The pathless mind

Krishnamurti: The mere search for the solution of your problems is not going to free the mind from creating further problems.

Ojai, California | 12th Public Talk 1st July, 1934

The question of whether the self is “real” is one that has occupied religious and philosophical thinkers throughout the ages.

From a psychological standpoint, the self is typically understood as a complex psychological construct that emerges from a combination of biological, social, and cultural factors. While it is generally acknowledged that the self is subjective, shaped by external factors such as social norms, cultural values, and interpersonal relationships, it is nonetheless felt as “real” in the sense that it is a tangible and observable aspect of human experience.

In Western philosophical traditions such as existentialism or phenomenology, the self is often seen as a fundamental aspect of human existence, and its reality is taken for granted. In contrast, in Eastern traditions such as Buddhism, the self is considered to be an illusion, or a product of ignorance, and the ultimate goal of spiritual practice is to transcend the illusion of the self.

Krishnamurti appears to be at odds with certain elements of both these perspectives.

While not discounting the reality of the feeling of self-ness, Krishnamurti questions whether this self is “actual”. At the heart of his teaching lies the statement that “the observer is the observed”, the implications of which are profound and far reaching. It means that the self is not a separate entity that exists independently of the world around it. Instead, it arises in relation to the objects, people, and events that it observes. He argues that the self has no basis in objective reality. Rather, it is a magic trick, conjured up by the mind.

In Krishnamurti’s view, given this interplay of self and the world, there is no spiritual practice that does not also generate another version of the self. As he sees it, following an ideology only perpetuates the cycle of suffering and limitations, as it reinforces the very structures of thought and conditioning that prevent individuals from experiencing true freedom. Instead, he encouraged people to adhere to nothing, including their own beliefs, discoveries, understanding and preconceived notions.

Krishnamurti coined the term “pathless” to refer to a state of being that is free from the limitations imposed by the mind and its conditioning, and one that is characterized by a direct, immediate, and ongoing meeting of reality on its own terms. At least on an intuitive level, it makes sense that a pathless state of mind is an essential ingredient for creative perception and perhaps even for the realization of true wisdom and freedom.


The beginning is completely with my self as a human being. It is not with the inner, or outer, dialogue that we are having. While we can talk about all this, essentially I have to get a sense of the complete response I am having, mind, body, emotions, feelings, thoughts, beliefs and ideas. Seriously talking together we can see this by negating what is thought about all this, giving rise to serious self-reflection, not shifting around with ideas, and all that stuff, and becoming aware of this immediate responsibility that is me. This is a start. I am open to learning.
In this non-reactionary position, not searching for words and ideas, not trying to find a verbal or intellectual position, you may notice there is this anguish, or disturbed mind, trying to find meaning, and order. It can be very unsettling. Or you might go straight to a position of quiet, careful, alert, watching and listening, like meditation.
Then, and I think this is not immediately obvious, and we do take advice from someone such as K, there is an underlying condition - I am separate. (Look into it for yourself.) This is our basic perception, which we use in life. But it is not clear to self, to the thinker. This innate separateness, this division, is what we are fundamentally working to solve, overcome, or rebel against, and why we have created all the philosophies and religions, and seek unity. It is what is in the competitive and combative social order.


“the observer is the observed”, which usually K clarifies:
“Psychologically, the observer is the observed”.
As I understand what K explains about it, is that I am not different from the fear (as an example), but me, the “I” creates fear, so that the division about the “me” and the fear is not actual, fear is a byproduct of the structure of the “I”. So, trying to overcome the fear will never happen, only will create inner conflict, waste of energy, and prevent to remain with the fact of fear.
As I understand, K insists in remain with fear, look at it, without trying to change it, just remain, fully remain, look, observe it.

I think this problem of the existence of the self comes from our difficulty of distinguishing the sense of the self from the assumption of the existence of a self.

I’ll try to explain what I mean. In doing so I’m giving myself the opportunity to find out whether what I think is correct or functional, i.e., it might lead to a real insight or it is just an idle reasoning which does not lead anywhere.

The sense of the self is something real, useful, necessary and functional, at least at the physical level. We cannot live without it. At the beginning of its life the baby is not able to differentiate between itself (its body) and its mother. There is only the perception of the various senses: touch, light and figures, taste, smell and sounds. But no separation is made among those perceptions. At one point of its growth, he learns to differentiate between itself and the mother and all the other external “things”. In that moment the sense of the self is born.

