Is There Such Thing as Enlightenment?
From Krishnamurti’s Booklet EIGHT CONVERSATIONS
Questioner: All so-called religious people have something in common and I see this same thing in most of the people who come to hear you. They are all looking for something which they variously call nirvana, liberation, enlightenment, self-realization, eternity or God. Their goal is defined and held before them in various teachings, and each of these teachings, these systems, has its set of sacred books, its disciplines, its teachers, its morality, its philosophy, its promises and threats – a straight and narrow path excluding the rest of the world and promising at its end some heaven or other. Most of these seekers move from one system to another, substituting the latest teaching for the one they have recently dropped. They move from one emotional orgy to another, not thinking that the same process is at work in all this seeking. Some of them remain in one system with one group and refuse to budge. Others eventually believe that they have realized whatever it is they wanted to realize, and then they spend their days in some withdrawn beatitude attracting in their turn a group of disciples who start the whole cycle over again. In all this there is the compulsive greed to attain some realization and, usually, the bitter disappointment and frustration of failure. All this seems to me very unhealthy. These people sacrifice ordinary living for some imaginary goal and a most unpleasant feeling emanates from this kind of milieu: fanaticism, hysteria, violence and stupidity. One is surprised to find among them certain good writers who otherwise seem quite sane. All this is called religion. The whole thing stinks to high heaven. This is the incense of piety. I have observed it everywhere. This search for enlightenment causes great havoc, and people are sacrificed in its wake. Now I would like to ask you, is there in fact any such thing as enlightenment, and if so, what is it?
Krishnamurti: If it is an escape from everyday living, everyday living being the extraordinary movement of relationship, then this so-called realization, this so-called enlightenment, or whatever name you like to give it, is illusion and hypocrisy. Anything that denies love and the understanding of life and action is bound to create a great deal of mischief. It distorts the mind, and life is made a horrible affair. So if we take that to be axiomatic then perhaps we may proceed to find out if enlightenment – whatever that may mean – can be found in the very act of living. After all, living is more important than any idea, ideal goal or principle. It is because we don’t know what living is that we invent these visionary, unrealistic concepts which offer escape. The real question is, can one find enlightenment in living, in the everyday activities of life, or is it only for the few who are endowed with some extraordinary capacity to discover this beatitude? Enlightenment means to be a light unto oneself, but a light which is not self-projected or imagined, which is not some personal idiosyncrasy. After all, this has always been the teaching of true religion, though not of organized belief and fear.
Questioner: You say the teaching of true religion! This immediately creates the camp of the professionals and specialists versus the rest of the world. Do you mean, then, that religion is separate from life?
Krishnamurti: Religion is not separate from life; on the contrary it is life itself. It is this division between religion and life which has bred all the misery you are talking about. So we come back to the basic question of whether it is possible in daily life to live in a state which, for the moment, let us call enlightenment?
Questioner: I still don’t know what you mean by enlightenment.
Krishnamurti: A state of negation. Negation is the most positive action, not positive assertion. This is a very important thing to understand. Most of us so easily accept positive dogma, a positive creed, because we want to be secure, to belong, to be attached, to depend. The positive attitude divides and brings about duality. The conflict then begins between this attitude and others. But the negation of all values, of all morality, of all beliefs, having no frontiers, cannot be in opposition to anything. A positive statement in its very definition separates, and separation is resistance. To this we are accustomed, this is our conditioning. To deny all this is not immoral; on the contrary to deny all division and resistance is the highest morality. To negate everything that man has invented, to negate all his values, ethics and gods, is to be in a state of mind in which there is no duality, therefore no resistance or conflict between opposites. In this state there are no opposites, and this state is not the opposite of something else.
Questioner: Then how do you know what is good and what is bad? Or is there no good and bad? What is to prevent me from crime or even murder? If I have no standards what is to prevent me from God knows what aberrations?
Krishnamurti: To deny all this is to deny oneself, and oneself is the conditioned entity who continually pursues a conditioned good. To most of us negation appears as a vacuum because we know activity only in the prison of our conditioning, fear and misery. From that we look at negation and imagine it to be some terrible state of oblivion or emptiness. To the man who has negated all the assertions of society, religion, culture and morality, the man who is still in the prison of social conformity is a man of sorrow. Negation is the state of enlightenment which functions in all the activities of a man who is free of the past. It is the past, with its tradition and its authority, that has to be negated. Negation is freedom, and it is the free man who lives, loves, and knows what it means to die.
Questioner: That much is clear; but you say nothing about any intimation of the transcendental, the divine, or whatever you like to call it. Krishnamurti: The intimation of that can be found only in freedom, and any statement about it is the denial of freedom; any statement about it becomes a verbal communication without meaning. It is there, but it cannot be found or invited, least of all imprisoned in any system, or ambushed by any clever tricks of the mind. It is not in the churches or the temples or the mosques. There is no path to it, no guru, no system that can reveal its beauty; its ecstasy comes only when there is love. This is enlightenment.
Questioner: Does it bring any new understanding of the nature of the universe or of consciousness or being? All the religious texts are full of that sort of thing.
Krishnamurti: It is like asking questions about the other shore while living and suffering on this shore. When you are on the other shore you are everything and nothing, and you never ask such questions. All such questions are of this shore and really have no meaning at all. Begin to live and you will be there without asking, without seeking, without fear.