The Cause of Conflict is the Limitation of Thought

Although it may appear to others as little more than an academic exercise, I would like to reflect a little more on what Krishnamurti meant by thought being limited, and how this limitation of thought creates conflict, what are its implications, etc. I am sharing a few extracts (3, plus a longer final extract from a conversation Krishnamurti had with Bohm, which I will add in a reply) in order to help shed some light on this topic, and as an aid to reflection.

The first extract has already been shared on another thread looking at conflict. In this extract Krishnamurti says that thought is limited because its very ground is limited: thought springs from memory, which springs from knowledge, which springs from experience (which elsewhere Krishnamurti calls ‘registration’, as is shown in the third extract below). Each of these grounds or causes is limited, and so the resulting effect - thought - is also limited.

Now, why this limitation of thought must cause conflict is also something to investigate. Bohm drills into this question in the last extract (shared in the first reply), because Krishnamurti says that anything limited (in the psychological domain) must create conflict - whereas the existence of a table, which is a limited thing, obviously does not create conflict. It is still unclear to me whether Krishnamurti means that all thought inevitably creates conflict (due to its being limited) or only thought and knowledge that are used in a psychological sense. He seems to allow for the fact that technical thought, technical knowledge - even though it is limited - does not create conflict. I would like to discuss this later.

In the 4th extract (given in the first reply to this post, or post 2) Krishnamurti suggests that there is an activity which is not limited: this being intelligence. In this extract they also (Krishnamurti and Bohm) discuss the indivisibility of human consciousness, which Krishnamurti says is “one from the very beginning”, which the activity of limited thought fragments and so loses sight of.

A reflective summary of these extracts is provided in post number 3 (the second reply to this post), and a further investigation into why experience is limited (together with the possibility of experiencing or perceiving without this limitation) is explored in post 4 (the third reply to this post).

In our relationship with each other… conflict exists… [So] we have to see whether conflict in ourselves can end…

It is necessary to… find out for ourselves the cause of conflict, because where you can find a cause that cause can be ended…

There are many causes, but there is essentially one cause: each one of us is essentially egocentric…

Man has always quarrelled with another man, always lived in conflict. In some of the old ancient monuments in caves and other places you will see man fighting man, or fighting animals, which is the same thing, symbolically, perpetual conflict…

The speaker is saying… that the human condition can be radically changed. That is, if he has the intention, if he observes very clearly without any prejudice, without any direction… without any motive, what he is…

In [the] mirror of relationship you see yourself as you are… In that relationship you see your reactions, physical as well as psychological… You start very near to go very far…

And in that relationship which is based on image-building, you have an image about her and she has an image about you… The root of conflict is there…

Thought is responsible for the image that you have about yourself and you have about another… So thought, thinking, is the root of conflict

Isn’t thinking limited? … Experience is limited… because it is limited, knowledge is always limited… Knowledge is carried by the brain as memory. Memory then responds as thought, so thought is always limited. And that which is limited [in the psychological domain] must invariably create conflict

When you are thinking about yourself, you are very limited… And that limitation has been brought about by thought…

Thought is limited. When you really perceive this as an actuality… then you are bound to ask if there is another instrument than thought.

(Talk 1, New Delhi, 1983)

So thought is responsible for the divisions: religious, political, personal, racial, the wars that are going on between the Jew and the Arabs, between various religious groups, it’s all the result of thought. Do you really accept that? If you do, see the fact; see the truth of it. Not a superstition; not some exotic idea; not something imposed upon you by the speaker…

Thought is the result or response or the reaction of memory. Memory is the result or reaction of knowledge. Stored in the brain, knowledge is experience; in the scientific world, in the technological world, in the world of inward world, psychological world, knowledge, experience, memory, and the response of that is thought. That’s a fact. And where there is knowledge, and knowledge is always incomplete; either in the present or the future or in the past. There is no complete knowledge about anything. There can never be. Even the scientists, biologists and archaeologists and so on, they do admit knowledge is limited.

Where there is limitation of knowledge, there must be limitation of thought. When you say, “I am a Christian,” it’s limited. When you are thinking about yourself, your problems, your relationship, your sexual pleasures and fulfilment, that’s very, very limited. And thought is limited. It can invent the limitless, but that is still the product of thought. It can invent heaven; or hell or whatever - it can invent, it is still limited. So where there is limitation, there must be fragmentation. I wonder if you are following all this? Please do follow this, because it’s your life. We are talking about daily life. So where there is limitation there must be conflict. When I say I am a Hindu, it’s limited. When I say I am a Catholic, obviously. Where there is limitation there must be division

Is our relationship based on memory? Is it based on remembrances? Is it based on the past incidents accumulated as various images, pictures? If it is remembrance, if it is various images, then all that is the product of thought… Is the accumulated knowledge of each other - which must always be limited and therefore that very knowledge is the root of conflict - is that knowledge, that conflict, is that love? …

So, is it possible to live with another without a single image, without a single remembrance of the past which has given you pleasure or pain? Do think, look at it.

