Krishnamurti on Listening
Have you ever sat very silently, not with your attention fixed on anything, not making an effort to concentrate, but with the mind very quiet, really still? Then you hear everything, don't you? You hear the far-off noises as well as those that are nearer and those that are very close by, the immediate sounds - which means, really that you are listening to everything. Your mind is not confined to one narrow little channel. If you can listen in this way, listen with ease, without strain, you will find an extraordinary change taking place within you, a change which comes without your volition, without your asking; and in that change there is great beauty and depth of insight.
Just try it sometime, try it now. As you are listening to me, listen not only to me, but to everything about you. Listen to all those bells, the bells of the cows and the temples; listen to the distant train and the carts on the road; and if you then come nearer still and listen to me also, you will find there is a great depth to listening. But to do this you must have a very quiet mind. If you really want to listen, your mind is naturally quiet, is it not? You are not then distracted by something happening next to you; your mind is quiet because you are deeply listening to everything. If you can listen in this way with ease, with a certain felicity, you will find an astonishing transformation taking place in your heart, in your mind - a transformation which you have not thought of, or in any way produced.
From, J. Krishnamurti, This Matter of Culture Chapter 4, 1964
I have said that there is an art in listening, and perhaps I can go a little more into it, because I think it is important to listen rightly. We generally hear what we want to hear and exclude everything that is disturbing. To any expression of a disturbing idea we turn a deaf ear, and especially in matters that are profound, religious, that have significance in life, we are apt to listen very superficially. If we hear at all, it is merely the words, not the content of the words, because most of us do not want to be disturbed. Most of us want to carry on in our old ways because to alter, to bring about a change, means disturbance: disturbance in our daily life, disturbance in our family, disturbance between wife and husband, between ourselves and society. As most of us are disinclined to be disturbed, we prefer to follow the easy way of existence; and whether it leads to misery, to turmoil and conflict, is apparently of very little importance. All that we want is an easy life - not too much trouble, not too much disturbance, not too much thinking; and so, when we listen, we are not really hearing anything. Most of us are afraid to hear deeply, but it is only when we hear deeply, when the sounds penetrate deeply, that there is a possibility of a fundamental, radical change. Such change is not possible if you listen superficially, and if I may suggest, at least for this evening, please try to listen without any resistance, without any prejudice - just listen. Do not make tremendous effort to understand, because understanding does not come through effort, understanding does not come through striving. Understanding comes swiftly, unknowingly, when the effort is passive; only when the maker of effort is silent does the wave of understanding come. So, if I may suggest, listen as you would listen to the water that is flowing by. You are not imagining, you are not making an effort to listen, you are just listening. Then the sound conveys its own meaning, and that understanding is far deeper, far greater, and more lasting than the mere understanding of words that comes through intellectual effort. The understanding of words which is called intellectual comprehension is utterly empty. You say, "I understand intellectually, but I cannot put it into practice," which means, really, that you do not understand. When you understand, you understand the content; there is no intellectual understanding. Intellectual understanding is merely a verbal understanding. Hearing the words is not the understanding of their content. The word is not the thing. The word is not understanding. Understanding comes when the mind has ceased to make an effort, which means, when it does not put up a resistance, when it is not prejudiced but listens freely and fully. And, if I may suggest, that is what we should try to do this evening, because then there is in listening a great delight - like listening to a poem, to a song, or seeing the movement of a tree. Then that very observation, listening, gives a tremendous significance to existence.
From, J. Krishnamurti, December 4, 1949, On Self Knowledge, Third Talk in Rajahmundry 1949
There are certain things which must be taken for granted. First we must understand what we mean by communication, what the word means to each one of us, what is involved, what is the structure, the nature, of communication. If two of us, you and I, are to communicate with each other there must not only be a verbal understanding of what is being said, at the intellectual level, but also, by implication, listening and learning. These two things, it seems to me, are essential in order that we may communicate with each other, listening and learning. Secondly, each one of us has, obviously, a back ground of knowledge, prejudice and experience, also the suffering and the innumerable complex issues involved in relationship. That is the background of most of us and with that background we try to listen. After all, each one of us is the result of our culturally complex life - we are the result of the whole culture of man, with the education and the experiences of not only a few years, but of centuries.
