In case people would like to have quick sense of what K meant by silence, I am sharing a few extracts (11 in total) by Krishnamurti on the subject of silence below, to give his general view. However I don’t wish for this topic to be limited to what Krishnamurti has said or what these extracts communicate - the topic is on silence generally.
The extract that interests me personally is the final longish one (number 11), taken from a longer conversation between K and some of his friends and colleagues in India. In this discussion they talk about the importance of harmony between the intellect, the emotions, and the body - without which, K suggests, there can be no true silence. In exploring what it means to have this harmony it becomes apparent that it is the awareness of the disharmony that is important, not harmony or silence per se:
K: Let us deal with disharmony and not with silence; when there is the understanding of disharmony, from that may flow naturally silence… We started out with silence, and we said, ‘Look, it is no good discussing silence until you find out whether there is a natural way of coming to it.’ The artificial way – we have been through that. Therefore we asked, ‘What is the natural way?’ The natural way is to find out if there is harmony, but we do not know anything about harmony because we are in a state of disorder. So let’s deal with disorder, not with harmony, not with silence, but with disorder.
I found this illuminating, and am interested in exploring it. But the topic is open to whatever people find significant in relation to the question of silence.
The mind can be silent only when it understands its own movement as thought and feeling. To understand this movement of thought and feeling there can be no condemnation in observing it. (Freedom from the Known)
A mediative mind is silent. It is not the silence which thought can conceive of; it is not the silence of a still evening; it is the silence when thought—with all its images, its words and perceptions—has entirely ceased. This meditative mind is the religious mind—the religion that is not touched by the church, the temples or by chants. (The Only Revolution)
The quality of silence is not felt by the brain; it is beyond the brain. Stillness is beyond its range, beyond all imagination, beyond all desire. (Meditations)
The mind that has put its house in order, has understood the nature of knowledge. Such a mind is completely silent. And that silence has no cause. You see, “silence” can be illusory; it can be put together by a thought that is determined to be silent. You have the silence between the two whistles of a train, the silence between two notes, between two noises, between two sounds, between two thoughts—but that kind of silence is still within the realm of cognition. But when the mind is completely silent, it is not even aware that it is silent. If it were, it would merely be playing tricks… That silence has no cause and, therefore, has no end. Only that which has a cause can end. That silence—which has no ending—is absolutely necessary, because it is only in that silence that there is no movement of thought. It is only in that silence that that which is sacred, that which is nameless, and that which is not measurable by thought, is. And that which is, is the most sacred. That is meditation. (A Timeless Spring: Krishnamurti at Rajghat)
One has to go into the whole nature of silence. There is silence between two noises. There is silence between two thoughts. There is silence between two notes in music. There is silence after noise. There is silence when thought says, “I must be silent,” and creates artificial silence, thinking it is real silence. There is silence when you sit quietly and force your mind to be silent. All those are artificial silences; they are not real, deep, uncultivated, unpremeditated silence. Silence can only come psychologically when there is no registration whatsoever. Then the mind, the brain itself, is utterly without movement. In that great depth of silence that is not induced, not cultivated, not practiced, there may come that extraordinary sense of something immeasurable, nameless. (This Light in Oneself)
You need to have a mind that is absolutely silent, absolutely, not relatively - there is the silence when you go of an evening in the woods, there is great silence, all the birds have gone to bed, the wind, the whisper of the leaves has ended, there is great stillness, there is the outward stillness. And people observe that stillness and say, ‘I must have that stillness’, and therefore depend on the stillness of being alone - you understand? - being in solitude. That is not stillness. And there is the stillness created by thought. Which is, thought says, ‘I must be still, I must be quiet, I mustn’t chatter,’ and gradually it produces a stillness. But that is not it, because it is the result of thought operating on noise. Right? So we are talking of a stillness which is not dependent on anything. And it is only that quality of stillness, that absolute silence of the mind that can see that which is eternal, timeless, nameless. This is meditation. (Talk 7, Saanen, 1979)
