What Is the Difference Between Need and Greed?

From Krishnamurti’s Book THINK ON THESE THINGS

Questioner: What is the difference between need and greed?

Krishnamurti: Don’t you know? Don’t you know when you have what you need? And does not something tell you when you are greedy? Begin at the lowest level, and you will see it is so. You know that when you have enough clothes, jewels, or whatever it is, you don’t have to philosophize about it. But the moment need moves into the field of greed, it is then that you begin to philosophize to rationalize, to explain away your greed. A good hospital, for example, requires so many beds, a certain standard of cleanliness, certain antiseptics, this and that. A travelling man must perhaps have a car, an overcoat, and so on. That is need. You need a certain knowledge and skill to carry on your craft. If you are an engineer you must know certain things – but that knowledge can become an instrument of greed. Through greed the mind uses the objects of need as a means of self-advancement. It is a very simple process if you observe it. If, being aware of your actual needs, you also see how greed comes in, how the mind uses the objects of need for its own aggrandizement, then it is not very difficult to distinguish between need and greed.

Questioner: If the mind and the brain are one, then why is it that when a thought or an urge arises which the brain tells us is ugly the mind so often goes on with it?

Krishnamurti: Actually what takes place? If a pin pricks your arm, the nerves carry the sensation to your brain, the brain translates it as pain, then the mind rebels against the pain, and you take away the pin or otherwise do something about it. But there are some things which the mind goes on with, even though it knows them to be ugly or stupid. It knows how essentially stupid it is to smoke, and yet one goes on smoking. Why? Because it likes the sensations of smoking, and that is all. If the mind were as keenly aware of the stupidity of smoking as it is of the pain of a pinprick, it would stop smoking immediately. But it doesn’t want to see it that clearly because smoking has become a pleasurable habit. It is the same with greed or violence. If greed were as painful to you as the pinprick in your arm, you would instantly stop being greedy, you wouldn’t philosophize about it; and if you were really awake to the full significance of violence, you wouldn’t write volumes about non-violence – which is all nonsense, because you don’t feel it, you just talk about it. If you eat something which gives you a violent tummy ache, you don’t go on eating it, do you? You put it aside immediately. Similarly, if you once realized that envy and ambition are poisonous, vicious, cruel, as deadly as the sting of a cobra, you would awaken to them. But, you see, the mind does not want to look at these things too closely; in this area it has vested interests, and it refuses to admit that ambition, envy, greed, lust are poisonous. Therefore it says, ‘Let us discuss non-greed, non-violence, let us have ideals’ – and in the meantime it carries on with its poisons. So find out for yourself how corrupting, how destructive and poisonous these things are, and you will soon drop them; but if you merely say, ‘I must not’ and go on as before, you are playing the hypocrite. Be one thing or the other, hot or cold.