The Wheel of Habit

From Krishnamurti’s Booklet EIGHT CONVERSATIONS

Questioner: I have got one predominating habit; I have other habits, but they are of less importance. I have been fighting this one habit as long as I can remember. It must have been formed in early childhood. Nobody seemed to care enough to correct it then and gradually as I grew older it became more and more deep-rooted. It disappears sometimes only to come back again. I don’t seem able to get rid of it. I would like to be completely master of it. It has become a mania with me to overcome it. What am I to do?

Krishnamurti:  From what you say you have fallen into a habit for many, many years and you have cultivated another habit, the habit of fighting it. So you want to get rid of one habit by cultivating another which is the denial of the first. You are fighting one habit with another. When you can’t get rid of the first habit you feel guilty, ashamed, depressed, perhaps angry with yourself for your weakness. The one habit and the other are the two sides of the same coin: without the first, the second wouldn’t be, so the second is really a continuation of the first as a reaction. So now you have two problems whereas in the beginning you had only one.

Questioner: I know what you are going to say because I know what you say about awareness, but I can’t be aware all the time.

Krishnamurti: So now you have several things going on at the same time: first of all the original habit, then, the desire to get rid of it, then the frustration of having failed, then the resolve to be aware all the time. This network has arisen because deeply you want to get rid of that one habit; that is your one drive, and you are all the time balancing between the habit and the fighting of it. You don’t see that the real problem is having habits, good or bad, not just one particular habit. So the question really is, is it possible to break a habit without any effort, without cultivating its opposite, without suppressing it through uninterrupted vigilance which is resistance? Uninterrupted vigilance is simply another habit since it is generated by the habit it is trying to overcome.

Questioner: You mean, can I get rid of the habit without generating this complicated network of reactions to it?

Krishnamurti: So long as you want to get rid of it, that complicated network of reactions is actually in operation. The wanting to get rid of it is that reactionary network. So really you have not stopped this futile reaction to the habit.

Questioner: But all the same, I must do something about it!

Krishnamurti: That indicates that you are dominated by this one desire. This desire and its reactions are not different from the habit, and they feed on each other. The desire to be superior is not different from being inferior, so the superior is the inferior. The saint is the sinner.

Questioner: Should I, then, just do nothing about it at all?

Krishnamurti: What you are doing about it is to cultivate another habit in opposition to the old one.

Questioner: So if I do nothing, I am left with the habit, and we are back where we started.

Krishnamurti: Are we though? Knowing that what you do to break the habit is the cultivation of another habit, there can be only one action, which is to do nothing at all against that habit. Whatever you do is in the pattern of habits, so to do nothing, to have the feeling that you don’t have to fight it, is the greatest action of intelligence. If you do anything positive you are back in the field of habits. Seeing this very clearly there is immediately a feeling of great relief and great lightness. You now see that fighting one habit by cultivating another does not end the first habit so you stop fighting it.

Questioner: Then only the habit remains, and there is no resistance to it.

Krishnamurti: Any form of resistance feeds the habit, which does not mean that you go on with the habit. You become aware of the habit and of the cultivation of its opposite, which is also a habit, and this awareness shows you that whatever you do with regard to the habit is the formation of another habit. So now, after having observed this whole process, your intelligence says, don’t do anything about the habit. Don’t give any attention to it. Don’t be concerned with it because the more you are concerned with it the more active it becomes. Now intelligence is in operation and is watching. This watching is entirely different from the vigilance of resisting the habit, reacting to it. If you get the feeling of this intelligence watching, then this feeling will operate and deal with the habit, and not the vigilance of resolution and will. So what is important is not habit but the understanding of habit which brings about intelligence. This intelligence keeps awake without the fuel of desire, which is will. In the first instance the habit is confronted with resistance, in the second it is not confronted at all, and that is intelligence. The action of intelligence has withered the resistance to the habit on which the habit feeds.

Questioner: Do you mean to say that I have got rid of my habit?

Krishnamurti: Go slowly, don’t be too hasty in your assumption of having got rid of it. What is more important than habit is this understanding, which is intelligence. This intelligence is sacred and therefore must be touched with clean hands, not exploited for trivial little games. Your little habit is utterly unimportant. If intelligence is there the habit is trivial; if intelligence is not there, then the wheel of habit is all you have got.