Is there a Path to Truth ?



by Prof. P. Krishna



In this talk I wish to revisit a question that was posed by Krishnamurti way back in 1929, when he dissolved the Star of the East in Holland. I want to revisit it because it is in exploring a question afresh, without agreeing or disagreeing with any past conclusions, that we grow in our understanding and our own wisdom. If we merely say, " Yes, I agree ,there is no path to truth" or "I disagree, there is a path to truth", in both cases we only take sides with an opinion and remain ignorant ourselves. So this evening , if I may, I would like to investigate this question from first principles without assuming prior knowledge and starting afresh from observation.


In order to explore this question we must ask ourselves what we mean by the truth. Normally, in society, in the commonly accepted sense and parlance, we mean by truth a statement which is an accurate description of something that actually happened or is a fact. We also use the word truth in another sense, when it describes a law in Nature or a certain cause and effect relationship. We say for instance that the law of gravity is a great truth about Nature. It is an accurate statement which is verifiable and which holds true as the cause and effect relationship in the phenomena that take place all around us. So, that is another sense in which we talk of the truth. Scholars often talk about truth as a rational conclusion. They will check the truth or falsity of a statement by applying logic and reason to it and if they can deduce something which is obviously absurd, they will conclude that the original premise is not true. All these meanings of truth have their own legitimate significance in the sphere in which we talk about them. But truth has a totally different meaning in the religious quest.

In the religious quest, a truth is not merely an accurate description of a fact. It lies at the level of perception, not at the level of ideation. For instance, I can read all that the Buddha said and all that has been said by various people about what the Buddha said and I could become a scholar of Buddhist philosophy but the Professor of Buddhist philosophy is not the Buddha. The difference is not in the lectures that he can give. The Professor may even be able to speak better than the Buddha and explain various points better than the Buddha could explain.The difference lies in the fact that his consciousness is not the Buddha consciousness and unless there is a transformation of consciousness, there is no wisdom , there is only knowledge. Knowledge may transform ideas in the mind but knowledge does not transform consciousness.

In the scientific field, in the field of knowledge, an accurate statement is a truth and you can use it. You can use the law of gravity without having any deep perception about space, time, matter and energy. The first scientist who discovered that law might have had a tremendous insight, which I do not have. But I can use that formula and the formula works. Therefore, in that field , the formula has value. Accurate definitions have value because they can be used and they work, even though I may not have the same deep perception as the first person who discovered that truth or that idea.But in the religious quest, if one has only collected accurate ideas and the knowledge of the truth, one has only ashes because one still lives with fear, with conflict, with greed, with ego problems and therefore the Professor of Philosophy is an ordinary man, because he has the same consciousness and all the problems which are there in the consciousness of the ordinary man. He is not a sage. The religious quest is a quest for wisdom and wisdom is different from knowledge. So, when we are asking if there is a path to truth, we are asking whether there is a path to wisdom , whether there is path to come upon a deep perception of the truth for ourselves - what Krishnamurti referred to as an insight.


There is a path to knowledge. The scholar has it. There is also the analytical path to arriving at conclusions. So, there are many paths but do they lead to religious truths is the question ? Truth is not a matter of agreement or disagreement. All that lies in the plane of knowledge, thought and analysis, and there is a lot which lies in this field. Our daily life is in that field of thinking , planning ,imagination and efforts and in that field there are paths. But there is another plane of our existence, which is the plane of awareness, of wisdom, of vision, of silence, of perception, all of which are not thought based faculties. We are often unaware of the value of this plane. But I think that religious truths lie in this plane, because they are at the level of perception and not at the level of ideation. Truth lies in this plane and the paths which we follow in our every day life, none of those lead to this plane.

