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New York City 2nd Public Talk 4th June, 1936
In the midst of great confusion and strain we are caught up in the struggle for success and security, and so have lost the deep feeling for life, the true sensibility which is the essence of understanding. We admit intellectually that there is exploitation, cruelty, but somehow there is not that comprehension which leads to drastic action and change. True and vital action can spring only from a comprehensive and intelligent view of life.
There is every conceivable form of exploitation in man's social, religious, and creative activities.
We see man living on man, making others work for his own personal gain and advantage, buying and selling for his own benefit and ruthlessly seeking and establishing his own personal security. There are class distinctions with their antagonisms and hatreds. There are distinctions in work. One kind is regarded as superior and another inferior, one type is despised and another is praised. It is a system of competition and ruthless elimination of those who are, perhaps, less cunning, less aggressive, and who have not had the fortunate opportunities of life.
We have racial pride and national prejudices which often lead us to war, with all its horrors and cruelties. And even the animals do not escape from the cruelties of man.
Then we have the exploitation by religions, with their cruelties, the competition between faiths, with their churches, gods and temples. Each system of belief and faith is maintaining its own divine right, its own certainty to lead man to the highest, and the individual loses that true religious experience which is not encumbered with beliefs and dogmas of organized religion. There is systematized superstition in the name of reality, the instilling and maintaining of fear with its assertions and doctrines. Thus there is confusion of beliefs, ideals and doctrines.
And, in the field of creative work, there is an immense gap between creative expression and the art of living. In that creative work there is personal ambition, self-conceit and competition, producing a superficial reaction which is often mistaken for creative expression and fulfilment.
In this civilization we are forced, whether we like it or not, by a system which each individual has helped to create, to live without deep fulfilment, and few escape from its cruelties. In every avenue of life there is confusion, misery, and every one as a social and religious entity is caught up in this machine of exploitation and cruelty. Some are conscious of this process, with its sorrow, and although they recognize its ugliness, they continue in the old habits of thought and action, saying to themselves that they must perforce live in this world. There are others who are wholly unconscious of this system of misery.
When you begin to examine the various ideas that are put forth for the solution of man's misery, you will perceive that they divide themselves into two groups: one which maintains that there must be complete social reorganization of man, so that exploitation, acquisitiveness and wars may cease; the other which asserts and lays emphasis on the volitional activities of man.
To lay emphasis on either is erroneous. Social reorganization is obviously necessary. But if you critically examine this idea of organizing man and his expression, you will perceive, if you are not carried away by its superficial assurances of immediate results of security and comfort, that in it there are many grave dangers. The mere creation of a new system can again become a prison in which man will be held, only by different dogmas, ideas and creeds.
There are those who maintain that we must put bread first, and other things vital to man will then rightly follow. That is, they maintain that there must be control of environment and through this man will come to his true fulfilment. This exclusive emphasis on bread frustrates its own purpose, for man does not live by bread alone.
So then, which shall we emphasize, the inner or the outer? Shall we begin first from the outer, by controlling, directing, and dominating; or shall we lay the emphasis on the inner process of man? To emphasize the one or the other destroys its own end. To divide man into the outer and the inner is to prevent the true comprehension of man. To understand the problem of class distinction, wars, exploitation, cruelties, hatreds, acquisitiveness, we must discern man as a whole, and from that point of view consider his activities, desires, and fulfilment.
To regard man as merely the result of environment or of heredity, to lay emphasis only on bread and discard the inner process, or to concern oneself entirely with the inner and discard the outer, is wholly erroneous, and this must ever lead to confusion and misery. We have to comprehend man as an integral whole, not as an entity with separative functions, as those of a worker, a citizen or a spiritual being, but as an interdependent and interacting, complete being. We must have the insight to know that ignorance of our own being is the previous condition of all sorrow and conflict. As long as we do not comprehend ourselves - the hidden and the conscious - then whatever we may do, in whatever field of activity, we must inevitably create sorrow.
This comprehension of oneself - that is, of the process of the building up of the "I", with its ignorance, tendencies and cravings must become actual and not remain theoretical. It can only become actual, real to you, if you discern and comprehend through experimentation that the process of ignorance can be brought to an end. With the cessation of ignorance - ignorance ever being the lack of comprehension of oneself and the "I" process - there is reality and the bliss of enlightenment.
There are two kinds of experience, that of wish and that of actuality. But to experience the actual, the real, the experiences of wish must cease. The experience of wish is the mere continuance of separative self-consciousness and this prevents the comprehension of actuality. Although you may think that you are experiencing the actual, you are really experiencing your own wishes, and these wishes become so real, so concrete, so definite, that you take them for actuality. The experience of wish continues to create division and conflict.
