The Spiritual Leader

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 1

He said that his guru was too great a man to be described, and that he had been a pupil of his for many years. This teacher, he went on, imparted his teachings through brutal shocks, through foul language, through insults and actions that were contradictory; and he added that many important people were among the followers. The very crudeness of the procedure forced people to think, it made them sit up and take notice, which was considered necessary because most people were asleep and needed to be shaken. This teacher said the most awful things about God, and it seemed that his pupils had to drink a great deal, as the teacher himself drank heavily at most meals. The teachings, however, were profound; they had been kept secret at one time, but now they were being made available to all.

The late autumnal sun was pouring in through the window, and one could hear the roar of the busy street. The leaves in their death were brilliant, and the air was fresh and keen. As with all cities, there was an atmosphere of depression and unnameable sorrow in contrast to the light of the evening; and the artificial gaiety was even more sorrowful. We seem to have forgotten what it is to be natural, to smile freely; our faces are so closed with worry and anxiety. But the leaves sparkled in the sun and a cloud passed by.

Even in so-called spiritual movements the social divisions are maintained. How eagerly a titled person is welcomed and given the front seat! How the followers hang around the famous! How hungry we are for distinctions and labels! This craving for distinction becomes what we call spiritual growth: those who are near and those who are far, the hierarchical division as the master and the initiate, the pupil and the novice. This craving is obvious and somewhat understandable in the everyday world; but when the same attitude is carried over into a world where these stupid distinctions have no meaning whatever, it reveals how deeply we are conditioned by our cravings and appetites. Without understanding these cravings, it is utterly vain to seek to be free from pride.

‘But,’ he continued, ‘we need guides, gurus, masters. You may be beyond them, but we ordinary people need them, otherwise we shall be like lost sheep.’

We choose our leaders, political or spiritual, out of our own confusion, and so they also are confused. We demand to be coaxed and comforted, to be encouraged and gratified, so we choose a teacher who will give us what we crave for. We do not search out reality, but go after gratification and sensation. It is essentially for self-glorification that we create the teacher, the master; and we feel lost, confused. and anxious when the self is denied. If you have no direct physical teacher, you fabricate one who is far away, hidden and mysterious; the former is dependent on various physical and emotional influences, and the latter is self-projected, a homemade ideal; but both are the outcome of your choice, and choice is inevitably based on bias, prejudice. You may prefer to give a more respectable and comforting name to your prejudice, but it is out of your confusion and appetites that you choose. If you are seeking gratification, you will naturally find what you desire, but do not let us call it truth. Truth comes into being when gratification, the desire for sensation, comes to an end.

‘You have not convinced me that I do not need a master,’ he said.

Truth is not a matter of argumentation and conviction; it is not the outcome of opinion.

‘But the master helps me to overcome my greed, my envy,’ he insisted. Can another, however great, help to bring about a transformation in yourself he can, you are not transformed; you are merely dominated, influenced. This influence may last a considerable time, but you are not transformed. You have been overcome; and whether you are overcome by envy or by a so-called noble influence, you are still a slave, you are not free. We like to be slavish, to be possessed by someone, whether by a master or by anyone else, because there is security in this possession; the master becomes the refuge. To possess is to be possessed, but possession is not freedom from greed.

‘I must resist greed,’ he said. ‘I must fight it, make every effort to destroy it, and only then will it go.’

From what you say, you have been in conflict with greed for a great many years, and yet you are not free from it. Do not say that you have not tried hard enough, which is the obvious response. Can you understand anything through conflict? To conquer is not to understand. What you conquer has to be conquered again and again, but there is freedom from that which is fully understood. To understand, there must be awareness of the process of resistance. To resist is so much easier than to understand; and besides, we are educated to resist. In resistance there need be no observation, no consideration, no communication; resistance is an indication of the dullness of the mind. A mind that resists is self-enclosed and so is incapable of sensitivity, of understanding. To understand the ways of resistance is far more important than to get rid of greed. Actually, you are not listening to what is being said; you are considering your various commitments which have grown out of your years of struggle and resistance. You are now committed, and around your commitments, which you have probably lectured and written about, you have gathered friends; you have an investment in your master, who has helped you to resist. So your past is preventing you from listening to what is being said.

‘I both agree and disagree with you,’ he remarked.

Which shows that you are not listening. You are weighing your commitments against what is being said, which is not to listen. You are afraid to listen and so you are in conflict, agreeing and at the same time disagreeing.

‘You are probably right,’ he said, ‘but I cannot let go of all that I have gathered: my friends, my knowledge, my experience. I know that I must let go, but I simply cannot, and there it is.’

The conflict within him will now be greater than ever; for when once you are aware of what is, however reluctantly, and deny it because of your commitments, deep contradiction is set going. This contradiction is duality. There can be no bridging over of opposing desires; and if a bridge is created, it is resistance, which is consistency. Only in understanding what is, is there freedom from what is.

It is an odd fact that followers like to be bullied and directed, whether softly or harshly. They think the harsh treatment is part of their training – training in spiritual success. The desire to be hurt, to be rudely shaken, is part of the pleasure of hurting; and this mutual degradation of the leader and the follower is the outcome of the desire for sensation. It is because you want greater sensation that you follow and so create a leader, a guru; and for this new gratification you will sacrifice, put up with discomforts, insults and discouragements. All this is part of mutual exploitation, it has nothing whatever to do with reality and will never lead to happiness.