Silence isn’t the space between two noises. Silence isn’t the cessation of noise. Silence isn’t something that thought has created. It comes naturally, inevitably as you open, as you observe, as you examine, as you investigate. So then the question arises, silence, without a movement. Movement of direction. Movement of thought, Movement of time. All silence. Now, that silence, can that operate in my daily life? I live in the field of noise as knowledge. That I have to do. And is there a living with silence and at the same time the other? The two moving together, two rivers flowing in balance. Not division. You follow? In harmony. There is no division. Is that possible? Because otherwise, if that’s not possible to be deeply honest I can only live there in the field of knowledge…. When the mind is utterly silent what is the immeasurable? You follow, sir? What is the everlasting? What is the eternal? Not in terms of God, and you know all these things man has invented. Actually to be that. Now silence in that deep sense of that word opens the door. Because you’ve got there all your energy. Not a thing is wasted. There is no dissipation of energy at all. Therefore in that silence there is summation of energy… Therefore there is all that energy which has been wasted is now gathered in that silence. You follow? That silence has become sacred. (18th Conversation with Alan Anderson)
The only silence we know is the silence when noise stops, the silence when thought stops - but that is not silence. Silence is something entirely different, like beauty, like love. And this silence is not the product of a quiet mind, it is not the product of the brain cells which have understood the whole structure and say, `For God’s sake be quiet’; then the brain cells themselves produce the silence and that is not silence. Nor is silence the outcome of attention in which the observer is the observed; then there is no friction, but that is not silence… That silence which is not the silence of the ending of noise is only a small beginning. It is like going through a small hole to an enormous, wide, expansive ocean, to an immeasurable, timeless state. But this you cannot understand verbally unless you have understood the whole structure of consciousness and the meaning of pleasure, sorrow and despair, and the brain cells themselves have become quiet. Then perhaps you may come upon that mystery which nobody can reveal to you and nothing can destroy. (Freedom from the Known)
You see… the truth of that mystery makes the mind completely empty. Just a minute. Completely – it’s like something silent. It’s completely silent. Or because it is silent it sees it. Not sees – it’s aware of it. Because it is silent the truth of that mystery is. I don’t know if I am conveying anything. When the mind is completely silent – not induced, not meditated upon – you follow? – all that – when it is… because it has put order in reality, therefore it is free from that confusion, there is a certain silence. But that silence is not real silence because it is just moving away from confusion, but that’s not silence. Realising that that is not silence, and not moving away from realisation. Am I conveying something? In the sense, realising that and staying there, saying, ‘This is not real silence.’ Which means negating that which order has produced. (Limits of Thought)
A man who knows that he is silent, who knows that he loves, does not know what love is or what silence is. (Freedom from the Known)
SP: People define silence as the absence of thought.
K: I can go blank, without any thought, just look at something and go blank – is that silence?
SP: How do you know it is true silence?
K: Let’s begin by asking: Is there a right approach to silence, and what is that ‘right’, and are there many varieties of silence? And is silence an absence of thought? Which implies a great many things, such as I can go blank suddenly: I am thinking a great deal, and I just stop and look at something and go blank, vaguely daydreaming. That is why I would like to approach this question by asking: is there a true approach to silence? You started with that question. I think we ought to take that first and go into the other things afterwards.
SP: You seem to be giving emphasis to the true approach rather than to the nature of true silence.
K: I think so. Because there are those people who have practised silence, controlling thought, mesmerizing themselves into silence, and controlling their chattering mind to such an extent that the mind becomes absolutely dull, stupid, and silent. So I want to start the inquiry from this point of right approach; otherwise we will wander off. I think it is safer to find out if there is a…
MF: …natural approach.
K: …natural, sane, healthy approach. Sanity is health. Is there a healthy, logical, objective, balanced approach to silence? Could we proceed from that? I know a great deal from what people have told me; one has talked a great deal about it too. What is the necessity for silence?
PJ: It is very easy to understand the necessity for silence. During an ordinary day, when a constantly chattering mind, a constantly irritated mind, comes to rest, there is a feeling of being refreshed. The mind is refreshed, apart from anything else. So silence itself is important.
