The Fragmentation of Man Is Making Him Sick

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 3

It was still very early and there was a slight ground mist hiding the bushes and the flowers. A heavy dew had made a circle of dampness around each tree. The sun was just coming up behind a mass of trees, which were quiet now, for the chattering birds had all scattered for the day. The engines of the airplanes were being warmed up, and their roar filled the early morning air; but very soon they would be leaving for different parts of the big continent, and except for the usual daily noises of a town, everything would be quiet again.

A beggar with a nice voice was singing in the street, and the song had that nostalgic quality which is so familiar. His voice had not become raucous, and amidst the rattling of buses and the shouts of people calling across the street, it had a pleasant and welcoming sound. You would hear him every morning if you lived around there. Many beggars do tricks, or have monkeys that do the tricks; they are knowing and sophisticated, with a cunning look and an easy smile. But this beggar was altogether of a different kind. He was a simple beggar, with a long staff and torn, dirty clothes. He had no pretensions, no wheedling ways. The others received more alms than he did, for people like to be flattered, to be called pleasant names, or to be blessed and wished prosperity. But this beggar did none of those things. He begged, and if you gave, he bowed his head and went on; there was no pose, no gesticulation. He would walk the whole length of the long, shady street, always giving way to people; at the end of the street he would turn right into a narrower and quieter street, and begin his singing again, finally wandering off into one of the little lanes. He was quite young, and there was a pleasant feeling about him.

The plane took off at the appointed time and climbed smoothly over the city, with its domes, its ancient tombs and its long blocks of ugly buildings, pretentious and recently constructed. Beyond We city was the river, winding and open, its waters a pale blue-green; and the plane followed it, going mostly south-east. We had levelled off at about six thousand feet, and the country lay below us, all neatly broken up into irregular grey-green patches, each man owning a little piece. The river went meandering past many villages, and from it there were straight, narrow, man-made canals extending into the fields. Hundreds of miles away to the east, the snow-covered mountains began to appear, ethereal and unreal in their rosy glow. They seemed at first to be floating above the horizon, and it was difficult to believe that they were mountains, with sharp peaks and massive formations. From the surface of the earth, at that distance, they couldn’t be seen, but from this altitude they were visible and spectacularly beautiful. One could hardly take one’s eyes off them, for fear of missing the slightest nuance in their beauty and grandeur. One range slowly gave place to another, one massive peak to another. They covered the north – eastern horizon, and even after we had been flying for two hours, they were still there. It was really incredible: the colour, the immensity and the solitude. One forgot everything else – the passengers, the captain asking questions, and the hostess requesting the tickets. It was not the absorption of a child in a toy, nor of the monk in his cell, nor of the sannyasi on the bank of a river. It was a state of total attention in which there was no distraction. There was only the beauty and the glory of the earth. There was no watcher.

A psychologist, an analyst, and an M.D., he was plump, with a large head and serious eyes. He had come, he said, to talk over several points; however, he would not use the jargon of psychology and analysis, but would keep to words with which we were both familiar. Having studied the famous psychologists, and himself been analysed by one of them, he knew the limitations of modern psychology, as well as its therapeutic value. It was not always successful, he explained, but it had great possibilities in the hands of the right people. Of course, there were many quacks, but that was to be expected. He had also studied, although not extensively oriental thought and the oriental idea of consciousness.

‘When the subconscious was first discovered and described here in the West, no university had a place for it, and no publisher would undertake to bring out the book; but now, of course, after only two decades, the word is on everybody’s lips. We like to think that we are the discoverer of everything, and that the Orient is a jungle of mysticism and disappearing-rope tricks; but the fact is that the Orient undertook the exploration of consciousness many centuries ago, only they used different symbols, with more extensive meanings. I am saying this only to indicate that I am eager to learn, and have not the usual bias in this matter. We specialists in the field of psychology do help the maladjusted to return to society, and that seems to be our main concern. But somehow I personally am not satisfied with this – which brings me to one of the points I want to discuss. Is that all we psychologists can do? Can we not do more than just help the maladjusted individual to return to society?’

Is society healthy, that an individual should return to it? Has not society itself helped to make the individual unhealthy? Of course, the unhealthy must be made healthy, that goes without saying; but why should the individual adjust himself to an unhealthy society? If he is healthy, he will not be a part of it. Without first questioning the health of society, what is the good of helping misfits to conform to society?

