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Chapter 4 - Attention, and Action without Conflict - Discussion in Bombay on 18 January 1973
Chapter 4 - Attention, and Action without Conflict - Discussion in Bombay on 18 January 1973
Krishnamurti (K): You started something yesterday, sir.
Maurice Frydman (MF): Action. We talked about action as being necessary. We said the only thing we can do is to allow the unknown to flow in by just behaving, and nothing can be done except negatively. And behaviour brought us to action. What is behaviour? Merely being passive, not breaking the law is not enough. Now, what is action, and how can it be kept pure of an intention or a goal or a purpose or a motive?
K: I wonder what you mean by action?
MF: Action invariably means bringing about a change.
K: Does it?
MF: No change, no action.
K: Action, to act-what does that word mean etymologically?
MF: 'To do'.
K: 'To do'. Not 'having done' or 'will do'-the past or the future. Just 'to do'.
MF: I think there is future action, past action, and present action.
K: No. I am 'acting'; it is always the active present, not the past acting or the future acting. The verb is 'to act', which is always in the present.
MF: But that way you can say that what is is always in the present.
K: Yes, that's what I want to get at. Then what is that action which is now? Is it the result of the past actions?
MF: The present action gives us what's there. Because it happens very quickly, we have no time to do anything about it; it is all there.
K: I am not sure, sir. I want to go into it.
Pupul Jayakar (PJ): You talked just now about what happens to action which is now, but can there be an action from now?
K: I want to find out whether there is an action which is continuous and which therefore is always a movement without a causation.
PJ: What do you mean by action which is continuous?
K: Must action always have a cause, a motive, a direction?
PJ: Isn't it a problem of semantics? If you say action is 'to do', then you can't do in a fraction; 'do' has a...
K: ...past, present, and future. We know that.
PJ: When you use that word action in this sense, is it of a separate nature from the verb doing?
K: What do you mean by acting?
PJ: To do.
K: To do; physical doing-going from here to there. That is one. Intellectual doing, intellectually working out a problem, emotionally, all the rest of it. So action means...
PJ: ...operating on.
K: Or operating through, or operating from.
PJ: Yes, all that.
Achyut Patwardhan (AP): When we see a child on the road and see a car coming, we lift the child out of the path of the car, bringing about a change in the scene. I am describing an action in which neither the past nor the future comes in.
MF: I know from my own experience that when I act without pre-cognition, without premeditation, on the spur of the moment, I just do the right thing without a moment's thought about it.
MF: But I am not aware of the mechanism which made me do it, which coordinated all the muscular movements and so on. I don't know what has happened, but I know what it is to do things on the spur of the moment, immediately, rightly.
PJ: I feel Krishnaji has given the word action a meaning which is not the meaning we give to it.
K: Quite right.
PJ: Let's clarify whether there is a difference in the very content of the word between what we are talking about as action and what Krishnaji is talking about as action. So what is the content of the word you use?
K: In which friction is non-existent.
MF: The next question is: is such an action conscious or unconscious? Can it be conscious when there is no friction?
K: I am just exploring, don't jump at it yet. Is there an action without producing conflict outside or inside? Is there an action which is whole, not fragmented? Is there an action which doesn't bring remorse or reward? Is there an action which is a movement unrelated to environment, unrelated to me or to the community? Is there an action which is a movement out of time? All that, to me, is action.
MF: You should have called it function, not action. What you describe is called by the word function.
K: No. I prefer the word action. You see, my action is related to my relationship to you. My action is related to the community I live in, my action is dictated by the economic condition.
K: Motivated. Climatic, environmental, personal, based on a belief, an ideal, and so on. That's the action we know. Right? I want to find out an action-if there is such an action- which is not the result of environmental pressure.
MF: Such an action is not separate from myself; it is not something I do.
K: I don't know what it is; I am not coming to that yet.
MF: What is this doing?
K: I want to see what is action. What is action? Moving from here to there? Picking up a child from the road when a car is coming? Thinking about something and acting?
MF: Action doesn't matter; it is the motivation that matters.
K: So motivation is part of action.
MF: Within your meaning, there is no action if there is motivation. It is not an action: the motive acts, you don't act.
K: We've said that. We've said there is motive in action; we know all that. I want something and I get it. I don't like you, I act. Or I like you, I act. My guru is a stupid old man, but I follow him. Now, we are trying to find out what is action.
PJ: What is it? If it is not all this, then what is the factor which propels that movement?
