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Questioner: I’ve been brought up in a very restricted environment, in strict discipline, not only as to outward behaviour but also I was taught to discipline myself, to control my thoughts and appetites and to do certain things regularly. The result is that I find myself so hedged about that I can’t do anything easily, freely and happily. When I see what is going on around me in this permissive society – the sloppiness, the dirt, the casual behaviour, the indifference to manners – I’m shocked, although at the same time I secretly desire to do some of these things myself. Discipline imposed certain values though; it brought with it frustrations and distortions, but surely some discipline is necessary – for instance, to sit decently, to eat properly, to speak with care? Without discipline one can’t perceive the beauties of music or literature or painting. Good manners and training reveal a great many nuances in daily social commerce. When I observe the modern generation they have the beauty of youth, but without discipline it will soon fade away and they will become rather tiresome old men and women. There is a tragedy in all this. You see a young man, supple, eager, beautiful with clear eyes and a lovely smile, and a few years later you see him again and he is almost unrecognizable – sloppy, callous, indifferent, full of platitudes, highly respectable, hard, ugly, closed and sentimental. Surely discipline would have saved him. I, who have been disciplined almost out of existence, often wonder where the middle way is between this permissive society and the culture in which I was brought up. Isn’t there a way to live without the distortion and suppression of discipline, yet to be highly disciplined within oneself?
Krishnamurti: Discipline means to learn, not to conform, not to suppress, not to imitate the pattern of what accepted authority considers noble. This is a very complex question for in it are involved several things: to learn, to be austere, to be free, to be sensitive, and to see the beauty of love.
In learning there is no accumulation. Knowledge is different from learning. Knowledge is accumulation, conclusions, formulas, but learning is a constant movement, a movement without a centre, without a beginning or an end. To learn about oneself there must be no accumulation in one’s learning: if there is, it is not learning about oneself but merely adding to one’s accumulated knowledge of oneself. Learning is the freedom of perception, of seeing. And you cannot learn if you are not free. So this very learning is its own discipline – you don’t have to discipline yourself and then learn. Therefore discipline is freedom. This denies all conformity and control, for control is the imitation of a pattern. A pattern is suppression, suppression of “what is”, and the learning about “what is” is denied when there is a formula of what is good and what is bad. The learning about “what is” is the freedom from “what is”. So learning is the highest form of discipline. Learning demands intelligence and sensitivity.
The austerity of the priest and the monk is harsh. They deny certain of their appetites but not others which custom has condoned. The saint is the triumph of harsh violence. Austerity is generally identified with self-denial through the brutality of discipline, drill and conformity. The saint is trying to break a record like the athlete. To see the falseness of this brings about its own austerity. The saint is stupid and shoddy. To see this is intelligence. Such intelligence will not go off the deep end to the opposite extreme. Intelligence is the sensitivity which understands, and therefore avoids, the extremes. But it is not the prudent mediocrity of remaining half-way between the two. To perceive all this clearly is to learn about it. To learn about it there must be freedom from all conclusions and bias. Such conclusions and bias are observation from a centre, the self, which wills and directs.
Questioner: Aren’t you simply saying that to look properly you must be objective?
Krishnamurti: Yes, but the word objective is not enough. What we are talking about is not the harsh objectiveness of the microscope, but a state in which there is compassion, sensitivity and depth. Discipline, as we said, is learning, and learning about austerity does not bring about violence to oneself or to another. Discipline, as it is generally understood, is the act of will, which is violence.
People throughout the world seem to think that freedom is the fruit of prolonged discipline. To see clearly is its own discipline. To see clearly there must be freedom, not a controlled vision. So freedom is not at the end of discipline, but the understanding of freedom is its own discipline. The two go together inseparably: when you separate them there is conflict. To overcome that conflict, the action of will comes into being and breeds more conflict. This is an endless chain. So freedom is at the beginning and not at the end: the beginning is the end. To learn about all this is its own discipline. Learning itself demands sensitivity. If you are not sensitive to yourself – to your environment, to your relationships – if you are not sensitive to what is happening round you, in the kitchen or in the world, then however much you discipline yourself you only become more and more insensitive, more and more self-centred – and this breeds innumerable problems. To learn is to be sensitive to yourself and to the world outside you, for the world outside is you. If you are sensitive to yourself you are bound to be sensitive to the world. This sensitivity is the highest form of intelligence. It is not the sensitivity of a specialist – the doctor, the scientist or the artist. Such fragmentation does not bring sensitivity.
How can one love if there is no sensitivity? Sentimentality and emotionalism deny sensitivity because they are terribly cruel; they are responsible for wars. So discipline is not the drill of the sergeant – whether in the parade-ground or in yourself – which is the will. Learning all day long, and during sleep, has its own extraordinary discipline which is as gentle as the new spring leaf and as swift as the light. In this there is love. Love has its own discipline, and the beauty of it escapes a mind that is drilled, shaped, controlled, tortured. Without such a discipline the mind cannot go very far.