Living in an Insane World
Fifth Talk in The Oak Grove
Until we understand the problems involved in craving, as I was explaining last Sunday, the conflict and sorrow of our daily life cannot be dissolved. There are three principal forms craving takes: sensuality, worldliness, and personal immortality - the gratification of the senses, the desire for prosperity, personal power and fame. In analyzing the craving for the gratification of the senses, we realize its insatiability, its torments, its ever-increasing demands; its end is misery and conflict. When we examine worldliness, it too reveals incessant strife, confusion, and sorrow. The craving for personal immortality is born of illusion, for the self is a result, is made up, and that which is put together, a result, can never comprehend that which is causeless, that which is immortal.
The way of craving is very complex and difficult to dissolve; it is the cause of our misery, of our confusion and conflict. Without putting an end to it there is no peace; without its complete extinction, thought-feeling is in torment and life becomes an ugly struggle. It is the root of all selfishness and of all ignorance. It is the cause of frustration and hopelessness. Without transcending it there is no happiness, no creative peace.
Craving for sensuality indicates inward poverty; the desire to accumulate creates a competitive, brutal world; sensate values and craving for personal immortality or personal power must bring about authority, mystery, miracle, which prevent the discovery of the real. Violence and wars are the outcome of worldly desires, and there can be peace only when craving, in all its different forms, is understood and transcended.
If we do not understand this primary motive but merely develop virtue, we are only strengthening the self, the cause of ignorance and sorrow, the self which takes different roles and cultivates different virtues to gratify itself. We have to understand this changeable quality of craving, its cunning adaptability and its self-gratifying protective ways. The development of virtue becomes the stronghold of the self, but to free thought-feeling from craving is true virtue. This freedom from craving, which is virtue, is as a ladder; it is not an end in itself. Without virtue, the freedom from craving, there can be no understanding, no peace. To develop virtue as an opposite is still to give strength to the self. For all craving, all desire is singularistic, limited; being singularistic, however much you may try to make it noble, virtuous, it will always remain limited, small, and therefore the cause of conflict, antagonism and sorrow. It will ever know death.
So, as long as the seed of craving remains in any form there will be torment, poverty, death. If we develop virtue without understanding craving we are not bringing about that creative stillness of the mind-heart in which alone there is the real. Without understanding the subtleties of craving, merely to adjust ourselves to our environment, to bring peace in our relationship with the family, with the neighbor, with the world, will be in vain; for the self, the instrument of craving, is still the chief actor. How is it possible to free thought-feeling from craving? By becoming aware; by studying and understanding the self and its actions is there freedom from craving. To understand, all denial or acceptance, judgment or comparison must be set aside. In becoming aware we shall discover what is honesty, what is love, what is fear, what is simple life, and the complex problem of memory.
A mind that is uncertain, self-contradictory, cannot know what is candor, honesty. Honesty demands humility, and there can be humility only when you are aware of your own state of self-contradiction, of your own uncertainty. Self-contradiction and uncertainty will ever exist if there is craving, uncertainty of value, of action, of relationship. He who is certain is obstinate, thoughtless. He who knows does not know. In becoming aware of this uncertainty, surely you are cultivating detachment, dispassion. The beginning of humility is detachment. And surely this is the first step of the ladder. This step of the ladder must be worn away, for you have trodden on it so often. A man who is conscious of detachment ceases to be detached; but he who has concerned himself with craving and its ways is becoming virtuous without striving after virtue; he is dispassionate without seeking it. Without candid awareness, understanding and peace are not possible.
Questioner: Besides wasting so much paper, do you seriously intend that we shall put down every thought and feeling?
Krishnamurti: I suggested the other day that in order to understand ourselves we must become aware, and to study ourselves thought-feeling must slow itself down. If you become aware of your own thinking-feeling, you will perceive how rapid it is - one disconnected thought-feeling following another, wandering and distracted - and it is impossible to observe, examine such confusion. To bring order and so clarity, I suggested that every thought-feeling be written down. This whirling machinery must slow itself down to be observed, so writing every thought-feeling may be of help. As in a slow motion picture, you are able to see every movement, so in slowing down the rapidity of the mind, you are then able to observe every thought, trivial and important. The trivial leads to the important, and do not brush it aside as being petty. Since it is there it is an indication of the pettiness of the mind, and to brush it aside does not make the mind any the less trivial, stupid. To brush it aside helps to keep the mind small, narrow, but to be aware of it, to understand it leads to great riches.
