What is our responsibility in the world?
You must be well aware of what is happening in the world. There is a revolt against the established order because what is called established order is nothing very great. What has the older generation built, for which, please bear in mind, each one of us is responsible? Each one of us is responsible for every war, whether it is in the East or West. Each one of us is responsible for the confusion, misery and ugliness going on in the world. When we emphasise the individual, it is not an emphasis on the individual as opposed to society. One who is very serious is neither an individual nor concerned with society but is outside the field of individuality and the structure of society – an entirely different human being. The individual is society, and society is the individual – they are indivisible.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1967, Talk 8
The common ground on which humanity stands
Question: How can the idea, ‘You are the world, and you are totally responsible for the whole of mankind,’ be justified on a rational, objective, sane basis?
Krishnamurti: I am not sure it can be rationalised on a sane, objective basis. Let’s examine it.
First of all, the earth on which we live is our earth. It is not the British earth, the French earth or the German, Russian, Indian or Chinese earth; it is our earth, on which we are all living. That is a fact. But thought has divided it racially, geographically, culturally and economically. That division is causing havoc in the world. There is no denial of that. That is rational, objective, sane. We are living on this earth, which is all our earth, though we have divided it for security reasons and various forms of patriotic, illusory ideas which eventually bring about war.
We have also said that all human consciousness is similar. Whatever part of the world we live in, we all go through a great deal of suffering and pain, great anxiety, uncertainty and fear, with occasional, or perhaps frequent, pleasure. This is the common ground on which all human beings stand. This is an irrefutable fact. We may try to dodge it or try to say it is not a fact, I am an individual, and so on, but when you look at it objectively, non-personally, not as British, French and so on, in examination you will find that your consciousness is like the consciousness of all human beings. You may be tall, you may be fair, you may have long hair, you may be black or white or pink or whatever it is, but inwardly, psychologically, we are all having a terrible time. We all have a great sense of desperate loneliness. You may have children, a husband or wife and all the rest of it, but when you are alone, you have the feeling that you have no relationship with anything, totally isolated. We are saying this is the common ground on which all humanity stands
I am the rest of mankind and I am totally responsible.
Whatever happens in the field of this consciousness, we are responsible for. That is, if I am violent, I am adding violence to that consciousness common to all of us. If I am not violent, I am not adding to it; I am bringing a totally new factor to that consciousness. So I am profoundly responsible: either to contribute to that violence, confusion and terrible division, or, as I recognise deeply in my heart, in my blood, in the depth of my being, that I am the rest of the world, that I am mankind, that I am the world and the world is not separate from me, then I become totally responsible, which is rational, objective, sane. The other is insanity, to call oneself a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Christian and all the rest of it. Those are just labels.
So when one has that feeling, that reality, the truth of it, that every human being living on this earth is responsible not only for themselves but for everything that is happening, how will one translate that in daily life? How will you translate it? If you have that feeling, not an intellectual conclusion as an ideal which has no reality, but if the truth is that you are standing on the ground common to all mankind, and you feel totally responsible, then what is your action towards society and the world in which you are living?
The world, as it is now, is full of violence. Only very, very few people escape from it. Suppose I realise I am totally responsible, then what is my action? Competitiveness between nations is destroying the world – the more powerful and the less powerful; the less powerful trying to become more powerful. Realising that I am the rest of mankind and I am totally responsible, shall I be competitive? Please answer these questions. When I feel responsible for this, naturally I cease to be competitive. The religious, economic and social world is based on hierarchical principles. Shall I also have this hierarchical outlook? Obviously not. When one says, ‘I know,’ and the other says, ‘I don’t know,’ the one who knows is taking a superior position and has status. If you want status, go after it, but you are contributing to the confusion of the world.
There is actual, objective, sane action when you perceive, when you realise in your heart of hearts, in the depth of your being, that you are the rest of mankind and that we are all standing on the same ground.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Q&A Meeting 1
AUDIO: Facing the fact that we are the world and the world is us
We are responsible for everything happening in the world
When belief is stronger than affection and love, you are the very cause of destruction.
I am not merely throwing out a lot of words for you to listen to, but rather in talking over together, as we are doing now, perhaps we shall be able to clarify our confused state of mind and emotion. So, I hope you will follow not merely verbally because that has very little meaning, or intellectually which also has very little significance, but really follow it, as though it was actually happening. I feel that the responsibility does not lie in anyone for any crisis. It lies with you and with me. To understand any crisis, like the present one which is localised to India, we ought to approach it diligently, with intensity, with clarity, with the intention to go very fully into it and see all its significance and depths.
