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J. Krishnamurti and The Art of Listening


It is important to understand what is written non-verbally. Therefore, rather than simply going through what is written verbally (which means only understanding the meaning of the words), you should try to look at what is being said, which means have a direct perception of it. There is a difference between the two. Verbal comprehension, which is intellectual comprehension, is limited.

Now, first of all do please bear in mind that the description is not the described, so don't be caught by the description, by the words. The word, the description, is merely a means of communicating. But if you are held by the word you cannot go very far. One has to be aware not only of the meaning of the word, but also one has to realize that the word is not actually the thing. The Word, which is a label given to a thing - objective or subjective, is meant for communication. But the word is not the thing it refers to. The word “apple”, A-P-P-L-E is not the actual apple. This must be understood very clearly. This is not something abstract or theoretical but a fact, which one can observe oneself, if one goes into it a little deeply.


I have observed that most of us do not listen. If we don't listen, then we won't understand. Its a simple fact. Therefore, for understanding, listening is the first requisite. I wonder if you've noticed, when something is being said by someone, when we read an email, an article, a book, we are too quick to respond, like machines. We are too ready to form opinions, judgments, conclusions and identify what is being said with what we already know. We never simply listen without conclusions, opinions, evaluations or identification of any kind. As long as you listen with evaluation, conclusions, identification, you are not actually listening.

We never simply listen, without trying to do something with what we are hearing or seeing. We are too quick to react, to form an opinion, rather than waiting to be completely aware of what is being said and paying complete attention. We want to form an opinion quickly, explain the thing away and move on to something else. We are always in a hurry, mentally. We want to make an opinion, come to a conclusion, justify it , explain the thing to ourselves; or we simply wish to show the other person how clever we are - and how quick thinking people we are and start thinking of clever responses.

So, we have to ask this question - do we actually listen? and What does it mean to actually listen?

Listening itself is a complete act; the very act of listening brings its own understanding. When you actually listen, it mean you are listening not only with your ears, but with your mind, heart, with all your being. Listening is not free when it is blocked by the imposition of the environment or your ideas. Words confuse; they are only the outward means of communication. What is important is to go beyond the words and understand the significance, the inward content of what is being communicated.

To listen to something demands that your mind be quiet. Only out of quietness, can listening and perception take place. I am telling you something, and to listen to me you have to be quiet, not have all kinds of ideas buzzing in your mind. It is only when you listen without the idea, without thought, that you are directly in contact; and being in contact, you will understand whether what I or anybody else is saying is true or false. Then you do not have to discuss it.

So, do I listen, actually? Or do I think that I listen? There is a difference between the two.

How to do it ? When you ask "how" , then automatically you are destroying all chances of ever understanding that thing (except in case of something technical or operational). The question of `how', the manner of achieving a certain state, becomes still another problem. You wish to follow a system, a method, like in all the books these days, but that prevents understanding by giving psychological comfort. You can only learn to listen by understanding what listening is, without any effort, by being aware of your "not listening". Awareness of inattention itself is attention.

It is not something theoretical, or something you need to cultivate or put an effort into, because effort in itself will bring distraction.
Simply being aware of it will do.

About J. Krishnamurti: JIDDU KRISHNAMURTI was born May 12, 1895, in Madanapalle, south India. From 1929 until his death in 1986 he traveled all over the world speaking spontaneously to large audiences. He engaged in dialogues with religious leaders, scientists, professors, authors, psychologists, computer experts, and people from many different backgrounds deeply questioning their daily life. His talks and dialogues have been compiled and published in more than fifty books and translated into as many different languages. His books include Think on These Things, Education and the Significance of Life, The Awakening of Intelligence, and The First and Last Freedom.

Krishnamurti’s works can be read online at:

Contributing Writer:  Ashutosh Ghildiyal is a salaried professional based in Mumbai, India. He was born in Lucknow in 1984, where he completed his schooling. He completed his graduate studies in New Delhi and his post-graduate education in Mumbai. He is the author of To Think or Not to Think and Other stories (Book), various blogs, articles and short stories. Email: [email protected]


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