All desire is contradiction, for every centre of desire is opposed to another centre

This quote comes from today’s QOTD Commentaries On Living, Series III | Chapter 51
It’s the second to last sentence that’s not totally clear to me. Any comments or questions?

“The mind is silent only with the abundance of energy, when there is that attention in which all contradiction, the pulling of desire in different directions, has ceased. The struggle of desire to be silent does not make for silence. Silence is not to be bought through any form of compulsion; it is not the reward of suppression or even sublimation. But the mind that is not silent is never free; and it is only to the silent mind that the heavens are opened. The bliss which the mind seeks is not found through its seeking, nor does it lie in faith. Only the silent mind can receive that blessing which is not of church or belief. For the mind to be silent, all its contradictory corners must come together and be fused in the flame of understanding. The silent mind is not a reflective mind. To reflect, there must be the watcher and the watched, The experiencer heavy with the past. In the silent mind there is no centre from which to become, to be, or to think. All desire is contradiction, for every centre of desire is opposed to another centre. The silence of the total mind is meditation.”

The reason why the above sentence is not clear is because it is either deliberately vague or poorly written. So, we need to dissect and analyze it for clarity.

If “centre of desire” means the self, then obviously opposition of centres could possibly point to two people here in conflict over what Krishnamurti meant. But to say “all desire is contradiction” is not correct; especially, in the case of “two consenting adults”.

I think K is referring to contradiction in ‘me’. My desire to play golf for instance is in contradiction to my desire to please my wife or child. My desire for a new car is in contradiction for my desire to save the money for something else…or for a swimming pool…or to take my family on a vacation. IDK…maybe I’ve got it wrong.

The entire idea in this quote is from the Hindu scriptures, forgive me for saying so.

By different center’s is meant the propensities for action,perception and will (refer to the sentence before where he subtly points out these three as to be, to think or to become). Saying one is opposed to the other means it’s impossible to get them working with the same intensity together. Therefore they need be subdued or stilled completely or dissolved by understanding this; by calling it the total mind, he puts the three aspects together. It’s not the desire as we understand it in a single plane of thought as in for a car against the swimming pool.

All desire birth on election. I choose this and not that. It Is the I that choose.
The I Is a desiring I.
I.desire the better and I desire not the worse.
Not fesire

Ok, I can go along with that (i.e. inner conflict). “To be or not to be, that’s the question.” So, you are totally clear about the sentence in question then?

Since, you brought it up, let’s inquire into inner conflict: :contradiction in ‘me’. Do you suffer this much? Procrastination, self-doubt, living a double life with your wife and a paramour.

Hardly but it happens for sure in some marriages. Desire to please myself vs desire to please my wife vs desire to succeed at my career vs desire to forget everything else and concentrate on my golf game…or grab a pizza and a six pack and watch football all night

Permit me to add my understanding of K’s point:

Every desire is a center. It is a center for action. The desire for something is the propellant for the action that sets out to gain that thing or that outcome. At any time we desire any number of outcomes. External to a particular desire, the other desires may be competitors. If there is room for only one action then the various desires compete. They may or may not be in competition (and therefore conflict) however. The sating of one desire may help another desire be realised. Therefore desires often become mutually accommodating and one may say that ‘alliances’ build up between mutually reinforcing desires and those they contend with.

I think the external conflict is the more obvious aspect of conflict. But there is also the internal. When a desire becomes activated, it also activates its opposite, the fear that the energy put into the enactment of the desire may come to nothing or to a bad outcome. To put it colorfully, the bank robber always fears his capture. Or, more commonly perhaps, the seducer fears his or her rejection. The diner fears the check, and so on. So, the internal conflict is between two forces, the energy to go forward and the energy required to pull back. The conscious mind often enters into a calculation with regard gain and loss.

The wastage of energy is pretty much continual in our lives, but is it inevitable? K is saying that so long as we do not leave the field of desire we will be in conflict and being in conflict we will create conflict. He says that there is a state of mind where such conflict does not exist and he sets out to describe some aspects of it and the new world it opens up when all the energy of the mind is there, without leakage or wastage.

It is an enticing prospect but, oh dear, how easily it becomes the focus for another desire, to have that.


K For the mind to be silent, all its contradictory corners must come together and be fused in the flame of understanding.

Thanks Paul for all that. Would you or anyone address the comment prior:

K. For the mind to be silent, all its contradictory corners must come together and be fused in the flame of understanding.

I am seeing “understanding” here as being synonymous with awareness (choiceless awareness?)

Yes Dan, the ‘flame of understanding’ seems to be synonymous with the ‘total attention,’ ‘choiceless awareness,’ ‘absolute silence’ and the many other absolute states he refers to. The problem to talk of such things, as I see it, is that we are not there. Personally, I reject the license to speculate that such opportunities give us.

I am not sure what he might have meant by the fusion of the contradictory corners. He has said many times that contradiction cannot be integrated. Can conflict be negated by its elements being fused? It seems unlikely, from the K perspective. It seems like a little bit of K hyperbole to me. Maybe he was pointing to the fact that conflict is negated when it is fully understood. I can recognise that as factual.

