On Awareness and Benefit

This article explores the question of whether it is possible to be aware without a motive. It was sent as part of the Kinfonet August 2020 newsletter.
By Kinfonet staff 15 August 2020
In the three-part book series entitled "Commentaries on Living," Krishnamurti recounts one-on-one meetings with people who sought out his counsel. We featured one such discussion in a recent Quote of the Day from a chapter on "Sincerity." In that excerpt, Krishnamurti converses with a gentleman who has exceptionally strong ethical and religious convictions. In his daily life, he strives to adhere to a strict code of conduct in keeping with his meticulously cultivated principles. Indeed, he has dedicated his entire life to these "spiritual" pursuits.

Sincerity can never be simple; sincerity is the breeding ground of the will, and will cannot uncover the ways of the self. Self-knowledge is not the product of will; self-knowledge comes into being through awareness of the moment-by moment responses to the movement of life. Will shuts off these spontaneous responses, which alone reveal the structure of the self. Will is the very essence of desire; and to the understanding of desire, will becomes a hindrance. Will in any form, whether of the upper mind or of the deep-rooted desires, can never be passive; and it is only in passivity, in alert silence, that truth can be. Conflict is always between desires, at whatever level the desires may be placed. The strengthening of one desire in opposition to the others only breeds further resistance, and this resistance is will. Understanding can never come through resistance. What is important is to understand desire, and not to overcome one desire by another.

Source:  Commentaries on Living Series I, Chapter 34 - "Sincerity"

The word "sincerity" denotes a quality of being authentic - as opposed to being hypocritical or duplicitous - and is generally considered in a positive light. As frequently occurs in his teachings, though, Krishnamurti questions whether this is indeed a desirable quality as he traces the origins and significance of this kind of passionate interest. To him, any sincere, single-minded pursuit is an expression of the "self" and thereby closes off any possibility of self-understanding.

Having studied the teachings, many of us have come to appreciate the importance of becoming aware of the "ways of the self." However, must we not ask ourselves whether our expression of genuine interest is any different from that of the religious man described above and, as such, must necessarily impede unhampered awareness of ourselves in action?

It is important to note that Krishnamurti's definition of self-knowledge is not about dissecting one's particular tendencies, habits, or ideas. Rather, self-knowledge is understanding the complete nature of "self-ness," as it comes into being and as it operates. In order for the self to be revealed in its entirety, it would have to be somehow observed without interference, and without censorship.

Having a strong agenda implies that one part of the self has been promoted to a position of higher authority, justifying the quelling of what it considers to be undesired expressions. Bearing this in mind, we can understand why Krishnamurti's describes "being aware" as akin to looking at the movement of consciousness without judgment or condemnation.

The reality is, though, that we cannot neutrally observe the self in action. Even just the presence of an interest in being aware means that there exists a fragment which has split itself off as the neutral observer from the rest of our thoughts and feelings. In other words, our understanding of "awareness" ends up being enacted by a part of the self that fancies itself capable of looking at the other parts without judgment.

Why is pure awareness without the activities of the self so elusive? Is it perhaps because, in the end, we are more keen to experience what might lie beyond the self than knowing the self exactly as it is? After all, what is the benefit in looking at "what is" for its own sake? We have no way of knowing beforehand that the self - with all its problems and foibles - might not simply continue exactly as it is and we will have gained nothing. As a matter of fact, awareness does in no way guarantee outcome and we are just not ready to give up control over what happens.

In the seeing of any fact there is no "me". There is either the "me" or the seeing, there can't be both. "Me" is non-seeing. The "me" cannot see, cannot be aware.

Source: The Urgency of Change, Awareness

For pure awareness to be, then, the self would have to end immediately, not in some distant future, not as a result of seeking a particular outcome. At heart, though, it would appear that we are more interested in fixing the self than ending it. Understandably so, since that would be tantamount to suicide, even if it be in a psychological sense.

Is this really what you are seeking? Is it really what you want? If you do, there must be the total revolution of your being. Is this what you want? Do you want a revolution that shatters all your concepts, your values, your morality, your respectability, your knowledge - shatters you so that you are reduced to absolute nothingness, so that you no longer have any character, so that you no longer are the seeker, the man who judges, who is aggressive or perhaps non-aggressive, so that you are completely empty of everything that is you?

Source: Meeting Life | Questions and Answers: What is Beauty?