Don't listen to anyone but yourself: Lessons from J Krishnamurti's The Awakening of Intelligence

The Awakening of Intelligence, by Jiddu Krishnamurti is not the easiest of reads. It is a book that focusses on what the Buddha had said aeons ago regarding being mindful, aware and conscious of the present. It focuses on abstract concepts and compels the reader to re-examine everything that most of us accept as part of life, philosophy or is just a borrowed thought.

The book, first published in 1973 has now been relaunched by the Krishnamurti Foundation India for the first time in India. This book contains questions and answers to the many problems that have confounded man through time -- of love, death, fear, freedom, loneliness, et al. The question that is often asked finds itself here too: Do we understand ourselves?

Jiddu Krishnamurti's The Awakening of Intelligence

Jiddu Krishnamurti's The Awakening of Intelligence

The book is presented in a format of questions that were asked by Krishnamurti's audience across the world (some of them are repetitive) and  his answers to them. One of the highlights in the book is the succinct conversations Krishnamurti had with eminent personalities like the American philosopher Dr Jacob Needleman, Krishnamurthy's one-time secretary Alain Naude, Sanskrit scholar and yogi Swami Venkatesananda, and theoretical physicist David Bohm among others across several continents.

The book need not be read from the beginning. You could dip into any page and read the question that interests you and read carefully Krishnamurti's response. He is not a one-time read.

Following is an excerpt from the book where Krishnamurti answers a range of questions:

Understand this with your hearts — that when you have started to seek pleasure you must end up in catastrophe, which is dullness. If you break away from that dullness because you want a different kind of pleasure, then you are back in the same circle...

So I see that pleasure reduces the mind to habits which bring about complete dullness. I hang up that picture on the wall because it has given me great pleasure. I have looked at it in the museum or in the gallery, and I say, ‘What a lovely picture that is.’ I buy it, if I have the money, and hang it up in my room. I look at it every day and say ‘How nice.’ Then I get used to it.  So the pleasure of looking at it every day has brought about a habit which now prevents me from looking.…So habit, getting used to something, is the beginning of indifference. You get used to the squalor of the next village as you pass it every day. In the same way you have got used to the beauty of a tree, you simply do not see it any more. So I have discovered that where I pursue pleasure there must be, deeply in it, the root of indifference. There are no roots of heaven in pleasure; there are only the roots of indifference and pain.

Questioner: I have been listening to you for fifty years. You have said that one has to die every moment. This is more real to me now than it has ever been.

Krishnamurti: I understand, sir. Must you listen to the speaker for fifty years and at the end of it you understand what he says? Does it take time? Or do you see the beauty of something instantly and therefore it is? Now why do you and others take time over all this? Why must you have many years to understand a very simple thing? And it is very simple, I assure you. It becomes complex only in explanation, but the fact is extraordinarily simple. Why doesn’t one see the simplicity and the truth and the beauty of it instantly—and then the whole phenomenon of life changes? Why? Is it because we are so heavily conditioned? And if you are so heavily conditioned, can’t you see that conditioning instantly, or must you peel it off like an onion, layer after layer? Is it that one is lazy, indolent, indifferent, caught in one’s own problem? If you are caught in one problem, that problem is not separate from the rest of the problems; they are all interrelated. If you take one problem, whether it is sex, relationship, or loneliness, whatever it is, go to the very end of it. But because you can’t do it, you have to listen to somebody for fifty years! Are you going to say it takes you fifty years to look at those mountains?

Q: You said in you second talk that one should be aware not only when awake but also during sleep.

K: Are you aware during the day of every movement of thought? Be honest, be simple: you are not. You are aware in patches. I am aware for two minutes, then there is a great blank and then again a few minutes, or half an hour later, I realize I have forgotten myself and pick it up again. There are gaps in our awareness: we are never aware continuously, and we think we ought to be aware all the time. Now, first of all, there are great spaces between awareness, aren’t there? There is awareness, then unawareness, then awareness and so on, during the day. Which is important? To be continuously aware? Or to be aware for short periods? What is one to do with the long periods when one is not aware? Amongst those three, what do you think is important? I know what is important for me. I am not bothered about being aware for a short period, or wanting to have awareness continuously. I am concerned only with when I am not aware, when I am inattentive. I say I am very interested in why I am inattentive, and what I am to do about that inattention, that unawareness. That is my problem—not to have constant awareness. You would go crazy unless you had really gone into this very, very deeply. So my concern is: why am I inattentive and what happens in that period of inattention?

I know what happens when I am aware. When I am aware, nothing happens. I am alive, moving, living, vital; in that nothing can happen because there is no choice for something to happen. Now, when I am inattentive, not aware, then things happen. Then I say things which are not true, then I am nervous, anxious, caught, I fall back into my despair. So why does this happen? Are you getting my point? Is that what you are doing? Or, are you concerned with being totally aware and trying, practising to be aware all the time?

I see I am not aware, and I am going to watch what happens in that state when I am not aware. To be aware that I am not aware is awareness.

When the old brain sees that it can never understand what freedom is, when it sees that it is incapable of discovering something new, that very perception is the seed of intelligence, isn’t it? That is intelligence: ‘I cannot do.’ I thought I could do a lot of things, and I can, in a certain direction, but in a totally new direction I cannot do anything. The discovery of that is intelligence, obviously.

