Krishnamurti on War and Killing

Episode Notes

‘Psychologically we are one. Unless human beings deeply realise this, we are going to have wars, we are going to be eternally in conflict.’

This week’s episode on War and Killing has five sections.

The first extract (2:31) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Bombay 1984, titled ‘What is the cause of wars?’

The second extract (20:08) is from the first talk in New Delhi 1965, titled ‘Is there such thing as a righteous war?’

The third extract (33:16) is from Krishnamurti’s talk at the United Nations, New York 1984, titled ‘If there is no security in our relationships, that is the beginning of war.’

The fourth extract (58:07) is from the second question and answer meeting in Saanen 1982, titled ‘How can I not contribute to war?’

The final extract in this episode (1:07:52) is from the second question and answer meeting in Saanen 1984, titled ‘Can we live without bringing suffering or death?’

Part 1

What Is the Cause of Wars?

There is a war, threatening war, nuclear war. Recently, top scientists have met and issued certain statements saying if there is a nuclear war, the whole earth – the whole earth, not just Europe or America or Russia – the whole earth will be covered with dust and smoke so thick that the sun cannot get through and the temperature will fall five degrees below zero. So nothing will exist. That is what they are talking about, preparing, arguing. And also there are minor wars going on. These wars have been going on for five to six thousand years. They started with arrows or clubs and now we have got the extraordinarily destructive nuclear bomb. What is the cause of all this? What is the cause of why human beings are behaving like this?

The intellectuals, the philosophers, the scientists and the so-called religious people who are not really religious at all – what is the cause of all this mess in the world? Don’t wait for me to answer it – you are asking that question yourself. Why is it that human beings who have lived on this earth, according to geneticists and biologists, for forty-five to fifty thousand years, lived on this earth as homo sapiens, and from the very beginning we have been in conflict with each other, killing each other, maiming each other, hurting each other, competing with each other – conflict, struggle, pain, anxiety, loneliness, suffering.

We are so extraordinarily clever in the technological world, developing the most extraordinary instruments in surgery, communication, computers and so on, and we have not solved our human behaviour. Why? This is a very serious question, why we human beings who are so capable, going to the moon, with all the extraordinary technological world that is going on, and yet we are primitive, savages, with tribal gods and tribal instincts? What is wrong with us? You understand? I am not criticising, I am not blaming anybody, but it is a natural question every decent human being must ask: what is wrong with us? Why are there wars? Pakistan and India, Russia and America, and so on – why? What are the causes of it? If you find the cause, then it is easy to remove the effect.

If I have a disease and the cause is cancer, and it causes a great deal of pain, either it can be removed, or I die. But where there is a cause, the effect can be ended. Right? Is this clear? Where there is a cause, the effect can be ended, because the cause can be ended. Clear? What is the cause of these wars, the appalling things that are going on in the world? Probably most of you don’t know about it; they don’t print everything in the papers. The speaker has talked to a great many scientists and so on, and we are not told what exactly is going on – chemical warfare, all the rest of it.

Now, what is the cause of all this? Is it division? National division, religious division, individuals against other individuals, which is division, separation. Are you are following all this, or am I talking to myself? You understand what I am saying? One family is against another family. In the family itself there is division. There is division between the Arab and the Jew, there is division between the Catholic and the Protestant, there is division between you, the Hindu, and the Muslim. The Christian, the Buddhist, the Zen – the whole world is fragmented, broken up. Is that the cause of all this mess? That where there is division between communities, between people, between countries, between various gurus, various religions, there must be conflict. You understand this? Where there is division, there must be conflict. That is a law. Is that the cause of these terrible wars that are going on, the conflict that exists in each one of us, the competition against each other? Division – right? Economically, racially, socially, so-called culturally, everything brings about a division.

Now, we cannot do anything with governments. They are set, they have been unfortunately elected, you can’t deal with them. The speaker has tried various… met various people but there they are. So what can we do, you and I? You understand my question? You cannot deal with the most powerful people, like the presidents and so on. You cannot deal with them. They are at that level. They have their responsibilities, they want power – you know all the rest of that. So we are asking, you, as a human being living on this earth, seeing all this is happening, what can you do? Please ask this question.

What is your action? Not your theories – the Indians are pretty good at theories. You are very good in explanations, analysis, in finding out the cause, and there you leave it, which has nothing whatsoever to do with your daily life. You believe in God or you believe in some guru or you believe in some philosophy. But that belief has no actuality in life. This is a fact; I am not saying something abnormal. It is a fact.