Question: What are the real causes of Mahatma Gandhi’s untimely death?
Krishnamurti: I wonder what your reaction was when you heard the news. What was your response? Were you concerned as a personal loss or as an indication of world events, the world’s trend? If it was a personal, identified loss, then we have to look at it very carefully, intelligently and purposefully. If it was an indication of the trend of events in the world crisis, that has to be closely followed. So, we can approach this problem in those two ways, either as a personal loss or as an indication of the whole catastrophe that is taking place in the world. If it is identification, a personal loss, then it has quite a different significance. There is in all of us the tendency to identify with something greater, whether it is the nation, a person, an idea, an image, or a superior consciousness. It is so much more worldly to be identified with a group, a nation or a person representing the nation. When anything happens to that person, idea, group or nation, there is a shattering responsibility. Aren’t you feeling it?
The desire to identify is obvious, because in oneself one is nothing, empty, shallow, petty, and by identifying oneself with a country, leader or group, one becomes something, one is something. This identification is the very danger because it leads to the most extraordinary barbarities in history and our daily life. If you identify yourself with a country, community, a group of people, with the communalistic spirit or an idea, then surely you are responsible for any calamity that happens. Because the calamity, crisis or catastrophe is created by that very identification. If you are merely an instrument of identification, then you are used. What are the contributory causes I have given to bring about this misery, catastrophe, this incident?
War is justified because we think it is going to bring us peace.
We are responsible for everything that is happening in the world at present. These are not unrelated incidents but are related. The real cause of this untimely death lies in you. The real cause is you. Because you are communalistic, you encourage the spirit of division through property, caste, ideology, through having different religions, sects and leaders. So, you are responsible, aren’t you? It is no good merely hanging one person – you have all contributed. The question is, in what way? I do not include myself in this because I am not a communalist. I am not Hindu or Indian. I am not nationalistic or internationalistic. I am excluding myself from it not because I am superior but because I do not think in those terms at all, of belonging to one group or one religion or having a property. So I am deliberately, consciously excluding myself. The other way leads to misery: the identification with a group, a nation, a community or with property. Such identification leads to murders, disasters, chaos, and you are responsible for it because you believe in Hinduism or are a Parsee, Buddhist or Muslim, which is division and isolation. So, since you have identified, you are responsible. You are the real cause of this murder. I am not being dramatic, which would be too absurd; but that is the fact, is it not? So, the real cause is you, not a mysterious, untimely cause. It is inevitable. When a so-called nation is made up of separate groups, each seeking power, position, authority, intrigue, wealth, you are bound to produce not one person’s death, but thousands and millions of deaths. This touches the fundamental issue of whether human beings can exist in identified isolation; which history has shown over and over again is destruction to man.
If you observe so-called organised religion, it is based essentially on isolation and separatism: the Christian, the Hindu, the Muslim and the Buddhist. Surely you are responsible when you worship one image, or no image, when you prevent somebody going into your temples, as though in the temple lies reality. Please, I am not haranguing – we are interested in finding the truth of the matter. To find the truth, we must think very closely and directly, as you are responsible for it. The obvious fact is when you have a religion it creates conflict between man and man. When belief is stronger than affection and love, you are the very cause of destruction, whether it is belief in God or an ideology, communalism or nationalism. I do not know if you feel the extraordinary importance of all this. Think it out very clearly, don’t hide behind words.
Another fact of division is property, the sense of acquisitiveness. Property in itself has very little meaning: you can sleep only in one room. But the whole implication of position, of acquisition, possession and ownership, making yourself secure when everybody around you is insecure, surely that is one of the causes of the appalling misery in the world. It is not that you must give up property, but let’s be aware of its significance and meaning in action. When one is aware of it, one naturally gives up these things. It is not difficult to renounce; it is not a travail to give up property when you see directly that your relationship to property leads to misery, not to one person but millions. You fight over property. Property as a means of personal aggrandisement or self-continuity gives you position, power, prestige. Without property, you are nothing. Therefore property becomes extraordinarily important, and you are prepared to kill, maim, destroy people. Similarly, organised religion becomes very important. Without belief, where are we? Without calling yourself by a communalistic, isolating name, where are you? You would be lost.