And is it possible not to build images about the other? If you do build images about the other, which is knowledge, then it is perpetual division. Though you may have children, sex, and so on, but it’s fundamentally division. Like the Arabs and the Jew, the Christian and the Muslim and so on. So where there is division there must be conflict…

To live with another without any sense of division. The division must exist as long as thought is in operation, because thought is limited; because knowledge is limited. And in that division there is great pain; anxiety, jealousy, hatred; me first and you after.

To observe this fact, to observe, not say, ‘I must have no division’ - that sounds silly - to observe the fact that you are first divided, like two parallel lines never meeting…

So to observe the fact, that you are divided; delve deeply into the fact…

To observe; to observe without any bias, to look at it, to feel the division, and when you so observe, which I hope you are doing it, when you so observe, that very observation is like a tremendous light put on the word ‘relationship.’ You understand? To observe - we’ll go into it. To watch, which means to watch without any direction, without the word, without any motive, just to watch all the implications, the content of that word ‘relationship’. To live with that word; even for an hour, for ten minutes, for a day, find out! To live with it. To so observe, which means live your complete attention to that. When you attend completely, the obstacles, the division disappears.

(Talk 1, Ojai, 1983)

What is the source of all thought, not only yours, mine, or somebody else’s, the root of thought? If the root is limited, the outcome of that must also be limited. Right? You can’t think thought will do something extraordinary, if the root is limited all its activities must be limited. Right? So what is the root, the very, very source of thought?

The beginning of thought is the brain registering, danger or not danger, the pleasure and the fear. Right? The original man or the ape from which we have come… that brain which is very, very old, ancient beyond words, it must have registered danger, death, fear, security. Right? So the beginning of thought is the process of registration, which is memory. Right? We are not saying anything extraordinary, these are facts. And what has been registered is knowledge, knowledge of danger, knowledge of pleasure, knowledge of the fear between the two. And this accumulating process of knowledge, which is constant registration, day after day, centuries upon centuries registration, which is the accumulation of knowledge, that knowledge is in the brain, and that knowledge, which is memory, and from that memory thought is born

So memory, knowledge, is the outcome of the past. Right? So the past is limited, knowledge is limited. You may have more, more, more but it is always limited…

So thought born of memory, knowledge, is always everlastingly limited. And our activities therefore are always limited - based on thought

All the scriptures, all the poems, all the literature, all the rituals, the gods, the images, everything is the product of thought…

So when there is identification with something, thought is the process of identification, therefore that identification limits, limits the energy, and that energy is used as an individual. Therefore the individual becomes more and more limited, and his action then will be limited, obviously…

And is there an action - please, we are enquiring - is there an action which is not based on thought? Therefore an action which is not limited, confined, which means is there an action which is not based on knowledge, on memory, on remembrance? Don’t say, ‘That is impossible’, or ‘It is possible’ - we don’t know, we are enquiring, we are asking. Because in limited action there is regret, mischief, pain, anxiety, whether you have done the right thing or the wrong thing - all that follows from limited activity, which is called the individual…

You tell me something, you use cruel words and you call me a name. I am hurt. And most human beings in the world are hurt, not only physiologically but much more psychologically. You are hurt, aren’t you? And from that hurt we do all kinds of things - resist, withdrawal, fear, violence, bitterness and so on, so on, so on. This hurt is, if you examine it very closely, is the movement of thought in the formation of the image. Right? Thought has created an image about oneself, that you are beautiful, that you are intellectually marvellous, that you are etc. etc. And when you use an ugly word, angrily point it out, that image gets hurt; which is, thought - please follow all this - that thought, which has created an image about itself, that image gets hurt…

So is it possible not to register the hurt? You understand my question? Because all our brain is in constant registration, and when you say something ugly to another, that is registered, that is called hurt. And is there a possibility of not registering at all?

One must obviously register when you want to drive a car, to do certain kinds of skills you must register. If you want to be a good technician you have to have a great deal of technological knowledge stored up in the brain, which is a process of registration. Right? So knowledge as a process of registration is, in certain fields, absolutely necessary. Right? That is clear.

Then why should there be any other form of registration? Do you understand my question? I have identified with myself, with my image. That image is put together by thought: the thought of another, parents, education, whatever it is, society, culture. That image has been put together by thought, which is a continuous process of registration. And is that necessary? You follow my question? It is your question. Why is there psychologically, inwardly this constant activity of accumulating round the centre, which is the self? Right? Which is obviously limited, which has been cultivated by thought and therefore essentially limited. When I think about my own occupation, how I must be happy, how I must be a success, I must be this, I must be that - it is all the movement of thought which is bringing about constant limitation, throttling, narrowing down, which we call individual. And that individual has activities, naturally. Those activities are essentially mischievous because they are limited.