So, we are asking, what is your responsibility as a human being facing all this? What is your action? Most of us want to escape from it. Most of us feel we cannot solve it. Therefore we escape, escape into tribal gods – you know all that is happening in this country or in Europe – drugs, religious entertainments – and the entertainment industry is enormously powerful – cinema, the magazines, the gods, the rituals – right? Is it two gods marrying each other in this country? So, there is either escape or you face the actualities, face facts. When you face facts, what is your action? Now, together we are going to find out. Together – not I tell you and you listen or disagree or agree. That is too silly, it becomes childish. But if you and I observe the same thing, live the same thing daily, then it has a tremendous power. Not power in the sense of political power, but power of doing the right thing. Are we together in this so far?

We are asking, what is the cause of these wars? One of the factors of war is nationalism, which is tribalism. You may not agree; please quietly listen. Tribalism, which has become glorified as nationalism with its flags and so on – the British, the French, the Indians, divided, divided, divided. We are saying one of the causes of war is nationalism. That is obvious. Another cause is economic division, each country concerned with its own economy, with its own culture. The British, the French, and so on. Another cause is the division in religion: the Christian, the Buddhist, the Hindu, Islam. And they all talk about God. So these, and perhaps others, are the causes of war. And you, as a Hindu or a Christian or whatever it is, are responsible for the wars – right? – because in yourself you are divided. Agreed? Do you see this fact? As long as I am a Hindu, committed to certain traditions and following some, if you will excuse me, silly gods, playing with toys called gods, I, as a Hindu, am responsible for creating conflict amongst human beings. Is this a fact or not? It is a fact. You may not agree, you may not see the fact, but this is what is causing wars.

Now, what is your responsibility? To be free of nationalism. To be free, to look at the world as a whole humanity, not as Indian or American and so on. We are human beings. To look at the world globally as human beings.

Krishnamurti in Bombay 1984, Talk 1

Part 2

Is There Such Thing as a Righteous War?

It is only in peace that a human being can flower in goodness, not in war, not in violence, not in disorder, but only when there is a deep abiding peace. To understand this whole phenomenon of hate, destruction and disorder, one has to inquire not merely intellectually – because such an inquiry is futile, worthless and has no meaning whatsoever – but actually what order means, what violence means, and the significance of peace. One has to inquire non-verbally, non-intellectually – which really has very little meaning because most of us have read or indulged in theories about what peace should be, how to get rid of violence, how to establish order. Books, volumes have been written about it.

In the first war that took place in recorded history, about five thousand years ago, man must have thought that that would be the last war. And we are still at it. So there must be something radically wrong, destructive in human beings, who divide themselves into nationalities, break their minds into fragments as religious sections, with dogmas, beliefs; politics, classes, divisions of every kind, and thereby hope to bring about peace and order. So apparently after these thousands upon thousands of years, we have not found peace. As we said, there have been forty thousand, six hundred wars; which means two-and-a-half wars every year, and yet we are going on living in the same stupid, destructive manner, hating each other, calling each other names, labelling ourselves as Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Russians, communists and so on.

You have to look at all this dispassionately, factually, not emotionally or in any prejudiced way; you have to regard it as a fact, not interpret it according to your particular likes and dislikes, according to your favourite war which you call righteous, or unfavourite war which you think is evil; you have to look at it as a phenomenon, as something animalistic, which must be solved by each human being. Because war, violence, disorder – along that path there is no peace, do what you will. There, peace is an interval between two calamities between two wars, two destructions.

So one has to find a new way of living, not theoretically, not discussing everlastingly about it. We have to find actually in our daily life, a way to live totally differently – which means a total revolution in our ways of thinking, living, feeling. And unless we discover that for ourselves as human beings, we shall never find order, peace and a state of mind that can flower in goodness. So we are not indulging in words, in theories: what should be, what must be, but we are investigating actually what is. It is only when you are capable of facing the fact that you can do something about it. If we refuse to face the facts, we get completely lost in opinions. And opinions, however clever, however erudite, however dialectical they may be, have very little meaning when you are confronted with hate, disorder and violence. That is what we are faced with now, throughout the world. The war that is going on in Vietnam is your war, my war; so also the war that has been in this country, on the border.

