← Back to Kinfonet

Choiceless awareness, Krishnamurti-style

That is imo a facile generalization of the choosing process. It’s an overstatement, hyperbolic, not reflective of the subtle skills brought to bear in good decision making.

That said, I really like the idea of action arising from the exigencies of the present situation, rather than from templates retrieved from memory or the conditioned whim of the actor.

Good question! I have done it, many times, observed my mind at work with no preferences or grasping. To be honest, it’s never done much for me. It could be I’m doing it wrong, maybe thought is running the show and I just don’t see it. It could also be that choiceless observation is not a fruitful approach for me.

As far as choiceless awareness in the Krishnamurti sense goes, by definition I can’t just do it, right?

Even in my case, I was not correct many times. I always feel I am aware of the situation but something else will happen, which is completely out of the box for me. Now, I am okay with that. :slight_smile:

It still happens, but you don’t fight it?

Yeah, I will not fight against it. The learning process happening at its own pace is best, I think. :grinning:

Okay, good start hashing out what Krishnamurti did and didn’t mean by choiceless awareness.

Next here’s a text from Wikipedia I find helpful for placing choiceless awareness in context.

Choiceless awareness

Krishnamurti held that outside of strictly practical, technical matters, the presence and action of choice indicates confusion and subtle bias: an individual who perceives a given situation in an unbiased manner, without distortion, and therefore with complete awareness, will immediately, naturally, act according to this awareness – the action will be the manifestation and result of this awareness, rather than the result of choice. Such action (and quality of mind) is inherently without conflict.

He did not offer any method to achieve such awareness; in his view application of technique cannot possibly evolve into, or result in, true choicelessness – just as unceasing application of effort leads to illusory effortlessness, in reality the action of habit. Additionally, in his opinion all methods introduce potential or actual conflict, generated by the practitioner’s efforts to comply. According to this analysis, all practices towards achieving choiceless awareness have the opposite effect: they inhibit its action in the present by treating it as a future, premeditated result, and moreover one that is conditioned by the practitioner’s implied or expressed expectations.

Krishnamurti stated that for true choicelessness to be realized, choice – implicit or explicit – has to simply, irrevocably, stop; however, this ceasing of choice is not the result of decision-making, but implies the ceasing of the functioning of the chooser or self as a psychological entity. He proposed that such a state might be approached through inquiry based on total attentiveness: identity is then dissolved in complete, all-encompassing attention. Therefore, he asserted that choiceless awareness is a natural attribute of non-self-centered perception, which he called “observation without the observer.”

Accordingly, Krishnamurti advised against following any doctrine, discipline, teacher, guru, or authority, including himself. He also advised against following one’s own psychological knowledge and experience, which he considered integral parts of the observer. He denied the usefulness of all meditation techniques and methods, but not of meditation itself, which he called “perhaps the greatest” art in life; and stated that insight into choiceless awareness could be shared through open dialogue.

Starting with the first paragraph:

Krishnamurti held that outside of strictly practical, technical matters, the presence and action of choice indicates confusion and subtle bias: an individual who perceives a given situation in an unbiased manner, without distortion, and therefore with complete awareness, will immediately, naturally, act according to this awareness – the action will be the manifestation and result of this awareness, rather than the result of choice. Such action (and quality of mind) is inherently without conflict.

I have mixed feelings about this.

Yes, if we are fully aware of what is going on in the present moment, our reaction to it flows (more) naturally from the context, needs, details of this moment. Confusion and bias are minimized, it happens quasi-effortlessly in response to the shape of the situation.

But … Krishnamurti’s assertion that “with full awareness, there is no choice” and that “choice means confusion and lack of freedom” is, I think, an unhelpful idealization. Perhaps highly realized masters experience the end of choice, perhaps not. But the rest of us (99.9999999% of humanity) will encounter situations that are so complex and nuanced that, even with full awareness, several possible and valid responses exist to a situation.

So, as often happens for me, I basically agree with Krishnamurti, provided that the black-and-white extremes are softened to shades of gray. With deeper awareness, appropriate responses to a situation flow more easily. Getting lost in choices, neurotically blocked, succumbing to conditioning and bias … all of these undermine the process of responding effectively to the present moment.

