Have you ever wondered why it is that as people grow older they seem to lose all joy in life? At present most of you who are young are fairly happy; you have your little problems, there are examinations to worry about, but in spite of these troubles there is in your life a certain joy, is there not? There is a spontaneous, easy acceptance of life, a looking at things lightly and happily. And why is it that as we grow older we seem to lose that joyous intimation of something beyond, something of greater significance? Why do so many of us, as we grow into so-called maturity, become dull, insensitive to joy, to beauty, to the open skies and the marvellous earth?
You know, when one asks oneself this question, many explanations spring up in the mind. We are so concerned with ourselves – that is one explanation. We struggle to become somebody, to achieve and maintain a certain position; we have children and other responsibilities, and we have to earn money. All these external things soon weigh us down, and thereby we lose the joy of living. Look at the older faces around you, see how sad most of them are, how careworn and rather ill, how withdrawn, aloof and sometimes neurotic, without a smile. Don’t you ask yourself why? And even when we do ask why, most of us seem to be satisfied with mere explanations.
Yesterday evening I saw a boat going up the river at full sail, driven by the west wind. It was a large boat, heavily laden with firewood for the town. The sun was setting, and this boat against the sky was astonishingly beautiful. The boatman was just guiding it, there was no effort, for the wind was doing all the work. Similarly, if each one of us could understand the problem of struggle and conflict, then I think we would be able to live effortlessly, happily, with a smile on our face.
I think it is effort that destroys us, this struggling in which we spend almost every moment of our lives. If you watch the older people around you, you will see that for most of them life is a series of battles with themselves, with their wives or husbands, with their neighbours, with society; and this ceaseless strife dissipates energy. The man who is joyous, really happy, is not caught up in effort. To be without effort does not mean that you stagnate, that you are dull, stupid; on the contrary, it is only the wise, the extraordinarily intelligent who are really free of effort, of struggle.
But, you see, when we hear of effortlessness we want to be like that, we want to achieve a state in which we will have no strife, no conflict; so we make that our goal, our ideal, and strive after it; and the moment we do this, we have lost the joy of living. We are again caught up in effort, struggle. The object of struggle varies, but all struggle is essentially the same. One may struggle to bring about social reforms, or to find God, or to create a better relationship between oneself and one’s wife or husband, or with one’s neighbour; one may sit on the banks of Ganga, worship at the feet of some guru, and so on. All this is effort, struggle. So what is important is not the object of struggle, but to understand struggle itself.
Now, is it possible for the mind to be not just casually aware that for the moment it is not struggling, but completely free of struggle all the time so that it discovers a state of joy in which there is no sense of the superior and the inferior?
Our difficulty is that the mind feels inferior, and that is why it struggles to be or become something, or to bridge over its various contradictory desires. But don’t let us give explanations of why the mind is full of struggle. Every thinking man knows why there is struggle both within and without. Our envy, greed, ambition, our competitiveness leading to ruthless efficiency – these are obviously the factors which cause us to struggle, whether in this world or in the world to come. So we don’t have to study psychological books to know why we struggle; and what is important, surely, is to find out if the mind can be totally free of struggle.
After all, when we struggle, the conflict is between what we are and what we should be or want to be. Now, without giving explanations, can one understand this whole process of struggle so that it comes to an end? Like that boat which was moving with the wind, can the mind be without struggle? Surely, this is the question, and not how to achieve a state in which there is no struggle. The very effort to achieve such a state is itself a process of struggle, therefore that state is never achieved. But if you observe from moment to moment how the mind gets caught in everlasting struggle – if you just observe the fact without trying to alter it, without trying to force upon the mind a certain state which you call peace – then you will find that the mind spontaneously ceases to struggle; and in that state it can learn enormously. Learning is then not merely the process of gathering information, but a discovery of the extraordinary riches that lie beyond the hope of the mind; and for the mind that makes this discovery there is joy.
Watch yourself and you will see how you struggle from morning till night, and how your energy is wasted in this struggle. If you merely explain why you struggle, you get lost in explanations and the struggle continues; whereas, if you observe your mind very quietly without giving explanations, if you just let the mind be aware of its own struggle, you will soon find that there comes a state in which there is no struggle at all, but an astonishing watchfulness. In that state of watchfulness there is no sense of the superior and the inferior, there is no big man or little man, there is no guru. All those absurdities are gone because the mind is fully awake; and the mind that is fully awake is joyous.
Questioner: I want to do a certain thing, and though I have tried many times I have not been successful in doing it. Should I give up striving, or should I persist in this effort?
Krishnamurti: To be successful is to arrive, to get somewhere; and we worship success, do we not? When a poor boy grows up and becomes a multimillionaire, or an ordinary student becomes the prime minister, he is applauded, made much of; so every boy and girl wants in one way or another to succeed.
Now, is there such a thing as success, or is it only an idea which man pursues? Because the moment you arrive there is always a point further ahead at which you have yet to arrive. As long as you pursue success in any direction you are bound to be in strife, in conflict, are you not? Even when you have arrived, there is no rest for you, because you want to go still higher, you want to have more. Do you understand? The pursuit of success is the desire for the ‘more’, and a mind that is constantly demanding the ‘more’ is not an intelligent mind; on the contrary, it is a mediocre, stupid mind, because its demand for the ‘more’ implies a constant struggle in terms of the pattern which society has set for it.
After all, what is contentment, and what is discontent? Discontent is the striving after the ‘more’, and contentment is the cessation of that struggle; but you cannot come to contentment without understanding the whole process of the ‘more’, and why the mind demands it.
If you fail in an examination, for example, you have to take it again, do you not? Examinations in any case are most unfortunate, because they don’t indicate anything significant, they don’t reveal the true worth of your intelligence. Passing an examination is largely a trick of memory, or it may be a matter of chance; but you strive to pass your examinations, and if you don’t succeed you keep at it. With most of us it is the same process in everyday life. We are struggling after something, and we have newer paused to inquire if the thing we are after is worth struggling for. We have never asked ourselves if it’s worth the effort, so we haven’t yet discovered that it’s not and withstood the opinion of our parents, of society, of all the Masters and gurus. It is only when we have understood the whole significance of the ‘more’ that we cease to think in terms of failure and success.
You see, we are so afraid to fail, to make mistakes, not only in examinations but in life. To make a mistake is considered terrible because we will be criticized for it, somebody will scold us. But, after all, why should you not make a mistake? Are not all the people in the world making mistakes? And would the world cease to be in this horrible mess if you were never to make a mistake? If you are afraid of making mistakes you will never learn. The older people are making mistakes all the time, but they don’t want you to make mistakes, and thereby they smother your initiative. Why? Because they are afraid that by observing and questioning everything, by experimenting and making mistakes you may find out something for yourself and break away from the authority of your parents, of society, of tradition. That is why the ideal of success is held up for you to follow; and success, you will notice, is always in terms of respectability. Even the saint in his so-called spiritual achievements must become respectable, otherwise he has no recognition, no following.
So we are always thinking in terms of success, in terms of the ‘more’ and the ‘more’ is evaluated by the respectable society. In other words, society has very carefully established a certain pattern according to which it pronounces you a success or a failure. But if you love to do something with all your being you are then not concerned with success and failure. No intelligent person is. But unfortunately there are very few intelligent people, and nobody tells you about all this. The whole concern of an intelligent person is to see the facts and understand the problem – which is not to think in terms of succeeding or failing. It is only when we don’t really love what we are doing that we think in those terms.