SB: Also, even in the ordinary sense, there is no seeing or listening; there is no seeing of colour, no seeing of things unless there is a certain quality of silence.
K: Of course, yes.
SP: There is also the whole tradition that silence is important, necessary. Therefore there are these systems, whether it is watching the prana or breath or doing pranayama, the various measures which people make use of so that there is a state of silence. It is not an unhealthy state of silence, but there is that state.
K: Suppose you don’t know a thing about what other people have said on why you should be silent, would you ask the question?
PJ: You would still ask. Even at the level of its being a tranquillizer you would ask the question.
K: So you ask the question in order to tranquillize the mind. The mind is chattering, and it is wearisome and exhausting. So you ask, ‘Is there a way of tranquillizing the mind without drugs?’ We know the way of tranquillizing the mind with drugs, but is there another way which will naturally, healthily, sanely, logically bring about tranquillity to the mind? How would you approach this? Being weary, exhausted by the chattering of the mind, I ask myself, ‘Can I, without the use of drugs, quieten the mind? Is there a way of doing it?’ That is natural, I would ask that. Now, is there?
SP: There are many ways.
K: Ah, I don’t know any way. You all say there are many ways. I don’t read anything except detective novels and history books and so on. I come from a land where we don’t know first-hand any of these things. So I ask, can the mind do this without effort? Because, effort implies disturbance of the mind. It doesn’t bring about tranquillity; it brings about exhaustion, and exhaustion is not tranquillity. It’s like a businessman, exhausted at the end of the day, taking a drink to be quiet, to calm his nerves. So conflict will not bring about tranquillity. Conflict will bring about exhaustion, and the exhaustion may be translated as silence by those who are completely washed out at the end of the day; they say, ‘At last, I can go into my meditation room and be quiet.’ So is it possible to bring about tranquillity to the mind, without conflict, without discipline, without distortion? All those are exhausting processes.
SP: I’ll ask a simple thing though it may be absurd. When one does pranayama, there is no conflict in it, but there is silence, and it doesn’t exhaust you. What is the nature of this silence?
K: There you are breathing, getting more oxygen into your system, and the oxygen naturally helps you to be relaxed.
SP: So, that is also a state of silence.
K: We will discuss this state of silence afterwards, but I want to find out whether the mind can become tranquil without any kind of effort, breathing, enforcement, control, direction… I want to start from the point where the mind is agitated, chattering, exhausting itself by incessant friction of thought, and it asks, ‘Is it possible to be really quiet without any artificial means?’ To me that is the central issue. That’s how I would approach it if I went into it. I would discard anything artificial. If I was investigating, I would consider as artificial, control, drugs, breathing, watching the breath, watching your toe, watching a light, mantras. All those are artificial means which induce a peculiar kind of silence… What is the natural way, natural state of tranquillity? How does one come upon it naturally? As SB said, if I want to listen to what you are saying, my mind must be quiet; that is a natural thing. If I want to see something clearly, the mind mustn’t be chattering; that is a natural thing…
PJ: In that is all poise, all sanity. I see that.
K: So I would say the basis for the depth of silence is poise, harmony between the mind, body, and heart, great harmony, the setting aside any artificial methods, including control and all the rest of it. I would say, that is the basis. The real basis is harmony.
PJ: But what is it? It doesn’t solve anything.
K: Wait. We haven’t solved anything.
PJ: You have used another word ‘harmony’.
K: Yes. I will come to that. Therefore I say this is the basis for silence.
SP: Right silence.
K: For right silence.
PJ: But the whole thing is conflict.
K: All right. Therefore don’t talk about silence. Deal with conflict, not with silence. If there is disharmony between the mind, heart, and body, deal with that, not with silence. If you deal with silence, while being disharmonious, then it is artificial. This is so. Now I am getting at it.
TKP: The agitated mind naturally tends towards a state of non-agitation.