I often wonder why Krishnamurti (aisi) exaggerated quite often, cast things in blacks and whites, either/or’s. He might have seen the world in this way. But I’m guessing (speculating!) that he overstated things in an attempt to get a rather sleepy, dull audience to wake up!

Whatcha guys think?

If one can perceive what actually is and respond immediately, what need is there for decision-making, i.e., choosing?

Every person sees things through the filter of their mind, and every mind is uniquely conditioned. So the “actually is” that Krishnamurti saw, Buddha saw, you see … all different, perhaps similar, but not the same. Now I could just go with my particular “actually is” and respond immediately to it without (consciously) making a choice. But that would reflect my conditioning and bias. The person who realizes this may weigh the likely appropriateness of two or more decisions.

The risk of prejudice and bias is always there, the best we can do is minimize it.

Yes, that’s our condition. But we’re talking about Krishnamurti’s “direct perception”, how it isn’t real for us, and why not. We can’t imagine how any such thing is possible.

When Krishnamurti talks about direct perception, do you take it as true for him, true period, or doesn’t it matter if it is or isn’t true, what matters is to explore it? I doubt all claims of extraordinary spiritual abilities, though I’m open to being proven wrong. It’s a kind of negation.

I don’t know if “direct perception” is possible because my perception is not direct. All I can “explore” is what I’m aware of and can examine, and I can see how my perception is distorted by my conditioning. Naturally, I’d like to be rid of the cause of this distortion, so I’m inclined to believe that Krishnamurti might have known whereof he spoke.

Okay, this makes sense, thanks. :slight_smile:

I think direct perception is related directly to the basic senses like vision, smell, touch, and taste. For example, when we eat a red chili, the way our tongue receives the flavor is direct perception. Generally, for most of us, this direct perception is interfered with by thought. Awareness, Attention, and perception are cognitive aspects of the mind.

Hope everyone understood.

What about mind? Is there direct perception of a thought, image, emotion?

Mind is nothing but the content of consciousness and thought is just a reflection of our consciousness subjected to the given situations.

When you talk to a person directly at some location, the image related to that situation is associated with the conversation you made and is recorded in the brain. Next time if you go to the same location, your brain will pop out all the information related to that location. In that process, if the mind is paying attention to the self inside, then there is no chance of thought. Otherwise, some sort of reaction will take place.

Paying attention to the self is called self-perception.

Hope you understand.

Making a choice involves memory as knowledge, experience, psychological time, and so on, doesn’t it?

As I see it, in deciding what to have for dinner, what colour to paint the walls, what clothes to wear, and so on — the mental process of choosing IS appropriate. There, it is appropriate to weigh, to measure, to compare to the known, and then to choose.

But this process of choice can’t be “transferred” to deciding what action to take under and for turmoil, depression, anger, fear, loneliness, isolation, conflict, anxiety, obligation, the pressures of duty, obligation, conformity, authority, the unconscious, and so on. There, we don’t see clearly, we don’t know what to do, what action to take and yet we blindly make choices.

“The complexity and subtlety of how things unfold” cannot be reduced or limited to the known. But isn’t it in the very process of making a choice — which is based on memory — that the complexity and subtlety of the whole is necessarily missed?

It is in facing chaos or disorder — inner and outer — that we feel pressured to choose, to make the right decision. In a state of chaos, can the self choose action wisely by sifting through time, knowledge, memory?

Awareness is not a choice and it neither includes or excludes and yet action is choicelessly engendered where there is awareness. No?

1 Like

Can one have a direct perception of a mental object (thought, image, ego) in the same way one can have a direct perception of a sight, sound, smell, etc.?

Aren’t the “choices” we make in those situations a result of our conditioning? The choice depends on the ‘me’. We each have the ability to project a scenario, the brain has that ability. It has been useful for our survival. But when a scene is projected where the ‘me’ is in some situation, then it is the conditioning (the ‘me’) that determines the ‘reaction’ to that scene, to what could take place in that imaginary scene. It could be pleasure or pain or something in between. Can the ‘me’ die, leave the scene completely while the body still lives?

Yes, some people are very detached to observe the pattern in thoughts, emotions and such stuff. For doing critical tasks such understanding is necessary.

In my case it is on and off. :slightly_smiling_face: