Krishnamurti on Mental Health
How is mental health to be measured, and what does it mean to be truly healthy?
Having been taboo for decades, if not centuries, mental health is now being widely discussed. During these exceptional times of pandemic, many of us are confronted with psychological problems related to isolation, anxiety, loneliness, frustrations, addictions, insecurities, depression, fears and worry – issues regularly addressed by Krishnamurti. Throughout his talks and discussions, Krishnamurti reveals that we are conditioned to have problems and that taking them personally may be a fundamental error. Moreover, the realisation that one’s loneliness, for example, is common to all humanity, is essential to understanding it, being free of it and learning what it is to be fundamentally secure and well in an uncertain world.
‘It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society’ is perhaps Krishnamurti’s best-known quote, shared widely across the internet. Although we cannot attribute these exact words to Krishnamurti, he made similar statements over the decades, and it is a theme he returned to repeatedly. So, if not in relation to society, how is health, specifically mental health, to be measured, and what does it mean to be truly healthy? As we shall see in this article, a specially selected collection of text and video extracts, Krishnamurti’s notion of mental health goes way beyond that of society’s, challenging the limited approach of analysts, psychologists and religions, revealing an unshakable order, harmony and sanity.
The pursuit of the psychoanalyst has become a hobby of the well-to-do. You may not go to a psychoanalyst but you go through the same process in a different way when you look to a religious organisation, to a leader or to a discipline to free you from fixations, inhibitions and complexes. These methods may succeed in creating superficial effects, but they inevitably develop new resistances against the movement of life. No person or technique can free one from these limitations. To experience that freedom, one must comprehend life deeply and discern for oneself the process of creating and maintaining ignorance and illusion. This demands alertness and keen perception, not the mere acceptance of a technique. But as one is slothful, one depends on another for comprehension and thereby increase sorrow and confusion. The comprehension of this process of ignorance and its self-sustaining activities can alone bring about deep, abiding bliss.
Krishnamurti in New York 1936, Talk 2
Question: How do people become neurotic?
Krishnamurti: How do we know they are neurotic? Please, this is a very serious question. Neurotic – what does that mean? A little odd, unclear, confused, slightly off-balance? Unfortunately, most of us are slightly off-balance. No? You aren’t quite sure! Aren’t you off-balance if you are a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist or a communist? Aren’t you neurotic when you enclose yourself with your problems, build a wall around yourself because you think you are better than somebody else? Aren’t you off-balance when your life is full of resistance – me and you, we and they, and all the other divisions? Aren’t you neurotic in the office when you want to be better than another?
Most of us are slightly off-balance, but it is no use blaming anybody.
So, how does one become neurotic? Does society make you neurotic? That is the simplest explanation – my father or mother, my neighbour, the government, the army, everybody makes me neurotic. Are they all responsible for my being off-balance? And when I go to the analyst for help, poor chap, he’s also neurotic like me. Please, don’t laugh; this is exactly what is happening in the world. So why do I become neurotic? Everything in the world, as it exists now, the society, the family, the parents, the children, have no love. Do you think there would be wars if we had love? Do you think there would be governments that consider it is perfectly all right for you to be killed? Such a society would not exist if your mother and father really loved you, cared for you, looked after you and taught you how to be kind, how to live and how to love. These are the outer pressures and demands that bring about this neurotic society. There are also the inner compulsions and urges within ourselves, our innate violence inherited from the past, that help to make up this neurosis, this imbalance.
So this is the fact: most of us are slightly off-balance, or more, but it is no use blaming anybody. The fact is that one is not balanced psychologically, mentally or sexually – in every way, we are off-balance. The important thing is to become aware of it, to know that one is not balanced, not how to become balanced. A neurotic mind cannot become balanced, but if it has not gone to the extremes of neurosis, if it has still retained some balance, it can watch itself. One can then become aware of what one does, what one says, what one thinks, how one moves, how one sits, how one eats – watching all the time but not correcting. If you watch in such a manner, without any choice, then out of that deep watching will come a balanced, sane, human being. Then you will no longer be neurotic. A balanced mind is a mind that is wise, not made up of judgments and opinions.
From the book You Are The World
VIDEO: I realise I act neurotically, but the neurosis remains. What can I do?
Is it possible to be free of suffering?
What is suffering? Why do human beings suffer? This has been one of the great problems of life for millions of years, and very, very few have gone beyond suffering. Those that do become heroes or saviours, or some kind of neurotic leaders, or religious leaders, and there they remain. But ordinary human beings like you and me, we never seem to go beyond it. We seem to be caught in it. We are asking whether it is possible to be really free of suffering.
