Krishnamurti on Greed
‘If I allow time to be free from greed, I am still greedy. But to understand greed, the cause of greed, is the ending of greed.’
This week’s episode on Greed has six sections.
The first extract (2:36) is from the first question and answer meeting in Bombay 1985, titled ‘We are educated to have more, more, more’.
The second extract (7:20) is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in Madras 1982, titled ‘Trying to become non-greedy is still greed’.
The third extract (17:51) is from the fourth discussion in Saanen 1976, titled ‘Observing the whole movement of greed’.
The fourth extract (26:45) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in Bombay 1981, titled ‘How do I observe greed?’
The fifth extract (38:10) is from the fourth talk at Brockwood Park in 1971, titled ‘Awareness of greed without the observer’.
The final extract (44:48) in this episode is from Krishnamurti’s first talk at Stanford 1969, titled ‘When the mind is not greedy, nothing can make it greedy’.
We Are Educated To Have More, More, More
Society says, ‘This is good.’ The commandments say, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this’ – and religions all over the world lay down a moral way of living: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t do this, don’t do that – all religions have done it. And we do quite the opposite of all that. ‘Don’t kill’ – we kill. ‘Don’t cheat’ – we cheat. ‘Don’t have double standards’ – we all do the opposite. So why do you bother about commandments, whether they are divine or not divine, whether they are straight from the horse’s mouth or not? You know that phrase? All right, I won’t use that phrase – straight from some saint or some god. Why do we accept these commandments? It seems so absurd, which means trying to live something which is not natural. So, why don’t we change what is natural, not follow commandments?
I am greedy – all right, I’m greedy. And I’m also envious and all the rest of it. I am envious, which is part of greed. I like to be envious – what is wrong with it? But the commandment says, ‘Don’t be envious, don’t look at another man’s wife,’ and so on, and all the rest of it. Why am I greedy? That’s my problem, not somebody else’s problem. So why am I greedy? Because my whole education is to have more, more, more; more money, more this, more that. Isn’t that so? The more, the better, which means comparison, which means measurement. Measurement: I compare myself with you. You are bright, intelligent, beautiful, etc.; I am not. So in comparison with you, I become dull. If I don’t compare with you, am I dull? I am what I am. I can move from there. But if I am always comparing myself with you, I become exhausted, fighting you, jealous of you. So I won’t compare at all. Have you ever done it? Never compare yourself with anything.
You know, if you have been to museums, on one side there is Michelangelo and on the other side some other painting, and so on. Can you look at that painting without comparing it with another painting? Can you see that painting, ancient painting, look at it without any side distractions, which is comparison? Just look at it. Can you look at your wife and yourself without comparing? Have you ever tried, done this, to live a life without any comparison? That is real freedom, the beginning of freedom, when there is no measurement of your becoming something.
Krishnamurti Bombay 1985, Question and Answer Meeting 1
Trying To Become Not-greedy Is Still Greed
So you have to understand how extraordinarily time is a factor in our life. There is outward time, and inwardly we have created time. That is, I hope to be something tomorrow, I hope to reach the height of spiritual nonsense, I hope to see you tomorrow. Hope. The word ‘hope’ implies time: I am this but give me time to change, to be different. I am greedy, but I need time to be free from greed. So there is this idea of inward time, a psychological time. Now, is that a fact? Is that so, or is it merely an invention to escape from actually facing ‘what is’?
I am greedy. Suppose I am greedy. I like to be greedy, but also there is in me, which has been conditioned for centuries, ‘Don’t be greedy. It is not right to be greedy, if you want to be a spiritual human being, you must not be greedy.’ I have been conditioned to that, but yet I am greedy. So I say to myself, I will eventually be free of greed. Give me time, either this life or in a future life – which again is something we have invented. We must go into that; we will later on.
I am greedy, and I must have time to be free from greed. This is what we are conditioned to through millennia. All the scriptures, everything tells you you must gradually be free of it. That is, if I allow time to be free from greed, I am pursuing greed. Obviously. But to understand greed, what is the cause of that greed, is the ending of that greed. But if I have time to say, ‘Eventually I will be free from greed,’ that is a continuation of greed. I hope this is clear.
So there is only the ending of greed, not greed trying to become something else. Greed trying to become non-greed is still greed. So thought has invented this idea of time: psychologically, spiritually, inwardly. And thought itself is time because it is born out of the accumulation of many, many millennia of knowledge, from which it acts, which is time. So can the mind, can your brain understand the nature of psychological time, that there is actually no future?
I am greed; not greed is separate from me, but I am greed. And to discover the cause of that greed, to understand the causation of that and to look at it very carefully, is the ending of that greed. Not in terms of time, but actually, immediately, instantly end greed. If you are concerned with that, we can go into it. That is, the cause of greed and envy is desire.
I desire a new car. I have got an old car, and I want a new car. Or I see you driving in a marvellous Mercedes or a new imported car, and I want to have the same thing: greed. We all know that word, what it means, the feeling of it, the desire to possess something that we haven’t got. To understand that, one must inquire very carefully into what desire is because desire is part of fear, part of time, part of our contradiction and therefore disorder. They are all interrelated; they are not something separate. They all have a cause, and the causes are all interrelated.
