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‘How to Live in this World’
Questioner: Please, sir, could you tell me how I am to live in this world? I don’t want to be part of it yet I have to live in it, I have to have a house and earn my own living. And my neighbours are of this world; my children play with theirs, and so one becomes a part of this ugly mess, whether one wants to or not. I want to find out how to live in this world without escaping from it, without going into a monastery or around the world in a sailing boat. I want to educate my children differently, but first I want to know how to live surrounded by so much violence, greed, hypocrisy, competition and brutality.
Krishnamurti: Don’t let’s make a problem of it. When anything becomes a problem we are caught in the solution of it, and then the problem becomes a cage, a barrier to further exploration and understanding. So don’t let us reduce all life to a vast and complex problem. If the question is put in order to overcome the society in which we live, or to find a substitute for that society, or to try to escape from it though living in it, it must inevitably lead to a contradictory and hypocritical life. This question also implies, doesn’t it, the complete denial of ideology? If you are really enquiring you cannot start with a conclusion, and all ideologies are a conclusion. So we must begin by finding out what you mean by living.
Questioner: Please, sir, let’s go step by step.
Krishnamurti: I am very glad that we can go into this step by step, patiently, with an enquiring mind and heart. Now what do you mean by living?
Questioner: I’ve never tried to put it into words. I’m bewildered, I don’t know what to do, how to live. I’ve lost faith in everything – religions, philosophies and political utopias. There is war between individuals and between nations. In this permissive society everything is allowed – killing, riots, the cynical oppression of one country by another, and nobody does anything about it because interference might mean world war. I am faced with all this and I don’t know what to do; I don’t know how to live at all. I don’t want to live in the midst of such confusion.
Krishnamurti: What is it you are asking for – a different life, or for a new life which comes about with the understanding of the old life? If you want to live a different life without understanding what has brought about this confusion, you will always be in contradiction, in conflict, in confusion. And that of course is not a new life at all. So are you asking for a new life or for a modified continuity of the old one, or to understand the old one?
Questioner: I’m not at all sure what I want but I am beginning to see what I don’t want.
Krishnamurti: Is what you don’t want based on your free understanding or on your pleasure and pain? Are you judging out of your revolt, or do you see the causation of this conflict and misery, and, because you see it, reject it?
Questioner: You’re asking me too many things. All I know is that I want to live a different kind of life. I don’t know what it means; I don’t know why I’m seeking it; and, as I said, I’m utterly bewildered by it all.
Krishnamurti: Your basic question is, isn’t it, how are you to live in this world? Before you find out let us first see what this world is. The world is not only all that surrounds us, it is also our relationship to all these things and people, to ourselves, to ideas. That is, our relationship to property, to people, to concepts – in fact our relationship to the stream of events which we call life. This is the world. We see division into nationalities, into religious, economic, political, social and ethnical groups; the whole world is broken up and is as fragmented outwardly as its human beings are inwardly. In fact, this outer fragmentation is the manifestation of the human being’s inner division.
Questioner: Yes, I see this fragmentation very clearly, and I am also beginning to see that the human being is responsible.
Krishnamurti: You are the human being!
Questioner: Then can I live differently from what I am myself? I’m suddenly realizing that if I am to live in a totally different way there must be a new birth in me, a new mind and heart, new eyes. And I realize also that this hasn’t happened. I live the way I am, and the way I am has made life as it is. But where does one go from there?
Krishnamurti: You don’t go anywhere from there! There is no going anywhere. The going, or the searching for the ideal, for what we think is better, gives us a feeling that we are progressing, that we are moving towards a better world. But this movement is no movement at all because the end has been projected out of our misery, confusion, greed and envy. So this end, which is supposed to be the opposite of what is, is really the same as what is, it is engendered by what is. Therefore it creates the conflict between what is and what should be. This is where our basic confusion and conflict arises. The end is not over there, not on the other side of the wall; the beginning and the end are here.
Questioner: Wait a minute, sir, please; I don’t understand this at all. Are you telling me that the ideal of what should be is the result of not understanding what is? Are you telling me that what should be is what is, and that this movement from what is to what should be isn’t really a movement at all?
Krishnamurti: It is an idea; it is fiction. If you understand what is, what need is there for what should be?
Questioner: Is that so? I understand what is. I understand the bestiality of war, the horror of killing, and because I understand it I have this ideal of not killing. The ideal is born out of my understanding of what is, therefore it is not an escape.
Krishnamurti: If you understand that killing is terrible do you have to have an ideal in order not to kill? Perhaps we are not clear about the word understanding. When we say we understand something, in that is implied, isn’t it, that we have learnt all it has to say? We have explored it and discovered the truth or the falseness of it. This implies also, doesn’t it, that this understanding is not an intellectual affair, but that one has felt it deeply in one’s heart? There is understanding only when the mind and the heart are in perfect harmony. Then one says “I have understood this, and finished with it”, and it no longer has the vitality to breed further conflict. Do we both give the same meaning to that word understand?
Questioner: I hadn’t before, but now I see that what you are saying is true. Yet I honestly don’t understand, in that way, the total disorder of the world, which, as you so rightly pointed out, is my own disorder. How can I understand it? How can I completely learn about the disorder, the entire disorder and confusion of the world, and of myself?
Krishnamurti: Do not use the word how, please.
Questioner: Why not?
Krishnamurti: The how implies that somebody is going to give you a method, a recipe, which, if you practise it, will bring about understanding. Can understanding ever come about through a method? Understanding means love and the sanity of the mind. And love cannot be practised or taught. The sanity of the mind can only come about when there is clear perception, seeing things as they are unemotionally, not sentimentally. Neither of these two things can be taught by another, nor by a system invented by yourself or by another.
Questioner: You are too persuasive, sir, or is it perhaps that you are too logical? Are you trying to influence me to see things as you see them?
Krishnamurti: God forbid! Influence in any form is destructive of love. Propaganda to make the mind sensitive, alert, will only make it dull and insensitive. So we are in no way trying to influence you or persuade you, or make you depend. We are only pointing out, exploring together. And to explore together you must be free, both of me and of your own prejudices and fears. Otherwise you go round and round in circles. So we must go back to our original question: how am I to live in this world? To live in this world we must deny the world. By that we mean: deny the ideal, the war, the fragmentation, the competition, the envy and so on. We don’t mean deny the world as a schoolboy revolts against his parents. We mean deny it because we understand it. This understanding is negation.
Questioner: I am out of my depth.
Krishnamurti: You said you do not want to live in the confusion, the dishonesty and ugliness of this world. So you deny it. But from what background do you deny it, why do you deny it? Do you deny it because you want to live a peaceful life, a life of complete security and enclosure, or do you deny it because you see what it actually is?
Questioner: I think I deny it because I see around me what is taking place. Of course my prejudices and fear are all involved. So it is a mixture of what is actually taking place and my own anxiety.
Krishnamurti: Which predominates, your own anxiety or the actual seeing of what is around you? If fear predominates, then you can’t see what is actually going on around you, because fear is darkness, and in darkness you can see absolutely nothing. If you realize that, then you can see the world actually as it is, then you can see yourself actually as you are. Because you are the world, and the world is you; they are not two separate entities.
Questioner: Would you please explain more fully what you mean by the world is me and I am the world?
Krishnamurti: Does this really need explaining? Do you want me to describe in detail what you are and show you that it is the same as what the world is? Will this description convince you that you are the world? Will you be convinced by a logical, sequential explanation showing you the cause and the effect? If you are convinced by careful description, will that give you understanding? Will it make you feel that you are the world, make you feel responsible for the world? It seems so clear that our human greed, envy, aggression and violence have brought about the society in which we live, a legalized acceptance of what we are. I think this is really sufficiently clear and let’s not spend any more time on this issue. You see, we don’t feel this, we don’t love, therefore there is this division between me and the world.
Questioner: May I come back again tomorrow?
* * *
He came back the next day eagerly, and there was the bright light of enquiry in his eyes.
Questioner: I want, if you are willing, to go further into this question of how I am to live in this world. I do now understand, with my heart and my mind, as you explained yesterday, the utter importance of ideals. I had quite a long struggle with it and have come to see the triviality of ideals. You are saying, aren’t you, that when there are no ideals or escapes there is only the past, the thousand yesterdays which make up the “me”? So when I ask: How am I to live in this world?” I have not only put a wrong question, but I have also made a contradictory statement, for I have placed the world and the “me” in opposition to each other. And this contradiction is what I call living. So when I ask the question, “How am I to live in this world?” I am really trying to improve this contradiction, to justify it, to modify it, because that’s all I know; I don’t know anything else.
Krishnamurti: This then is the question we have now: must living always be in the past, must all activity spring from the past, is all relationship the outcome of the past, is living the complex memory of the past? That is all we know – the past modifying the present. And the future is the outcome of this past acting through the present. So the past, the present and the future are all the past. And this past is what we call living. The mind is the past, the brain is the past, the feelings are the past, and action coming from these is the positive activity of the known. This whole process is your life and all the relationship and activity that you know. So when you ask how you are to live in this world you are asking for a change of prisons.
Questioner: I don’t mean that. What I mean is: I see very clearly that my process of thinking and doing is the past working through the present to the future. This is all I know, and that’s a fact. And I realize that unless there is a change in this structure I am caught in it, I am of it. From this the question inevitably arises: how am I to change?
Krishnamurti: To live in this world sanely there must be a radical change of the mind and of the heart.
Questioner: Yes, but what do you mean by change? How am I to change if whatever I do is the movement of the past? I can only change myself, nobody else can change me. And I don’t see what it means – to change.
Krishnamurti: So the question “How am I to live in this world?” has now become “How am I to change?” – bearing in mind that the how doesn’t mean a method, but is an enquiry to understand. What is change? Is there any change at all? Or can you ask whether there is any change at all only after there has been a total change and revolution? Let’s begin again to find out what this word means. Change implies a movement from what is to something different. Is this something different merely an opposite, or does it belong to a different order altogether? If it is merely an opposite then it is not different at all, because all opposites are mutually dependent, like hot and cold, high and low. The opposite is contained within, and determined by, its opposite; it exists only in comparison, and things that are comparative have different measures of the same quality, and therefore they are similar. So change to an opposite is no change at all. Even if this going towards what seems different gives you the feeling that you are really doing something, it is an illusion.
Questioner: Let me absorb this for a moment.
Krishnamurti: So what are we concerned with now? Is it possible to bring about in ourselves the birth of a new order altogether that is not related to the past? The past is irrelevant to this enquiry, and trivial, because it is irrelevant to the new order.
Questioner: How can you say it is trivial and irrelevant? We’ve been saying all along that the past is the issue, and now you say it is irrelevant.
Krishnamurti: The past seems to be the only issue because it is the only thing that holds our minds and hearts. It alone is important to us. But why do we give importance to it? Why is this little space all-important? If you are totally immersed in it, utterly committed to it, then you will never listen to change. The man who is not wholly committed is the only one capable of listening, enquiring and asking. Only then will he be able to see the triviality of this little space. So, are you completely immersed, or is your head above the water? If your head is above the water then you can see that this little thing is trivial. Then you have room to look around. How deeply are you immersed? Nobody can answer this for you except yourself. in the very asking of this question there is already freedom and, therefore, one is not afraid. Then your vision is extensive. When this pattern of the past holds you completely by the throat, then you acquiesce, accept, obey, follow, believe. It is only when you are aware that this is not freedom that you are starting to climb out of it. So we are again asking: what is change, what is revolution? Change is not a movement from the known to the known, and all political revolutions are that. This kind of change is not what we are talking about. To progress from being a sinner to being a saint is to progress from one illusion to another. So now we are free of change as a movement from this to that.
Questioner: Have I really understood this? What am I to do with anger, violence and fear when they arise in me? Am I to give them free reign? How am I to deal with them? There must be change there, otherwise I am what I was before.
Krishnamurti: Is it clear to you that these things cannot be overcome by their opposites? If so, you have only the violence, the envy, the anger, the greed. The feeling arises as the result of a challenge, and then it is named. This naming of the feeling re-establishes it in the old pattern. If you do not name it, which means you do not identify yourself with it, then the feeling is new and it will go away by itself. The naming of it strengthens it and gives it a continuity which is the whole process of thought.
Questioner: I am being driven into a comer where I see myself actually as I am, and I see how trivial I am. From there what comes next?
Krishnamurti: Any movement from what I am strengthens what I am. So change is no movement at all. Change is the denial of change, and now only can I put this question: is there a change at all? This question can be put only when all movement of thought has come to an end, for thought must be denied for the beauty of non-change. In the total negation of all movement of thought away from what is, is the ending of what is.