The First Step Is the Last Step
On Meditation and Innocence
is fairly obvious, and that is, we must totally change the way we are living.
There must be a deep radical revolution in our lives, a revolution not merely
superficial, economic or social, an upsetting of the establishment to put in its
place a new one, but we have to be concerned with how the human mind, which is
so conditioned, can undergo a radical transformation, how it can live, act and
function at a totally different dimension. Can there be a mutation in the very
brain cells themselves? That is one problem, and I think that is the major
problem, because we are responding to every challenge with the old brain, the
old brain which is traditional, habitual, mechanical, which has been conditioned
for millennia. Life is a constant challenge to which we are responding with the
old brain. The response is mechanical, egoistic, a self-centred response and
when we are asking the question whether these brain cells themselves can undergo
a radical transformation, a mutation, we have to enquire into the quality of the
mind that can perceive without any kind of effort, without any suppression,
Now, as we said, we are sharing the problem
together. There is no authority to tell you what to do, no new system of
meditation. When you have a system of meditation, it is no longer meditation. It
is just a mechanical repetition, and that is utterly futile and has no meaning
whatsoever. Most people, especially in Asia, including this country, have a
concept of what meditation is. They have been told how to meditate, what to do,
and all the rest of it. You see, the speaker has not read any books about all
this, he has no system; he had to find it out for himself, he had to wipe away
everything that he had been told. Nothing must be repeated which he has not
himself perceived, which he himself has not lived; never must he repeat in life
anything another has said with regard to meditation and with regard to any
spiritual matters, never to repeat what he has heard or been told. And if you
are going to do the same thing, that is, never repeat what you yourself have not
perceived, never assert or formulate what others have said about it, then we can
communicate together, share together this problem. To find out what truth is,
the mind must be totally free of all imitation, conformity, fear, and then only
can it see, perceive what is.
So to understand what meditation is, we must find
out what it is not. Because by negating that which is not, that which is false,
you find out for yourself what is true. But if you merely accept what others
have said—it does not matter who it is, including the speaker—then you are
merely conforming, and you are conforming because you hope through conformity,
through obedience, through certain practices, you will experience some fantastic
thing, have some vision, great powers, and so on. But if you are serious then we
can share together our examination, our investigation, to come upon a state of
mind, a quality of mind that is utterly free, a mind that is non-mechanical,
non-repetitive, a mind that is completely quiet without any form of suppression,
without any effort, without any practice.
To find out what is not meditation, first, there
must be an understanding or learning about the self, the ‘me’; the ‘me’
with all its memories, anxieties, fears, ambitions, with its joys, sexual
pleasures, the ‘me’ that separates itself from the ‘you,’ and the
‘you’ with your ‘me’ that separates itself from another. It must be an
understanding of oneself, not according to anybody, not according to any
philosopher, any psychologist. And you cannot possibly understand yourself if
there is any form of condemnation, any form of justification. To learn about
yourself, to see yourself as you are, not as you would like to be, there
must be perception.
It is absolutely necessary that one understands
oneself, because without that understanding of oneself there is no foundation
for enquiry. The understanding of yourself is not the understanding of the
‘self’ which is permanent, the so-called soul, ātman and the
superself. The understanding of yourself means the understanding of your daily
life, the way you talk, the motives, the ambitions, the fears, the anxiety,
desire for power, position, the various conflicts. That is the ‘you.’ You
have to understand that because out of that understanding comes righteous
action, and without that righteous action, without that true foundation,
meditation becomes a self-hypnosis. That is absolutely necessary, not because
the speaker says so, but you can see logically why it is necessary that you
understand yourself, because if there is any form of contradiction in yourself,
any form of fear, any quality of ambition, competitiveness, envy, how can such a
mind discover or come upon something that is not of itself? You see, reason,
logic tells you that you must understand yourself first and not escape
from yourself. You must know yourself, and therein lies one of our difficulties,
which is, when one is learning about oneself, observing one’s thoughts, not
controlling them, not suppressing them, the question arises as to who is the
If we are going into this question of meditation
and the question of how to live without sorrow, without conflict, how to live a
life that is abundant, rich, that has meaning in itself, you have to understand
this question, which is: who is the observer that is learning? I am watching
myself—I am watching my speech, the way I talk, my gestures, my brutality, my
violence, my kindliness—this whole battle of existence, I am watching. Now is
the watcher different from the thing he is watching? That is, the watcher who
says, “I am learning about myself,” is he different, an outsider, watching
what is happening? You understand the question? Is the watcher different from
the thing he watches, or are they both the same? Is the watcher, the censor, the
person who says, “I am watching myself,” is that entity different from the
thing he watches, or, is the observer the observed?
You will find, as you watch, the observer is the
observed, the two are not separate; therefore, there is no sense of
contradiction; therefore, there is no sense of suppression, control. Both are
one. Again this is reasonable, logical. You do not have to accept this from
anybody; you can see this for yourself. There is no higher ‘self’ watching
the lower self. When you examine this whole observation in which there is
learning, you will find the observer is the observed. The man who is
angry is anger itself; the entity that says there is a soul, there is ātman,
there is a superself, is part of thought. So what is important is to learn about
oneself without the censor. When you, the censor, says, “Do this, don’t do
that, this is wrong, that is not wrong,” then you are watching. It is your
previous conditioning, your tradition, your previous memory interfering with
observation. Do you see this simple fact? And you have to learn about yourself;
otherwise you have no basis whatsoever for clear perception.
Then out of this arises the question of discipline.
From what people have said, it is asserted that you must discipline yourself,
control yourself, hold yourself. You know that is what we are trained to do from
childhood, from the books that you read and so on, that you must control,
discipline, shape yourself according to a pattern. Now ‘discipline’ means to
learn; the word itself means to learn not to conform, not to obey. The very
act of learning is discipline. If I am to learn about myself without the
observer, then that very observation brings its own order. After all, order is
necessary and that has been translated into discipline. So order is necessary
and this order cannot be brought about by any form of compulsion, by following a
pattern. Order can only come about when you have observed what disorder is. That
is, you live in disorder, your life is in disorder, your life is in
contradiction, messy, confused.
Now, by learning about yourself you bring about
order. Therefore you have to find for yourself how to observe yourself, observe
without the observer, the observer being the entity that condemns, that judges,
that evaluates, that denies; he is the censor which is the past. So you have to
observe without the past. That is, when you look at a rose, you have to look at
it without the image that you have about it, or the word that you have which is
‘the rose.’ That prevents you from looking at the rose. Can you observe
without the word?
Then, what is meditation? What is the quality of
the mind that is in a state of meditation? We are going to share together; that
does not mean we are going to meditate together, which is again sheer nonsense.
First of all, you have to understand this question. Just listen, without
judging, agreeing or disagreeing, without wishing to understand what is being
said, just give your attention completely to what is said. If you give your
attention completely to what is going to be said, that very state of attention
is meditation. You understand? We will go into it. Just listen. The speaker is
not mesmerizing you, the speaker is not telling you what to do, the speaker is
trying to point out certain facts, not according to his opinion, his judgement,
facts which you and the speaker can discover, not at some future date, hut now,
by using your reason, logic.
You know it is one of the most difficult things to
put into words, because, you see, one has to understand the nature and the
structure of thought. That is part of meditation. Understand it, because if you
don’t understand what thought is, then you are constantly in conflict with
thought. I really do not know where to begin this whole business, because it is
a very complex thing which we are going to look into together. You see, whether
you understand or not what the speaker is going to say, just listen.
The first step is the last step. The first step is
the step of clear perception, and that act of clear perception is the last act.