It seems to me that internal conflict thrives within a paradigm. There has to be a paradigm, a mental setting, which sustains it. Bohm once said that insight did not consist of seeing something new but in the breaking down of the old paradigm and in that breaking down the new can be seen. I wonder if that clarifies the issue at all?

The example that comes to me and there are many, is the priest which in one “corner” are his vows and belief in Christ, morality, etc. and in the other corner his ongoing molestation of children in his care…how does the flame of “understanding” bring those two contradictory corners together and “fuse” them? Yes ‘insight’ here would be the breaking through the partition that keeps these two aspects of the priest’s conciousness safely separated. Maybe it is the ‘grasping’ (understanding without judgement) of the ‘fact’ that these contradictory aspects (as Gurdjieff called them 'I’s) are walled off from one another ,i.e. one does something and the other bears the consequences…) In all of this it is this “silent” or “empty” mind that has eluded us all these generations, isn’t it? The brain/mind has always approached our psychological problems using thought/knowledge adding to the storehouse of information, methods, systems, philosophies, etc. ‘Emptying’/‘silence’ is different. The ‘new’ is the breaking through the old paradigm? If that’s the way you meant it. The breaking through the partitions that keep the different contradictions intact and separated?

Yes Dan, more or less. Gurdjieff certainly did refer to ‘many I’s.’ But these, in his terms, were often forms more substantial that simple desires and included whole packages such as what he apparently called ‘postures.’ And in the example you gave the man moves from the priest posture to the pedophile posture without endangering the ‘buffers’ that hold them apart.

There is a passage in the Christian Gospels where the character, Jesus, meets the archetypal common man and asks his name. The man replies, “I am legion.” I think it has a similar meaning.

But Bohm was saying something a little different, with regard insight. The breaking down of the mental paradigm may (or may not) lead to the new. But it is a precondition for the new. Bohm actually followed Gurdjieff before coming to K. Prior to that he had been a Marxist. His thought often does tend to indicate the legacy of his previous understandings. In conversations with K he often reformulates K’s words in line with his own ideas or understandings and K usually accedes to this. They seem to pull each other along somewhat.

But to go back a little, the breaking down of barriers can be an event that brings in the new or can also become an event that ushers in terrible internal conflict and even mental illness. In religious literature this is sometimes referred to as the ‘dark night of the soul.’ This is one reason why I would advise caution over K’s words about the fusion of the contradictions. The fusion can simply be confusion. Buffers are there to maintain a state in which the contradictions do not lead to immediate conflict. It is a sort of harmony of difference. Take them away and all hell can break loose. Keep them and you have a sort of managed hell, which is where our civilisation is in fact.

Good post, Paul…thanks.

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Thanks but this brain Paul is too old for caution at this point…If it is ‘seen’ that these contradictory “corners” with their ‘centers’ do not actually represent a real ‘I’ or ‘me’ but that this is all just an illusion by thought or “trick” by thought as K. called it and that that ‘I’ / ‘me’ doesn’t really exist, then no matter what ‘collision’ comes about from the breaking through the buffers that separate the assorted ‘contents’ in the consciousness ‘box’, there really is no one to ‘go mad’. Also however the ‘mental frame’ changes, it will always be an impediment to a ‘silent’ mind, wouldn’t it? It will always be “looking through a glass darkly”, no matter how clear that glass seems. For someone to answer “I am legion” means an understanding of this myth of individuality. We are not one, we are many. Is there anything more important in all this K stuff and others than this silent / empty mind business? Thought loves a challenge. In the practical world, it is supreme, a relentless,yowling, hound dog chasing its prey through the woods…but in the psychic world, it really has no place. No place to run, nothing to catch, etc. Because as I see it (occasionally), there is no ‘time’ in the psyche, only ‘now’ and thought is time. “Thought shattering itself against its own nothingness is the explosion of meditation”… The man had a way with words, didn’t he?.

One way out of inner-conflict is to live a simple life - like an ascetic - and keep just the basic essentials: golf and your job. Forget the career because nobody is going anywhere. Just be competent enough at your job so you won’t get fired. Better still, retire if you can afford to. In that case, you can just play golf everyday; especially, without a wife getting in the way. Why do you need a wife anyway?

Seeing this very clearly. Thanks Dan for continually pointing this out.

Desire is in contradiction to what is.

Desire is the movement of the self. The self is what reacts to the knowledge of good and evil. The self is :I want/Idon’t want.

The self exists in opposition to the non-self. What I want is in opposition to what you want. Unless we band together, then its Us against Them.

So within our minds each ‘fragment’ is a self or center? Each ‘desire’ is in opposition to the other selves desires. As in the case of the pedofile priest, these selves or desires are ‘buffered’ to keep them separate ie his sexual proclivity from his ‘mentoring’ responsibilities?

I see a beautiful woman and desire says, “I want”. She looks at me and says, “I DON’T want!” Is that the problem in a nutshell?

This example is like the “for every centre of desire is opposed to another centre” - but I think it is even more useful to see the contradiction in “I want”. Desire is in contradiction to what is.
The self, which is I want, is a mechanism based on dissatisfaction with what is. The self, which is dissatifaction, is thus in conflict with what is, in order to become or acquire what is not.