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Can thinking solve our problems?

J. Krishnamurti

Thought has not solved our problems and I don’t think it ever will. We have relied on the intellect to show us the way out of our complexity. The more cunning, the more hideous, the more subtle the intellect is, the greater the variety of systems, of theories, of ideas. And ideas do not solve any of our human problems; they never have and they never will. The mind is not the solution; the way of thought is obviously not the way out of our difficulty. It seems to me that we should first understand this process of thinking, and perhaps be able to go beyond – for when thought ceases, perhaps we shall be able to find a way which will help us to solve our problems, not only the individual but also the collective.

Thinking has not solved our problems. The clever ones, the philosophers, the scholars, the political leaders, have not really solved any of our human problems – which are the relationship between you and another, between you and myself. So far we have used the mind, the intellect, to help us investigate the problem and thereby are hoping to find a solution. Can thought ever dissolve our problems? Is not thought, unless it is in the laboratory or on the drawing board, always self-protecting, self-perpetuating, conditioned? Is not its activity self-centred? And can such thought ever resolve any of the problems which thought itself has created? Can the mind, which has created the problems, resolve those things that it has itself brought forth?

Surely thinking is a reaction. If I ask you a question, you respond to it – you respond according to your memory, to your prejudices, to your upbringing, to the climate, to the whole background of your conditioning; you reply accordingly, you think accordingly. The centre of this background is the ‘me’ in the process of action. So long as that background is not understood, so long as that thought process, that self which creates the problem, is not understood and put an end to, we are bound to have conflict, within and without, in thought, in emotion, in action. No solution of any kind, however clever, however well thought out, can ever put an end to the conflict between man and man, between you and me. Realizing this, being aware of how thought springs up and from what source, then we ask, “Can thought ever come to an end?”

That is one of the problems, is it not? Can thought resolve our problems? By thinking over the problem, have you resolved it? Any kind of problem – economic, social, religious – has it ever been really solved by thinking? In your daily life, the more you think about a problem, the more complex, the more irresolute, the more uncertain it becomes. Is that not so? – in our actual, daily life? You may, in thinking out certain facets of the problem, see more clearly another person’s point of view, but thought cannot see the completeness and fullness of the problem – it can only see partially and a partial answer is not a complete answer, therefore it is not a solution.

The more we think over a problem, the more we investigate, analyse and discuss it, the more complex it becomes. So is it possible to look at the problem comprehensively, wholly? How is this possible? Because that, it seems to me, is our major difficulty. Our problems are being multiplied – there is imminent danger of war, there is every kind of disturbance in our relationships – and how can we understand all that comprehensively, as a whole? Obviously it can be solved only when we can look at it as a whole – not in compartments, not divided. When is that possible? Surely it is only possible when the process of thinking – which has its source in the ‘me’, the self, in the background of tradition, of conditioning, of prejudice, of hope, of despair – has come to an end. Can we understand this self, not by analysing, but by seeing the thing as it is, being aware of it as a fact and not as a theory? – not seeking to dissolve the self in order to achieve a result but seeing the activity of the self, the ‘me’, constantly in action? Can we look at it, without any movement to destroy or to encourage? That is the problem, is it not? If, in each one of us, the centre of the ‘me’ is non-existent, with its desire for power, position, authority, continuance, self-preservation, surely our problems will come to an end!

The self is a problem that thought cannot resolve. There must be an awareness which is not of thought. To be aware, without condemnation or justification, of the activities of the self – just to be aware – is sufficient. If you are aware in order to find out how to resolve the problem, in order to transform it, in order to produce a result, then it is still within the field of the self, of the ‘me’. So long as we are seeking a result, whether through analysis, through awareness, through constant examination of every thought, we are still within the field of thought, which is within the field of the ‘me’, of the ‘I’, of the ego, or what you will.

As long as the activity of the mind exists, surely there can be no love. When there is love, we shall have no social problems. But love is not something to be acquired. The mind can seek to acquire it, like a new thought, a new gadget, a new way of thinking; but the mind cannot be in a state of love so long as thought is acquiring love. So long as the mind is seeking to be in a state of non-greed, surely it is still greedy, is it not? Similarly, so long as the mind wishes, desires, and practises in order to be in a state in which there is love, surely it denies that state, does it not?

Seeing this problem, this complex problem of living, and being aware of the process of our own thinking and realizing that it actually leads nowhere – when we deeply realize that, then surely there is a state of intelligence which is not individual or collective. Then the problem of the relationship of the individual to society, of the individual to the community, of the individual to reality, ceases; because then there is only intelligence, which is neither personal nor impersonal. It is this intelligence alone, I feel, that can solve our immense problems. That cannot be a result; it comes into being only when we understand this whole total process of thinking, not only at the conscious level but also at the deeper, hidden levels of consciousness.

To understand any of these problems we have to have a very quiet mind, a very still mind, so that the mind can look at the problem without interposing ideas or theories, without any distraction. That is one of our difficulties – because thought has become a distraction. When I want to understand, look at something, I don’t have to think about it – I look at it. The moment I begin to think, to have ideas, opinions about it, I am already in a state of distraction, looking away from the thing which I must understand. So thought, when you have a problem, becomes a distraction – thought being an idea, opinion, judgement, comparison – which prevents us from looking and thereby understanding and resolving the problem. Unfortunately for most of us thought has become so important. You say, “How can I exist, be, without thinking? How can I have a blank mind ?” To have a blank mind is to be in a state of stupor, idiocy or what you will, and your instinctive reaction is to reject it. But surely a mind that is very quiet, a mind that is not distracted by its own thought, a mind that is open, can look at the problem very directly and very simply. And it is this capacity to look without any distraction at our problems that is the only solution. For that there must be a quiet, tranquil mind.

Such a mind is not a result, is not an end product of a practice, of meditation, of control. It comes into being through no form of discipline or compulsion or sublimation, without any effort of the ‘me’, of thought; it comes into being when I understand the whole process of thinking – when I can see a fact without any distraction. In that state of tranquillity of a mind that is really still there is love. And it is love alone that can solve all our human problems.

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