There is a very strange and mysterious relationship between this plane of awareness and insight and the plane of our daily activities, efforts, achievements and so on. So, the question arises how does perception take place if there is no path by which we can go there. There is a joke that was prevalent in Brockwood, which is the Krishnamurti school in England. One student asked another , " If it is a pathless land, how does one get there ?" The other student replies, " Get lost !". There is a truth in that statement. It is mysterious how the human mind comes upon a totally new perception. Without that perception there is no real transformation of consciousness and therefore there is no real fundamental change in the first plane. So, though my life is in the first plane of effort and achievement and relationships and thought and planning and all that, any fundamental understanding or transformation in this plane comes from the other plane, not from within this plane. Within this plane there is effort, there is ambition there is ego. But if I have a deep insight and that brings a deep realization of a truth for myself then it fundamentally changes everything in this plane.Realization is not just the knowledge of that truth - - that truth must become real for me. That jump from the knowledge of the truth to the realization of the truth is what we refer to as an insight.

It is a mysterious phenomenon and yet it does occur and every human consciousness has the possibility for insight. When there is no path to insight and yet insight is possible, then I must ask myself, what is it that blocks insight ? Because insight reveals the truth to the mind, knowledge does not. So, I must ask myself what blocks insight ? After all, the truth exists all the time. Then why am I not able to perceive it if it exists ? Because the mind sees all phenomena that are taking place around it through a veil, a screen of illusions, conclusions, past assertions, opinions and so on ,what we call the conditioning. That conditioning is also a fact. Each one of us has it. After all, we are born in a family, we are brought up in a particular culture. As children we imitate the elders around us, not only physically but also in our speech, in our thoughts, and all that makes us what we are. I am the result of all that past, and there is the conditioning from that past which is held in my memory, in my brain . I cannot voluntarily wipe it out. If that produces a screen through which I am seeing, and that screen is constantly distorting perception then I am not able to see the truth, because truth comes into being only when I perceive what is,the fact, without any distortions.

So, we have to ask ourselves, is there a path to end the distortions because so long as the conditioning and the distortion is there, I cannot perceive truth in an undistorted way. And a distorted truth is a falsehood.So, the next question is , are we completely trapped in our conditioning ,in our past, or is it possible to break from that past, however little, in whatever measure. First we must examine whether it is possible at all. Or are we like a programmed computer which can only react in a particular way. Computers do not have insight. They do not have awareness. They are mechanical entities. Their reactions have been fed into them and when I press the same keys, the same reactions appear. We are also like that to some extent, but I am asking,whether we are completely like that ? If I am, then there is no possibility of change. Obviously human beings do change. If you look at your own life, you will find that you have changed, not only outwardly, not only becoming gray with age, but also inwardly. There are certain things, which have dropped away. Some illusions have dropped away.


How does an illusion end? After all we grow up with it. I may grow up in a family which says you must punish children otherwise they get spoiled. I see my brothers and sisters being punished, I see my neighbour doing it, I see other people do it ; so I grow up with this idea that children must be regularly punished otherwise they will get spoiled.Therefore, to me, that appears to be true. There are many such illusions in the mind, at various levels. At the very superficial level they are in the nature of superstitions. Superstitions can go away even with intellectual enquiry and with the study of science. Then there are the cultural illusions which we acquire from our particular culture -- casteism, our attitude towards women,religious divisions and so on. All those are cultural illusions which we acquire from our environment and which we have not examined. We take them to be true and we act on that basis. So there is a lot of falsehood from where we are responding. Then there are the psychological illusions -- the hurt that one has accumulated,the prejudices, the enmities, the fears,the suspicions, the flattery. Psychologists talk about psychological complexes which come from a deep sorrowful experience. Sorrow does not always teach us what the truth is. We also acquire prejudices from sorrow. All that conditions the mind as all those illusions are held in the memory.Finally, may be it is also an illusion that we are separate individuals.The sages have pointed that out to be an illusion. It does not seem true to us that we are not separate individuals, but as we said, illusions are things which we take to be true which may not be true.

There are also other kind of illusions which arise because we regard something as tremendously important, when it may not be so important.The importance our mind gives to money,to success ,to fame ,to skills belongs to this category. Again, most probably the importance is acquired from our culture, so they are in the nature of cultural illusions. Anyway the point is that our mind has got all kinds of illusions and from these illusions it is interpreting all its experiences and the phenomena which it observes. So what will ensure that I pick up the truth from an experience and not a fresh prejudice ? We all know how knowledge grows but how does wisdom grow ? If it did not grow then there would be only born fools and born wise people ! It is not true that that either there are fools or there are wise sages.You do find people who are wiser than other people. So, surely there is such a thing as growth in wisdom. How does that growth in wisdom take place ?

