Only in Peace can the Human Mind be Free
J. Krishnamurti Second Public Talk at Brockwood Park 28 August 1983
May we go on where we left off yesterday. We were talking about conflict, not only in ourselves, but in the society in which we live - conflict between nations, between groups, between the various gurus, between ideologies, the communist ideology and the so-called democratic ideology. Apparently man has lived, throughout these centuries, in a state of constant conflict, struggle, fighting each other, killing each other, destroying that which he has created and then rebuilding it again. This has been the historical process for the last five or six thousand years or more. Religions have also, except perhaps Buddhism and Hinduism, have created wars - a hundred heretics, burnt them, destroyed them. And so man has lived on this earth without any peace. And to live in peace appears to be almost impossible - to live without conflict, without aggression, not only in personal relationships, but also with those with whom we don't agree, or have not the same belief, the same concepts, the same culture. There is this constant, endless, struggle, conflict. And one asks whether it is possible to live in this world utterly peacefully. Because it is only in peace that one can flower. It's only in peace that the human mind, the human brain can really be free. And why has man who has learned so much, who has acquired such extraordinary knowledge, experience, doing his best, why can he not live in peace?
As we said yesterday, this is not a talk, a lecture on a particular subject, to be informed, to be instructed. But we are together exploring this question. Not that the speaker explores, and you listen, but together, you and the speaker investigate, sanely without any bias, without any definite conclusions, to find out why we human beings cannot live on this beautiful earth with peace and without conflict. That is where we left off yesterday.
There are various forms of chemical injections to make man peaceful. They are doing it now: in the totalitarian states they send them to hospitals, psychotherapeutic hospitals where they are drugged, kept peaceful. And also belief has also drugged us tremendously, to be peaceful. We all believe, if you are Christians, in some form of saviour. And that belief has kept us somewhat tamed.
There have been attempts of every kind, throughout the world, to help man to live peacefully. They have said: meditate, follow, obey, conform, don't hurt, love another - the whole religious instructions throughout the world. And yet, in spite of all that, and perhaps because of all that, man has not lived at peace with himself or created a society that's peaceful. Why? We are asking, you are also asking the question not only me.
Are we different, each one of us, from the world outside of us? Are you, as British, or French or American, Russian or whatever nationality, group to which one belongs, or Indian, are we the rest of humanity or separate individuals, struggling, separate souls, each one seeking his own fulfilment, his own happiness, his own salvation, identifying himself with something noble, illusory, imaginary, and so on? Are we living in isolation on this earth, each one of us isolated, separated from the rest of mankind? And this separation, this so-called 'individualism' may be one of the causes why human beings do not live at peace, either in their relationships, or with his neighbour who might be next door, or a thousand miles away.
Please, you and the speaker are putting these questions. The speaker is not putting the question for you to answer. This is a question which all of us has to face. Either we face it intelligently, rationally, sanely, or escape into some form of illusory peace.
Peace can only exist if we have complete security, both outwardly and inwardly, psychologically and environmentally. We all want security, even the greatest scientist and the poorest, very uneducated villager - all of us want security. Like every animal, every living thing needs security. And apparently we don't have security. We have sought it in religions, in beliefs, in ideologies, in some form of authority; followed them, and yet we remain separate. We are asking, is that one of the basic causes why human beings, thinking they are separate, isolated entities, each one seeking his own particular form of security, must inevitably come into conflict with others who are also seeking their own particular form of security?
So we are asking a question, which is, are we separate from the rest of humanity? You understand my question? Are you separate? Are you an individual so that you as an individual are seeking your own happiness, your own pleasures, solitary in your illusions, in your particular form of imaginative hope? So this is a question that must be answered very carefully, gone into, by both of us. Because if that is the cause of it, it is either the cause is rational, real, actual and then we have to deal with that, or it is really illusory. Each one of us has been brought up to think that we are individuals, separate. Is that a fact? Is our consciousness - which contains our behaviour, our reactions, our pleasures, fears, anxieties, sorrow and all the experiences, knowledge, all that is our consciousness, what you are, what each one of us is - is that consciousness different from the rest of humanity? You understand my question?
