any time the way out of our confusion and conflict.
But there is a revolution which is entirely different and which must take place if we are to emerge from the endless series of anxieties, conflicts, and frustrations in which we are caught. This revolution has to begin, not with theory and ideation, which eventually prove worthless, but with a radical transformation in the mind itself. Such a transformation can be brought about only through right education and the total development of the human being. It is a revolution that must take place in the whole of the mind and not merely in thought. Thought, after all, is only a result and not the source. There must be radical transformation in the source and not mere modification of the result. At present we are tinkering with results, with symptoms. We are not bringing about a vital change, uprooting the old ways of thought, freeing the mind from traditions and habits. It is with this vital change we are concerned and only right education can bring it into being.
To inquire and to learn is the function of the mind. By learning I do not mean the mere cultivation of memory or the accumulation of knowledge, but the capacity to think clearly and sanely without illusion, to start from facts and not from beliefs and ideals. There is no learning if thought originates from conclusions. Merely to acquire information or knowledge is not to learn. Learning implies the love of understanding and the love of doing a thing for itself. Learning is possible only when there is no coercion of any kind. And coercion takes many forms, does it not? There is coercion through influence, through attachment or threat, through persuasive encouragement or subtle forms of reward.
Most people think that learning is encouraged through comparison, whereas the contrary is the fact. Comparison brings about frustration and merely encourages envy, which is called competition. Like other forms of persuasion, comparison prevents learning and breeds fear. Ambition also breeds fear. Ambition, whether personal or identified with the collective, is always antisocial. So-called noble ambition in relationship is fundamentally destructive.
It is necessary to encourage the development of a good mind—a mind which is capable of dealing with the many issues of life as a whole, and which does not try to escape from them and so become self-contradictory, frustrated, bitter or cynical. And it is essential for the mind to be aware of its own conditioning, its own motives and pursuits.
Since the development of a good mind is one of our chief concerns, how one teaches becomes very important. There must be a cultivation of the totality of the mind, and not merely the giving of information. In the process of imparting knowledge, the educator has to invite discussion and encourage the students to inquire and to think independently.Authority, as ‘the one who knows’, has no place in learning. The educator and the student are both learning through their special relationship with each other; but this does not mean that the educator disregards the orderliness of thought. Orderliness of thought is not brought about by discipline in the form of assertive statements of knowledge; but it comes into being naturally when the educator understands that in cultivating intelligence there must be a sense of freedom. This does not mean freedom to do whatever one likes, or to think in the spirit of mere contradiction. It is the freedom in which the student is being helped to be aware of his own urges and motives, which are revealed to him through his daily thought and action.A disciplined mind is never a free mind; nor can a mind that has suppressed desire ever be free. It is only through understanding the whole process of desire that the mind can be free. Discipline always limits the mind to a movement within the framework of a particular system of thought or belief, does it not? And such a mind is never free to be intelligent. Discipline brings about submission to authority. It gives the capacity to function within the pattern of a society which demands functional ability, but it does not awaken the intelligence which has its own capacity. The mind that has cultivated nothing but capacity through memory is like the modern electronic computer which, though it functions with astonishing ability and accuracy, is still only a machine. Authority can persuade the mind to think in a particular direction. But being guided to think along certain lines, or in terms of a foregone conclusion, is not to think at all; it is merely to function like a human machine, which breeds thoughtless discontent, bringing with it frustration and other miseries.
We are concerned with the total development of each human being, helping him to realize his own highest and fullest capacity—not some fictitious capacity which the educator has in view as a concept or an ideal. Any spirit of comparison prevents this full flowering of the individual, whether he is to be a scientist or a gardener. The fullest capacity of the gardener is the same as the fullest capacity of the scientist when there is no comparison; but when comparison comes in, then there is the disparagement and the envious reactions which create conflict between man and man. Like sorrow, love is not comparative; it cannot be compared with the greater or the lesser. Sorrow is sorrow, as love is love, whether it be in the rich or in the poor.
The fullest development of every individual creates a society of equals. The present social struggle to bring about equality on the economic or some spiritual level has no meaning at all. Social reforms aimed at establishing equality breed other forms of antisocial activity; but with right education, there is no need to seek equality through social and other reforms, because envy with its comparison of capacities ceases.