Every time the human consciousness comes upon an insight - however small or large, a certain falsehood drops away, a certain illusion drops away and there is an actual transformation of consciousness. I am not talking about enlightenment, I am talking about an actual change in consciousness as a real change in the way that consciousness responds to external stimuli or phenomena around it. For instance, if one has seen for oneself that comparing oneself with another is a disease created by one's own mind, leading to all kinds of complications in our life, such as jealousy, envy, superiority, inferiority, guilt, rivalry , competition and violence, and comparison ceases, then there has been an actual transformation in that consciousness. Earlier it was not like that ; it has seen the stupidity of comparing and freed itself of that particular illusion, and correspondingly a lot of wastage of energy ends.

So it is not true that we are completely trapped in our past and cannot change.. We do have this possibility of a deep insight, of dropping the false at whatever level.We do have that capacity and it is that perception of the truth which acts on consciousness, not our effort. So, I must in order to understand the meaning of the path understand how such learning takes place. Not merely the learning which is an increase in knowledge, but this learning which is discrimination between what is true and what is false.The ending of the false through the perception of the truth is not a renunciation because it is effortless. Once we perceive the truth the false drops away; it does not need an effort to drop away.


Without such a learning mind there is no growth in wisdom. We may grow in knowledge, but we remain static.Without it there is no growth in the religious quest. So, a mind learning in this sense is the true religious mind. And unless there is this learning mind, no path has any value, because if I do not have the capacity to learn, the path is only going to offer me experiences: the experience of a particular type of meditation, the experience of yoga, experience of sitting and worshipping in a temple, experience of performing a ritual. But do I have the capacity to learn, to perceive truth from that experience ? Otherwise no learning takes place. So, experience by itself does not teach. If it did, all old people would be wise because they are all experienced. They have had much more experience than the young people. That they are wiser is not true. Very often one finds old people extremely prejudiced. So, somewhere along the line we stop growing in wisdom and must ask ourselves what blocks us. What prevents us from growing in wisdom, when we have the capacity to grow in wisdom ? What kills this enquiry into what is true and what is false ? What makes us feel at some stage we have arrived and we cannot go any further, or there is no need to go any further. Then one is blocked. This enquiring mind is the Path ! Without this, the path has no value ; and with it , in every path there is the possibility of perceiving what is true and what is false.

Now one of the factors that blocks insight and seriously distorts perception is of course what we call the ego. So we need to understand this thing called the ego which blocks. How does it arise ? How does it operate ? What does it do to my life ? The sages have said the ego is an illusion. It is not something that exists in our body like our heart or our kidneys or our lungs. It is not something that is put there by Nature.. There is no ego in Nature anywhere. The trees do not have ego; storms blow, cyclones come, but there is no motivation in them to destroy. Therefore there is no ego. The ego is only in human consciousness, which means I create it Nature has not created it . I create it with the faculties I have received through biological evolution as the capacity to think, to remember and to imagine. So I must find out if I have not learned to use these capacities rightly, and therefore I am myself creating the ego and blocking my own learning. It may be the greatest block between me and the perception of truth. The ego is not something very distant, something very philosophical. It is something that all of us know and perceive in our life. When we tell children about the sportsman spirit, we tell them that it is important to play a game for the joy of it, to excel in the game for the joy of it and not give tremendous importance to winning or losing. What we are essentially asking them to do is not to play the game egotistically. Of course it is possible to play a game for the joy of it, for the love of it and not worry too much about the end result of it. The Gita has talked about it too that our concern is not with the reward or the end result but only with the correctness of the action we are performing.. So obviously, if that is possible in a game, why is it not possible in our daily life ?

It seems to me that every action can be performed egotistically and the same action can be performed non-egotistically, so the ego does not lie in the action. It lies in the manner in which I approach that action. It is not my house or my wife that create the ego in me, it is my approach to my house or my wife that creates the ego in me. So if I am creating the ego from moment to moment depending on how I am approaching life then I have to ask myself why am I approaching life that way ? Is it that it is not clear to me that the ego is the greatest enemy of man ? That it is the single factor that creates all the disorder in our life ? That it is the greatest danger ? If it was clear that it is dangerous, why would we approach life that way ? Obviously it is not clear. So whatever the particular path of our religious quest may be, we have to watch within our consciousness the operation of the ego and its consequences so that there is an actual awareness of the danger created by that approach. When I see the danger it will stop naturally, I do not have to stop it . It will stop the way we get no desire to put our finger in the fire,or to walk off a precipice. There is no conflict there because the danger is perceived so clearly. We have not realized the danger of the self-centred approach and that is a deep-rooted illusion. It means that my mind thinks that acting out of self-interest is in my interest because it will benefit me or reward me, when the truth is that it is the single most destructive factor destroying the joy in my life. So, if I am going on with something which is not true, then I am living in an illusion, and this may be the greatest central illusion that blocks all insight.


So, how do we perceive the danger of the ego ? I can give you an intellectual explanation but that will not be perception. Take it as a question. It is a question for me too and I speak to you only as a fellow-enquirer on the path, a friend sharing his own experiences, his own thoughts, his own dilemmas. Take any virtue, any simple thing and and add the ego to it and you will see that it turns into a vice. Take love, add ego to it and it becomes attachment, it becomes possessiveness.Take a wish, which is an innocent thing, add the ego to it and it turns into desire, it turns into addiction, it turns into compulsion.Take humility and add the ego to it and it turns into servility,inferiority.I am just pointing out to you that the real enemy of all of us is the ego and that is simply in the approach we have towards life. If only Bush and Bin Laden could realize that ! If Bush could realize that Bin Laden is not his real enemy but that his own ego is his real enemy, and if Bin Laden realized that Bush is not his enemy, but his own ego is his enemy, then they would be friends is it not ? They would say we have the same problem, let us talk it over, let us deal with our common enemy !.

The common enemy for all of us is the ego and we create if ourselves. It is precisely because we create it that there is the possibility of 'uncreating' it. You cannot uncreate something that Nature has created. But if I have created illusions in my mind,I can stop creating them and that is why there is the religious quest.There is this beautiful verse to this effect in one of the Upanishads which says that there are two birds on a tree. The first bird is nibbling the fruit, and tasting the sourness or sweetness or bitterness of it. It represents the ego and the pleasure and pain that we experience through it. The second bird is only watching what the first bird is doing. This watching is the awareness, the perception that we have the capacity for. The human consciousness is both these birds in one. The learning comes from the second bird. So the first bird is in that first plane of effort and paths and achievement and struggle, while the real transformation of consciousness and the perception of the truth come from the second plane.

The path is very subtle. There is no fixed mechanical path. The fixed mechanical path lies in the first plane, which is the ego plane in which we live. The perception of truth does not lie in that plane. It comes from the second plane, the plane of observation, of attention of reflection, of awareness and what the path requires is a subtle thing. It requires that we do not block the energy from flowing in that plane, because there is a mysterious connection between that plane, and the plane in which we live our daily life. It is a sort of wisdom channel which is mysterious. The wisdom emanates from the second plane, and nothing from the first plane takes you to the second plane, and yet both those planes operate within our consciousness. To remain aware of that, never block the energy from the second plane is the demand of the path. And the ending of the ego is not at the end of the road. It is at the beginning. This enquiry itself must be free from the ego. As I said every action can be done egotistically, and the same action can be done non-egotistically, because it just depends on how I am approaching it. This talk can be delivered egotistically, or it may be delivered non-egotistically. You will not know, only I know from where I am coming and I need to watch it whether it is coming out of an ego-state or non-ego, which is friendship,which is love. Love is nothing but the absence of the self.Where the self is love is not, said Krishnamurti, and without love everything will turn into ashes. The so-called progress, the so-called achievements will all be destroyed without that, and that is why our greatest enemy is the ego.


