On Ontology Of Thought And Self: Reflections From J. Krishnamurti. Part-(1)

Questioning Thought And Self

We all think, most of the time we are thinking about something. The thought is the phenomenon in which we identify ourselves. But, did we ever ask the question “what is thought?” which is right now going on in our mind and has an inextricable relationship with the self and being. Is there anything “without thought?” Can we imagine a state where there are no thoughts at all?  Why I am asking these questions is because we all essentially understood that we need to change.

When we sincerely look at ourselves and at society it is unequivocal that, immense problems are waiting for us to take the incumbent. Therefore asking some of the fundamental questions like what is self, thought and mind are essentially important, and in this essay, I am going to canvass J, Krishnamurthi’s ideas on these matters.

To have a fundamental metamorphosis of the mind, essentially we need to understand the up and running of one’s mind. If we don’t realize our mind’s depth (the thinker who is incessantly seeking and questioning), then all our inquiries and search would be a perfunctory hocus-pocus. On the ground that our mind is not clear about its process until we realize that we are functioning in a particular pattern of thoughts, we can’t have a radical change in our life consequently with society.

The idea of self-realization is hardly difficult because here I am talking about an entity (you and me) that is conditioned by society and tradition for years from our birth. To know one’s self means to observe what we think and feel, how we think and feel, and why we think (what kind of motives are behind our thoughts) and feel in a particular pattern from moment to moment. And that has to happen without judgment, bias, and comparison in a way to see our thoughts ‘as it is’ because our mind is not only a conscious entity but also an unconscious establishment where all our past resides.

Man v/s Society

To suss the idea of man v/s society further, In social and anthropological theories there is an idea of ‘Habitus’ coined by the French philosopher and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. But the notion of ‘Habitus’ is an ancient philosophical query starting from Aristotle’s idea of ‘Hexis[1]( State, Stable disposition or way of being). It is a cornerstone of Bourdieu’s sociological theory and used to elucidate the question of agency and structure. According to Bourdieu ‘Habitus’  is “structured structures to function as structuring structures[2].

Pierre Bourdieu. Images of Algeria | Jeu de Paume
Pierre Bourdieu

To annotate further in social science the idea of ‘agency’ identified as the capacity of individuals to act autonomously and to create their own choices without any interference. It is an ability to act independently on one’s will. Also, the idea of ‘structure’ (such as religion, nation, social class, customs, profession) is an influencing factor that determines and controls an agent. Coming to the core idea of Bourdieu ‘Habitus’ would be seen as the very way that individuals react and act to the social world. This is to say that we are disposed and embodied by social structures, our being itself constituted by a specific way of being.

Therefore, it is a reality that we are socialized, our body (posture, accent) and mind (perception, feelings and classifications) are constructed and presently constructing according to the social structure. Let’s say I have my own free will but, according to the idea of ‘Habitus’, the ideas of “Free” and “will” coming from my conscious and unconscious narratives which were the product of our memories and memories are the fruits of our partaking with society.

man thinking

On Society and Culture

We belong in a society where society is existing within particular dogmas and traditions, which are continually conditioning our way of life. In such a society being free from conditioning from a particular perspective means being in another conditioning ( For example when you convert one ideology to another, in reality, both are part of the conditioning process) and it acts as a rein in our life. Most of us want to find a stable, dependable, and secure space that could be a social system or tradition.

We need a set of patterns where we can rest our thoughts and actions completely into it and superficially feel that someone or something will take care of us. The majority of the time we keep such a secure space as our family’s structure, forefather’s religion, or some kind of ideologies. Because we are safe there, we don’t have to challenge or change and create maim in our family and society.

Let’s think about our culture. It is essentially based on hierarchy. It is a division between those who have less and those who have more. Therefore, when you become a person who has more wealth, power, authority, and so on, here itself, your moreness creates a hierarchy between you and those who have less ‘ness’. That’s to say our institutions including education, religion, science, etc… are based on these hierarchical principles and that’s what we are seeing in our society like the division between those who are educated and those who are ignorant.

But most of us are not aware of what we are creating in our society. We don’t see how exactly society works and what we are creating. When we say ‘Today is not as good as yesterday’ or ‘The dinner is worse than breakfast’ we are comparing and deploring, that is to say, we are creating a binary and hierarchy in each of our day to day life. So, the problem starts and exists in each of our moments and in our being itself.

Going Beyond Conditioning.

If our ‘self’ is the product of society and tradition which it is, can the mind go beyond conditioning? Is it possible to have an individuality ( In the actual sense of the word)? Can we realize our self without the conscious and the unconscious level, which we call memory, where all our thoughts, feelings, and experiences are breathing and inflaming?. Which are conditioned by society and culture. If I am a theist, an atheist, a communist, or a capitalist, myself is the result of that particular structure and ideology.

And if it is not at all possible from exceeding from conditioning, then what is the possibility of a fundamental change?. That’s to say can we at all realize the self? If we go much deeper with this question then, we should ask is there anything as “Self” which is independent of all the conditioning?. To have an independent mind means being alone ( not the loneliness or isolation), being alone in one’s heart of hearts.

Also, not pursuing any of the ideologies which we thought will give us security and comfort. Sometimes people turn into a religion or an ideology because we need to be told what we should do in order to reach and receive something. We need spiritually because our mind wants to experience something which our mind can cling to.

Not only that, Krishnamurti was describing such a state as “Being free of society implies not being ambitious, not being covetous, not being competitive; it implies being nothing with that society which is striving to be something. But you see, it is very difficult to accept that because you may be trodden on, you may be pushed aside; you will have nothing. In that nothingness there is sanity, not in the other…[3]”.

So, it is certain that ‘We’ are the product of the known or the past. To see anything new the mind must come out of the past, which necessitates that the mind should be empty. To recognize that whatever we have known is the product of conditioning, therefore as an independent entity it doesn’t have any self-knowledge within the realm of possibility.  Here would be the first step to realize ourselves not what we like to be but what we are.

Stay updated, the second part is coming soon.


[1] Pierre Rodrigo (2011). The Dynamic of Hexis in Aristotle’s Philosophy, Journal of the British Society for  Phenomenology, 42(1), 6-17. 

[2] Bourdieu, P. and Nice, R., 1990. The Logic Of Practice. 1st ed. Polity press, Cambridge, p.53

[3] Krishnamurti, J., 2007. As One Is. Prescott, Ariz: Hohm Press, p.70

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