The ending of conflict
Conflict exists when we disregard what is actually taking place and translate it in terms of an ideal, in terms of ‘what should be’, in a concept we have accepted, or we ourselves have created. When there is a division between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’ there must inevitably be conflict.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1981, Talk 2
VIDEO: The ending of conflict
Seeing the complete implication of conflict
Face the fact that you are in conflict, and live with it completely.I would like to talk about conflict and the possibility of living without it. Most of our lives, from the moment we are born to the moment we die, is a series of conflicts, battles within and without. Our minds and hearts are battlefields, and we are always trying to better ourselves, to achieve a result, to find the right activity, to effect various social reforms, ardently wishing to bring about a change. This constant, violent, deep down battle is going on within each one of us, and we are either conscious or unconscious of it. If we are conscious of conflict, in the sense directly in relationship with it, we try to escape from it, suppress it or find a way of conquering it. All this implies a constant battle, a weary, unending process. If we are unconscious of the conflict, we either become dead, insensitive, or various forms of psychosomatic diseases take place. In our relationships and activities, in everything we do, this unconscious battle has its effect. That is our life, acquiring, losing, trying to be something and never succeeding, always hoping for deep final fulfilment, and always frustrated. With it comes the sorrow and aching jealousy of others who are fulfilling. So we are caught in this misery of an everlasting battle with ourselves and with society.
Will the discovery of the cause free the mind from conflict?
We can deny this fact, or be blind to it, or reject it, or ask what can be done about it. We can find out various causes of conflict. Will the discovery of the cause free the mind from conflict? That is, if I discover why I am jealous, will I be free of jealousy? When I discover why I am in conflict and find the right explanation, will conflict come to an end? The mere discovery of the cause does not, if you observe very carefully, end the conflict of anything. Explanations have no value for one who is hungry. Words do not fill the stomach. But for most of us, explanations do strangely satisfy—the explanation of why we struggle, why it is inevitable, why we are brought up on it. We can see the reasons—self-aggrandisement, self-pity, ambition and various hidden causes which are fairly obvious when one examines them—we know them, and yet our life is a battle and we have accepted it as the way of life.
Now I would like to question that way of life. I mean by questioning not a reaction against it; the questioning is not born out of the reaction against conflict. I see there is consciousness of conflict, I see most human beings are caught in it, and I want to find out why it is like that—not merely be satisfied with explanations or find the cause of the struggle—and to question deeply whether it is possible to live without conflict. That would be the real enquiry, because you can see that a mind endlessly in conflict soon wears itself out, becoming dull. We think conflict sharpens the mind. It does make the mind more cunning and underhanded, but the mind in conflict is continually wearing itself out like any instrument that is being constantly used and is creating friction. That machine or instrument is bound to wear out very soon.
So is there a way of living without conflict?
So is there a way of living without conflict, not theoretically, not verbally, not as prescribed in a sacred book, but actually? Probably most of us have never put that question to ourselves because we have accepted conflict as inevitable, like death. When we do put that question to ourselves, we must find out at what level we put that question. Is it merely an intellectual questioning out of curiosity, or is it a questioning which opens the door to a new perception, a new perfume? In the very act of questioning, not as a reaction, we will find a life without conflict coming into being. Which is, there is no way to lead a life without conflict; there is no method, no system, no practice. If you do have a method, system or way, then questioning has stopped; you have accepted a system, and in the very practising of that system you are continually in conflict, hoping out of conflict to arrive at a state where there is no conflict, which is an utter impossibility.
The very act of seeing the total emptiness of conflict, the total falsity of conflict, the very perception is the ending of conflict. But to see the complete intricacy, the complete factual reality of conflict, the whole anatomy of conflict, you must have a very sharp mind, an acute mind, a heightened sensitivity; otherwise you cannot see anything, let alone a most complex issue. You cannot see anything if you are not very alert, if you are not intensely alive—you look and pass by.
So, to see something totally there must be an intensity. That intensity is not mere concentration, but an intensity which comes when there is energy. That energy can only come when there is no conflict. So, the act of seeing something totally, the act of seeing a fact totally, liberates energy, and that energy is the way of living without conflict.