One of the major reasons for suffering is a sense of isolation.
There are various kinds of suffering – the physical and the various psychological movements of suffering; the ordinary pains through disease, old age, ill-health, bad diet and so on, and the enormous field of psychological suffering. Can you be aware of that field? Can you know the structure, nature and function of suffering intimately? How does it operate? What are its results? It cripples the mind and encloses self-centred activity more and more. Is one aware of all that?
We are considering psychological suffering, which humanity has not been able to resolve. We have been able to escape from it through various channels – religious, economic, social activity, political activity, business, various forms of escapes, drugs – every form of escape but not confronting the actual fact of suffering. Is it possible for the mind to be completely free of the psychological activity that brings about suffering?
One of the major reasons for this suffering is a sense of isolation, which is the feeling of total loneliness, which is to feel that you have nothing to depend upon, a sense that you have no relationship with anyone, that you are totally isolated. You have had this feeling, I am quite sure. You may be with your family, on a bus or at a party, but you have moments of an extraordinary sense of isolation, an extraordinary sense of lack, of total nothingness. That is one of the reasons. And psychological suffering also comes through attachment, attachment to an idea or ideal, to opinions or beliefs, to persons or concepts. Please observe this in yourself. The words are the mirror in which you are looking, which shows your own mind’s operations. So look there.
Another cause of suffering is a great sense of loss. Loss of prestige, loss of power, and loss of so many things – the loss of somebody you think you love. That is the ultimate suffering. Can the mind be free of all this? Otherwise, do what it will, it cannot possibly know a sense of love for the whole. If there is no love for the whole of existence, which is not only yours but of all humanity, there is no compassion. Then you will never understand what love is.
So it is imperative that we understand and go beyond suffering. Is this possible? Is it possible for the mind to understand this sense of deep inward loneliness? There is a difference between loneliness and being deeply alone. We will understand what it means to be alone when we understand the significance of loneliness. When we feel lonely, it is rather frightening and depressing and brings various kinds of moods. Without escaping, without rationalising, can you observe loneliness without any movement of escape? If I feel lonely, with all the implications involved in it, the escapes and attachments, can I look at it without any movement of escape? Can I be aware of it without rationalising it, without trying to find the cause of it, just to observe? In that observation, I discover escape is through attachment to an idea, concept or belief. Can I be aware of that belief and see how it is an escape? When I observe it quietly, the escape and the belief disappear without any effort.
The moment you introduce effort, there is the observer and the observed, and therefore conflict. But when you are aware of all the implications of loneliness, there is no observer but only the fact of feeling utterly isolated. This isolation also takes place through my daily activity of ambition, greed, envy, concern with my desire to fulfil, become somebody or improve myself. I am so very concerned with my beastly little self, and that is part of my loneliness. During the day, and during sleep, in all the activities I do, I am so concerned about myself: me and you, we and they. I am concerned, committed to myself. I want to do things for myself in the name of my nation, my God, my family, and all the nonsense that goes on.
So, loneliness comes into being through the daily activities of self-concern. When I become aware of all the implications of loneliness, I see all this. I see it, not theorise about it. When I look at something, the details come out. When I look closely at a tree, river or mountain, or a person, I see everything in that observation. It tells me; I don’t tell it. So when you so observe, or when you are so greatly aware, without any choice, of loneliness, the thing disappears altogether.
Become aware of all the implications of loneliness.
Another cause of suffering is attachment. I may be attached to you as an audience because you feed me psychologically, and I feel tremendously excited, elevated, so I am attached. Or I am attached to a person, an idea, an opinion, to tradition and so on. Why is the mind attached? Have you ever gone into this? It is attached to furniture or a house, attached to a wife or husband, attached to God knows what. Why? This is one of the reasons for great suffering. And being attached and finding it is painful, we try to cultivate detachment, which is another horror.
So why is the mind attached? An attachment is a form of occupation for the mind. If I am attached to you, I am thinking about you; I am concerned about you in my self-centred way because I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to be free; I don’t want you to do something which disturbs my attachment. In that attachment, I feel at least temporarily secure. So in attachment there is fear, jealousy, anxiety and suffering. Just look at it, don’t say, ‘What am I to do?’ because you cannot do anything. If you try to do something about your attachment, you create another form of attachment. So just observe it. When you are attached, you dominate that person, you want to control them, and you deny them freedom. When you are attached, you deny freedom altogether.
