The Problem of Guilt

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE LAST TALKS AT SAANEN

Why do we feel guilty? Many people do. It tortures their life. Then it becomes an enormous problem and that is the background of guilt for many, many people. Guilt in not believing, guilt in not being with the rest of the group. You know the feeling of guilt, not the word but the feeling behind that word – that we have done something wrong and feel remorseful, anxious, and therefore frightened, uncertain. This guilt is a very distorting factor in our life. This is obvious. So why do we have this feeling? Is it that we have not done something which is correct, which is not pragmatic, which is against what our environment has put together? The guilt of a man or woman who feels they haven’t supported the war of their own country. You know the various forms of guilt and the causes of it. We are asking: why does this feeling exist? Is it because we are not responsible, not demanding excellence of ourselves?

Now, just a minute, the speaker is asking, is it that we are lazy, indolent, inattentive and therefore slightly irresponsible? And facing that irresponsibility we feel guilty? Suppose I have followed somebody, my guru, who has indulged in all kinds of things, sex and so on, and I have done as he does, then he changes his mind, he becomes old and says, ‘No more’, and his disciples say, ‘No more.’ One has done all these things in order to follow that guru and then the guru says, ‘No more’, and I feel I shouldn’t have done those things, I have been wrong. You follow? The whole issue of guilt. How do we deal with it? That is more important.

So let’s find out what to do about it, shall we? Not investigate the causes of it, we know those. I have done something which is not proper, which is not correct, which is not true and I realize later that that reaction has been unfortunate, causing damage to myself and unhappiness to others and I feel guilty. So what shall we do when we have guilt? How would you deal with it? What is your approach to it? How do you come near the problem? Is it that you want it resolved, that you want it wiped away so that your brain is no longer caught in it? How do you approach it – with the desire to resolve it, to be free of it? How you approach a problem is very important, isn’t it? If you have a direction for that problem, it must be solved this way or that way. Or if you have a motive, then that motive directs the issue. So do we approach a problem like guilt without any motive? You understand my question? Or do we always approach a problem with a motive? I wonder, are we meeting this thing together? Is it possible to approach a problem without any sense of the background knowledge which is motive, and look at it as though for the first time? Can we do that?

So, there are two things involved: how you approach a problem and what is a problem. You have problems, don’t you, many, many of them? Why? Not that we are condemning the problem or saying it must be solved this way or that way; we are questioning the problem itself, the word, and the content of that word, an issue, something which you have to answer, whether it is a business problem, family problem, sexual problem, spiritual problem – sorry, ‘spiritual’ should be in quotes – problems as to what leader to follow. Why do we have problems?

First let’s examine the word problem. According to the dictionary, a problem means something thrown at you, something propelled against you, a challenge, a thing that you have to answer. Something thrown at you. And we call that a problem. Why does our brain have problems? May we go into it a little bit? Please don’t accept anything the speaker says, anything. But let’s examine it together. When you send a child to school, he has to learn to read and write. He has never read or written before, so writing and reading become a problem to him. And as he grows up his brain is being trained to problems. Obviously. The whole process of learning is a problem and so the brain is conditioned in problems. This is a fact. My wife becomes a problem, how to live, what to do, and so on and so on. Our brain, your brain, is conditioned, educated to live with problems. This is a fact, not an invention by the speaker. It is so. So our whole life becomes a problem. Can we look at this as a fact, not as an idea, or a theory, but as a fact and see what we can do – whether the brain can be free to solve problems, not approach them with a mind that is already crowded with problems? You understand my question? No? I have been to school where I am not interested in anything the teacher is saying. I am looking out of the window, enjoying myself, he bangs me on the head. I come to, and he says, ‘Write.’ I say, ‘Good Lord, I must learn’, and it becomes a problem to me. My whole education – I am not against education but I am pointing out – my whole education becomes a tremendous problem. So the brain from childhood is conditioned to live with problems – right?

Now, our question is: is it possible to be free of problems and then attack problems, for I cannot resolve them unless the brain is free. If it is not free, in the solution of one problem other problems are created. So the speaker is asking: can we be free of problems first – uncondition the brain which has been educated to live with problems? Is it clear? At last.

Now let’s proceed. Is it possible to be free and then tackle problems? How do you answer that question? Do you say it is possible or do you say it is impossible? When you say it is possible or impossible you have already blocked yourself. You have already closed the doors. You have prevented yourself from investigating, going into the question.

So here is the question again: is it possible to free the brain from the conditioning of its education? The speaker is going into it not to convince you of anything but just to show you. You are not to do anything. Just listen to what he is saying, not accepting or denying, just looking, listening. The brain is conditioned to this whole culture of problems. That is a nice word – culture of problems. And is the conditioned brain different from the observer? Is the brain, my brain, different from me who is analysing, looking, tearing, examining, accepting, not accepting – is that observer, the person who says, ‘I am looking at it’, any different from the brain? It is a very simple question, don’t complicate it. Is anger, greed, envy, different from me? Or am I anger? Anger is me. Greed is me. The quality is me. There is no difference. But culture, education, has made us separate them. There is envy: if I say I am different from it, that I must control it, or indulge in it, there is conflict. I don’t know if you are following all this? Is envy me? is violence me? Violence is not something different from me; me is violent. Do you see this? Once one realizes this fact that there is no difference between the quality and me, then a totally different movement is taking place. There is no conflict. You understand? There is no conflict. As long as there is separation there is conflict in me.

Now I realize this, that I am the quality. I am violence. I, the me, is greedy, envious, jealous and all the rest of it, so I have abolished altogether this division in me. I am that. I am that quality. So, can my brain remain with that fact, stay with that fact? Can my brain, which is so active, so alive, thinking, watching, listening, trying, making efforts – can that brain stay with the fact that I am that? Stay with it, not run away, not try to control, because the moment you control there is a controller and the controlled, therefore it becomes effort. Please, I am being very simple. If you really grasp this truth, this fact, you eliminate effort altogether. Effort means contradiction. Effort means, I am different from that. Can you see the actual fact, not the idea but the actuality that you are your quality, your anger, your envy, your jealousy, your hate, your uncertainty, your confusion – that you are that? Not acknowledge it verbally or verbally agree, then we don’t meet each other, but actually see this fact and stay with it. Can you? When you stay with it, what is implied in that? Attention – right? No movement away from it. Just staying with it. If you have acute pain you can’t stay with it, but if you stay with it psychologically, inwardly say yes, it is so – which means no movement away from the fact – then the essence is no conflict, then you have broken the pattern of the brain. The pattern says, ‘I must do something. What is the right thing to do? Who will tell me the right thing to do? I must go to a psychiatrist’ – you know all that stuff that takes place. When once you see the fact, it is like holding a jewel, marvellously carved; you are looking at it, seeing all the inside, outside, how it is put together, the platinum, the gold, the diamonds. You watch it because you are the jewel, you are the centre of this most intricate, subtle jewel which you are. The moment one sees the fact the whole thing is different.

So guilt – sorry I have gone away from it. We had to. Guilt. It is not a problem, you understand now. It is a fact. It is not something to be resolved, something to be got over. You feel guilty about something you have done; this is a fact, and you stay with it. When you stay with it, it begins – please listen – it begins to flower and wither away. You understand, sir? Like a flower, if you keep on pulling it up to see if the roots are working properly, it will never bloom, but once you see the fact, which is the seed, and then stay with it, it shows itself fully. All the implications of guilt, all the implications of its subtlety, where it hides, is like a flower blooming. And if you let it bloom, not act, not say, ‘I must do or must not do’, then it begins to wither away and die. Please understand this. With every issue you can do that. About God, about anything. That is insight, not merely remembrance, adding. Is this clear? If you discover it, you see that it is so, then psychologically it is an enormous factor that frees you from all the past and present struggles and effort.