The Universal Diseases of Jealousy and Envy

From Krishnamurti’s Book LIFE AHEAD

There are various factors involved in human disintegration, and various ways in which human beings disintegrate. To integrate is to bring together, to make complete. If you are integrated, your thoughts, feelings and actions are entirely one, moving in one direction; they are not in contradiction with each other. You are a whole human being, without conflict. That is what is implied by integration. To disintegrate is the opposite of that; it is to go to pieces, to tear asunder, to scatter that which has been put together. And there are many ways in which human beings disintegrate, go to pieces, destroy themselves. I think one of the major factors is the feeling of envy, which is so subtle that it is regarded, under different names, as being worthwhile, beneficial, a creditable element in human endeavour.

Do you know what envy is? It begins when you are still very small – you feel envious of a friend who looks better than you do, who has better things or a better position. You are jealous if another boy or girl surpasses you in class, has richer parents, or belongs to a more distinguished family. So, envy or jealousy begins at a very tender age, and it gradually takes the form of competition. You want to do something to distinguish yourself – get better marks be a better athlete than someone else; you want to outdo, to outshine others.

As you grow older, envy gets stronger and stronger. The poor envy the rich, and the rich envy the richer. There is the envy of those who have had experience and want more experience, and the envy of the writer who wants to write still better. The very desire to be better, to become something worthwhile, to have more of this or more of that, is acquisitiveness, the process of gathering, holding. If you observe you will notice that the instinct in most of us is to acquire, to get more and more saris, clothes, houses, property. If it is not that, then we want more experience, more knowledge; we want to feel that we know more than anyone else, that we have read much more than another. We want to be nearer than others to some big official high up in the government, or to feel that we are spiritually, inwardly more evolved than another. We want to be conscious that we are humble, that we are virtuous, that we can explain and others cannot.

So, the more we acquire, the greater is our disintegration. The more property, the more fame, the more experience, the more knowledge we gather, the swifter is our deterioration. From the desire to be or to acquire more, springs the universal disease of jealousy, envy. Have you not observed this in yourself, and in the older people around you? Have you not noticed how the teacher wants to be a professor, and the professor wants to be the principal? Or how your own father or mother wants more property, a bigger name?

In the struggle to acquire we become cruel. In acquisition there is no love. The acquisitive way of life is an endless battle with one’s neighbour, with society, in which there is constant fear; but all this we justify, and we accept jealousy as inevitable. We think that we must be acquisitive – though we call it by a better sounding word. We call it evolution growth, development, progress, and we say it is essential.

You see, most of us are unconscious of all this; we are unaware that we are greedy, acquisitive, that our hearts are being eaten away by envy, that our minds are deteriorating. And when for a moment we do become aware of this, we justify it, or merely say it is wrong; or we try to run away from it in various ways.

Envy is a very difficult thing to uncover or discover in oneself, because the mind is the centre of envy. The mind itself is envious. The very structure of the mind is built on acquisition and envy. If you watch your own thoughts, observe the way you think, you will see that what we call thinking is generally a process of comparison: ‘I can explain better, I have greater knowledge, more wisdom’. Thinking in terms of ‘the more’ is the working of the acquisitive mind; it is its way of existence. If you do not think in terms of ‘the more’, you will find it extremely difficult to think at all. The pursuit of ‘the more’ is the comparative movement of thought, which creates time – time in which to become, to be somebody; it is the process of envy, of acquisition. Thinking comparatively, the mind says, ‘I am this, and someday I shall be that; ‘I am ugly, but I am going to be beautiful in the future’. So acquisitiveness, envy, comparative thinking produce discontent, restlessness; and our reaction to that is to say we must be satisfied with our lot, we must be content with what we have. That is what the people say who are at the top of the ladder. Religions universally preach contentment.

Real contentment is not a reaction, it is not the opposite of acquisitiveness; it is something much vaster and far more significant. The man whose contentment is the opposite of acquisitiveness, of envy, is like a vegetable; inwardly he is a dead entity, as most people are. Most people are very quiet because inwardly they are dead; and they are inwardly dead because they have cultivated the opposite – the opposite of everything they actually are. Being envious, they say, ‘I must not be envious’. You may deny the everlasting struggle of envy by wearing a loincloth and saying you are not going to acquire; but this very desire to be good to be non-acquisitive, which is the pursuit of the opposite, is still within the field of time; it is still part of the feeling of envy, because you still want to be something. Real contentment is not like that; it is something much more creative and profound. There is no contentment when you choose to be content; contentment does not come that way. Contentment comes when you understand what you actually are and do not pursue what you should be.

You think you will be content when you have achieved all that you want. You may want to be a governor, or a great saint, and you think you will have contentment by achieving that end. In other words, through the process of envy you hope to arrive at contentment. Through a wrong means you expect to achieve a right result. Contentment is not satisfaction. Contentment is something very vital; it is a state of creativeness in which there is the understanding of what actually is. If you begin to understand what you actually are from moment to moment, from day to day, you will find that out of this understanding there comes an extraordinary feeling of vastness, of limitless comprehension. That is, if you are greedy, what matters is to understand your greed and not try to become non-greedy; because the very desire to become non-greedy is still a form of greed.

Our religious structure, our ways of thinking, our social life, everything we do is based on acquisitiveness, on an envious outlook, and for centuries we have been brought up like that. We are so conditioned to it that we cannot think apart from ‘the better’, ‘the more; therefore we make envy desirable. We do not call it envy, we call it by some euphemistic term; but if you go behind the word you will see that this extraordinary desire for ‘the more’ is egocentric, self-enclosing. It is limiting thought.

The mind that is limited by envy, by the ‘me’ by the acquisitive desire for things or for virtue, can never be a truly religious mind. The religious mind is not a comparative mind. The religious mind sees and understands the full significance of what is. That is why it is very important to understand yourself, which is to perceive the workings of your own mind: the motives, the intentions, the longings, the desires, the constant pressure of pursuance which creates envy, acquisitiveness and comparison. When all these have come to an end through the understanding of what is, only then will you know true religion, what God is.

Questioner: Is truth relative or absolute?

Krishnamurti: First of all, let us look through the words at the significance of the question. We want something absolute, don’t we? The human craving is for something permanent, fixed, immovable, eternal, something that does not decay, that has no death – an idea, a feeling, a state that is everlasting, so that the mind can cling to it. We must understand this craving before we can understand the question and answer it rightly.

The human mind wants permanency in everything – in relationship, in property, in virtue. It wants something which cannot be destroyed. That is why we say God is permanent, or truth is absolute.

But what is truth? Is truth some extraordinary mystery, something far away, unimaginable, abstract? Or is truth something which you discover from moment to moment, from day to day? If it can be accumulated, gathered through experience, then it is not truth; for behind this gathering lies the same spirit of acquisitiveness. If it is something far away which can be found only through a system of meditation, or through the practice of denial and sacrifice, again it is not truth for that also is a process of acquisitiveness.

Truth is to be discovered and understood in every action, in every thought, in every feeling, however trivial or transient; it is to be observed at each moment of every day; it is to be listened to in what the husband and the wife say, in what the gardener says, in what your friends say, and in the process of your own thinking. Your thinking may be false, it may be conditioned, limited; and to discover that your thinking is conditioned, limited, is truth. That very discovery sets your mind free from limitation. If you discover that you are greedy – if you discover it, and are not just told by somebody else – that discovery is truth, and that truth has its own action upon your greed.

Truth is not something which you can gather, accumulate, store up and then rely on as a guide. That is only another form of possession. And it is very difficult for the mind not to acquire, not to store up. When you realize the significance of this, you will find out what an extraordinary thing truth is. Truth is timeless, but the moment you capture it – as when you say, ‘I have found truth, it is mine’ – it is no longer truth.

So, whether truth is ‘absolute’ or timeless depends on the mind. When the mind says, ‘I want the absolute, something which never decays, which knows no death’, what it really wants is something permanent to cling to; so it creates the permanent. But in a mind that is aware of everything that is happening outwardly and within itself, and sees the truth of it – such a mind is timeless; and only such a mind can know that which is beyond names, beyond the permanent and the impermanent.

Questioner: What is external awareness?

Krishnamurti: Are you not aware that you are sitting in this hall? Are you not aware of the trees, of the sunshine? Are you not aware that the crow is cawing, the dog is barking? Do you not see the colour of the flowers, the movement of the leaves, the people walking by? That is external awareness. When you see the sunset, the stars at night, the moonlight on the water, all that is external awareness, is it not? And as you are externally aware, so also you can be inwardly aware of your thoughts and feelings, of your motives and urges, of your prejudices, envies, greed and pride. If you are really aware outwardly, the inward awareness also begins to awaken, and you become more and more conscious of your reaction to what people say, to what you read, and so on. The external reaction or response in your relationship with other people is the outcome of an inward state of wanting, of hope, of anxiety, fear. This outward and inward awareness is an unitary process which brings about a total integration of human understanding.

Questioner: What is real and eternal happiness?

Krishnamurti: When you are completely healthy, you are not conscious of your body, are you? It is only when there is disease, discomfort, pain, that you become conscious of it. When you are free to think completely, without resistance, there is no consciousness of thinking. It is only when there is friction, a blockage, a limitation, that you begin to be conscious of a thinker. Similarly, is happiness something of which you are aware? In the moment of joy, are you aware that you are joyous? It is only when you are unhappy that you want happiness; and then this question arises, ‘What is real and eternal happiness?’

You see how the mind plays tricks on itself. Because you are unhappy, miserable, in poor circumstances, and so on, you want something eternal, a permanent happiness. And is there such a thing? Instead of asking about permanent happiness, find out how to be free of the diseases which are gnawing at you and creating pain, both physical and psychological. When you are free, there is no problem, you don’t ask whether there is eternal happiness or what that happiness is. It is a lazy, foolish man who, being in prison, wants to know what freedom is; and lazy, foolish people will tell him. To the man in prison, freedom is mere speculation. But if he gets out of that prison, he does not speculate about freedom: it is there.

So, is it not important, instead of asking what happiness is, to find out why we are unhappy? Why is the mind crippled? Why is it that our thoughts are limited, small, petty? If we can understand the limitation of thought, see the truth of it, in that discovery of the truth there is liberation.

Questioner: Why do people want things?

Krishnamurti: Don’t you want food when you are hungry? Don’t you want clothes and a house to shelter you? These are normal wants, are they not? Healthy people naturally recognize that they need certain things. It is only the diseased or unbalanced man who says, ‘I do not need food’. It is a perverted mind that must either have many houses, or no house at all to live in.

Your body gets hungry because you are using energy, so it wants more food; that is normal. But if you say, ‘I must have the tastiest food, I must have only the food that my tongue takes pleasure in’, then perversion begins. All of us – not only the rich, but everybody in the world – must have food, clothing and shelter; but if these physical necessities are limited, controlled and made available only to the few, then there is perversion; an unnatural process is set going. If you say, ‘I must accumulate, I must have everything for myself’, you are depriving others of that which is essential for their daily needs.

You see, the problem is not simple, because we want other things besides what is essential for our daily needs. I may be satisfied with a little food, a few clothes and a small room to live in; but I want something else. I want to be a well-known person, I want position, power, prestige, I want to be nearest to God, I want my friends to think well of me, and so on. These inward wants pervert the outward interests of every human being. The problem is a little difficult because the inward desire to be the richest or most powerful man, the urge to be somebody, is dependent for its fulfilment on the possession of things, including food, clothing and shelter. I lean on these things in order to become inwardly rich; but as long as I am in this state of dependence, it is impossible for me to be inwardly rich, which is to be utterly simple inwardly.