When you travel around, when you observe without even travelling around, when you observe the world, all humanity goes through, more or less the same forms of suffering, anxiety, insecurity, they believe in some kind of illusory nonsense, full of superstitions, fears, and all the rest of it. Everywhere, every human being goes through all this. Right? Insecure, uncertain, fearful, constantly in conflict, burdened with great sorrow - like those who live in this country. Right? This is a fact. So is your consciousness different from the rest of mankind?
I may be an Arab, with my peculiar Islamic tradition, and as a human being, apart from the label as an Arab, I go through all the turmoil of life, like you do: pain, sorrow, jealousy, hate. So is there a difference, apart from labels, apart from culture, between you and me, as an Arab. Please consider all this. As we said yesterday, we are not trying to convince you of anything, doing any kind of propaganda, any kind of persuasion or stimulation. Because if you are capable of being persuaded, then another will come and persuade you differently. If you depend on propaganda, the same thing, another type of propaganda will show you. So one must be clear for oneself, absolutely, upon this matter. It is your psyche, and the psyche is the content of its own consciousness. And that consciousness is shared by all human beings, though outwardly you may have a different culture, different environment, different food, different clothes, more affluent, but essentially, deeply, most profoundly, we are the rest of the world, and the world is us. Right? Be quite clear on this point. You may not like it because we have been brought up from childhood, perhaps right before childhood, in the very genes, that we are separate individuals. We are questioning that very thing, not only subjectively but objectively.
If you examine without any bias, without any tradition, if your brain is eager to find out whether it is possible to live in this world with complete freedom and peace and therefore with order. One has to put this question. You may be a great scientist, a great painter, a marvellous poet, like Keats, but the scientist, the poet, the painter have their own sorrow, pain, anxiety like the rest of us. And as long as we think we are separate, conflict must exist - between the Arab and the Jew, as is happening in Beirut, between the black and the white, between the Muslim and the rest of the world. So please, consider this question seriously - exercise our brains, not accept.
And if that is one of the causes of war, one of the causes of conflict between human beings, this fallacy that each one of us is entirely different, we are questioning that very thing. And if we are not, then we are the rest of mankind. You are the rest of mankind. With that goes tremendous responsibility which you may not like to have. We like to avoid responsibility.
As long as one is violent, aggressive, you contribute to the rest of the world, to the rest of mankind's aggression, violence. This is natural, all this. So the question is, if you are the rest of mankind, you are mankind, not part of mankind, you are the entire world. If you have that feeling, that truth of that, then your whole outlook is entirely different. Then you have totally abolished all division. Right? I wonder if you see the truth of this? Not the sentimentality of it, not a romantic, Utopian concept but the actuality of it, the fact of it.
So let us examine it much more closely. Conflict exists as long, as we said, there is separation: between me and you, we and they, conflict must exist in our relationships, between man and woman, of which we all know. Right? Between you and your wife, the wife and the husband, the family against the community, the community against the larger community and so on and on.
So why is there conflict in our relationships? Please answer these questions. One is married, with children, or unmarried and all the human relationships - conflict exists as long as the husband or the wife or the man is pursuing his own particular goal, his own particular ambition, his own sense of fulfilment, both sexually and in the world. Right? This is a fact, isn't it? The wife pursues her own particular form of pleasure and the man pursues his own, so actually they never meet, except perhaps in bed. That's a fact.
Now is it possible to be free of this separation? Then one begins to enquire into the nature of what is called affection, into the nature of what is love - if you are interested in all this. If it bores you, you can always get up and go. But if you are serious, as we must be, considering what the world has become: insane, disorderly, corrupt, heaven knows all the ugly things that are going on. If you are at all serious, looking at all this, one must inevitably ask: why, in close relationship where there is a sense of affection, tolerance, acceptance, there is conflict, divorce, hate, you know, the whole field of turmoil? Is it possible to live with another completely at peace? You are all married probably, aren't you, or have girl friends. What do you say to all this? It's your life; not the life of the speaker. It's your life and you have to answer these really serious questions, not evade them.
As long as we are caught in this illusion of individuality, however close our relationship with another, however intimate, however personal, companionship, escape from loneliness, this question must be answered. Because all life is relationship, with nature, with the universe, and with the tiniest little flower in the field; and also relationship with another human being. We cannot live without relationship. Even the monk, who has taken various forms of vows, is also related. And in this relationship conflict seems to be all-pervasive. Therefore we must start very near to go very far. We must start where we are, with our family, with ourselves - whether we can live without conflict and therefore with peace.
From this arises the question: how do you observe all this? How do you observe, when I say 'you', I'm not being personal, how do you observe this conflict - the present state of the world, the present relationship with each other - how do you observe it? It is very important to understand the nature and the structure of the observer. Right? May we go on with this? Are we together in all this, or am I talking to myself? I really would like to know. Are we going along the same path, along the same lane, taking a journey together, or you are ahead or I am far behind? Or are we walking together, perhaps hand-in-hand. If we are walking together, with the same step, looking at the world together, looking at our relationship together, and as friends we can question each other, we can doubt what we're saying without hurting each other because we're friends. And out of this friendship, we can understand the depth and the beauty of relationship in which there is no conflict.
So relationship is extraordinarily important. It's our life. And as long as there is conflict, relationship becomes most destructive. Suppose I realise that - I am married, I'm not - suppose I realise that I am living with a woman and actually we are separate human beings, following parallel lines but never meeting inwardly, psychologically. Now, how do I observe that - the fact that we two are separate, each with his own ambition, his own greed, his own particular form of irritation you know, all the rest of it - how do I observe it? Because in my observation I may be biased, prejudiced. And so it is very important for me to find out the nature of the observer. Right? If I am not clear how to observe, in what manner to look, I may distort the whole thing. So I must enquire into the nature of the observer. Right?
A great scientist - they all think they are great - a scientist, unless he is very clear, both subjectively and objectively, when he looks through a microscope and all the rest of it, if he is observing without any bias, without any prejudice, the self doesn't enter into his observation - otherwise his observation will be distorted, untrue, not factual. Right? So similarly, we have to be very clear of the nature of observation, who is the observer? Are we together in this? Who is the observer? You look at those trees, a field full of cows or sheep, you see the horizon lit up by the morning sun. How do you observe all that? If you ever do! When you look at a tree or a house, your very perception of looking is blocked by the word you use. Right? You understand? I can look at a Frenchman and say, 'Oh, he is a Frenchman.' That means that all my prejudices, all my knowledge of the French comes in between me and observing a man who calls himself French. Right? So can I look at him without all the prejudices, antagonism? Can you?
So the observer is the past. Right? Are you following this? So the observer is full of his past knowledge, whether that knowledge is absurd, silly, or actual, that knowledge is blocking my observation. Right? Are we following this?
Now, to observe my relationship with my wife or husband, I must observe without any previous accumulated incidents, knowledge, all that. Is that possible? You understand my question? Otherwise, I never see my wife for the first time. You understand? I'm always looking at her with all the memories of a thousand days. Now, is that a fact, that I am looking at another from the past knowledge - a living thing can never be observed with a limited knowledge. And knowledge is always limited. You understand? A living thing must be observed freely, without all the accumulation, experiences, knowledge. So is it possible for me to look at my wife or husband, or the girl friend or whatever you like, without the previous remembrances? Have you ever tried?
Have you ever tried to look at a tree without the word 'tree', to look at a flower without the label, so that you are actually observing what actually is, in which there is no subjective reaction? You are following all this? Are you? Or is this Greek or Chinese - better still?
