4. Words from silence
Krishnamurti and Bohm met and discussed quite regularly ever since their first meeting. Yet, the first published series of dialogues between them took place in Gstaad, Switzerland after the Saanen gatherings from 15th to 29th August 1965.
Krishnamurti had a summer gathering in a village surrounded by four mountains, called Saanen in the Swiss Alps, from 1961 to 1985.
In the early Sixties there were ten talks during three weeks in a tent near the camping place. Over the years the numbers of talks went down but the numbers of listeners went up.
After the public gatherings a small group of people close to K assembled in the beautiful chalet Tannegg, where K lived during his stay in the Swiss mountains. Present were David Bohm and his wife Saral, Mary Zimbalist, Alain Naudé, Margo Laborde and Robin Monro. They met six times talking about pleasure, the background noise of thinking, frustration, brain and mind, transformation of man and time.
What they talked about was never planned beforehand. One meeting usually lasted one hour. The shortest was 60 minutes and the longest 85.
Thought is a danger!
First discussion in Gstaad 15 August 1965
Krishnamurti started the first discussion telling that they had talked with David Bohm in London about creation, pleasure principle and about negation that leads to something positive. Bohm adds that they also talked about movement of mind without thought.
The first topic is pleasure. K asks why people seek it. Bohm reckons that when something pleasant happens to us, we make 'an inadequate record of it and a demand for repetition'. We want to have more. This demand for more is the root of desire which we mistakenly call pleasure.
K wants to give a different meaning to pleasure and enjoyment. We enjoy seeing lovely trees or birds, we feel joy. When we think of the joy afterwards, it becomes pleasure. We want to experience it again. Enjoyment is actual, seeking pleasure is thinking. Then we move from experiencing the actual facts to wanting something we don't have.
When thought confuses facts and non-facts, we create illusions. Instead of sticking to the facts we give value to something that has no real value.
Bohm emphasizes that thought is a reflection like a mirror or television screen. It is only a reaction to what we observe, but our mind thinks that we see something real.
Thought can either reflect facts correctly or in a way that creates confusion. The image of a microphone does not create problems, because a microphone is an actual thing. It is a different matter, when thought begins to create images from the 'me', other people, life and the world in general.
The first type of thinking is necessary, the other type is very detrimental, dangerous, and poisonous. But where is the line between necessary and illusory thinking, and why do we cross it?
K answers that there is no such line. These two types are not in "watertight compartments". Both of them are thinking, and we must be aware of it as one movement. The question is essentially: Why have we divided thinking and why we do not feel the danger of thinking with the same intensity as we feel hunger?
Because we have never asked this passionately and seriously. If we would ask, we would know the answer, but as long as we don't have any reason to doubt the role of thinking in our confusing life, we don't even raise the question.
Instead of wondering where the line might be, we must simply start from facts and remain with them. If we stick to facts and see what is actually happening outside and inside us, there is no need to draw a line.
Seeing the facts means that we realise that our thoughts are only reflections. This is our basic problem. Our illusions are real to us. The problems are real to us; we don't regard them as products of our imagination.
We fail to see this, because our thoughts are quick and cunning. When something happens, we react in a second: 'how marvellous', 'how terrible' or 'not important'.
Then we react to our reaction. Thought says: 'I must' or 'I must not'. Now there is a conflict between our thoughts and we choose to act in some way. Usually the strongest thought 'wins', but because of conflicting views we stay in a state of confusion.
It is not easy to be aware of the thinking process and just observe the ping-pong reactions inside our mind without interfering with it. If we could just observe the flow of facts and reactions, the whole process would change. We don't allow this observation to happen, for many reasons.
Facts and thoughts mix in our minds and we are incapable of separating them. We fail to see that all our thoughts are only images. As K puts it: the word is not the thing. Yes, we know that our image of a tree is not the tree, but unfortunately it does not help us see the tree without thoughts.
Many thoughts have a counterpart in reality, but our mind is full of concepts that don't have one. They are real only because we think they are real.
It is easy to see illusions and irrational beliefs in other people. Our own illusions get a different treatment from us. We get angry and launch defences if somebody dares to question our idiosyncrasies, illusions or to expose our self-deception.
Many people see the fallacy of thought. In India and Asia they have tried to eliminate illusory thinking by meditating, creating systems, methods and disciplines. Controlling thoughts will not free the mind, because all effort is based on thinking. Whatever you try to do to thought, it is still part of thought.
In the West, thinking is regarded as the highest form of function. We think we are what we think we are. The western world concentrates on changing thoughts so that the outcome would be something good or good enough. That too is thinking.
Consequently, on both sides of the world living is based on thinking. If we are not happy with facts as they are, we create an idea of change, set a goal and start a program to make things better.
To K this is absurd. To him it means that we build our lives on images and illusions. The content of our thinking varies but the process is the same. As long as our living is based on images, we are not dealing with facts.
When we see a danger, we must act, otherwise we get hurt. But as we don´t realise the danger of thinking, we regard it as something important and essential in our life.
We do not question the significance of thinking, because we are afraid that we lose everything if we relinquish thoughts, because our whole life is built on thinking.
"It's like throwing me into a swimming pool when I don't know how to swim", K says. "I have lived all my life recognising my experiences and thoughts. Now we are inviting me to a field which is most dangerous, because it is going to leave me completely empty."
In this emptiness there is no thinking, no illusions, only silence and clarity. Then we see everything as it is. Thinking has only a functional meaning, it can take place but only when it is needed for doing something practical.
There is nothing we can do for this silence to happen. There is no way to prepare for this silence because that would mean entering time. We just 'leave the window open and let the air come in if it wants to'.
Can you hear silence?
Second discussion in Gstaad 18 August 1965
A style of thinking we are usually not aware of, is introduced in the discussion three days later. We know the kind of thinking we use when we have a problem to think over and deliberately set about to find a solution.
Another kind of thinking is constantly going on in the background of our daily routines. It comes from automatic responses to what is happening to us. K calls it a humming noise of consciousness. We are not aware of this process and don't perhaps even regard it to be thinking.
When we meet daily issues with that noise, we get confused and cannot think clearly. When the noise stops, there is acting without thinking. Then there is sudden silence and stillness just like in a house when the electricity stops working. In that silence a problem has no existence, there is only fact and action.
When the background noise stops, there is clarity and sense of order. One knows exactly what to do and what not to do. Living is then as natural as breathing, not a problem anymore. There is only action, no thinking about doing; we just do what has to be done.
This noise has become such an essential part of our life that we don't even notice it. It is an inseparable part of us. In fact, it is what we think we actually are.
The noise expresses me as I am, what I like and don't like, what I think and want, how I react, what I am afraid of, my values, what I believe in, hate, disgust, what makes me happy and sad. It is the essence of me, in good and bad.
This noise causes me an enormous amount of trouble, but it also gives me my daily pleasures. It is the pain in my bones but also the source of my ecstasy and awe. I am used to it and cannot even consider living without it.
For most of us this noise is appropriate, harmless, necessary and valid. But in reality it surely is not. It is the very source of our problems. If we want to get rid of our problems, we must stop this endless noise in our head.
We cannot do so of course, if we don't even hear it. And most of us are totally deaf to it, completely unaware of it.
If we hear this constant noise and realize what it does to us, we want to stop it. Then we ask how to do it. That question comes from the noise.
K's odd advice is to do nothing, don't even try to do anything. Whatever we do, it is the noise that gives us advice. When we just observe the noise, it will end. When we focus on facts, everything that is not relevant vanishes without effort. Then we can hear the silence and that is absolutely beautiful.
Never a dull moment
Third discussion in Gstaad 21 August 1965
At the beginning of the third discussion Bohm asks, what is the mechanism or the dynamo that causes the noise of the mind?
We often sense some faint thoughts that seem to have tremendous and powerful effects. We should be able turn off the harmful noise without losing the useful function of thought.
There would be no problem if we had only positive thoughts, but the noise has also many ugly, rude and undesired elements in it. To avoid and fight negativity we strengthen positive thoughts and emotions. It may help, but usually the power of negative forces is much stronger and very penetrating.
However good our life is, we feel that it could be better. In many ways I could be a better person, do more good, and achieve much more in various areas of life.
Our background voice may be very satisfied with many things, but it is never completely happy, simply because it keeps comparing things. In the area of measures there is always more or less. This brings the thorn of frustration into our garden.
In the long run, functioning with practical doings is not good enough. There is something missing. We want more and we also feel there could or must be more.
Now we are apt to make a big mistake. We try to search for the missing element with an instrument that can never bring it to us. We fail to see that because of its very relative nature, thought can never be totally satisfied and gratified. On the contrary, thought is the main source of the whole problem. Our ambition, our desires and urges produce frustration and disappointment.
We want to live a life that has meaning and depth. We try to get inspired and feel grateful, but life throws problems and difficulties at us day after day. They are thrown at us in the form of people and things we don't like or even hate, or we are disappointed with the offerings of life and want more. At the back of our mind there is fear of not succeeding or losing everything we cherish.
Trying to fight against frustration we fill our mind with positive ideas and goals and keep ourselves so busy that there is no time for despair. The more we fight, the more we get frustrated.
To K, all doings based on thought cause and nourish inward conflict. The noise in our head makes us react rather desperately to the discomfort we feel. We escape to doing more or wanting more, but it does not work: feelings of frustration keep coming back as soon as there is nothing happening to us.
We function like a machine and work according to our inward rules like a diligent bureaucrat. But inside we are dead human beings, there is no spirit.
"What will make us see that thought in essence breeds frustration?" K asks.
If the narrow nature of thinking is seen thoroughly, frustration goes away and never comes back. We move to an area beyond the tyranny of thought.
Fixing the brain pain
Fourth discussion in Gstaad 24 August 1965
The difference between brain and mind is what Krishnamurti wants to talk next about. Can the heavily conditioned brain ever stop its destructive way of functioning? It is giving continuity to reactions, and this endless process makes the brain dull and literally exhausts it so that it cannot be fresh and creative.
It is not working properly in its narrow and neurotic circle. Is it possible for the brain to move beyond the structure of the memory and function holistically?
Bohm comments that science has no answer to this. It is possible to investigate the brain and nerves only in function and it is not clear how much of brain functions have to do with memory. And science has even less to say about the mind.
To K the brain is limited, but the mind means total perception, total awareness. There is no fixed point from which the mind moves and so no direction. In this movement "nothing changes and nothing is fixed". There is no thing and no movement. This dynamic stability brings a totally new element into our life.
For the brain to be fully alive there must be no contradiction in it. Our energy is wasted in conflict, unnecessary reactions, opposing desires, opinions, exercising will etc. We react automatically to outward happenings.
When facing something unpleasant we activate a thought process and create either an opposite or an ideal state. This process is an escape from fact and conflict is born.
Our habit is to react to pain by seeking pleasure. When we are lonely, we seek company. If we fear something, we try to remove it. These subtle reactions are unconscious but they have the same root. K says that all this stems from fear of not being.
Bohm adds that every time we try to fix a problem, we create another problem. We have not realised that we must get rid of the root of the problems, not the branches of it as we usually try to do.
What happens to our relationships if we hold on and keep up with facts only?
"There is affectionate listening and learning. You can criticise me and I will listen with affection. There is no resistance and my relationship has moved to a different dimension. There is no image, no idea, no conflict and the brain can now move in a different area", K answers.
"The brain itself has undergone a tremendous change, because there is no contradiction. It is moving in another way. It does not react according to the old reflexes of the animal."
Then there is a peace which is not experienceable.
Gone with the flow
Fifth discussion in Gstaad 25 August 1965
Next day K is full of energy. He jokes about having slept well and wants to discuss the transformation of man, a sudden mutation in our brain cells. Without it existence is shallow.
Watching the world and people you start to hope that there would be a way or catalyst, some happening that would completely revolutionize our whole existence. Small refinement is utterly valueless.
Contrary to what many traditions suggest, K assures that this transformation is not a gradual process. It takes place immediately, through a single act, a single incident.
"Time is the most destructive thing!" K announces.
"If I am an ordinary man with good intentions, I must first see the futility of churches, leaders and gurus and throw them out in one breath like you blow out birthday candles with one blow and burn all bridges behind me."
But it is not enough to live a simple life, to behave well. Our life may still be full of problems. We may find our passion in doing something but we are still struggling. There is perhaps "a flame but no heat, the perfume is missing".
Bohm finds it difficult to understand that inward transformation could happen in a flash or out of time. K insists that there is no time involved in inward change.
The idea of time is the basic problem, because it is a product of thought.
"Thought is time. When there is no thought, there is no time. When I look at a flower, I can look at it botanically, with knowledge, or without time, not thinking that it is a rose. I can look at my responses, reflexes, ambitions or greed without time. There is no effort, therefore there is passion."
If there is no thought involved in the watching, there is no wasting of energy. One form of waste is comparing. If we do not compare, there is no movement away from the facts. We go with the "free flow of facts".
When the movement in time stops, there is complete stillness.
"Is it possible to walk down the street, look at everything - shop windows, people passing, and their dresses - without thought, and so walk with silence? Yes sir, it can be done. Of course it can, we have done it", K says meaning obviously himself.
K ends the fifth session in a comic relief, joking to Bohm that he as a scientist should write about this kind of mind. If he stated all this it would be more convincing than said by 'some Asian cuckoo'.
World without words
Sixth discussion in Gstaad 29 August 1965
Bohm starts the last meeting with an eight minute monologue about time in science, pointing out different problems that the concept of time has given rise to
especially in psychology, philosophy and physics.
K asks what time means to Bohm as a human
To him, there are two kinds of time: psychological and by the watch. The first is about growing in time and the latter is needed to catch a train or learn a skill. The latter is factual but the first is a fallacy.
Bohm says that to him time is flowing or moving. Existence means duration, one thing becoming something else in time. K accepts this but asks:
"Do you exist except as thought and memory? If you are only functioning, there is no thought which identifies itself with the function."
When we think and talk about existence, we think in terms of time. And we strongly feel that we actually live in time. That is the mistake the human race has grown up with and from this mistake may have arisen all our other mistakes.
Time exists only when there is an observer looking. When I see the flower, there is no observer seeing the flower, no experiencing and no centre looking.
K says that without a centre we are 'completely free of the machinery that creates illusion'. We are also free of comparison.
"To be a cook without comparison means that I love cooking. There is no frustration or wanting to be the prime minister or the rich man in that car. I am completely in love with what I am doing."
When working with that great intensity we don't need artificial stimulation, drugs, excitement or harsh discipline. There is no friction. Energy is not wasted in conflict.
Our relationship to action and people changes and the brain is no longer thinking in terms of becoming something. This attention and presence cannot be communicated. If thought is still, that stillness is felt without using words.