So in understanding what fear is, why human beings have lived for timeless ages with fear, we must go into the whole structure and nature and continuity of fear. That requires your attention, your care, your awareness, not saying, ‘Please tell me how to be free from fear’ – that is too childish. But if you understand the whole nature of it, how it comes into being, what is the structure of it, what is its movement, then you will see for yourself, if you have given your attention, your care, your observation, then you will be totally, completely free of fear. Don’t say, ‘Will I always be free of fear?’ – that is another form of greed. All that you are concerned with is the ending of fear. If another fear arises, find out why it arises, go into it. That requires constant alertness, observation, awareness. But if you say, ‘Please tell me how to end fear altogether at once’ – it is possible, but that requires an extraordinary skill of thought, skill of observation; that requires an insight into the whole nature of fear, to end it completely so that you have no fear of anything at any time. That insight into the nature of fear is not bought from a book, it cannot be taught to you, which is to memorise and apply. But if you learn about it, it is yours. You have it then, you have it in your hand, in your pocket, and then you can act.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1982, Talk 3
Observing the Whole Movement of Greed
Can I observe the total movement of greed? The total movement, the hidden as well as the conscious greed. What is movement? That’s why I said total movement of greed. Greed is a movement, it isn’t static, it is constantly moving – more, more, more, more. So can I observe the movement?
Now what do we mean by movement? Movement means from here to there. So movement means time. Time is movement. Whether chronologically or psychologically, it means movement. So as long as I have this idea of movement, which is time, time is going to prevent me from observing the whole.
K: No, he says, ‘You are not answering the question.’ He says I have moved away from the question, which is, you have introduced a new factor which is time. Then you will say, ‘How am I to stop time?’ I am not stopping anything. I am merely observing. And that is the difference. I am not asking myself how I am to stop time; I am just observing the whole factor, the whole map of greed. And one of the points which prevents me from seeing the whole map of greed is this movement – the movement to end it, the movement to pursue it, the movement which says, ‘I must stop.’ I am observing all that. In this observation of movement, I am not denying it, I am not trying to stop it; there is only observation of this movement.
So as greed is also a movement, it is part of time. ‘I haven’t got it, but I will get it.’ So I have to find out if my mind is caught in this movement.
We said consciousness contains both the conscious as well as the unconscious, and part of that consciousness is greed – or take any other thing. And so I ask, can we see the totality of greed, the total movement, the nature of it, the structure of it, how it arises? To see it clearly, not theoretically but actually. Can you see it, the origin of it and the end of it? Is there an end to greed?
I am not greedy for wealth or money, position, status and all the horrors, but I am terribly greedy to have truth, to find truth. That to me is the most important thing, and I am terribly greedy, which is part of greed. I know you don’t like to think that, but it is still greed.
So can I see the whole of it, this movement? I can only see the total movement of greed when there is no direction to get rid of it, to stop it, to suppress it. All that prevents me from looking at greed totally because, as we said, direction is fragmentary, which is a motive. The motive is fragmentary. The motive gives a direction, and therefore it is fragmentary. When I have a directive, that I must get rid of it – greed – then I have moved in a certain direction. Therefore direction prevents me from seeing the whole. That is, to suppress greed, to rationalise greed, to escape from greed, or to say, ‘I must stop greed’ – any activity which is directive prevents the seeing of the whole. So I, as a human being who wants to see the totality of consciousness with its hidden layers, must understand, have an insight into the fact that wherever there is a directive, that directive is divisive, therefore fragmentary, which will prevent the perception of the whole.
Q: That is all there is to it.
K: No, no, there is lots more to it.
78 K: No, I said greed is part of consciousness, as violence, as hope, despair, anxiety. All that is part of our consciousness. Your consciousness is the world consciousness, and so on. Part of that consciousness is greed. Can you see the movement of greed totally, not only the hidden but the obvious greed? We are saying you can only see the totality of the movement of greed when there is no direction. Which means only when there is no motive because motive gives direction. That is simple.
So if there is the demand that it is only by seeing the totality of consciousness, then also the unconscious is revealed. Then you have to observe without any direction. And that demands a certain attention, seriousness because then you end greed. Then you don’t play with greed. So you are then aware of the totality of it. But most people don’t want to give up their greed, they like their greed. It is a tremendous pleasure, to possess.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1976, Discussion 4
How Do I Observe Greed?
I am greedy, acquisitive, ambitious, competitive, and being greedy, my cultural response is not to be greedy, because the books have said it, and the gurus, if they are at all intelligent, have said it. So my response is not to be greedy, to strive after not being greedy – I am and I must not. The ‘must not’ involves time, and the factor between ‘what is’, which is greed, and ‘what should be’, is a time interval. In that time interval, a great many other factors come in. Therefore the mind is never free from greed. Whereas direct perception of the fact of greed, not the cause of it, not the explanation or the justification or the denial of it, just to observe without any movement of thought, is freedom from greed.
