Is It Possible To Live in This World Without Ambition?

From Krishnamurti’s Book THINK ON THESE THINGS

That green field with mustard-yellow flowers and a stream running through it is a lovely thing to look upon, is it not? Yesterday evening I was watching it, and in seeing the extraordinary beauty and quietness of the countryside one invariably asks oneself what is beauty. There is an immediate response to that which is lovely and also to that which is ugly, the response of pleasure or of pain, and we put that feeling into words saying, ‘This is beautiful’ or ‘This is ugly’. But what matters is not the pleasure or the pain; rather, it is to be in communion with everything, to be sensitive both to the ugly and the beautiful.

Now, what is beauty? This is one of the most fundamental questions, it is not superficial, so don’t brush it aside. To understand what beauty is, to have that sense of goodness which comes when the mind and heart are in communion with something lovely without any hindrance so that one feels completely at ease – surely, this has great significance in life; and until we know this response to beauty our lives will be very shallow. One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead.

You girls and boys and older people just put to yourselves this question: what is beauty? Cleanliness, tidiness of dress, a smile, a graceful gesture, the rhythm of walking, a flower in your hair, good manners, clarity of speech, thoughtfulness, being considerate of others, which includes punctuality – all this is part of beauty; but it is only on the surface, is it not? And is that all there is to beauty, or is there something much deeper?

There is beauty of form, beauty of design, beauty of life. Have you observed the lovely shape of a tree when it is in full foliage, or the extraordinary delicacy of a tree naked against the sky?

Such things are beautiful to behold, but they are all the superficial expressions of something much deeper. So what is it that we call beauty?

You may have a beautiful face, clean-cut features, you may dress with good taste and have polished manners, you may paint well or write about the beauty of the landscape, but without this inward sense of goodness all the external appurtenances lead to a very superficial, sophisticated life, life without much significance.

So we must find out what beauty really is, must we not? Mind you, I am not saying that we should avoid the outward expressions of beauty. We must all have good manners, we must be physically clean and dress tastefully, without ostentation, we must be punctual, clear in our speech, and all the rest of it. These things are necessary and they create a pleasant atmosphere; but by themselves they have not much significance.

It is inward beauty that gives grace, an exquisite gentleness to outward form and movement. And what is this inward beauty without which one’s life is very shallow? Have you ever thought about it? Probably not. You are too busy, your minds are too occupied with study, with play, with talking, laughing and teasing each other. But to help you to discover what is inward beauty, without which outward form and movement have very little meaning, is one of the functions of right education; and the deep appreciation of beauty is an essential part of your own life.

Can a shallow mind appreciate beauty? It may talk about beauty; but can it experience this welling up of immense joy upon looking at something that is really lovely? When the mind is merely concerned with itself and its own activities, it is not beautiful; whatever it does, it remains ugly, limited, therefore it is incapable of knowing what beauty is. Whereas, a mind that is not concerned with itself, that is free of ambition, a mind that not caught up in its own desires or driven by its own pursuit of success – such a mind is not shallow, and it flowers in goodness. Do you understand? It is this inward goodness that gives beauty even to a so-called ugly face. When there is inward goodness the ugly face is transformed, for inward goodness is really a deeply religious feeling.

Do you know what it is to be religious? It has nothing to do with temple bells, though they sound nice in the distance, nor with pujas, nor with the ceremonies of the priests and all the rest of the ritualistic nonsense. To be religious is to be sensitive to reality. Your total being – body, mind and heart – is sensitive to beauty and to ugliness, to the donkey tied to a post, to the poverty and filth in this town, to laughter and tears, to everything about you. From this sensitivity for the whole of existence springs goodness, love; and without this sensitivity there is no beauty, though you may have talent, be very well dressed, ride in an expensive car and be scrupulously clean.

Love is something extraordinary, is it not? You cannot love if you are thinking about yourself – which does not mean that you must think about somebody else. Love is, it has no object. The mind that loves is really a religious mind because it is in the movement of reality, of truth, of God, and it is only such a mind that can know what beauty is. The mind that is not caught in any philosophy, that is not enclosed in any system or belief, that is not driven by its own ambition and is therefore sensitive, alert, watchful – such a mind has beauty.

It is very important while you are young to learn to be tidy and clean, to sit well without restless movement, to have good table manners and to be considerate, punctual; but all these things, however necessary, are superficial, and if you merely cultivate the superficial without understanding the deeper thing, you will never know the real significance of beauty. A mind that does not belong to any nation, group or society, that has no authority, that is not motivated by ambition or held by fear – such a mind is always flowering in love and goodness. Because it is in the movement of reality, it knows what beauty is; being sensitive to both the ugly and the beautiful, it is a creative mind, it has limitless understanding.

Questioner: If I have an ambition in childhood, will I be able to fulfil it as I grow up?

Krishnamurti: A childhood ambition is generally not very enduring, is it? A little boy wants to be an engine driver; or he sees a jet plane go flashing across the sky and he wants to be a pilot; or he hears some political orator and wants to be like him, or sees a sannyasi and decides to become one too. A girl may want to have many children, or be the wife of a rich man and live in a big house, or she may aspire to paint or to write poems.

Now, will childhood dreams be fulfilled? And are dreams worth fulfilling? To seek the fulfilment of any desire, no matter what it is, always brings sorrow. Perhaps you have not yet noticed this, but you will as you grow up. Sorrow is the shadow of desire. If I want to be rich or famous, I struggle to reach my goal, pushing others aside and creating enmity; and, even though I may get what I want, sooner or later something invariably happens. I fall ill, or in the very fulfilling of my desire I long for something more; and there is always death lurking around the corner. Ambition, desire and fulfilment lead inevitably to frustration, sorrow. You can watch this process for yourself Study the older people around you, the men who are famous, who are great in the land, those who have made names for themselves and have power. Look at their faces; see how sad, or how fat and pompous they are. Their faces have ugly lines. They don’t flower in goodness because in their hearts there sorrow.

Is it not possible to live in this world without ambition just being what you are? If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation. I think one can live in this world anonymously, completely unknown, without being famous, ambitious, cruel. One can live very happily when no importance is given to the self; and this also is part of right education.

The whole world is worshipping success. You hear stories of how the poor boy studied at night and eventually became a judge, or how he began by selling newspapers and ended up a multimillionaire. You are fed on the glorification of success. With the achievement of great success there is also great sorrow; but most of us are caught up in the desire to achieve, and success is much more important to us than the understanding and dissolution of sorrow.

Questioner: In the present social system is it not very difficult to put into action what you are talking about?

Krishnamurti: When you feel very strongly about something, do you consider it difficult to put it into action? When you are keen to play cricket, you play it with your whole being, don’t you? And do you call it difficult? It is only when you don’t totally feel the truth of something that you say it is difficult to put it into action. You don’t love it. That which you love you do with ardour, there is joy in it, and then what society or what your parents may say does not matter. But if you are not deeply convinced, if you do not feel free and happy in doing what you think is right, surely your interest in it is false, unreal; therefore it becomes mountainous and you say it is difficult to put it into action.

In doing what you love to do there will of course be difficulties, but that won’t matter to you, it is part of life. You see, we have made a philosophy of difficulty, we consider it a virtue to make effort, to struggle, to oppose.

I am not talking of proficiency through effort and struggle, but of the love of doing something. But don’t battle against society, don’t tackle dead tradition, unless you have this love in you, for your struggle will be meaningless, and you will merely create more mischief. Whereas, if you deeply feel what is right and can therefore stand alone, then your action born of love will have extraordinary significance, it will have vitality, beauty.

You know, it is only in a very quiet mind that great things are born; and a quiet mind does not come about through effort, through control, through discipline.

Questioner: What do you mean by a total change, and how can it be realized in one’s own being?

Krishnamurti: Do you think there can be a total change if you try to bring it about? Do you know what change is? Suppose you are ambitious and you have begun to see all that is involved in ambition: hope, satisfaction, frustration, cruelty, sorrow, inconsideration, greed, envy, an utter lack of love. Seeing all this, what are you to do? To make an effort to change or transform ambition is another form of ambition, is it not? It implies a desire to be something else. You may reject one desire, but in that very process you cultivate another desire which also brings sorrow.

Now, if you see that ambition brings sorrow, and that the desire to put an end to ambition also brings sorrow, if you see the truth of this very clearly for yourself and do not act, but allow the truth to act, then that truth brings about a fundamental change in the mind, a total revolution. But this requires a great deal of attention, penetration, insight.

When you are told, as you all are, that you should be good, that you should love, what generally happens? You say, ‘I must practise being good, I must show love to my parents, to the servant, to the donkey, to everything’. That means you are making an effort to show love – and then ‘love’ becomes very shoddy, very petty, as it does with those nationalistic people who are everlastingly practising brotherhood, which is silly, stupid. It is greed that causes these practices. But if you see the truth of nationalism, of greed, and let that truth work upon you, let that truth act, then you will be brotherly without making any effort. A mind that practises love cannot love. But if you love and do not interfere with it, then love will operate.