Factual Thought

Question: You often switch over from mind to brain. Is there any difference between them? If so, what is the mind?

Krishnamurti: I am afraid it is a slip of the tongue. That is, I have often said the mind, and the brain. So the gentleman, the questioner says, what is the mind. Why do you switch over from one word to the other, and I apologise for that because it is a slip of the tongue, I am only talking about the brain.

The questioner wants to know what is the mind. Is the mind different from the brain? Is the mind something untouched by the brain, is the mind not the result of time, because the brain is? You are following all this? Does this interest you all? All right. Let’s go into it.

First of all to understand what the mind is, we must be very clear how our brain operates, as much as possible. Not according to the brain specialists, according to the neurologists, according to those who have studied a great deal about the brains of rats and pigeons and all that, but we are studying, each one of us if we are willing, the nature of our own brain: how we think, what we think, how we act, what’s our behaviour, what are the immediate, spontaneous, instant responses, are we aware of that. Are we aware that our thinking is extraordinarily along a narrow groove? Are we aware that our thinking is mechanical, along a certain particular trained activity, how our education has conditioned our thinking, how our careers, whether it is bureaucratic, engineering, or surgical and so on, so on, are they not, all of them, a directional, conditioned knowledge. Are we aware of all this? How the brain, with its thought - and the scientists now are saying thought is the expression of memory, of the mind, of the brain, which is experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action - they are gradually coming to that, about which we have been talking endlessly, from the beginning, that thought is a material process, there is nothing sacred about thought, and whatever thought creates whether mechanically or idealistically or projecting a future in the hope of reaching some kind of happiness, peace, are all the movement of thought. Are we aware of all this? That when you go to a temple it is nothing but a material process. You mightn’t like to hear that, but that is the fact: thought has created the architecture and the thing that is put inside the building, the temple, the mosque, the church, they are all the result of thought. Are we really aware of it? - and therefore move totally in a different direction. That tradition, when we accept tradition it makes the mind extraordinarily dull - just repeat it, very convenient, so gradually the brain becomes dull, stupid, routine, you can read endlessly the Gita, or talk about the book. This is what is happening when in the world there is so much uncertainty, so much pain, so much disorder, chaos, you turn to tradition. That’s what is happening both in the West and in the East. They are becoming more and more fanatical, worshipping local deities and so on. Are we aware of this? And can we stop all that - in yourself? Or we are so dull, so used to this confusion, misery, we put up with it.

So we have to understand very clearly what the activity of the brain is, which is the activity of our consciousness, which is the activity of our psychology, the psychological world in which we live. The whole of that - the brain, consciousness, psychological world, all that is one. Right? Would you question that? Probably you haven’t thought even about all this. You see one reads a great deal about all these matters. If you are a psychologist, if you are a psychoanalyst, if you are therapeutically inclined and so on, you read a lot, but you never look at yourself, never observe your own actions, your own behaviour. So that’s why it is very important if you would understand what the mind is, to understand what the activities of thoughts are, which has created the content of our consciousness and the psychological world in which we live, which is part of thought, the structure which thought has built in man: the ‘me’ and the ‘not me’, the ‘we’ and ‘they’, the quarrels, the battles between ourselves, between each human being.

So. And the brain has evolved through time. Right? That’s obvious. Evolved through millennia, millions of years, accumulating knowledge, experience, memory, danger and so on. It is the result of time. Right? There is no question of argument about it. And is love, compassion, with its intelligence, is that the product of thought? You are understanding what I am… Is compassion, is love, the product, the result, the movement of thought? You understand my question? Can you cultivate love? Please, sir. I am afraid that feeling perhaps doesn’t exist in this country. You may read about it, you may talk about it, the books talk sometimes about it, but the word is not the thing.

So that which is not of time, which is not the product of thought, which is not the material process, is the mind. Thought, as we pointed out the other day, is in itself disorder, and mind is entirely, absolutely order, like the cosmos, like the universe. But to enquire, to go into that, not to understand the nature of the mind unless you have understood deeply the nature of thought, all its activities, comprehend it not verbally, in yourself. Which means thought realises its own place. Thought realises its place in the technological world, when you drive a car, when you speak a language, when you go to the office, or to the factory, or anything, skill needs the operation of thought. But when thought realises its own limitation, and its place, then perhaps we can begin to see the nature of the mind.

Public Question & Answer 1 Madras (Chennai), India - 06 January 1981


What I have always found refreshing about Krishnamurti is that although he often speaks of his own personal encounters with the mystical - which in the passage above he describes as the “activity of the mind” - he implores us to stick exclusively to a study of that which is accessible, namely the activity of the brain, the movement of thought, the here and now, and refrain from speculating about anything beyond common human experience.

With respect to consciousness, it is a well-established fact that thought is based on memory, and experience is thought (which includes feeling) responding to sensory stimuli. We also know that the memory bank which thought draws from is composed of knowledge that is incomplete and therefore prone to error. In some cases, the degree of inaccuracy (or limitation) of thought is inconsequential, like for example when we regard a tree and recognize it for what it is, while in others, the consequences are dire.

So when we say thought “realizes” something or the other, what is actually occurring is either a “seeing of reality” or alternatively, “a making of reality”. The former we usually refer to in Krishnamurti circles as factual thought and the latter, psychological thought. As it is doubtful that anyone would consciously remain in a world of make-belief by choice, it stands to reason that we are ignorant of the fact that such a phenomenon is even occurring. We have conflated the two types of thought to such a degree that their respective functioning appears to us to be equally true to reality. However, in the interest of living a more coherent life if nothing else, it is important to distinguish between these two modes of thought, is it not? To understand what is meant by factual thought or, conversely, to unravel the mechanism underlying psychological or biased thinking.

The essential ingredient fueling ‘distorting’ thought appears to be agenda, having a vested interest in outcome, a need to choose better over worse even to to the point of changing the facts to suit one’s fancies. Factual thought, on the other hand, has no such designs on what it sees. It is choiceless. It has no investment in how a tree is seen and, as such, lets the tree tell its own story rather than the other way round. “Choiceless thought” as opposed to the more esoteric-sounding “choiceless awareness” might be a better way to describe how thought can accurately apprehend reality as it is, including its own distortions. Granted, it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

It may well be that the crucial first step - freedom must be there in the beginning - is to revisit - in order to fully comprehend - the manner in which we interact with something as mundane as a tree, or as in Krishnamurti’s example below, a microphone.



To see something totally, whether it is a tree, or a relationship or any activity that one has, the mind must be free from all fragmentation, and the very nature of fragmentation is the centre from which one is looking. The back ground, the culture as the Catholic, as the Protestant, as the Communist, as the Socialist, as my family, is the centre from which one is looking. So as long as one is looking at life from a particular point of view, or from a particular experience which one has cherished, which is one’s background, which is the ‘me’, one cannot see the totality. Thus it is not a question of how one is to get rid of fragmentation. One’s invariable question would be ‘how am I who function in fragments, not to function in fragments?’ - but that is a wrong question. One sees that one is dependent psychologically on so many things and one has discovered intellectually, verbally, and through analysis, the cause of that dependence; the discovery is itself fragmentary because it is an intellectual, verbal, analytical process - which means that what ever thought investigates must inevitably be fragmentary. One can see the totality of something only when thought doesn’t interfere, then one sees not verbally and not intellectually but factually, as I see the fact of this microphone, without any like or dislike, there it is. Then one sees the actuality, that one is dependent and one does not want to get rid of that dependence or to be free of its cause. One observes and one observes without any centre, without any structure of the nature of thinking. When there is observation of that kind one sees the whole picture, not just a fragment of that picture and when the mind sees the whole picture there is freedom.

Talks and Dialogues Saanen 1967 | 2nd Public Talk 11th July 1967


Loved this read. Thanks Dev.
This seems like the crux to me. Now we have to “break through” the illusions of projected reality, whilst actually being that projection. That’s where the fun starts… :wink:
Take care and thanks