Jiddu Krishnamurti was a proponent of personal freedom that rested not on the idea of freeing oneself from something, but acknowledging the burden of the past and the weight of our own conditioning. True freedom, he argues, encompasses an awareness and even a sense of caring for our unified selves, which contain elements we both love and loathe, and everything in between. The undertaking, which echoes this extract from Zen teacher Taisen Deshimaru’s teaching, is ‘the courage required of us’, as set out by the poet Rilke; through it, our solitude becomes apparent and evokes the kinds of sentiments expressed by poets like Wang Wei and Muso.
Freedom is a state of mind—not freedom from something but a sense of freedom, a freedom to doubt and question everything and therefore so intense, active and vigorous that it throws away every form of dependence, slavery, conformity and acceptance. Such freedom implies being completely alone. But can the mind brought up in a culture so dependent on environment and its own tendencies ever find that freedom which is complete solitude and in which there is no leadership, no tradition and no authority?
This solitude is an inward state of mind which is not dependent on any stimulus or any knowledge and is not the result of any experience or conclusion. Most of us, inwardly, are never alone. There is a difference between isolation, cutting oneself off, and aloneness, solitude. We all know what it is to be isolated—building a wall around oneself in order never to be hurt, never to be vulnerable, or cultivating detachment which is another form of agony, or living in some dreamy ivory tower of ideology. Aloneness is something quite different.
“To be alone you must die to the past.”
You are never alone because you are full of all the memories, all the conditioning, all the mutterings of yesterday; your mind is never clear of all the rubbish it has accumulated. To be alone you must die to the past. When you are alone, totally alone, not belonging to any family, any nation, any culture, any particular continent, there is that sense of being an outsider. The man who is completely alone in this way is innocent and it is this innocency that frees the mind from sorrow.
We carry about with us the burden of what thousands of people have said and the memories of all our misfortunes. To abandon all that totally is to be alone, and the mind that is alone is not only innocent but young—not in time or age, but young, innocent, alive at whatever age—and only such a mind can see that which is truth and that which is not measurable by words.
In this solitude you will begin to understand the necessity of living with yourself as you are, not as you think you should be or as you have been. See if you can look at yourself without any tremor, any false modesty, any fear, any justification or condemnation—just live with yourself as you actually are.
“See if you can look at yourself without any tremor, any false modesty, any fear, any justification or condemnation—just live with yourself as you actually are.”
It is only when you live with something intimately that you begin to understand it. But the moment you get used to it—get used to your own anxiety or envy or whatever it is—you are are no longer living with it. If you live by a river, after a few days you do not hear the sound of the water any more, or if you have a picture in the room which you see every day you lose it after a week. It is the same with the mountains, the valleys, the trees—the same with your family, your husband, your wife. But to live with something like jealousy, envy or anxiety you must never get used to it, never accept it. You must care for it as you would care for a newly planted tree, protect it against the sun, against the storm. You must care for it, not condemn it or justify it. Therefore you begin to love it. When you care for it, you are beginning to love it. It is not that you love being envious or anxious, as so many people do, but rather that you care for watching.
So can you-—can you and I—live with what we actually are, knowing ourselves to be dull, envious, fearful, believing we have tremendous affection when we have not, getting easily hurt, easily flattered and bored can we live with all that, neither accepting it nor denying it, but just observing it without becoming morbid, depressed or elated ?
“You cannot become free gradually. It is not a matter of time.”
Now let us ask ourselves a further question. Is this freedom, this solitude, this coming into contact with the whole structure of what we are in ourselves—is it to be come upon through time? That is, is freedom to be achieved through a gradual process? Obviously not, because as soon as you introduce time you are enslaving yourself more and more. You cannot become free gradually. It is not a matter of time.
The next question is, can you become conscious of that freedom? If you say, ‘I am free’, then you are not free. It is like a man saying, ‘I am happy’. The moment he says, ‘I am happy’ he is living in a memory of something that has gone. Freedom can only come about naturally, not through wishing, wanting, longing. Nor will you find it by creating an image of what you think it is. To come upon it the mind has to learn to look at life, which is a vast movement, without the bondage of time, for freedom lies beyond the field of consciousness.
Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
From: Freedom from the Known