I see very clearly that conflict in any form inwardly and outwardly, at any level, conscious or unconscious, is destructive; it makes the mind dull, stupid, heavy. A mind in conflict is in an uncreative state. I see the whole of it, not verbally but actually, as I see a snake, as I see you. I see conflict in every form is the most deteriorating factor in life—the conflict involved in trying to become something, in trying to reach God, in trying to be a super-executive, and so on. I see the whole pattern of it. The fact is far more important than my explanation of the fact, or to discover the cause of the fact. The fact is far more important than to escape from the fact – to go to gods and temples, to take tranquilisers or to do various forms of futile meditation to dull the mind. So the fact and the seeing of the fact demand total attention, in which there is no escape. You cannot escape when you are attending to something.
The very act of seeing is the way of living without conflict.
Conflict breeds antagonism. I can give you an explanation because most of us want explanations. We are playing with explanations, but explanations have no validity. Conflict makes the mind dull and cunning; conflict wears down the mind; conflict introduces various forms of psychosomatic diseases. Psychosomatic diseases are produced by the inward state of conflict, misery, suffering and pain, which bring about physiological disorders, bodily ills, and so on. I see conflict outwardly between people, between nations. I see conflict in relationships in the family, between friends, between the big man and the small man, between the rich and the poor. I also see what conflict does actually, not theoretically but factually. So, I am totally aware of conflict, inwardly and outwardly, consciously and unconsciously, expressed in relationships. I see the effect of conflict on the mind, on so-called affection. When I am alert, aware, observing, I see the whole map of it, the anatomy of it. I don’t take time over it, I don’t read the books about it, but I see what is actually taking place.
To see totally you need energy. Observing the fact releases energy, and that very act of seeing is the way of living without conflict. It is not a miracle or trick. From that, I see every form of conflict is death. So, seeing every thought and feeling that produces conflict is the very ending of that thought and the very ending of that feeling, without conflict, suppression, control or discipline. So I say there is a way of living in this world without conflict. It is not reserved for people who have money, who live a luxurious life—that is not the way of life in which there is no conflict. I am talking of a way of life in which one is aware and sees the whole implication of conflict, not theoretically or verbally, but actually, factually. The wars that are going on in the world, the divisions of people into classes and castes, into religions and nations, all the absurd divisions man has built around himself, the very act of seeing all that opens the door to a life without conflict.
What is important is not how to find a way of life without conflict but seeing totally the complete implication of conflict. The seeing is not intellectual, emotional, sentimental, or verbal. Seeing it totally is the real issue. To see that I am stupid, dull, without finding explanations, justifications and all the rest of it—in that very perception there is the breath of the new.
Krishnamurti in Varanasi 1962, Talk 3
VIDEO: The source of conflict
Is it possible to be free of conflict?
Is it possible, living in this world, to be free of conflict totally, not partially? Don’t say it is or it is not—a serious mind does not take such a position but inquires. The mind must be free of conflict, obviously—free of conflict which creates confusion, contradiction and various forms of neurosis. If it is not free of this confusion, how can such a mind see, understand, observe? It can only spin with a lot of words about truth, non-violence, God, bliss, nirvana and all the rest of it—words that have no meaning at all.
Face the fact that you are in conflict, and live with it completely.
So, a mind that would find reality must be free of conflict at all levels of consciousness—which does not mean pursuing peace, retiring from the world, going to a monastery, or meditating under a tree, which are mere escapes. It must be completely free of all conflict, at all levels of one’s consciousness, so that the mind is clear. It is only a clear mind that can be free; and only in complete freedom can you discover what is true.
So we have to investigate the anatomy, the structure of conflict. You are not listening to me; you are listening to your own consciousness. You are listening, observing, seeing the conflict in your own life, whether in the office, with your wife or husband, with your children or your neighbour, with your ideals—observing your own conflict. Because what we are concerned with is the revolution in you, not in me, the revolution within each one, radically, at the very root of one’s being; otherwise, it is a superficial change, an adjustment which has no value. The world is undergoing tremendous changes not only technologically, but morally and ethically; and merely to adapt oneself to a change does not bring about clarity of vision or clarity of mind. What brings about this extraordinary clarity is when the mind has understood, totally, the whole process of conflict within and without; and that very understanding brings freedom. Therefore such a mind is clear, and in that clarity there is beauty. Such a mind is the religious mind, not a phoney mind that goes to the temple and repeats words endlessly or performs ceremonies ten thousand times, which has no meaning.
We do not know a moment when we are not in conflict.
