On Violence

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE

Krishnamurti: The intention of these discussions is to be creatively observant – to watch ourselves creatively as we are speaking. All of us should contribute to any subject that we want to discuss and there must be a certain frankness – not rudeness or a rough exposing of another’s stupidity or intelligence; but each one of us should partake in discussing a certain issue with all its content. In the very statement of anything that we feel, or inquire into, there must be a sense of perceiving something new. That is creation, not the repetition of the old, but the expression of the new in the discovery of ourselves as we are expressing ourselves in words. Then I think these discussions will be worthwhile.

Questioner: Can we go more deeply into this question of energy and how it is wasted?

Questioner: You have been talking about violence, the violence of war, the violence in how we treat people, the violence of how we think and look at other people. But how about the violence of self-preservation? If I were attacked by a wolf, I would defend myself passionately with all the forces I have. Is it possible to be violent in one part of us and not in another?

Krishnamurti: A suggestion has been made with regard to violence, distorting ourselves to conform to a particular pattern of society, or morality; but there is also the question of self-preservation. Where is the demarcation between self-preservation – which sometimes may demand violence – and other forms of violence?

Krishnamurti: First of all may I suggest that we discuss the various forms of psychological violence, and then see what is the place of self-preservation when attacked. I wonder what you think of violence? What is violence to you?

Questioner: It’s a type of defence.

Questioner: It’s a disturbance of my comfort.

Krishnamurti: What does violence, the feeling, the word, the nature of violence mean to you?

Questioner: It is aggression.

Questioner: If you are frustrated you get violent.

Questioner: If man is incapable of accomplishing something, then he gets violent.

Questioner: Hate, in the sense of overcoming.

Krishnamurti: What does violence mean to you?

Questioner: An expression of danger, when the ,me, comes in.

Questioner: Fear.

Questioner: Surely in violence you are hurting somebody or something, either mentally or physically.

Krishnamurti: Do you know violence because you know non-violence? Would you know what violence was without its opposite? Because you know states of non-violence, do you therefore recognize violence? How do you know violence? Because one is aggressive, competitive, and one sees the effects of all that, which is violence, one construes a state of non-violence. If there were no opposite, would you know what violence was?

Questioner: I wouldn’t label it but I’d feel something.

Krishnamurti: Does that feeling exist or come into being because you know violence?

Questioner: I think that violence causes us pain; it is an unhealthy feeling we want to get rid of. That’s why we want to become non-violent.

Krishnamurti: I don’t know anything about violence, nor about non-violence. I don’t start with any concept or formula. I really don’t know what violence means. I want to find out.

Questioner: The experience of having been hurt and attacked makes one want to protect oneself.

Krishnamurti: Yes, I understand that; that has been suggested before. I am still trying to find out what violence is. I want to investigate, I want to explore it, I want to uproot it, change it – you follow?

Questioner: Violence is lack of love.

Krishnamurti: Do you know what love is?

Questioner: I think that all these things come from us.

Krishnamurti: Yes, that’s just it.

Questioner: Violence comes from us.

Krishnamurti: That’s right. I want to find out whether it comes from outside or from inside.

Questioner: It’s a form of protection.

Krishnamurti: Let us go slowly, please; it is quite a serious problem and the whole world is involved in it.

Questioner: Violence wastes part of my energy.

Krishnamurti: Everybody has talked about violence and non-violence. People say, ‘You must live violently,’ or seeing the effect of it, they say, ‘You must live peacefully.’ We have heard so many things, from books, from preachers, from educators and others; but I want to discover whether it is possible to find out the nature of violence and what place – if any – it has in life. What is it that makes one violent, aggressive, competitive? And is violence involved in conformity to a pattern, however noble? Is violence part of the discipline imposed by oneself or by society? Is violence conflict within and without? I want to find out what is the origin, the beginning, of violence; otherwise I am just spinning a lot of words. Is it natural to be violent in the psychological sense? (We will consider the physio-psychological states afterward.) Inwardly, is violence aggression, anger, hate, conflict, suppression, conformity? And is conformity based on this constant struggle to find, to achieve, to become, to arrive, to self-realize, to be noble and all the rest of it? All that lies in the psychological field. If we cannot go into it very deeply then we shan’t be able to understand how we can bring about a different state in our daily life, which demands a certain amount of self-preservation. Right? So let us start from there.

What would you consider is violence – not verbally, but actually, inwardly.

Questioner: It’s violating something else. It imposes upon something.

Questioner: What about rejection?

