A radical transformation in consciousness

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about what Krishnamurti meant by a radical transformation in consciousness, or radical psychological change, or a revolution in consciousness, a mutation of the brain cells, etc (all different ways of expressing the same question).

Some people feel they have already been transformed radically, and are likely deluded about this. Others feel that they have changed a little bit here and there, and that this is what Krishnamurti meant by transformation. While still others deny that transformation can take place at all.

There is also disagreement about what Krishnamurti meant by radical transformation. Probably this is because Krishnamurti spoke about it so often that it permeates all his talks - meaning it has become associated with every aspect of his teachings: so if we have heard him talk about transformation in behaviour (for example) we think it is limited to this, or a transformation in relationship, transformation of fear, transformation of self-centredness, transformation in our relationship to knowledge, thought, etc. All of these are clearly aspects of transformation, but they do not, for me at least, communicate the whole of it.

Transformation for Krishnamurti - as I understand it - is the complete, not partial, transformation of consciousness. Which comes about through observation without movement, without direction, in the actual present, of the whole content of consciousness. In this total observation (which involves having total insight), all the psychological contents - fear, hate, jealousy, sorrow, self-centredness, etc - are emptied, so that there is a completely new beginning for the mind. This new beginning is the passion of compassion, the energy of creation: the coming into being of what Krishnamurti calls the religious mind.

This transformation of consciousness then affects the whole consciousness of humanity, because consciousness is shared by all human beings (it is not unique to you or me).

The context for this transformation in consciousness is obviously the chaos and suffering of the world - what Krishnamurti called the crisis in consciousness (consciousness being the consciousness of the whole of humanity, our global relationship to one another).

It is in meeting this global crisis in consciousness that a transformation becomes important.

Some extracts from Krishnamurti outlining these features:

The future is now unless there is a fundamental, psychological change.

And that is what we are concerned about: whether it is possible for human beings, you and another, to bring about a psychological mutation, a total psychological revolution in oneself, knowing that if we are hurt now, wounded psychologically now, as most people are, the future hurt is now. Is that clear?

So is it possible for human beings, for you, to bring about a complete mutation? That mutation changes the brain cells themselves.

(Last Talks at Saanen 1985)

Is it possible to bring about a change, not only change, a transformation, a mutation in the whole of consciousness? Our consciousness being all the things that thought has put in, has created.

(Talk 1, Rishi Valley, 1977)

To bring about this deep transformation at the core, surely we have to inquire into the whole problem of what is consciousness…

I ask myself what consciousness is because I see that I must fundamentally change, the totality of my being must undergo a complete transformation.

(Talk 3, New Delhi, 1956)

Is it possible to bring about a fundamental psychological revolution? Not just trimming the tree here and there, but deep, abiding, enduring, irrevocable change, transformation? …

So we are asking: is it possible to observe without any direction, without any distortion, this whole movement of consciousness? …

Is there an observation of the whole nature and the structure, the complex movement of consciousness as a whole? Then only it is possible to bring about real deep fundamental transformation…

To find this out is part of meditation. That is, can this consciousness become completely empty, except in the area where knowledge is necessary? …

You are jealous, angry, vicious, hating and you realise that, if you are at all intelligent, aware, then you say, ‘I must get out of this’. But to remain with it - understand? - to remain totally without any movement with your jealousy, with your anger, with your hate - you understand? - completely one with it. Not identify yourself with it, because you are that, but to remain with it without any movement… Then you will see that there comes an extraordinary transformation.

The transformation that comes about with the ending of sorrow is passion… So you will find, if you actually, without moving away from that thing called sorrow [observe it], a totally different movement takes place. And that movement is this extraordinary endless passion… that passion is compassion. You understand? The word ‘compassion’ means passion for all things: for birds, trees, for human beings, for the rock, for the stray animal…

If we end the way we are living, then there is a totally different beginning… if you end the way one lives now, there is a new beginning without the ‘me’…

[So] when you understand the full meaning of death and the ending of what it signifies, time as such has come to an end… And this whole enquiry is really a profound meditation, not sitting cross legged and doing all kinds of silly stuff. Because then in the total ending creation takes place. Then there is really an extraordinary sense of tremendous passion and energy.

(Talk 6, Saanen, 1978)

In that total observation there is the emptying of, or going beyond, all the things that thought has put together, which is one’s consciousness.

(The Wholeness of Life)

When you change not at a superficial level but fundamentally, you affect consciousness, because you are the world and the world is you.

(Talk 1, Chennai/Madras, 1974/75)

When there is this truth that you are the entire humanity, sleep with it, go into it, feel your way into it, don’t deny it or accept it, but as the river flows, go into it. You will see what a deep transformation takes place, which is not intellectual, imaginative, sentimental or romantic. In that there is a tremendous sense of compassion, love.

(Last Talks at Saanen 1985)

So, when you as a human being radically transform psychologically, that is, be free of fear, have right relationship with each other, the ending of sorrow, and so on, which is radical transformation… then you affect the whole consciousness of man.

(Talk 1, Calcutta, 1982)

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Krishnamurti: “So we are concerned with the transformation of the content of consciousness… And when there is a transformation in consciousness it affects the whole of mankind” (length: 5 mins, 19 secs):

Radical transformation seems to be the end of self because the human brain is the same for all humans, though we think of the brain as my brain, as if every human brain is more different from other human brains than it is the same.

But of course the only way for my brain to awaken from its self-centered identity to its fundamental nature is to be aware of it, and it can’t be fully aware of itself when it doesn’t know itself, which is why Krishnamurti spent his life talking about self-knowledge.

So there must be an observation of one’s consciousness without the ‘observer’, the past knowledge one has built up about oneself, which interferes in observation (length: under 1 min):

If the observer is accumulating clues and drawing conclusions about the observed, it is not observation because it’s indirect; it is the past applying itself to the present. It’s learning little or nothing new because it is building on its previous experience. Observation, however, is awareness of what’s actually happening. This means there is no thought, no carry-over from the past upon which to build knowledge.

So why is observation of myself called “self-knowledge” if I’m not learning about myself the same way I learn how something works or how to do something? Is it because observation is not about knowing in the usual sense, but in the unusual sense of perceiving directly, seeing afresh what actually is?

Seeing afresh, perceiving directly, is not something I can do because I is the past, the observer with its conclusions. Direct perception is seeing the observer for what it is: the past modifying itself.

Observation is a living thing. It means being aware, right now, of what one is feeling, thinking, doing - of the world without and within. One cannot store up or accumulate this moment of being alive, being aware. So observation, awareness, is always in the active present. If one is only living in one’s mind, one’s intellect, one’s self-created puzzles :jigsaw: of thought, then one cannot observe, be aware, see, feel, and so on.

Doubting oneself is necessary. But to doubt constantly is like a dog chasing its tail. One has to break free from one’s habit of thinking and doubting in order to look and feel freshly at what this moment contains.

Learning about yourself is not like learning a language or a technology or a science – then you obviously have to accumulate and remember; it would be absurd to begin all over again – but in the psychological field learning about yourself is always in the present and knowledge is always in the past…

To understand anything you must live with it, you must observe it, you must know all its content, its nature, its structure, its movement. Have you ever tried living with yourself? If so, you will begin to see that yourself is not a static state, it is a fresh living thing. And to live with a living thing your mind must also be alive.

(Freedom from the Known)

I posted this on another thread, but I think it is more relevant on this thread, so I am re-sharing it here.

The difficulty with your first question is that it pertains to Krishnamurti specifically. Probably he was unique. If we take his words about having a “vacant mind” as a young boy seriously, then he seems to be implying that the young Krishnamurti was already “protected”; that the part of his brain that is ordinarily conditioned in people, remained unconditioned. If this is actually the case - and we can never be sure about it obviously - then the only historical comparison one can make is with someone like Jesus! (if he actually existed). This doesn’t mean that Krishnamurti didn’t have significant moments in his life where his ‘transformation’ was expedited - for instance, when he had a unitary experience in Ojai during his Theosophical days, or when his brother died - but it means he may have already been transformed from birth. And this is something very few people are likely to replicate!

But in terms of Krishnamurti’s teachings - that is, the transformation that he lectured about from the platform or through dialogues and conversations - it’s an open question whether anyone has been transformed in that way.

As with so much of K’s teaching, transformation can be understood in both a minor and a major key. I think part of the strategic ambiguity I see among people in the K-world who claim to be transformed owes itself to this transformation in the minor key.

An example of transformation in the minor key is what Krishnamurti says in the following extract:

When you are observing, seeing the dirt on the road, seeing how politicians behave, seeing your own attitude towards your wife, your children and so on, transformation is there. Do you understand? To bring about some kind of order in daily life, that is transformation; not something extraordinary, out of this world. When one is not thinking clearly, rationally, be aware of that and change it, break it. That is transformation. If you are jealous watch it, don’t give it time to flower, change it immediately. That is transformation. When you are greedy, violent, ambitious, trying to become some kind of holy man, see how it is creating a world of tremendous uselessness.

This kind of transformation is within the reach of anyone. And I think many people who are serious, sensitive, intelligent (in the ordinary sense) have moments of transformation in this sense.

But often Krishnamurti starts out by suggesting something possible, within everyone’s reach, and ends up suggesting something impossible (or less easily captured, perceived): this is transformation in the major key. From the same passage:

And if you go very much deeper into the problem, it is clear that thought denies love. Therefore one has to find out whether there is an end to thought, an end to time, not philosophize over it and discuss it, but find out. Truly that is transformation, and if you go into it very deeply, transformation means never a thought of becoming, comparing; it is being absolutely nothing.

Transformation in the major key means the ending of thought, the ending of time, total emptiness of the mind. How many people have been transformed in this way?

We have all had moments “in and out of time”, moments of emptiness, moments in which thought has ended. But transformation in the major key is absolute. I think this is where so many people get lost, believing themselves to be transformed.

How many people have been transformed in the major key? Obviously, it is difficult to say. There are various teachers from different religious or spiritual backgrounds - both contemporary as well as historical - who may have been transformed in this way. Yet even there one wonders how deep and thorough-going this transformation is. It’s probably a safe bet to say that Buddha was transformed! - but beyond that one gets into more vague territory. In the Buddhist tradition there are stories about various Chan, Zen and Dzogchen teachers being transformed. In living memory people have said that Ramana Maharishi and Nisagadatta Maharaj were transformed human beings; and there are likely many others of this kind. But there is a lot of murkiness and speculative comparison around this issue, so it becomes rather fanciful to speculate about all this, seeing as we ourselves are not transformed.

I think, though, that if someone was transformed in either the minor or the major key, it would show up in daily life. One would have to be sensitive to notice it of course. Sitting next to Krishnamurti on an aeroplane ride, or seeing him at the dentist’s would be unlikely to make one aware of anything special. But if one was to live with him and watch him in daily life, interact with him, I think it would become obvious (as his biographers attest).

So, in short, I think transformation has to be understood both in the minor and major keys - both as partial insight and as total insight. And clearly no-one on Kinfonet has been transformed in the major key. But I think transformation in the minor key is within the reach of everyone.