Question: One realizes deeply the importance of awareness of one’s inner and outer actions, yet one slips into inattention so easily. Must there be a Krishnamurti, the books, the cassettes, to keep one alert? Why? Why this gap between understanding and immediate action?
Jiddu Krishnamurti – Why is inattention so easy, so common? It is taking place all the time. To be aware of what is happening inside the skin and what is happening outside the skin – must there be somebody to remind you of it?
Clothes do not make a man; by putting on robes a monk does not become a saint. Either the clothes remind you that one must be constantly aware – then you depend on the clothes – or without these outward garments can you be aware and not slip into inattention?
Is awareness, whatever it is, to be cultivated, developed through practice, through saying: ”I must be aware”, and meditating on that awareness or having some kind of thing to remind one of it constantly – whether a picture or a hair shirt which is so uncomfortable that one is constantly reminded to be aware? Let us find out what it means to be aware. One cannot know everything that is happening in the world; what the politicians are doing, what the Secret Service is doing, what the army or the scientists are doing; one does not know what one’s neighbour is doing, nor what one’s wife or husband is doing inwardly.
One cannot know everything. But one can know, or become aware, of one’s own life inwardly. Now, is that inner movement different from the outer movement? Is that which is outside – the pollution, the corruption, the chicanery, the deception, the hypocrisy, the violence – is that very different from oneself inwardly? Or is it a constant movement, like the tide going in and out? Can one be aware of this movement – see and observe it? Can one in the process of observing this flow this unitary movement, make any choice? In this movement is awareness based on choice? Can one observe this movement – which is oneself and the world, for the world is oneself – without any choice?
That observation is awareness, which one does not have to cultivate, about which one does not have to have somebody to remind one, neither books, nor tapes. Once one sees for oneself the truth that this movement out there and the movement in here are essentially similar one does not need any reminders. It is this same movement that has created the world, the society, the army, the navy, the scientist, the politician, and that movement is oneself. Can one seriously, not deceiving oneself, go very, very deeply into this awareness without choice; observing it without any direction? One has to be extremely watchful.
Naturally, that awareness cannot be constant. But to be aware that it is not constant, is to be aware of inattention. To be aware of inattention is attention. One cannot reasonably, sanely, say: ”I am going to be alert from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep” – one cannot, unless one is neurotic and practises saying: ”I am going to be aware, I am going to be aware” – then it becomes words and has no meaning. But if one sees that attention, awareness, cannot be maintained all the time – which is a fact – then inattention, not being attentive, has its value, has its meaning; because in inattention you discover that you are not attentive.
The questioner asks: Why is there a gap between understanding and immediate action? What does one mean by understanding? Somebody explains the nature and the structure of the atom, one listens carefully and says, ”Yes, I understand what you are saying”. Or one listens to a philosopher and says, ”Yes, I understand the basis of your theories”. All that is intellectual discernment, understanding. That is the function of the intellect – to discern, to evaluate, to analyse. At that level one says, ”I understand”.
The questioner asks: Why is there a gap between understanding of that kind and immediate action? One has deeply to understand that the word never is the thing, the explanation is never the actuality. Now, understanding takes place when the mind is quiet, not merely at the intellectual level. You are telling me something, something serious, philosophic. if my mind is chattering, wandering away, I cannot fully comprehend what you are saying.
So I must listen to you, not translate what you are saying, or interpret what you are saying, or listen partially because I am frightened of what you might say, for then the mind is disturbed, moving, changing, volatile. Whereas, if I really want to listen to what you are saying, the mind must be quiet. Then there is a depth of understanding which is not merely intellectual or verbal. When there is profound perception of what is being said, false or true – and one can discover the truth in the false – then in that state of silent understanding action is naturally immediate, there is no gap between the two.
When one is standing on the edge of a precipice, one does not argue, the intellect does not say let us discuss, think about it; one jumps away from the danger. There is immediate action of self-protection, which is healthy, natural, normal. One does not stand in front of a bus which is running one down, or stand looking at a dangerous snake, or animal. It is a natural, instinctive, response to save oneself. If perception is complete – which can only take place when the mind is quietly listening, not accepting, not denying but listening – then that perception and action are the same.
Source – J. Krishnamurti Questions and Answers, Saanen 25th July 1980