KRISHNAMURTI AND THE WORLD CRISIS
Krishnamurti’s teaching has been known to the world certainly since the 30’s. Although, what he said is rather persuasive; the spread of his teaching has been rather limited and those who take the teachings seriously have not made much progress in implementing the teachings in their life. The best that has been achieved is a better understanding of their mind. Despite this not many people have been transformed by his teachings; maybe there are a few exceptions. This article will argue that this is due to an incomplete understanding of his teaching and that understanding is limited to what is going on inside the human mind. A link between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’ is not often made. The teacher has said on various occasions that the outer should also be looked at (The flame of attention chapter 1 and 7). The problem of course is that this is very difficult because the mind is conditioned and the information we receive from others is not without ‘bias’. However, this should not discourage us, because the teacher said certain things about these issues. He mentioned the issue of propaganda and wars frequently. These issues will be discussed in this article along with other issues he talked about.
It is important to take these issues into account because the necessity to change is not trivial. At the moment, we are facing climate change and in the future nuclear weapons might be used. If humanity will not change then the consequences might be devastating, although this is not inevitable. That this is a difficult thing should not deter us from taking this seriously.
The article will first discuss the significance of krishnamurti’s teaching. The necessity to understand the relationship between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’ is explained fully in the paragraph about the ‘outer as a measure for the inner’. This issue is divided in four paragraphs: social issues; propaganda and freedom; conflict and finally politics. There are two additional paragraphs one is about how to live in a society that is fundamentally different from one described by Krishnamurti and the other is about action and the world crisis. The article will finish with some concluding remarks.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF KRISHNAMURTI’S TEACHING
Krishnamurti’s teachings are about the flawed nature of the human mind. The mind is involved in a process of becoming based on past experiences, which have no relevance for the here and now. This leads to conflict within the human mind and ultimately there will be conflict at the group and national level as well. National, religious and ideological divisions often fuel conflict. This fact is hard to ignore; the evidence is overwhelming. This is explained by the fact that these divisions are at the core of our thinking.
The brilliance of Krishnamurti is in going beyond this. A religion or a guru adds another belief system or an image to the countless belief systems in the world. The struggle in the human mind will become even more terrible and in the outside world there will be conflict sooner or later. The reason that these belief systems come about is ignorance about the human mind and the tendency to seek quick solutions to mental problems. The relevance of Krishnamurti is about finding a straightforward solution to these problems. The first thing to understand is that there are no easy solutions to our very deep mental problems. If these problems are not solved then our world will always be rather troubled. Because of this it is important to stop seeking easy solutions and face the world and ourselves in an uncommitted way. This means of course that we need to look at it without the intervention of the ‘I’. This is rather difficult because the information we receive about the world is rather flawed. Fortunately, Krishnamurti said a few things about the world crisis so we are not completely empty handed. What Krishnamurti said about the world crisis will be the main issue in this article.
Because Krishnamurti’s teaching has taken away the ignorance of humanity about the human mind, it is important that other people know about it. This does not mean of course that people should be forced into his teaching, what some religions have tried to do in the past with disastrous consequences. Forcing people into it is like a declaration of war; we should not do the same thing as some organized religions. The important thing is that people who are open to Krishnamurti’s teachings are informed.
THE OUTER AS A MEASURE FOR THE INNER
Within Krishnamurti circles it is a common view that the flawed nature of the inner should be dealt with first before we can look at the ‘outer’. Krishnamurti explains why this view is wrong: ‘If one is only concerned with one’s own particular life, however much it is sorrowful and painful, then one does not realise that the part is of the whole. One has to look at life, not the American life or the Asiatic life, but life as a whole; holistic observation; an observation that is not a particular observation; it is not one’s own observation, but the observation that comprehends the totality, the holistic view of life’. (The flame of attention Chapter 7)
We could add to this that it is impossible to separate the ‘outer’ from the ‘inner’. When the inner is creating problems this is often caused by a challenge from the outer. So, a concentration on the ‘inner’ is rather artificial. As Krishnamurti says we are part of the whole, so a concentration on the ‘inner’ is incomplete.
Krishnamurti also explains what would be a better attitude: ‘If you are not at all concerned with the world but only with your personal salvation, following certain beliefs and superstitions, following gurus, then I am afraid it will be impossible for you and the speaker to communicate with each other. We are not concerned at all with private personal salvation but we are concerned, earnestly, seriously, with what the human mind has become, what humanity is facing. We are concerned at looking at this world and what a human being living in this world has to do, what is his role? (The flame of attention Chapter 1)
The implications of this are fundamental; it means that we should be mainly interested in ‘truth’ and not private salvation. The other implication of this is that we should not expect any advantage from applying the teachings in our life. Another way of expressing this is that we need to be mainly interested in understanding why mankind has gone astray; this is the same as understanding truth. For that we need to understand all aspects of the teachings.
This flies in the face of often held beliefs about the relationship between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’. However, a strong point about the view to concentrate on the ‘inner’ might be that the nature of the ‘inner’ is flawed. So, that it cannot possibly look at the ‘outer’. This is true, but then we cannot look at the 'inner' either. Because of this we need Krishnamurti's teaching to help us out of this impasse. This article will show that Krishnamurti's teaching about the relationship between the 'inner' and the 'outer' is developed well enough to take the outer into account. From this it follows that the relationship between the 'inner' and the 'outer' can be explored without any problems. So, the view that we cannot take the 'outer' into account before transformation is false.
In addition to this we need the 'outer' to understand the 'inner'. Krishnamurti explains this as follows: ‘what is happening outside of us is the measure by which we will be able to understand ourselves inwardly. If we do not understand what is actually going on in the external world, outside the psychological field, we will have no measure by which to observe ourselves’ (The flame of attention Chapter 7). If the ‘inner’ is going to change then it needs a measure. This measure seems to be ‘outside’ of us rather than ‘inside’ of us. So, a concentration on the ‘inner’ will never lead to change.
