Observer Versus Observed: The Observer is the Observed

The observer is the observed – Jiddu Krishnamurti
The observer is the observed – Jiddu Krishnamurti
It was in Delhi Public Library, when I was leafing through the library’s copy of Times of India’s The Speaking Tree, an collection of article from same name column, when I first read the phrase “the observer is the observed.” I can’t remember, the author forgot to mention who said those wise words, or I forgot to read. But from there, I got stuck with the mundaneness of the phrase.

On googling the phrase, I found the phrase is said by renowned spiritual teacher, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Though one can easily guess, eagerness to learn more about the phrase might not stopped there. To learn the meaning of the phrase, I went through many blogs, and articles. However, It did not worked out well.

There are so many and different views about the phrase. And, at some level, they are all right in their deduction. The end result, I never agreed nor disagreed with any interpretation of the phrase.

In my opinion, what the phrase really means, when you observe someone or something, you also become subject of your own subject’s observation, and when you realize the reverse equation, it is only then, you learn about true self.

Starting with a light episode from my own life, I first realized this phenomenon. When I saw Manaar acting like his father on his play phone, trying to puff out the fake smoke and repeatedly saying, “yeah”, “sure” and “absolutely.” It is not that Manaar had learnt the antic from someone else, as everyone is sure that he is copying his father. Manaar copied him because he was making his observations, trying to learn new things, trying to be more like his own father. But in Manaar’s reflection, his father learnt something new, with his new found knowledge about himself and how his persona is affecting his darling child, made him quit cigarette.

I have realized the phenomenon again, when I read the story of Gautama Buddha and King Prasanjita. One day when Gautama Buddha was talking to his disciples, King Prasanjita, also came to listen him and sat in front row. As he was not accustomed to sitting on floor, he was not that comfortable. Though he made no fuss about the situation and try not to be noticed by Buddha, he tried to remain calm. But in discomfort he was unknowingly moving his big toe.

Gautama Buddha who was aware of King Prasanjita’s situation asked him, “Can you tell me why you are moving your big toe?” And in the very moment, his toe stopped moving. Gautama Buddha asked the King again, “Now, why you have stopped moving your toe?” To which, the King replied, “You are putting me in an embarrassing situation, I don’t know, why I was moving my big toe and how does it stopped moving now?”

On which Gautama Buddha points to his disciples, “Though the toe belongs to him, but he was not aware of the movement, and when I point out the fact, because of the new found awareness, the toe stopped moving.”

In simple words, there are thousands of things going on in our mind, but we only acknowledge only those things which we are aware of. And about other things that we don’t acknowledge, we actually don’t know about them, even when we are repeatedly doing that unacknowledged thing. Or we can say that, it is not through observation, but to observe oneself through that observation, one can really know about the truth.

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