Now we are asking, knowing logically, sequentially, reasonably, that any form of registration, apart from the registration of necessities, technological knowledge and so on, every other form of registration limits action, and from that limited action comes all our misery

So thought is the registration of an incident, accident. Anything that is registered must be limited, and that limitation, in its action, will create a great deal of mischief. So we are asking whether it is possible not to register, except in certain fields, not to register at all

The moment thought identifies with something, with a piece of furniture, with a shirt, with a blouse, with a house, with a wife, with a husband, girl, or whatever it is, that limits thought and therefore that limitation is born out of registration…

So if you are serious you are asking this basic question, a fundamental question, which you must answer: is there a possibility of not registering at all? That is, is there an action not born of thought? Do you understand my question? All our action is based on thought, with all its consequences. Now we are asking: is there an action, is there a way of living in daily life, in which thought doesn’t operate? …

First of all, do we see very clearly, each one of us, wherever we are, whatever our situation, whatever our conditioning, however neurotic we are - most of us are - do we see very clearly that thought under all circumstances is limited? Not a verbal acceptance of it, but an actual fact, which you in your blood see it, irrevocably? Then if you see that, not as an idea, not as a conclusion, not a thing reasoned out and therefore it is, if you do it, it is still thought. So when you realise that thought is completely, totally, wholly limited, and from that limitation all activity, whatever type it is, must be limited and therefore in human relationship it creates havoc, misery, from there you ask the question…

If one understands the whole movement of thought… born out of the past and therefore endlessly curtailed, limited, narrow. If you see that very clearly and therefore abandon it, then you have what one may call insight.

(Talk 3, Saanen, 1978)

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K: Thought being limited, because knowledge is limited, if you admit that knowledge will always be limited.

DB: Yes, well, that again might require some discussion.

K: Of course, we must discuss it.

DB: Now, why do you say knowledge is always limited?

K: Because you as a scientist, you are experimenting, adding, searching, so you are adding, and after you some other person will add more. So knowledge, which is born of experience, is limited

DB: All right. So we are saying that man cannot obtain unlimited knowledge of the psyche. Is that what you are saying?

K: Yes, that’s right.

DB: There is always more that is unknown.

K: There is always more and more unknown. So if once we admit that knowledge is limited then thought is limited.

DB: Yes, knowledge - thought depends on knowledge and the knowledge does not cover everything.

K: That’s right.

DB: Therefore thought will not be able to handle everything that happens.

K: That’s right. That is what the politicians and all the other people are doing. They think thought can solve every problem.

DB: Yes. You can see in the case of politicians that knowledge is very limited, in fact it is almost non-existent! But, therefore when you lack the adequate knowledge of what you are dealing with you create confusion.

K: Yes. So then as thought is limited, our consciousness, which has been put together by thought, is limited.

DB: Yes. Now why does that mean we - can you make that clear? That means we can only repeat, stay in the same circle.

K: The same circle.

DB: You see one of the ideas might be, if you compare with science, that people might think though my knowledge is limited I am constantly discovering.

K: But what you discover is added to, but is still limited.

DB: It is still limited. That’s the point. I can keep on - I think one of the ideas behind a scientific approach is that though knowledge is limited I can discover and keep up with the actuality.

K: But that is also limited.

DB: My discoveries are limited. And there is always the unknown which I have not discovered.

K: That is why I am saying the unknown, the limitless, cannot be captured by thought.

DB: Yes.

K: Because thought in itself is limited. If you and I agree to that - not only agree but it is a fact.

DB: Yes, well perhaps we should bring it out still more. That is thought is limited even though we verbally - one may easily verbally admit thought is not limited, there is a very strong predisposition, feeling, tendency, to feel that way, that thought can do anything.

K: Anything. It can’t. See what it has done in the world.

DB: Well, I agree that is has done some terrible things but that doesn’t prove that it is always wrong. You see maybe you could always blame it on the people who have used it wrongly, you see.

K: I know, that is a good old trick! But thought in itself is limited, therefore whatever it does, is limited.

DB: Yes, and it is limited in a very serious way is what you are saying.

K: That’s right. Of course in a very, very serious way.

DB: Well, could we bring that out, say what that way is, I mean?

K: That way is, what is happening in the world.

DB: All right, let’s look at that.

K: The totalitarian ideals, it is the invention of thought.

DB: Yes, well, we could say that the people - the very word totalitarian, means they wanted to cover the totality but they couldn’t.

K: They couldn’t.

DB: They couldn’t, the thing collapsed.

K: It is collapsing.

DB: Collapsing. But then there are those who say they are not totalitarians.

K: But the democrats and all the rest of it, the republicans and the democrats, and the idealists and so on, all their thinking is limited.

DB: Yes, but it is limited in a way that is…

K: …very destructive.

DB: …that is very serious and destructive. Now in what way - could we bring that out? You see I could say, ‘OK my thought is limited but well it may not be all that serious’. You see why is it so important?

K: That is fairly simple: because whatever action is born of limited thought must breed conflict, inevitably.

DB: Yes.

K: Like dividing humanity into geographically - into nationalities and so on and so on and so on, religiously, has created havoc in the world.

DB: Yes, now let’s connect that with the limitation of thought. That is my knowledge is limited - right?

K: We said that.

DB: Now how does that lead me to divide the world into…

K: Aren’t we seeking security?

DB: Yes.

K: And we thought there was security in the family, security in the tribe, security in nationalism. So we thought there is security in division.

DB: Yes. That seems, now it has come out - take the tribe for example, say, one may feel insecure because one then says, ‘With the tribe I am secure.’ That is a conclusion. And I think I know enough to be sure that is so, but I don’t. Other things happen that I don’t know which make that very insecure. Other tribes come along.

K: No, no, the very division creates insecurity…

DB: It’s going to, because I define an area which is secure, divided from another area.

K: Because in itself it is limited. Anything that is limited must inevitably create conflict.

DB: Well, you mean any thought that is…

K: If I say I am an individual, it is limited.

DB: Yes.

K: I am concerned with myself, that is very limited.

DB: Yes, we have to get this clear. You see if I say this is a table which is limited, it creates no conflict - right?

K: No, there is no conflict there.

DB: Now when I say ‘this is me’ that creates conflict.

K: The ‘me’ is a divisive entity.

DB: Let’s see more clearly why.

K: Because it is separative, it is concerned with itself. The ‘me’ identifying with the greater nation, is still divisive.

DB: Yes, well, I define myself in the interest of security so that I know what I am as opposed to what you are and I protect myself - right? Now this creates a division between me and you.

K: We and they and so on.

DB: We and they. Now that comes from my limited thought because I don’t understand that we are really closely related and connected.

K: That’s it, we are human beings.

DB: Yes we are all human beings.

K: All human beings have more or less the same problems.

DB: No, I haven’t understood that. My thought, my knowledge is limited, I think that we can make a distinction and protect ourselves and me and not the others.

K: Yes, that’s right.

DB: But in the very act of doing that I create instability.

K: That’s right. You create…

DB: …insecurity.

K: Insecurity. So if we see that, not merely intellectually or verbally, but actually feel it, that we are the rest of humanity, then the responsibility becomes immense.

DB: Yes, well, how can you do anything about that responsibility?

K: Then I either contribute to the whole mess, or keep out of it…

DB: Yes, you see - now let’s come - well I think we have touched on an important point. We say the whole of humanity, of mankind, is one, and therefore to create division there is

K: …is dangerous.

DB: Yes. Whereas to create division between me and the table is not dangerous because in some sense we are not one.

K: Me and the tree - of course.

DB: That is only in some very general sense that we are one. Now mankind doesn’t realise that it is all one.

K: Why? Why?

DB: Well let’s go into that. This is a crucial point. It is clear it doesn’t because there are so many divisions and not only nations and religions but from one person to another.

K: I know. Why is there this division?

DB: Well the first is, the feeling, at least in the modern era, that every human being is an individual. This may not have been so strong in the past.

K: That is what I question. I question altogether whether we are individuals.

DB: Yes, well that is a big question because…

K: Of course. We said just now the consciousness which is me is similar to the rest of mankind. They all suffer; they all have fears; they are all insecure; they have their own particular gods and rituals, all put together by thought.

DB: Yes, well I think this calls for some - you know, it is - there are two questions here. One is, not everybody feels that he is similar - most people feel they have some unique distinction, at least they…

K: What do you mean ‘unique distinction’? Distinction in doing something?

DB: Well, there may be many things. For example one nation may feel that it is able to do certain things better than another, one person has some special things he does, a quality, or…

K: Of course. You have better - you are more intellectual than I am. Somebody else is better in this or that.

DB: He may take pride in his own special abilities, or advantages.

K: But when you put away that, basically we are the same.

DB: We have to say what does it mean - you are saying that these things which you have just described which are…

K: …superficial.

DB: Yes. Well now the things that are basic are what?

K: Is fear, sorrow, pain, anxiety, loneliness, and all the human travail…

DB: Then the [next] question is: although we are saying that there are certain basic disorders in the psyche, or lack of order which is common to us all… are we all one really, you see? That is, even though we are all similar that doesn’t say we are all the same, we are all one.

K: We said in our consciousness basically we all have the same ground on which we stand.

DB: Yes. Well, you see from the fact let’s say the human body is similar it doesn’t prove they are all the same.

K: Of course not. Your body is different from mine.

DB: Yes we are in different places, different entities and so on. But I think you are trying to say that the consciousness is not an entity which is individual

K: That’s right.

DB: …the body is an entity which has a certain individuality.

K: That’s right. That all seems so clear.

DB: It may be clear. But I think…

K: Your body is different from mine. I have a different name than you.

DB: Yes, well we are so different - though similar material it is different, we can’t exchange because the proteins in one body may not agree with those in the other. Now many people feel that way about the mind, saying that there is a chemistry between people which may agree or disagree.

K: Yes, but actually if you go deeper into the question, consciousness is shared by all human beings. That’s my whole…

DB: Yes. Now the feeling is that the consciousness is individual and that it is communicated, as it were, that it is…

K: I think that is an illusion because we are sticking to something that is not so.