You see, our brain is a network of words, a network of remembrances. It is never free to look because it has been conditioned through identification. To us, identity is very important. I am Hindu, whatever that silly word may be, but it gives me a sense of assurance, a sense of security. I have roots in that - like you the British, like the French, German, you know, the rest of the world. And can we look, observe, without any identity? You understand? Are you doing it now? Or are you going to try and do it when you go home? If, when you are listening to this and doing it now, perhaps you are sitting next to your wife, or husband - if you do it now, the very action of perception is to destroy that division. Right? If you do it now, which means, action is not of time. You follow this? Look sir, I've heard this. I have paid attention to what I have heard. I am sitting next to my wife. I'm a serious person and I hope she is too. And I see that I am not looking at her freely, without any past incidents and all the rest of it. And to me it is important to have a relationship with her, or with him, in which there is no conflict because if I can live that way, I have peace in my heart and brain. So the very moment I hear this, the actual perception that I am in conflict and I am looking at her, or him, with all the accumulated memories which are all dead anyhow; and so I am looking at her.
Action is the moment of perception of the fact, and not allowing time to interfere with action. You understand? Am I conveying something? So for most of us, action implies conflict. I have to do something. I don't want to go to the office today from nine to five - god knows why you go anyhow. See sir, what we're doing, how we are giving up an extraordinary life, life that is immense, that is extraordinarily beautiful, that has great depth, unfathomable depth, and we spend our lives from nine to five. And our society demands that, governments demand it, and our wives demand it, because to be at home is rather a bore. So the whole structure of society is that our ethos is to work, and we miss the great width and the depth of life.
So can I look at her, or him without any past remembrances? Will you do it now? See what it entails - do it, and you will find out how tremendously we are bound to the past. Our life is the past, that is, past memories. And apparently they have such a strong hold on our brain. And we say 'It's impossible to look without the knowledge of yesterday'. And so we give up and pursue the old way, quarrelling, nagging, fighting, miserable, unhappy - you know, the whole business of it. Whereas, if one actually sees the fact that conflict must exist between two human beings, and therefore with the rest of humanity, as long as there is this concept of 'individual', with his own particular memories. And seeing that is to act, not postpone action. When you postpone action, time is involved. Right? And during that postponement, other things take place; other complexities arise. I wonder if you are following all this? So action is perception and instant action, so that your brain is not cluttered with problems.
I do not know if you have gone into the question of problems. Why human beings have problems at all? The word 'problem' means something thrown at you. That's the actual meaning, the etymological meaning of that word, something thrown at you, which is a challenge. Our brains, from childhood, are trained to solve problems. Right? Poor child, at the age of two now they are teaching babies to count, how to learn a language. I don't know if you have followed all that. From childhood through school, college, university, business, family - everything has become problems which must be solved. So we treat life as a vast problem, because our brain is trained that way. I don't know if you see all this. We never meet anything easily, happily, but it becomes a dreadful problem to be solved. So relationship has become a problem. You understand, sir? Are we together in all this? For god's sake, tell me, yes. And when we try to solve a problem - because our brains are trained that way, to solve problems - in the solution of that problem, we have other problems from that very solution. I don't know if you have noticed all this. Politically that is what is happening. You have the Falklands war and innumerable problems arising from it.
So can you look at life, not as a problem, though problems exist, but have a mind that is free from problems? You understand the difference? Problems exist. I have a toothache, I have to go to the doctor. Problems of tax, follow? Problems exist. But if my brain is free of problems, then I can deal with those problems easily. But if my brain is trained, conditioned to deal with problems, I increase problems. Right? I wonder if you see this?
There is a question, for example, about god. It's a problem, whether god exists or not. Most Christians believe that there is god. And Buddhists have no idea of god. He doesn't exist in their religious philosophy, and all the rest of it. But they make Buddha into a god, that's a different matter. Now, that's a problem. You believe and suppose I don't believe. Are you willing to look why god exists, if he does exist. Because I have no belief, one way or the other - suppose - actually I have no belief about it. Can you look at that question and find out why, throughout the ages, man has invented god - invented, I'm using that word purposely. I hope you won't get hurt. Man has invented it because he is frightened. He wants somebody, an outside agency to protect him, to give him security, to feel somebody out there is looking after you. That concept gives you great comfort. Whether that is an illusion or an actuality, doesn't matter. But as long as you have that kind of belief, it gives you great comfort. Now, if you strongly believe in all that, would you doubt it, question it, find out? Or are you so frightened, you won't even think about it. You understand?