The most important thing to understand is that we need to realize that we are related to the world. On countless occasions the teacher said that ‘we are the world’: this basically means that the way the human mind functions is the same no matter what we are or where we live. We are related to the whole world even to things we are not directly in touch with. From this it is obvious that transformation should be about being totally related to society and the world.
When we accept the necessity to look at the relationship between the inner and the outer and that transformation is about being totally related to society and the world then it becomes clear that understanding society and the nature of propaganda is essential. It is obvious that our thinking influences society, but society also has an influence on our thinking. This issue is dealt with in more detail in the next paragraph on propaganda and freedom. When intelligence operates there is no influence from society on our thinking, then our perception is pure, which results in right action. A society that allows intelligence to flourish is obviously essential. Such a society does not exist anywhere in the world.
Therefore it is important to understand how the individual relates to a society, where the possibility to develop intelligence does not exist. Because there is no right action in such a society, conflict is inevitable. To control the effects of conflict within society, most societies have developed a value system. By imposing a morality on its citizens it hopes to bring about a peaceful and efficient society. It is obvious that the west has succeeded in this to a certain degree. But, even the west has social problems and crime is certainly not absent. An imposed morality creates a deviation between what people are really thinking and how they ought to think. What people are really thinking is kept at bay for a while, but eventually it takes over. An imposed morality also makes us hypocrites. The same imposed morality does not necessarily keep conflict at bay; it could even encourage conflict if people are not behaving well. A society could even go to war for this. This subject will be dealt with in a separate paragraph.
For most of us morality is something we take for granted. The effects of morality are not just about rules for its citizens. Morality has some unfortunate effects as described by Krishnamurti: ‘Social morality is mere respectability. Ambition, greed, the conceit of achievement and its recognition, the brutality of power and position, killing in the name of an ideology or a country – this is the morality of society’. (Commentaries on Living 3, chapter 27 ‘Reform, revolution and the search for god’) It is worth describing this in more detail.
His description of respectability does not make us feel more upbeat: ‘Respectability is a curse; it is an evil that corrodes the mind and heart. It creeps upon one unknowingly and destroys love. To be respectable is to feel successful to carve for oneself a position in the world, to build around oneself a wall of certainty, of that assurance which comes with money, power, success, capacity or virtue.
This exclusiveness of assurance breeds hatred and antagonism in human relationship, which is society. The respectable are always the cream of society, and so they are ever the cause of strife and misery. The respectable, like the despised, are always at the mercy of circumstances; the influences of environment and the weight of tradition are vastly important to them, for these hide their inward poverty. The respectable are on the defensive, fearful and suspicious. Fear is in their hearts, so anger is their righteousness; their virtue and piety are their defence. They are as the drum, empty within but loud when beaten. The respectable can never be open to reality for, like the despised, they are enclosed in the concern for their own self-improvement. Happiness is denied to them, for they avoid truth’. (Commentaries on Living 1, Chapter 10 ‘Respectability’) In other words morality encourages success but once achieved you are on the defensive so that protection mechanisms are starting to operate. It also clouds the mind so that perception is no longer pure, if it ever was. The position of the successful also leads to strife and misery especially by those who are not successful. It is important to understand that krishnamurti talks mainly about psychological processes. It is possible that people with intelligence are successful but they are not seeking it. Their acts in society are based on right action so that the idea about being successful does not even enter their minds.
Success is a crucial part of respectability, which is about being rich or poor. Krishnamurti describes their position as follows: ‘the rich have a peculiar atmosphere of their own. However cultured, unobtrusive, ancient and polished, the rich have an impenetrable and assured aloofness, that inviolable certainty and hardness that is difficult to break down. They are not the possessors of wealth, but are possessed by wealth, which is worse than death. Their conceit is philanthropy; they think they are trustees of their wealth; they have charities, create endowments; they are the makers, the builders, the givers. They build churches, temples, but their god is the god of their gold. With so much poverty and degradation, one must have a very thick skin to be rich. Some of them come to question, to argue, to find reality. For the rich as for the poor, it is extremely difficult to find reality. The poor crave to be rich and powerful, and the rich are already caught in the net of their own action; and yet they believe and venture near’. (Commentaries on Living 1, Chapter 7 ‘The rich and the poor’) In other words the position of both the rich and poor creates a mechanism that makes it difficult to find reality. It is therefore important that they understand the position in which they find themselves and the associated mechanisms in their mind.
One of the consequences of success is power. This issue has tremendous consequences for us but also for society. Krishnamurti says the following:
‘Both poverty and riches are a bondage. The consciously poor and the consciously rich are the playthings of circumstances. Both are corruptible, for both seek that which is corrupting: power. Power is greater than possessions; power is greater than wealth and ideas. These do give power; but they can be put away, and yet the sense of power remains. One may beget power through simplicity of life, through virtue, through the party, through renunciation; but such means are a mere substitution and they should not deceive one. The desire for position, prestige and power – the power that is gained through aggression and humility, through asceticism and knowledge, through exploitation and self-denial – is subtly persuasive and almost instinctive. Such in any form is power, and failure is merely the denial of success. To be powerful, to be successful is to be slavish, which is the denial of virtue. Virtue gives freedom, but it is not a thing to be gained. Any achievement whether of the individual or off the collective, becomes a means to power. Success in this world, and the power that self-control and self-denial bring, are to be avoided; for both distort understanding. It is the desire for success that prevents humility; and without humility how can there be understanding? The man of success is hardened, self-enclosed; he is burdened with his own importance, with his responsibilities, achievements and memories. There must be freedom from self-assumed responsibilities and from the burden of achievement; for that which is weighed down cannot be swift, and to understand requires a swift and pliable mind. Mercy is denied to the successful, for they are incapable of knowing the very beauty of life which is love. The desire for success is the desire for domination. To dominate is to possess, and possession is the way of isolation. This self-isolation is what most of us seek, through name, through relationship, through work, through ideation. In isolation there is power, but power breed antagonism and pain; for isolation is the outcome of fear, and fear puts an end to all communion. Communion is relationship; and however pleasurable or painful relationship may be, in it there is the possibility of self-forgetfulness. Isolation is the way of the self, and all activity of the self brings conflict and sorrow’ (Commentaries on Living 1, Chapter 33 ‘Power’)
It is obvious from the discussion on respectability that seeking success is not a good thing. It is much more important to find right relationship first. This obviously relates to the choice of occupation. From this it follows that a right relationship with society needs to be established first before we choose an occupation. This is not necessarily an easy thing especially when we are well established in our current occupation. Krishnamurti says the following about our current occupations: ‘Most of our occupations are dictated by tradition, or by greed, or by ambition. In our occupation we are ruthless, competitive, deceitful, cunning and highly self-protective. If we weaken at any time we may go under, so we must keep up with the high efficiency of the greedy machine of business. It is a constant struggle to maintain a hold, to become sharper and cleverer. Ambition can never find lasting satisfaction; it is ever seeking wider fields for self-assertiveness’. (Ojai, 1st public talk 1945 last question).