DB: Yes, well do you want to say that there is one consciousness of mankind?

K: It is all one.

DB: It is all one. That is important because whether it is many or one is a crucial question.

K: Yes, yes.

DB: Now it could be many which are then communicating and building up the larger unit. Or you think from the very beginning it is all one?

K: From the very beginning it is all one.

DB: And the sense of separateness is an illusion - right?

K: That is what I am saying over and over again. That seems so logical, sane. The other is insanity.

DB: Yes, now people don’t feel, at least one doesn’t immediately feel that the notion of separate existence is insane because one extrapolates from the body to the mind, one says it is quite sensible to say my body is separate from yours, and inside my body is my mind. Now are you saying the mind is not inside the body?

K: That is quite a different question. Now just a minute. Let’s finish with the other first. If each one of us thinks that we are separate individuals psychically, we have done - what we have done in the world is a colossal mess.

DB: Well if we think we are separate when we are not separate then it will clearly be a colossal mess.

K: That is what is happening. Each one thinks he has to do what he wants to do - fulfil himself. So he is struggling in his separateness to achieve peace, to achieve security, which that security and that peace is totally denied.

DB: Well the reason it is denied is because there is no separation. You see if there were really separation it would be a rational thing to try to do.

K: Actual.

DB: But if we are trying to separate what is inseparable the result will be chaos.

K: That’s right. That’s right.

DB: Now that is clear but I think that it will not be clear to people immediately that the consciousness of mankind is one inseparable whole.

K: Yes sir, inseparable whole - absolutely right.

DB: Many questions will arise if you once even consider the notion, but I don’t know if we have gone far enough into this yet. One question is: why do we think we are separate?

K: Why? Why do I think I am separate? That is my conditioning.

DB: Yes but, how did we ever adopt such a foolish conditioning?

K: From childhood it is mine - my toy, not yours.

DB: Yes but the first feeling you get is I say it is mine because I feel I am separate, you see. Now it isn’t clear how the mind which was one came to this illusion that it is all broken up into many pieces.

K: I think it is again the activity of thought. Thought in its very nature, thought is divisive, fragmentary and therefore I am a fragment.

DB: Yes, well thought will create a sense of fragments, you see. You could see for example that once we decide to set up a nation then we will be separate, think we are separate from the other nation and all sorts of things, consequences follow which make the whole thing seem independently real. You have all sorts of separate language and a separate laws and a separate this and you set up a boundary. And after a while you see so much evidence of separation that you forget how it started and you say that was there always and we are merely proceeding from what was there always.

K: Of course. That’s why, sir, I feel if once we grasp the nature of thought, the structure of thought, how thought operates; what is the source of thought, and therefore it is always limited, if we really see that then…

DB: Now the source of thought is what? Is it memory?

K: Memory. Memory is the remembrance of things past, which is knowledge and knowledge is the outcome of experience and experience is always limited

Then we come to the point, perception: whether it is possible to perceive - it sounds a little odd, and perhaps a little crazy, but it is not, is it possible to perceive without all the movement of memory? To perceive something directly without the word, without the reaction, without the memories entering into perception.

DB: Yes, well that is a very big question because memory has constantly entered perception.

K: Of course. That is the whole…

DB: You see it would raise the question of what is going to stop memory from entering perception?

K: Nothing can stop it. But if I see the reason, the rationality of the activity of memory which is limited, the very perception that it is limited, you have moved out of it into another dimension

Sir, all this really comes down to: can man live, humanity live without conflict? That really basically comes to that. Can we have peace on this earth?

DB: Yes, well… Go on.

K: And the activities of thought never bring it about.

DB: Yes, well it seems clear from what has been said that the activity of thought cannot bring about peace, it is inherently, psychologically it inherently brings about conflict.

K: Yes, if we once really see or acknowledge that, our whole activity would be totally different.

DB: But are you saying there is an activity which is not thought then?

K: Which is not?

DB: Which is beyond thought?

K: Yes.

DB: And which is not only beyond thought but which does not require the co-operation of thought?

K: Certainly not.

DB: That it is possible for this to go on when thought is absent?

K: That is the real point. We have often discussed this, whether there is anything beyond thought. Not something holy, sacred - I am not talking of that. I am talking: is there an activity which is not touched by thought? We are saying there is. And that activity is the highest form of intelligence.

DB: Yes, well, now we have brought in intelligence.

K: I know, I purposely brought it in! So intelligence is not the activity of cunning thought. There is intelligence to build a table.

DB: Yes well intelligence can use thought, as you have often said.

K: Intelligence can use thought.

DB: Yes, that is thought can be the action of intelligence - would you put it that way?

K: Yes.

DB: Or it could be the action of memory?

K: That’s it. Either it is the action born of memory and therefore memory is limited, therefore thought is limited and it has its own activity which then brings about conflict.

DB: Yes, I think this would connect up with what people are saying about computers. You see every computer must eventually depend on some kind of memory, on memory, which is put in, or else…

K: …programmed

DB: …programmed. And that must be limited - right?

