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The structure of self-centred concern

The structure of self-centred concern

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Public Talk 1 Saanen, Switzerland - 09 July 1978

I am so sorry the weather is so bad. It isn't our fault.

As we are going to have seven talks and five discussions, I think we should go into things very carefully, deliberately, perhaps in greater detail, taking time, going into all our problems and trying to find out if there is any solution to all of them. So those who may have heard me before, please have patience.

I think most of us are concerned with ourselves, either desperately or casually or neurotically. Those who are concerned widely in relation to the world and themselves, to their little family, their responsibility to that family, to their children, and those who are already so neurotically conditioned, all of us in different degrees and different depths are concerned with ourselves, not only physically - having enough money, food, clothes, shelter, which is perhaps fairly easy to come by - but it is much more the concern psychologically which we are going to discuss, talk over together and perhaps then we shall be able to find our relationship to the world and to each other.

Why psychologically we are so concerned about ourselves. I think this question must be asked. Either you put this question to yourselves seriously, trying to find out a true, correct answer, or you put that question to yourself rather superficially, casually. Only when there is a vital problem then you are concerned with yourself, or when there is a crisis, or when there is some incident or accident that brings about misery, confusion, uncertainty, then you put that question to yourself. And so according to our conditioning, according to our temperament and experience, according to our economic or social conditioning, we question about ourselves, this tremendous concern. Why?

If I may point out once again - and I hope you will not mind, that we are sharing this thing together. There is no speaker. The speaker is yourself, the speaker is only voicing your own thoughts, your own feelings, your own conditioning, your own unhappiness, sorrow, misery, fears and so on. So actually, though the speaker sits on a platform for convenience, in actual psychological fact there is no speaker, only you and I are examining ourselves, exploring into ourselves greatly, deeply - or if you are very, very serious, much more profoundly. So please bear in mind, if I may point out, that you are examining, exploring, investigating together, that there is no speaker as such. And I mean this very seriously.

So we are asking why most human beings right throughout the world are so concerned with themselves - with their relationship with another, with their unhappiness, their psychological ugliness, their schizophrenic or various complexes - or they are asking themselves if they can ever find something everlasting, beautiful, true. And in their search, those who are serious get caught up in things like religion, caught up with the various gurus, caught up in some belief or in some idea or in some conclusion. All this indicates, doesn't it, that essentially we are concerned about ourselves, and therefore we, as an individual, or as a human being, become the centre of the universe, because we are so absorbed, we are so committed, we are so entangled, we are so desperately wanting something or other - happiness, enlightenment, to behave properly, what is correct action. Or, if you are neurotically minded, that neurosis becomes stronger and stronger because you are concerned about yourself. And there are all those psychological priests who are trying to help you. So one observes this fact. Why is it that human beings are so self-centred, so appallingly selfish, so caught up in their own anxieties, in their own longings, loneliness, despair and so on? This is an ordinary daily fact. Some of us may be willing to face it, and others may be evading it, or taking a flight away from ourselves and identifying ourselves with a nation, with a god, with a priest, with something or other. But this identification is still the concern about oneself. Right? So why. Because the more we are concerned about ourselves, the more our capacity to comprehend the whole becomes impossible. It is like a mountain stream that is roaring down the hill, but man has held it with cement and rock, not to overflow. And we are doing the same thing with ourselves. This concern with ourselves has a certain quality of energy. And that energy is bound, carefully canalised, and being caught in that, the more we are concerned with ourselves the narrower, the more rigid the walls become. You must have observed this.

So we are going to investigate together why human beings throughout the world are so eagerly, so subtly, in a very, very refined way if they are not brutish, if they are not callous, if they are not indifferent, in very, very subtle ways, they are concerned with their centre. And that centre, with its enormous energy, either brings about a catastrophe, or there is a possibility of breaking down these narrow walls which we have built artificially around ourselves - they may be broken down and therefore the release of tremendous energy.

So that is what we are talking about: whether it is possible for human beings wherever they are, socially, economically, in the various forms, whether it is possible to break down the narrow walls which man, you, human beings throughout the world, have built round themselves. And whether it is possible without any effort, not intellectually, not theoretically, hypothetically, but actually in our daily life, whether it is possible to break down this self-centred concern with his conditioning, can it ever be broken down, and therefore releasing an extraordinary quality of energy. And that energy is needed when there are no walls at all, is needed for meditation, for the enquiry into what is truth, for the ending of sorrow and discovering what is compassion, love.

So I hope we are serious enough, when you have taken the trouble to come here in this dreadful climate - at least this year. So let us be serious, because this is not an entertainment, this is not an intellectual amusement, a romantic, intellectual investigation. We have to put aside, I am afraid, all our sentiments, all our romanticism, imagination, sensations, the desire for more experience, and face the central fact. I do not know if you can face it because we are very clever at hiding behind a facade of theories, opinions, judgements and asserting and clinging to them aggressively, passively, or unconsciously. So it is going to be very difficult to explore easily, without any compulsion, without any pressure, without any reward or punishment, just to go into ourselves and look, and find out, if we can, why you and human beings right throughout the world, have made this a central issue, central problem. And that means having the capacity to look. To look without any distortion, because every idea, every conclusion, every opinion, every experience is a distorting factor. Right? Please understand this. Your very experience, whether it be sexual, various types of experiences stored up as memory, in investigation, in observing, become a distorting factor, obviously. Those of us who have very strong opinions, aggressively so, or judgements, again they become factors of distortion. And if you believe - whatever you believe in - according to your particular conditioning, that belief with all its associations, with all its tradition, with all the past, becomes a factor which will prevent clear observation.

So in order to enquire deeply into this enormous complex problem, there must be freedom to observe; not what you think and I think, what you feel or I feel, what your conclusions are or mine, none of those have any importance when observing, in seeing clearly why human beings are so desperately concerned with themselves. Right?

When you listen to these statements of the speaker, do you actually listen or, do you make a conclusion or an idea about what you hear? Hai capito? You understand? Do you actually listen to what is said? Or in listening you have made an abstraction of it, and that abstraction becomes an idea with which you agree or disagree, or if you agree argue about that idea, or if you disagree you throw it out. But actually you are not listening. So one has to find out if you are listening to find out for yourself why this narrowing, resisting expenditure of energy, which is becoming more and more narrow, more and more selfish. And that selfishness is either so domesticated and you say it is not selfish, or you have identified yourself with something great and say that is greater, I am not great, therefore my concern is with that, not with this. But that identification is this in a bigger way, or a smaller way.

I hope you are following all this. As we said, there is no speaker. It's really a marvellous idea that there is no speaker. I have just found that out - that we are looking at ourselves in the mirror, and the mirror is telling you the whole story. But you must know how to look in the mirror - not how to interpret what you see in the mirror, or how to act what you see in the mirror, but if you know how to look, that very observation will bring about right action, everything falls in its right place. This is not a rhetorical statement. It is an actual fact.

So we are enquiring seriously why human beings with this marvellous world around them: the beauty, the extraordinary nature, the quality of water, the birds, the sea and the land, and the sky and the heavens above them, why they have reduced everything to this narrow little atom, small thing, and writing enormous books about it, and how to get rid of it, what to do, practise, meditate, sacrifice, deny, starve, fast, everything to get rid of the small 'me'. The futility of sacrifice, the futility of denial of the 'me' and identifying itself with something else, with the family, with the nation, with a belief, with a god, with international - you follow, umpteen forms of identification - will not solve the problem. What will dissolve this thing that is so corrupting, that is always seeking power, position, authority, grabbing for itself everything, utilising knowledge as a means of further success, further power, further indulgence and so on?

Now can we factually observe? - not only the idea of 'me', the idea of the centre but also observe the movement of the senses, the various senses, which is actually sensations. These sensations, touch, all the rest of it, these sensations exist, are actual, they must be, you cannot deny sensations. But when thought identifies itself with those sensations then the structure of the centre is beginning to be formed. Capito? Please, this is not intellectual observation, just ordinary daily fact if you observe the senses. One likes a particular form of food, drink, smoke, drugs and thought then identifies itself with that particular food, and the taste of it, the smell of it, the delight of it, and with that identification, in that identification, the centre is formed. That is obvious.

Now can you observe - please listen to this, it is very interesting if you go into this - can you observe the movement of the sensations whether it be sexual, whether it be taste, hearing or seeing, can you observe the movement of those ordinary natural sensations without identifying? You understand? Do you understand this? Am I saying something strange, or neurotic, or bizarre? It is very important to understand this because we will go into this problem of identification. Where there is no identification there is no centre. Right? It is this constant identification with my senses, with my body, with my thoughts - you follow? - the whole movement of identification, identification being attachment, inseparable attachment and with all its associations, and so this identification is a movement of energy and that energy becomes more and more and more limited, which is the centre. Right?

So we are asking: is there an observation of the senses without any form of thought identifying itself with a particular sensation? You understand? Sensations are natural. If you have no sensations you are utterly paralysed - perhaps most of us are, only in one particular direction, sexual or another direction. But we are talking of the movement of all senses, not one particular sense. If you see the logic of it, the reason of it, that the moment thought identifies itself with a particular sensation, or with all the sensations, that identification is the movement of building this vast energy into a narrow channel. Right? Have I explained? Have I made it clear? Not I - there is no speaker. Only in conversation between ourselves, as two human beings, we are discovering this - you are discovering, not the speaker, there is no speaker. So you are discovering that any form of identification, not only with the senses, with the family, with the nation, with ideas, with conclusions and so on, is the beginning of narrowing down this vast energy and limiting itself, therefore resisting the vast movement of life. Right? May I take a breath?

So we are asking as you are sitting there: can you observe your senses without any identification? Identification with the body - look, it is very, very serious what we are going into. If you don't want to listen don't listen, think about something else. But if you listen, listen with your heart, with your mind, with your whole being, because we are going into this question of releasing the tremendous energy, which is now canalised into a very, very small narrow prison, from which we act. And there is not only the identification with the senses, therefore with the body, then identification with the name - of course. Even if you give yourself a new name, or a new number that is (laughs) still identification, which the monks do and so on. Why does thought constantly identify itself with something? You understand my question? - which you are doing: my wife, my son, my family, my girl, my boy, my house, my quality, I have experienced so much I must hold on to that experience, I identify myself with Christ, with Krishna, you know, the whole gamut of objects of identification. Why does thought always identify with something or other?

Don't you, if I may ask, not as a speaker, you are asking yourself, don't you ask yourself why? Why do I identify myself with the form, with the name, with all the experiences which I have gathered, or the future identification? Why. Why does thought do this all the time? My house, my wife, my belief, my god, my country, I am British, you are French, I am German, you are Russian - you follow? Why? Is it because thought being in constant flux - please find out, I am just enquiring, find out - being in constant flux, movement, needs security about something? Enquire, please don't... You are enquiring, asking yourself this. When you say 'It is my house', that gives you certainty, stability, security. When thought identifies itself with a house it is necessary - isn't it? - it gives it security, shelter, safety, protection, the physical identification with the house gives it security. But watch it. That movement of identification with a physical necessity is taken over psychologically. Right? There it is necessary, but here it may not be necessary at all. But we are constantly doing this - from the necessity - having clothes, though I may not identify myself with my trousers, or shirt or blouse or whatever one wears, but the attachment, the physical need and from that need move into a psychological ground where you say 'It is necessary there too' - and it may not be. You are following this?

Doesn't this take place always, generally from the purely physical, the need for food, the need for clothes, the need for cleanliness and all the rest of it, that movement spills over into the psychological area, and the spilling over from that to this may be totally unnecessary, may be an illusion. There is only that and not this. I wonder if I am making myself clear. We will go into this very carefully. After all, what is the ground, the area, the field of the psyche? You understand? We understand more or less the physical. One needs food, clothes and shelter, that is obvious. And the danger comes when we identify ourselves with that. We say, 'It is my clothes, it is my property, don't touch it'. Now that necessity has been identified by thought as mine, and that same movement from the physical to the psychological: my experience, my desires, my longings - you understand? I wonder if you are understanding this. Because you see what we are trying to point out is there is no speaker. In the mirror if you observe very carefully, you might see that what is necessary physically, that same idea has been brought over into the psychological realm and that has become much more important than the other. One can have very little food, not be concerned, but don't interfere with my power - I want position, I want this, I want that, psychologically - you understand what I am saying? Are you discovering this in the mirror for yourselves? Or I am pointing it out and you observe it and accept it. That accepting is merely a form of persuasion, a form of pressure. Where there is pressure, acceptance, there is no investigation.

So we come to something else, which is: can you be free of pressure? You understand? To observe the pressure of institutions. Right? The institution of the church, the institution of a government, the institution of so many things. The word 'institution' comes from the Latin and so on 'to stay', be put where it is, don't move it. So we are generally under great pressure of institutions. Perhaps you may not be aware of it, but if you observe you are. Institutions democratic, totalitarian, socialist, economic - you follow? - this constant pressure. Then there is the pressure of ideologies, the ideal, which is perhaps more deadly than the economic pressure, the pressure of theories. Right? Do you know all this? Are you aware of all this? The pressure of books, the pressure of knowledge, the pressure of authority, the pressure of a family, the pressure of the wife or the husband, the girl and boy - this constant pressure. And the pressure of experience, of knowledge - do you understand? It isn't just the pressure of somebody over you, government or somebody, but inwardly this enormous pressure of having acquired experience, knowledge, and that knowledge is putting pressure all the time: do this, don't do that, this is right, this is wrong, you must have more knowledge, is one aware of all this? I am afraid not. And the pressure of relationship. Right? We won't go into all that. We will, a little later as we go along.