So, seeing loneliness and attachment are causes of sorrow, is it possible for the mind to be free of them? Which doesn’t mean that the mind becomes indifferent. We are concerned with the whole of existence, not just our own existence. Therefore I must respond, answer to the whole, and not my particular little desire to be attached to you to try to get over my anxiety and pain. Our concern is to find this quality of love, which can only come into being when the mind is concerned with the whole and not with the particular. When it is concerned with the whole, there is love, and then from the whole, the particular has a place.
So is my mind, your mind, your consciousness capable of looking at this fact, looking at it, seeing what extraordinary misery it causes, not only to another but to oneself? It is only with the ending of suffering that wisdom comes into being. Wisdom is not a thing that you buy in books or that you learn from another. Wisdom comes in the understanding of suffering and all the implications of suffering, not only the personal but also the human suffering, which we have created. Only when you go beyond it does wisdom comes into being.
Psychologically we human beings are greatly hurt. We have deep wounds, unconscious and conscious wounds, either self-inflicted or caused by others, at school, at home, at work. We are hurt, and that deep hurt, conscious or unconscious, makes us psychologically insensitive and dull. Watch your own hurt, if you can. A gesture, a word, a look is enough to hurt. And you are hurt when you are compared with somebody else or when you try to imitate somebody. When you are conforming to a pattern, you are hurt, whether that pattern is set by another or by yourself. So we human beings are deeply wounded, and those wounds bring about neurotic activity. Is it possible to understand these hurts and be free of them, and never be hurt again under any circumstances? Can these wounds be wiped away without leaving a mark? Watch it, please. Don’t look somewhere else; look at yourself. You have these wounds. Can they be wiped away, not leaving a mark? The other problem is never to be hurt. If there is a hurt, you are not sensitive, and you will never know what beauty is. You can go to all the museums in the world, compare Michelangelo, Picasso and whatever you like, be experts explanations, in the study of these people and their paintings, but as long as a human mind is hurt and therefore insensitive, it will never know what beauty is. And without beauty there is no love.
By putting aside an accepted tradition the mind has become free.
Can your mind know it has been hurt and not react to those hurts at the conscious and unconscious levels? Can it know these hurts, be aware of them? It is fairly easy to be aware of conscious hurts but can you know your unconscious hurts? Or must you go through the idiotic process of analysis? Analysis implies the analyser and the analysed. Who is the analyser? Is he different from the analysed? If he is different, why is he different? Who created the analyser to be different from the analysed? If he is different, how can he know what the thing is? The analyser is the analysed. That is so obvious. To analyse, each analysis must be totally complete. If there is any slight misunderstanding, you cannot analyse completely. Analysis implies time: for the rest of your life you can analyse, and you will be still analysing as you die.
So how is the mind to uncover the unconscious, deep wounds, and the wounds the race has collected? When the conqueror subjugates the victim, he has hurt him. That is a racial hurt. The imperialist, the maker of empires, leaves a deep, unconscious hurt on those whom he has conquered. It is there. How is the mind to uncover all these hidden hurts, deep in the recesses of one’s consciousness? I see the fallacy of analysis, so there is no analysis. There is no analysis. Our tradition is to analyse but I have put aside this tradition. So what has happened to the mind when it has denied or put aside, seen the falseness of analysis? It is free of that burden. Therefore it has become sensitive. It is lighter, clearer, and it can observe more sharply. So by putting aside an accepted tradition – analysis, introspection and all the rest of it – the mind has become free. And by denying the tradition, you have denied the content of the unconscious. The unconscious is the tradition – the tradition of religion, the tradition of marriage, the tradition of, oh, a dozen things. And one of the traditions is to accept hurt, and having accepted hurt, analyse it to get rid of it. Now when you deny that, you have denied the content of the unconscious. Therefore you are free of the unconscious hurts. You don’t have to analyse or go through dreams and all the rest of it.
So the mind, by observing the hurt and not using the traditional instruments to try to wipe away that hurt, which is analysis, talking it over, you know, all the business that goes on, group therapy or individual therapy, you wipe away by being aware of tradition. When you deny that tradition, you deny the hurt which accepts that tradition. So the mind then becomes extraordinarily sensitive – the mind being the body, the heart, the brain, the nerves. The total thing becomes sensitive. So now the mind is free. It has gone beyond this sense of suffering. It is a mind free from all hurt and therefore never capable of being hurt again, under any circumstances. Whether it is flattered or insulted, nothing can touch it. Which doesn’t mean it has built a resistance. On the contrary, it is excellently vulnerable.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1974, Talk 5
Question: What do you mean when you say that analysis refuses action?
Krishnamurti: What is action? The seeing and the doing, isn’t it? Action is not broken-up into an idea, a gap, and action. Action means the doing. The doing, not having done or will do; it is the doing, the active present. If I have a formula about action, there is a gap between the formula and action, and therefore there is a contradiction, and therefore action is never complete. In the same way, analysis denies action.
