Krishnamurti on Sorrow
‘What is sorrow? Why does one suffer? Will the discovery of the cause of suffering end suffering?’
This week’s episode on Sorrow has three sections.
This first extract (2:58) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1972, titled ‘What is sorrow?’
The second extract (33:23) is from the first question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1980, titled ‘Is suffering necessary?’
The final extract (53:44) in this episode is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in Ojai 1985, titled ‘There can be no sorrow with love’.
What Is Sorrow?
We ought to go into the question of suffering – not only the physical ailments, the pain, old age, disease and accident, but also the whole psychological meaning of suffering. This has been one of the great problems of human beings, and apparently one has not been able to solve it. One has run away from it, given various explanations; and explanations are never the real thing. One has avoided it, rationalised it, but it still remains. If we could spend a little time together over this question, perhaps it might be very beneficial.
The Christian world has accepted sorrow and worships it in the form of a person. The Eastern world has various logical and illogical explanations. But man remains in sorrow, not only personal sorrow but also the immense collective sorrow, the sorrow of wars. In Vietnam, thousands are being killed, and children are being burnt. Not only Vietnam – during the last war, millions were killed in Russia under Stalin. You know all that business. And there is this immense collective sorrow; it is like an enormous cloud. Also there is personal, individual, human sorrow, which is caused by a sense of frustration, not being able to resolve any problems of our life, always living in ignorance – ignorance not in the sense of book knowledge but ignorance of oneself, of what is going on within.
Apparently, when one considers all this, quite objectively, non-sentimentally, why is it man, that is, you and I, human beings right throughout the world, have not been able to resolve this question of sorrow? Without going beyond sorrow, there is no love. Sorrow creates a circle around itself, either through self-pity, through the sense of frustration, through comparison: I was happy, and I am not now; the sorrow of losing somebody whom you think you love. This whole question of human sorrow, collective, the result of appalling human behaviour towards other human beings; what the wars have done, what tyrannies have done, not only recent tyrannies but of the past – when you put all this together, your own particular sorrow and the enormous sorrow of mankind, one observes how mankind, how human beings, you, escape from this, avoid this, never come directly into contact with it. And without understanding it, going into it, resolving it, however much one may seek or demand or inquire into the nature of love, it seems to me that it is impossible to find out what love is without the ending of sorrow. And if we may, let us go into it.
What is sorrow? You have suffered both physically and psychologically. You have suffered when you have seen children starving, in poverty; what human beings have done to animals, to the earth, to the air, how they kill each other at the least provocation, for their country, for their God, for their kings and queens, for their religion. And one has suffered oneself – someone whom you love, or you think you love, has gone, and there is this sense of enormous loneliness, isolation, lack of companionship, the utter sense of feeling forlorn. I am sure most of us have felt this at a crisis or vaguely in moments of unawareness. Unless one totally understands it and goes beyond it, there can never be wisdom. Wisdom comes with self-knowledge or with the ending of sorrow. Wisdom you can’t buy in books or from another. It comes only when there is self-knowing and therefore the ending of sorrow.
Why does one suffer? We understand when we have physical pain, but we are not talking of that – we can do something about it or put up with it intelligently without becoming neurotic. That is, if I have constant physical pain, a sense of agony during the day and night, without distorting the mind, that pain can be understood and lived with, without bringing about an action that is not only neurotic but also contradictory, aggressive, expressing itself in violence and so on. That kind of physical pain we can bear, tolerate, understand and do something about logically, and perhaps also illogically, which is, sanely and insanely. But we are talking about – together; it is not my problem, please, it is your problem; we are discussing it together – what is sorrow, and why does one suffer?
Will the discovery of the cause of suffering end suffering? One may suffer because one is desperately lonely. In that loneliness one has no sense of relationship with another, it is a total isolation, and one feels this perhaps when alone in one’s room, in the middle of the night, or when you are in a crowd, or sitting in a bus, or at a party, when you feel suddenly utterly, hopelessly deserted by everything, and there you are, utterly empty, utterly isolated. Haven’t you felt these things? This loneliness is very painful, and we escape from it in various forms – churches, social work, marriage, children, companionship, drugs – anything to escape from this great sense of isolation. Now how do you resolve this? We will go into it step by step.
We are doing this together, please. It is not that I want to speak about it, therefore I am pushing it on to you, but it is the problem of every living human being, whether rich or poor, whether tyrants or the most dominated slavish people.
How does one go beyond this sense of utter loneliness, which is one of the factors of great sorrow? I don’t know if you have gone into it, if you have even looked at this problem. Our gods, our churches, our literature, our ceremonies – you know, all the circus that goes on around us, including the Olympiad Circus; I saw an advertisement this morning – are brought about to give us comfort. That has been the function of the priest, to help us tolerate this ugly life, and promising a new life in heaven. So that becomes a marvellous escape from this sense of utterly despairing, lonely existence. Although we may be married, with children and all the rest of it, there is this isolation, which has been carefully built up through our daily activities – the self-centred existence culminating in this isolation. Now, what is one to do? How is one to resolve this problem?
First of all, just look at the problem clearly. I am lonely because in my life, daily life, I have been ambitious, greedy, envious, making myself terribly important, isolating myself though I might have a wife or husband and all the rest of it. And this self-centred activity ultimately brings about this isolation, this sense of utter, empty loneliness. If you have not felt it, you are not a human being – and because you have escaped from it, you are blind. And we escape in various forms from one of the central issues of our life. Religion offers the escapes that we have very carefully established through thought. Our religions, our systems of meditation, our social work, these despairing, destructive, appalling wars, killing animals and all the rest of it, are the products of thought.
What is a human being, you, to do when you are confronted, when you are aware of this sense of loneliness, which is one of the factors of sorrow? During our daily existence, we expend energy in being concerned with ourselves, and that energy is dissipated in activities which ultimately block all expressions of energy, and that is loneliness. Loneliness is, after all, a blocking of all energy. Before, I was aware that I was lonely, and I expended energy in escapes of various kinds – trivial, nonsensical, brutal; so-called spiritual, which is nonsense – and this expanse of energy has kept me going, and I suffer through loneliness, and the energy is completely blocked. I don’t know if you realise this. It is quite interesting. And when this energy is not expended through escapes, then energy is concentrated. And when you don’t escape, there is passion. There are various planes of passion – sexual passion, passion for trying to be great, trying to be better, trying to improve, trying to become some idiotic person.
So one realises that any form of escape – subtle, conscious, unconscious, deliberate, by act of will – any form of escape doesn’t resolve this problem. On the contrary, it makes it worse because from that escape you do all kinds of absurd irrational activities. Whereas if there is no escape because you see the truth of it, have an insight into it, then this whole sense of loneliness disappears and something else takes place, which is that sense of passion. You know, the word ‘passion’, the root meaning of that word is sorrow. It is rather curious, isn’t it? When there is sorrow and no escape from it – various subtle forms of escape – when there is no escape whatsoever, that sorrow becomes passion.
And we are inquiring also into why one suffers. Apart from loneliness, why does one suffer? Through self-pity? Do you know what self-pity is? Is that one of the reasons why one suffers? Again, self-pity is concern with oneself. ‘You have such a beautiful life, and I have not.’ ‘You are so brilliant, you are so famous, you are so etc., etc., and I have nothing; my life is shoddy, petty, small.’ So through comparison, through measurement, I feel small, inferior, and that is one of the causes of sorrow. Now can the mind put an end to itself, thought as measurement, and therefore no self-pity whatsoever? So please do this as we go along.
What are the other factors that bring sorrow in human life? I want to love. I love you, and you don’t love me. I want more love from you. I feel I must be loved by you; you are the only person who can love me, nobody else. I shut the door on everybody else except you. I will keep my door open to you, but you look the other way. Doesn’t this happen to all of you? And you spend your life in sorrow, bitterness, anger, jealousy, you know, fury, frustrated, because you insist on going through one door! And you find that you are not loved. I don’t know if you have ever thought what a terrible thought that is, that you are not loved. Isn’t it appalling to feel that you are not loved?
Have you ever noticed a flower on the wayside, the beauty of it, the colour of it? It has a perfume, and it isn’t asking you to look at it, it isn’t asking you to smell it – it is there. But we human beings have this machinery of thought, which says, ‘I must be loved; I haven’t got enough love,’ or ‘I must love you.’ So one of the factors of our sorrow is the sense of not being loved. And we demand that love be expressed in a certain way, sexually or in companionship, or in friendship, platonically, or physically. Which all indicates a human mind demands that it have a relationship with another based on its own urgency, and so this prevents love coming into being, which we said. There is love only when there is the ending of sorrow. Love cannot exist within the circle or within the field of sorrow.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1972, Talk 5
Is Suffering Necessary?
Question: Is suffering necessary to make us face the necessity to change?
Krishnamurti: It is one of our traditions to say that you must suffer in order to be good. In the Christian world and Hindu world, they try to put different words for it – karma and so on – and everywhere they say you must go through suffering, which is not only physical suffering but also psychological. That is, you must strive, you must make an effort, you must sacrifice, you must give up, you must abandon, you must suppress, you know. That is our tradition, both in the East and West. And suffering, which is common to all mankind, one thinks you must go through a particular door. Someone comes along, like the speaker, and says: suffering must end, not go through it – it must end. Suffering is not necessary. It is the most destructive element in life. Like pleasure, suffering is made personal, secretive, mine not yours. There is not only global suffering – mankind has been through enormous sorrows, wars, starvations, violence – he has faced suffering in different forms and he accepts it as inevitable, and uses that as a means to become noble or change himself.
We are saying, on the contrary, you may reject it, question it, doubt it, but let’s find out. That is, let us seek the right answer to this together, not because the speaker says so. Can sorrow end? Sorrow being our grief, so many ways we suffer, an insult, a look, a gesture, a wound that we have received from childhood, a wound that is very deep of which we may be conscious or unconscious – the suffering of another, the loss of another. And if you examine it closely, taking one fact, which is, that we are wounded from childhood, by parents, by teachers, by other boys and girls – it is happening all the time. And this wound is deep, covered up, and one builds a wall around oneself not to be hurt, and so that very wall creates fear. And one asks: can this hurt be wiped away completely so that it leaves no scar?
Please we are going over this together. I am sure you have been hurt, haven’t you, all of you, in some way or another? It is there, and we carry it throughout our life. The consequences of that is that we become more and more isolated, more and more apprehensive. We don’t want to be hurt anymore, so we build a wall around ourselves and gradually withdraw. Isolation takes place. You know all this. So one asks: is it possible not to be hurt? Not only not to be hurt in the future or today, but also to wipe out the hurt that one has had from childhood. We are thinking this over together, please. Is it possible to wipe away the wound, the hurt that one carries about all the time?
If one is serious, one should discover for oneself the cause of the hurt and what is hurt, and who is hurt. Which means, is it possible not to register the insult, the flattery, the gesture that cuts you down, the look of annoyance, anger, the impatience – not to register any of that? Do you want to go into it deeply? Shall we go into it deeply?
The brain is the instrument of registration. Like a computer, it registers. It registers because in that registration it finds security and safety. It is a form of protecting itself. And when one is called an idiot, or some other insult takes place, the immediate reaction is to register it verbally. The word has its significance, wanting to hurt, and it is registered. Like flattery is also registered. Now can this registering process come to an end? Bearing in mind that the mind, the brain must register, otherwise you wouldn’t know where your house is, you wouldn’t be able to drive your car or use any language. But not to register any psychological reactions. Then one will ask how. How will I prevent registration of an insult or a flattery? Flattery is more pleasant, and therefore I like to register, but the insult or the hurt I want to get rid of. But both factors, insult and flattery, are registered. Now is it possible not to register psychologically?
What is it that gets hurt? You say, ‘I am hurt’ – what is that entity that gets hurt? Is it an actuality? You understand what I mean? Something concrete, something tactile, something that you can talk about, or is it something that you have created for yourself about yourself? I have an image about myself; most of us have. That image has been created from childhood: you must be like your brother who is so clever, you must be better, you must be good. This image is gradually being built through education, through relationships, and so on. That image is me. I wonder if you accept that. That image which is me gets hurt. So as long as I have an image, it is going to be trodden on by everybody, not only by the top intellectuals but by anybody. So is it possible to prevent the formation of images? You understand, the image-making machinery. What is this machinery that makes the images? The images about my country, about the politicians, about the priests, about god, the whole fabrication of images. Who makes these images, and why are images made? Who makes it and why are they made? We can see very easily why they are made: for security, for reasons of self-protection. If I call myself a communist in a non-communist world, I have a rather difficult time. Or in a communist world, if I am not a communist, terrible things might happen. So identifying myself with an image gives one a great security. That is the cause, that is the reason why all of us, in some form or another, have images. And who creates this image? What is the machinery? What is the process of it? Please think it out with me, don’t wait for me to tell you.
Will the machinery come to an end when there is complete attention? Or the machinery is set going when there is no attention? Where am I to look? When there is complete attention when you call me an idiot. You call me an idiot, and the verbal stone has an impact, and the response is, ‘You are also!’ Now can I receive that word, the meaning of that word, the insult that you want me to feel by using that word, can I be attentive to all that instantly? Can I be aware or attentive completely when you use that word? And you are using that word to hurt me. And to be completely attentive at that moment. It is not a shield; it is not something that you put up in order to avoid. In that attention, there is no reception. I wonder if you see it. Whereas when you call me an idiot and I am inattentive, not paying attention, then registration takes place. You can experiment with this. Do it now – not only with the past wounds, past hurts, but also your mind then is so sensitive, vulnerable, it is moving, living, acting; it has no moment of static moment where you can hurt.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 2
There Can Be No Sorrow With Love
We ought to talk over together what sorrow is. All these are related to each other, guilt, the psychological wounds which most people have, and the consequences of those psychological wounds, the vanity of one’s own cultivated intelligence, which gets hurt, and the images that one has built about oneself. That gets hurt, nothing else. We went into all that. And we talked about relationship. We talked about fear and pleasure. They are all interrelated; they are not something to be taken bit by bit or separated and say, ‘This is my problem,’ and stick to that. If you say, ‘I can solve that, I don’t mind the rest,’ the rest remains there. So can one see this whole movement, not just one movement?
So we want to talk about sorrow. This is an immense subject. It brings tears to one’s eyes. Not the words. The word ‘sorrow’ has been in the minds of men and women from the beginning of time, this feeling of sorrow. And sorrow has never ended. If one travels, especially in the Asiatic world or in Africa, you see immense poverty. Immense. And you shed tears or do some social reform, or give them food, clothes and all the rest of it, but there is still sorrow there. And there is the sorrow of someone whom you have lost. You have their picture on the mantelpiece or on the piano or hung on the wall, and you remember it, look at it, shed tears, and all the memories connected with that picture. One sustains, nourishes, continues loyally with that picture. That picture is not the person. That picture is not the memories. But we cling to those memories, and that brings us more and more sorrow. And the sorrow of those people who have very little in their life, not only money, a few sticks of furniture, but also ignorance. Not the ignorance of something great, but the ignorance of their daily life, of their having nothing inside them. Not that the rich people have either; they have it in the bank account, but nothing inside. Look at all this.
And there is the immense sorrow of mankind, which is war. Millions have been killed. If you have seen it in Europe, thousands of crosses in straight lines. How many women, men, parents have cried, not only in this country but every community, every country, every state. Have we realised that there have been wars every year? Tribal wars, national wars, ideological wars, religious wars. In the Middle Ages, they tortured people, burned them as heretics. You know all this, if you have listened, if you have looked. And from the beginning of man and woman, the sorrow has continued in different forms: poverty of sorrow, poverty of ignorance, poverty of not being able to fulfil your desires, poverty of achievement – there’s more to be achieved.
All this has brought immense sorrow, not only personal sorrow, but also the sorrow of humanity. In Cambodia, what is happening there. What is happening in Russia, in the totalitarian states. We read about it; we never shed a tear. We are indifferent to all this because we are so consumed by our own sorrow, our own loneliness, our own inadequacy. So we are going to ask ourselves: is there an end to sorrow? Ending, not what happens after sorrow, after the ending. Is there an end to our personal sorrow, with all the implications of it? An ugly face. I won’t call it ugly; it’s a face you don’t like – you know the whole business of all this. And one asks, if one is at all serious, involved, committed to find out: is there an end to sorrow? And if there is an end, what is there? Because we always want a reward. If I end this, I must have that. We never end anything by itself, for itself per se. So can this sorrow end? Which means, can there be sorrow with love? Let’s go into it.
I love my son, if I have a son, or daughter. I love them. And they become every kind of human being – drugs, you know the whole process of it – and I cry, and I call that sorrow. What is the relationship of sorrow to love? We know what sorrow is: great pain, grief, loneliness, sense of isolation. My sorrow is entirely different from yours: in the very feeling of it, I’ve become isolated. We know, not only verbally but in depth, in the feeling, inward feeling in our very being, we know what the meaning of that word is. And what is the relationship of sorrow to love? Then we have to ask: what is love? You are asking this question, not the speaker. What is love? When one asks that question, does one come to it positively, in the sense, ‘Love is this,’ – give it a certain definition, verbal definition or inward definition, and stick to it? Love of God, love of books, love of trees, love of a dozen things – so what is love? Have you ever asked this question? If you have, is it sensation, sexual, reading a lovely poem, looking at these marvellous old trees? Is love pleasure?
Please, one must be terribly honest with ourselves, otherwise there’s no fun in this. Humour is necessary, to be able to laugh, to find a good joke, to be able to laugh together, not when you are by yourself, but together. And we are asking ourselves: what is love. Is love desire? Is love thought? Is love something that you hold, possess? Is love that which you worship? We worship the statue, the image, the symbol – is that love? The symbol, the statue, the picture, is put together by thought. Your prayers are put together by thought. Is that love? Please go into it for yourself. One realises all that is not love – your pleasures, sensation, having a good cigar, a good meal, well-clothed, with good taste. So of course pleasure, desire, fear, are not love. Have you ever looked at hate? If you hate, you dispel fear. Yes. If you really hate somebody, there is no fear. I hope you don’t.
So can we through negation of what is not love, negate completely in oneself, totally put aside entirely all that which is not love? Then that perfume is there. And that perfume can never go once you have put aside completely those things which are not love. Then love, which goes with compassion, has its own intelligence. It is not the intelligence of thought, not the intelligence of the scientific mind or brain. When one has that love, that compassion, there is no grief, no pain, no sorrow. But to come to that – not you; you can’t come to it, sorry; it is there when you negate everything that it is not. Not the beauty of architecture, which has put stones together. If you have seen those cathedrals, the temples and the mosques, they are all put together by thought and pleasure, or devotion or worship. Is all that love? If there is love then you will never kill another. Never! You will never kill another animal for your food. Of course, please go on eating meat if you want to; I’m not telling you.
So it is an immense thing to come upon it. Nobody can give it to another. Nothing can give it to you. But if you, in your being, put aside all that which is not, all that which has thought put together, the rituals, all that things that go on, the special dresses; when you with all your problems are totally empty, then the other thing is. Which is the most positive thing, the most practical thing. The most impractical thing in life is to build armaments to kill people. Isn’t it? That is what you are spending your tax money on. I am not a politician so don’t listen to all this, but see what we are all doing. And what we are doing is the society we have created. That society is not different from us. We may reform the society. Lots of us are doing it, the socialists, the capitalists – especially the communists tried to organise, outside.
So love has nothing to do with any organisation or with any person. Like the cool breeze from the ocean, this breeze, you can shut it out or live with it. When you live with it, it is totally a different dimension. There is no path to it. There is no path to truth, either yours or mine. No path whatsoever – Christian, Hindu, sectarian. Gosh! So one has to live it. You can only come to it when you have understood the whole nature, psychological nature and structure of yourself.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1985, Talk 3