So, we are concerned with the understanding of conflict. Understanding, not how to get rid of conflict, not how to substitute conflict by formulas, not to resist or avoid conflict, but to understand it. To understand something is to live with it, and you cannot live with something if you resist it or if you substitute through your fear that which is a fact, or if you run away, or if, when you are in conflict within yourself, you seek peace—which is just another form of escape. I am using the word understand in a particular sense, that is, to face the fact that you are in conflict, and to live with it completely—not to avoid it, not to escape.
There is conflict not only at the conscious level of the mind but also unconsciously, deep down. We are a mass of conflicts and contradictions at the level of thought and also where conscious thought has not penetrated. You are in conflict; your life is misery, confusion, a series of contradictions—violence and non-violence. To break all that, to find out for yourself, demands attention, an earnestness to go through right to the very end of this question of violence, this question of effort and conflict. Everything we do brings conflict. We do not know a moment when we are not in conflict. Going to the office, your prayers, your search for God, your disciplines, your relationships—everything has in it a seed of conflict. It is fairly obvious to anyone who wants to know themselves; when you observe yourself as though in a mirror, you see you are in conflict. And what do you do? Immediately you want to run away from it or find a formula which will absorb the conflict. What we are trying to do here is to observe conflict, not run away from it.
Conflict arises when there is contradiction in our activity, thought and being, outwardly and inwardly. We accept conflict as a way of progress. Conflict for us is a struggle. The adjustments, the suppressions, the innumerable contradictory desires, the various contradictory pulls, urges—all these create conflict within us. We are brought up to be ambitious, to make a success of life. But where there is ambition there is conflict.
When you understand the very nature of conflict, a new energy comes, energy uncontaminated by any effort, and that is what we are going to find out. Be aware that you are in conflict, not how to transcend it, not what to do about it, not how to suppress it, but be aware and not do anything about it. We are going to do something about it later, but first not to do anything about what you have discovered, the fact that you are in conflict and you are trying to escape in different ways from that conflict. That is the fact. When you remain with that fact for a few minutes, you will see how your mind resists remaining with the fact. It wants to run away, to act upon it, to do something about it. It cannot live with that fact. But to understand something, you have to live with it. To live with it, you have to be extremely sensitive. That is, to live with a beautiful tree, picture or person is not to get used to it. The moment you get used to it, you have lost sensitivity to it. If I get used to the mountain where I live, I am no longer sensitive to the beauty of the line, the light, the shape, the extraordinary brilliance of it in the morning or evening. I get used to it, which means I become insensitive to it. In the same way, to live with an ugly thing demands sensitivity. If I get used to the dirty roads, my dirty thoughts, ugly situations, I put up with them and again become insensitive. So to live with something, whether beautiful or ugly, or a thing that brings sorrow, to live with it means to be sensitive to it and not get used to it.
Conflict exists because we have not only contradictory desires, but our education and the psychological pressures of society bring about this division in us, this cleavage between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’, between the factual and the ideal. We are ridden with ideals, and a clear mind has no ideals, functioning from fact to fact, not from idea to idea. Any effort to be free of conflict involves another conflict. So the mind has to find a way of being free of conflict without effort. If I resist conflict, or if I resist the patterns and intimations involved in conflict, that very resistance is another contradiction and therefore a conflict.
When you understand the very nature of conflict, a new energy comes.
Let me put it very simply. I realise I am in conflict. I am violent, and the saints and books have said I must not be violent. So there are two contradictory things in me: violence and that I must not be violent. This contradiction is either self-imposed or imposed on me by others. In that self-contradiction, there is conflict. If I resist in order to understand conflict or avoid it, I am still in conflict. The very resistance creates conflict. So to understand and be free of conflict, there must be no resistance to, or escape from, conflict; I must look at it, I must listen to the whole content of conflict—with my wife or husband, children, with society or the ideas I have. If you say it is not possible in this life to be free of conflict, there is no further relationship between you and me. If you say it is possible, again there is no relationship. But if you say you want to find out, to go into it, tear down the structure of conflict which is being built in you and of which you are a part, then you and I have a relationship and can proceed together.
So every form of resistance, escape and avoidance only increases conflict. Conflict implies confusion, brutality, a hardness. A mind in conflict cannot be compassionate nor have the clarity of compassion. So the mind has to be aware of conflict without resistance, avoidance or opinion. In that very act, a discipline is born, a flexible discipline, a discipline not based on any formula or pattern, or on suppression. That is to observe the whole content of conflict within, and that very observation brings naturally, effortlessly, a discipline. And you must have this discipline. I am using the word discipline in the sense clarity, a mind that thinks precisely, healthily. You cannot have a healthy, sane, clear mind if there is conflict.