K: Of course.

DB: Because the - therefore when we operate from memory we are not very different from a computer; the other way around perhaps, the computer is not very different from us.

K: A Hindu has been programmed for the last five thousand years to be a Hindu, or in this country you have been programmed as British, or as a Catholic or as a Protestant. So we are all programmed up to a certain extent.

DB: Yes, now then we could say there - you are bringing in the notion of an intelligence which is free of the programme, which is creative perhaps and…

K: Yes, that’s right. That intelligence has nothing to do with memory and knowledge.

DB: Yes. It may act in memory and knowledge but it is has nothing to do with it…

K: Yes it can act through memory, etc. That’s right.

(Conversation 1, Brockwood Park, 1983)

So, to summarise the extracts:

Krishnamurti says that the images that we have of each other in relationship - “the accumulated knowledge of each other” - is based on thought, and so are limited because thought is limited.

The limitation of thought springs from:

  1. experience (or registration), which is limited
  2. knowledge, which is limited
  3. memory, which is limited

from which

  1. thought arises.

This is the chain of causation of thought.

The limitations of thought are revealed in what thought has created in the world:

national, racial, social and religious divisions.

And also in the creation of the limited ‘me’ (with its images).

Whatever thought identifies itself with - nations, religions, ideologies, social functions, relationships - partakes of this limitation.

And the root of limited thought is experience, or what Krishnamurti also calls registration:

The original man or the ape from which we have come… registered danger, death, fear, security.

In the same way when we experience an incident - such as an accident - this incident is registered, and becomes knowledge and memory.

I’m still a little vague on what the distinctions are between registration, knowledge and memory, but Krishnamurti sets them out as being distinct aspects of a single chain, a single movement, from experience/registration to thought acting in the world (‘as a man thinks, so shall he act’, the Buddha is supposed to have said). And such actions based on limited thought bring about conflict, suffering.

Another aspect of this is that what has been experienced or registered as knowledge, and then stored up in the brain as memory, always comes from the past. There is no present knowledge, no present thought. All thought comes from, has its roots in, the past. And Krishnamurti suggests that this is another important reason why thought is limited. Thought is always out of date. It is limited to the past, and cannot touch the actual lived present moment.

The actual present moment can only be contacted through intelligence, which is not based on thought.

Nevertheless there is still a place for limited thought - as technical or practical thought, technical or practical knowledge - and Krishnamurti says that this needn’t cause conflict, even though it is limited.

So the conflictual element in thought seems to have something to do with the degree to which there is psychological investment in thought. That is, the degree to which security is sought in limited thought: i.e. in nations, in religions, in a specific relationship or job, etc. Because this creates a sense of “us and them”, “we and they”.

According to Krishnamurti the actual present moment truth is that we are, in our consciousness, all one.

Even though our bodies are distinct, our consciousness is a single, undivided whole. And the limitations of our psychological thinking breaks this up, covers this up, creating the illusion of “us and them”, “we and they”.

We have been programmed through education, through culture, to think-feel this way.

This fragmentation began when as children we started to be possessive about what we felt belonged to us as separate entities - a separation brought about through thought.

So the limitations of thought are the root of all human division, and this limitation is rooted in the limitations of experience/registration. Which is why Krishnamurti asks whether we can only register what is practically necessary - not psychological hurts, flattery, etc - which implies the action of intelligence in daily life.

This is what I have understood about it so far.

This then relates to another thread from a long time ago called ‘Why is experience limited?

As was shared on that thread the reason why experience is limited is not clear just from the word ‘experience’. It needs a bit of unpacking:

What is it about experience itself that makes it intrinsically limited?

Sometimes Krishnamurti said that the word “experience” means “to go all the way through to the end of something” - which means that most of us never truly experience anything at all.

But Krishnamurti usually talked about experience as being a universally limiting factor, which is different from “going all the way through to the end of something”.

So what is it that is limiting about experience?

When asked this people (who have read Krishnamurti) usually reply by saying that there is nothing in experience besides thought and knowledge.

But is this true?

That is to say, if by the word experience one merely means thought, comparison, memory and recognition, then why use the word experience as though it pointed to some distinct process?

Krishnamurti rarely spells out what is involved in experience, so we are forced to investigate this for ourselves.

Experience obviously involves, at some level, our sense-experience of the world.

And yet he has also elsewhere said that if the senses are left to themselves, without the interference of thought (that is, without concentrating on a particular sense at the expense of all the others), then perception can be whole, complete, unlimited. So the senses alone are not what Krishnamurti means by experience.

What Krishnamurti seems to be saying is that our current sense-experience of the world - dominated as it is by thought - is the limiting factor.

That is to say, our sense-experience of the world is ordinarily limited because we are habitually influenced by, dominated by, thought, by memory, by knowledge. We are never, or only very rarely, holistically aware with all our senses.

So it is this partial meeting of the world with our thought-dominated sense-perceptions which is what Krishnamurti means by experience.

