The Supreme Art
July 25, 1985

Krishnamurti's opening statement during the third Q & A meeting in his 1985 Saanen lecture series. You can watch the full session on the Krishnamurti Foundation's website.

Before we go into those questions may I comment on something? People have been talking a great deal about art, about what is art. I believe the root meaning of that word is to put everything in its proper place. Can we talk a little bit about that first?

What do you think is the greatest art, the supreme art? Is it the art of listening, hearing, seeing, observing, perceiving and learning? Please, together we are investigating into this question, not the speaker talking to himself.

Let us begin with the art of hearing. We not only hear with the ears – words conveyed, vibrated to the brain; surely it is much more than that. Do we ever listen to anybody? Do you listen to your wife or husband, or your girl friend, really listen to what they are conveying, trying to say? Or do you translate what is being said into your own terminology, compare it with what you already know, judging, evaluating, agreeing, disagreeing? is that listening? The speaker is talking now, unfortunately; are you listening, actually paying attention to the meaning of words, to the content of the words, not translating, comparing, judging, agreeing, disagreeing – but just listening? Are you doing that now? Isn’t it one of the most important things, how we listen to another? That other may be wearing too strong a perfume and you are repelled by it, or you like it, and this like and dislike of a perfume, or other factors, may prevent you from listening to what the other person has to say.

If you have gone into this question rather deeply you will find it is one of the most difficult things to listen to another, completely. Are you doing it now? Or are you fidgety and so on?

So there is an art of hearing, of listening – right? And there is an art of seeing – seeing things as they are. When you look at a tree, do you translate it immediately into words and say, ‘Tree’? Or do you look at it, perceive it, see the shape of it, see the beauty of the light on a leaf, see the quality of that tree? It is not man-made fortunately; it is there. So do we see ourselves as we are, without condemnation, without judgement, evaluation and so on, just see what we are, our reactions and responses, our prejudices, opinions – just see them, not to do anything about it but just observe them. Can we do that?

So there is an art of seeing things as they are, without naming, without being caught in the network of words, without the whole operation of thinking interfering with perception. That is a great art.

And also there is an art of learning, isn’t there? What do we mean by learning? Generally learning is understood to mean memorizing, accumulating, storing up to use skilfully or not, learning a language, reading, writing, communicating and so on. The modern computers can do most of that better than we can. They are extraordinarily rapid. So what is the difference between us and the computer? The computer must be programmed. We also have been programmed in various ways: tradition, so-called culture, knowledge. And we have also been programmed to be Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Communist and all the rest of it. Is this all there is to learning? We are questioning. We are not saying that it is not. It is necessary to learn how to drive a car; to learn a language, and so on. But we are asking, is learning something much more? Are we together in this? Don’t just look at me, please – the person is not very interesting. We are asking something, which is: is learning merely memorizing? for if that is all, then the computer can do better than us. But isn’t learning something much more? Learning means constantly learning, not accumulating, not gathering in what one has seen, what one has observed, heard, learnt and storing it up.

Learning means, to the speaker, a constant observation, listening, moving, never taking a stand, never taking a position, never going back to memory and letting memory act. That is a great art.

Then there is the art of discipline. That word comes from disciple, one who learns from someone else, not necessarily from the teacher, from the guru – they are generally rather stupid – but to discipline oneself according to a pattern like a soldier, like a monk, like a person who wants to be very austere and disciplines his body: the whole process of control, direction, obedience, subservience and training. To me, to the speaker, discipline is a terrible thing. But if there is acute hearing, not only by the ear, but also deep listening to yourself, to everything that is happening around you, listening to the birds, to the river, to the forest, to the mountain, and observing the minutest insect on the floor, if you have good eyes to see it – all that constitutes a form of living which in itself becomes the discipline, there is constant movement.

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