Krishnamurti: Let’s take imposing first, violating ‘what is.’ I am jealous and I impose on that an idea of not being jealous: ‘I must not be jealous.’ The imposition, the violating of ‘what is’, is violence. We’ll start little by little, perhaps in that one sentence the whole thing may be covered. The ‘what is’ is always moving, it is not static. I violate that by imposing on it something which I think ‘should be.’

Questioner: Do you mean that when I feel anger I think anger should not be and, instead of being angry, I hold it back. Is that violence? Or is it violence when I express it?

Krishnamurti: Look at something in this: I am angry and to give release to it I hit you and that brings about a chain of reactions, so that you hit me back. The very expression of that anger is violence. And if I impose upon the fact that I am angry something else, that is ‘not to be angry,’ is that not also violence?

Questioner: I would agree with that very general definition but the imposition must happen in a brutal way. This is what makes it violent. If you impose it in a gradual way, then it would not be violent.

Krishnamurti: I understand, Sir. If you apply the imposition with gentleness, with tact, then it is not violence. I violate the fact that I hate by gradually, gently, suppressing it. That, the gentleman says, would not be violent. But whether you do it violently or gently, the fact is you impose something else on ‘what is.’ Do we more or less agree to that?

Questioner: No.

Krishnamurti: Let’s examine it. Say I am ambitious to become the greatest poet in the world (or whatever it is), and I am frustrated because I can’t. This frustration, this very ambition, is a form of violence against the fact that I am not. I feel frustrated because you are better than I am. Doesn’t that breed violence?

Questioner: All action against a person or against a thing is violence.

Krishnamurti: Do please look at the difficulty involved in this. There is the fact, and the violation of that fact by another action. Say, for instance, I don’t like the Russians, or the Germans, or the Americans and I impose my particular opinion, or political evaluation; that is a form of violence. When I impose on you, that is violence. When I compare myself with you (who are much greater, more intelligent), I am violating myself – isn’t that so? I am violent. At school ‘B’ is compared with ‘A,’ who is much better at his exams and passes brilliantly. The teacher says to ‘B,’ ‘You must be like him.’ Therefore when he compares ‘B’ with ‘A’ there is violence and he destroys ‘B.’ See what is implied in this fact, that when I impose on ‘what is’ the ‘what should be’ (the ideal, the perfection, the image and so on), there is violence.

Questioner: I feel in myself that if there is any resistance, anything that might destroy, then violence comes into being, but also, that if you don’t resist, you could be violating yourself.

Questioner: Isn’t all this dealing with the self, the ‘me’ which is the root of all violence?

Questioner: Suppose I take your word for all this. Suppose you hate somebody and would like to eliminate that hate.

There are two approaches: the violent approach and the non-, violent approach. If you impose upon your own being to eliminate that hate you will do violence to yourself. If on the other hand you take the time, take the trouble to get to know your feelings and the object of your hate, you will gradually overcome that hate. Then you will have solved the problem in a non-violent way.

Krishnamurti: I think that’s fairly clear, Sir, isn’t it? We are not trying at present to find out how to dispose of violence, in a violent way or a non-violent way, but what brings about this violence in us. What is violence in us, psychologically?

Questioner: In the imposition, isn’t there a breaking up of something? Then one feels uncomfortable and one begins to get more violent.

Krishnamurti: The breaking up of one’s ideas, one’s way of life and so on, that makes for discomfort. That discomfort brings about violence.

Questioner: Violence can come from outside or from inside. I generally blame this violence on the outside.

Questioner: Is not the root of violence the result of fragmentation?

Krishnamurti: Please, there are so many ways of showing what violence is, or what the causes are. Can’t we see one simple fact and begin from there, slowly? Can’t we see that any form of imposition, of the parent over the child, or the child over the parent, of the teacher over the pupil, of the society, or of the priest, all these are forms of violence? Can’t we agree on that and begin there?

Questioner: That comes from the outside.

Krishnamurti: We do that not only outwardly but also inwardly. I say to myself ‘I am angry,’ and I impose on that an idea that I must not be angry. We say that is violence. Outwardly, when a dictator suppresses the people, that is violence. When I suppress what I feel because I am afraid, because it is not noble, because it is not pure and so on, that is also violence. So the nonacceptance of the fact of ‘what is’ brings about this imposition. If I accept the fact that I am jealous and offer no resistance to it, there is no imposition; then I will know what to do with it. There is no violence in it.

Questioner: You are saying education is violence.

Krishnamurti: I do. Is there not a way of educating without violence?

Questioner: According to tradition, no.

Krishnamurti: The problem is: by nature, in my thoughts, in the way I live, I am a violent human being, aggressive, competitive, brutal and all the rest of it – I am that. And I say to myself, ‘How am I to live differently,’ because violence breeds tremendous antagonism and destruction in the world. I want to understand it and be free of it, live differently. So I ask myself, ‘What is this violence in me?’ Is it frustration, because I want to be famous and I know I can’t be, therefore I hate people who are famous?’ I am jealous and I want to be non-jealous and I hate this state of jealousy with all its anxiety and fear and annoyance, therefore I suppress it. I do all this and I realize it is a way of violence. Now I want to find out if that is inevitable; or if there is a way of understanding it, looking at it, coming to grips with it so that I shall live differently. So I must find out what violence is.

Questioner: It’s a reaction.

Krishnamurti: You are too quick. Does that help me to under: stand the nature of my violence? I want to go into it, I want to find out. I see that as long as there is a duality – that is, violence and non-violence – there must be conflict and therefore more violence. As long as I impose on the fact that I am stupid the idea that I must be clever, there is the beginning of violence. When I compare myself with you, who are much more that I am, that’s also violence. Comparison, suppression, control – all those indicate a form of violence. I am made like that. I compare, I suppress, I am ambitious. Realizing that, how am I to live non-violently? I want to find a way of living without all this strife.

Questioner: Isn’t it the ‘me’ and the self that is against the fact?

Krishnamurti: We’ll come to that. See the fact, see what is happening first. My whole life, from when I was educated till now, has been a form of violence. The society in which I live is a form of violence. Society tells me to conform, accept, do this, not do that, and I follow it. That is a form of violence. And when I revolt against society, that also is a form of violence (revolt in the sense that I don’t accept the values which society has laid down). I revolt against it and then create my own values, which become the pattern; and that pattern is imposed on others or on myself, which becomes another form of violence. I live that kind of life. That is: I am violent. Now what shall I do?

Questioner: First, you should ask yourself why you don’t want to be violent anymore.

Krishnamurti: Because I see what violence has done in the world as it is; wars outwardly, conflict within, conflict in relationship. Objectively and inwardly I see this battle going on and I say, ‘Surely there must be a different way of living.’

Questioner: Why do you dislike that state of affairs?

Krishnamurti: It is very destructive.

Questioner: Then this means that you yourself have already given the highest value to love.

Krishnamurti: I have given no value to anything. I am just observing.

Questioner: If you dislike, then you have given values.

Krishnamurti: I am not giving values, I observe. I observe war is destructive.

Questioner: What’s wrong with that?

Krishnamurti: I don’t say it is right or wrong.

Questioner: Then why do you want to change it?

Krishnamurti: I want to change it because my son gets killed in a war, and I ask, ‘Isn’t there a way of living without killing one another?

Questioner: So all you want to do is to experiment with a different way of living, then compare the new way of living with what is going on now.

Krishnamurti: No, Sir. I don’t compare. I have expressed all this. I see my son gets killed in a war and I say, ‘Is there not a different way of living?’ I want to find out if there is a way in which violence doesn’t exist.

Questioner: But supposing…

Krishnamurti: No supposition, Sir. My son gets killed and I want to find a way of living in which other sons aren’t killed.

Questioner: So what you want is one or other of two possibilities.

Krishnamurti: There are a dozen possibilities.

Questioner: Your urge to find another way of living is so great that you want to adopt another way – whatever it is. you want to experiment with it and compare it.

Krishnamurti: No, Sir, I am afraid you are insisting on something which I have not made clear.

Either we accept the way of life as it is, with violence and all the rest of it; or we say there must be a different way which human intelligence can find, where violence doesn’t exist. That’s all. And we say this violence will exist so long as comparison, suppression, conformity, the disciplining of oneself according to a pattern is the way of life. In this there is conflict and therefore violence.

Questioner: Why does confusion arise? Isn’t it created around the ‘I’?

Krishnamurti: We’ll come to that, Sir.

Questioner: The thing underneath violence, the root, the essence of violence, is in fact affecting. Owing to the fact that we exist, we affect the rest of existence. I am here, By breathing the air I affect the existence within it. So I claim that the essence of violence is the fact of affecting, which is inherent in existence. When we affect in discord, in disharmony, we call that violence. But if we harmonize with it, then that’s the other side of violence – but it is still affecting. One is ‘affecting against,’ which is violating, the other is affecting with.

Krishnamurti: Sir, may I ask something? Are you concerned with violence? Are you involved in violence? Are you concerned about this violence in yourself and in the world in the sense that you feel, ‘I can’t live this way’?

Questioner: When we revolt against violence we form a problem because revolt is violence.

Krishnamurti: I understand, Sir, but how do we proceed with this subject?

Questioner: I don’t agree with society. Revolt against ideas – money, efficiency and so on – is my form of violence.

Krishnamurti: Yes, I understand. Therefore that rebellion against the present culture, education and so on, is violence.

Questioner: That’s how I see my violence.

Krishnamurti: Yes, therefore what will you do with that? That’s what we are trying to discuss.

Questioner: That is what I want to know.

Krishnamurti: I want to know about this too. So let us stick to it.

Questioner: If I have a problem with a person, I can understand it much more clearly. If I hate someone I know it; I react against it. But this is not possible with society.

Krishnamurti: Let us take this, please. I rebel against the present moral structure of society. I realize that mere rebellion against this morality, without finding out what is true morality, is violence. What is true morality? Unless I find that out and live it, merely to rebel against the structure of a social morality has very little meaning.

Questioner: Sir, you can’t know violence unless you live it.

Krishnamurti: Oh! Are you saying I must live violently before I can understand the other?

Questioner: You said to understand true morality you must live it. You must live violently to see what love is.

Krishnamurti: When you say I must live that way, you are already imposing on me an idea of what you think love is.

Questioner: That’s repeating your words.

Krishnamurti: Sir, there is the social morality against which I rebel because I see how absurd it is. What is true morality in which there is no violence?

Questioner: Isn’t true morality controlling violence? Surely there is violence in everybody, people – so called higher beings – are controlling it, in nature it is always there; whether it is a thunderstorm or a wild animal killing another, or a tree dying, violence is everywhere.

Krishnamurti: There may be a higher form of violence, more subtle, more tenuous, and there are the brutal forms of violence. The whole of life is violence, the little and the big. If one wants to find out whether it is possible to step out of this whole structure of violence, one has to go into it. That’s what we are trying to do.

Questioner: Sir, what do you mean by ‘going into it’?

Krishnamurti: I mean by ‘going into it,’ first the examination, the exploration of ‘what is.’ To explore, there must be freedom from any conclusion, from any prejudice. Then with that freedom I look at the problem of violence. That is ‘going into.,

Questioner: Then does something happen?

Krishnamurti: No, nothing happens.

Questioner: find that my reaction against war is ‘I don’t want to fight’…. But I find the thing I do is to try to keep away, live in another country, or keep away from the people I don’t like. I just keep away from American society.

Krishnamurti: She says, ‘I am not a demonstrator or protestor but I don’t live in the country in which there is all this. I keep away from people whom I don’t like.’ All this is a form of violence. Please do let us pay a little attention to this. Let us give our minds to understand this question. What is a man to do, who sees the whole pattern of behaviour, political, religious and economic, in which violence is involved to a greater or smaller degree, when he feel caught in the trap which he himself has created?

Questioner: May I suggest that there is no violence, but thinking makes it so.

Krishnamurti: Oh! I kill somebody and I think about it and therefore it is violent. No, Sir, aren’t we playing with words? Couldn’t we go into this a little more? We have seen that whenever I impose upon myself, psychologically, an idea or a conclusion, that breeds violence. (We’ll take that for the moment.) I am cruel – verbally and in feeling. I impose on that, saying ‘I must not,’ and I realize that is a form of violence. How am I to deal with this feeling of cruelty without imposing something else on it? Can I understand it without suppressing it, without running away from it, without any form of escape or substitution. Here is a fact – I am cruel. That is a problem to me and no amount of explanation, saying ‘you should, you should not,’ will solve it. Here is an issue which affects me and I want to resolve it, because I see there may be a different way of living. So I say to myself, ‘How can I be free of this cruelty without conflict,’ because the moment I introduce conflict in getting rid of cruelty, I have already brought violence into being. So first I must be very clear about what conflict implies. If there is any conflict with regard to cruelty – of which I want to be free – in that very conflict there is the breeding of violence. How am I to be free of cruelty without conflict?

Questioner: Accept it.

Krishnamurti: I wonder what we mean by accepting our cruelty. There it is! I am not accepting or denying it. What is the good of saying ‘accept it’? It is a fact that I have a brown skin – it is so. Why should I accept it or reject it? The fact is I am cruel.

Questioner: If I see I am cruel I accept it, I understand it; but also I am afraid of acting cruelly and of going along with it.

Krishnamurti: Yes. I said, ‘I am cruel.’ I neither accept nor reject it. It is a fact; and it is another fact, that when there is conflict in getting rid of cruelty there is violence. So I have to deal with two things. Violence, cruelty and the ridding myself of it without effort. What am I to do? All my life struggle and fight.