Now, often a path implies that it is a journey which will take time. Is the ending of the ego something that is helped by time ? As I pointed out, the ego is in the approach and the possibility of learning is there because we can approach things non- egotistically . Since it is only my approach that determines whether there is the ego or not in my relationship, in my observation, there is always the possibility of an insight, free from the obstacle of the ego, taking place. The ego is not something pre-existent there and we are not creating it all the time. Not all our actions and observations are egotistic. So, I have the possibility of watching the operation of the ego within myself, and in so watching discovering for myself the danger and the fact that I am myself creating that danger and I am myself blocking wisdom. The day you perceive that actually, the egotistic approach will drop away. It cannot drop away through effort, because effort itself is towards an achievement, and that is the essence of the ego.So, if I am through effort doing yoga, through effort meditating, the ego itself is attached to that activity. If I create a path, the ego can get attached to that path, to becoming, to going down further on the path. You can watch yogis who do yoga, fantastic yoga, but they can be as egoistic about their yoga as artists often are about their art. It can just become another talent, another achievement. The ego is very subtle , therefore, there is no path to really end the ego. It is only perception which can end the ego, and that perception requires a learning mind.


Let me dwell a little bit on this learning mind,which is so essential for the path. Without it, there is no meaning in any path.Obviously, the learning mind is one which knows that it does not know. If it thinks it already knows and only needs to convert other people to its point of view, it is not learning. It is busy teaching and there may be no such thing as teaching in this field, there may be no such thing as a guru in this field. There may be only such a thing as learning. So humility which comes from the direct perception or direct awareness of the fact that I do not know is an essential ingredient if a learning mind. Then it listens,then it observes, then it reflects because it is eager to learn, and it is eager to learn because it knows that it does not know. Therefore the path is from the ground of not knowing. It is not the path as we understand it, going towards a fixed goal. There is no fixed goal, I do not know the goal. The path is towards the unknown, I am only trying to clear the cobwebs so that I can see the truth and eliminate the distortions which my own mind is producing.

So my friends, at the end of this one hour of enquiry, I only want to put it to you that the question is not whether there is a path or there is no path and to take sides with an opinion that there is a path or there is not a path is only to divide ourselves. The real question is to go deeper and to understand for ourselves what is the implication, what are the nuances, what is the subtlety of the path,and to stay with this question in order to learn about it rather than form opinions one way or the other. Opinions are in the first field. Wisdom does not lie in the first field. Wisdom operates from the second field where there are no opinions. So, there is a path - if I understand it rightly and yet there is no path in another sense.. When I define the path in a shallow way as something mechanical, to be treaded in time, as something to be achieved, it becomes another ego process.


So the problem is not what I believe in and what I do not believe in; the problem is superficiality. The problem is not whether one is Buddhist or Christian or Hindu. The problem is that one is superficially Buddhist, one is superficially Hindu; one is superficially a theosophist. Take one of the objects of the Theosophical Society, the Universal Brotherhood of Man. Is it just a noble idea that we should all think of each other as brothers, that we believe each other to be brothers, or is that the truth, is that the fact ? Which is the fact and which is the idea ? Is the division between human beings arising out of illusion or is the brotherhood an illusion, an ideal ? Krishnamurti said the truth is that the other man is yourself and it is illusions that produce division. The idea of a separate you and me is coming from illusions. So the universal brotherhood of man is not an ideal to be achieved, it is a truth to be perceived. So long as we have not perceived it for ourselves, we cannot decide to be brotherly. If I decide to be brotherly, it becomes something hypocritical, like deciding to love. We cannot decide, these are not things which are voluntary, where decisions work.

So it is all very subtle, which is also the beauty of it. That is the challenge life poses before a human being. The animal is not capable of it, it does not require it either because Nature has limited both its possibilities and its destructiveness. But in the human consciousness there are enormous possibilities and there is also an enormous capacity to be egotistic, destructive. That is why this whole question of what is right living, the question of what is moral and what is not moral arises only for the human being. And the religious quest is to discover what it means to live with a consciousness which is in harmony with the order of Nature.We are a part of Nature and the whole of Nature has tremendous order. Surely that order must extend within our consciousness too.We destroy that order in our consciousness through a wrong use of the faculty of imagination. Can I learn not to do that, can I end the disorder in my consciousness ? Then there is the order which is not created by me. It is Nature's order. So the religious quest is also the quest for discovering what it means to live with a consciousness which is part of Nature's order .

I think I will leave you to ponder over that question.