Freedom from the Known by Jiddu Krishnamurti
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Short Summary

The renowned spiritual teacher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, shares how you can free yourself from the tyranny of the expected. By understanding who you are, you can change your relationships with yourself and others and, consequently, society as a whole.

Favorite Quote

"To understand yourself is the beginning of wisdom."

Book Notes

Since the beginning of time, we have sought something beyond ourselves. We try to live according to the society we were raised in, but it creates conflict in our life.

Conflict arises because we're always looking to someone else to tell us what is right or wrong. We live our entire lives being told what to do, whether by circumstance or our environment, making us the result of the influences surrounding us. There is nothing new or original about ourselves.

Our primary source of pain and discomfort is due to our seeking of a reality promised by another. We mechanically follow somebody else who assures us a comfortable spiritual life, but that only brings about disorder. Even if we reject such authority, we still stand alone in conflict with everybody else.

So if we wish to escape conflict, we must first learn not to seek. Nobody can answer your questions about truth or reality except for yourself. To understand yourself is the beginning of wisdom.

No guide, teacher, nor authority can show you how to live. There’s only you and your relationship with others and the world—nothing else. When you realize this, it will either bring you great despair or great relief, knowing that only you are responsible for yourself.

Instead of having a life philosophy, you want to observe what is taking place in your daily life, both inwardly and outwardly. You must learn about yourself without being burdened by yourself and others’ opinions, prejudices, and conclusions.

To be free of all authority, including your own, is to die to everything from yesterday so that your mind is always fresh, always innocent, and full of vigor. Only then will you know how to learn and observe.

Learning About Ourselves

To observe the movement of your mind and heart—of your entire being—requires having a free mind. Your mind cannot takes sides in an argument, but rather it must seek to understand. When you condemn or justify, you cannot see clearly.

You must also realize that you've been conditioned your entire life. Your nationality, social class, religion, education, family, friends, experiences—every influence you can think of—has made every response to a problem a product of your conditioning.

When you become aware of your conditioning, you’ll either enjoy it, in which you’ll do nothing about it, or you will rebel against it, in which you will be living in the past. But facts can only be faced in the present. If you never allow yourself to live in the present, you will always try to escape from the past.

Instead, you must see the danger of your conditioning immediately so that you’ll act. When you give your total attention to your conditioning, will you finally see that you’re free from the past.


Consciousness is the total field in which your thoughts function and relationships exist. All motives, intentions, desires, pleasures, fears, inspirations, longing, hopes, sorrows, and joys live in your consciousness.

To understand the whole structure of ‘the self,’ you must see yourself totally, immediately, without time. When you look totally, you give your full attention, your whole being, until there’s no room for fear, contradiction, or conflict. What you see in totality is the truth.

To give your whole attention is to be fully aware. And the only way you can become fully aware is if you truly care to understand. You must give your whole heart and mind to find out.

But if you constantly measure yourself against others, then you deny yourself. You are creating an illusion. Comparison in any form leads only to greater illusion and misery. When you understand that such processes lead to greater conformity and greater conflict, will you be able to put it away. Your mind will stop seeking so that it can start seeing.

Pursuit of Pleasure

We are all engaged in the pursuit of pleasure from the time we’re born until the time we die. It isn’t right or wrong to pursue pleasure, but if you do, know that a mind that constantly seeks pleasure must inevitably find its shadow known as pain. The two cannot be separated.

Our desire to repeat a pleasurable experience brings about pain because it will not be the same as yesterday. To end the pursuit of pleasure, which is to end pain, you must learn to look at things without wanting to repeat the experience. To live in the present is to perceive beauty in that instant without seeking pleasure from it.


The craving for position, prestige, power, and recognition by society as being outstanding in some way is to wish domination over others. It is a form of aggression that is driven by fear. A mind caught in fear lives in confusion, conflict, and therefore must resort to violence and aggression.

Unfortunately, we’ve been raised in a corrupt society that encourages competition that engenders fear. One of our primary causes of fear is that we don’t want to face ourselves as we are. We're constantly looking for ways to escape from ourselves. If we try to overcome our fear by suppressing, disciplining, controlling, or translating it into something else, there will be conflict.

Most of us choose to be continually occupied to prevent ourselves from seeing ourselves as we actually are because we're afraid to be empty. We are scared to look at our fears. Only when you see that you are a part of fear, not separate from it—that you are fear —will it come to an end.


To be violent is to separate yourself from the rest of humanity. When you separate yourself by belief, nationality, and tradition, it breeds violence. A man seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, religion, political party, or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of humanity.

The most common expression of violence is anger. The moment you protect your family, country, flag, belief, idea, or dogma, that very protection indicates anger. But to be beyond violence means you cannot suppress it, deny it, or say that it’s just a part of who you are. You have to look at it, study it, and become intimate with it.

To understand your anger, you must pass no judgment on it, for the moment you conceive of its opposite, you condemn it, and therefore cannot see it as it is. You must live fully in the moment, without any sense of condemnation or justification, then you’ll understand that you’re finished with it.


We have accepted conflict as an innate part of our daily existence because we have accepted competition, jealousy, greed, and aggression as a natural way of life. We have accepted society’s structure as it is because we want to be respected.

To understand and be free of any problem, we need a great deal of passionate and sustained energy that isn’t dependent on any motive, stimulus, or drug. If we rely on any stimulus, then our minds will become dull and insensitive.

All stimulation, whether drugs, alcohol, or motivational speak, will inevitably bring about some dependence, and that dependence will keep us from seeing clearly and strip us of our vital energy. To free our mind of dependence is to see the how stimulation makes our mind stupid, dull, and inactive.

To be peaceful is to live in the moment with no comparison at all. If you don’t compare yourself with others, you will be what you are. Trying to become like somebody else, or like your ideal self, is one of the leading causes of contradiction, confusion, and conflict in life.


Freedom is a state of mind. It’s not to be free from something, but to be free to doubt and question everything so that you can throw away every form of dependence, slavery, conformity, and acceptance. To be free is to be alone. Solitude is an inward state of mind that's not dependent on any stimulus, knowledge, or experience. When you experience this solitude, you'll understand the necessity of living with yourself as you are, not as you think you should be.

Freedom can only come about naturally, not through wishing, wanting, or longing. Nor will you find it by creating an image of what you think it is. To find freedom, you must learn to look at life without the bondage of time, for freedom lies beyond the field of consciousness.


Man lives by time. Inventing the future has been our favorite game of escape. We think that we can change ourselves over time, but time doesn’t bring order or peace. There is no tomorrow for you to be peaceful in; you only have this instant.

Time is a deceiver because it doesn’t do anything to help us bring about change in ourselves. It is a movement manufactured by man divided into past, present, and future, and as long as you live by this division, there will be conflict.

Problems only exist in time when you meet an issue incompletely. When you meet a challenge partially or try to escape from it, you bring about a problem. The problem will continue as long as you hope to solve it one of these days.

But action is always immediate; it is not of the past or the future. To act is to be in the present, but action is dangerous because it’s uncertain, so we continue to live in the past or long for the future. So long as time is bred by thought, there will be sorrow and fear. But you cannot be frightened by the unknown because you don’t know what it is.

Most of us are frightened of dying because we don’t know what it means to live. We don’t know how to live; therefore, we don’t know how to die. As long as we are frightened of life, we will be afraid of death. But the man who lives without conflict, who lives with beauty and love, is not scared of death because to love is to die.

To die is to have your mind completely empty of itself. Empty of its daily longings, pleasures, and agonies. When there's death, there's something totally new. Freedom from the known is death, and then you are living.


Love is not the product of thought, which is the past. Instead, love is always active present. Love does not obey; it does not respect or disrespect. Fear, dependence, jealousy, possessiveness, domination, responsibility, and self-pity isn’t love. Love is found once you stop seeking it.

To Look and to Listen

To look and to listen is one of the most challenging things in life. We have lost our ability to see because we’re blinded by worries and have lost touch with the beauty of nature. But our greatest difficulty is not clearly seeing outward things, but looking inward to see ourselves clearly.

Beauty lies in the total abandonment of the observer and the observed. There can only be self-abandonment when there's complete humility. When we see without any preconception, we will be in direct contact with anything in life.

All of our relationships are imaginary, based on an image formed by our thoughts. When you say that you know someone, what you mean is that you knew who they were yesterday. You only know an image of them. But true relationships cannot exist through images, symbols, or ideological conceptions.

You cannot cultivate love or beauty, nor can you invent truth, but if you are aware of what you’re doing, you can cultivate awareness, and out of that awareness, you will see the space between yourself and others. You will see that you are alone in this world.

What is Thinking?

Ideas have become more important to us than action. We have separated ideas from action because we’re afraid to act because we are afraid to live, and therefore ideas become more important to us.

Thought can never solve any psychological problem, no matter how clever. If you want to see things clearly, you must be very quiet, without prejudices, dialogue, and images clouding your mind. Only in silence can you observe the beginning of thought.

If you are aware of how thought begins, then there is no need to control it. We spend a great deal of our time trying to control our thoughts, but if there is awareness of the beginning of thought, then there's no contradiction.

The Burdens of Yesterday

There's very little solitude in our lives. Even when you're alone, your life is crowded by the many influences, knowledge, memories, anxieties, and conflicts that dull your mind. We are constantly carrying the burdens of yesterday. Only when you give complete attention to a problem and solve it immediately—never carrying it over to the next day—that you’ll find solitude. In solitude, you find clarity.

Most of our lives are disciplined by the demands of society, our family, and our suffering. But if you wish to be free, you must learn to be disciplined without control, suppression, and fear. You become disciplined by learning, which will lead to clarity.

A living mind is a still mind; it has no center and therefore no space and time. Such a mind is limitless, and that is the only truth, the only reality.


The demand for more and more experiences showcases the inward poverty of man. We think that we can use experiences to escape from ourselves, but these experiences are conditioned by what we already are.

Experience is a bundle of memories responding to a challenge, and it can only respond according to its background. Every experience you have has already been experienced, or you wouldn’t recognize it. You recognize an experience as being good, bad, beautiful, etc., according to your conditioning.

A mind that seeks a wider and deeper experience is shallow and dull because it's living in the past with its memories. To live in the present without seeking more—without comparison—is to learn how to meditate.

Meditation is being aware of every thought and feeling and not saying whether it’s right or wrong but just watching it and moving with it. When you just watch, you begin to understand the whole movement of thought and feeling. It’s to look at everything with complete attention, totally.

Meditation is one of the greatest arts in life—perhaps the greatest—but you cannot learn it from anyone. It has no technique; therefore, there’s no authority. When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, and are aware of all that you are, that is meditation.

Once you understand meditation, you’ll find love. Love is not the product of systems, habits, or cultivated by thought. Love comes into being when there's complete silence. And the mind can only be silent when it understands its movement as thought and feeling.

Total Revolution

To change the ruthless world we live in, we must first change ourselves. If you lead a peaceful life every day—a life that isn’t competitive, ambitious, envious—you can influence the world in tremendous ways. You want to have a religious mind, not in the sense of having a religion, but a mind that has no fear and only believes what actually is.

To bring about a total revolution, you must remove all friction in your life. Your energy cannot be wasted on friction found in your relationships with others and yourself. Once you realize that nobody else can tell you what to do, will you be able to save yourself.

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