A Talk delivered by J Krishnamurti on 12th November 1958 at Madras (now called Chennai)) India
I think almost all serious people must have thought a great deal about the necessity of bringing about a radical change in the quality of the mind. We see, as things are in the world, that there is no fundamental alteration or change in the human mind. Of course, through pressure, economic and social, through various forms of religious fear, through new inventions and so on, there is change, but this change is always peripheral, on the outside, and obviously such change does not bring about a deep, radical change in the quality of the mind. You must have noticed that society always follows a pattern, certain formulas, in the same way as every individual follows certain concepts, ideals, always moving within the pattern. You must have noticed it not only in yourself and in society but in all our relationships, and you must have wondered how to bring about a deep, lasting, integrated change, so that the interaction between the outer and the inner does not bring about corruption. I do not mean anything mysterious by the `inner’. It is the inner quality of the mind that I am talking about, not inward things which the mind imagines and speculates about. All society, all human existence is a matter of this interrelationship between the outer and the inner which is constantly fluctuating and always modifying. And if I may, I would like to talk about the possibility of a radical change because I think it is very important. After all, we are social entities and we must live by action. Life is action. One cannot just sit and speculate, neither can one merely carry on with the corruption because, as we know, it only breeds contradiction within ourselves and everlasting torture and struggle. So how is the mind to change? How is there to be a radical change in the total consciousness, not only on the upper levels of the mind but also at the deeper levels, and not along a set pattern? Following a pattern is not a change at all; it is merely a modified continuity of what has been. How is one to really change the quality, the substance of one’s consciousness, totally? I do not know if you have thought about it, or are you merely concerned with outward changes which are brought about by every form of social and economic revolution, every new invention? If we are concerned with a total change of consciousness, of the quality of the mind, then I think we must think negatively because negative thinking is the highest form of thinking, not the so-called positive thinking. The positive is merely the pursuit of a formula, a conclusion and all such thinking is limited, conditioned.
I hope you are listening rather than just hearing because I want to go into something rather difficult, if I can, and I hope we shall be able to proceed with it together. But if you are merely hearing and not listening, then you will be caught at the verbal level and words then become over-significant. Words are only the means of communicating something. So I hope you are going to listen without any desire to understand mere ideas. I have no ideas because I think they are the most stupid things; they have no substance, no reality, they are just words. So I hope you are listening in the sense of trying to see the problem, just to see it, not to struggle to understand it or resolve it, but to see this extraordinary complex problem which we have – the problem of bringing about a total change in consciousness, in the mind. As I was saying, negative thinking is the highest form of thinking. We never think negatively; we think only positively. That is, we think from a conclusion to a conclusion, from a pattern to a pattern, from a system to a system. That I must be this, I must acquire some virtue, follow this or that path, do certain disciplines. The positive thinking is always in the grooves of our own conditioned thinking – I hope you are watching your own mind, your own thought , and that way only leads to further limitation of the mind, to narrowness of the mind, to pettiness of action; it always strengthens the self-centered activity. Negative thinking is something entirely different, but it is not the opposite of positive thinking. If I can understand the limitations of positive thinking, which invariably leads to self-centered activity, if I can understand not only verbally, intellectually but as the whole process of human thinking, then there is a new awakening in negative thinking.
Most of us are attached to something – to property, to a person, an idea, a belief, an experience – are we not? You are attached to your family, your good name, your profession, your guru, to this and that. Now, this attachment invariably breeds suffering and conflict because the thing to which you are attached is constantly changing, obviously. But you do not want the change; you want to hold on to it permanently. So, being aware that attachment breeds sorrow, grief, pain, you try to cultivate detachment. Obviously both attachment and the cultivation of detachment are positive ways of thinking. Detachment is not the negation of attachment, it is merely attachment continued under a different verbal garb. The mental process is entirely the same, if you have ever noticed it. For instance, I am attached to my wife. In that there is pain, struggle, jealousy, frustration, and to escape from all that, I say I must be detached, I must love in an impersonal manner – whatever that may mean – I must love without limitation, and I try to cultivate detachment. But the centre of my activity in attachment or detachment is exactly the same thing. So, our thinking which we call positive is a conflict of the opposites or an endeavour to escape into a synthesis which again creates an opposite. Take Communism, it is the antithesis of Capitalism, and eventually through struggle the Communists hope to create a synthesis, but because it is born of the conflict of opposites that synthesis is going to create another antithesis. And this process is what we call positive thinking, not only outwardly, socially, but inwardly also.
Now if one understands the total process of all this, not only intellectually but actually, then we will see that a new way of thinking comes into being. It is a negative process unrelated to the positive. The positive way of thinking leads to immaturity, to a mind that is conditioned, shaped, and that is exactly what is happening with all of us. When you say you want to be happy, you want Truth, God, to create a different world, it is always in terms of the positive, which is to follow a system that will produce the desired result, and the result is always the known and it becomes again the cause. Cause and effect are not two different things. The effect of today will be the cause of tomorrow. There is no cause, isolated, which produces an effect; they are interrelated. There is no such thing as a law of cause and effect, which means that there is really no such thing as what we call karma. To us, karma means a result with a previous cause, but in the interval between the effect and the cause there has been time. In that time there has been a tremendous lot of change and therefore the effect is never the same. And the effect is going to produce another cause which will never be merely the result of the effect. Do not say, `I do not believe in karma’, that is not the point at all. Karma means, very simply, action and the result, with its further cause. Sow a mango seed and it is bound to produce a mango tree – but the human mind is not like that. The human mind is capable of transformation within itself, immediate comprehension, which is a breaking away from the cause, always.
So negative thinking is not thinking in terms of patterns because patterns imply a cause which will produce a result which the mind can manipulate, control and change. With that process we are all very familiar. What I am trying to convey is a negative thinking which has no causation. This may all sound too absurd, but we will go into it and you will see. We will approach it differently.
Most of us are discontented, are we not? We are discontented with our job, with our wife, husband, children, neighbours, society or whatever it is. I want position, I want money, I want love. We know all this. Now discontent with something is positive; but discontent, in itself, is negative. I will explain. When we are discontented, what is actually taking place? If I am discontented with my job, with myself, what is happening? I want to find contentment, through this or through that. So the discontent is canalized until it finds something which will be satisfactory, and then it fades away. That is what we call positive action, – to find something which will make us happy. But without the flame of real discontent – not discontent with something – life has no meaning. You may have a marvelous job, an extraordinary brain, get degrees and be able to discuss, quote, but your discontent has merely taken the shape of cleverness, and there you are completely sterile. You started with discontent, and at school perhaps you were very good, but as you grew, that discontent became stratified into cleverness or into some form of technique, and there you are satisfied because you feel you have capacity and can function. That again is positive thinking. Whereas negative thinking is just to be in a state of discontent and such a mind is a very disturbed mind. It is not satisfied and it is not seeking satisfaction because it sees that satisfaction leads only to that positive action which we all seek. To find a way to be satisfied everlastingly means to be dead. And that is what you want; you call it peace of mind and say, `for God’s sake give me some corner in this universe where I can die peacefully’. So the positive action leads always to death. If you can see that, then you will see that a negative way of thinking is taking place. Therefore the negative way of thinking never starts with a conclusion, because one sees where conclusions lead.
So the negative way of thinking is the maintenance, the sustenance of the quality that is discontent – discontent in itself, not with something. Please do not get caught at the verbal level but see the significance of this. But we must understand that positive thinking is conditioned thinking and that there is no change in that; there is modification but no radical transformation. Radical transformation is only in the negative thinking, as we saw in relation to attachment and to discontent. This positive thinking leads only to a dull mind, an insensitive mind, a mind that is not capable of reception, a mind that thinks only in terms of its own security – either the security of the individual or of the family, group or race, which you can observe very clearly in world politics.
After all, this earth is ours, yours and mine. This earth which is so marvelous, so beautiful, so rich, is ours to live on happily, without all this fragmentation, without being broken up into different fields called England, Germany, Russia, India. Yet we are battling to keep up the separation. Nobody thinks of this whole world as ours, nobody says, `let us do something together about it’. Instead, we have this fragmentary way of thinking which we call positive, or we pursue some idea of internationalism, which is equally silly. If I can see that, then there is a different approach, a different feeling of the mind, whether it be the Russian or the German or whatever mind it is. Then there is no such thing as the nonsense of patriotism; there is the love of the earth – not your earth and my earth, you cultivating your little field and I cultivating mine, and quarreling over it, but it is our earth.
Now when we see that this positive way of thinking is destructive, then the negative way comes into being. To think negatively there must be sensitivity, sensitivity both to the beautiful and to the ugly. The man who is pursuing what he calls the beautiful and avoiding the ugly, is not sensitive. The man who pursues virtue without understanding that which is not virtuous, merely avoiding it, is invariably insensitive. Please think this out with me, feel it out and you will see. So appreciation of the beauty of a tree, a leaf, the reflection on still waters, is not sensitivity if you are not also aware of the squalor, the dirt, the way you eat, the way you talk, the way you think, the way of your behaviour.
Under this tree it is very beautiful, very quiet, there is lovely shade and light, and just outside there is that filthy village with all the squalor and dirt and the unfortunate human beings who live there but you are not aware of it. So we are always wanting beauty, truth and God and avoiding the other, and that pursuit is the positive and leads to insensitivity, if we are not aware of the other. And the positive way of erecting buildings for dances, having special schools for dancing, all that business becomes a personal racket, satisfying to the mind that is only thinking positively. Creation is not positive, ever. Creation is the state of mind in which there is no positive action as we know it.
So, radical transformation takes place in the mind only when there is this negative thinking. As I said the other day, the thinking that we know of is always in words or symbols. I do not know if you have noticed that there is thinking without words but that thinking is still the result of the positive word. I will explain. You always think in words, symbols, do you not? Please look. The word, the symbol becomes very important to thought. It is the basis of all our thinking; there is association through memory and the memory is a picture, a word, and from that we proceed to think, again in symbols, words. That is all we know, and also if you are very alert, aware, you can see that there is thinking without the word, without the symbol. I am not going to give an example because then you will get lost, so please capture the significance, for negative thinking is not related to thought-with-the-word. Unless you see this you will not see what follows. I am thinking aloud; I have not worked it out at home and then come here to speak it out. So please see this, not merely verbally or speculatively but actually experience that thought functions in words, in symbols and also that thought functions without the word and the symbol. Both these are positive ways of thinking because they are still in the realm of the opposites. Let me put it differently.
You must have watched your mind how vagrant it is, how it wanders all over the place, one thought pursuing another. When you try to examine one thought, another comes in. So the mind is full of this movement, the agitation of thought. The mind is always occupied with thought. Thought is the instrument of the mind; so the mind is never still. Do not at once say, `How am I to make the mind still?’ That is all too immature, stupid, because it means again a positive following of some pattern. So, realizing the incessant activity of the thought-producing mechanism, through memory, through association, being aware of that, cannot the mind empty itself of this mechanism? Do not ask how, just listen, because understanding is instantaneous, it is not a process which will ultimately get you a mind emptied of thought. If you see the positive, destructive way, – of the mind’s activity of producing thought and being controlled by it and then trying to empty the mind – if you can see the falseness or the truth of it, then you will also see that the mind can empty itself of itself, of its limitations, of its ego-centricity, of its self-centered activities. Please go with me a little. The mind is perpetually active, producing and controlling thought. It realizes that, and says, `I must be quiet’, but that generally means quiet through control, which is again positive, destructive and limiting. But you can see if you go a little further that the mind can be emptied of thought, can free itself from the past, not be burdened by the past. It does not mean that memories are not there but they do not shape or control the mind. Now all that is still positive thinking. If you see the falseness of it, the mind will invariably go further, which is, the mind then is not the slave of thought but it can think what it wants. I do not know how to put this. As I said, I am thinking aloud with you and you will have to excuse me if I try different ways of putting it.
I do not know if you have ever tried to think without being a slave to thought. With most of us the mind is a slave to thought, it pursues thought, contradictory thought and all the rest of it. If you perceive that and empty the mind, it can then think, freed from thoughts associated with memory; and if you go further into it, you will see that the mind which is free – not in the sense of the opposite of slavery, but free in itself – then that mind, emptied of memory, can think in a negative way. Then you will see that the mind, being completely empty of systems, formulas, speculations, thoughts associated with memory, experiences and so on, can perceive that there is a state in which there is action in this world, not from fullness but from emptiness.
You see we are acting now with full minds, overcrowded minds, minds that are incessantly active, in contradiction, struggling, adjusting, ambitious, envious, jealous, brutal or gentle and so on. You follow? We are acting on that level. The mind, being full, acts. That action can never produce a new mind, a new quality of mind, a fresh mind, an innocent mind – and it is only such an innocent, fresh mind that can create, that is in a state of creation. The mind sees that, and if the mind can empty itself, then the action that is born out of emptiness is the true positive action, not the other. That is the only true, positive, creative action, because it is born out of emptiness. If you have done any painting, written a poem, a song, you will find the deep feeling comes out of nothingness. But a mind that is crowded can never feel that nothingness and can therefore never be sensitive.
One sees that there can be a radical change in the quality of the mind, which is absolutely necessary now because the present society is a dead society, reforming itself through various forms of anesthesia and pumping activity into itself. If you as an individual are to change fundamentally, radically, deeply – and therefore change society – then this whole thing that I have described must take place. Then beauty has quite a different significance, as has ugliness, because beauty is not the opposite of the ugly. An ugly face can be beautiful. But such beauty is not conceived by the mind that has avoided ugliness.
So if you have really listened and do not try to do anything about it – because whatever you do will be so-called positive and therefore destructive – then it is enough. It is to see something lovely and leave it alone, not try to capture it, not take it home and smother it by thought.
If you have seen for yourself, not through my persuasiveness, not through my words, my influence, if you have felt the beauty, the extraordinary quality of the mind that is empty, then from that emptiness there is a new birth.
It is this new birth which is needed, not the going back to Mahabharata, Ramayana, Marx or Engels, or revivalism. The mind that is really creative is the empty mind, not the blank mind or the mind that merely wishes to be creative. It is only the empty mind that can understand this whole thing – the extraordinary process of thought and thought emptying itself of its own impetus. Then you will see that there is a radical, deep change which is not brought about by influence, circumstances, culture or society. It is that mind which will create a new society. And the moment it creates a new society, that society is already in corruption. All societies are in corruption because that which is created is ever dying. Therefore, recognizing that no society, no tradition, no knowledge is permanent; we can see that the mind which is empty is creative, is in a state of creation.
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