We must differentiate here between function and status. Status, with all its emotional and hierarchical prestige, arises only through the comparison of functions as the high and the low. When each individual is flowering to his fullest capacity, there is then no comparison of functions; there is only the expression of capacity as a teacher, or a prime minister, or a gardener, and so status loses its sting of envy.Functional or technical capacity is now recognized through having a degree after one’s name; but if we are truly concerned with the total development of the human being, our approach is entirely different. An individual who has the capacity may take a degree and add letters after his name, or he may not, as he pleases. But he will know for himself his own deep capabilities, which will not be framed by a degree, and their expression will not bring about that self-centered confidence which mere technical capacity usually breeds. Such confidence is comparative and therefore antisocial. Comparison may exist for utilitarian purpose; but it is not for the educator to compare the capacities of his students and give greater or lesser evaluation.Since we are concerned with the total development of the individual, the student may not be allowed in the beginning to choose his own subjects, because his choice is likely to be based on passing moods and prejudices, or on finding the easiest thing to do; or he may choose according to the immediate demands of a particular need. But if he is helped to discover by himself and cultivate his innate capacities, then he will naturally choose, not the easiest subjects, but those through which he can express his capacities to the fullest and highest extent. If the student is helped from the very beginning to look at life as a whole, with all its psychological, intellectual, and emotional problems, he will not be frightened by it.
Intelligence is the capacity to deal with life as a whole; and giving grades or marks to the student does not assure intelligence. On the contrary it degrades human dignity. This comparative evaluation cripples the mind—which does not mean that the teacher must not observe the progress of every student and keep a record of it. Parents, naturally anxious to know the progress of their children, will want a report; but if, unfortunately, they do not understand what the educator is trying to do, the report will become an instrument of coercion to produce the results they desire, and so undo the work of the educator.Parents should understand the kind of education the school intends to give. Generally they are satisfied to see their children preparing to get a degree of some kind which will assure them of a livelihood. Very few are concerned with more than this. Of course, they wish to see their children happy, but beyond this vague desire very few give any thought to their total development. As most parents desire above all else that their children should have a successful career, they frighten or affectionately bully them into acquiring knowledge, and so the book becomes very important; and with it there is the mere cultivation of memory, the mere repetition without the quality of real thought behind it.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty the educator has to face is the indifference of parents to a wider and deeper education. Most parents are concerned only with the cultivation of some superficial knowledge which will secure their children respectable positions in a corrupt society. So the educator not only has to educate the children in the right way, but also to see to it that the parents do not undo whatever good may have been done at the school. Really the school and the home should be joint centers of right education, and should in no way be opposed to each other, with the parents desiring one thing and the educator doing something entirely different. It is very important that the parents be fully acquainted with what the educator is doing, and be vitally interested in the total development of their children. It is as much the responsibility of the parents to see that this kind of education is carried out, as it is of the teachers, whose burden is already sufficiently heavy. A total development of the child can be brought about only when there is the right relationship between the teacher, the student, and the parents. As the educator cannot yield to the passing fancies or obstinate demands of the parents, it is necessary for them to understand the educator and cooperate with him, and not bring about conflict and confusion in their children.
The child’s natural curiosity, the urge to learn exists from the very beginning, and surely this should be intelligently encouraged continually, so that it remains vital and without distortion, and will gradually lead him to the study of a variety of subjects. If this eagerness to learn is encouraged in the child at all times, then his study of mathematics, geography, history, science, or any other subject, will not be a problem to the child or to the educator. Learning is facilitated when there is an atmosphere of happy affection and thoughtful care.
Emotional openness and sensitivity can be cultivated only when the student feels secure in his relationship with his teachers. The feeling of being secure in relationship is a primary need of children. There is a vast difference between the feeling of being secure and the feeling of dependency. Consciously or unconsciously, most educators cultivate the feeling of dependency, and thereby subtly encourage fear—which the parents also do in their own affectionate or aggressive manner. Dependency in the child is brought about by authoritarian or dogmatic assertions on the part of parents and teachers as to what the child must be and do. With dependency there is always the shadow of fear, and this fear compels the child to obey, to conform, to accept without thought the edicts and sanctions of his elders. In this atmosphere of dependency, sensitivity is crushed; but when the child knows and feels that he is secure, his emotional flowering is not thwarted by fear. This sense of security in the child is not the opposite of insecurity. It is the feeling of being at ease, whether in his own home or at school, the feeling that he can be what he is, without being compelled in any way; that he can climb a tree and not be scolded if he falls. He can have this sense of security only when the parents and the educators are deeply concerned with the total welfare of the child.
It is important in a school that the child should feel at ease, completely secure from the very first day. This first impression is of the highest importance. But if the educator artificially tries by various means to gain the child’s confidence and allows him to do what he likes, then the educator is cultivating dependency; he is not giving the child the feeling of being secure, the feeling that he is in a place where there are people who are deeply concerned with his total welfare.
The very first impact of this new relationship based on confidence, which the child may never have had before, will help towards a natural communication, without the young regarding the elders as a threat to be feared. A child who feels secure has his own natural ways of expressing the respect which is essential for learning. This respect is denuded of all authority and fear. When he has a feeling of security, the child’s conduct or behavior is not something imposed by an elder, but becomes part of the process of learning. Because he feels secure in his relationship with the teacher, the child will naturally be considerate; and it is only in this atmosphere of security that emotional openness and sensitivity can flower. Being at ease, feeling secure, the child will do what he likes; but in doing what he likes, he will find out what is the right thing to do, and his conduct then will not be due to resistance, or obstinacy, or suppressed feelings, or the mere expression of a momentary urge.
Sensitivity means being sensitive to everything around one—to the plants, the animals, the trees, the skies, the waters of the river, the bird on the wing; and also to the moods of the people around one, and to the stranger who passes by. This sensitivity brings about the quality of uncalculated, unselfish response, which is true morality and conduct. Being sensitive, the child in his conduct will be open and not secretive; therefore a mere suggestion on the part of the teacher will be accepted easily, without resistance or friction.
As we are concerned with the total development of the human being, we must understand his emotional urges, which are very much stronger than intellectual reasoning; we must cultivate emotional capacity and not help to suppress it. When we understand and are therefore capable of dealing with emotional as well as intellectual issues, there will be no sense of fear in approaching them.
For the total development of the human being, solitude as a means of cultivating sensitivity becomes a necessity. One has to know what it is to be alone, what it is to meditate, what it is to die; and the implications of solitude, of meditation, of death, can be known only by seeking them out. These implications cannot be taught; they must be learnt. One can indicate, but learning by what is indicated is not the experiencing of solitude or meditation. To experience what is solitude and what is meditation, one must be in a state of inquiry; only a mind that is in a state of inquiry is capable of learning. But when inquiry is suppressed by previous knowledge, or by the authority and experience of another, then learning becomes mere imitation, and imitation causes a human being to repeat what is learnt without experiencing it.
Teaching is not the mere imparting of information but the cultivation of an inquiring mind. Such a mind will penetrate into the question of what is religion, and not merely accept the established religions with their temples and rituals. The search for God, or truth, or whatever one may like to name it—and not the mere acceptance of belief and dogma—is true religion.
Just as the student cleans his teeth every day, bathes every day, learns new things every day, so also there must be the action of sitting quietly with others or by himself. This solitude cannot be brought about by instruction, or urged by the external authority of tradition, or induced by the influence of those who want to sit quietly but are incapable of being alone. Solitude helps the mind to see itself clearly as in a mirror, and to free itself from the vain endeavor of ambition with all its complexities, fears, and frustrations, which are the outcome of self-centered activity. Solitude gives to the mind a stability, a constancy which is not to be measured in terms of time. Such clarity of mind is character. The lack of character is the state of self-contradiction.
To be sensitive is to love. The word love is not love. And love is not to be divided as the love of God and the love of man, nor is it to be measured as the love of the one and of the many. Love gives itself abundantly as a flower gives its perfume; but we are always measuring love in our relationship and thereby destroying it.
Love is not a commodity of the reformer or the social worker; it is not a political instrument with which to create action. When the politician and the reformer speak of love, they are using the word and do not touch the reality of it; for love cannot be employed as a means to an end, whether in the immediate or in the far-off future. Love is of the whole earth and not of a particular field or forest. The love of reality is not encompassed by any religion; and when organized religions use it, it ceases to be. Societies, organized religions, and authoritarian governments, sedulous in their various activities, unknowingly destroy the love that becomes passion in action.