Right Relationship is something different according to Krishnamurti: ‘but in relationship quite a different process is involved. In it there must be affection, consideration, adjustment, self-denial, yielding; not to conquer but to live happily. In it there must be self-effacing tenderness, freedom from domination, from possessiveness, but emptiness and fear breed jealousy and pain in relationship. Relationship is a process of self-discovery, in which there is wider and deeper understanding; relationship a constant adjustment in self-discovery. It demands patience, infinite pliability and a simple heart’. (Ojai, 1st public talk 1945 last question). It is obvious that the two can never meet, except when we first seek right relationship and then an occupation based on it.
It is important to understand how the processes described here influence our thinking. It is worth exploring how issues like respectability, success and power influence our thinking and whether they are an impediment to change. As will be described in the section on conflict, many of these processes also create war. In the next section we will describe in more detail the influence of society on our thinking.
PROPAGANDA AND FREEDOM
The nature of society was discussed in the previous section. In this section we discuss the issue of propaganda more specifically, especially how it influences our thinking. The reason why society influences our thinking is of course that society forces us to adapt. Through the education system we are taught to do certain things. Such as adapting to the values of society, learning a profession and so on. The question how we feel and how we think might sometimes come up, but not to the extent that we can find out for ourselves. It is much more important to be taught how to think rather than what to think (independent thinking is not encouraged). It is also very difficult to stand up for what is right, if that doesn’t suit society. People have to earn a living and are caught in a routine; within this process it is very hard for the individual to discover things for himself or herself rather than according to society (Krishnamurti on Freedom Varanasi1962). The reason why we adapt of course is that we need to survive. We feel by not adapting we could loose our job or relationships. This is of course the issue of physical and psychological security, an issue that will be discussed in the paragraph on conflict. The barriers described here are real barriers, which need to be dealt with. However, it is very important that these barriers are not used as an excuse not to change or not to deal with the world crisis. That this is not a trivial issue is clear from Krishnamurti's statement that society is the enemy of man (Krishnamurti on Freedom Varanasi 1962). This means that society is the psychological enemy of man.
From the above the question arises why society puts up barriers. Despite the rhetoric there seems to be a danger to freedom according to society. The clever individual might dominate others who are less enterprising. Therefore, political tyrannies try to control, religiously as well as economically and socially, the human mind; they penalize the mind; trying to prevent man from thinking freely. In the so-called democratic societies there is greater freedom. But freedom is also denied in the democracies when it takes the form of a revolt. Obviously, the psychological structure of these systems creates the chaos in which we find ourselves at the moment. (Krishnamurti on Freedom Saanen1965).
Finally, it should be clear that we are not talking about the freedom of the conditioned mind, but the quality of freedom, which is the reality of the unconditioned mind (To be Human Poona1958).
The issue of conflict is the very essence of Krishnamurti’s teaching. The difference between the ‘what should be’ and ‘what is’ constantly creates conflict within ourselves. The same mechanism creates conflict between us and other human beings who happen not to behave according to our conditioning; why should they? We create this conflict. It is not well understood by everyone that if we do not behave according to somebody else his conditioning then it is not our responsibility. Unfortunately, new age gurus, psychologists and society sometimes tell us that we are responsible for this. But we only have a responsibility for our own conditioning. This is very important to understand. The reason is that adapting to somebody else implies adapting to that person and society. It is not the intention that we use the values of society as a basis for action. Pure perception and action implies getting away from societies’ values completely. Conflict does not stop here. Groups within society have conflict with each other. Countries also have conflict. There is one psychological movement that causes all these conflicts both internal and external; one could call this the ego. Krishnamurti was mainly concerned about this movement. Theoretically it is possible that at a certain time that this movement does not cause wars. Even in this situation Krishnamurti would have been concerned. In this section we will mainly talk about external conflict
To clarify the issue of conflict discussing the issue of seeking security is a good way to explain it. We obviously need physical security (Food, Shelter, Clothes). This is available to most people in the West, but denied to a large part of humanity. This security is obviously needed. The human mind does not stop seeking security here; it also seeks psychological security, which does not exist. This can explain many of the divisions that create conflict. Krishnamurti explains this as follows: In order to be secure in our relationships, secure in our possessions, secure in our ideas, we have created national frontiers, beliefs, gods, leaders and so on. When each one of us is thus seeking security, naturally there must be opposition, and this opposition creates conflict in our life. When we are seeking security, existence is one constant battle, one constant conflict; and being in conflict, being in misery, we want to find the truth. (Poona, 1st September 1948)
Within the same talk he mentions the causes of war specifically:
- Search for power;
- Geographical and national divisions;
- Economic conflict;
- Sovereign states;
- Ideology (left or right);
- Organized Religion;
- Competitiveness and Ambition and
- Accumulation of wealth.