Questioner: The question is not violence, but the creation of an image.

Krishnamurti: That image gets imposed upon, or one imposes that image on ‘what is right?

Questioner: It comes from ignorance of one’s true being.

Krishnamurti: I don’t quite know what you mean by ‘true being’.

Questioner: I mean by that one is not separate from the world, one is the world and therefore one is responsible for the violence that goes on outside.

Krishnamurti: Yes. He says, true being is to recognize that one is the world and the world is oneself, and that cruelty and violence are not something different, but part of one. Is that what you mean, Sir?

Questioner: No. Part of the ignorance.

Krishnamurti: So you are saying there is the true self and there is ignorance? There are two states, the true being and it getting covered over by ignorance. Why? This is an old Indian theory. How do you know that there is a true being which is covered over by illusion and ignorance?

Questioner: If we realize that the problems we have are in terms of opposites, all problems will disappear.

Krishnamurti: All one has to do is not to think in opposites. Do we do that, or is it just an idea?

Questioner: Sir, isn’t duality inherent in thought?

Krishnamurti: We come to a point and go away from it. I know I am cruel – for various psychological reasons. That is a fact. How shall I be free without effort?

Questioner: What do you mean by ‘without effort’?

Krishnamurti: I explained what I mean by effort. If I suppress it there is effort involved in the sense that there is contradiction: the cruelty and the desire not to be cruel. There is conflict between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be.’

Questioner: If I really look at it I can’t be cruel.

Krishnamurti: I want to find out, not accept statements. I want to find out if it is at all possible to be free of cruelty. Is it possible to be free of it without suppression, without running away, trying to force it. What is one to do?

Questioner: The only thing to do is to expose it.

Krishnamurti: To expose it I must let it come out, let it show itself – not in the sense of becoming more cruel. Why don’t I let it come out? First of all I am frightened of it. I don’t know if by letting it come out I might not become more cruel. And if I expose it, am I capable of understanding it? Can I look at it very carefully, which means attentively? I can do it only if my energy, my interest and urgency coincide at this moment of exposure. At this moment I must have the urgency to understand it, I must have a mind without any kind of distortion. I must have tremendous energy to look And these three must take place instantly at the moment of exposure. Which means, I am sensitive enough and free enough to have this vital energy, intensity and attention. How do I have that intense attention? How do I come by it?

Questioner: If we come to that point of wanting to understand it desperately, then we have this attention.

Krishnamurti: I understand. I am just saying, ‘Is it possible to be attentive’? Wait, see the implications of it, see what is involved in it. Don’t give meanings, don’t bring in a new set of words. Here I am. I don’t know what attention means. Probably I have never given attention to anything, because most of my life I am inattentive. Suddenly you come along and say, Look, be attentive about cruelty; and I say, ‘I will’ – but what does it mean? How am I to bring about this state of attention? Is there a method? If there is a method and I can practice to become attentive, it will take time. And during that time I continue to be inattentive and therefore bring more destruction. So all this must take place instantly!

I am cruel. I won’t suppress, I won’t escape; it doesn’t mean that I am determined not to escape, it doesn’t mean that I have made up my mind not to suppress it. But I see and understand intelligently that suppression, control, escape, do not solve the problem; therefore I have put those aside. Now I have this intelligence, which has come into being by understanding the futility of suppression, of escape, of trying to overcome. With this intelligence I am examining, I am looking at cruelty. I realize that to look at it, there must be a great deal of attention and to have that attention I must be very careful of my inattentions. So my concern is to be aware of inattention. What does that mean? Because if I try to practice attention, it becomes mechanical, stupid, there is no meaning to it; but if I become attentive, or aware of lack of attention, then I begin to find out how attention comes into being. Why am I inattentive to other people’s feelings, to the way I talk, the way I eat, to what people say and do? By understanding the negative state I shall come to the positive, which is attention. So I am examining, trying to understand how this inattention comes into being.

This is a very serious question because the whole world is burning. If I am part of that world and that world is me, I must put an end to the fire. So we are stranded with this problem. Because it is lack of attention that has brought about all this chaos in the world. One sees the curious fact that inattention is negation – lack of attention, lack of ‘being there’ at the moment. How is it possible to be so completely aware of inattention that it becomes attention? How am I to become completely, instantly, aware of this cruelty in me, with great energy, so that there is no friction, no contradiction, so that it is complete, whole? How do I bring this about? We said it is possible only when there is complete attention; and that complete attention does not exist because our life is spent wasting energy in inattention.