The Very Perception Is Action – J. Krishnamurti


We were asking how to put aside the whole menagerie that one has in oneself. We were discussing all this because we see—at least I see—that one has to penetrate into the unknown. After all, any good mathematician or physicist must investigate the unknown and perhaps also the artist, if he is not too carried away by his own emotions and imagination. And we, the ordinary people with everyday problems, also have to live with a deep sense of understanding. We too have to penetrate into the unknown. A mind that is always chasing the animals that it has invented, the dragons, the serpents, the monkeys, with all their troubles and their contradictions—which we are—cannot possibly penetrate into the unknown. Being just ordinary people, not endowed with brilliant intellects or great visions, but just living daily, monotonous, ugly little lives, we are concerned how to change all that immediately. That is what we are considering.

People change with new inventions, new pressures, new theories, new political situations; all those bring about a certain quality of change. But we are talking about a radical, basic revolution in one’s being and whether such a revolution is to be brought about gradually or instantly. Yesterday we went into all that is involved in bringing it about gradually, the whole sense of distance and that time and effort needed to reach that distance. And we said, man has tried this for millennia, but somehow he has not been able to change radically—except perhaps for one or two. So it is necessary to see whether we can, each one of us and therefore the world—because the world is us and we are the world, they are not two separate states—instantly wipe away all the travail, the anger, the hatred, the enmity that we have created and the bitterness that one bears. Apparently bitterness is one of the commonest things to have; can that bitterness, knowing all its causes, seeing its whole structure, be wiped away on the instant?

We said that is possible only when there is observation. When the mind can observe very intensely, then that very observation is the action which ends bitterness. We also went into the question of what is action: whether there is any free, spontaneous, nonvolitional action. Or is action based on our memory, on our ideals, on our contradictions, on our hurts, our bitterness and so on? Is action always approximating itself to an ideal, to a principle, to a pattern? And we said, such action is not action at all, because it creates contradiction between what ‘should be’ and ‘what is.’ When you have an ideal there is the distance to be covered between what you are and what you should be. That ‘should be’ may take years, or as many believe, many lives incarnating over and over again till you reach that perfect Utopia. We also said there is the incarnation of yesterday into today; whether that yesterday stretches back many millennia or only twenty-four hours, it is still operating when there is action based on this division between the past, the present and the future, which is ‘what should be.’ All this, we said, brings about contradiction, conflict, misery; it is not action. Perceiving is action; the very perception is action, which takes place when you are confronted with a danger; then there is instant action. I think we came to that point yesterday.

There is also the instant when there is a great crisis, a challenge, or a great sorrow. Then the mind is for an instant extraordinarily quiet, it is shocked. I don’t know if you have observed it. When you see the mountain in the evening or in the early morning, with that extraordinary light on it, the shadows, the immensity, the majesty, the feeling of deep aloneness—when you see all that your mind cannot take it all in; for the moment it is completely quiet. But it soon overcomes that shock and responds according to its own conditioning, its own particular personal problems and so on. So there is an instant when the mind is completely quiet, but it cannot sustain that sense of absolute stillness. That stillness can be produced by a shock. Most of us know this sense of absolute stillness when there is a great shock. Either it can be produced outwardly by some incident, or it can be brought about artificially, inwardly, by a series of impossible questions as in some Zen school, or by some imaginative state, some formula which forces the mind to be quiet—which is obviously rather childish and immature. We are saying that for a mind that is capable of perception in the sense we have been talking about, that very perception is action. To perceive, the mind must be completely still, otherwise it can’t see. If I want to listen to what you are saying, I must listen silently. Any vagrant thought, any interpretation of what you are saying, any sense of resistance prevents the actual listening.

So the mind that wants to listen, observe, see or watch must of necessity be extraordinarily quiet. That quietness cannot possibly be brought about through any sense of shock or through absorption in a particular idea. When a child is absorbed in a toy it is very quiet, it is playing. But the toy has absorbed the mind of the child, the toy has made the child quiet. In taking a drug or in doing anything artificial, there is this sense of being absorbed by something greater—a picture, an image, a Utopia. This still, quiet mind can come about only through the understanding of all the contradictions, perversions, conditioning, fears, distortions. We are asking whether those fears, miseries, confusions, can all be wiped away instantly, so that the mind is quiet to observe, to penetrate.

Can one actually do it? Can you actually look at yourself with complete quietness? When the mind is active then it is distorting what it sees, translating, interpreting, saying ‘I like this,’ ‘I don’t like it.’ It gets tremendously excited and emotional and such a mind cannot possibly see.

So we are asking, can ordinary human beings like us do this? Can I look at myself, whatever I am, knowing the danger of words like ‘fear’ or ‘bitterness’ and that the very word is going to prevent the actual seeing of ‘what is’? Can I observe, being aware of the pitfalls of language? Also, not allowing any sense of time to interfere—any sense of ‘to achieve,’ ‘to get rid of’—but just observe, quietly, intently, attentively. In that state of intense attention, the hidden paths, the undiscovered recesses of the mind are seen. In that there is no analysis whatsoever, only perception. Analysis implies time and also the analyzer and the analyzed. Is the analyzer different from the thing analyzed?—if it is not, there is no sense in analysis. One has to be aware of all this, discard it all—time, analysis, resistance, trying to reach across, overcome and so on—because through that door there is no end to sorrow.

After listening to all this, can one actually do it? This is really an important question. There is no ‘how.’ There is nobody to tell you what to do and give you the necessary energy. It requires great energy to observe: a still mind is the total energy without any wastage, otherwise it is not still. And can one look at oneself with this total energy so completely that the seeing is acting and therefore the ending?

-J. Krishnamurti

Taken from The Flight of the Eagle. Chapter 12

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