These are causes created by you and me.
It is obvious that these causes create war. It is not obvious to everyone that the individual creates these causes. Many of these causes are reflected in our thinking. They are manifestations of the ego. The ego supports a conflict based social structure. This is the reason why we are responsible for war, even when we are not fighting a war ourselves. From this it is also obvious that it is not enough to oppose these causes, but that they should no longer be part of our mental structure. It is worth explaining some of these causes in more detail. Some of these issues were already discussed in the paragraph on social issues. The issues discussed here are nationalism, economic conflict, organized religion and the competitive way of life.
Because countries go to war with each other it is obvious that nationalism is a cause of war. We need to understand the outward and inward implications of nationalism. Outwardly it brings about divisions between people, classifications, wars and destruction. The inward implications are less obvious. Krisnamurti says the following about this: ‘inwardly, psychologically, this identification with the greater, with the country, with an idea, is obviously a form of self-expansion. Living in a little village or a big town or whatever it may be, I am nobody; but if I identify myself with the larger, with the country, if I call myself a Hindu, it flatters my vanity, it gives me gratification, prestige, a sense of well being; and that identification with the larger, which a psychological necessity for those who feel that self-expansion is essential, also creates conflict, strife between people’. Thus nationalism not only creates outward conflict but inward frustrations; when one understands nationalism, the whole process of nationalism, it falls away. (The first and last freedom questions and answers question 2 ‘on nationalism)
Economic conflicts are also a cause of war. Krishnamurti explains this as follows:
‘We have divided the world into economic spheres, with all their problems. Perhaps one of the major causes of war is heavy industry. When industry and economics go hand in hand with politics they must inevitably sustain a separate activity to maintain their economic stature. All countries are doing this, the great and the small. The small are being armed by the big nations – some quietly, surreptitiously, others openly. Is the cause of all this misery, suffering, and the enormous waste of money on armaments, the visible sustenance of pride, of wanting to be superior to others?’
(Krishnamurti to Himself, Brockwood 31-3-1983))
One of the other causes of war is religion. In the paragraph about the significance of krishnamurti’s teaching we already talked about it. Organized religion proposes a method to deal with the problems of life; the consequence of this is further conflict rather than reducing conflict. From this it is obvious that organized religion is also a cause of war. Apart from being a cause of war in itself; it also creates divisions; these divisions are a further cause of war. The only thing that matters in religion is the search for truth. This is the only thing that matters so there is no need to have divisions between religions. Krishnamurti answers why we call ourselves Hindu, Muslim or Christian as follows: ‘because we are not really religious people at all. If we had love, mercy in our hearts we would not care two pins what we called ourselves and that is religion. It is because our hearts are empty that they are filled with things, which are childish – and which you call the burning questions! Surely, that is very immature. (Poona, 1st September 1948)
Another reason why people have a religious label is that it is profitable and it gives them a position in society. Krishnamurti describes a religious person (Brahmin) as follows: Brahmin is a person who understands who has no authority in society, who is independent of society, who is not greedy, who is not seeking power, who is outside all power’. (Poona, 1st September 1948)
Conflict based on religious differences is a major issue in our world. It is therefore important to understand how do deal with this. It is first of all important to understand why religious divisions are a cause of war. Many people would find such an explanation simplistic. That it is not simplistic is explained by the fact that it is at the core of ones thinking. It is also important to understand that we cannot force people to abandon their religion; this can only be done through insight. There is also a risk that criticizing religion is a conditioned response rather than telling the truth. Therefore it should be more an issue for us as an individual rather than criticising others. Despite this it is important that eventually we abandon religion and become human beings again. Force should not be used to achieve this. It is important that we treat religious people as human beings rather than those who have the wrong belief system.
Finally it is worth discussing the issue of competitiveness and ambition in more detail. It is obvious that a competitive and ambitious person is not peaceful; from this it is obvious that this is a cause of war. According to Krishnamurti: ‘Competition and ambition are destructive urges which man must understand and so be free of it, if he is to live in a peaceful world’. The reason why it is destructive is explained as follows:
Ambition breeds mediocrity of mind and heart; ambition is superficial, for it is everlastingly seeking a result. The man, who wants to be a saint, or a successful politician, or a big executive, is concerned with personal achievement. Urge to be successful strengthens the ego. It also implies conflict: Competitiveness, ambition, implies conflict within and without, does it not? An ambitious man is not a peaceful man. The politician can never bring peace to the world, nor can those who belong to any organized belief, for they all have been conditioned to a world of leaders, saviours, guides and examples; and when you follow another you are seeking the fulfilment of your own ambition, whether in this world or in the world of ideation, the so-called spiritual world. Competitiveness, ambition, implies conflict, does it not? (Commentaries on living 2, chapter 38 ‘The competitive way of life’)
All these passages are rather shocking because we live in a society where competition is considered as something that brings about progress. According to Krishnamurti it creates conflict and ultimately war. The worrying thing is that most people consider our competitive way of life as inevitable. This might be the case. However, there is no doubt that competition brings about conflict and eventually wars. Many people are worried to get away from this competitive way of existence. They should realize it is not only our responsibility to bring about a prosperous society but a peaceful society as well. If we are to make any progress then we need to get away from the idea that the competitive way of life is inevitable! According to Krishnamurti it is possible to live in society with a wholly different outlook. We would not live according to the usual pattern, but we would live creatively and happily
The issue described here is about cultural influence and divisions. That this is not an innocent issue is clear from the following shocking description by Krishnamurti about cultural influence:
“As each one is responsible for the shaping of this culture, if each one does not radically transform himself then how can there be an end to this brutal world and its ways? Each one is responsible for these tragedies and disasters, for tortures and bestialities, if he thinks-feels in terms of nations, groups, or thinks of himself as Hindu or Buddhist, Christian or Moslem. If a so-called "foreigner" in India is killed by a nationalist, then I am responsible for that murder if I am a nationalist; but I am not responsible if I do not think-feel in terms of nations, groups or classes, if I am not lustful, if I have no ill will, if I am not worldly. Then only is there freedom from responsibility for killing, torturing, oppressing.
