The Family and the Desire for Security

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 2

What an ugly thing it is to be satisfied! Contentment is one thing and satisfaction another. Satisfaction makes the mind dull and the heart weary; it leads to superstition and sluggishness, and the edge of sensitivity is lost. It is those who are seeking gratification and those who have it that bring confusion and misery; it is they who breed the smelly village and the noisy town. They build temples for the graven image and perform satisfying rituals; they foster class segregation and war; they are forever multiplying the means of gratification; money, politics, power and religious organizations are their ways. They burden the earth with the irrespectability and its lamentations.

But contentment is another matter. It is arduous to be content. Contentment cannot be searched out in secret places; it is not to be pursued, as pleasure is; it is not to be acquired; it cannot be bought at the price of renunciation; it has no price at all; it is not reached by any means; it is not to be meditated upon and gathered. The pursuit of contentment is only the search for greater satisfaction. Contentment is the complete understanding of what is from moment to moment; it is the highest form of negative understanding. Gratification knows frustration and success, but contentment knows no opposites with their empty conflict. Contentment is above and beyond the opposites; it is not a synthesis, for it has no relation to conflict. Conflict can only produce more conflict, it breeds further illusion and misery. With contentment comes action that is not contradictory. Contentment of the heart frees the mind from its activities of confusion and distraction. Contentment is a movement that is not of time.

She explained that she had taken her master’s degree in science, with honours, had taught, and had done some social work. In the short time since her graduation she had travelled about the country doing various things: teaching mathematics in one place, doing social work in another, helping her mother, and organizing for a society to which she belonged. She was not in politics, because she considered it the pursuit of personal ambition and a stupid waste of time. She had seen through all that, and was now about to be married.

Have you made up your own mind whom to marry, or are your parents arranging the matter?

‘Probably my parents. Perhaps it is better that way.’

Why, if I may ask?

‘In other countries the boy and girl fall in love with each other; it may be all right at the beginning, but soon there is contention and misery, the quarrelling and making up, the tedium of pleasure and the routine of life. The arranged marriage in this country ends the same way, the fun goes out of it, so there isn’t much to choose between the two systems. They are both pretty terrible, but what is one to do? After all, one must marry, one can’t remain single all one’s life. It is all very sad, but at least the husband gives a certain security and children are a joy; one can’t have one without the other.’

But what happens to all the years that you spent in acquiring your master’s degree?

‘I suppose one will play with it, but children and the household work will take most of one’s time.’

Then what good has your so-called education done? Why spend so much time, money and effort to end up in the kitchen? Don’t you want to do any kind of teaching or social work after your marriage?

‘Only when there is time. Unless one is well-to-do, it is impossible to have servants and all the rest of it. I am afraid all those days will be over once I get married – and I want to get married. Are you against marriage?’

Do you regard marriage as an institution to establish a family? Is not the family a unit in opposition to society? Is it not a centre from which all activity radiates, an exclusive relationship that dominates every other form of relationship? Is it not a self-enclosing activity that brings about division, separation the high and the low, the powerful and the weak? The family as a system appears to resist the whole; each family opposes other families, other groups. Is not the family with its property one of the causes of war?

‘If you are opposed to the family, then you must be for the collectivization of men and women in which their children belong to the State.’

Please don’t jump to conclusions. To think in terms of formulas and systems only brings about opposition and contention. You have your system, and another his; the two systems fight it out, each seeking to liquidate the other but the problem still remains.

‘But if you are against the family, then what are you for?’

Why put the question that way? If there is a problem, is it not stupid to take sides according to one’s prejudice? Is it not better to understand the problem than to breed opposition and enmity, thereby multiplying our problems?

The family as it is now is a unit of limited relationship, self-enclosing and exclusive. Reformers and so-called revolutionaries have tried to do away with this exclusive family spirit which breeds every kind of antisocial activity; but it is a centre of stability as opposed to insecurity, and the present social structure throughout the world cannot exist without this security. The family is not a mere economic unit and any effort to solve the issue on that level must obviously fail. The desire for security is not only economic, but much more profound and complex. If man destroys the family, he will find other forms of security through the State, through the collective, through belief and soon, which will in turn breed their own problems. We must understand the desire for inward, psychological security and not merely replace one pattern of security with another.

So the problem is not the family, but the desire to be secure. Is not the desire for security, at any level, exclusive? This spirit of exclusiveness shows itself as the family, as property, as the State, the religion, and so on. Does not this desire for inward security build up outward forms of security which are always exclusive? The very desire to be secure destroys security. Exclusion, separation, must inevitably bring about disintegration; nationalism, class-antagonism and war, are its symptoms. The family as a means of inward security is a source of disorder and social catastrophe.

‘Then how is one to live, if not as a family?’

Is it not odd how the mind is always looking for a pattern, a blueprint? Our education is in formulas and conclusions. The ‘how’ is the demand for a formula, but formulas cannot resolve the problem. Please understand the truth of this. It is only when we do not seek inward security that we can live outwardly secure. As long as the family is a centre of security, there will be social disintegration; as long as the family is used as a means to a self-protective end, there must be conflict and misery. Please do not look puzzled, it is fairly simple. As long as I use you or another for my inner, psychological security, I must be exclusive; I am all-important, I have the greatest significance; it is my family, my property. The relationship of utility is based on violence; the family as a means of mutual inward security makes for conflict and confusion.

‘I understand intellectually what you say but is it possible to live without this inward desire to be secure?’

To understand intellectually is not to understand at all. You mean you hear the words and grasp their meaning, and that is all; but this will not produce action. Using another as a means of satisfaction and security is not love. Love is never security; love is a state in which there is no desire to be secure; it is a state of vulnerability; it is the only state in which exclusiveness, enmity and hate are impossible. In that state a family may come into being, but it will not be exclusive, self-enclosing.

‘But we do not know such love. How is one…’

It is good to be aware of the ways of one’s own thinking. The inward desire for security expresses itself outwardly through exclusion and violence, and as long as its process is not fully understood there can be no love. Love is not another refuge in the search for security. The desire for security must wholly cease for love to be. Love is not something that can be brought about through compulsion. Any form of compulsion, at any level, is the very denial of love. A revolutionary with an ideology is not a revolutionary at all; he only offers a substitute, a different kind of security, a new hope; and hope is death. Love alone can bring about a radical revolution or transformation in relationship; and love is not a thing of the mind. Thought can plan and formulate magnificent structures of hope, but thought will only lead to further conflict, confusion and misery. Love is when the cunning, self-enclosing mind is not.