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Questioner: You use different words for perception. You sometimes say “perception”, but also “observe”, “see”, “understand”, “be aware of”. I suppose you use all these words to mean the same thing: to see clearly, completely, wholly. Can one see anything totally? We’re not talking of physical or technical things, but psychologically can you perceive or understand anything totally? Isn’t there always something concealed so that you only see partially? I’d be most obliged if you could go into this matter rather extensively. I feel this is an important question because it may perhaps be a clue to a great many things in life. If I could understand myself totally then perhaps I would have all my problems solved and be a happy superhuman being. When I talk about it I feel rather excited at the possibility of going beyond my little world with its problems and agonies. So what do you mean by perceiving, seeing? Can one see oneself completely?
Krishnamurti: We always look at things partially. Firstly because we are inattentive and secondly because we look at things from prejudices, from verbal and psychological images about what we see. So we never see anything completely. Even to look objectively at nature is quite arduous. To look at a flower without any image, without any botanical knowledge – just to observe it – becomes quite difficult because our mind is wandering, uninterested. And even if it is interested it looks at the flower with certain appreciations and verbal descriptions which seem to give the observer a feeling that he has really looked at it. Deliberate looking is not looking. So we really never look at the flower. We look at it through the image. Perhaps it is fairly easy to look at something that doesn’t deeply touch us, as when we go to the cinema and see something which stirs us for the moment but which we soon forget. But to observe ourselves without the image – which is the past, our accumulated experience and knowledge – happens very rarely. We have an image about ourselves. We think we ought to be this and not that. We have built a previous idea about ourselves and through it we look at ourselves. We think we are noble or ignoble and seeing what we actually are either depresses us or frightens us. So we cannot look at ourselves; and when we do, it is partial~ observation, and anything that is partial or incomplete doesn’t bring understanding. It is only when we can look at ourselves totally that there is a possibility of being free from what we observe. Our perception is not only with the eyes, with the senses, but also with the mind, and obviously the mind is heavily conditioned. So intellectual perception is only partial perception, yet perceiving with the intellect seems to satisfy most of us, and we think we understand. A fragmentary understanding is the most dangerous and destructive thing. And that is exactly what is happening all over the world. The politician, the priest, the businessman, the technician; even the artist – all of them see only partially. And therefore they are really very destructive people. As they play a great part in the world their partial perception becomes the accepted norm, and man is caught in this. Each of us is at the same time the priest, the politician, the businessman, the artist, and many other fragmentary entities. And each of us is
Questioner: I see this clearly. I’m using the word see intellectually, of course.
Krishnamurti: If you see this totally, not intellectually or verbally or emotionally, then you will act and live quite a different kind of life. When you see a dangerous precipice or are faced by a dangerous animal there is no partial understanding or partial action; there is complete action.
Questioner: But we are not faced with such dangerous crises every moment of our lives.
Krishnamurti: We are faced with such dangerous crises all the time. You have become accustomed to them, or are indifferent to them, or you leave it to others to solve the problems; and these others are equally blind and lopsided.
Questioner: But how am I to be aware of these crises all the time, and why do you say there is a crisis all the time?
Krishnamurti: The whole of life is in each moment. Each moment is a challenge. To meet this challenge inadequately is a crisis in living. We don’t want to see that these are crises, and we shut our eyes to escape from them. So we become blinder, and the crises augment.
Questioner: But how am I to perceive totally? I’m beginning to understand that I see only partially, and also to understand the importance of looking at myself and the world with complete perception, but there is so much going on in me that it is difficult to decide what to look at. My mind is like a great cage full of restless monkeys.
Krishnamurti: If you see one movement totally, in that totality every other movement is included. If you understand one problem completely, then you understand all human problems, for they are all interrelated. So the question is: can one understand, or perceive, or see, one problem so completely that in the very understanding of it one has understood the rest? This problem must be seen while it is happening, not after or before, as memory or as an example. For instance, it is no good now for us to go into anger or fear; the thing to do is to observe them as they arise. Perception is instantaneous: you understand something instantly or not at all: seeing, hearing, understanding are instantaneous. Listening and looking have duration.
Questioner: My problem goes on. It exists in a span of time. You are saying that seeing is instantaneous and therefore out of time. What gives jealousy or any other habit, or any other problem, duration?
Krishnamurti: Don’t they go on because you have not looked at them with sensitivity, choiceless awareness, intelligence? You have looked partially and therefore allowed them to continue. And in addition, wanting to get rid of them is another problem with duration. The incapacity to deal with something makes of it a problem with duration, and gives it life.
Questioner: But how am I to see that whole thing instantly? How am I to understand so that it never comes back?
Krishnamurti: Are you laying emphasis on never or on understanding? If you lay emphasis on never it means you want to escape from it permanently, and this means the creation of a second problem. So we have only one question, which is how to see the problem so completely that one is free of it. Perception can only be out of silence, not out of a chattering mind. The chattering may be the wanting to get rid of it, reduce it, escape from it, suppress it or find a substitute for it, but it is only a quiet mind that sees.
Questioner: How am I to have a quiet mind?
Krishnamurti: You don’t see the truth that only a quiet mind sees. How to get a quiet mind doesn’t arise. It is the truth that the mind must be quiet, and seeing the truth of this frees the mind from chattering. Perception, which is intelligence, is then operating, not the assumption that you must be silent in order to see. Assumption can also operate but that is a partial, fragmentary operation. There is no relationship between the partial and the total; the partial cannot grow into the total. Therefore seeing is of the greatest importance. Seeing is attention, and it is only inattention that gives rise to a problem.
Questioner: How can I be attentive all the time? It’s impossible!
Krishnamurti: That’s quite right, it is impossible. But to be aware of your inattention is of the greatest importance, not how to be attentive all the time. It is greed that asks the question, “How can I be attentive all the time?” One gets lost in the practice of being attentive. The practice of being attentive is inattention. You cannot practice to be beautiful, or to love. When hate ceases the other is. Hate can cease only when you give your whole attention to it, when you learn and do not accumulate knowledge about it. Begin very simply.
Questioner: What is the point of your talking if there is nothing we can practise after having heard you?
Krishnamurti: The hearing is of the greatest importance, not what you practise afterwards. The hearing is the instantaneous action. The practice gives duration to problems. Practice is total inattention. Never practise: you can only practise mistakes. Learning is always new.