The sense of the self, i.e. the capacity of differentiate between this separate biological organism here and the rest of the world out there, is a consequence of a general important feature of the nervous system to differentiate among the various perceptions. It’s part of its inborn intelligence because we cannot survive in this world if we cannot see or perceive the various differences in shapes, colours, etc. So actually this sense of the self acts for the better: self-preservation, self-orientation, self-care. But is there an entity we can call the self?

At one moment of its life the child acquires the concept of being a psychological entity, I can’t remember when now, but I think it takes a couple of years. This means that thought is developed enough to organize the memories and identifies itself with part of those memories. In that moment there is another differentiation (or separation) taking place between the supposed self and its memories. From that moment on various psychological problems are bound to arise: desires, fears, sorrows, frustrations… It seems that while the sense of the self – as the sense of being a separate biological organism – is functional, the structure of this psychological entity is not.

This entity is not capable of perceiving things but only to think about them and in thinking there will always be an observer and the thing being observed. I walk and the self thinks: “I’m walking”, but actually I’m not responsible for the act of walking, this is quite easy to see. There are automatic neuronal patterns which make our body walk. So when I’m really observing myself I can see my body is walking and not “me” walking.

I hear K saying: “look without the observer”, “look at your fear without separating yourself from it”. This can only take place if me and my fears are the same stuff, if actually there is no division.
Can I do it? I have done it for a second with an external perception: the moment I’m really observing the world around me, there is no sense of the self. Psychologically I’m not separated.
Not so easy with internal perceptions. What makes me believe that me and my fears are separate?

I think the problem is thought. Thought is always divisive. It creates “entities”. Only perception can allow us to overcome those divisions. So our difficulty is to be sure we are really perceiving fear and not thinking about it. The moment I’m really perceiving fear the self is not and this makes the trick…

I cannot get rid of the sense of the self but I can function in a way which keeps out the self.


Absolutely. Just like the brain, among its many activities, engages in the activity of thinking and thinking then creates a thinker that is not actually there. We have the whole thing backwards: thoughts and thinking are not the product of a thinker, rather it is the thinker who is the product of one of the many activities of an organ called brain.


When i read the comments and when i read or listen to K ( if I listen at all), do i really see this happening ( after all, it is just a discription and not the actual thing as it unfolded itself).
Unfortunately, we are rather good in discribing, and we are hiding.
The fact is that we understand K on an intellectual basis, but i think we need more than that, do we not?
K has warned us repeatedly for this trap but we seem to be trapped constantly.
The other day s.o met with K and they discuss a lot of things.
The person didn’t quite grasp what K ,as pointing out and he went to sleep.
The next day he awakened and he seemed to have understood what K was talking about.
He went to K and said : sir, I have understood what you were saying. I have got an insight.
And K replied : all is well, now drop it!
So, i am asking : we also seem to have all these insights, can we drop them so not to let them taking root in the brain, becoming knowledge, from which we than act.


Thought isn’t always “divisive”. If practical thought is divisive, is it not practical to divide the doer from the done-to? If I’m doing auto mechanics, is it not more practical to distinguish the mechanic from the mechanism than to separate them? Is this not making good use of its ability to make artificial divisions?

It creates “entities”.

It depends what you mean by “entities”. The engine a mechanic works on is an entity, but thinking of it as such is enabling and not a problem. But if what you mean by an “entity” is a being, a person, real or imagined, than it’s a problem when thought personifies itself, imagining itself as an actual being.

When that happens, psychological thought is born, and psychological thought is the problem. So when we’re talking about thought, we need to keep in mind that we are the fusion of practical and psychological thought, which is to say that we are confused. And until/unless we can always distinguish between one and the other, we will remain confused.

I cannot get rid of the sense of the self but I can function in a way which keeps out the self.

That’s an interesting conclusion. Is it drawn from the way you operate now, or is it speculation? If you feel that you are effectively keeping out the self, could you be deceiving yourself, or are you actually doing this?

If the self isn’t real, wouldn’t it be enough to realize that the self is no more real than anything else you can imagine? And wouldn’t this realization be the end of the apparent existence of the self?

Understanding K “on an intellectual basis” is not as easy as understanding something practical because K’s teaching is a threat to our sense of who we are, and we reflexively (and unconsciously) resist what he was saying, and this resistance manifests as our interpretation of what he was saying.

We want to have it both ways. We want to grasp K’s teaching and keep our illusions, and it can’t be done without subverting the teaching with our so-called understanding.