Krishnamurti & the Art of Awakening

Krishnamurti Quote of the Day

Ojai, California | 6th Public Talk 30th June, 1940

Questioner: Do you believe in karma and reincarnation?

Krishnamurti: I hear some of you groaning. Why? Do you understand the problem of karma and reincarnation so well or are you bored with it, or are you tired?

Audience: No.

Krishnamurti: Now let us go into this question fairly thoroughly because I think it is important to understand it, for consciously or unconsciously most of us think in terms of rebirth, continuity, and personal immortality. Let us take first the idea of karma. It is a Sanskrit word, its basic meaning is to act, to do, to work. If thought is fettered, limited, then all action springing from it is also fettered, limited, An acorn will produce an oak tree; the seed holds the future tree. A cause must produce a certain effect, a certain result. We experience this in our daily life. We do something without understanding, either greedily or viciously. It brings its own result. If you hate, the result of this is further hate and violence. If thought is narrow, personal, it must always create, with modification and variation, further ignorance, further limitation, and it cannot escape from its results. The result can always be changed or modified according to our understanding and the integrity of our thought. A cause may not necessarily produce a definite, expected result, for there are always factors and influences tending to modify or change the effect.

Thought cannot escape from its limited action and reaction until it understands deeply and fully the cause and the process of its own bondage.

Suppose one is a Hindu, the thought that is expressed by him is limited by the beliefs and traditions of a Hindu, which are the results of accumulated craving, ignorance, fear, and convenience. When this thought expresses itself in action, then that action creates further limitation of thought. Into this very drastic and simple reality, reward and punishment have been introduced, to deter so-called wrong action. If one is good - the good depending upon the limitation of thought, not upon understanding - then in the future or in the next life one will be suitably rewarded, and if one is not, one will be suitably punished. This element of fear, as reward and punishment, destroys understanding and love. If thought is influenced by reward and punishment, gain and loss, achievement and failure, then it cannot understand the craving that seeks reward and avoids punishment. Thought can only understand its own process if it does not identify itself with and cling to any of its own creations, any of its outgoing desires. To dissociate our thought from the idea of reward and punishment requires earnest awareness and in this process each one will discover his own particular form of conditioning. Mere discovery of the cause is not understanding; action, born of understanding alone, frees thought from limitation.

The idea of reincarnation involves the rebirth of the I which is regarded as a spiritual essence, the soul - and this implies a timeless state - or as the various sheaths which cover up the reality in man. This I is supposed to continue being born over and over again till it reaches perfection, reality, liberation. We are trying to understand the idea; we are not condemning the theory, so please do not be on the defensive.
If you think that you are a spiritual entity or reality, what does it mean? Does it not imply a timeless, deathless state? If it is the eternal, then it has no growth; for that which is capable of growth is not eternal. If the soul is spiritual essence, above and beyond all physical condi- tioning, apart from this thing called the I, then the I is of no importance.

Then why do we cling to it so desperately? Why are we caught up in its perpetuity, in its activities, in its ambitions and achievements, in its expansive desires? So when we say there is a spiritual entity, independent of all influence and conditioning, surely such an idea is an illusion, is it not? And also, if that spiritual entity is beyond and above and yet in us, if it cannot be contaminated, if nothing can be added to it, then why do we exert ourselves to understand, why do we struggle to make ourselves more perfect? If this spiritual essence is supposed to be love, intelligence, truth, then how can it be surrounded by this confusing darkness, by this violence and hate, by this feverish pursuit of the demands of the self? Yet it is. This does not mean that I am denying reality which can only be comprehended through understanding illusion and not by inventing illusions. We have accepted this idea of a spiritual entity, apart from the I, for such an idea is very gratifying, comforting.

Now what is this I? We see continuation of character, the I being different from another I. As I explained, conditioned thought must continue to create further limitations for itself. The I is not only a particular, physical form with its name, but beyond its outer appearance, there is the psychological I. What is this I? A representative of previous influences and limitations, being. born in a certain family, belonging to a certain group, a particular race, with its prejudices, its hates and superstitions, fears, and so on. These fears and conditioning originate in ignorance, in craving. These limitations have been transmitted from father to son right through till I am also that father, that past.

Audience: This is interesting.

Krishnamurti: You say that this is interesting; if you saw the implication in it, you would understand its real significance and not merely be intellectually interested. My father is also myself. The ideas and the beliefs, which my forefathers had and which have come down to me, combine with the present action and reaction and become the I of the present. Thus character is preserved and continued myself as today being reborn as another in the future. Without sentimentality and false emotion and prejudice, one can perceive the deep significance and reality of what I am saying: that our ancestors, through their desires, fears, and hopes, created a certain pattern of thought and this thought is partly continuing in us; these ideas, in combination with the present, have created that narrow and limited thought which is the I. This I, this ignorance, this myself, will go on in the future as another. So the world, mankind, is myself. If I, being the world, the you, act thoughtlessly, I must increase and perpetuate ignorance with all its effects, fears, and hates. So what I do matters greatly; not in terms of reward and punishment. But when I am deeply concerned about my rebirth, my immortality, the continuance of my experiences of achievement and sorrow, such concern must lead to wrong and thoughtless conclusions. The I is a conditioned, limited state, and so it is unreal. Reality is that state which is free from the self.

Now, most of us are apt to think that cause and effect are cyclic. If it were thus in the past it must be so in the present, and so in the future. But this is not so, for there is always a continuous change taking place and thus modifying the effect. Understanding the past influences and limitations, and discerning their effect, thought can transform itself in the present; and need not be bound by the past. Thought can free itself in the present from the bondages of the past through intense awareness. Take, for example, a Hindu or a Christian with his social and religious background; thoughtlessly he lives in a limited state and so in sorrow, and he attributes this sorrow to karma, to the past and not to his thoughtlessness. It is indolence, a form of conceit, that makes us cling to our past. Blessedness is not in the past or in the future but in the present for those who through joyous awareness understand and so are free from the cause of ignorance, which is craving.

If you will seriously reflect upon what I have been saying, then understanding will come out of your own earnestness. Knowledge is utterly valueless if you do not relate it to your daily life. If we are worldly, psychologically depending on things for our personal happiness, if our love is possessive and our thought crippled by beliefs and fears, then life becomes an increasing sorrow. In joyous and strenuous awareness thought frees itself from its limitations; out of self-reliant, exercised understanding, there comes peace.

Tags: knowledge, reincarnation

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