There is a way to stop the past dead in its tracks.
At times it happens and at times I remain caught up in the movement of the past.
I have been studying Krishnamurti’s little booklet “The Urgency of Change” recently. It a remarkable text as it is something that presents a conversation between a “faceless questioner who communicates the essential doubts and confusions of Everyman” and Krishnamurti. The chapters are short and focus on one aspect after another of how the mind works and how we become confused and caught up in the conditioned behavior of humanity’s unconscious programming.
Here are some of my thoughts up to now:
To stop the past dead in its tracks we must observe the whole movement of thought, which is the past, from the place of choiceless awareness. It is looking with eyes that do not want to do anything about what they see, but rather are in a ‘neutral’ place of simple perception of what is happening. It is choiceless looking, negating all input from the data bank of the mind’s memory, which is our programming from the past, likes, dislikes, ambitions, goals etc. It is deleting all values, judgments, opinions and associations that are triggered by what is seen, and yet observing this movement of the past, which consists of all of these values, etc.
The action of observing this movement of the past with the energy of choiceless awareness, however, is not tainted by anything of the past. This action of observing, of perception, of looking as though for the first time, is not of time. It is action from a different dimension. It stays below the surface of naming and words.
Krishnamurti begins this book by clarifying some basic, but very essential concepts. Here an excerpt:
Questioner: I should like to know what you mean by awareness because you have often said that awareness is really what your teaching is about. I’ve tried to understand it by listening to your talks and reading your books, but I don’t seem to get very far. I know it is not a practice, and I understand why you so emphatically repudiate any kind of practice, drill, system, discipline or routine. I see the importance of that, for otherwise it becomes mechanical, and at the end of it the mind has become dull and stupid. I should like, if I may, to explore with you to the very end this question of what it means to be aware. You seem to give some extra, deeper meaning to this word, and yet it seems to me that we are aware of what’s going on all the time. When I’m angry I know it, when I’m sad I know it and when I’m happy I know it.
Krishnamurti: I wonder if we really are aware of anger, sadness, happiness? Or are we aware of these things only when they are all over? Let us begin as though we know nothing about it at all and start from scratch. Let us not make any assertions, dogmatic or subtle, but let us explore this question which, if one really went into it very deeply, would reveal an extraordinary state that the mind had probably never touched, a dimension not touched by superficial awareness. Let us start from the superficial and work through. We see with our eyes, we perceive with our senses the things about us – the colour of the flower, the humming bird over the flower the light of this Californian sun, the thousand sounds of different qualities and subtleties, the depth and the height, the shadow of the tree and the tree itself. We feel in the same way our own bodies, which are the instruments of these different kinds of superficial, sensory perceptions. If these perceptions remained at the superficial level there would be no confusion at all. That flower, that pansy, that rose, are there, and that’s all there is to it. There is no preference, no comparison, no like and dislike, only the thing before us without any psychological involvement. Is all this superficial sensory perception or awareness quite clear? It can be expanded to the stars, to the depth of the seas, and to the ultimate frontiers of scientific observation, using all the instruments of modern technology.
Questioner: Yes, I think I understand that.
Krishnamurti: So you see that the rose and all the universe and the people in it, your own wife if you have one, the stars, the seas, the mountains, the microbes, the atoms, the neutrons, this room, the door, really are there. Now, the next step; what you think about these things, or what you feel about them, is your psychological response to them. And this we call thought or emotion. So the superficial awareness is a very simple matter: the door is there. But the description of the door is not the door, and when you get emotionally involved in the description you don’t see the door. This description might be a word or a scientific treatise or a strong emotional response; none of these is the door itself. This is very important to understand right from the beginning. If we don’t understand this we shall get more and more confused. The description is never the described. Though we are describing something even now, and we have to, the thing we are describing is not our description of it, so please bear this in mind right through our talk. Never confuse the word with the thing it describes. The word is never the real, and we are easily carried away when we come to the next stage of awareness where it becomes personal and we get emotional through the word.
So there is the superficial awareness of the tree, the bird, the door, and there is the response to that, which is thought, feeling, emotion. Now when we become aware of this response, we might call it a second depth of awareness. There is the awareness of the rose, and the awareness of the response to the rose. Often we are unaware of this response to the rose. In reality it is the same awareness which sees the rose and which sees the response. It is one movement and it is wrong to speak of the outer and inner awareness. When there is a visual awareness of the tree without any psychological involvement there is no division in relationship. But when there is a psychological response to the tree, the response is a conditioned response, it is the response of past memory, past experiences, and the response is a division in relationship. This response is the birth of what we shall call the “me” in relationship and the “non-me”. This is how you place yourself in relationship to the world. This is how you create the individual and the community.
The world is seen not as it is, but in its various relationships to the “me” of memory. This division is the life and the flourishing of everything we call our psychological being, and from this arises all contradiction and division. Are you very clear that you perceive this? When there is the awareness of the tree there is no evaluation. But when there is a response to the tree, when the tree is judged with like and dislike, then a division takes place in this awareness as the “me” and the “non-me”, the “me” who is different from the thing observed. This “me” is the response, in relationship, of past memory, past experiences. Now can there be an awareness, an observation of the tree, without any judgement, and can there be an observation of the response, the reactions, without any judgement? In this way we eradicate the principle of division, the principle of “me” and “non-me”, both in looking at the tree and in looking at ourselves.
source: Krishnamurti, The Urgency of Change, pp. 1 – 3