In the total development of the human being through right education, the quality of love must be nourished and sustained from the very beginning. Love is not sentimentality, nor is it devotion. It is as strong as death. Love cannot be bought through knowledge; and a mind that is pursuing knowledge without love is a mind that deals in ruthlessness and aims merely at efficiency.
So the educator must be concerned from the very beginning with this quality of love, which is humility, gentleness, consideration, patience, and courtesy. Modesty and courtesy are innate in the man of right education; he is considerate to all, including the animals and plants, and this is reflected in his behavior and manner of talking.
The emphasis on this quality of love frees the mind from its absorption in its ambition, greed, and acquisitiveness. Does not love have about it a refinement which expresses itself as respect and good taste? Does it not also bring about the purification of the mind, which otherwise has a tendency to strengthen itself in pride? Refinement in behavior is not a self-imposed adjustment or the result of an outward demand; it comes spontaneously with this quality of love. When there is the understanding of love, then sex and all the complications and subtleties of human relationship can be approached with sanity and not with excitement and apprehension.
The educator to whom the total development of the human being is of primary importance must understand the implications of the sexual urge which plays such an important part in our life, and be able from the very beginning to meet the children’s natural curiosity without arousing a morbid interest. Merely to impart biological information at the adolescent age may lead to experimental lust if the quality of love is not felt. Love cleanses the mind of evil. Without love and understanding on the part of the educator, merely to separate the boys from the girls, whether by barbed wire or by edicts, only strengthens their curiosity and stimulates that passion which is bound to degenerate into mere satisfaction. So it is important that boys and girls be educated together rightly.
This quality of love must express itself also in doing things with one’s hands, such as gardening, carpentry, painting, handicrafts; and through the senses, as seeing the trees, the mountains, the richness of the earth, the poverty that men have created amongst themselves; and in hearing music, the song of the birds, the murmur of running waters. We are concerned not only with the cultivation of the mind and the awakening of emotional sensitivity, but also with a well-rounded development of the physique, and to this we must give considerable thought. For if the body is not healthy, vital, it will inevitably distort thought and make for insensitivity. This is so obvious that we need not go into it in detail. It is necessary that the body be in excellent health, that it be given the right kind of food and have sufficient sleep. If the senses are not alert, the body will impede the total development of the human being.
To have grace of movement and well-balanced control of the muscles, there must be various forms of exercise, dancing, and games. A body that is not kept clean, that is sloppy and does not hold itself in good posture, is not conducive to sensitivity of mind and emotions. The body is not the instrument of the mind, but body, emotions, and mind make up the total human being, and unless they live together harmoniously, conflict is inevitable.
Conflict makes for insensitivity. The mind may dominate the body and suppress the senses, but it thereby makes the body insensitive; and an insensitive body becomes a hindrance to the full flight of the mind. The mortification of the body is definitely not conducive to the seeking out of the deeper layers of consciousness; for this is possible only when the mind, the emotions, and the body are not in contradiction with each other, but are integrated and in unison, effortlessly, without being driven by any concept, belief or ideal.
In the cultivation of the mind, our emphasis should not be on concentration, but on attention. Concentration is a process of forcing the mind to narrow down to a point, whereas attention is without frontiers. In that process the mind is always limited by a frontier or boundary, but when our concern is to understand the totality of the mind, mere concentration becomes a hindrance. Attention is limitless, without the frontiers of knowledge. Knowledge comes through concentration, and any extension of knowledge is still within its own frontiers. In the state of attention the mind can and does use knowledge, which of necessity is the result of concentration; but the part is never the whole, and adding together the many parts does not make for the perception of the whole. Knowledge, which is the additive process of concentration, does not bring about the understanding of the immeasurable. The total is never within the brackets of a concentrated mind.
So attention is of primary importance, but it does not come through the effort of concentration. Attention is a state in which the mind is ever learning without a center around which knowledge gathers as accumulated experience. A mind that is concentrated upon itself uses knowledge as a means of its own expansion; and such activity becomes self-contradictory and antisocial.
Learning in the true sense of the word is possible only in that state of attention, in which there is no outer or inner compulsion. Right thinking can come about only when the mind is not enslaved by tradition and memory. It is attention that allows silence to come upon the mind, which is the opening of the door to creation. That is why attention is of the highest importance.