Now, what is the relationship of that intelligence to the other? Is the other part of this extraordinary sense of intelligence? I want to find out what we mean by that word intelligence. The mind must not be caught by words. Obviously the old brain, all these centuries, thought it could have its God, its freedom, it could do everything it wanted. And suddenly it discovers that any movement of the old brain is still part of the old; therefore intelligence is the understanding that it can function only within the field of the known. The discovery of that is intelligence, we say. Now, what is that intelligence? What is its relationship to life, to a dimension which the old brain does not know?

You see, intelligence is not personal, is not the outcome of argument, belief, opinion or reason. Intelligence comes into being when the brain discovers its fallibility, when it discovers what it is capable of, and what not. Now, what is the relationship of that intelligence with this new dimension? I would rather not use the word relationship.

The different dimension can operate only through intelligence; if there is not that intelligence it cannot operate. So in daily life it can operate only where intelligence is functioning. Intelligence cannot function when the old brain is active, when there is any form of belief and adherence to any particular fragment of the brain. All that is lack of intelligence. The man who believes in God, the man who says, ‘There is only one saviour’, is not intelligent. The man who says, ‘I belong to this group’, is not intelligent. When one discovers the limitation of the old, the very discovery of that is intelligence, and only when that intelligence is functioning can the new dimension operate through it.

What is the relationship of randomness, of chance, to something totally new? There are events in one’s life that appear to happen by chance, events that occur at random. Is that happening new, totally unexpected? Or is it the result of unexamined, hidden, unconscious events?

I happen to meet you by chance. Is that chance at all, or has it happened because certain unconscious, unknown, events have brought us together? We may consider this chance, but it is not chance at all. I meet you, I did not know you existed, and in the meeting something has taken place between us. That may be the result of a great many other events of which we are not conscious, and we may then say, ‘This is a random event, this is an unexpected chance, this is totally new.’ It may not be that. Is there chance in life at all, a happening which has not a cause? Or have all events in life their basic, deep, causes, which we may not know and therefore we say, ‘Our meeting happens by chance, it is a random event’? The cause undergoes a change when there is an effect. The effect becomes a cause. There is the cause and the effect which becomes the cause of the next effect. So cause-effect is a constant chain. It is not one cause, one effect; it is undergoing constant change. Each cause, each effect, changes the next cause, the next effect. So as this is going on in life, is there anything which is unexpected, chance, a random event?

If you observe, if you say, ‘I listen to that noise’, listen completely, not with resistance, then that noise may go on forever, it does not affect you. The moment you resist, you are separate from the noise. Not identify yourself with the noise—I don’t know if you see the difference. The noise goes on; I can cut myself off from it by resisting it, putting a wall between myself and that noise. Then what takes place, when I resist something? There is conflict, isn’t there? Now, can I listen to that noise without any resistance whatsoever?

Q: Yes, if you know that the noise might stop in an hour!

K: No, that is still part of your resistance.

Q: That means that I can listen to the noise in the street for the rest of my life with the possibility I might become deaf.

K: No, listen, madam, I am saying something entirely different. We are saying that as long as there is resistance, there must be conflict. Whether I resist my wife, or my husband, whether I resist the noise of a dog barking, or the noise in the street, there must be conflict. Now, how is one to listen to the noise without conflict—not whether it will go on indefinitely, or hoping it will come to an end—but how to listen to the noise without any conflict? That is what we are talking about. You can listen to the noise when the mind is completely free of any form of resistance—not only to that noise, but to everything in life—to your husband, to your wife, to your children, to the politician. Therefore what takes place? Your listening becomes much more acute, you become much more sensitive, and therefore noise is only a part, it isn’t the whole world. The very act of listening is more important than the noise, so listening becomes the important thing and not the noise.

Q: You often talk about the beauty of the mountains and the stillness of the mind when looking at the beauty of a cloud. Can the mind be still when looking at something horrible?

K: Just listen carefully, observe the dark and the light, the slum and the non-slum. Can you watch that? Can there be an awareness in which these divisions don’t exist? Is there an awareness in which the division between poverty and riches does not exist? Not the fact that there is not the division, with all its injustice, immorality, all that, but an awareness in which this division doesn’t exist? That is, can the mind observe the beauty of the hill and the squalor, and not prefer, or incline to one, opposed to the other? That means an awareness in which choice doesn’t exist. You can do this. Not that poverty should go on—you would do something, politically, socially, and so on. But the mind could be freed from division, from this classical division between the rich and the poor, between beauty and ugliness, from the opposites, and all the rest of it.

As a human being I would be concerned only with this central issue. I know how confused, contradictory, disharmonious one’s life is. Is it possible to change that so that intelligence can function in my life, so that I live without disharmony, so that the pointer, the direction is guided by intelligence?

That is perhaps why the religious people, instead of using the word intelligence, have used the word God.

Bohm: What is the advantage of that?

K: I don’t know what the advantage is.

B: But why use such a word?

K: It came from primitive fear, fear of nature, and gradually out of that grew the idea that there is a super-father.

B: But that is still thought functioning on its own, without intelligence.

K: Of course. I am just recalling that. They said trust God, have faith in God, then God will operate through you.

B: God is perhaps a metaphor for intelligence, but people didn’t generally take it as a metaphor.

K: Of course not, it is a terrific image.

B: Yes. You could say that if God means that which is immeasurable, beyond thought...

K: is unnameable, it is immeasurable; therefore don’t have an image.

The Awakening of Intelligence, published by Krishnamurti Foundation India; pages: 598; price: Rs 495

Published Date: Feb 26, 2017 02:59 pm | Updated Date: Feb 26, 2017 02:59 pm

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