Analysis implies time. Analysis implies the division between the analyser and the analysed. When there is the analyser analysing, it is postponing action. There is incompleteness when there is a division between the analyser and the analysed. But when the analyser is the analysed, the observer the observed, there is action that is complete.
When I see something dangerous, like a precipice, a wild animal, a snake, there is immediate action, isn’t there? The mind perceives the danger. But we don’t perceive the danger of nationality, we don’t perceive the danger of religious organisations, beliefs and propaganda. Therefore we go on. If we see the danger of it, there is immediate action. Therefore, in the deep sense of that word, analysis negates action – the action being the doing immediately of anything.
VIDEO: How do I deal with deep-rooted fear?
To be sane in a world of insanity
See the whole pattern of fear, its results and its interrelated causes. You are afraid of your neighbour, you are afraid of your wife or husband, of death, of losing your job or falling ill, of not having enough money in old age, or that your wife or husband might run away. Fear. Fear which each one of us has. If it is not understood, it leads to every form of distortion, to mental illnesses. The man who says that he is great like Napoleon is mentally unbalanced, as is the man who is pursuing masters and gurus or the ideological patterns of existence. All that is unbalanced, mental illness.
To be sane is an extraordinarily difficult thing in a world of insanity, in a world in which people are mentally ill. Think of the absurdity of the churches with their dogmas and beliefs – not only the Christian belief but the Hindu, Islamic and Buddhist beliefs, which millions of people cherish. It is all ill health, mental illness born of fear. You might sneer at the dogma the Catholics believe in, for example that the Virgin Mary went physically to heaven. You say, ‘What absurdity!’ But you have your own forms of absurdity, so don’t brush it aside. We know the causes of it. We know the extraordinary subtleties of it. By considering one fear, the fear of death, the fear of the neighbour, the fear of your wife or husband dominating over you, will that open the door? That is all that matters – not how to be free of it; because the moment you open the door, fear is completely wiped away.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1961, Discussion
Question: What is a lasting way to solve a psychological problem?
Krishnamurti: There are three stages of awareness, are there not, in any human problem? First, being aware of the cause and effect of the problem; second, being aware of its dual or contradictory process; and third, being aware of self and experiencing the thinker and thought as one.
Take any problem that you have: for example, anger. Be aware of its cause, physiological and psychological. Anger may arise from nervous tiredness and tension; it may arise from certain conditioning of thought-feeling, fear, dependence or craving for security, and so on; it may arise through bodily and emotional pain. Many of us are aware of the conflict of the opposites, but because of pain or disturbance due to conflict, we instinctively seek to be rid of it violently or in varieties of subtle ways. We are concerned with escaping from the struggle rather than with understanding it. This desire to be rid of the conflict gives strength to its continuity, and so maintains contradiction. It is this desire that must be watched and understood. Yet it is difficult to be alertly passive in the conflict of duality; we condemn or justify, compare or identify; so we are ever choosing sides and thus maintaining the cause of conflict. To be choicelessly aware of the conflict of duality is arduous, but it is essential if you would transcend the problem.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1945, Talk 5
Total harmony in the mind
Dreams are a continuation of your daily activity, the daily movement of thought, daily anxiety, the daily sense of loneliness, anxiety and fear. The same movement goes on while you are asleep, in the form of symbols. If you observe your daily life, which is confused, which is dependent psychologically, which has so many hurts, you see this continues while asleep. Would you have dreams if, during the day, you had order in your life? Order being the observation of disorder, not an artificial order created by society, by fear or by religious sanctions, or by what you think is order, which becomes mechanical.
The brain can only function when it is completely secure. You can find security in some kind of neurotic belief or neurotic activity, or a neurotic state. True security comes into being when there is total order in your life. That total order can only take place when you have observed very closely the disorder in which you live, psychologically as well as physically. When there is total order, there may be superficial, meaningless dreams that have no value at all, but the mind is totally rested and wakes up fresh and clear.
When you sleep in total order, that means total harmony in the mind, the body and the heart. When there is total harmony, the mind rejuvenates itself in sleep, becoming young, fresh, and innocent. Innocence means a mind that can never be hurt. Only such a mind is in complete harmony, and only such a mind can understand that which is immeasurable.
Krishnamurti in San Francisco 1973, Talk 2
Krishnamurti Foundation Trust
Hampshire SO24 0LQ
Telephone: +44 1962 771525
Company Registration No. 1055588
Registered Charity No. 312865
© 2021 Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd