A contemplation on Silence – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Excerpt from “8 conversations” – 1968

krisnamurtiQuestioner: I see the importance of ending fear, sorrow, anger and all the travail of man. I see that one must lay the foundations of good behaviour, which is generally called righteousness, and that in that there is no hatred or envy and none of the brutality in which man exists. I see also that there must be freedom – not from any particular thing but freedom in itself – and that one must not be always in the prison of one’s own demands and desires. I see all this very clearly and I try – though perhaps you may not like the word try – to live in the light of this understanding. I have to some extent gone deeply into myself. I am not held by any of the things of this world, nor by any religion. Now I would like to ask: granted that one is free, not only outwardly but inwardly, of all the misery and confusion of life, what is there beyond the wall? When I say the wall, I mean fear, sorrow and the constant pressure of thought. What is there that can be seen when the mind is quiet, not committed to any particular activity?

Krishnamurti: What do you mean when you say: what is there? Do you mean something to be perceived, to be felt, to be experienced, or to be understood? Are you asking by any chance what is enlightenment? Or are you asking what is there when the mind has stopped all its wanderings and has come to quietness? Are you asking what there is on the other side when the mind is really still?

Questioner: I’m asking all these things. When the mind is still there seems to be nothing. There must be something tremendously important to discover behind all thought. The Buddha and one or two others have talked about something so immense that they can’t put it into words. The Buddha said, ‘`Don’t measure with words the immeasurable.” Everyone has known moments when the mind was perfectly still, and there was really nothing so very great about it; it was just emptiness. And yet one has a feeling that there is something just around the corner which, once discovered transforms the whole of life. It would seem, from what people have said, that a still mind is necessary to discover this. Also, I see that only an uncluttered, still mind can be efficient and truly perceptive. But there must be something much more than simply an uncluttered, still mind – something much more than a fresh mind, an innocent mind, more even than a loving mind.

Krishnamurti: So what is the question now? You have stated that a quiet, sensitive, alert mind is necessary, not only to be efficient, but also to perceive things around you and in yourself.

Questioner: All the philosophers and scientists are perceiving something all the time. Some of them are remarkably bright, many of them are even righteous. But when you’ve looked through everything they’ve perceived or created or expressed, it’s really not very much, and there is certainly no intimation of anything divine.

Krishnamurti: Are you asking if there is something sacred beyond all this? Are you asking if there is a different dimension in which the mind can live and perceive something that is not merely the intellectual formulation of cunning? Are you asking in a roundabout way if there is or is not something supreme?

Questioner: A great many people have said in the most convincing way that there is a tremendous treasure which is the source of consciousness. They all agree that it cannot be described. They disagree about how to perceive it. They all seem to think that thought must stop before it can manifest itself. Some say it is the very matter from which thought is made, and so on and so on. All agree that you are not really living unless you have discovered it. Apparently you yourself say more or less the same thing. Now I’m not following any system or discipline or guru or belief. I don’t need any of these things to tell me there is something transcendental. When you look at a leaf or at a face, you realize that there is something far greater than the scientific or biological explanations of existence. It seems that you have drunk at this source. We listen to what you say. You carefully show the triviality and the limitation of thought. We listen, we reflect, and we do come upon a new stillness. Conflict does end. But what then?

Krishnamurti: Why are you asking this?

Questioner: You’re asking a blind man why he wants to see.

Krishnamurti: The question wasn’t asked as a clever gambit, or in order to point out that a silent mind doesn’t ask anything at all, but to find out whether you are really searching for something transcendental. If you are, what is the motive behind that search – curiosity, an urgency to discover, or the desire to see such beauty as you have never seen before? Isn’t it important for you to find out for yourself whether you are asking for the more, or whether you are trying to see exactly what is? The two are incompatible. If you can put aside the more, then we are concerned only with what is when the mind is silent. What actually takes place when the mind is really quiet? That is the real question, isn’t it – not what is transcendental or what lies beyond?

Questioner: What lies beyond is my question.

Krishnamurti: What lies beyond can be found only if the mind is still. There may be something or there may be nothing at all. So the only thing that is important is for the mind to be still. Again, if you are concerned with what lies beyond, then you are not looking at what the state of actual stillness is. If stillness to you is only a door to that which lies beyond, then you are not concerned with that door, whereas what is important is the very door itself, the very stillness itself. Therefore you cannot ask what lies beyond. The only thing that is important is for the mind to be still. Then what takes place? That is all we are concerned with, not with what lies beyond silence.

Questioner: You are right. The silence has no importance to me except as a doorway.

Krishnamurti: How do you know it is a doorway and not the thing itself? The means is the end, they are not two separate things. Silence is the only fact, not what you discover through it. Let us remain with the fact and see what that fact is. It is of great importance, perhaps of the greatest importance, that this silence be silence in itself and not something induced as a means to an end, not something induced through drugs, discipline or the repetition of words.

Questioner: The silence comes of its own, without a motive and without a cause.

Krishnamurti: But you are using it as a means.

Questioner: No, I have known silence and I see that nothing happens.

Krishnamurti: That is the whole point. There is no other fact but silence which has not been invited, induced, sought after, but which is the natural outcome of observation and of understanding oneself and the world about one. In this there has been no motive which has brought silence. If there is any shadow or suspicion of a motive, then that silence is directed and deliberate, so it is not silence at all. If you can honestly say that that silence is free, then what actually takes place in that silence is our only concern. What is the quality and the texture of that silence? Is it superficial, passing, measurable? Are you aware of it after it is over, or during the silence? If you are aware that you have been silent, then it is only a memory, and therefore dead. If you are aware of the silence while it is happening, then is it silence? If there is no observer – that is, no bundle of memories – then is it silence? Is it something intermittent which comes and goes according to your body chemistry? Does it come when you are alone, or with people, or when you are trying to meditate? What we are trying to find out is the nature of this silence. Is it rich or poor? (I don’t mean rich with experience, or poor because it is uneducated.) Is it full or shallow? Is it innocent or is it put together? A mind can look at a fact and not see the beauty, the depth, the quality of that fact. Is it possible to observe silence without the observer? When there is silence, there is only silence, and nothing else. Then in that silence what takes place? Is this what you are asking?

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: Is there an observation of silence by silence in silence?

Questioner: That’s a new question.

Krishnamurti: It is not a new question if you have been following. The whole brain, the mind, the feelings, the body, everything is quiet. Can this quietness, stillness, look at itself, not as an observer who is still? Can the totality of this silence watch its own totality? The silence becomes aware of itself – in this there is no division between an observer and an observed. That is the main point. The silence does not use itself to discover something beyond itself. There is only that silence. Now see what happens.

Thank you Tomas for putting my attention to this gem,
thx to http://www.jiddu-krishnamurti.net for keeping the texts online.

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18 thoughts on “A contemplation on Silence – Jiddu Krishnamurti

  1. J K I have several of his audio and video discourses from almost 20 yrs and listen to it
    he is really really a enlightened master and a master cannot be a poet, a poet thinks only partly from the heart and mostly thinks from the mind.

    while a master does not think he is spontaneous

    Thank you dear Bert

    • You are most welcome, Ajay! I have a lot of pdf’s from JK that I can link to if you are interested. His most important works to me are these 3 little works ‘Commentaries on Living’ part 1, 2 and 3. One of the few he wrote himself, the other works were usally distilled from his teachings in various times and places.

      • Yes dear I have all of them dear Bert

        I had been to his ashrams quiet a few times, indeed he was a enlightened master and I love his sayings very very much and am influenced in my life because of him and Osho.

        I first read this and then the journey began

        The eagle in its flight does not leave a mark, only the scientist does. And in enquiring into this question of freedom there must be not only the scientific observation, but also the flight of the eagle that does not leave a mark at all; both are required; which is, both the verbal explanation and the non-verbal perception, bearing in mind that the description is never the described, the explanation is never that thing which is explained, that is the word is never the thing.

          • Oh dear I suppose he taught us all to take it to the heart so we never tend to forget it and so never have to be reminded 🙂

            Thank you 🙂

  2. Pingback: To Be Aware
  3. I have read every one of JK’s books. Many, Iv’e read twice. The man doth go on with excessive verbiage!
    He would have benefited from poetry, because poetry takes the fragrance and leaves the bulk.
    Maybe poetry is like a distillation, all that is excessive and unnecessary is filtered out.
    JK had some good one liners, though. I like this one: “There is no thinker, only thought.” And this one: “Hope and despair are two sides of the same coin.”
    My favourite JK quote is from the following story about a man who came to see JK in order to get his blessing/permission to divorce his wife. JK said to him, “If you are wanting to leave her for the same reason you originally got together with her nothing will change: if you want to leave to avoid pain and pursue pleasure – you are doing exactly what you did to get into this mess.”

    • I see your point. Most books ‘from’ K. are transcripts from his talks, with some exceptions. With lost of repetitions etc. He used something between prose and poetry in ‘Krishnamurti’s notebook’. In the end, I think he was trying to avoid ‘being interpreted’.

      • Yah, I read that too, it’s his best work.
        Overly dramatic about his migraines, though – calling them “the process”!

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