Perhaps you will say, ‘I am not free of conflict. Tell me how to be free of conflict.’ That is the pattern you have learnt. You want to be told how to be free from conflict, and you will pursue that pattern, but you are still in conflict. So there is no ‘how’. Please understand this. There is no method in life. You have to live it. One who has a method to achieve non-violence or some state is caught in a pattern. The pattern does produce a result, but it will not lead to reality. So when you ask, ‘How am I to be free from conflict?’ you are falling back into the old pattern, indicating that you are still in conflict, that you have not understood and have not lived clearly with the fact. If you are earnest and would be free of conflict, you have to abolish all authority in yourself, because for one who wants to find truth there is no authority, neither the Gita, your saints, your leaders—nobody. That means you stand completely alone. And to stand alone comes about when the mind is free from conflict.
If you would be free of conflict, you have to abolish all authority in yourself.
You see, most of us want to avoid life, and we have found ways and methods of avoiding it. Life is a total thing, not partial. Life includes beauty, religion, politics, economics, relationships, the misery, torture and agony of existence, the despair—all that is life and you have to understand the totality of it. This requires a healthy, sane, clear mind. That is why you have to have a mind without conflict, that has no mark of conflict. That is why conflict in any form can only be understood by being aware.
I mean by being aware, observing it. To observe demands looking without opinions, ideas, judgments, comparison or condemnation. If there is condemnation or resistance, you are not observing. Your concern then is to find out why you resist, not how to understand conflict. So you have moved away from conflict and become aware of your resistance. Why do you resist? You can find out why you resist. For most of us, conflict has become a habit and has made us so dull we are not aware of it. We have accepted it as a part of existence. When you come upon it, when you see it as a fact, then you resist it or you try to avoid it or find a way out of it. To observe the fact that you resist is far more important than to understand conflict—how you are avoiding it, how you are bringing a formula to it. So you begin to observe your formulas, opinions and resistances. By being aware of all these, you are breaking down your conditioning and therefore you are able to face conflict. When you have broken down your conditioning, resistance and formulas, you can face conflict.
So to understand conflict and therefore be free of it, not eventually, not at the end of your life, not the day after tomorrow, but immediately, totally—and it can be done—demands an astonishing faculty of observation which is not to be cultivated. The moment you cultivate it, you are back again in conflict. What is demanded is the immediate perception of that total process, of the total content of consciousness, immediate observation and therefore seeing the truth of it. The moment you see the truth of it, you are out of it. And you cannot see the truth of it if, in any form whatsoever, at whatever level, you try to resist, avoid or impose formulas upon it.
There is no time for change: either you change now or never.
So, there is no time for change: either you change now or never. I do not mean never in the sense ‘eternally damned’—I mean change is now, in the active present. It is only in the active present there is a mutation, not the day after tomorrow. This is very important to understand. We are so used to an idea and then try to put the idea into action. We first formulate logically or illogically—mostly illogically—an idea or an ideal, and try to put that into action. So there is a gap between action and the idea, so there is a contradiction between the idea and the action. Action is the living present, not the idea. So if you say, ‘I must be free of conflict,’ that becomes an idea, and there is a time interval between the idea and the action, and you hope that during that interval a peculiar, mysterious action will take place that will bring about a change.
If you allow time, there is no mutation. Understanding is immediate. You can only understand if you observe completely, with all your being. If you are completely aware of the whole structure, the anatomy of conflict, you will see that there is an immediate change. Then you are out of conflict completely and totally. If you say, ‘Will I always be free of conflict?’ you are asking a foolish question, indicating that you are not free of conflict, that you have not understood the nature of conflict but only want to conquer and be at peace.
A mind that has not understood conflict cannot be at peace. It can escape to an idea, a word called peace but it is not peace. To have peace demands clarity, and clarity can only come when there is no conflict of any kind. When the mind has understood and therefore is free, such a mind alone can go very far. It is only the mind that has understood conflict with its violence and insanities that can go very far. It is only the compassionate mind that can understand that which is beyond words.
Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1963, Talk 2
VIDEO: Can I strip myself of the network of language?
Conflict is self-consciousness
It was a pleasant group; most of them were eager, and there were a few who listened to refute. Listening is an art not easily come by, but in it there is beauty and great understanding. We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is with a preconception or from a particular point of view. We do not listen simply; there is the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions and prejudices. We listen with pleasure or resistance, grasping or rejection, but there is no listening. To listen there must be an inward quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond verbal conclusions. Words confuse, they are only the outward means of communication; but to commune beyond the noise of words, there must be in listening an alert passivity. Those who love may listen, but it is extremely rare to find a listener. Most of us are after results, achieving goals, we are forever overcoming and conquering, and so there is no listening. It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words.
‘Is it possible to be free of all desire? Without desire, is there life? Is not desire life itself? To seek to be free of desire is to invite death, is it not?’
What is desire? When are we aware of it? When do we say we desire? Desire is not an abstraction; it exists only in relationship. Desire arises in conflict, in relationship. Without contact, there is no desire. Contact may be at any level, but without it there is no sensation, no response, no desire. We know the process of desire, the way it comes into being: perception, contact, sensation, desire. But when are we aware of desire? When do I say I have a desire? Only when there is the disturbance of pleasure or pain. It is when there is an awareness of conflict, of disturbance, that there is the cognisance of desire. Desire is the inadequate response to a challenge. The perception of a beautiful car gives rise to the disturbance of pleasure. This disturbance is the consciousness of desire; the focusing of disturbance, caused by pain or by pleasure, is self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is desire. We are conscious when there is the disturbance of inadequate response to challenge. Conflict is self-consciousness. Can there be freedom from this disturbance, from the conflict of desire?
‘Do you mean freedom from the conflict of desire, or from desire itself?’
Conflict ceases when there is no process of naming.
Are conflict and desire two separate states? If they are, our inquiry must lead to illusion. If there were no disturbance of pleasure or pain, of wanting, seeking, fulfilling, either negatively or positively, would there be desire? And do we want to get rid of disturbance? If we can understand this, then we may be able to grasp the significance of desire. Conflict is self-consciousness; the focusing of attention through disturbance is desire. Is it that you want to get rid of the conflicting element of desire and keep the pleasurable element? Both pleasure and conflict are disturbing, are they not? Or do you think pleasure does not disturb?
‘Pleasure is not disturbing.’
Is that true? Have you never noticed the pain of pleasure? Is not the craving for pleasure ever on the increase, ever demanding more and more? Is not the craving for more as disturbing as the urgency of avoidance? Both bring about conflict. We want to keep the pleasurable desire and avoid the painful, but if we look closely, both are disturbing. But do you want to be free from disturbance?
‘If we have no desire we will die; if we have no conflict we will go to sleep.’
Are you speaking from experience, or have you merely an idea about it? We are imagining what it would be like to have no conflict and so are preventing the experiencing of whatever that state is in which all conflict has ceased. Our problem is: what causes conflict? Can we not see a beautiful or an ugly thing without conflict coming into being? Can we not observe, listen without self-consciousness? Can we not live without disturbance? Can we not be without desire? Surely, we must understand the disturbance and not seek a way of overcoming or exalting desire. Conflict must be understood, not ennobled or suppressed.
What causes conflict? Conflict arises when the response is not adequate to the challenge, and this conflict is the focusing of consciousness as the self. The self, the consciousness focused through conflict, is experience. Experience is response to a stimulus or challenge; without terming or naming, there is no experience. Naming is out of the storehouse of memory; and this naming is the process of verbalising, the making of symbols, images, words, which strengthens memory. Consciousness, the focusing of the self through conflict, is the total process of experience, of naming, of recording.
‘In this process, what is it that gives rise to conflict? Can we be free from conflict? And what is beyond conflict?’
It is naming that gives rise to conflict. You approach the challenge, at whatever level, with a record, with an idea, with a conclusion, with prejudice; that is, you name the experience. This terming gives quality to an experience, the quality arising out of naming. Naming is the recording of memory. The past meets the new, and challenge is met by memory, the past. The responses of the past cannot understand the living, the new, the challenge; the responses of the past are inadequate, and from this arises conflict, which is self-consciousness. Conflict ceases when there is no process of naming. You can watch in yourself how the naming is almost simultaneous with the response. The interval between response and naming is experiencing. Experiencing, in which there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced, is beyond conflict. Conflict is the focusing of the self, and with the cessation of conflict there is the ending of thought and the beginning of the inexhaustible.
From the book Commentaries on Living Series 2 by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here
Krishnamurti Foundation Trust
Hampshire SO24 0LQ
Telephone: +44 1962 771525
Company Registration No. 1055588
Registered Charity No. 312865
© 2020 Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd