Reflections on the Self

Commentary by the Masters: Dialogue by Krishnamutri

Reflections on the Self


We have been discussing the last few times that we have met, the importance of understanding the ways of the self because, after all, the most thoughtful people must be aware that the self, the 'me', the 'I', is really the cause of all our mischief and all our misery.

I think the most thoughtful people are aware of it. One can see that most religious organizations theorize and vaguely insist upon how essential it is that the 'me', the self, should be completely abandoned. We have read in the books about the abandonment of the self. If we are at all religiously inclined, we have various phrases about it all; we may repeat mantras and all the rest of it, but in spite of all this, our own perception and vague comprehensions about the self still continue in a very subtle way or in the grossest manner.

 Photography by Naomi Harris

Photography by Naomi Harris

I think, if it were at all easy, we must be sure and must understand the various expressions of the self and see if we cannot completely eradicate it, because I feel that without understanding the whole complexity of the self, we can't proceed further - whether the self is or is not divided into the high and the low, which is irrelevant and which is only a matter of the mind which eventually divides it as a means of its own security. Unless we understand this whole complex process, there is no possibility of peace in the world. We know this; we are aware of this fact consciously or unconsciously, but yet in our everyday life, it does not play any part; we do not bring it into reality.

What we have been discussing is this - how are we to recognize the various activities of the self and its subtle forms behind which the mind takes shelter? We see the self, its activity, and its action based on an idea. Action based on an idea is a form of the self because it gives continuity to that action, a purpose to that action. So, idea in action becomes the means of continuing the self. If the idea is not there, action has a different meaning altogether, which is not born of the self. The search for power, position, authority, ambition, and all the rest are the forms of the self in all its different ways. But what is important is to understand the self, and I am sure you and I are convinced of it. If I may add here, let us be earnest about this matter because I feel that if you and I as individuals, not as a group of people belonging to certain classes, certain societies, certain climatic divisions, can understand and act upon this, then I think there will be real revolution. The moment it becomes universal and better organized, the self takes shelter in that, whereas if you and I as individuals can love, can carry this out actually in everyday life, then the revolution that is so essential will come into being, not because you organized it through the coming together of various groups, but because, individually, there is revolution taking place all the time.

 Photography by Sarah Maple

Photography by Sarah Maple

I would like to discuss how experience strengthens the self.

You know what I mean by the self? By that, I mean the idea, the memory, the conclusion, the experience, the various forms of nameable and unnameable intentions, the conscious endeavor to be or not to be, the accumulated memory of the unconscious, the racial, the group, the individual, the clan, and the whole of it all, whether it is projected outwardly in action or projected spiritually as virtue - the striving after all this is the self. In it is included the competition, the desire to be. The whole process of that is the self, and we know actually when we are faced with it that it is an evil thing. I am using the word evil intentionally because the self is dividing; the self is self- enclosing; its activities, however noble, are separated and isolated. We know all this. We also know that extraordinary are the moments when the self is not there, in which there is no sense of endeavor, of effort, and which happens when there is love.

It seems to me that it is important to understand how experience strengthens the self. If we are earnest, we should understand this problem of experience. Now, what do we mean by experience? We have experiences all the time - impressions - and we translate those impressions, and we are reacting to them, or we are acting according to those impressions; we are calculated, cunning, and so on. There is the constant interplay between what is seen objectively and our reacting to it, and the interplay between the unconscious and the memories of the unconscious.

Do not, please, memorize all this. Watch, if I may suggest, watch your own minds and activities taking place as I am talking, and you will see. I have not memorized all this; I am just talking as it is happening.

 Photography by Sarah Maple

Photography by Sarah Maple

According to my memories, I react to whatever I see, to whatever I feel. In this process of reacting to what I see, what I feel, what I know, what I believe, experience is taking place, is it not? Reaction to the response of something seen is experience. When I see you, I react; the reaction is experience. The naming of that reaction is experience. If I do not name that reaction, it is not an experience. Please do watch it. Watch your own responses and what is taking place about you. There is no experience unless there is a naming process going on at the same time. If I do not recognize you, how can I have experience? It sounds simple and right. Is it not a fact? That is, if I do not react to you according to my memories, according to my condition, according to my prejudices, how can I know that I have had an experience? That is one type of it.

Then there is the projection of various desires. I desire to be protected, to have security inwardly, or I desire to have a Master, a guru, a teacher, a God, and I experience that which I have projected. That is, I have projected a desire which has taken a form, to which I have given a name; to that, I react. It is my projection. It is my naming. That desire which gives me an experience makes me say, "I have got," "I have experienced," "I have met the Master," or "I have not met the Master." You know the whole process of naming an experience. Desire is what you call experience. Is it not?

 Photography by Naomi Harris

Photography by Naomi Harris

When I desire silence of the mind, what is taking place? What happens? I see the importance of having a silent mind, a quiet mind, for various reasons - because Upanishads have said so, religious scriptures have said so, saints have said it, and also occasionally, I myself feel how good it is to be quiet because my mind is so very chatty all day. At times, I feel how nice, how pleasurable it is to have a peaceful mind, a silent mind. The desire to have a silent mind is to experience silence. I want to have a silent mind, and so I ask you how to get it. I know what this book or that book says about meditation and the various forms of discipline. I want a silent mind through discipline, and I experience silence. The self, the 'me', has established itself in the experience of silence. Am I making myself clear?

I want to understand what is truth; that is my desire, my longing; then there is my projection of what I consider to be the truth because I have read lots about it; I have heard many people talk about it; religious scriptures have described it. I want all that. What happens? The very want, the very desire is projected, and I experience because I recognize that state. If I do not recognize that state, that act, that truth, I would not call it truth. I recognize it and I experience it. That experience gives strength to the self, to the 'me', does it not? So, the self becomes entrenched in experience. Then you say, "I know," "the Master exists," "there is God," or "there is no God"; you say that you want a particular political system to come because that is right and all others are not.

So experience is always strengthening the 'me'. The more you are strengthened, the more entrenched you are in your experience and the more does the self get strengthened. As a result of this, you have a certain strength of character, strength of knowledge, of belief, which you put over across to other people because you know they are not so clever as you are and because you have the gift of the pen and you are cunning. Because the self is still acting, your beliefs, your Masters, your castes, your economic system are all a process of isolation, and they therefore bring contention. You must, if you are at all serious or earnest in this, dissolve this completely and not justify it. That is why we must understand the process of experience.

 Photography by Naomi Harris

Photography by Naomi Harris

Is it possible for the mind, for the self not to project, not to desire, not to experience? We see all experiences of the self are a negation, a destruction, and yet we call the same a positive action, don't we? That is what we call the positive way of life. To undo this whole process is what you call negation. Are you right in that? There is nothing positive. Can we, you and I as individuals, go to the root of it and understand the process of the self? Now what is the element that dissolves it? What brings about dissolution of the self? Religious and other groups have explained it by identification, have they not? Identify yourself with a larger, and the self disappears; that is what they say. We say here that identification is still the process of the self; the larger is simply the projection of the 'me', which I experience and which therefore strengthens the 'me'. I wonder if you are following this. All the various forms of discipline, beliefs, and knowledge only strengthen the self.

Can we find an element which would dissolve the self? Or, is that a wrong question? That is what we want basically. We want to find something which will dissolve the 'me'. Is it not so? We think there are various forms of finding that, namely, identification, belief, etc., but all of them are at the same level; one is not superior to the other because all of them are equally powerful in strengthening the self, the 'me'. Now, I see the 'me' wherever it functions, and I see its destructive forces and energy. Whatever name you may give to it, it is an isolating force, it is a destructive force, and I want to find a way of dissolving it. You must have asked this yourself - "I see the 'I' functioning all the time and always bringing anxiety, fear, frustration, despair, misery, not only to myself but to all around me. Is it possible for that self to be dissolved, not partially but completely?" Can we go to the root of it and destroy it? That is the only way of functioning, is it not? I do not want to be partially intelligent, but intelligent in an integrated manner. Most of us are intelligent in layers, you probably in one way and I in some other way. Some of you are intelligent in your business work, some others in your office work, and so on; people are intelligent in different ways, but we are not integrally intelligent. To be integrally intelligent means to be without the self. Is it possible? If I pursue that action, what is your response? This is not a discussion, and therefore please do not answer but be aware of that action. The implications which I have tried to point out must produce a reaction in you. What is your response?

 Photography by Felipe Morozini

Photography by Felipe Morozini

Is it possible for the self now to be completely absent? You know it is possible. Now, how is it possible? What are the necessary ingredients, requirements? What is the element that brings it about? Can I find it? Are you following this, sirs? When I put that question, "Can I find it?" surely I am convinced that it is possible. I have already created an experience in which the self is going to be strengthened, is it not? Understanding of the self requires a great deal of intelligence, a great deal of watchfulness, alertness, watching ceaselessly, so that it does not slip away. I, who am very earnest, want to dissolve the self. When I say that, I know it is possible to dissolve the self. Please be patient. The moment I say, "I want to dissolve this," and in the process I follow for the dissolution of that, there is the experiencing of the self, and so, the self is strengthened. So, how is it possible for the self not to experience? One can see that creation is not at all the experience of the self. Creation is when the self is not there, because creation is not intellectual, is not of the mind, is not self- projected, is something beyond all experiencing, as we know. Is it possible for the mind to be quite still, in a state of nonrecognition, which is, nonexperiencing, to be in a state in which creation can take place - which means, when the self is not there, when the self is absent? Am I making myself clear or not? Look, sirs, the problem is this, is it not? Any movement of the mind, positive or negative, is an experience which actually strengthens the 'me'. Is it possible for the mind not to recognize? That can only take place when there is complete silence, but not the silence which is an experience of the self and which therefore strengthens the self.

 Photography by Sarah Maple

Photography by Sarah Maple

Is there an entity apart from the self which looks at the self and dissolves the self? Are you following all this? Is there a spiritual entity which supersedes the self and destroys it, which puts it aside? We think there is, don't we? Most religious people think there is such an element. The materialist says, "It is impossible for the self to be destroyed; it can only be conditioned and restrained - politically, economically, and socially; we can hold it firmly within a certain pattern, and we can break it, and therefore it can be made to lead a high life, a moral life, and not to interfere with anything but to follow the social pattern and to function merely as a machine." That, we know. There are other people, the so-called religious ones - they are not really religious, though we call them so - who say, "Fundamentally, there is such an element. If we can get into touch with it, it will dissolve the self."

Is there such an element to dissolve the self? Please see what we are doing. We are merely forcing the self into a corner. If you allow yourself to be forced into the corner, you will see what is going to happen. We would like that there should be an element which is timeless, which is not of the self, which, we hope, will come and intercede and destroy, which we call God. Now is there such a thing which the mind can conceive? There may be or there may not be; that is not the point. When the mind seeks a timeless spiritual state which will go into action in order to destroy the self, is that not another form of experience which is strengthening the 'me'? When you believe, is that not what is actually taking place? When you believe that there is truth, God, timeless state, immortality, is that not the process of strengthening the self? The self has projected that thing which, you feel and believe, will come and destroy the self. So, having projected this idea of continuance in a timeless state as spiritual entity, you are going to experience, and all such experience will only strengthen the self, and therefore what have you done? You have not really destroyed the self but only given it a different name, a different quality; the self is still there because you have experienced it. So, our action from the beginning to the end is the same action; only we think it is evolving, growing, becoming more and more beautiful, but if you observe inwardly, it is the same action going on, the same 'me' functioning at different levels with different labels, with different names.

 Photography by Mona Kuhn

Photography by Mona Kuhn

When you see the whole process, the cunning, extraordinary inventions, the intelligence of the self, how it covers itself up through identification, through virtue, through experience, through belief, through knowledge; when you see that you are moving in a circle, in a cage of its own making, what happens? When you are aware of it, fully cognizant of it, then is not your mind extraordinarily quiet - not through compulsion, not through any reward, not through any fear? When you recognize that every movement of the mind is merely a form of strengthening the self, when you observe it, see it, when you are completely aware of it in action, when you come to that point - not ideologically, verbally, not through experiencing, but when you are actually in that state - then you will see that the mind being utterly still, has no power of creating. Whatever the mind creates is in a circle, within the field of the self. When the mind is noncreating, there is creation, which is not a recognizable process.

Reality, truth, is not to be recognized. For truth to come, belief, knowledge, experiencing, virtue, pursuit of virtue - which is different from being virtuous - all this must go. The virtuous person who is conscious of pursuing virtue can never find reality. He may be a very decent person; that is entirely different from the man of truth, from the man who understands. To the man of truth, truth has come into being. A virtuous man is a righteous man, and a righteous man can never understand what is truth, because virtue to him is the covering of the self, the strengthening of the self, because he is pursuing virtue. When he says, "I must be without greed," the state in which he is nongreedy and which he experiences strengthens the self. That is why it is so important to be poor, not only in the things of the world, but also in belief and in knowledge. A rich man with worldly riches or a man rich in knowledge and belief will never know anything but darkness and will be the center of all mischief and misery. But if you and I, as individuals, can see this whole working of the self, then we shall know what love is. I assure you, that is the only reformation which can possibly change the world. Love is not the self. Self cannot recognize love. You say, "I love," but then, in the very saying of it, in the very experiencing of it, love is not. But, when you know love, self is not. When there is love, self is not.

 Photography by Mona Kuhn

Photography by Mona Kuhn


From the "Fifth Talk in Madras 1952" on jkrishnamutri.org Photography by Mona Kuhn & Sarah Maple & Felipe Morozini & Naomi Harris