‘I don’t think society is healthy; it is run by and for frustrated, power-seeking superstitious people. It is always in a state of convulsion. During the last war I helped in the work of trying to straighten out the misfits in the army who couldn’t adjust themselves to the horrors of the battlefield. They were probably right, but there was a war on, and it had to be won. Some of those who fought and survived still need psychiatric help, and to bring them back into society is going to be quite a job.’

To help the individual to fit into a society which is ever at war with itself – is this what psychologists and analysts are supposed to do? Is the individual to be healed only in order to kill or be killed? If one is not killed, or driven insane, then must one only fit into the structure of hate, envy, ambition and superstition which can be very scientific?

‘I admit society is not what it should be, but what can you do? You can’t get out of society; you have to work in it, make a living in it, suffer and die in it. You can’t become a recluse, or one of those people who withdraw and think only of their own salvation. We must save society in spite of itself.’

Society is man’s relationship with man; its structure is based on his compulsions, ambitions, hates, vanities envies, on the whole complexity of his urge to dominate and to follow. Unless the individual breaks away from this corruptive structure, what fundamental value can there be in the physician’s help? He will only be made corrupt again.

‘It is the duty of a physician to heal. We are not reformers of society; that department belongs to the sociologists.’

Life is one, it’s not to be departmentalized. We have to be concerned with the whole of man: with his work, with his love, with his conduct, with his health, his death and his God – as well as with the atomic bomb. It’s this fragmentation of man that’s making him sick.

‘Some of us realize this, sir, but what can we do? We ourselves are not whole men with an overall outlook, an integrated drive and purpose. We heal one part while the rest disintegrates, only to see that the deep rot is destroying the whole. What is one to do? As a physician, what is my duty?’

To heal, obviously; but isn’t it also the responsibility of the physician to heal society as a whole? There can be no reformation of society; there can only be a revolution outside the pattern of society.

‘But I come back to my point: as an individual, what can one do?’

Break away from society, of course; be free, not from mere outward things, but from envy, ambition, the worship of success, and so on.

‘Such freedom would give one more time for study, and there certainly would be greater tranquillity; but would it not lead to a rather superficial, useless existence?’

On the contrary, freedom from envy and fear would bring to the individual a state of integration, would it not? It would put a stop to the various forms of escape which inevitably cause confusion and self-contradiction, and life would have a deeper, wider significance.

‘Aren’t some escapes beneficial to a limited intelligence? Religion is a splendid escape for many people; it gives significance, however illusory, to their otherwise drab existence.’

So do cinemas, romantic novels and some drugs; and would you encourage such forms of escape? The intellectuals also have their escapes, crude or subtle, and almost every person has his blind spots; and when such people are in positions of power, they breed more mischief and misery. Religion is not a matter of dogmas and beliefs, of rituals and superstitions; nor is it the cultivation of personal salvation, which is a self-centred activity. Religion is the total way of life; it is the understanding of truth, which is not a projection of the mind.

‘You are asking too much of the average person, who wants his amusements, his escapes, his self-satisfying religion, and someone to follow or to hate. What you are hinting at demands a different education, a different world-society, and neither our politicians nor our average educators are capable of this wider vision. I suppose man has got to go through the long, dark night of misery and pain before he will emerge as an integrated, intelligent human being. For the moment, that is not my concern. My concern is with individual human wrecks, for whom I can and do do a great deal; but it seems so little in this vast sea of misery. As you say, I shall have to bring about a state of integration in myself, and that’s quite an arduous undertaking.

‘There is another thing, personal in nature, which I would like to talk over with you, if I may. You said earlier something about envy. I realize that I am envious; and although I allow myself to be analysed from time to time, as most of us analysts do, I haven’t been able to go beyond this thing. I am almost ashamed to admit it, but envy is there, ranging from petty jealousy up to its more complex forms, and I don’t seem able to shake it off.’

Is the mind capable of being free from envy, not in little bits, but completely? Unless there is total freedom from it, right through one’s whole being, envy keeps repeating itself in different forms, at different times.

‘Yes, I realize that. Envy must be wholly eliminated from the mind, just as a malignant growth must be totally removed from the body, otherwise it will recur; but how?’

The ‘how’ is another form of envy, isn’t it? When one asks for a method, one wants to get rid of envy in order to be something else; so envy is still operating.

‘It was a natural question but I see what you mean. This aspect of the matter had never struck me before.’

We always seem to fall into this trap, and for ever after we are caught in it; we are always trying to be free from envy. Trying to be free gives rise to the method, and so the mind is never free either from envy or from the method. Inquiring into the possibility of total freedom from envy is one thing, and seeking a method to help one to be free is another. In seeking a method, one invariably finds it, however simple or complex it may be. Then all inquiry into the possibility of total freedom ceases, and one is stuck with a method, a practice, a discipline. Thus envy goes on and is subtly sustained.

‘Yes, as you point it out, I see that’s perfectly true. In effect you are asking me if I am really concerned with total freedom from envy. You know, sir, I have found envy to be stimulating at times; there has been pleasure in it. Do I want to be free from the totality of envy, from both the pleasure and the painful anxiety of it? I confess I have never before asked myself that question, nor have I been asked it by others. My first reaction is, I don’t know if I want to or not. I suppose what I would really like, is to keep the stimulating side of envy and get rid of the rest. But it is obviously impossible to retain only the desirable parts of it, and one must accept the whole content of envy, or be free of it completely. I am beginning to see the meaning of your question. The urge is there to be free from envy, and yet I want to hold on to certain parts of it. We human beings are certainly irrational and contradictory! This requires further analysis, sir, and I hope you will have the patience to go through to the end of it. I can see there is fear involved in this. If I were not driven by envy, which is covered over by professional words and requirements, there might be a slipping back; I might not be so successful, so prominent, so financially well-off. There is a subtle fear of losing all this a fear of insecurity, and other fears which it’s not worth going into now. This underlying fear is certainly stronger than the urge to be free from even the unpleasant aspects of envy, to say nothing of being totally free from it. I now see the intricate patterns of this problem, and I am not at all sure I want to be free from envy.’

As long as the mind thinks in terms of the ‘more’, there must be envy; as long as there’s comparison, though through comparison we think we understand, there must be envy; as long as there’s an end, a goal to be achieved, there must be envy; as long as the additive process exists which is self-improvement, the gaining of virtue, and so on, there must be envy. The ‘more’ implies time, does it not? It implies time in order to change from what one is to what one should be, the ideal; time as a means of gaining, arriving achieving.

‘Of course. To cover distance, to move from one point to another, whether physically or psychologically, time is necessary.’

Time as a movement from here to there is a physical, chronological fact. But is time needed to be free from envy? We say, ‘I am this, and to become that, or to change this quality into that, needs time.’ But is time the factor of change? Or is any change within the field of time is no change at all?

‘I am getting rather confused here. You are suggesting that change in terms of time is no change at all. How is that?’

Such change is a modified continuity of what has been, is it not?

‘Let me see if I understand this. To change from the fact, which is envy, to the ideal, which is non-envy, needs time – at least, that’s what we think. This gradual change through time, you say, is no change at all, but merely a further wallowing in envy. Yes, I can see that.’

As long as the mind thinks in terms of changing through time, of bringing about a revolution in the future, there is no transformation in the present. This is a fact, isn’t it?

‘All right, sir, we both see this to be a fact. Then what?’

How does the mind react when it is confronted with this fact?

‘Either it runs away from the fact, or it stops and looks at it.’

Which is your reaction?

‘Both, I am afraid. There is an urge to escape from the fact, and at the same time I want to examine it.’

Can you examine something when there’s fear concerning it? Can you observe a fact about which you have an opinion, a judgment?

‘I see what you mean. I am not observing the fact, but evaluating it. My mind is projecting its ideas and fears upon it. Yes, that’s right.’

In other words, your mind is occupied with itself, and is therefore incapable of being simply aware of the fact. You are operating upon the fact, and not allowing the fact to operate upon your mind. The fact that change within the field of time is no change at all, that there can only be total and not partial, gradual freedom from envy – the very truth of this fact will operate on the mind, setting it free.

‘I really think the truth of it is making its way through my blockages.’