K: That's just it. I think we have to eliminate the causation in action. Is that possible? Is that action?-I love you because you give me money or you give me your body. You follow?
PJ: These are obvious. One can see the cause and effect of this, but in a state of attention...
K: No, I don't want to enter into attention.
PJ: Why not, sir?
K: Because I am dealing only with action. I don't know what attention is.
PJ: I am asking you. The movement of causation, the movement of thought, takes place, which is the experience with all of us. There is a thought of something which makes me move in a certain direction, and there is the result which is also stored in thought.
K: I know all that, we know all that.
PJ: I say that in attention also there is always movement; it is not that one goes to sleep in it. I am speaking to you just now, or he is speaking to you, and we are listening to you with our ears, we are seeing you with our eyes, and there is no other movement within us. This movement of speech is a movement of action. Now, the background against which this word action came up was the question of brain cells and consciousness.
PJ: Now the question is: in this state, which has nothing else but my seeing you and my listening, what is it that motivates my speech? What is it that makes it move?
MF: Would you say that motiveless action is the spontaneous expression of that infinite energy we mentioned yesterday?
K: I want to get at something much deeper. We know all this. What is the action which is self-energizing and is an infinite movement with infinite energy? Am I making something clear?
PJ: Infinite movement with infinite energy.
K: Yes. I think that is action. I feel all our actions are fragmented, all our actions are restricted. All our actions breed division, and out of that division there is conflict. Our actions are always within the field of the known and therefore always bound to time and therefore not free. That is so. Now I want to find out if there is any other action. We know this old action in the field of the known- technological action, the action of thought, the action of behaviour, all that. Is there any other action which builds itself?
PJ: How is that stream of action related to...
K: ... daily life?
PJ: I don't want to say daily life. You say it is possible for this to take place in human beings.
PJ: How is this stream related to the brain cells and consciousness? If it is not related to the brain cells and consciousness, then it could be synonymous with God.
K: Yes, I know, I know. What are we talking about?
PJ: Then what is it?
K: I am talking about action. What is action? Within the field of consciousness, we know very well what action means. Right? Need we go over that?
K: We know motive, we know reward, punishment, the whole of that-technological action, non-technological action and so on. It is all within...
PJ: ...the movement of time.
K: All that. That action must lead to various forms of frustration, various forms of sorrow, various forms of disintegrating processes. Do you grant that? And I ask myself, 'Is there any other action which doesn't belong to this consciousness with its frustrations, failures, sorrows, misery, confusion?' Is there any action which is not of time, time being all that? Is that a legitimate question? One has acted always within the field of the known. No?
MF: Direct experience does not corroborate with this.
K: What do you mean?
MF: Anybody who has a little insight into his own mind can see that action in the sense of the now is invariably causeless, motiveless.
K: I am not talking of that.
MF: I am not talking of ordinary actions. Our ordinary actions, which appear to be motivated, caused, and conditioned, are so only because they are described as such.
MF: Really they are not.
K: I understand that.
MF: We give the dog a bad name and hang him.
K: Quite, quite.
MF: It is not so.
K: I know. Look, let's begin very simply. I want to find out if there is an action which is without friction; that's all. I know that every action breeds some kind of friction.
MF: Out of memory.
K: We've said that. I want to find out an action which doesn't bring conflict. May I put it very simply? I want to find an action which doesn't breed contradiction.
MF: Every action is pure; only we create the contradiction.
K: I don't know. You are entering into something else.
PJ: I would like to ask Maurice: will action arise without motivation?
MF: But the combining of motivation with action is already an after-thought.
MF: When you search for a cause, you find a cause.
K: No. Look, I like you because you flatter me. Motive means to act.
MF: I go to the office, I take the bus. The entering of the bus is the entering of the bus, nothing more. But when you ask me, 'Why do you enter this bus?' I say, 'I go to the office to earn a livelihood.'
K: Of course. Entering the bus is to earn a livelihood.
PJ: I understand what he is saying. A large number of actions that take place in the day are really bodily reflexes and, as such, are not related to the mind mechanism which creates motive. You want to scratch yourself and you scratch. The motive is to scratch, but it is a bodily thing.
K: I agree, I admit all that. Don't let's go back and back and back. It is all very clear. We all know that action. I want to find out if there is an action which doesn't breed conflict, which doesn't contradict itself tomorrow Which doesn't mean that action is consistent. Following a set pattern and always following it is never contradictory, and that mere mechanical repetition leads to complete destruction of the brain. I want to find out an action which is not repetitive, which is not conflicting, which is not imitative, conforming, and therefore corrupt. You've understood what I am trying to get at?
MF: I have understood that. In which universe is there such an action?
K: I am going to find out Not up there or here.
K: I want to find such a way of living. Living is action. MF: Yes. Don't forget that to live means 'to act on the environment and be acted upon'.
MF: You can't get out of the environment.
K: Therefore I don't depend on the environment, and the environment doesn't cook me. I said all that.
MF: You said all that. You see, I am puzzled because you use words that depend essentially on the environment.
K: Cut out all that. I want to live a life...
MF: ...without conflict.
K: ...without conflict.
MF: That's all.
K: Which means life is action: getting up, going, walking, earning a livelihood, having children, sex-life. And I see that life has always in it conflict; here, on this earth. I am not talking of paradise or hell. In this living in Bombay, I find that life is a continuous battle.
MF: That is true.
K: Wait, don't enlarge on it. And I want to find a way of living which is action in which there is no conflict. Conflict means imitation, conformity, following a pattern in order not to have conflict, which means a mechanical way of living, an action which is based on my experience, my memory, etc., which is also a fragmentation against yours. So I want to find such a way of living-and living is action in relationship-so that there is not a breath of conflict. Which doesn't mean I go to sleep, or vegetate, or follow somebody who tells me what to do. I want to find such a way of living in which there is not a breath of imitation, conformity, suppression, all the rest of it.
PJ: Again it may be a semantic problem. You used a word at the beginning of your statement: to find.
K: I know I used that word to find; that's a bad word. I wanted to communicate quickly.
PJ: But I want to know. I hear this statement from you; how do I tackle it?
K: First of all it is not finding. Let's remove that word. I have changed that word-a living now, today, in which there is no conflict.
MF: In that action, are you in reference to results or not? Because the action may be disastrous.
K: No, it won't be disastrous.
MF: You may do something and land in jail.
K: I won't, I won't. In looking at all the action in the field of the known-which we've been through-in observing that, in paying attention to that, my intelligence is asking this question. Intelligence is in operation now. Therefore I won't end up in jail. I won't stop paying taxes, I won't rob somebody or hit somebody.
MF: Why do you narrow yourself down to the good citizen?
K: It is not like that.
MF: Why not throw a bomb?
K: Why not throw a bomb? Because my intelligence says it is the most stupid thing to do.
MF: Your intelligence may say it is the right thing to do.
K: No, no. My intelligence has examined throwing a bomb.
MF: Million bombs are wrong, but one particular bomb may be right.
K: No. No bomb is right.
MF: Here we are really fundamentally different.
K: No bomb is right.
MF: How do you know?
K: You don't have to. Killing somebody in order to bring about peace in the world is not the way.
AP: Intelligence tells me that I cannot hurt another without hurting myself much more.
MF: That is what your mind tells you.
AP: No. Intelligence tells you that in the world there is no such thing as doing evil to another unless you do a greater evil to yourself.
K: I don't bring in myself in this. We are going off at a tangent. You know, the word intelligence means not only to have a very alert mind, but also inter legere: 'to read between the lines'. I read between the lines of the known activity. Having read that, my intelligence says that in that field all actions will always be contradictory. Full stop.
MF: When the intelligence searches for something...
K: Not searches.
MF: I use that word.
K: I don't want to use these words search, look out, find.
MF: Inquires about the possibility of something.
K: That's it: inquires, investigates.
PJ: You see, we appear to be totally blocked here.
K: Why are you blocked?
PJ: I am telling you why we get blocked. You say there is no search, there is no way to find, there is no way to contact.
K: I am going to investigate, I said.
PJ: What is the difference between the words to investigate and to search?
K: There is a great difference. Investigate means 'to trace out'. Search means 'seeking something to find'; search means that. I search in order to find.
PJ: I think it is a special meaning you are giving. I don't think there is that much difference between the words investigate and search.
K: I think there is.
PJ: Let us understand that.
K: For me it is very clear-the difference between searching and therefore finding and investigating where you are tracing, tracing, tracing, moving, moving. At least for me there is a difference
PJ: How does one investigate then?
K: We are going to.
MF: In science, investigation means finding the unknown amidst the known. You take a thing known, apparently known, and find something unknown about it.
K: No. I take the word investigate, not what science means, or what I mean, or what you mean. According to the dictionary meaning, investigate, investigare, means 'to trace out'.
K: That's all.
PJ: How do we trace out?
K: I'm going to do that. By paying attention, I see that any action with a motive must inevitably bring about a division, contradiction. I see that, not as an idea but as a fact, as I see this [points to some object] as a fact. So I ask, 'Is there in my mind, when I am investigating, a motive?' Right? I say I have no motive. I want to see what happens. And in paying attention, I see that an action based on a belief is contradictory. So I ask myself, 'Is there a belief in me, who is living, acting, and therefore a contradiction?' And if there is, I go after that belief and wipe it out.
PJ: Who is it that goes after to wipe it out?
K: I'll show you. I used the word in. In that attention there is no going after, there is no wiping away. That very attention-observing belief-ends belief. In me, not in you. It ends that belief. In that attention I see that any form of conformity breeds fear, suppression, obedience. So, that very attention wipes that away in me. And any action based on reward or punishment is out, finished. I see that in relationship any action based on an image divides people. I have an image about you, and you have an image about me-we've been through all that. So in paying attention to the known, to all the factors of the known and their structure and their nature, it ends. Ends it to this mind, not to anybody's mind. So attention becomes very important. Now attention asks, 'Is there any action which has none of these things?' Right?
PJ: But attention itself has none of these things.
K: Therefore what does that mean?
MF: Would you like to say that attention itself is action?
K: That is just it. Therefore attention is self-perpetuating in action, and therefore in attention there is no conflict. It is infinite. The action of a belief is wastage of energy-put it the other way. Action in attention produces its own energy, and therefore it is endless. Now relate that to the brain. Am I moving?
K: The brain has functioned always in this field: conflict, belief, imitation, conformity, obedience, suppression, imitation. Then attention comes into being. Then in the mind the brain cells themselves become attentive-not imposed attention.
PJ: You mean, in the state of attention in the brain cells there is no duality?
K: That's right. The moment there is duality you are back again in the old stuff.
MF: From what I have understood just now, you seem to say that attention calls for energy.
K: Just keep it simple.
MF: Mobilization of energy-call it whatever. And then the energy directed by attention, if I may use the word, acts.
K: Attention is action.
MF: All right, put it that way. Now, when you say the brain cells become attentive, that presupposes consciousness in the cells themselves.
K: Wait, sir. We said consciousness is its content, its content is consciousness.
MF: That is too complex. Would you say that the framework of our brain contains living beings called brain cells and that they can be aware? If you say yes, then the entire thing becomes different. Biologically we can say so. Biologically the cells are individuals. Biologically every cell is a living being by itself.
K: I know that.
MF: It's able to function in attention, provided you give the right meaning.
MF: Would you say, or dare to say, that every cell is also conscious?
K: I should think so.
MF: Because then only can you say awareness is built into the cell.
K: I think so.
MF: Then it's a kind of new physiology of the brain, and there is not a single word about it.
K: Look, sir, I would like to start from a different point. There is wastage of energy which is conflict, imitation, all the rest of it-the brain cells have gone through that, they have been accustomed to that. That is its function. The brain cells have now stopped that, they are out of that field. And the brain is no longer the residue of all that. It may function technologically and so on. But the brain that says life is action, and is without conflict, is in a state of attention. When there is complete attention right inside, not imposed, not directed, not willed, and all the rest of it, then the whole structure is alive. Not alive in the old sense, but in a different sense.
MF: Then you say the brain acts as a whole, no more cut up into pieces.
K: Yes, that's right.
MF: Then the entire body acts as a whole.
K: Where does this lead to?
MF: It leads to a physical transformation.
K: Yes, I think there is a physical transformation.
MF: It is a resurrection of the dead.
K: I think it is a resurrection of the dead. The dead is that; from that you move away.
MF: You say a repetitive brain is a dead brain.
K: Yes, obviously. So there is an action which is non- repetitive, and therefore freedom from the known is the attention in the unknown.
PJ: Sir, do you know what you are saying?
K: I don't know what I am saying.
PJ: Freedom from the known is also within the brain cells then.
PJ: The brain cells are the known.
PJ: Freedom from the known is also within the brain cells.
K: Yes, therefore there is a definite transformation.
MF: The brain is clear of engrams.
K: Engrams; oh yes, I've heard about that.
MF: There is nothing, there is no new groove through which memory works.
MF: That is a physical transformation, just like realization.
K: This holds logically in the sense that as long as the mind is functioning within the field of the known-contradiction and all the rest of it-it is functioning in a groove. And the brain cells have been functioning in grooves, whatever they be. Now, when those grooves are non-existent, the total brain acts, not in grooves, but in freedom which is attention. Right? Have I conveyed anything?