Knowledge is necessary at the functional level as a means of cultivating the mind, and not as an end in itself. We are concerned, not with the development of just one capacity, such as that of a mathematician, or a scientist, or a musician, but with the total development of the student as a human being.
How is the state of attention to be brought about? It cannot be cultivated through persuasion, comparison, reward, or punishment, all of which are forms of coercion. The elimination of fear is the beginning of attention. Fear must exist as long as there is an urge to be or to become, which is the pursuit of success, with all its frustrations and tortuous contradictions. You can teach concentration, but attention cannot be taught just as you cannot possibly teach freedom from fear; but we can begin to discover the causes that produce fear, and in understanding these causes there is the elimination of fear. So attention arises spontaneously when around the student there is an atmosphere of well-being, when he has the feeling of being secure, of being at ease, and is aware of the disinterested action that comes with love. Love does not compare, and so the envy and torture of ‘becoming’ cease.
The general discontent which all of us experience, whether young or old, soon finds a way to satisfaction, and thus our minds are put to sleep. Discontent is awakened from time to time through suffering, but the mind again seeks a gratifying solution. In this wheel of dissatisfaction and gratification the mind is caught, and the constant awakening through pain is part of our discontent. Discontent is the way of inquiry, but there can be no inquiry if the mind is tethered to tradition, to ideals. Inquiry is the flame of attention.
By discontent I mean that state in which the mind understands what is, the actual, and constantly inquires to discover further. Discontent is a movement to go beyond the limitations of what is; and if you find ways and means of smothering or overcoming discontent, then you will accept the limitations of self-centered activity and of the society in which you find yourself.
Discontent is the flame which burns away the dross of satisfaction, but most of us seek to dissipate it in various ways. Our discontent then becomes the pursuit of the ‘more’, the desire for a bigger house, a better car, and so on, all of which is within the field of envy; and it is envy that sustains such discontent. But I am talking of a discontent in which there is no envy, no greed for the ‘more’, a discontent that is not sustained by any desire for satisfaction. This discontent is an unpolluted state which exists in each one of us, if it is not deadened through wrong education, through gratifying solutions, through ambition, or through the pursuit of an ideal. When we understand the nature of real discontent, we shall see that attention is part of this burning flame which consumes the pettiness and leaves the mind free of the limitations of self-enclosing pursuits and gratifications.
So attention comes into being only when there is inquiry not based on self-advancement or gratification. This attention must be cultivated in the child, right from the beginning. You will find that when there is love—which expresses itself through humility, courtesy, patience, gentleness—you are already free of the barriers which insensitivity builds; and so you are helping to bring about in the child this state of attention from a very tender age.
Attention is not something to be learnt, but you can help to awaken it in the student by not creating around him that sense of compulsion which produces a self-contradictory existence. Then his attention can be focused at any moment on any given subject, and it will not be the narrow concentration brought about through the compulsive urge of acquisition or achievement.
A generation educated in this manner will be free of acquisitiveness and fear, the psychological inheritance of their parents and of the society in which they are born; and because they are so educated, they will not depend on the inheritance of property. This matter of inheritance destroys real independence and limits intelligence; for it breeds a false sense of security, giving a self-assurance which has no basis and creating a darkness of the mind in which nothing new can flourish. But a generation educated in this totally different manner which we have been considering will create a new society; for they will have the capacity born of that intelligence which is not hedged about by fear.
Since education is the responsibility of the parents as well as of the teachers, we must learn the art of working together, and this is possible only when each one of us perceives what is true. It is perception of the truth that brings us together, and not opinion, belief, or theory. There is a vast difference between the conceptual and the factual. The conceptual may bring us together temporarily, but there will again be separation, if our working together is only a matter of conviction. If the truth is seen by each one of us, there may be disagreement in detail but there will be no urge to separate. It is the foolish who break away over some detail. When the truth is seen by all, the detail can never become an issue over which there is dissension.
