Questioner: We have been told that thought must be controlled to bring about that state of tranquillity necessary to understand . Could you please tell us how to control thought?
: First, sir, don’t follow any authority. Authority is evil. Authority destroys, authority perverts, authority corrupts; and a man who follows authority is destroying himself and destroying also that which he has placed in a position of authority. The follower destroys the as the master destroys the follower. The destroys the pupil as the pupil destroys the guru.
Through authority you will never find anything. You must be free of authority to find reality. It is one of the most difficult things to be free of authority, both the outer and the inner. Inner authority is the of experience, consciousness of knowledge. And outward authority is the state, the party, the group, the community. A man who would find reality must shun all authority, external and inward. So, don’t be told what to think. That is the curse of reading – the word of another becomes all-important.
The question begins by saying, ”We have been told.” Who is there to tell you? Sir, don’t you see that leaders and saints and great teachers have failed, because you are what you are? So leave them alone. You have made them failures because you are not seeking truth; you want gratification. Don’t follow anyone, including myself; don’t make of another your authority. You yourself have to be the master and the pupil. The moment you acknowledge another as a master and yourself as a pupil, you are denying truth. There is no master, no pupil, in the search for truth.
The search for truth is important, not you or the master who is going to help you to find the truth. You see, modem , and also the previous education, have taught you what to think, not how to think. They have put you within a frame, and that frame has destroyed you, because you seek out a guru, a teacher, a leader, political or other, only when you are confused. Otherwise you never follow anybody. If you are very clear, if you are inwardly a light unto yourself, you will never follow anyone. But because you are not, you follow; you follow out of your confusion, and what you follow must also be confused. Your leaders as well as yourself are confused, politically and religiously. Therefore, first clear up your own confusion, become a light unto yourself, and then the problem will cease. The division between the master and the pupil is unspiritual.
Now, the question wants to know how to control thought. First of all, to control it you must know what thought is and who is the controller. Are they two separate processes or a joint phenomenon? You must first understand what thought is, must you not, before you say, ”I will control thought”; and also you must know what the controller is. Is there a controller without thought? If you have no thoughts, is there a thinker? The thinker is the thought; the thought is not separate from the thinker; they form a single process.
So, you have only thoughts left, not the thinker. Though you use the words I think, it is only a form of; there is actually only a state in which thought is. And thought creates the thinker who then communicates his thought. The thinker is merely the verbalization of the thought.
So, we have to find out what is thought. Then we shall know whether it is possible to control it or not and why you want to control it. There may be quite a different approach to putting an end to the, but it is not by control. Because, the moment you exert control, making an effort through an act of will, you do not understand thought. You are then merely condemning one thought and justifying another. That which you have justified, you want to hold onto. That which you condemn, you want to push aside. So, let us find out what we mean by thought.
What is thought? Without memory there is no thought, is there? Thought is the result of accumulated experience, is it not, which is the past. Without the past, there can be no thought in the present, can there? So thought is a response of the past to the present challenge. That is, thought surely is the reaction of memory. But, what is memory? Memory, the continuance of remembering, is the verbalization of experience, isn’t it? There is challenge, response – which is experience – and that experience is verbalized. That verbalization creates memory, and the response of memory to challenge is thought. So thought is verbalization, isn’t it?
I do not know if you have ever tried to think without words. The moment you think, you must use words. I am not saying that there is not a state in which there is no verbalization. We are not discussing that. The thought is the word. Without verbalization, without the word, thought – the thought that we know – is not. So, if you see that the word – the verbalization – is the thought process, then it is not a question of controlling thought, but of the cessation of thinking as verbalization. Where there is verbalization of an experience, there must be thought. To think is to verbalize.
So, our problem is not how to control thought, but whether it is possible not to verbalize, not to put everything into words. Why do we put our responses, our reactions, into words? Why do we do that? For one obvious reason – to communicate, to tell another our feeling. Also, we verbalize in order to strengthen that feeling, don’t we, in order to fix it, in order to look at it, in order to recapture that feeling which is gone. The word has taken the place of the feeling which has gone. So the word becomes all-important, and not the feeling, not the response, not the experience. The word has taken the place of experiencing. So, the word becomes the thought, which prevents experiencing.
Our problem, then, is this: Is it possible not to verbalize, not to name, not to give a term? Obviously it is possible. You do this often, only unconsciously. When you are faced with a crisis, with a sudden challenge, there is no verbalization. You meet it fully. So, it is possible, but only when the word is not important, which means when thought is not important, when the idea is not important. When an idea assumes importance, then the pattern becomes important, the ideology becomes important, and the revolution based on an idea becomes important; but a revolution based on an idea is not a revolution, it is merely the continuation, the modified continuity of an old idea, an idea of yesterday.
So, the word becomes important only when experiencing is not important, when there is not the state of experiencing, which is to meet the challenge without verbalization, without the screen of words. You give life to the word, which is memory, when it is that memory which meets the challenge, because memory has no life in itself, has it? The word has no meaning in itself. It gains vitality, strength, impetus, fullness, only when the past, the memory, meets the challenge.
Therefore, out of the living, the dead comes to life. And as it gains more life from that which in itself is dead, then thought becomes all-important. Thought by itself has no meaning except in relation to the past, which is verbal. And it is not a question of controlling thought. On the contrary, a controlled mind is incapable of receiving truth. A controlled mind is an anxious mind, a mind that is resisting, suppressing, substituting, and such a mind is afraid, and how can a mind that is anxious be still? How can a mind that is afraid be tranquil? There can be tranquillity only when the mind is no longer caught in the net of words. When the mind is no longer verbalizing every experience, then naturally it is in a state of experiencing.
Where there is experiencing, there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced. In that state of experiencing, which is always new, which is always being – though one can communicate that being by using words – one knows that the word is not the experience, the word is not the thing, the word has no content; only the experience itself is full of content.
Then, experiencing is not verbalization. Experiencing is the highest form of understanding because it is the negation of thinking. The negative form of thinking is the highest form of comprehension, and there can be no negative thinking when there is verbalization of thought. So, it is not a question of controlling thought at all but of being free from thought. It is only when the mind is free from thought that there is a perception of that which is, of that which is eternal, which is truth.
Source: Jiddu Krishnamurti talk February 20, 1949