I was told the other day that meditation has no place in America at the present time; that the Americans need action, not meditation. I wonder why this division is made between a contemplative, meditative life and a life of action.
We are caught in this dualistic, fragmented way of looking at life. In India there is the concept of various ways of life; the man of action, the man of knowledge, the man of wisdom and so on. Such division in the very act of living must inevitably lead to conformity, limitation and contradiction.
If we are to go into this question of meditation – which is an extraordinarily complex and, for the speaker, most important thing – we have to understand what we mean by that word.
The dictionary meaning of that word is “to ponder over”, “think over”, “consider”, “inquire thoughtfully”, and so on.
India and Asia seem to have monopolized that word as though meditation in all its depth, meaning and the very end of it, is under their control; the monopoly apparently is with them – which of course is absurd.
When we speak of “meditation” we must be clear as to whether it is with the intent to escape from life – the daily grind, the boredom, anxiety and fear – or as a way life. Either, through meditation, we seek to escape altogether from this mad and ugly world or it is the very understanding, living and acting in life itself.
If we want to escape then there are various schools: the Zen Monasteries in Japan and the many other systems. We can see why they are so tempting, for life, as it is, is very ugly, brutal, competitive, ruthless; it has no meaning whatsoever, as it is.
When the Hindus offer their systems of Yoga, their mantras, the repetition of words and so on, we may obviously be tempted to accept rather easily and without much thought, for they promise a reward, a sense of satisfaction in escape.
So let us be very clear; we are not concerned with any escape, either through a contemplative, visionary life, through drugs or the repetition of words. In India, the repetition of certain Sanskrit words is called mantra; they have a special tonality and are said to make the mind more vibrant, alive. But the repetition of these mantras must make the mind dull; maybe that is what most human beings want, they cannot face life as it is, it is too appalling and they want to be made insensitive. The repetition of words and the taking of drugs, drink and so on, does help to dull the mind. The dulling of the mind is called “quietness”, “silence”, which it obviously is not.
A dull mind can think about God and virtue and beauty yet remain dull, stupid and heavy. We are not concerned in any way with these various forms of escape.
Meditation is not a fragmentation of life; it is not a withdrawal into a monastery or into a room, sitting quietly for ten minutes or an hour, trying to concentrate, to learn to meditate, and yet for the rest being a hideous, ugly human being.
One brushes all that aside as being unintelligent, as belonging to a state of mind that is incapable of really perceiving what truth is; for to understand what truth is one must have a very sharp, clear, precise mind; not a cunning mind, not tortured, but a mind that is capable of looking without any distortion, a mind innocent and vulnerable; only such a mind that can see what truth is.
Nor can a mind that is filled with knowledge perceive what truth is; only a mind that is completely capable of learning can do that.
Learning is not the accumulation of knowledge; learning is a movement from moment to moment. The mind and the body also must be highly sensitive. You cannot have a dull, heavy body, loaded with wine and meat, and then try to meditate – that has no meaning.
So the mind – if one goes into this question very seriously and deeply – must be highly alert, highly sensitive and intelligent, not the intelligence born of knowledge.
Living in this world with all its travail, so caught up in misery, sorrow and violence, is it possible to bring the mind to a state that is highly sensitive and intelligent? That is the first and an essential point in meditation.
Second: a mind that is capable of logical, sequential perception; in no way distorted or neurotic.
Third: a mind that is highly disciplined. The word “discipline” means “to learn”, not to be drilled. “Discipline” is an act of learning – the very root of the word means that. A disciplined mind sees everything very clearly, objectively, not emotionally, not sentimentally.
Those are the basic necessities to discover that which is beyond the measure of thought, something not put together by thought, capable of the highest form of love, a dimension that is not the projection of one’s own little mind.
We have created society and that society has conditioned us. Our minds are tortured and heavily conditioned by a morality which is not moral; the morality of society is immorality, because society admits and encourages violence, greed, competition, ambition and so on, which are essentially immoral.
There is no love, consideration, affection, tenderness, and the “moral respectability” of society is utterly disorderly. A mind that has been trained for thousands of years to accept, to obey and conform, cannot possibly be highly sensitive and therefore highly virtuous. We are caught in this trap.
So then, what is virtue? – because that is necessary. Without the right foundation a mathematician does not go very far. In the same way, if one would understand and go beyond to something which is of a totally different dimension, one must lay the right foundation; and the right foundation is virtue, which is order – not the order of society which is disorder.
Without order, how can the mind be sensitive, alive, free?
Virtue is obviously not the repetitive behavior of conforming to a pattern which has become respectable, which the establishment, whether in this country or the rest of the world, accepts as morality. One must be very clear on this point as to what virtue is. One comes upon virtue; it cannot be cultivated any more than one can cultivate love, or humility.
One comes upon it – the nature of virtue, its beauty, its orderliness – when one knows what it is not; through negation one finds out what is positive.
One does not come upon virtue by defining the positive and then imitating it – that is not virtue at all.
Cultivating various forms of “what should be”, which are called virtue – like non-violence – practicing these day after day until they become mechanical, has no meaning.
Virtue, surely, is something from moment to moment, like beauty, like love – it is not something you have accumulated and from which you act. This is not just a verbal statement for acceptance or non-acceptance.
There is disorder – not only in society but in ourselves, total disorder – but it is not that there is somewhere in us order and the rest of the field is in disorder; that is another duality and therefore contradiction, confusion and struggle. Where there is disorder there must be choice and conflict.
It is only the mind that is confused that chooses, but for a mind that sees everything very clearly there is no choice.
If I am confused, my actions will be confused. A mind that sees things very clearly, without distortion, without a personal bias, has understood disorder and is free of it; such a mind is virtuous, orderly – not orderly according to the Communists, the Socialists or the Capitalists or any church, but orderly because it has understood the whole measure of disorder within itself.
Order, inwardly, is akin to the absolute order of mathematics. Inwardly, the highest order is as an absolute; and it cannot come about through cultivation, not through practice, oppression, control, obedience and conformity.
It is only a mind that is highly ordered that can be sensitive, intelligent.
One has to be aware of disorder within oneself, aware of the contradictions, the dualistic struggles, the opposing desires, aware of the ideological pursuits and their unreality. One has to observe “that which is” without condemnation, without judgment, without any evaluation.
I see the microphone is the microphone – not as something I like or dislike, considering it good or bad – I see it as it is. In the same way one has to see oneself as one is, not calling what one sees bad, good – evaluating (which does not mean doing what one likes).
Virtue is order; one cannot have a blueprint of it; if one does, and if one follows it, one has become immoral, disorderly.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti – You are the World, Chapter 3, 3rd Public Talk At Brandeis University 22nd October 1968 –