Can the Self Come to an End?

“The source or origin of disorder is the self-centred, egotistic attitude towards the world - me first and you second, our colossal selfishness.” Public Talk 1 in New York, 20 April 1974

We know enough about being self-centered, egocentric, to know we need to change radically from this slavish condition to freedom, even though we can’t imagine what it is to have no center, no “I, me, mine” mentality. We feel the urgent need for this transformation, and if we only knew how to begin doing what it takes to bring it about, we’d be ardently doing it. But Krishnamurti warns that there is no technique or method or path we can turn to that is not self-hypnosis, deepening our delusion and strengthening our sense of self. On the one hand he asserts, “Do it!”, and on the other hand, says not to make a move toward that end because to do so is only the continuation of the illusion of self.

So what is one to do? Are we hopelessly blind to what we’re doing, or is it possible to see ourselves cultivating and maintaining our illusion of self? We can’t assume it’s impossible just because we haven’t done it, and we can’t assume we can do it because that would be the self’s new guise. We are too identified with our self to do anything that is not furthering it, so there is nothing we can do…which means one must do nothing.

The self is created by thought. It’s a product of a mind that must be somebody, a character, a protagonist in a narrative that continues for a lifetime, or until the mind is incapable of sustaining it. This fictional character may undergo many changes in its lifetime, but its illusory existence persists. Civilization as we know it is characterized by the survival of this illusion.

The irony is that as we acknowledge the urgent need for the charade of self to cease and desist, we are propagating and sustaining it. We are profoundly conflicted. All the evidence and rational thought make it clear that egocentricity must end. But thousands of years of conditioning and cultivated self-interest make it impossible, it seems. Anything we do to bring about the end of the self is just the latest modification of the self. Unless we can do nothing, there is nothing we can do.


The question that arises after reading your post is the one that K put at different times: “Can thought be aware of itself”? He also said that it is the “only factor “…So isn’t it that ‘we’ don’t have to do anything, it’s up to thought to cease its activity of maintaining and perpetuating the self-image? “Thought must have a stop “, he has said emphatically. I believe that he also said “thought/time must have a stop…So as you say the dissolution of the ‘self’ is not in ‘our’ hands but it would seem it is up to thought/thinking itself to stop in the psyche where the myth of ‘becoming’ persists, no? And it seems that thought does get the message during periods of suffering that it is it’s activity and image making that prolong the suffering and that what is called for is for it to be still.

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Yes, it is not in our hands

Something that is key in this is ‘insight’. Insight is not in the hands of thought, it cannot create it…it is perhaps a finer material than thinking? But K pointed this out if you recall that thought can ‘terminate’ insight by coming to conclusions about what is being seen.

It’s not in our hands. In other words, it’s not in the thinker/thought process or desire hands. If one say: the self is created by thought, as an example, is it a thought ? Or something we see in real time , as it happen ? Would you say that’s what differentiate thought from insight Dan ?

As for thought being aware of itself . Without the thinker, what’s left is thought. Without thought there is no thinker. Without an observer, what’s left is …only thought. Does awareness is different from it’s content ? If one is conscious or aware of a thought, is this being conscious or aware of this thought something different from the thought itself ? If not then we can say that thought is aware of itself .

Thought being aware of itself is strange because we have been conditioned to think that it is ‘I’ who is aware of ‘my’ thinking…but ‘I’ am the thinker and the thinker is actually thought…so it is thought that is aware of itself. As you put it so well.

Interesting! Not sure I totally get this thought being aware of itself yet, but this is a good way to put it I think. Will look further into it after some coffee. It’s early here.

Yes. In relation to insight…thought is like the postcard you buy after seeing the Grand Canyon ?

Nice analogy :slightly_smiling_face:

Thought can be aware of itself in the same way that any unconscious or mindless habit can be aware of itself when attention is widened to include it.

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When you are aware of the sound of a bird or a barking dog, you are not the bird or the dog, so yes, awareness is different from its content in the same way that a leaf floating on the surface of a pond is not the same as the water.

But when we’re talking about whether thought can be aware of itself, it’s like asking whether I’m aware of raising my arm or reaching for something. Thought is something deliberately done (if not always consciously), and the perception of what goes on apart from one does is different. The difference is that the former is propioception, and the latter is perception.

Yes, let’s enquire into what it means to do nothing. Such an enquiry is itself of the utmost importance because if we are just going to go through the usual motions of argument and counter argument or merely continue to play around with some vague ideas and pet theories, already we are starting out in the ‘doing’ mode. So I hope this doesn’t come across as a paradox, which is the desire to enquire into the question of doing nothing. It is surely a most serious point of entry because it means that we are going to find out whether or not it is possible to abandon the self from the very beginning. Anything else is all rather absurd.

To actually see this as a statement of fact, and not just one of theory, is most likely all that is necessary. There’s the rub.

If there is anyone who has abandoned the self from the very beginning, how would we know? We may believe that some have abandoned the self after years of meditation, inquiry, or during a mind-blowing psychedelic experience, but believing isn’t knowing. For all we know, selflessness may be nothing but a grand aspiration for many and a grandiose delusion for a few.

I don’t get why it matters if it has been done successfully before by anyone. Surely what is of import is whether it is right in and of itself.

Whether it can be done or not is another question, however.

We can observe how we assert ourselves, defend ourselves, take offense, and modify ourselves, but this transparency doesn’t end the whole enterprise of being and becoming somebody.

What if you are aware of the sound of a bird or a barking dog - but it was actually an alarm and a deer coughing - where were the bird and dog at that moment?

We often use awareness and interpretation to mean the same thing - so its not surprising that we are having trouble understanding the difference.

We often confuse “what is” and “point of view”, this is why we think they are the same thing.

Forget the bird and the dog. You hear something that is not your thinking. Unless you’re seriously delusional, you’re able to discern the difference between your thoughts and ambient sounds.

Krishnamurti and the Buddha felt that seeing the self for what it is, is “right”, and presumably, people interested in their teaching agree.

Of course, the bird and the dog are not at all the issue under consideration.
If you read my statement again, even if I perceive a horse and a truck, and it actually was a horse and a truck - the question still stands. If you can comprehend what I am trying to say - there might be an exchange of information aka dialogue. And if it is something that wasn’t already part of your worldview - that would be an amazing example of our ability to learn, listen, communicate and gain insight (rather than just be moved by our own internal dialogue)

What is the difference between our thoughts and what we perceive? Are you saying that we have a precise understanding of reality? That we are not biased?