So, because you feel a threat to yourself, you identify with property, belief, or ideology, and so on, which breeds inevitable destruction. We try to isolate ourselves from others in many different ways. This isolation is the real cause of what is happening in the world. So, you are responsible. This has world significance. We have accepted evil as a means to good. We justify. War is justified because we think it is going to bring us peace – not only war between two people but the whole intention behind war. We justify war, and the trend of the world is in that direction as if there is going to be peace at the end.
One notices across the world a sense of utter lack of love.
This recent event is an indication of the tendencies of human beings to sacrifice the present for the future. We are going to create a marvellous world, but in the meantime, we are going to butcher you. You don’t matter; the idea matters. The future is uncertain, changeable, liable to be modified, and I am sacrificing you in the present for an unknown future. It is the greatest form of illusion, and that is one of the tendencies of the world taking place. I have an ideological future for which human beings are sacrificed. To save man, they are killing man, and we are caught in that. You want future security. Therefore you are destroying the present security. Understanding is only in the present, not in the future. Now. Now is comprehension, not tomorrow.
One notices across the world a sense of utter lack of love in human beings – not a mysterious love of the supreme and all that sop, but ordinary love. There are plenty of sensations, sexual, intellectual or environmental, but actual affection for somebody, to love somebody with your whole being, does not exist for the obvious reason that we have cultivated the intellect. You are marvellous at passing examinations, spinning out theories, speculating on the market, minting money, which are all indications of the foundations of the intellect. When the intellect becomes supreme, you are bound to have disaster. The heart is empty, and you fill it with words and the fabrications of the intellect. That is what one notices to an extraordinary extent in the world at present. Are you not full of theories, either of the left or the right, how to solve the problems of the world? But your heart is empty, isn’t it? And surely the problem is very simple when you actually look at it, very sincerely: as long as you are identified with property, name, caste, governments, communities, ideologies or beliefs, you are bound to create destruction and misery in the world.
If there is to be peace in the world, you yourself have to be peaceful.
So, the real cause of this murder is you. You are the individual who has brought about this killing of man by man. It is recognised as a fair means during war – organised murder on a grand scale – but when it is done to one person, you are horrified. Is it not true that you have lost all sensitivity, all real values and significance of existence? To understand this question, we have to radically transform ourselves, because that is what is needed to revolutionise our ways of thinking, feeling and acting absolutely. We want to bring a revolution in action, which has no meaning at all because there is no revolution in you and your feeling. Since you are responsible, since you are the cause, to prevent future murders you have to change radically, and not talk about gods and theories, karma and reincarnation, but be actually aware of what is taking place within yourself. And since it is extremely difficult and arduous to be aware, you spin out theories and escape through property, name, family, and all the rest of the absurdities that bring about destruction.
So, since you are responsible for this murder and past and future murders, whether of one person or millions, you have to change. You have to become transformed, not by beginning at a distance but by beginning very close, by observing the ways of your thinking, feeling and acting every day. That is the only way to bring about transformation, that is if you are interested and serious-minded. But if you are emotionally excited by events, if you have been drugged by the political harangues of so many years, naturally you will have little response. But whether you like it or not, you are responsible for the miseries outside, because in yourself you are miserable, confused, anxious, and without love.
Question: Is a third world war inevitable?
Krishnamurti: There is no such thing as inevitability, is there? A country, being aware of its weakness or its strength, can say, ‘No, we are not going to fight.’ There is no inevitability about war, but it looks very much like that because the issues involved are so vast. Ideologies are at war, the right and the left. There is the ideology which says that matter moves of itself, and the ideology which says that matter is moved, acted upon by the divine idea. On the one side, there is the idea of God acting upon matter, and on the other, the idea that matter itself is in movement and producing outside circumstances, and therefore rigid control of the environment is important. I am not discussing the ideologies, whether they are right or wrong, but these two ideas are diametrically opposed – at least they think they are opposed. This brings up a very complex problem: whether the left is based on the right; whether every opposite is the continuation of its own opposite. When two strong parties are each determined to have position and power, naturally it is going to destroy man, who is caught in between. That is what is happening in this country and your own family. When you dominate your wife or husband, when you are possessive, when you cling to power in a small circle, are you not contributing to world chaos? When belief in nationalism dominates you, when your country becomes of supreme importance, which is happening in every nation, then is not a catastrophe of great destruction inevitable?