Most of us are used to working together along the lines of established authority. We come together to work out a concept, or to advance an ideal, and this requires conviction, persuasion, propaganda, and so on. Such working together for a concept, for an ideal, is totally different from the cooperation which comes from seeing the truth and the necessity of putting that truth into action. Working under the stimulus of authority—whether it be the authority of an ideal, or the authority of a person who represents that ideal—is not real cooperation. A central authority who knows a great deal, or who has a strong personality and is obsessed with certain ideas, may force or subtly persuade others to work with him for what he calls the ideal; but surely this is not the working together of alert and vital individuals. Whereas, when each one of us understands for himself the truth of any issue, then our common understanding of that truth leads to action, and such action is cooperation. He who cooperates because he sees the truth as the truth, the false as the false, and the truth in the false, will also know when not to cooperate—which is equally important.
If each one of us realizes the necessity of a fundamental revolution in education and perceives the truth of what we have been considering, then we shall work together without any form of persuasion. Persuasion exists only when someone takes a stand from which he is unwilling to move. When he is merely convinced of an idea or entrenched in an opinion, he brings about opposition, and then he or the other has to be persuaded, influenced, or induced to think differently. Such a situation will never arise when each one of us sees the truth of the matter for himself. But if we do not see the truth and act on the basis of merely verbal conviction or intellectual reasoning, then there is bound to be contention, agreement or disagreement, with all the associated distortion and useless effort.
It is essential that we work together, and it is as if we were building a house. If some of us are building and others are tearing down, the house will obviously never be built. So we must individually be very clear that we really see and understand the necessity of bringing about the kind of education that will produce a new generation capable of dealing with the issues of life as a whole, and not as isolated parts unrelated to the whole.
To be able to work together in this really cooperative way, we must meet often and be alert not to get submerged in detail. Those of us who are seriously dedicated to the bringing about of the right kind of education have the responsibility not only of carrying out in action all that we have understood, but also of helping others to come to this understanding. Teaching is the noblest profession—if it can be called a profession at all. It is an art that requires not just intellectual attainments but infinite patience and love. To be truly educated is to understand our relationship to all things—to money, to property, to people, to nature—in the vast field of our existence.
Beauty is part of this understanding, but beauty is not merely a matter of proportion, form, taste, and behavior. Beauty is that state in which the mind has abandoned the center of self in the passion of simplicity. Simplicity has no end; and there can be simplicity only when there is an austerity which is not the outcome of calculated discipline and self-denial. This austerity is self-abandonment, which love alone can bring about. When we have no love we create a civilization in which beauty of form is sought without the inner vitality and austerity of simple self-abandonment. There is no self-abandonment if there is an immolation of oneself in good works, in ideals, in beliefs. These activities appear to be free of the self, but in reality the self is still working under the cover of different labels. Only the innocent mind can inquire into the unknown. But the calculated innocence which may wear a loincloth or the robe of a monk is not that passion of self-abandonment from which come courtesy, gentleness, humility, patience—the expressions of love.
Most of us know beauty only through that which has been created or put together—the beauty of a human form, or of a temple. We say a tree, or a house, or the widely running river is beautiful. And through comparison we know what ugliness is—at least we think we do. But is beauty comparable? Is beauty that which has been made evident, manifest? We consider beautiful a particular picture, poem, or face, because we already know what beauty is from what we have been taught, or from what we are familiar with and about which we have formed an opinion. But does not beauty cease with comparison? Is beauty merely a familiarity with the known, or is it a state of being in which there may or may not be the created form?
We are always pursuing beauty and avoiding the ugly, and this seeking of enrichment through the one and avoidance of the other must inevitably breed insensitivity. Surely, to understand or to feel what beauty is, there must be sensitivity to both the so-called beautiful and the so-called ugly. A feeling is not beautiful or ugly, it is just a feeling. But we look at it through our religious and social conditioning and give it a label; we say it is a good feeling or a bad feeling, and so we distort or destroy it. When feeling is not given a label it remains intense, and it is this passionate intensity that is essential to the understanding of that which is neither ugliness nor manifested beauty. What has the greatest importance is sustained feeling, that passion which is not the mere lust of self-gratification; for it is this passion that creates beauty and, not being comparable, it has no opposite.
In seeking to bring about a total development of the human being, we must obviously take into full consideration the unconscious mind as well as the conscious. Merely to educate the conscious mind without understanding the unconscious brings self-contradiction into human lives, with all its frustrations and miseries. The hidden mind is far more vital than the superficial. Most educators are concerned only with giving information or knowledge to the superficial mind, preparing it to acquire a job and adjust itself to society. So the hidden mind is never touched. All that so-called education does is to superimpose a layer of knowledge and technique, and a certain capacity to adjust to environment.
The hidden mind is far more potent than the superficial mind, however well educated and capable of adjustment; and it is not something very mysterious. The hidden or unconscious mind is the repository of racial memories. Religion, superstition, symbol, peculiar traditions of a particular race, the influence of literature both sacred and profane, of aspirations, frustrations, mannerisms, and varieties of food—all these are rooted in the unconscious. The open and secret desires with their motivations, hopes, and fears, their sorrows and pleasures, and the beliefs which are sustained through the urge for security translating itself in various ways—these things also are contained in the hidden mind, which not only has this extraordinary capacity to hold the residual past, but also the capacity to influence the future. Intimations of all this are given to the superficial mind through dreams and in various other ways when it is not wholly occupied with everyday events.
The hidden mind is nothing sacred and nothing to be frightened of, nor does it demand a specialist to expose it to the superficial mind. But because of the hidden mind’s enormous potency, the superficial mind cannot deal with it as it would wish. The superficial mind is to a great extent impotent in relation to its own hidden part. However much it may try to dominate, shape, control the hidden, because of its immediate social demands and pursuits, the superficial can only scratch the surface of the hidden; and so there is a cleavage or contradiction between the two. We try to bridge this chasm through discipline, through various practices, sanctions, and so on; but it cannot so be bridged.
The conscious mind is occupied with the immediate, the limited present, whereas the unconscious is under the weight of centuries, and cannot be stemmed or turned aside by an immediate necessity. The unconscious has the quality of deep time, and the conscious mind, with its recent culture, cannot deal with it according to its passing urgencies. To eradicate self-contradiction, the superficial mind must understand this fact and be quiescent—which does not mean giving scope to the innumerable urges of the hidden. When there is no resistance between the open and the hidden, then the hidden, because it has the patience of time, will not violate the immediate.
The hidden, unexplored, and un-understood mind, with its superficial part which has been “educated,” comes into contact with the challenges and demands of the immediate present. The superficial may respond to the challenge adequately; but because there is a contradiction between the superficial and the hidden, any experience of the superficial only increases the conflict between itself and the hidden. This brings about still further experience, again widening the chasm between the present and the past. The superficial mind, experiencing the outer without understanding the inner, the hidden, only produces deeper and wider conflict.
Experience does not liberate or enrich the mind, as we generally think it does. As long as experience strengthens the experiencer, there must be conflict. In having experiences, a conditioned mind only strengthens its conditioning, and so perpetuates contradiction and misery. Only for the mind that is capable of understanding the total ways of itself can experiencing be a liberating factor.
Once there is perception and understanding of the powers and capacities of the many layers of the hidden, then the details can be looked into wisely and intelligently. What is important is the understanding of the hidden, and not the mere education of the superficial mind to acquire knowledge, however necessary. This understanding of the hidden frees the total mind from conflict, and only then is there intelligence.
We must awaken the full capacity of the superficial mind that lives in everyday activity, and also understand the hidden. In understanding the hidden there is a total living in which self-contradiction, with its alternating sorrow and happiness, ceases. It is essential to be acquainted with the hidden mind and aware of its workings; but it is equally important not to be occupied with it or give it undue significance. It is only when the mind understands the superficial and the hidden that it can go beyond its own limitations and discover that bliss which is not of time.
— J. Krishnamurti
This article was excerpted from the book Life Ahead: On Learning and theSearch for Meaning, ©2005, by J. Krishnamurti. Reprinted with permission ofthe publisher,
One of the great spiritual philosophers of our time, Jiddu Krishnamurti wasborn in 1895 in Andhra Pradesh, India. When he was fourteen, members of theTheosophical Society, a Western spiritual movement that combined Eastern andWestern religious traditions, found him and became convinced they had foundthe new world leader. Subsequently, theosophist Annie Besant adopted him andraised him in England. By the 1920s he was attracting worldwide pressattention and audiences of thousands. In 1929, he abandoned the TheosophicalSociety and set out on his own, teaching a secular philosophy bound by nocaste, nationality, religion, or tradition. For more than sixty years,Krishnamurti traveled the world teaching his philosophy to millions. Histalks have been preserved in over seventy books. He died in 1986 in Ojai,California.
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