In an example Krishnamurti sometimes used to explain the causal chain leading from experience to knowledge to memory to thought (and action), he begins by saying (I’m paraphrasing here):

‘Yesterday I was involved in a car accident’. The accident actually happened - it is a fact that I had an experience of an accident. The accident has been recorded (registered) by my brain, and that recording (registration) becomes my knowledge, which in turn becomes memory, and then thought acting from that memory.

So what is going on in the initial experience of my having an accident?

The senses are obviously active - the seeing, hearing, sensing of what is taking place (the car suddenly coming to a stop, the sound of crashing, the pain of being bruised by the sudden jolt, etc).

And yet, as we have already said, our sense-experience, being partial - not a complete sensory experiencing of the whole organism - our experience is also partial, limited.

So it isn’t experiencing per se which is limited: rather, it is the activity of thought, the intrusion of thought and memory and knowledge in perception, which is the limiting factor.

So there can be an experiencing without the interference of knowledge and thought, which is not intrinsically limited? Which Krishnamurti calls perceiving with all one’s senses, having a pure perception, pure holistic seeing.

Experience is one thing, and experiencing is another. Experience is a barrier to the state of experiencing … Experience… is already in the past, it has become a memory which comes to life only as a response to the present. Life is the present… The mind is the experience, the known, and it can never be in the state of experiencing ; for what it experiences is the continuation of experience… Experience is not the means to experiencing , which is a state without experience. Experience must cease for experiencing to be. (Commentaries on Living, Series 1, Chapter 12 )

So can there be an experiencing without thought? Can there be a perceiving without images, memory?

Krishnamurti talked about looking at something - such as the sea :ocean: - with all one’s senses fully heightened.

This is why the question of whether one can look at something - a flower :tulip:, a tree :deciduous_tree:, a bird :swan:, a cloud :partly_sunny: - without images intruding, without thoughts or mental chatter, is so fundamental!

Some of this has been explored already on the ‘pure attention’ and ‘religion means total attention’ threads.

Even though thought - being limited - is the root of conflict (according to Krishnamurti), thought has its right place, where it doesn’t need to cause conflict, in technical or practical thought and knowledge.

So why is thought limited?

It is limited because it is based on experience (experience being the thought-memory-knowledge dominated partial sense-perception of an event, of a happening), which is limited. It is a fragmentary experience of a reality that is in itself whole. It is an abstraction created by one’s background knowledge and experience, and not a direct perception.

It is limited because it is based on the past, which is limited to the past and so never touches the present.

How can this limitation of thought be perceived?

It is shown by the fact that the world is divided up into separate nations, religions, social groups, and by the separation into individuals, when - according to Krishnamurti - human consciousness is actually one inseparable whole.

It is also revealed in its immediacy in human conflict, the feeling of division, between you and I, us and them, we and they.

As well as by the split, the division, the separation, the duality, between what I am and what I should be, between my sense of envy or jealousy or hurt and ‘me’ (between the observer and the observed).

There is only the fact of what I am, the what is, which has no opposite.

Thanks for all this, I will read it throughout the day. I always accepted that thought was limited because it’s part of the impermanent material process.

You’re very welcome.

Thought is indeed matter, which is limited because matter “begets” only matter, which means that thought “begets” only thought; in other words, thought is limited because all activity of thought is restricted to take place in the domain of thought, because it produces what is suitable only to thought, because whatever arises from thought belongs to thought and remains in the domain of thought, which is why thought cannot bring about anything that is not thought, i.e., peace, love, happiness; knowledge is limited and restricted to the domain of the known for the same reasons. Although limitation may occasionally be considered a hindrance, it is important to understand that limitation is a universal “law” or phenomenon, that it is everywhere operating according to its function, which is to preserve order, and that any violation of this order is conflict.

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Limitation with respect to the physical world is simply a physical fact, so this doesn’t cause conflict.

The question is why the limitation of thought creates conflict.

All thought is limited, but not all thoughts create conflict. The memory of how to boil a kettle doesn’t create conflict.

But conflict takes place when I take a mental image - which is clearly a fragment, an abstraction - as a fact in itself.

The word is not the thing, etc.

So my image of you is not you. My identification with a religion or a nation is both an abstraction as well as being a limited identity, which separates me from another who identifies with a different religion, a different nation.

Wherever thought takes over one’s perceptions and awareness this danger - of limited identification, limited abstraction which is taken as real - exists.

Putting aside the ambiguous meaning of experience, I think it is clear that all thought is based on memory. Thought arises from knowledge, from what has been previously known, stored up. And so it comes from the past, from what has been recorded, remembered, memory.

What is the relationship of memory to an actual perception? What is the relationship of an actual seeing of a thing to my memory or recording of it?

Obviously my memory or record of a thing is a highly filtered abstraction of its totality. It is a limited image, a mental snapshot of the thing, and so necessarily leaves out a whole wealth of details that exist in the original thing.