When you see danger, a serpent, that very perception is the complete action. Do
you follow? Now we said the first step is the last step. The first step is to
perceive, perceive what you are thinking, perceive your ambition, perceive your
anxiety, your loneliness, your despair, this extraordinary sense of sorrow,
perceive it, without any condemnation, justification, without wishing it to be
different. Just to perceive it, as it is. When you perceive it as it is,
then there is a totally different kind of action taking place, and that action
is the final action. Right? That is, when you perceive something as being false
or as being true, that perception is the final action, which is the final step.
Right? Now listen to it. I perceive the falseness of following somebody else,
somebody else’s instruction—Krishna, Buddha, Christ, it does not matter who
it is. I see there is the perception or the truth that following somebody is
utterly false. Right? Because your reason, your logic and everything points out
how absurd it is to follow somebody. Now that perception is the final step, and
when you have perceived, you leave it, forget it, because the next minute you
have to perceive anew, which is again the final step. If you do not drop what
you have learnt, what you have perceived, then there is a continuity of the
movement of thought; and the movement and continuity of thought is time. And
when the mind is caught in the movement of time, it is in bondage.
So that is one of the major problems: whether the
mind can be free of the past, the past regrets, the past pleasures, the
memories, remembrances, incidents and experiences, all the things that one has
built up, the past, which is also the ‘me.’ The ‘me’ is the past. Now,
thought gives continuity to something which has been perceived clearly, and not
being able to put it aside gives it a continuity which becomes the means of
You had a happy incident yesterday. You don’t
forget it, you do not drop it, you take it over with you, you think about it.
The very thinking about something which is of the past gives continuity to the
past. Therefore there is no ending to the past. You are following all this? But
if you perceive that you had a most extraordinary, happy incident yesterday, see
it, perceive it, and completely end it, do not carry it over, then there is no
continuity as the past which thought has built. Therefore every step is the last
step. Do you get it?
So we have to go into this question whether thought
which is giving a continuity to memory as memory—and memory is the
past—whether thought can ever come to an end. Because that is part of
meditation. It is part of a total mutation of the brain cells themselves,
because if there is a continuity of the movement of thought, it is the
repetition of the old, because thought is memory, thought is the response of
memory, thought is experience, thought is knowledge.
So our question is: thought is always perpetuating
itself through experience, through the constant repetition of certain memories.
Knowledge is always in the past, and when you act according to knowledge, you
are giving continuity to thought. But you must have knowledge to act
technologically. See the difficulty. If you did not use thought, you could not
go home, you could not work in an office. You must have knowledge, but also see
the importance, the danger of a mind that is caught in the perpetual movement of
thought, and therefore never seeing anything new. Thought is always old, thought
is always conditioned, never free, because it is acting according to the past.
So the question is: how can this movement of thought, which at one level is
absolutely necessary to function logically, sanely, healthily, how can this
movement of thought come to an end, for a man to perceive something totally new,
to live totally differently?
The traditional approach to this question is
control it, hold it, or learn to concentrate. Right? Which again is absurd
because who is the controller? Is not the controller part of the thought, part
of the knowledge which says you must control? That is, you have been taught to
control. So there is a way of observing thought without any control, without
giving it a continuity, but observing so that it ends. Have you understood my
question? Because if thought continues, the mind is never quiet; and it is only
when the mind is completely quiet that there is the possibility of perception.
See the logic of it, that is, if my mind is chattering, comparing, judging,
saying this is right, this is wrong, I am not listening to you. To listen to
you, to understand what you are saying, I must give my attention, and to give
one’s attention completely, that attention itself is silence. Right?
One sees very clearly that silence is
completely necessary, not only at the superficial level, but at the most deep
level; at the very root of our being there must be complete silence. How is this
to happen? It cannot possibly happen if there is any form of control, because
then there is conflict, because then there is the man who says, “I must
control,” and there is the thing to be controlled. In that there is division,
in that division there is conflict. Therefore, is it possible for the mind to be
completely empty and quiet, not continuously but each second? That is the first
perception, that the mind must be completely quiet, the perception, the truth of
it and the seeing of the truth of it is the first and last step, and then that
perception must be ended; otherwise you carry it over. Therefore, the mind must
observe, must be aware, choicelessly, of every perception and there must be the
ending of that perception instantly: seeing and ending. Are you following
all this? So the mind is not living with thought which is the response of the
past and giving to that thought a continuity into the future which may be the
next minute, the next second. And thought is the response of memory which is the
very structure of the brain cells themselves. If you have observed yourself, you
will see that in the brain cells themselves is the material of memory, and that
memory responds, which is thought. To bring about a total mutation in the
quality of the cell itself, there must be an ending of every perception,
understanding, seeing, acting and moving away from it, so that the mind is
always perceiving and dying, perceiving the falsity of the truth and ending it
and moving on without carrying the memory. Right?
You know, all this demands tremendous perception,
tremendous vitality, energy. To go into this step by step, as we have been
doing, not missing a thing, requires tremendous energy. Now let us find how this
energy comes into being. You understand my question: we need energy. For you to
come here and sit here for a whole hour and listen, demands energy. To do
anything requires energy, and this energy can be dissipated, used in all kinds
of ways. So the question is, can this ordinary everyday energy—going to the
office, quarrelling, nagging, fighting, sexual—can this energy be heightened,
can this energy be completely held without any form of distortion?
You see, our energy is dissipated in conflict,
conflict between two nations, conflict between two opinions, conflict between
the husband and the wife and the children, conflict between trying to see God
and suppressing all your instincts. That is also conflict, that is distortion.
How does one have this complete energy without distortion? Now let us find out,
by investigating what is distraction, dissipation of energy. We said conflict in
every form is a dissipation of energy—conflict between the observer and the
observed, between the ideal and the fact, between what is and ‘what
should be.’ Conforming to what has been and trying to carry out what has been
in the present or in the future, that is part of conflict. So that is a
distortion of energy, every form of conflict dissipates energy. Right? And the
religious people throughout the world, the monks, the sannyāsis, the
yogis, and the rest of them, they all say, “You must control, you must
be celibate, you must take a vow of poverty.” What does that
imply?—conflict, more and more conflict, suppression, conformity, and you
think through conformity, suppression, every form of battle with yourself or
with another politically, religiously or theoretically, you will have some kind
of tremendous experience.
So when you see the truth, when you perceive the
truth that every form of conflict is a distortion, that very perception is the
ending of conflict at that moment; then forget it, begin again. Do not say “I
have seen it once and I am going to hold on.” You follow? That means you give
continuity to thought, which is memory—of what you perceived a few minutes
ago—and so strengthen the brain cells to carry on with this memory of the past
and therefore there is no radical change in the structure of the memory, in the
structure of the brain cells.
And there is this question of seeking experience.
They all say you must experience something fantastic, something transcendental.
Now, first of all, why do you want to experience something beyond the ordinary?
Why do you want to experience something extraordinary? Because for a very simple
reason you are tired of your daily experiences, you are bored: the daily
experience of sex or no sex, the daily experience of anger and so on. You are
bored with all that, and you say, “By Jove, there must be some other kind of
experience.” Now that very word ‘experience’ means ‘to go through,’
finish with it, not carry it over. Right? And who is it that is seeking
experience—the entity that says, “I am tired of all these superficial things
and I want something more”? That entity is part of the desire to have more and
that entity projects what it wants. You being a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian,
or God knows what else, you being conditioned, you want to experience Christ or
Buddha or Krishna or whatever it is; and you will, because what you are going to
experience is projected from your past, because you are conditioned as a Hindu.
So your nirvāna, your heaven, your experience, your future is
according to your ugly little past.
And a mind that seeks experience, that wants more,
has not understood totally what is, which is the ‘me’ that is craving
for all this. A mind that seeks experience is bound to time, is bound to sorrow;
for thought is time, for time is sorrow. Now can the mind be totally awake
without any question of challenge, experience? Because, most of us need to be
challenged, otherwise we will go to sleep. Right? If you are not challenged
every day, questioned, criticized, you will naturally go off to sleep. So can
the mind keep so totally awake that it needs no experience at all? You follow?
And that can only happen when the mind has understood the whole structure and
the nature of thought. There are so many things to talk about in this.
The traditional people say, “Sit straight,
breathe this way and that way, stand on your head for twenty minutes.” What
does it all mean? You can sit in the right posture, with your back straight,
breathing correctly—prānāyāma and all the rest of
it—for the next ten thousand years, and you will be nowhere near perceiving
what truth is, because you have not understood yourself at all, the way you
think, the way you live, you have not ended your sorrow; and yet you want to
find enlightenment. So one has to drop all that.
You know there are powers, siddhis, as they
are called, that seem to entice people. If you can levitate, if you can read
thought, if you can do all kinds of twists and turns with your body, it seems to
fascinate people, because that way you get some power and prestige. Now all
these powers are like candles in the sun. They are like candlelight when the
brilliant sun is shining. Therefore, they are utterly valueless. They have a
therapeutic physical value, nothing else.
How does a mind, without following any system,
without following any compulsion, without any comparison, how can a mind which
has been so long conditioned, be completely empty of the past? You understand my
question? To empty completely so that it sees clearly, and what it is seeing
clearly end it, so that it is always renewing itself in emptiness, that is,
renewing itself in innocence.
Now the word ‘innocence’ means an innocent
mind, means a mind that can never be hurt. The word ‘innocence’ comes from a
Latin word which means incapable of being hurt; and most of us are hurt, hurt
with all the memories which we have accumulated round those hurts, our remorse,
our longings, our loneliness. Our fears are part of this sense of being hurt.
From childhood we are hurt consciously or unconsciously. How to empty all that
hurt, not taking time, you understand, not saying, “Gradually I will get rid
of this hurt”? When you do that, you will never end it, you are dead by the
end of it. So the question is whether the mind can empty itself completely, not
only at the superficial level, but also at the very depth of its being, at its
very roots. Because otherwise one lives in a prison, one lives in the prison of
cause and effect in this world of change.
So you must ask this question, put this question to
yourself, whether your mind can be empty of all its past and yet retain the
technological knowledge, your engineering knowledge, your linguistic knowledge,
the memory of all that, and yet function from a mind that is completely empty.
The emptying of that mind comes about naturally, sweetly without bidding, when
you understand yourself, when you understand what you are. What you are is the
memory, bundle of memories, experiences, thoughts. When you understand that,
look at it, observe it; and when you observe it, see in that observation that
there is no duality between the observer and the observed; then when you see
that, you will see that your mind can be completely empty, attentive, and in
that attention you can act wholly, without any fragmentation. All that is part
of meditation—not just sitting in a corner for five minutes a day and going
off to some idiotic conflict with yourself, not twisting your head or your
breathing—these are all too infantile. They are exactly like candlelight in
And the next question is whether you understand
totally the whole fragmentation of yourself—not integration—understand how
this fragmentation and its contradiction arise, not how to bring it together.
You cannot do that. To bring it together implies a duality—the one who is
bringing it, bringing about integration and all that. Then when you really,
deeply, profoundly understand about yourself, learn about yourself, then you can
understand the meaning of time, the time that binds, holds, that brings sorrow.
If you have gone that far—and that means you have
not gone far in the distance, far verbally, not measurably far—; if you have
gone that far, not in height or depth, if you have gone to that height of
understanding, with that fullness, then you will find out for yourself a
dimension which has no description, which has no word, which is not something to
be bought through sacrifice, which is not in any book, which no guru can
ever experience. He wants to teach you about it, how to reach it, therefore,
when he says, “I have experienced that and I know what that is,” he has not
experienced it, he does not know what it is. The man who says he knows does
not know. So a mind must be free of the word, the image, the past, and that
is the first step and the last step.
Public Talk, New Delhi, 24th Dec.
Krishnamurti in India 1970-71, Chap. 5.