What are the results of the experiences of wish? They are the coverings or masks that we have developed through our own volitional activities, based on fear and the search for security, the security of the here with its acquisitiveness or of the hereafter with its hopes and longings, the security of opinion, beliefs and ideals. These masks and coverings, the product of the volitional activity of craving, continue the beginningless process of the "I", that consciousness which we call individuality. As long as these masks exist there cannot be the comprehension of the real, the actual.
You will ask: How can I live, exist, without any craving or wish? You ask this question because for you this conception is only theoretical, and as you have not experimented, you have not proved to yourself its validity, its actuality. If you experiment, you will perceive that you can live without craving, integrally, completely, actually, and so comprehend reality, the beauty and the fullness of life. Whether you can live, work and create without craving, wishing, can be discovered not by another for you but only by yourself.
So long as the process of reforming the "I" continues through the experiences of wish, there must be confusion, sorrow and friction from which the mind tries to escape into the search after immortality or other comfort and security, thus engendering the process of exploitation. With the cessation of all experiences of wish, which sustains separative individuality, there is the nameless, immeasurable reality, bliss. To be able to experience reality, you must be free of all the masks which you have developed in the struggle for acquisition, born of craving.
These masks do not conceal reality. We are apt to think that by getting rid of these masks we will find reality, or that by uncovering the many layers of want we will discover that which is hidden. Thus we are assuming that behind this ignorance, or in the depths of consciousness, or beyond this friction of will, of craving, lies reality. This consciousness of many masks, of many layers, does not conceal within itself reality. But as we begin to comprehend the process of development of these masks, these layers of consciousness, and as consciousness frees itself from its volitional growth, there is reality. Our conception that man is divine but limited, that beauty is concealed by ugliness, wisdom buried under ignorance, supreme intelligence hiding in darkness, is utterly erroneous. In discerning how through this beginningless ignorance and its activities there has arisen the "I" process and in bringing that process to an end, there is enlightenment. It is an experience of that which is immeasurable; which cannot be described, but is.
How is one to discern this beginningless ignorance with its volitional activities? How is one to bring about its end? How can one become deeply thoughtful, integrally aware of the process of consciousness with its many layers of tendencies, cravings, hatreds and desires? Can any discipline or system help one to recognize and end this process of ignorance and sorrow?
By experiment you will perceive that no system, no guide and no discipline can ever help you to discern this process or bring ignorance to an end. You need an eager, pliable mind, capable of direct discernment in which there is no choice. But as your mind is prejudiced, divided in itself, it is incapable of true discernment. As you are prejudiced you have to become aware of that fact before you can begin to discern what is actual and what is illusory. To discern, there must be awareness. You must become aware of the movement of your thought and its activity. Whatever you do, do it with the fullness of mind and you will perceive that in this awakening process, many hidden and subtle thoughts and cravings are revealed. When the mind is no longer bound by choice there is the experience of actuality. For choice is based on wish, and where there is wish there cannot be discernment. By right effort of awakened interest, the beginningless process of ignorance, with its self-sustaining activities, is brought to an end. It is by right endeavour that the mind, freeing itself from its own self-created fears, tendencies and cravings, is able to discern the real, the immeasurable.
Question: I have lost all the enthusiasm and zest in life that I once had. I have sufficient for my material needs, yet life is now to me a purposeless and empty shell, an aching existence which drags on and on. Would you put forward some thoughts which might possibly aid me in breaking through this sphere of apparently hopeless void? Krishnamurti: One loses enthusiasm or the zest for life when there is no fulfilment. As long as one is merely a slave to a system, or trained merely to fit into a particular social mould or to adjust oneself thoughtlessly to an established mode of conduct, there cannot be fulfilment. In merely responding to a reaction and thinking that it is the full expression of one's being, there must be frustration; and where there is frustration, there must be emptiness and suffering.
If one is deeply conscious of frustration, then there is some hope, for it creates such misery and discontent that one is forced to strip oneself of the many tendencies which one has developed through craving, and free oneself from the illusions and impositions of opinion. This demands right effort, for it is necessary to break away from the old, established custom of thought and action. Where there is frustration, there must be emptiness, an aching void and suffering; but to fulfil is arduous, it needs deep comprehension and an alert mind-heart.
Question: Is not desire for security rather a natural instinct, like that of self-protection in the presence of danger? How then can we get over it, and why should we try to?
