Concentration, Attention, Meditation and Self-Knowledge

In this talk, Krishnamurti contrasts the states of concentration and attention.

Concentration is our normal experience - thinking about one thing or the other at the exclusion of everything else.

He uses the word attention to describe a mind in meditation:

Attention has no frontier. Please follow this closely. A mind in the state of attention is not limited by the frontier of recognition. Attention is a state in which there is complete awareness of everything that is taking place within and about one, without the border or frontier of recognition which exists in concentration.

It seems impossible to look, observe anything without the process of recognition kicking in, no? Is that process not automatic, involuntary? How would we even know it is happening if there is no recognition?

And if attention were somehow possible, a big if, is it meant to be occurring alongside the normal process of concentration and the value to us, the concentrator, is that attention would allow us to see more clearly, using the normal process of recognition but now with more expansive information? Is this what K means by self-knowledge?

For me the nature of attention is obvious. Maybe temporary but obvious. Who is K talking to? Why is it such a problem? It seems to me to be trying to help intellectuals to unravel intellectualism.

Concentration is active discrimination.
Habit is a form of ignorance.
Effort, in awareness, is a veil.

For many thoughtful human beings, this is reasonable:

K: We are the result of all kinds of influences - social, religious, economic. hereditary, climatic. Through all those influences, we try to find something beyond; and if we cannot find it, we invent it, and cling to our inventions.

This, on the other hand, is confounding:

K: When we understand the whole process of influence at all the different levels of our consciousness, then, by becoming free of it, there is an aloneness which is uninfluenced; that is, the mind and heart are no longer shaped by outward events or inward experiences.

What does it really mean to " understand the whole process of influence at all the different levels of our consciousness"? And why does K drop that possibility into his talks in such a nonchalant manner?

K: It is only when there is this aloneness that there is a possibility of finding the real. But a mind that is merely isolating itself through fear, can have only anguish; and such a mind can never go beyond itself.

There is a clear danger that we are doing the latter while being convinced we are doing the former.

Surely, attention and self-knowledge cannot be as simple as all that, else many more would have gotten it. What are we missing here?

Quotes are from the book, Total Freedom.

1 Like

‘Influence’ means conditioning, no? We are influenced by what we watch on TV, but the political thinkers, the religious teachers, our parents, the TV commercials, the fashion industry, and so on. Meaning we are conditioned. So what makes us so easily influenced? That’s the question that pops immediately into my mind? A child absorbs it all like a sponge and becomes a thoroughly conditioned human being. I suspect pleasure and desire have a lot to do with this whole issue.

People tell me they can observe their thoughts - and of course they are correct (in a way) - if my thoughts and I are two different things, I can observe my thoughts, judge them, analyse them, repeat them or try and push them away - and vice versa, they have the same power over me.

But what are my thoughts? And what am I?

The simplicity is there, as in light dispels darkness. We thrash about in our darkness, we ‘live’ and die in it…He says “die” to all of that now not at the end when it’s too late. Then you ‘understand’ maybe that all the suffering, fear, anxiety, dread, etc, is all the cause of this ‘darkness’ called the ‘self’. These 'influences, conditionings we all have inherited and maintained are a form of “evil” that shuts out the light that we think we are searching for.


Death is suddenly less dramatic when we realise what dies.

Right. You, me and all that jazz are going to end anyway. Drop it , die to it all now and see what happens.

K." It is only when there is this aloneness that there is a possibility of finding the real.”

PS I’d say this ‘dying ‘ is another description of ‘choice less awareness ‘?

Yes. When the mind encounters something it doesn’t recognize, it keeps attending to it until it forms an idea or theory of what it is.

Is there self when quietly admiring the beauty of a flower? We are considering looking directly at this actual instance. To say there is self and it is active, and see recognition, is all self. This awareness is self-knowledge.

I’d say this is so. When approaching K.'s suggestion to “die to oneself”, to die to one’s thoughts , feelings, etc, the question that arises in the intellect is “how does one do this? Explain the process to me, elaborate it and then I’ll try it”…The intellect won’t let that go. But the answer is that one can’t know ‘how’ to do it. There is no ‘time’ involved. Time is continuity. Dying is ‘not-knowing’. ‘Ending’ is not-knowing. Not-knowing what comes next, there is no next, there is only the dying, the ending…I think that is why K. said that ‘ending’ was so special. Thought / self is all about 'continuity, continuing…ending is the unknown.

As I post this, thousands of brains are dying. Brains that held the memories of lives lived in struggle, fear, doubt, anguish, anxiety, etc. All gone in a flash some only having known moments of peace, joy…Brains that rarely or never for a moment broke through the conditioning to find if something else was possible. It’s too late to find out on one’s death bed. It takes a certain amount of energy, of vigor. But that is what is wasted in the maintenance, the patterns,the conflict, the continuity of this ‘self’, this ‘me’. Isn’t this what is meant by the “house is burning”?

Of course, because ‘knowing how’ is from the past…the intellect itself…the intellect is acting to let go of the intellect. It’s impossible. The truth is ‘what is’ now. A path obviously involves time and knowledge…which divide.

And at the same time : essential.
Both essential and impossible - have we got that straight at least? (ie not just impossible)

If so, we may begin. (If you’ve been philosophising here for a few years without taking a moment to experiment with silence - what was the point? Unless maybe you’ve used your hard earned knowledge for some sort of sexual or financial gain? In which case bravo!)

The intellect makes it so - doing something completely useless, for no reason, that is also impossible is usually frowned upon by the intellect (and seeing that the intellect is me, I usually believe it - furthermore I’m not stupid, and have got more important things to do)

Only for psychological thought. For practical thought the intellect is factual, impersonal.

I can also be logical, “impersonal” (ie I is not always romantic, emotional) - but my thoughts are the movement of me - of course “I” depend on the rest of existence. But all thought is the thinker. There is no distance between the thought and the self.

This is the “secret” that K keeps telling us : The thinker is the thought.

If we both as 'experts in our fields of knowledge are tasked with getting a ship with people inside out to say Mars and return them safely, we contribute our knowledge, questioning each others, co=operating until we agree on the best safest plan. The ‘self’ need have no part in that process. It can of course but it is not needed for thought to work totally free of ‘self’. And it will be more efficient without any element of a self-image.

So no. Thought projects a thinker psychologically. But thought , the thinking process, is not the ‘thinker’…the thinker is just a projection or ‘trick’ by thought and that 'thinker, me is never anything other than an illusion created by thought itself. So thought has its place, the thinker, me, does not.

Man hath not where to lay his head? :innocent:

can there be thought without the thinker?
can there be knowledge without the knower?

Silence is when we see that I am thought, that all thought that arises is just the movement of me.

That self is a part of (a motor for) progress - does not belie the fact

I’d say sure. Thinking works with words using association. Thought uses a universal ‘syntax’. Subject, verb, object i.e… Hubert Benoit the french psychiatrist went into this deeply I thought, in his ‘Lacher Prise’. He also wrote a famous book on Zen called The Supreme Doctrine. He got into psychological trouble messing around with his own thinking. Creating an excercise to actually break the associative relationship between the words in a sentence while keeping the syntax. Nonsense writing. He felt he could ‘neutralize’ the thought process, stop it I guess. Got into mental trouble.