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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)


Shall we discuss the question of consciousness and the relationship of consciousness to the brain cells? Are they of the same nature or is there something which gives them separate identities?

K: That's a good question. You begin.

P: The traditional concept of the word `consciousness' would include that which lies beyond the horizon.

A: Quite correct. The brain is only a conglomeration of cells, a forest of cells and yet each cell is dependent on the other although in fact every brain cell can act by itself. So we may ask: How does one know the sum total of all consciousness, of all the cells? Is there a co-ordinating factor? Is the brain merely a result? A further question is: What is primary and what secondary? Does consciousness come first and then the brain, or does the brain come first and then consciousness?

K: If I may ask: What do you mean by the word `consciousness'? Let us start from the beginning: What is consciousness? What does it mean `to be conscious of? I want to be clear that we both have the same understanding of the meaning of that word. One is conscious, for instance, of the microphone. I am conscious of it and then I use the word `microphone'. So, when you are conscious of something naming begins; then like and dislike. So `consciousness, means to be aware of, to be conscious of, to be cognizant of sensation, cognition, contact.

A: I feel that consciousness is prior to sensation. It is the field and at any one time I am aware of some part of it through sensation; I feel consciousness is much more vast. I see that I am aware of only a part of a very wide thing. That whole field is not in my awareness. So, I do not want to restrict consciousness to something that exists at any given moment. My awareness may not be extensive, but consciousness can be seen to be much more vast.

K: What is the relationship between that consciousness and the brain cells? Pupul used the word `consciousness' and asked what is the relationship between the brain and consciousness. I am asking: What is that relationship?

P: When K says the content of consciousness is consciousness, it would imply that the content of the brain cells is consciousness. If there is a field which is outside the brain cells and which is also consciousness, then you have to say all that is consciousness. But then you cannot say that the content of consciousness is consciousness.

K: Is that clear? I have said the content of consciousness is consciousness.

A: `The content of consciousness is consciousness' is a statement irrespective of, and unconnected with, the perceiver. It is a statement about consciousness, not your consciousness, or my consciousness.

K: That is right. Therefore what is outside the field of consciousness is not its content.

P: The moment you posit something outside of consciousness, you are positing a state which may or may not exist.

A: Is the known a part of our consciousness, consciousness being the content?

P: The major difference between K's position and the Vedantic position is that K uses the word `consciousness' in a very special sense. The Vedantic position is: consciousness is that which exists before anything exists.

A: Basically, the source of existence is a vast incomprehensible energy which they call `Chaitanya'. `Chaitanya' is the energy, the source. They say that there is this source of energy, which they speak of as `Chit'. The Buddhist position does not say anything about this at all. It refuses to say a word about it. Therefore, the Buddhist position is one from which we cannot answer the enquiry. The Buddhist will say: `Don't talk about it; any talk about it will be speculative and speculative processes are not meant for actual practice.'

K: `Ignorance has no beginning, but has an end. Don't enquire into the beginning of ignorance but find out how to end it'.

A: We have immediately come upon something.

K: Right, sir, that's a good point.

A: Buddhists say: `There is no such thing as consciousness in general. Ignorance has no beginning. Ignorance can end. Don't let us investigate into the beginnings of ignorance because that would be speculative, would be a waste of time. But how is it possible to end ignorance? This ignorance is consciousness.' Consciousness as ignorance is a position into which we will have to investigate.

The Vedantins will say to you that the source which you refer to as ignorance is of the nature of Sat, Chit and Anand. It is constantly renewing itself, it is constantly coming into being; and the entire process of birth, death, decay is a movement in it. I feel that a man who does not accept the Buddhist position, will not immediately accept what you say, that the beginning is ignorance and that it is a self-sustaining process. You cannot trace the beginning, but it can be brought to an end. I have stated the two positions and they are conflicting positions.

K: We simply say that ignorance has no beginning; one can see it in oneself, see it within consciousness, within that field.

P: If it is within this field, then has it existence apart from the brain cells which contain the memory about it? The scientific position is: whereas the brain cells and their operation are measurable, consciousness is not measurable and therefore the two are not synonymous.

K: Wait a minute. What you are saying is that the brain cells and their movement are measurable, but consciousness is not measurable.

A: May I suggest something? When we look through the biggest telescope, we see the expanse of the cosmos as far as that instrument will show it. If we get a bigger instrument, we get a bigger view. Though we measure it, that measurement is relevant only to the instrument which is a relative element. Consciousness is immeasurable in the sense that there is no instrument to which it can be related. Consciousness is something about which one cannot say that it is measurable or immeasurable. Therefore, consciousness is something about which one cannot make any statement.

K: That is right. Consciousness is not measurable. What Pupul is asking is: Is there outside consciousness as we know it, a state which is not pertinent to this consciousness?

P: Is there a state which is not divisible, not knowable, not available, within the brain cells?

K: Have you got it Achyutji? Not knowable, in the sense, not recognizable; something totally new.

A: I am coming to that. I say that consciousness as we know it is the source of all the recent memories and all the memories man has had. The brain cells will recognize everything that comes out of racial memories; everything that comes within the field of the past, out of that which has been known.

P: The millions of years of the known.

A: Even the earliest memories of man, the brain may be able to remember.

K: Wait, keep it very simple. We said the known is consciousness - the content of consciousness is the known. Now, is there something outside this, something which is not known, totally new and which does not already exist in the brain cells? If it is outside the known, is it recognizable? - for if it is recognizable it is still in the field of the known. It is available only when the recognizing and experiencing process comes to an end. I want to stick to this. Pupul asked: Is it in the known or outside the known; and if it is outside the known, is it already in the brain cells? If it is in the brain cells, it is already the known because the brain cells cannot contain something new. The moment it is in the brain cells, it is tradition.