So we are saying: you cannot observe this extraordinary structure of the centre, the concern about the centre, and to observe that freely without any pressure there must be freedom to look. But most of us are under pressure. Most of us when we observe have a motive, the motive becomes the pressure. 'When I observe I must understand it, I must get beyond it, there must be a reward at the end of the beastly show'. You understand? This great constant pressure through motive, through desire, through reward, avoiding punishment and so on; as long as there is that weight, observation into the cause why human beings have reduced themselves to such narrow little human entities, so concerned about themselves from morning till night. Otherwise you wouldn't have gurus. Otherwise you wouldn't have priests and religions. Otherwise you wouldn't have all these enormous complex psychological priests - you understand? All that indicates naturally this concern about oneself.

And can one live without this concern at all? Then only there is peace, then only there is love and compassion. Where there is a centre held by thought as the 'me' in a narrow groove there must be suffering, and the violence and the brutality, the cruelty, the hate, the whole of that is centred there. That is an actual fact.

Then the next question is: is it possible to break it down? Not with a chisel and a hammer, as most of us are apt to do - psychological hammer, psychological chisel - making an effort, discipline, control, sacrifice, denying, resisting - which are all hammer. Right? So we are asking: is it possible to break it down, these walls that one has built round oneself, without a single movement of effort? Because if you make an effort you are identifying yourself with what will happen when you break down the wall - you understand? Which is still another structure of the narrow self. I wonder if you see all this! Yes? Right? So can this be broken down? That is the problem. That is really the central issue for all humanity. There is no other issue, politically, religiously, economically, for man to end this colossal self centred thought, this subtle selfishness which breeds division, all the rest of it. That is the central issue. And that is the central issue of religion, not all this circus that is going on in the world, in churches, in mosques, in temples, in religious gatherings. The essence of religion is the ending of the self, totally, completely.

What time is it, sir?

Questioner: Eleven thirty.

Krishnamurti: Shall I go on? Have you had enough of it for this morning? We began five minutes late so I will go on for five minutes more. (Laughter)

If you have looked into the mirror carefully, seriously, not merely at your face, or your hair, or your eyebrows, and colouring and all the rest of it, but look without any direction, because the direction is a distortion. Please understand this one thing and then you will be able to see in the mirror very clearly. We are always acting in a particular direction - success, you know all the rest of it, I don't have to go into details. So can you observe without any movement? - the movement being thought looking. I wonder if you see that. You see, when you look at anything, doesn't matter what it is, thought is looking. Have you discovered that? Or imagination, fancy, memory, the past. Right? Can you look without the movement of all that? Otherwise you can't see clearly. See the logic of it, the reason of it. If you see the reason, the logic, the sanity of it, that very sanity will put that aside. You understand? It is the unhealthy that bring all this in. It is the healthy that look because they are sane. Which means sanity is not possible when you remember all your illnesses, all the past pains, but when those are put aside you can look very clearly without any difficulty. The looking then pushes aside all those things which are not sane - you understand what I am saying? The very urgency of looking puts aside those things that prevent actual looking. Right? Is this clear? One thing clear. The very urgency of something - you understand? - you forget about everything else. The urgency of someone dying, or fire, or anything, the urgency dispels totally the movement of the past: you act.

So do you, looking in the mirror, and you are looking in the mirror without any persuasion, without any pressure because there is no speaker but you are just observing yourself in the mirror - and the reason, logic has told you the world with all its violence, brutality, insanity is brought about by this centre in the name of peace, in the name of Christ, in the name of nationality, brotherhood, you know, all the rest of it. Can you look? And the intensity and the urgency of watching dispels any interference of thought, with all its images, associations. Are you doing it? Or, are you listening to the speaker when he says there is no speaker. You understand? There is no speaker, and I mean this desperately, passionately. And I say this with great affection, love, because then you are looking at the mirror yourself, not the speaker is influencing you, coercing you, urging you, persuading you. So you are here, if one may point out, not to listen to the speaker, but to listen, observe yourself in the mirror. And the whole history of mankind is revealed there. And when you look with intensity it becomes so very simple. Right?