Perhaps of greater importance is that we live with formulas, concepts, principles, beliefs, ideals. You demand a purpose, a goal, something you want to attain or reach, don’t you? Observe it in yourself, not somebody else’s observation – actually observe it in yourself. You have beliefs, goals, purposes, conclusions? That is, you are in a confused world, living a confused life, living a contradictory life, and you say there must be clarity, there must be enlightenment, there must be hope. So there is a time interval between what you are and what you are trying to achieve. Between what you are and the principles, the conclusions, the concepts that you have, is a time interval – you will one day become that. In that time interval, other factors, other influences, other incidents happen. Therefore you can never achieve that, and therefore there is no freedom in the future. Therefore when you deny, or when you see the truth that conclusions, formulas, beliefs, ideals are the factors of time and therefore they are binding, and they do not bring freedom, then you completely wipe all that away. Then you have only ‘what is’ left, which is your greed.
Now, to look at it completely, totally, is to never suppress it, never to give explanations, never to justify, but just to observe. As you listen to those crows, you can’t do anything about it; in the same way to listen, to observe completely the fact that there is greed, and remain with it. Which means that the observer is the observed. The observer is greed and not separate from the thing he calls greed. And to see that totally. In that perception there is total freedom.
Have you understood any of this? Are you, as you are listening, learning and doing? They are all the same: listening, doing now, not when you go home. I am listening to you, and you say to me, ‘I am burdened with formulas and concepts – all my life is based on a future ideal,’ which is a fact. I learn that. I see that. And I see the implications of that statement, the meaning of it: that it is time-binding, that it brings conflict between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’. I see that the ideal can never be achieved, and I see the whole structure and the nature of conflict when I have an ideal. Seeing the truth of that, I abandon it completely; I don’t have any concept.
Please do listen to this. This is most really important: no concept, no formulas, no ideals, no principles. Therefore I am living. There is only greed, and how do I observe that greed? Do I observe it as an outsider looking in, or do I observe it without the observer? The observer is the past, the observer is the accumulated knowledge which says you must not be greedy, or justifies greed. So can this mind observe without the observer? When it so observes, perceives, there is total comprehension and freedom.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1971, Talk 2
Awareness of Greed Without the Observer
I want to watch myself; I want to know myself as deeply as possible. And I watch myself. And what is the observer who is watching? What is the nature of that observer, the structure of that observer? That observer is the past, isn’t it? The past knowledge, what he has remembered, collected, stored up – the past being the culture, the conditioning. That is the observer, who says this is right, this is wrong, this must be, this must not be, this is good, I’ll keep it, and this is bad, I mustn’t have it. So the observer is the past, and with those eyes of the past, we try to see what we are. Then we say, ‘I don’t like this, I am ugly,’ or, ‘This I will keep’ – all those discriminations, condemnations take place.
Now, can I look at myself without the eyes of the past? Then is there an observer? Then there is only the observed, there is no observer. Please just see this. I am envious, or I overeat, I am greedy, and the normal reaction is: I must not overeat, I must not be greedy, I must suppress – you know all the rest of it that follows. So in that there is the observer trying to control his greed, his envy, and all the rest of it. Now when there is an awareness of greed, of your overeating, or whatever it is, without the observer, what takes place?
I overeat – my greed; I am very greedy. Can I observe that greed without giving it a name as greed? The moment I name it, I have already fixed it in my memory as greed, which says, ‘I must get over it, I must control.’
So is there an observation of greed without the word, without justifying it, without condemning it? Which means, can I observe this thing called greed without any reaction whatsoever? To so observe is a form of discipline, not imposed by any particular pattern and therefore conformity, suppression and all the rest of it, but to observe anything, observe the movements that are in myself: greed, envy, overeating, anger, jealousy, anxiety, smoking, drinking – the whole series of actions, without condemning, justifying or naming – just to observe. Then you will see, if you so observe, the mind is no longer wasting energy. It is then aware, and therefore it has energy to deal with that which it is observing.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1971, Talk 4
When the Mind Is Not Greedy, Nothing Can Make It Greedy
Question: Can I change, as I see I must, when, for example, every day I go to the office they expect me to be ambitious, greedy, fearful? They put pressure on me to be this, and they show me that indeed I am petty, greedy, ambitious and fearful. Can I change, as I see I must, when this is what I experience?
Krishnamurti: So what is one to do? The office demands that I be ambitious, greedy, and I may not want that. And then you say, ‘What am I to do?’ Can I go to the office without being ambitious? What will you do? Can I go, belong to a structure that demands that I be afraid, aggressive, acquisitive? And if I don’t, which is, if I am not greedy – completely, I mean it – not greedy, not just verbally but actually – nothing is going to make me greedy because I have seen the truth and the falseness of greed.
When I see that clearly, can’t I go to the office and not be destroyed? It is only when I’m partially greedy that I’m caught. That is why one has to be complete, that is, completely attentive so that in that attention there is goodness which is not comparative, which is not measurable. When the mind is not greedy, no structure is going to make it greedy.
Krishnamurti at Stanford in 1969, Talk 1