So, to find out whether there is something beyond man's measure, one must be free to enquire. As we enquired into relationship, one must be free to enquire, to observe. And if the observer, the enquirer is prejudiced, is convinced deeply, though he may pretend outwardly to examine, then his examination will be according to his conviction. So can the brain be free to look - to look at my wife, husband, to look at all the governments, my guru, the whole world around - to look so carefully without the background of my tradition, values, judgements? The brain then is active wholly, not in fragments. You understand?
Scientists are saying, probably you know all this - if you know it, please forgive me for repeating it - only one very small part of the brain is functioning with most people and therefore this outlook on life is fragmentary. You understand? Only one part of my brain is actively sharing or actively operating throughout my life, only a part. And therefore the brain is not functioning wholly. Right? You understand the question? If it interests you, you want to find out whether the brain can operate holistically, completely, not just a part. Are you interested in that kind of question? Why? Is it curiosity, or just to argue about it? Or are you serious to say, I want to find out whether the brain which is now very limited - because all knowledge is limited. Right? You must be quite sure of that - all knowledge, whether the knowledge of the past or the knowledge of the future, knowledge is everlastingly limited. They are discovering more and more and more in the scientific world. No scientist can ever say, 'My knowledge is complete'. Right?
So knowledge is always incomplete. And knowledge being incomplete, thought is incomplete. Because thought is born out of knowledge as memory and thought is limited. Right? Without memory you have no thought, without knowledge there is no existence as thought. And we only function, now, with the limited thought. Right? You understand? I wonder if you are following all this?
My thought and your thought, the thought of the great scientist or the uneducated individual, his thinking is similar. Thinking is similar. They may express it differently but that thought is limited. Right? So as long as our thinking is the basis of our action, the basis of our life, the brain can never function as a whole. Right? Logically see this, please. Our lives are fragmentary: I'm a businessman, I'm a scientist, I am a painter - right? - and so on and so on. We are all put in categories. Therefore our life is fragmentary because our thinking is limited and therefore it must inevitably be fragmentary. Would you accept this? Not accept, to see the fact of it, would you? You are all so doubtful, aren't you? Because we are cutting at the very root of our life, which is thinking. And we have built marvellous cathedrals, great architecture, great implements of war, the computers and so on, all the product of thought. And all the things in the cathedrals and the parish church are the product of thought. Right? Nobody can deny this - all the vestments, all the robes the priests put on, are copied, or part of it, from the Egyptians - thought has produced all this. And thought has also invented god.
Now, the question is whether to eliminate thought altogether. And who is the entity who is going to eliminate all thought? It is still thought. Right? I wonder if you see that? Your meditation, if any of you indulge in that kind of stuff, is to eliminate thinking. But you never examine who is the eliminator, who is saying, 'I mustn't think'? It's still thought who says 'By Jove, if I don't think I might get something.' And yet thought is necessary, knowledge is necessary, in certain areas, otherwise you can't get home, you can't write letters, you couldn't speak English and so on and so on.
So thought has been the instrument of our fragmentation. And to so observe that, not say, 'How to get rid of thought' but to observe the fact that thought is necessary in certain areas, and thought in the psychological world may not be necessary at all. In our relationship with each other, if thought is the instrument, which it is, then that very thought is the factor of divisiveness. To see it, not what to do about it. To see the danger of this, then you move away from danger. Like a precipice, like a dangerous animal, you run away. Similarly, thought is dangerous in the psychological world. I wonder if you see this? Though it is necessary in certain areas. Then, if you observe this very carefully, without any bias, then thought begins to realise its own place.