Are Will and Desire Necessary?

From Krishnamurti’s Book MEETING LIFE

Questioner: Without the operation of desire and will, how does one move in the direction of self-knowledge? Is not the very urgency to change, a part of the movement of desire? What is the nature of the first step?

KRISHNAMURTI: To understand this question, not just superficially but in depth, one must understand the nature of desire and will, and also the nature of self-knowing. The questioner asks: if one has not the urge, which is part of desire and will, how can the flowering take place in knowing oneself?
What is the relationship of desire to will? How does desire come into being? First there are the visual and tactile sensations; then thought creates an image out of those sensations, and desire is born. One can see this for oneself when looking in a shop window at a shirt or a dress; on entering the shop, the tactile sensation is aroused in touching the material, and then thought says, ‘How nice to have that dress!’ Thought creates the image of putting on the dress and at that moment desire arises. This is the movement; perception, contact, sensation—quite natural, healthy—then thought takes possession of sensation, creates an image, and desire is born. Will is the summation of desire, the strengthening of desire, the urge to achieve, to express one’s desire, and acquire; it is the operation of desire strengthened by will.
So desire and will go together. Now the questioner asks: ‘If there is no desire or will, why should one seek self-knowledge?’ What is self-knowledge? Let us examine that first. The ancient Greeks and the Hindus talked about knowing oneself. What does it mean, to know oneself? Can one ever know oneself? What is the self that, apparently, it is necessary to know? And what does one mean by the word ‘know’? I know Gstaad* because I have come here for twenty-two years. I know you because I have seen you here for twenty years or more. When one says, ‘I know’, one means by that, not only recognition but also remembrance of the face, the name. There is association: ‘I met you yesterday, I recognize you today.’ That is the memory operating. So when one says, ‘I know,’ it is the past expressing itself in the present. One goes to school, college, university and acquires a great deal of knowledge. Then one says, ‘I am a chemist, or a physicist,’ or this and that. So when one says one must know oneself, does one come to know about the self afresh, or does one approach it from a base of knowledge already acquired? You see the difference?
I want to know myself. I may have studied psychology, or been to psychotherapists, or read a great deal. Do I approach the understanding of the self through that knowledge? Or do I come to it without the previous accumulation of knowledge about myself? When I say, ‘I must know about myself’, am I not already acquainted with myself through past knowledge which dictates how I observe myself? It is very important to understand this if one wants to go into it carefully. So, having previous knowledge about oneself, one uses that knowledge to understand oneself; which is absurd. So can one put aside all that one has understood about oneself from the knowledge of others—Freud, Jung, the modern psychologists—and look at oneself afresh, anew?
Now the questioner asks: are desire and will necessary in observing myself? See what happens. One has acquired knowledge about oneself through others as opposed to the actual fact of what one is. You see the difference? There is a contradiction between what I have acquired and ‘what is’. And to overcome this contradiction one exercises will. One may have gone to the latest psychotherapist and been given by him certain knowledge about oneself; that knowledge one takes home and discovers that it is different from what one is. Then begins the conflict: to adjust what I have been told to ‘what is’. To overcome that conflict, to suppress it, or accept it, desire and will come into being.
* The resort near Saanen where Krishnamurti stayed.
Now, are will and desire necessary at all? Do they not come into being only when one has to adjust oneself to a pattern, to a pattern of ‘good’? Then does not the conflict, the struggle to overcome, to control, begin?
One is a seeker, one is questioning; therefore one rejects completely all information provided by others about oneself. Will one do that? One will not, because it is much safer to accept authority. Then one feels secure. But if one does completely reject the authority of everybody, how does one observe the movement of the self, for the self is not static, it is moving, living, acting? How does one observe something that is tremendously active, full of urges, desires, ambitions, greed, romanticism? Which means: can one observe the movement of the self with all its desires and fears, without knowledge acquired from others or which one has acquired in examining oneself?
One of the activities of the self is greed. Now, when one uses the word ‘greed’, one has already associated that reaction, or that reflex, with a memory one has previously had of that reaction. One uses the word ‘greed’ to identify that sensation, to recognize it, and the moment that recognition takes place, it is already strengthened and taken back into memory. So can one look at that sensation, that reaction, without the word, and therefore without the previous acquaintance with it? Can one look at that reaction without a single movement of recognition?
Now, can one observe oneself without any direction, without any comparison and therefore without motive? That is learning about oneself afresh each time. If one goes very seriously into this, one will find that it is not a matter of little by little, first one step, then another, but of seeing the truth of it instantly, the truth that the moment recognition takes place one is not knowing oneself at all. It requires a great deal of attention to do this, and most of us are so slack, so lazy; we have all kinds of ideas about what we should or should not be, so we come to it with a tremendous burden and therefore never know ourselves.

To put it differently: we are like the rest of mankind, and mankind, throughout the entire world, suffers, goes through great misery, uncertainty, sorrow. So, psychologically, one is like the rest of humanity; one is humanity. Then the problem arises: can the content of one’s consciousness be wiped away, all the learning about oneself, which is the consciousness of mankind? One is so conditioned to the idea of oneself as an individual, psychologically different from another—which is not a fact—that when one says, ‘I must know myself,’ one is saying ‘I must know my little cell’—and when one investigates that little cell, it is nothing. But the actual truth is that one is mankind, one is the rest of humanity. To inquire into the enormous complex of the human mind is to read the story of oneself. One is history, and if one knows how to read the book, one begins to find out the nature of oneself, the nature of this consciousness which is the consciousness of all human beings.