The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

J. Krishnamurti — Conversation With The Young

Student: When we are young we have lots of imagination, but we seem to lose it as we grow older. Why does this happen to us?

J.K Do you know what happens when you are always being told? You do not think at all. Somebody does all the thinking, you swallow their thoughts like a pill, and you take it for granted that you have understood them. But you cannot understand that way.

: When you are young, you are sensitive, alive, and full of curiosity. You want to know why a squirrel goes up a tree the way it does, why ants are always so busy, and why the birds sing. Later on, as you grow older, all that curiosity dies. Why? I wish you would tell me. 

When you are young, you have this extraordinary faculty of imagination. Why do you lose it as you grow up? When you see the river, you picture yourself in a boat, sailing down to the sea through tremendous storms. You have read some history, and when you think about it, you imagine the most fantastic things. When you see a cloud, to you it is a castle, and you are right in the middle of it. The sound of the wind immediately makes you think that you are hearing marvellous music, and when you see a big bird, you imagine you are riding around the world on its back. You imagine that you are a great man with plenty of money, or that you are a marvellous speaker to whom everybody listens and applauds. This wonderful imagination exists while you are young, but as you grow older it disappears. Why?

First of all, nobody encourages you to dream. Whether you are at school or in your own home, nobody says, ‘Go on, have a good time; enjoy yourself with your imagination.’ When you say something out of your imagination, the older people say, ‘You are telling a lie. You must not tell lies, but must always speak the truth,’ and, perhaps, they punish you. You may have imagined yourself riding on a cloud, or on some other wonderful thing, and when your parents say that you are lying, you naturally come down from that cloud.

Similarly, in the classroom, you are not allowed to look out of the window and see the sunlight shining on a green leaf, or sense the perfume of a solitary flower. If you are watching a buzzing fly, your teacher says, ‘Why are you not looking at your book?’ and, immediately, you lose the fascination for watching the fly. This goes on throughout your early years. Fear, despair, examination marks, competition in order to earn a livelihood — these things darken your life and, with them, the misery begins. You come off the cloud, the storm and the rainbow are gone, and you become an ugly little man, fighting, quarrelling, cheating to get a little money, or you may become a social worker with some idea that you want to put into action; but the dream is lost; the whole world of imagination has disappeared.

It is good to have imagination. You must have imagination to write a poem, or to paint a picture. Do you ever paint pictures? Does your teacher put a vase or some other object in front of you, and ask you to copy it? Is that what you do? Or do you see, let us say, a leaf in the sunlight, and paint it with all your feelings — which means that you are free to go with the clouds, with the rains, with the storm, with the river? There is beauty in that.

* * *

Student: Why do birds fly away when I come near?

J.K: How nice it would be if the birds did not fly away when you came near! If you could touch them, be friendly with them, how lovely it would be! But you see, we human beings are cruel people. We kill the birds, torture them, we catch them in nets and put them in cages. Think of a lovely parrot in a cage! Every evening it calls to its mate and sees the other birds flying across the open sky. When we do all these things to the birds, do you think they will not be frightened when we come near them? But if you sit quietly in an isolated spot and are very still, really gentle, you will soon find that the birds come to you; they hover quite close and you can observe their alert movements, their delicate claws, the extraordinary strength and beauty of their feathers. But to do that you must have immense patience, which means you must have a great deal of love, and also there must be no fear.

Animals seem to sense fear in us, and they in turn get frightened and run away. That is why it is very important to understand oneself. You try sitting very still under a tree, but not just for two or three minutes, because the birds won’t get used to you in so short a time. Go and sit quietly under the same tree every day, and you will soon begin to be aware that everything around you is living. You will see the blades of grass sparkling in the sunshine, the ceaseless activity of the little birds, the extraordinary sheen of a snake, or a kite flying high in the skies enjoying the breeze without a movement of its wings. But to see all this and to feel the joy of it, you must have real quietness inside you.

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