Krishnamurti: The search after security indicates frustration and the gnawing of constant fear. Intelligence, which has no concern with the conception of security, arranges the well-being of the whole and not merely of the particular. Now, each one is individually seeking his own security and is thus creating confusion and misery. Each one is concerned about himself, seeking his own individual security here and in the hereafter, and is thus ever coming into conflict with another who is also pursuing his own end. So there is constant friction, antagonism, hatred and strife. Intelligence alone can arrange humanely the necessities of life for all.
This is actuality, and to experience it you must discern the true significance of security. If you consider it deeply, you will perceive that this idea of seeking security has no lasting value, here or in the hereafter. This has been proved over and over again during upheavals. But in spite of it, each one pursues his own security and so continues to live in constant fear and confusion. Where there is no search for security, there alone can be the bliss of the real.
Question: Example is said to be better than precept. Cannot the value of personal example to another be considerable, like your own? Krishnamurti: What is the motive that lies behind this question? Is it not that the questioner desires to follow an example, thinking that it may lead him to fulfilment? The following of another never leads to fulfilment. A violet can never become a rose, but the violet in itself can be a perfect flower. Being uncertain, one seeks certainty in the imitation of another. This produces fear, from which arise the delusion of shelter and comfort in another, and the many false ideas of discipline, meditation and the subjugation of oneself to an ideal. All this merely indicates the lack of comprehension of oneself, the perpetuating of ignorance. It is the root of sorrow, and instead of discerning the cause, you think that you can comprehend yourself through another. This looking to the example of another only leads to illusion and suffering.
As long as there is not the comprehension of oneself, there can be no fulfilment. Fulfilment is not a process of rationalization, nor the mere gathering of information, nor does it lie through another, however great. It is the fruition of deep comprehension of your own existence and actions.
Question: If reincarnation is a fact in nature, and also the idea that the ego reincarnates until it attains perfection, then doesn't the attainment of perfection or truth involve time?
Krishnamurti: We often ask if reincarnation is a reality, because we can find no intelligent happiness, no fulfilment of the individual in the present. If we are in conflict and misery, and have no opportunity and hope in this life, we crave for a future life of fulfilment free from struggle and pain. This future state of bliss we like to call perfection.
To understand this question we must discover what the ego is. The ego is not something real in itself which, like the worm that goes from leaf to leaf, wanders from one existence to another, gathering experience and learning wisdom, till it reaches the highest, which we imagine to be perfection. That conception is erroneous, it is merely an opinion and not an actuality. The actual process of the "I", the ego, can be discerned in perceiving how through ignorance, tendencies, cravings, it is reformed and its continuity re-established at each moment. The will of craving is perpetuating itself through its own volitional activities. Through this action of ignorance and its self-sustaining process, limitation as consciousness creates its own further limitation and sorrow. In this vicious circle all existence is caught.
Can this limitation, friction, this resistance against the movement of life known as the ego, ever be made perfect? Can craving become perfect? Surely selfishness cannot become nobler, purer selfishness; it must ever remain that which it is. This idea that through time the ego will become perfect is utterly false and erroneous.
Time is the result of those volitional activities of craving which bind and give a sense of continuity to life which is in reality ever in a state of being born, a state that has never been nor ever will be, but one that is ever becoming anew, ever in movement.
The point of vital importance is for each one to discover whether, through ignorance with its volitional activities, the process of the "I" is perpetuating itself or not. If this self-sustained process continues, there cannot be that which is real, true. Only with the cessation of the will of craving with its experiences of wish, is there reality. This beginningless process of the "I" with its self-active limitations cannot be proved. It must be discerned. It is not of faith but of deep comprehension, of integral awareness, of right effort to discern how craving creates its own limitation, and how any action born of craving must further engender friction, resistance and sorrow.
Question: How does the psycho-analytic technique of dealing with fixations, inhibitions and complexes strike you, and how would you deal with such cases?
Krishnamurti: Can another free you from these limitations, or is it merely a process of substitution? The pursuit of the psychoanalyst has become a hobby of the well-to-do. (Laughter) Don't laugh, please. You may not go to a psychoanalyst but you go through the same process in a different way, when you look to a religious organization, to a leader or to some discipline to free you from fixations, inhibitions and complexes. These methods may succeed in creating superficial effects, but they must inevitably develop new resistances against the movement of life. No person and no technique can really free one from these limitations. To experience that freedom one must comprehend life deeply, and discern for oneself the process of creating and maintaining ignorance and illusion. This demands alertness and keen perception, not the mere acceptance of a technique. But as one is slothful, one depends on another for comprehension and thereby increases sorrow and confusion. The comprehension of this process of ignorance and its self-sustaining activities, of this consciousness focussed in and perceptible only to the individual, can alone bring about deep, abiding bliss to man.
June 4, 1936