Cause and Effect

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 1

‘I know you have healed,’ he said, ‘and will you not heal my son? He is nearly blind. I have seen a few doctors, and they can do nothing. They advise me to take him to Europe or America, but I am not a rich man and I cannot afford it. Will you not please do something? He is our only child, and my wife is heart-stricken.’

He was a petty official, poor but educated, and like all of his group he knew Sanskrit and its literature. He kept on saying that it was the boy’s karma that he should suffer, and theirs too. What had they done to deserve this punishment? What evil had they committed, in a previous life or in the earlier part of this one, to have to bear such pain? There must be a cause for this calamity, hidden in some past action.

There may be an immediate cause for this blindness which the physicians have not yet discovered; some inherited disease may have brought it about. If the doctors cannot discover the physical cause, why do you seek a metaphysical one in the distant past? “By seeking the cause I may be better able to understand the effect.” Do you understand anything by knowing its cause? By knowing why one is afraid, is one free of fear? One may know the cause, but does that in itself bring understanding? When you say that you will understand the effect by knowing the cause, you mean that you will take comfort in knowing how this thing has come about, do you not?

‘Of course, that is why I want to know what action in the past has produced this blindness. It will certainly be most comforting.’

Then you want comfort and not understanding.

‘But are they not the same thing? To understand is to find comfort. What is the good of understanding if there is no joy in it?’

Understanding a fact may cause disturbance, it does not necessarily bring joy. You want comfort, and that is what you are seeking. You are disturbed by the fact of your son’s ailment, and you want to be pacified. This pacification you call understanding. You start out, not to understand, but to be comforted; your intention is to find a way to quiet your disturbance, and this you call the search for the cause. Your chief concern is to be put to sleep, to be undisturbed, and you are seeking a way to do it. We put ourselves to sleep through various ways: God, rituals, ideals, drink, and so on. We want to escape from disturbance, and one of the escapes is this search for the cause.

‘Why shouldn’t one seek freedom from disturbance? Why shouldn’t one avoid suffering?’

Through avoidance is there freedom from suffering? You may shut the door on some ugly thing, on some fear; but it is still there behind the door, is it not? What is suppressed, resisted, is not understood, is it? You may suppress or discipline your child, but surely that does not yield the understanding of him. You are seeking the cause in order to avoid the pain of disturbance; with that intention you look, and naturally you will find what you are seeking. There is a possibility of being free of suffering only when one observes its process, when one is aware of every phase of it, cognizant of its whole structure. To avoid suffering is only to strengthen it. The explanation of the cause is not the understanding of the cause. Through explanation you are not freed from suffering; the suffering is still there, only you have covered it over with words, with conclusions, either your own or those of another. The study of explanations is not the study of wisdom; when explanations cease, then only is wisdom possible. You are anxiously seeking explanations which will put you to sleep, and you find them; but explanation is not truth. Truth comes when there is observation without conclusions, without explanations, without words. The observer is built out of words, the self is made up of explanations, conclusions, condemnations, justifications, and so on. There is communion with the observed only when the observer is not; and only then is there understanding, freedom from the problem.

‘I think I see this. But is there not such a thing as karma?’

What do you mean by that word?

‘Present circumstances are the result of previous actions, immediately past or long removed. This process of cause and effect, with all its ramifications, is more or less what is meant by karma.’

That is only an explanation, but let us go beyond the words. Is there a fixed cause producing a fixed effect? When cause and effect are fixed, is there not death? Anything static, rigid, specialized, must die. The specialized animals soon come to an end, do they not? Man is the unspecialized, and so there is a possibility of his continued existence. That which is pliable endures; that which is not pliable is broken. The acorn cannot become anything but an oak tree; the cause and the effect are in the acorn. But man is not so completely enclosed, specialized; hence, if he does not destroy himself through various ways, he can survive. Are cause and effect fixed, stationary? When you use the word ‘and’ between ‘cause’ and ‘effect’, does it not imply that both are stationary? But is cause ever stationary? Is effect always unchangeable? Surely, cause-effect is a continuous process, is it not? Today is the result of yesterday, and tomorrow is the result of today; what was cause becomes effect, and what was effect becomes cause. It is a chain-process, is it not? One thing flows into another, and at no point is there a halt. It is a constant movement, with no fixation. There are many factors that bring about this cause-effect-cause movement.

Explanations, conclusions, are stationary, whether they are of the right or of the left, or of the organized belief called religion. When you try to cover the living with explanations, there is death to the living, and that is what most of us desire; we want to be put to sleep by word, by idea, by thought. Rationalization is merely another way to quiet the disturbed state; but the very desire to be put to sleep, to find the cause, to seek conclusions, brings disturbance, and so thought is caught in a net of its own making. Thought cannot be free nor can it ever make itself free. Thought is the result of experience, and experience is always conditioning. Experience is not the measure of truth. Awareness of the false as the false is the freedom of truth.