K: So be concerned with the agitated mind, not with silence. Deal with what is and not with what might be. This comes logically right; I’ll stick to this.
RB: Are you asking whether the agitated mind can deal with its own agitation?
K: That is a different question. SB: She is saying the agitated mind naturally asks the question: can it subside?
K: Yes. So be concerned, not with silence, but with why it is agitated.
TKP: It conceives of the opposite state of non-agitation.
K: That’s then a conflict, and the opposite has its roots within its own opposite.
RB: Yes. The concept itself is part of the agitation.
K: So I would say complete harmony is the foundation for the purity of silence.
SP: How does one know of this complete harmony?
K: You don’t. Let’s go into that, not into silence. We will later on come to the question of the varieties of silence. So what is harmony? I want to find out what is harmony between the mind, body, and heart. A total sense of being whole, without fragmentation, without the overdevelopment of the intellect, but with the intellect operating clearly, objectively, sanely. And the heart has in it a quality of affection, care, love, compassion, vitality – not sentiment, gooey emotionalism, outbreak of hysteria. And the body has its own intelligence, un-interfered with by the intellect or by taste – the feeling that everything is operating, functioning beautifully like a marvellous machinery, even though it is not physically well. I think this is important. Now, is this possible? … we have to bring about a natural harmony where the intellect functions like a marvellous watch, where the emotions and affections, care, love, compassion, all those are functioning healthily, and the body, which has been so despoiled, which has been so misused, comes into its own intelligence. So there is that. Now, how do you do that?
GM: I adore knowledge because I need it.
K: Of course I made that very clear, don’t let me repeat it. I need knowledge; to talk to you in English I need knowledge of English. I don’t know any Indian language, so I have to use English; that’s knowledge. I have to ride a bicycle, that is knowledge. I have to drive a car; that’s knowledge. I have to drive an engine, a motor; that is knowledge.
SWS: No. There is a sick person, and the doctor can’t cure him, so I go to someone else who is superior in knowledge.
K: Yes, that is still within the field of knowledge. Knowledge is necessary, but when knowledge is misused by the centre as the ‘me’ who has got knowledge, and therefore I feel superior to the man who has less knowledge, then I use it as status for myself. I am more important than the poor chap who has no knowledge… So I want to get back. Radhaji asked just now, ‘Why is there division between the mind, the heart, and the body?’ We see why. Now… how is this division to come naturally into deep harmony? How do you do it? Enforcement can’t do it, nor the ideal of harmony; therefore I must lessen my intellect. It becomes too silly. So what shall I do?
SWS: Can I bring it about, or has it to come into being by itself?
K: What do you say?
SWS: I can’t bring it about.
K: So what will you do? One is aware of this division, isn’t one? Intellect, emotion, and body – there is this tremendous division between them, a gap. How is the mind to remove all these gaps and be a whole mechanism functioning beautifully? What do the traditionalists say?
MF: Effort, only effort. Clench your teeth.
K: Clench your teeth and bite into it, is that it?
PJ: I think we are getting bogged down.
K: No, I’m not sure.
PJ: I will tell you why: you used the word ‘harmony’.
K: I’m using it. Use another word.
PJ: That’s just it. We had the word ‘silence’.
K: Ah, we won’t touch it.
PJ: We won’t touch ‘silence’. Then you take the word ‘harmony’; we cannot touch the word ‘harmony’.
K: Then what will you do? Then why pursue silence?
PJ: So we come back to only one thing which we know: disharmony.
K: That’s all. That’s all I am coming to.
PJ: But there is this division.
K: Therefore I say let us deal with disharmony and not with silence; when there is the understanding of disharmony, from that may flow naturally silence… Pupul says we started out with silence, and we said, ‘Look, it is no good discussing silence until you find out whether there is a natural way of coming to it.’ The artificial way – we have been through that. Therefore we asked, ‘What is the natural way?’ The natural way is to find out if there is harmony, but we do not know anything about harmony because we are in a state of disorder. So let’s deal with disorder, not with harmony, not with silence, but with disorder. (Explorations and Insights)