If we change in our relationship, society changes.
The very existence of an army is an indication of war. It is the function of the general to prepare for war; and when you have developed a weapon like the atomic bomb, where are you going to experiment with it? Again, war is directly related to us. If you are a nationalist, you are contributing to war. If you have enclosed yourself in property, you are contributing to war. If nationalism or communalism, your country or your group, becomes the most important thing, obviously you are contributing to war. Our very existence every day is producing war because we have no peace at all. If there is to be peace in the world, you yourself have to be peaceful. If I want to be peaceful with you, I must be adaptable and considerate; I must not be dominating. But if neither you nor I are adaptable, if we insist on dominating, it is bound to produce a catastrophe.
An American lady came to see me a couple of years ago, during the war. She said she lost her son in Italy, and that she had another son aged 16 whom she wanted to save. We discussed and talked the thing over. I suggested to her that to save her son she had to cease to be an American, cease to be greedy, cease piling up wealth, seeking power, domination, and be morally simple, simple in her thoughts, feelings and relationships. She said, ‘That is too much. You are asking far too much. I cannot do it, because circumstances are too powerful for me to alter.’ Therefore she was responsible for the destruction of her son. Circumstances can be controlled by us because we have created the circumstances. Society is the product of relationship, of yours and mine together. If we change in our relationship, society changes. But merely to rely on legislation and compulsion for the transformation of society while remaining inwardly corrupt and seeking power, position and domination, is to destroy the outer, however carefully and scientifically built. That which is inward is always overcoming the outward.
We can transform ourselves. It is not difficult if we put our minds and hearts into it.
So, again, the inevitability or cessation of war depends upon us, upon you and me. We can change, can’t we? We can transform ourselves. It is not difficult if we put our minds and hearts into it. But we are too sluggish. We leave it to the other. We want easy ways, undisturbed thoughts, inward security. Desiring inward security, we seek it through outward things, through property, belief, temples, churches, mosques. When you seek inward security, you create insecurity. By the very desire to be psychologically secure, you create destruction. That is obvious – it has been repeated in history over and over again. Outward security is essential – food, clothing and shelter – we want to be psychologically secure; so we use food, clothing, shelter, and ideas, as a means of psychological security – which therefore brings destruction.
So, it is up to you and me to prevent what seems to be inevitable. Wars are inevitable as long as individual human beings are in conflict with each other, which is an indication that they are in conflict within themselves. We want transformation through legislation, through outward revolution, through systems, but yet we are inwardly untransformed. Inwardly we are disturbed and confused. Without bringing order, peace and happiness inwardly, we cannot have peace and happiness outwardly in the world.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1948, Talk 3
AUDIO: If freedom is responsibility, how do I act?
Questioner: There are many problems – social, economic, national – which I am not responsible for.
Krishnamurti: There is starvation, there are misery, poverty, disease, terrible things of which you know nothing. Who is responsible for it? You know, through automation, through the perfection of the computer, through cybernetics, and so on, science is now able to free man from the drudgery of certain kinds of work. Science can give food, clothing and shelter to the whole world; but why is it not being done? It is because we are nationalistic. The glory of France, the way of life of the Americans, Indian nationalism, the imperialism of the communists as well as of the capitalists – all these things are separating man economically. And religiously man is separated by his beliefs. Here in the West, you believe in Christianity or a particular saviour, and in Asia they don’t believe that but have their own beliefs. So man is divided by nationalism, racialism, economic pressures and by so-called religion. And we are all responsible for it. You are a nationalist, you are very proud of being English, or God knows what else, proud of your tradition. It is this that is separating people. So you and I will cease to be responsible for the misery in the world only when we are free from nationalism and racialism, and only when there is order in ourselves.
To put it differently, we are human beings, not individuals. Individuality is an old-fashioned idea, a stupid idea. We are human beings, burdened with all the problems of every other human being, whether in Asia, Europe or America. But if as a human being, I understand the whole structure of my society and my way of life, with its problems and everything else, then there is freedom from that image. Therefore order is brought about, and I am no longer responsible for the world’s misery. I am outside society, and therefore I can help society. I don’t want to reform society; I am not a social reformer. One must extricate oneself, be free from society so that a new group of human beings will arise, and therefore a new structure of society can be formed. You cannot reform the old society; that is merely retrogression.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1965, Talk 2
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