We have lost the feeling of humanity; we feel responsible only to the class or group to which we belong; we feel responsible to a name, to a label. We have lost compassion, the love of the whole, and without this quickening flame of life we look to politicians, to priests, to some economic planning for peace and happiness. In these there is no hope. In each one alone is there creative understanding, that compassion which is necessary for the well-being of man. Right means create right ends, wrong means will bring only emptiness and death, not peace and joy.” (Ojai 1945, 5th talk, first question)
This is a rather shocking statement by Krishnamurti. If one does not understand this statement or cannot relate to it then it is important not to take it on board. It can only be taken on board once one understands it and sees it operating in ones own life and surroundings. If one understands how the ‘inner’ influences the ‘outer’ then our responsibility becomes obvious. If one sees it operating in ones life and surroundings then the consequences will be profound. Because of this most people are only willing to look at this issue until they understand the consequences of change.
To get away from an abstract reading of this; it might be good to describe a discussion between Krishnamurti and an American mother who lost her son in the second world war. She asked Krishnamurti how she could save her second son. He answered her as follows: ‘Cease to be greedy, cease piling up wealth, seeking power, domination and be morally simple – not merely simple in clothes, in outward things, but simple in her thoughts and feelings, in her relationships’ (First and Last Freedom, Questions and Answers, Question 10 ‘On War) Apart from that Krishnamurti also asked her to cease being American. This was too difficult for her; therefore she was responsible for the destruction of her son.
After pointing out that we are responsible for war because we create the causes of war. Krishnamurti makes things more difficult for us. He points out that peace cannot be organized because an organization for peace is a focal point of power. As we saw earlier in this paragraph power is one of the causes of war. He also states that peace is not an organizational problem. When there is affection, when there is mercy, we need no organization for peace, what we need is mutual understanding, mutual cooperation. The message of Krishnamurti is for the individual and not for the group. Individuals have to be opposed to war, but they should not be organized in a group. Each one of us must be aware of the causes of war, and each must be free of them. If people come together then it is important that nothing is imposed on group members and that everything is done on a voluntary basis.
The inner creates problems within society. The role of politics is to solve these problems. It basically deals with the effects of the inner on society. The inner is considered as given; decisions are taken in such a way that the inner is accommodated. It is not the role of politics to change the inner; although education is an issue politics deals with. Politics is interested in dealing with the causes of problems but never in such a way that it changes the inner. The values of society, which are reflected in the inner, determine the limitations of politics. Politics sometimes went beyond these limitations; when it did conflict within society came up after a while.
For a while the idea that changing the outer would change the inner was powerful in politics. Good social circumstances would create good human beings according to this idea. After the collapse of communism this idea is no longer powerful. Reforms and state solutions are no longer popular. From the above it is clear that only a change in the inner will change the individual and society. The last thing to understand about politics is that politicians also have egos, so inevitably the decisions they make are not complete and lead to further chaos.
If we apply the previous section to politics, then this reveals that politics is essentially a dubious activity, although it is almost certainly necessary. In a democratic society politics is based upon ideological divisions, which lead to war eventually. In dictatorial countries ideologies caused great disasters (communism and nazism) in the past (this will be discussed more fully later in this paragraph). These are issues that we should not ignore but take rather seriously. Even within democratic societies there is not complete freedom because of the pressure on the individual, as described in the section on propaganda and freedom. Furthermore politics is a power structure that is also a cause of war. A truly religious person will never get involved in politics; he is only interested in right action.
In addition to this it is important to understand that politics also has a powerful effect on the inner. Politics creates a sense of limitation in our minds. This is reflected in statements such as ‘it is not realistic to pursue a certain course of action’ and ‘people will never change’ and so on. It is important to get away from this sense of limitation and not to use it is an excuse not to change.
To understand how ideologies and politics influence the outer. Some of Krishnamurti’s commentaries on living are very helpful. Three of them are discussed below. It is important to read them in such a way that our own thinking on politics is also under scrutiny.
Discussion with Marxist (Commentaries on Living 2, Chapter 8
The discussion Krishnamurti has with a Marxist is rather interesting and revealing.
The Marxist states: “Conflict between thesis and antithesis is inevitable, it brings about synthesis, from which there is a thesis with its corresponding antithesis and so on. There is no end to conflict, and it is only through conflict that there can ever be any growth any advance”. Krishnamurti comments: ‘does conflict bring about a comprehension of our problems? Does it lead to growth, advancement? It may bring about secondary improvements, but is not conflict in its very nature a factor of disintegration?’
There is one fundamental flaw with the view of the Marxist: the antithesis is not independent from the original thesis given the nature of our thinking. Krishnamurti explains this as follows: ‘Conflict between what has been and what will be. The “what will be” is the further response of what has been and is’. By conflict we mean the struggle between two opposing ideas. But is opposition in any form conducive to understanding?