Not only that, but being an abstraction, an image, it is not living, actual, in the way that the original is living, actual. It is a shadow of the original, a copy, a simulacrum. The word is not the thing.

So if I take this limited representation, this fragmentary copy, as real, as something as real as the original, as something that can stand in for the original, this will obviously create confusion.

If this confusion is maintained inwardly it will produce conflict in oneself. If it comes into contact with another’s limited images, it will create conflict between these different sets of images.

So this seems to be the cause of psychological conflict between people.

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Words - as distinct from thoughts and memories - are a way of fixing in a sensual form the abstraction that thought makes of an experience.

So the word ‘fear’ - for example - is a fixed sensual form that communicates the abstracted or generalised experience (common to all human beings, as well as animals) of stress, adrenaline, discomfort, anxiety, danger, etc.

But the word ‘fear’ is really arbitrary. Any other sensual form to represent the universal experience of fear could have been chosen: which is what we find when we encounter different languages.

Using different words can also be a cause of conflict. But it is possible to share the same basic meaning of a word if we have been educated to use the same language.

Because words and concepts are infinitely malleable, they can be combined to make up complex symbolic systems - such as a religion.

And because most of us lack the proprioceptive awareness to distinguish words from things, and concepts from actual perception, we are capable of being conditioned, programmed, to almost anything: to be a Hindu, a Marxist, a nationalist, a Christian, a Muslim, a Trump supporter, a scientific materialist, etc.

And inwardly, psychologically, we have been conditioned, programmed, to see ourselves as a complex web of thoughts and memories with which we are identified (or with which the brain has identified itself): ‘me’, as opposed to ‘you’.

All of these identities, these programs, are the result of limited thought.

So when there is conflict between two people it implies that each person is identifying themselves with their own program, their own set of words and concepts, their own symbol-system - and these symbol-systems, being limited, must mutually exclude the other, thereby creating confusion, conflict, misunderstanding.

Is it possible to think together, to communicate together, to share the same meaning for the same word, without being identified with the word or with our own limited understanding of what the word itself points to?

I think it is possible when awareness or intelligence is active in a communication. Because then the word is not the thing, the concept is not the actual: there is only a mutual perceiving, a shared observation of the same facts (which can then be put into words and shared through language).

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My understanding is that without consciousness there is no conflict, therefore all conflict must be rooted in consciousness. If this is so, then conflict must begin the moment consciousness awakens for the first time in the human being, an event that occurs early in life. So, the question is, how does the onset of consciousness bring about conflict? As long as this question remains a mystery, not understood in all its implications, conflict remains. All conflict with “what is”, all conflict with the environment, all conflict between “me” and “you” arises from—is linked to—the conflict that dwells at the root of consciousness, and the ending of this conflict is precisely the ending of all conflict.

My understanding is that consciousness is the movement of thought as a whole: it includes our thoughts/thinking, our reactions and emotions based on our thoughts/thinking - fear, sorrow, pleasure, desire, jealousy, envy, hatred, anger, etc - our imagination, our memories, our experiences and knowledge, including the feeling of ‘I’. All that.

So consciousness is an inclusive term: it includes everything that thought has put together psychologically.

So, as I understand it, consciousness (with its contents) began when thought/thinking became dominant in the human brain. So the complete ending of conflict, psychologically speaking, can only take place when psychological thought - which has put together all the contents of consciousness - comes to an end.

Is this how you understand it?

No, James, this is not how I understand it. A newborn has no experience, no knowledge, and no memory; therefore, it cannot have a consciousness.

When you say, Manuel, that “this is not how I understand it”, it isn’t clear to me what you are denying. I was saying that consciousness, as I understand it, is put together by thought and memory. I don’t think you are denying this. Nor do I think you are denying the fact that consciousness comes into being with psychological thought (although you are free to correct me on this).

What you seem to be denying is the view (not mentioned at all in my post, so I don’t quite see why you bring it up) that the seed of consciousness already exists in baby infants.

I recollect discussing this matter with Adeen a few months ago, so perhaps you saw that?

A newborn baby is already genetically predisposed in various ways, which is why even in early infancy one can detect different personalities, different reactions, different tendencies. Some babies are happier, some more quiet, some more traumatised.

Clearly this seed of consciousness is mostly dormant in young infants, and only becomes dominant once thought develops at a later stage, through language, the influence of parents, culture, etc. But the seed of thought, of consciousness, is there already.

In one of his conversations with brain scientists Krishnamurti said that even the very young child can tell which strangers the mother likes and which strangers she doesn’t like - implying that the seed of psychological conditioning is active already. He often remarked that the beginnings of egotism lie in the very young child’s sense of possessiveness, of claiming ownership over ‘my toy, my food’. And Krishnamurti also said (during a discussion with Shainberg and Bohm) that the stream of consciousness manifests in babies as they are born.

So for Krishnamurti conditioning is already active as soon as the baby is born - conditioning being the seed of consciousness.

It may be that for Krishnamurti this seed did not take root - due to what he called “the vacant mind”. But this is another matter entirely.