I do not know if you have ever examined how you listen, it doesn't matter to what, whether to a bird, to the wind in the leaves, to the rushing waters, or how you listen to a dialogue with yourself, to your conversation in various relationships with your intimate friends, your wife or husband. If we try to listen we find it extraordinarily difficult, because we are always projecting our opinions and ideas, our prejudices, our background, our inclinations, our impulses; when they dominate we hardly listen to what is being said. In that state there is no value at all. One listens and therefore learns, only in a state of attention, a state of silence in which this whole background is in abeyance, is quiet; then, it seems to me, it is possible to communicate.
Several other things are involved. If you listen with the background or image that you may have created about the speaker, and listen as to one with certain authority - which the speaker may, or may not, have - then obviously you are not listening. You are listening to the projection which you have put forward and that prevents you from listening. So again, communication is not possible. Obviously, real communication or communion, can only take place when there is silence. When two people are intent, seriously, to under stand something, bringing their whole mind and heart, their nerves, their eyes, their ears, to understand, then in that attention there is a certain quality of silence; then actual communication, actual communion, takes place. In that there is not only learning but complete understanding - and that understanding is not something different from immediate action. That is to say, when one listens without any intention, without any barrier, putting aside all opinions, conclusions, all the rest, experiences - then, in that state one not only understands whether what is being said is true or false, but further, if it is true, there is immediate action, if it is false, there is no action at all.
From, J. Krishnamurti, 1st Public Talk 9th July 1967
Please have the patience to listen without being carried away by words, or objecting to one or two phrases or ideas. One must have immense patience to find out what is true. Most of us are impatient to get on, to find a result, to achieve a success, a goal, a certain state of happiness, or to experience something to which the mind can cling. But what is needed, I think, is a patience and a perseverance to seek without an end. Most of us are seeking; that is why we are here, but in our search we want to find something, a result, a goal, a state of being in which we can be happy, peaceful; so our search is already determined, is it not? When we seek, we are seeking something which we want, so our search is already established, predetermined, and therefore it is no longer a search. I think it is very important to understand this. When the mind seeks a particular state, a solution to a problem, when it seeks God, truth, or desires a certain experience, whether mystical or any other kind, it has already conceived what it wants; and because it has already conceived, formulated what it is seeking, its search is infinitely futile. And it is one of the most difficult things to free the mind from this desire to find a result.
What is listening? I think it is important to go into it a little, if you do not mind. Do you really listen, or are you interpreting what is being said in terms of your own understanding? Are you capable of listening to anybody? Or is it that in the process of listening, various thoughts, opinions, arise so that your own knowledge and experience intervene between what is being said and your comprehension of it?.........
I think it is important to understand the difference between attention and concentration. Concentration implies choice, does it not? You are trying to concentrate on what I am saying, so your mind is focused, made narrow, and other thoughts intervene; so there is not an actual listening but a battle going on in the mind, a conflict between what you are hearing and your desire to translate it, to apply what I am talking about, and so on. Whereas, attention is something entirely different. In attention there is no focusing, no choice; there is complete awareness without any interpretation. And if we can listen so attentively, completely, to what is being said, then that very attention brings about the miracle of change within the mind itself.
From, J. Krishnamurti, First Talk in the Oak Grove, 1955
We rarely listen to anybody. We are so full of our own conclusions, our own experiences, our own problems, our own judgements, so we have no space in which to listen. We ought to have some space so that as two friends, you and I, the speaker, are talking over together their problems, amicably, under the shade of a tree, sitting down and looking at the mountains, but concerned with their problems, and so they are willing to listen to each other. And to listen is only possible when you put aside your particular opinion, your particular knowledge or problem, your conclusions; when you're free to listen, not interpreting, not judging, not evaluating, but actually the art of listening. To listen with great care, attention, with affection. And if we have such an art, if we have learnt such... rather, if you are capable of such listening, then communication becomes very, very simple. There'll be no misunderstanding. Communication implies to think together, to share the things that we are talking about together, to partake in the problem as two human beings living in a monstrous corrupt world, where everything is so ugly, brutal, violent and meaningless, it is very important, it seems to me, if I may point out, that in the art of listening one learns immediately, one sees the fact instantly. And if you, if one listens rightly, as we pointed out the meaning of that word 'right' - correctly, accurately, not what you think is right or wrong, but in the art of listening there is freedom, and in that freedom every word, every nuance of word has significance, and there is immediate comprehension, which is immediate insight, and therefore immediate freedom to observe.
From, J. Krishnamurti, Fourth Public Talk in Ojai, April 1977