The Marxist feels that conflict is essential, not surprisingly Krishnamurti doubts this. He says the following: ‘Conflict has become a factor of enormous importance. Why has it become so significant in our lives? Competition, ambition, the effort to be or not to be, the will to achieve and so on – all this is part of conflict’. Should we not investigate rather than assert or deny? Should we not attempt to find the truth of the matter rather than hold on to our conclusions and opinions? According to the Marxist: “Progress from one society to another not possible without conflict?” The haves will not voluntarily give up their wealth. Krishnamurti:’You assume that you know what the new society should be, and that the other fellow does not; you alone have this extraordinary knowledge, and you are willing to liquidate those who stand in your way. By this method, which you think is essential, you only bring about opposition and hate’. ‘What you know is merely another form of prejudice, a different kind of conditioning. Your historical studies, or those of your leaders, are interpreted according to a particular background which determines your response; and this response you call the new approach, the new ideology. All response of thought is conditioned, and to bring about a revolution based on thought or idea is to perpetuate a modified form of what was. You are essentially reformers, and not real revolutionaries. Reformation and revolution based on idea are retrogressive factors in society. Is the opposite different or dissimilar from what is? How does the opposite come into being? Is it not a modified projection of what is? Has not the antithesis the elements of its own thesis? The one is not wholly different or dissimilar from the other, and the synthesis is still a modified thesis. Though periodically coated a different colour, though modified, reformed, reshaped according to circumstances and pressures, the thesis is always the thesis. The conflict between the opposites is utterly wasteful and stupid. Intellectually or verbally you can prove or disprove anything, but that cannot alter certain obvious facts.
It is important to notice that ‘liquidating those who stand in the way’ has happened in the past based on ideologies (Cambodia, Russia and China). The conclusion here is that having an ideology is not an innocent thing. This doesn’t mean of course that we should force people to give up their ideologies then we are not acting from intelligence; such an action is based on the ego.
The ideal of the Marxist brings about a different structure using the same pattern of thought. Krishnamurti explains this as follows: ‘but your revolution is no revolution, it is only a change of power from one group to another, the substitution of one class for another. Your revolution is merely a different structure built of the same material and within the same underlying pattern. There is a radical revolution which is not a conflict, which is not based on thought with its ego-made projections, ideals, dogmas, Utopias; but as long as we think in terms of changing this into that, of becoming more or becoming less, of achieving an end, there cannot be this fundamental revolution. It is the only revolution, the only fundamental transformation. When the Marxist asks Krishnamurti how to bring this about. He answers him as follows: ‘by seeing the false as the false; by seeing the truth in the false. Obviously, there must be a fundamental revolution in man’s relationship to man; we all know that things cannot go on as they are without increasing sorrow and disaster. But all reformers, like the so-called revolutionaries, have an end in view; a goal to be achieved, and both use man as a means to their own ends. The use of man for a purpose is the real issue, and not the attainment of a particular end. You cannot separate the end from the means, for they are a single inseparable process. The means is the end; there can be no classless society through the means of class conflict. The results of using wrong means for a so-called right end are fairly obvious. There can be no peace through war, or through being prepared for war. All opposites are self-projected; the ideal is a reaction from what is, and the conflict to achieve the ideal is a vain and illusory struggle within the cage of thought. Through this conflict there is no release, no freedom for man. Without freedom, there can be no happiness; and freedom is not an ideal. Freedom is the only means to freedom. As long as man is psychologically of physically used, whether in the name of God or of the State, there will be a society based on violence. Using man for a purpose is a trick employed by the politician and the priest, and it denies relationship.
That man is used for a purpose by society and within the economic process is taken for granted. Krishnamurti feels that this breeds violence and it is amoral. As Krishnamurti says man is essentially used as a piece of furniture. This has happened under Marxism. Under capitalism it is done as well. Relationship is impossible in such a situation; man is used as a tool. A tool is a dead thing, and there can be no relationship with that which is dead. This issue is also relevant for the discussion on propaganda and freedom.
The Marxist wonders why Krishnamurti put so much emphasis on relationship. He explains this as follows: ‘existence is relationship; to be is to be related. Relationship is society. The structure of our present society, being based on mutual use, bring about violence, destruction and misery; and if the so-called revolutionary State does not fundamentally alter this usage, it can only produce, perhaps at a different level, still further conflict, confusion and antagonism. As long as we psychologically need and use each other, there can be no relationship. Relationship is communion; and how can there be communion if there is exploitation? Exploitation implies fear, and fear inevitably leads to all kinds of illusions and misery. Conflict exists only in exploitation and not in relationship. Conflict, opposition, enmity exists between us when there is the use of another as a means of pleasure, of achievement. This conflict obviously cannot be resolved by using it as a means to a self-projected goal; and all ideals, all Utopias are self-projected. To see this is essential, for then we shall experience the truth that conflict in any form destroys relationship, understanding. There is understanding only when the mind is quiet; and the mind is not quiet when it is held in any ideology, dogma or belief, or when it is bound to the pattern of its own experience, memories. The mind is not quiet when it is acquiring or becoming. All acquisition is conflict; all becoming is a process of isolation.
Can politics ever be spiritualised (Commentaries on Living 3, Chapter 42)
This discussion is helpful to clarify some of the points we discussed in the previous sections further. The main question is about the possibility of politics being spiritualised. This is explained as follows: ‘Politics are concerned with society, which is always in conflict with itself, always deteriorating. The interrelationship of human beings constitutes society, and that relationship is actually based on ambition, frustration, envy. Society knows no compassion. Compassion is the act of a total and integrated individual. The unity of man can never be brought about through legislation, however enlightened. Where there’s friendship, compassion, the organization of justice is unnecessary; and through the organization of justice, compassion does not necessarily come into being. On the contrary, it may banish compassion. But that’s another matter. The problem is much deeper than that, isn’t it? Political, economic and social reforms are obviously necessary; but unless we begin to understand the greater issue, which is the totality of man and his total action, such reforms only breed further mischief, necessitating still more reforms, in an endless chain by which man is held.’
Are there not deeper urges which are compelling these ‘saintly’ political leaders to act as they do? Krishnamurti: ‘Leadership implies power, the power to influence, to guide, to dominate, and subtly or assertively, these leaders are seekers after power, power in any form is evil, and it will inevitably lead to disaster. Most people want to be led, to be told what to do, and in their confusion they bring into being leaders who are as confused as themselves. Are they not highly respectable men of good intention and good conduct? Krishnamurti: The respectable are the conventional; they follow tradition, wide or narrow, acknowledge or unacknowledged. The respectable always have the authority of the book, of the past. They may not consciously seek power, but power comes to them through their position, their activities, and so on; and by this power they are driven. Humility is far from them. They are leaders, they have followers. He who follows another, whether it be the greatest saint or the teacher round the corner, is essentially irreligious.