If any of you have tried to write as I suggested a couple of weeks ago, you will know how difficult it is to put down every thought and feeling. You will not only use a lot of paper but you will not be able to write down all your thought-feelings, for your mind is too rapid in its distractions. But if you have the intention of putting down every thought-feeling, however trivial and stupid, the shameful and the pleasant, however little you may succeed at first, you will soon discover a peculiar thing happening. As you have not the time to write every thought-feeling, for you have to give your attention to other matters, you will find that one of the layers of consciousness is recording every thought-feeling. Though you do not give your attention directly to write down, nevertheless you are inwardly aware and when you have time to write again, you will find that the recordings of inward awareness will come to the surface. If you will look over what you have written, you will find yourself either condemning or approving, justifying or comparing. This approbation or denial prevents the flowering of thought-feeling and so stops understanding. If you do not condemn, justify, or compare but ponder over, try to understand, then you will discover that these thought-feelings are indications of something much deeper. So you are beginning to develop that mirror which reflects your thought-feelings without any distortion. And by observing them you are comprehending your actions and responses, and so self-knowledge becomes wider and deeper. You not only comprehend the present momentary action and reaction but also the past that has produced the present. And for this you must have quiet and solitude. But society does not allow you to have them. You must be with people, outwardly active at all costs. If you are alone you are considered antisocial or peculiar, or you are afraid of your own loneliness. But in this process of self-awareness, you will discover many things about yourself and so of the world.
Do not treat this writing down as a new method, a new technique. Try it. But what is important is to become aware of every thought-feeling, from which arises self-knowledge. You must start out on the journey of self-discovery; what you find does not depend on any technique - technique prevents discovery - and it is the discovery that is liberating and creative. What is important is not your determination, conclusion, choice, but what you discover, for that will bring understanding.
If you do not wish to write down, then become aware of every thought-feeling, which is much more difficult. Become aware, for example, of your resentment if you have any. To be aware of it is to be aware of what caused it, why and how it has been stored up, how it is shaping your actions and responses and how it is your constant companion. Surely to be aware of resentment, antagonism, involves all this and more, and it is very difficult to be aware of it so completely, comprehensively as in a flash; but if you are, you will find that it soon transforms itself. If you cannot be so aware, put down your thought-feelings, learn to study them with tolerant dispassion, and little by little the whole content of your thought-feelings is discovered. It is this discovery, this understanding, that is the liberating and transforming factor.
Questioner: Did you seriously mean what you said when you suggested last week that one should retire from the world when one is around forty-five or so?
Krishnamurti: I suggested this seriously. Almost all of us, until death overtakes us, are so caught up in worldliness that we have no time to search out deeply, to discover the real. To retire from the world necessitates a complete change in educational and economic systems, does it not? If you did retire, you would be unprepared, you would be lost, you would be lonely, you would not know what to do with yourself. You would not know how to think. You would probably form new groups, new organizations with new beliefs, badges and labels, and once again be active outwardly, doing reforms which will need further reform. But this is not what I mean. To retire from the world you must be prepared by the right kind of occupation, by creating the right kind of environment, by setting up the right state, by right education, and so on. If you have been so prepared, then to withdraw from worldliness at any age is the natural, not abnormal, sequence; you withdraw to flow into deep and pure awareness, you withdraw not into isolation but to find the real, to help to transform the ever-congealing, conflicting society and state. All this would involve a wholly different kind of education, an upheaval in our social and economic order. Such a group of people would be completely disassociated from authority, from politics, from all those causes which produce war and antagonism between man and man. A stone may direct the course of a river; so a small number may direct the course of a culture. Surely any great thing is done in this manner.
You will probably say most of us cannot retire however much we may want to. Naturally all cannot, but some of you can. To live alone or in a small group requires great intelligence. But if you really thought it worthwhile, then you would set about it, not as a wonderful act of renunciation, but as a natural and intelligent thing for a thoughtful man to do. How extraordinarily important it is that there should be at least some who do not belong to any particular group or race or to any specialized religion or society! They will create the true brotherhood of man for they will be seeking truth. To be free from outward riches there must be the awareness of inward poverty, which brings untold riches. The stream of culture may change its course through a few awakened people. These are not strangers but you and me.
Questioner: Are there not times when issues are so important that they need to be approached from without as well as through individual comprehension? For instance, the pouring of deadly narcotics into China by Japan? This is only one of the many forms of exploitation for which we are really responsible. Is there any way without violence in which we can contribute towards the stopping of this awful procedure, or must we wait for individual awareness to take its course?
Krishnamurti: Periodically one group exploits another group, and the exploitation brings on a violent crisis. This has been happening throughout the ages - one race dominating, exploiting, murdering another race and in turn being oppressed, cheated, poverty-stricken. How is this to be solved? Is it to be adjusted only through outward legislation, outward organization, outward education, or by understanding the inner conflicting causes that have produced the outer chaos and misery? You cannot grasp the inner without understanding the outer. If you merely try to put down one race exploiting or oppressing another, then you will become the exploiter, the oppressor. If you adopt evil methods for a righteous end, the end is transformed by the means. So until we grasp this deeply, lastingly, mere reformation of evil by evil methods is productive of further evil; thus reform ever needs further reform. We think we see its obviousness, and yet we allow ourselves to be persuaded to the contrary through fear, propaganda, and so on, which means really that we do not grasp its truth.
As the individual, so the nation, so the state; you may not be able to transform another, but you can be certain of your own transformation. You may stop one country exploiting another by violent methods, by economic sanctions and so on, but what guarantee is there that the very nation that is putting an end to the ruthlessness of another is not going to be also oppressive, ruthless? There is no guarantee, no guarantee whatsoever. On the contrary, in fighting evil by evil means, the nation, the individual becomes that which he is fighting. You may build an outer, superficial structure of excellent legislation to control, to check, but if there is no goodwill and brotherly love, the inward conflict and poverty explode and produce chaos. Mere legislation does not prevent the West from exploiting the East or perhaps the East from exploiting the West in its turn, but just as long as we, individually or in groups, identify ourselves with this or that race, nation, or religion, so long will there be wars and exploitation, oppression and starvation. Just as long as you admit to yourself division, the long list of absurd divisions as an American, Englishman, German, Hindu, and so on, just as long as you are not aware of human unity and relationship, so long will there be mass murder and sorrow. A people that is guided, checked by mere legislation is as an artificial flower, beautiful to look upon but empty within.
You will probably say that the world will not wait for individual awakening or for the awakening of a few to alter its course. Yes, it will go on its blind, set course. But it will awaken through each individual who can throw off his bondage to division, to worldliness, to personal ambition and power; through his understanding, through his compassion can brutality and ignorance be brought to an end. In his awakening only is there hope.
Questioner: I want to help people, serve them. What is the best way?
Krishnamurti: The best way is to begin to understand yourself and change yourself. In this desire to help another, to serve another, there is hidden pride, conceit. If you love you serve. The clamor to help is born of vanity.
If you want to help another, you must know yourself, for you are the other. Outwardly we may be different - yellow, black, brown, or white - but we are all driven by craving, by fear, by greed, or by ambition; inwardly we are very much alike. Without self-knowledge, how can you have knowledge of another's needs? Without understanding yourself, you cannot understand another, serve another. Without self-knowledge you are acting in ignorance, and so creating sorrow.
Let us consider this. Industrialization is spreading rapidly throughout the world, urged on by greed and war. Industrialization may give employment, feed more people, but what is the larger result? What happens to a people highly developed in technique? They will be richer, there will be more cars, more airplanes, more gadgets, more cinema shows, bigger and better houses; but what happens to them as human beings? They become more and more ruthless, more and more mechanical, less and less creative. Violence must spread and government then is the organization of violence. Industrialization may bring about better economic conditions, but with what appalling results! - slums, antagonism of the worker against the nonworker, the boss and the slave, capitalism and communism, the whole chaotic business that is spreading in different parts of the world. Happily we say that it will raise the standard of living, poverty will be stamped out, there will be work, there will be freedom, dignity, and so on. The division of the rich and the poor, the man of power and the seeker after power - this endless division and conflict will go on. What is the end of it? What has happened in the West? Wars, revolutions, continual threat of destruction, utter despair. Who is bringing help to whom and who is serving whom? When everything is being destroyed about you, the thoughtful must inquire as to the deeper causes, which so few seem to do. A man who is blasted out of his house by a bomb must envy the primitive man. You certainly are bringing civilization to the so-called backward people, but at what price! You may be serving but consider what comes in its wake. But few realize the deeper causes of disaster. You cannot destroy industry, you cannot do away with the airplane, but you can eradicate utterly the causes that produce its misuse. The causes of its appalling use lie in you. You can eradicate them, which is a difficult task; since you will not face that task, you try to legalize war; you have covenants, leagues, international security, and so on, but greed, ambition overrule them and war and catastrophe inevitably follow.
To help another, you must know yourself, like you, he is the result of the past. We are all interrelated. If you are inwardly diseased by ignorance, ill will, and passion, you will inevitably spread disease and darkness. If you are inwardly healthy and integrated, you spread light and peace; otherwise you help to produce greater chaos, greater misery. To understand oneself requires patience, tolerant awareness; the self is a book of many volumes which you cannot read in a day, but when once you begin to read, you must read every word, every sentence, every paragraph for in them are the intimations of the whole. The beginning of it is the ending of it. If you know how to read, supreme wisdom is to be found.
Questioner: Is awareness only possible during waking hours?
Krishnamurti: The more you are conscious of your thought-emotions, the more you are aware of your whole being. Then the sleeping hours become an intensification of the waking hours. Consciousness functions even in so-called sleep, of which we are well aware. You think over a problem pretty thoroughly and yet you cannot solve it; you sleep over it, which phrase we often use. In the morning we find its issues are clearer, and we seem to know what to do; or we perceive a new aspect of it which helps to clear up the problem. How does this happen? We can attribute a lot of mystery and nonsense to it, but what does take place? In that so-called sleep the conscious mind, that thin layer is quiet, perhaps receptive; it has worried over the problem and now, being weary, is still, the tension removed. Then the promptings of the deeper layers of consciousness are discernible and when you wake up, the problem seems to have become clearer and easier to solve. So the more you are aware of your thought-feelings during the day, not for a few seconds or during a set period, the mind becomes quieter, alertly passive and so capable of responding and comprehending the deeper intimations. But it is difficult to be so aware; the conscious mind is not used to such intensity. The more aware the conscious mind is, the more the inner mind cooperates with it, and so there is deeper and wider understanding.
The more you are aware during the waking hours, the less dreams there are. Dreams are indications of thought-feelings, actions not completed, not understood, that need fresh interpretation, or frustrated thought-hope that needs to be fully comprehended. Some dreams are of no importance. Those that have significance have to be interpreted, and that interpretation depends on your capacity of non-identification, of keen intelligence. If you are deeply aware, interpretation is not necessary, but you are too lazy and so, if you can afford it, you go to a dream specialist; he interprets your dreams according to his understanding. You gradually become dependent upon him; he becomes the new priest, and so you have another problem added to you. But if you are aware even for a brief period, you will see that the short, sharp awareness, however fleeting it be, begins to awaken a new feeling which is not the result of craving, but a faculty which is free from all personal limitations and tendencies. This faculty, this feeling, will gather momentum as you become more deeply and widely aware, so that you are aware even in spite of your attention being given to other matters. Though you are occupied with necessary duties and give your attention to daily existence, inward awareness continues; it is as a sensitive photographic plate on which every impression, every thought-feeling is being imprinted to be studied, assimilated, and understood. This faculty, this new feeling, is of the utmost importance, for it will reveal that which is eternal.
June 11, 1944