I love to dig deep. Outside the brain, is there anything else? That is all. I say there is. But every process of recognition, experience, is always within the field of the known and any movement of the brain cells moving away from the known, trying to investigate into the other is still the known.

M: How do you know that there is something?

K: You cannot know it. There is a state where the mind does not recognize anything. There is a state in which recognition and experience, which are the movement of the known, totally come to an end.

A: In what way is it differentiated from a state of the process of recognition, experiencing?

P: Is it of a different nature?

K: You see, the organism, the brain cells, come to an end. The whole thing collapses; there is a different state altogether.

P: Let me put it to you in another way. When you say that all the processes of recognition come to an end, and yet it is a living state, is there a sense of existence, of being?

K: The words, `existence' and `being' do not apply.

A: How is it different from deep sleep?

K: I don't know what you mean by deep sleep.

A: In deep sleep the processes of recognition and recording are for the time being put in total abeyance.

K: That is quite a different thing.

P: What has happened to the senses in the state you mentioned earlier? K: The senses are in abeyance.

P: Are they not operating?

K: In that state, I might scratch myself - you follow - flies come and sit on me. That is the action of the senses, but it does not affect that.

M: The knowledge that there is scratching going on is present.

K: That is a natural thing. You must go very very slowly with it Any movement of the known, any movement, potential or nonpotential, is within the field of the known. I want to be quite clear that you and I are understanding the same thing. That is: when the content of consciousness with its experiences, demands, its craving for something new, including its craving for freedom from the known, has completely come to an end, then only does the other quality come into being. The former has a motive; the latter has no motive. The mind cannot come to that through motive. Motive is the known. So, can the mind come to an end which says: `It is no good investigating into it, I know how to make it come to an end, ignorance is part of the content, ignorance is part of this demand to experience more?' When that mind comes to an end - an end not brought about by conscious effort in which there is motive, with direction - then the other thing is there.

M: The thing is there. In the situation in which we are now, do you know that?

K: Of course, I see your shirt, I see the colour obviously. The senses are in operation. Recognition is in operation normally. The other is there. It is not a duality.

M: Is knowledge a part of it?

K: No. I must go very slowly. I know what you are getting at. I want to come to this very simply. I see the colour; the senses are in operation...

A: Even trying to translate what you are saying is preventing one from getting at it because that would immediately be duality. When you say something, any movement in the mind is again preventing one from it.

K: Achyutji, what are you trying to get at?

A: I am pointing out the difficulty that arises in communication. I think communication about the other is not possible. I am trying to understand the conscious state of the mind of the man who talks to me. On what basis does he tell me that there is something?

K: The basis for that is: when there is no movement of recognition, of experiencing, of motive, freedom from the known takes place.

M: That is pure cognition without recognition.

K: You are translating it differently. This movement has come to an end for the time being; that is all.

M: The movement of recognition of that. Where does the time element come in? Is there another time?

K: Let us begin again. The brain functions within the field of the known; in that function there is recognition. But when the brain, your mind, is completely still, you don't see your still mind. There is no knowing that your mind is still. If you know it, it is not still, for then there is an observer who says `I know'. The stillness which we are talking about is non-recognizable, non-experienceable. Then comes along the entity that wants to tell you this through verbal communication. The moment he, the entity, moves into communication, the still mind is not. Just look at it. Something comes out of it. It is there for man. I am not saying it is always there. It is there for the man who understands the known. It is there and it never leaves; and though he communicates it, he feels that it is never gone, it is there.

M: Why do you use the word `communicate'?

K: That is communication.

M: Who communicates? You talked to me just now.

K: Just now? The brain cells have acquired the knowledge of the language. It is the brain cells that are communicating. M: The brain contains its own observer.

K: The brain itself is the observer and the operator.

M. Now what is the relationship between that and this?

K: Tentatively, I say there is no relationship. This is the fact: the brain cells hold the known and when the brain is completely stable, completely still, there is no verbal statement or communication - the brain is completely still. Then, what is the relationship between the brain and that?

M: By what magic, by what means, does the state of a still mind make a bridge? How do you manage to make a permanent bridge between the brain and that, and maintain that bridge?

K: If one says `I don't know', what will you answer?

M: You have inherited it through some karma or somebody has given it to you.

K: Let us begin again. Is it by chance that that event can happen to us, is it an exception? That is what we are discussing now.

If it is a miracle, can it happen to you? It is not a miracle; it is not something given from above so that one can ask: How did this happen with this person and not with another - right?

M: What can we do?

K: I say you can do nothing - which does not mean doing nothing!

M: What are these two meanings of nothing?

K: I will tell you the two meanings of nothing: the one refers to desire to experience `That', to recognize `That' and yet to do nothing about `That'. The other is to do nothing, in the other sense, it is to see or to be aware, not theoretically but actually, of the known.

M: You say, `Do nothing,just observe.'

K: Put it that way if you want.

M: It brings down the enlightenment to action. K: You must touch this thing, very very lightly. You must touch it very lightly - food, talk - and as the body and the senses become very light the days and nights move easily. You see there is a dying every minute. Have I answered, or very nearly answered, the question?

P: You have not answered specifically.

K: To put the whole thing differently: We will call `That', for the moment, infinite energy and the other, energy created by strife and conflict - it is entirely different from `That'. When there is no conflict at all the infinite energy is always renewing itself. The energy that peters out is what we know. What is the relationship of the energy that peters out to `that'? There is none.