Why do you seek power? Krishnamurti: Having power over one or over thousands, gives an intense possessive pleasure, does it not? There is a pleasurable feeling of self-importance, of being in a position of authority. Why do we seek and try to maintain this exciting sense of power? ‘It comes so naturally that it seems to be inbred in us’ Krishnamurti: ‘Such an explanation blocks further and deeper inquiry, doesn’t it? If you would find out the truth of the matter, you must not be satisfied by explanations, however plausible and gratifying.
Why do we want to be leaders? There must be recognition in order to feel important; if we are not recognized as such, importance has no meaning. Recognition is part of the whole process of leadership. Not only does the leader acquire importance, but also the follower. By asserting that he belongs to such-and-such a movement, led by so-and-so, the follower becomes somebody. Don’t you find this to be true? ‘I am afraid I do’ Something similar is true for the follower. Krishnamurti: Being insufficient in ourselves, empty, we proceed to fill that emptiness with a sense of possession, power, position, or with knowledge, gratifying ideologies, and so on; we crowd it with the things of the mind. This process of filling, of escaping, of becoming whether it be conscious or otherwise, is the net of the self; it is the ego, the ‘me’, the entity that has identified itself with an ideology, with reform, with a certain pattern of action. In this process of becoming, which is self-fulfilment, there is always the shadow of frustration. Unless this fact is deeply understood so that the mind is free from the act of self-fulfilment, there will ever be this evil of power, with various labels of respectability attached to it. The man who seeks power, or accepts power in any form, is fundamentally irreligious. He may seek power through austerity, through discipline and self-denial, which is called virtue, or through the interpretation of the sacred books; but such a man does not know the immense significance of what may be called religion. That’s what the Christian, the Buddhist, the Moslem also does; each accepts as religion the particular pattern of belief, dogma and ritual in which he happens to have been brought up. Acceptance implies choice, doesn’t it? And is there a choice in the matter of religion? It is not a matter of right or wrong, but let’s understand what we’re talking about. From childhood you have been influenced by your parents, and by society, to think in terms of a certain pattern of beliefs and dogmas. Later you may revolt against all that, and take on another pattern of what is called religion; but whether you revolt or not, your reason is based on your desire to be secure, to be ‘spiritually’ safe, and on that urge depends your choice. After all, reason or thought is also the outcome of conditioning, of bias, prejudice, of conscious or unconscious fear, and so on. However logical and efficient one’s reasoning may be, it does not lead to that which is beyond the mind. For that which is beyond the mind to come into being, the mind must be totally still.’
Can one know what is good for the people (Commentaries on Living 3, Chapter 4)
One argument in politics often used is that the political elite knows better than the common people. They might be better educated or have more experience in ruling the country. However, it should be understood that their perception is limited as well and as a consequence they are not seeing the whole. As a consequence they are not making the right decisions. There is loads of empirical evidence for this. Krishnamurti explains this as follows: ‘Is the totality of life to be understood through the part? Or is it that the whole must first be perceived and understood, and that only then the parts can be examined and reshaped in relation to the whole? Without comprehending the whole, mere concentration on the part only breeds further confusion and misery’.
One politician in this commentary on living feels that this is only for the dreamers and philosophers. Krishnamurti responds as follows: ‘you start with so many conclusions; and when you start with a conclusion, whether your own or that of another, all thinking ceases. The calm assumption that you know, and that the other does not, leads to greater misery than the misery of having only one meal a day. Every party knows, or thinks it knows, what’s good for the people. But what is truly good will not create antagonism, either at home or abroad; it will bring about unity between man and man; what is truly good will be concerned with the totality of man, and not with some superficial benefit that may lead only to greater calamity and misery; it will put an end to the division and the enmity that nationalism and organized religions have created. And is the good so easily found’.
In the same commentary on living he explains the role of leaders in the process:
‘At the moment of action we are enthusiastic, impetuous, we are carried away by an idea, or by the personality and the fire of a leader. All leaders, from the most brutal tyrant to the most religious politician, state that they are acting for the good of man, and they all lead to the grave; but nevertheless we succumb to their influence, and follow them. Haven’t you, sir been influenced by such a leader. He may no longer be living, but you still think and act according to his sanctions, his formulas, his pattern of life; or else you are influenced by a more recent leader. So we go from one leader to another, dropping them when it suits our convenience, or when a better leader turns up with greater promise of some ‘good’. In our enthusiasm we bring others into the net of our convictions, and they often remain in that net when we ourselves have moved on to other leaders and other convictions. But what is good is free of influence, compulsion and convenience and any act which is not good in this sense is bound to breed confusion and misery’.
Related to this passage the role of authority should also be examined.
HOW TO LIVE IN A FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT SOCIETY
In the previous sections it became clear that the society we live in is fundamentally different from what Krishnamurti describes in his talks and commentaries on living. Society pushes us in a certain direction consistent with the basic values of society. The morality of society leads to unhelpful attitudes (respectability and emphasis on success). War is eventually the consequence of the political and religious divisions of society. The competitive nature of society leads to the same result. We have to live in such a society. Therefore the question about how to live in such a society needs to be answered.
The most important thing for us is to understand the relationship between ‘the inner’ and ‘the outer’. Just looking at ‘the outer’ is not enough; we need to relate this to our own thinking. If we find that a certain activity or profession is bad for society and for us then inevitably we will walk away from it. It is important to find this out for ourselves and not because Krishnamurti said this. The problem of course is that it is not always easy to stop a profession or an activity. Right occupation is very important because of this.
The other issue is how to judge the world crisis in our own life. If our thinking is fundamentally flawed, does this imply that everything in society is wrong? Not everything is wrong; it is obvious that we are still capable of learning a profession. We are capable judging many day-to-day issues correctly. The world crisis comes in when we are emotional. When this happens conflict comes in, which will express itself at the personal and interpersonal level. We might be affected by social problems within society. We could also become the victim of violence. What is always there is our limited perception. This doesn’t mean that there always needs to be a sense of crisis in our life. It is important for our own life to judge these things correctly.
ACTION AND THE WORLD CRISIS
If the house is on fire then we will act. The world crisis is also like a house on fire. If the house is on fire, then we see clearly what is happening and know the action to be taken. The problem with the world crisis is that the ego wants us to prevent that we see the world crisis clearly. So, every judgment from the ego about the world crisis should not be taken seriously. What should be taken seriously is what prevents us from seeing the world crisis clearly. So any judgment about the world crisis should be under critical scrutiny. It is essential to see this because without transformation action is not possible.
A good way to look at what prevents us from seeing the world crisis clearly is to look at the barriers put up by us. There are many examples of this: people will never change; wars will always be there; people will always be selfish and so on. Here the ego uses society as an excuse not to change. It is very important to be aware of this. If we do not change then there will be more conflict and climate change. Politicians to a certain degree might solve climate change, but the existence of conflict might bring about a catastrophe e.g. with nuclear weapons. This is very similar to preventing a fire. If we need to prevent a fire then arguments about whether it is realistic are never raised. If some people (or maybe many) will not take our message on board then this will have no relationship to the necessity to act. Furthermore, we will not deal with people who do not take our message on board, but with those who do and will do in the future. It is very important to understand that this barrier is of our own making and has nothing to do with the possibility or the necessity to act. Not wanting to act also means that we accept the appalling state of the world. This also means that we are responsible for it, this is a responsibility we cannot possibly accept. That many people are not willing to change is irrelevant, because this responsibility is fundamental
Because transformation is so difficult it is important to talk about actions that can be done without transformation. Any action from the ego leads to further confusion so this is not an option. The only thing that can be done is to inform people about Krishnamurti’s teaching without forcing them. Problems like starvation and war have to be left to the politicians and other organisations for the time being.
This leaves us with the paradox how to inform people without forcing them. There are solutions to this. It is possible to talk about certain issues without mentioning the teacher e.g. individualism is almost non-existent because of the pressure on society. The other way to inform people is to tell them about certain things Krishnamurti said and if they show an interest then it is possible to inform them about Krishnamurti. If not then we need to leave it as it is.
Finally it is important to understand that taking the world crisis seriously cannot be forced on people. It is very important to understand that this position can only be taken on a voluntary basis. This can only happen when we see clearly that we are responsible for the world crisis. The paragraph on conflict dealt with this issue. This is related to the issue about our responsibility for war (Poona 1948 1st September 1948, Ojai 1945, 5th talk, first question). Krishnamurti also says that transformation can only happen when we feel responsible for the total state of the world. This is clear from the following statement:
'As human beings living in this monstrously ugly world, let us ask ourselves, can this society, based on competition, brutality and fear, come to an end? Not as an intellectual conception, not as a hope, but as an actual fact, so that the mind is made fresh, new and innocent and can bring about a different world altogether? It can only happen, I think, if each one of us recognises the central fact that we, as individuals, as human beings, in whatever part of the world we happen to live or whatever culture we happen to belong to, are totally responsible for the whole state of the world' (Freedom from the known chapter 1).
Most people who take Krishnamurti’s teaching as a guide to their life only look at ‘the inner’ most of the time. We need to understand ‘the inner’ and most of Krishnamurti’s talks were about this issue. This article argues that more than this is needed. The main point of this article is that the relationship between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’ should also be understood. What is proposed here is not a substitute for what was done previously; it is an addition to it. It should also be understood that it is important to understand all aspects of the teachings and not only those dealt with in this article (Freedom from the known). This is the only way to benefit from the teachings
It is important to understand what the relationship between ‘the inner’ and ‘the outer’ means for the much needed transformation. Transformation refers to holistic understanding rather than seeking private salvation. Transformation will only happen when we feel responsible for the total state of the world. The effects of the inner on the outer are rather unfortunate. This came across clearly in the paragraph on conflict. Most of us assume that the relationship between ‘the inner’ and ‘the outer’ is self-evident. In the paragraph on propaganda and freedom it became clear that the outer also has an influence on the inner. Society tries to prevent our intelligence from flourishing fully. This is closely related to the lack of freedom we have even in a democratic society. Seeking success and respectability also prevent us from thinking clearly. The psychological mechanisms related to this should be clearly understood.
One of the risks is that a concentration on the outer might prevent us from looking at the inner. It is also possible that we behave in a certain way because we understand the relationship between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’. This can only be done when the mind understands these things clearly; intellectual understanding alone is not enough. Only when we see clearly that we are responsible for war, is it possible to act accordingly. If we understand it, the brain cells will change. It is important that all thoughts and feelings are fully expressed even when they are contrary to what is said in this article. Elsewhere Krishnamurti calls this integrity (Varanasi 1962, 4th talk). This is the only way to understand the effects of our thinking on the outer. So, this article should not be used as a kind of new morality. When intelligence flourishes then our acting is based on right perception not on an imposed morality.
The most important thing is to take the world crisis seriously. The survival of mankind is at stake. That this is a difficult issue should not deter us from taking this seriously. Many excuses are used to prevent that the issue is taken seriously (it is too difficult; mankind will never change; most people will not accept our message; wars have always been there and will always be there; it is natural for man to be selfish and so on). It is important to understand that these are excuses used by the ego. The important thing is that if mankind carries on the way it lives at the moment; he will not survive. ‘The house will catch fire and will burn down’. We need to take precautions to prevent this from happening. This is relevant and that not everyone will take this message on board is irrelevant!