Authority and Cooperation

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 2

She had been secretary to a big business executive, she explained, and had worked with him for many years. She must have been very efficient, for it showed in her bearing and in her words. Having put away some money, she had given up that job a couple of years ago because she desired to help the world. Still quite young and vigorous, she wanted to devote the rest of her years to something worthwhile, so she considered the various spiritual organizations. Before going to college she had been educated in a convent, but the things they had taught her there now seemed limited, dogmatic and authoritarian, and naturally she could not belong to such a religious institution. After studying several others, she had at last landed in one which seemed to be broader and have greater significance than most, and now she was active at the very centre of that organization, helping one of its chief workers.

‘At last I have found something that gives a satisfactory explanation of the whole business of existence,’ she went on. ‘Of course they have their authority in the Masters, but one doesn’t have to believe in them. I happen to, but that is neither here nor there. I belong to the inner group, and as you know, we practise certain forms of meditation. Very few are now told of their initiation by the Masters, not as many as before. They are more cautious these days.’

If one may ask why are you explaining all this?

‘I was present at your discussion the other afternoon when it was stated that all following is evil. I have since attended several more of these discussions, and naturally I am disturbed by all that was said. You see, working for the Masters does not necessarily mean following them. There is authority, but it is we who need authority. They do not ask obedience of us, but we give it to them or to their representatives.’

If, as you say, you took part in the discussions, don’t you think that what you are saying now is rather immature? Taking shelter in the Masters or in their representatives whose authority must be based on their own self-chosen duty and pleasure, is essentially the same as taking shelter in the authority of the church, is it not? One may be considered narrow and the other wide, but both are obviously binding. When one is confused one seeks guidance, but that which one finds will invariably be the outcome of one’s own confusion. The leader is as confused as the follower who, out of his conflict and misery, has chosen the leader. Following another, whether it be a leader, a saviour, or a Master, does not bring about clarity and happiness. Only with the understanding of confusion and the maker of it, is there freedom from conflict and misery. This seems fairly obvious, does it not?

‘It may be to you, sir, but I still don’t understand. We need to work along the right lines, and those who know can and do lay down certain plans for our guidance. This does not imply blind following.’

There is no enlightened following; all following is evil. Authority corrupts, whether in high places or among the thoughtless. The thoughtless are not made thoughtful by following another, however great and noble he may be.

‘I like cooperating with my friends in working for something which has worldwide significance. To work together, we need some kind of authority over us.’

Is it cooperation when there is the compelling influence, pleasant or unpleasant, of authority? Is it co-operation when you are working for a plan laid down by another? Are you not then consciously or unconsciously conforming through fear, through hope of reward, and so on? And is conformity cooperation? When there is authority over you, benevolent or tyrannical, can there be cooperation? Surely, cooperation comes into being only when there is the love of the thing for itself without the fear of punishment or failure, and without the hunger for success or recognition. Cooperation is possible only when there is freedom from envy, acquisitiveness, and from the craving for personal or collective dominance, power.

‘Aren’t you much too drastic in these matters? Nothing would ever be achieved if we were to wait until we had freed our selves from all those inward causes which are obviously evil.’

But what are you achieving now? There must be deep earnestness and inward revolution if there is to be a different world; there must be at least some who are not consciously or unconsciously perpetuating conflict and misery. Personal ambition, and ambition for the collective, must drop away, for ambition in any form prevents love.

I am too disturbed by all that you have said, and I hope I may come back another day when I am a little more calm.’

She came back many days later.

‘After I had seen you I went away by myself to think all this over objectively and clearly and I spent several sleepless nights. My friends warned me not to be too disturbed by what you said, but I was disturbed, and I had to settle certain things for myself. I have been reading some of your talks more thoughtfully, without putting up resistance, and things are becoming clear. There is no going back, and I am not dramatizing. I have resigned from the organization, with all that it means. My friends are naturally upset, and they think I will come back; but I am afraid not. I have done this because I see the truth of what has been said. We shall see what happens now.’