What Is the Difference Between Indian Culture and American Culture?

From Krishnamurti’s Book THINK ON THESE THINGS

Questioner: What is the difference between Indian culture and American culture? Krishnamurti: When we talk about American culture we generally mean the European culture which was transplanted in America, a culture which has since become modified and extended in meeting new frontiers, physical as well as mental. And what is Indian culture? What is the culture which you have here? What do you mean by the word ‘culture’? If you have ever done any gardening you know how you cultivate and prepare the soil. You dig, remove rocks, and if necessary you add compost, a decomposed mixture of leaves, hay, manure, and other kinds of organic matter, to make the soil rich, and then you plant. The rich soil gives nourishment to the plant, and the plant gradually produces that marvellously lovely thing called a rose. Now, the Indian culture is like that. Millions of people have produced it by their struggles, by exercising their will, by wanting this and resisting that, constantly thinking, suffering, fearing, avoiding, enjoying; also climate, food and clothing have had their influence on it. So we have here an extraordinary soil, the soil being the mind; and before it was completely moulded, there were a few vital, creative people who exploded all over Asia. They did not say, as you do, “I must accept the edicts of society. What will my father think if I do not?” On the contrary, they were people who had found something and they were not lukewarm, they were hot about it. Now, the whole of that is the Indian culture. What you think, the food you eat, the clothes you put on, your manners, your traditions, your speech, your paintings and statues, your gods, your priests and your sacred books – all that is the Indian culture, is it not? So the Indian culture is somewhat different from the European culture, but underneath the movement is the same. This movement may express itself differently in America, because the demands are different there; there is less tradition and they have more refrigerators, cars, and so on. But it is the same movement underneath – the movement to find happiness, to find out what God, what truth is; and when this movement stops, culture declines, as it has done in this country. When this movement is blocked by authority, by tradition, by fear, there is decay, deterioration. The urge to find out what truth is, what God is, is the only real urge, and all other urges are subsidiary. When you throw a stone into still water, it makes expanding circles. The expanding circles are the subsidiary movements, the social reactions, but the real movement is at the centre, which is the movement to find happiness, God, truth; and you cannot find it as long as you are caught in fear, held by a threat. From the moment there is the arising of threat and fear, culture declines. That is why it is very important, while you are young, not to become conditioned, not to be held in by fear of your parents, of society, so that there is in you this timeless movement to discover what is truth. The men who seek out what is truth, what is God – only such men can create a new civilization, a new culture; not the people who conform, or who merely revolt within the prison of the old conditioning. You may put on the robes of an ascetic, join this society or that, leave one religion for another, try in various ways to be free; but unless there is within you this movement to find out what is the real, what is truth, what is love your efforts will be without significance. You may be very learned and do the things which society calls good, but they are all within the prison walls of tradition and therefore of no revolutionary value at all. Questioner: What do you think of Indians? Krishnamurti: That is really an innocent question, is it not? To see facts without opinion is one thing, but to have opinions about facts is totally another. It is one thing just to see the fact that a whole people are caught in superstition, but quite another to see that fact and condemn it. Opinions are not important, because I will have one opinion, you will have another, and a third person will have still another. To be concerned with opinions is a stupid form of thinking. What is important is to see facts as they are without opinion, without judging, without comparing. To feel beauty without opinion is the only real perception of beauty. Similarly, if you can see the people of India just as they are, see them very clearly without fixed opinions, without judging, then what you see will be real. The Indians have certain manners, certain customs of their own, but fundamentally they are like any other people. They get bored, they are cruel, they are afraid, they revolt within the prison of society, just as people do everywhere else. Like the Americans, they also want comfort, only at present they do not have it to the same extent. They have a heavy tradition about renouncing the world and trying to be saintly; but they also have deep-rooted ambitions, hypocrisy, greed, envy, and they are broken up by castes, as human beings are everywhere else, only here it is much more brutal. Here in India, you can see more closely the whole phenomenon of what is happening in the world. We want to be loved, but we don’t know what love is; we are unhappy, thirsting for something real, and we turn to books, to the Upanishads, the Gita, or the Bible, so we get lost in words, in speculations. Whether it is here, in Russia or in America, the human mind is similar, only it expresses itself in different ways under different skies and different governments.