Man has suffered indefinitely, infinitely. As human beings who have lived so many millennia, you and I, as human beings – not as a Hindu, not as a Christian, not as a communist or Mohammedan, or whatever you call yourselves – have to find order. Order is necessary, not only within but outwardly. And it is one of the most difficult things to find this order. The word ‘order’ has an extraordinary depth if you go into it; it has an extraordinary significance if you can unravel it, if you can look into it deeply. Order is not according to your order or my order, nor according to the politician, this person or that person, but the word itself has an extraordinary significance and an extraordinary depth if we can go into it. And that is what we are going to do together.

We are not doing any propaganda. I have a horror of propaganda. I am not trying to convert you to any belief, any dogma or way of life – that would be too stupid. But what we are trying to do is to point out, investigate, talk things over together as two human beings confronted with the same enormous, complex problem. And if you cannot look at it dispassionately, we shall live as human beings another five thousand years fighting each other, tearing each other’s hearts out, destroying each other.

It is very strange: all the ancient teachers have talked about peace, not to hate another, to be kind, to be generous, to be forgiving, and all that has been overthrown throughout the world. In this country, which is supposed to be so old and ancient and full of wisdom – which is non-existent at the present time – that tradition, not the tradition practised by politicians or by the semi-political saints, that reality where you must not hurt another, where you must love another, all that has been set aside. As human beings, you and I have to find out for ourselves a new way of living, a new order, the ending of violence, and therefore bring about in ourselves, outwardly as well as inwardly, peace.

Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1965, Talk 1

Part 3

If There Is No Security in Our Relationships, That Is the Beginning of War

Is there psychological security, either in the family, in a group, in a community, in a nation, in internationalism and all that business? Is there any kind of security inwardly? If we are not sure about that, certain, clear, we try to seek security outwardly, externally, through nations, through religious organisations, through ideologies. So it is very important that we should talk over together now and discover for ourselves if there is an inner security – security in our relationships with each other, however intimate it may be, between man and woman, security in community and so on. Is there security in our relationship with each other, man and woman, wife and husband? If there is security, why is there such contention between man and woman, wife and husband, such conflict in their relationship, each pursuing their own ambitions, their own fulfilment, their own desires and so on? Is it not important to find out for ourselves if there is such security in relationship? If there is such security in this, then that security is the beginning of peace. If there is no security in our relationship with each other that is the beginning of conflict, war.

So we ought to really seriously inquire into this question. That is become aware, conscious of our relationship with each other because to go very far we must begin very near. And the nearest is man and woman, wife and husband. In that relationship there is conflict, as there is now. That conflict is spread: ultimately war. We have never given thought to this, that as our house is burning, which is society is burning, declining, degenerating, are we also degenerating? To slide, slip down, implies our whole life is a routine, our whole life is a series of battles, struggles, conflicts. If we don’t alter there, how can you bring about peace on earth? It seems so logical, so rational, sane, but we don’t do that.

So could we, as human beings – not as Americans and all the rest of that business – could we as human beings become aware, pay attention to our intimate relationships, because unless the psychological world is quiet, sane, peaceful, that psychological state will always overcome every kind of organisation, whether it be communist organisation, totalitarian, or so-called democratic organisation. The psyche is far more important than external legislation – governments and so on. I wonder if one realises all this. Do we, sitting here peacefully, so-called peacefully, realise our responsibility as human beings?

The wars that are going on in the world are our wars, because our consciousness – if I can go into all this much more deeply – our human consciousness, which is made up of biological reactions, fears, hurts, pleasure, beliefs, dogmas, rituals and endless suffering – that is the content of our consciousness – if you observe this closely, it is a fact that every human being throughout the world shares this. Every human being suffers, every human being has fear, pleasure, a sense of loneliness, despair, anxiety, confusion – every human being, whether they live in the Far East, here, in Russia or in other places.

We have been brought up, educated to consider ourselves as individuals – but is that so? Is that a fact? We share the consciousness of humanity because we all suffer, we all go through great agonies, boredom, every form of uncertainty. You may have great talents, great capacities, but behind those capacities lies the ordinary, daily consciousness of all humanity. So each one is humanity, not separate individuals.

I know you will not accept this because you have been conditioned from the beginning by religions, by society, by culture, that each one is a separate individual, a separate soul, and therefore he must seek his own salvation, his own expression, his own fulfilment. And this so-called separate individuality is creating havoc in the world. Which does not mean that we all become the same, automatic, turned out in the same mould. On the contrary.

Freedom is the highest form of existence. It is the greatest art, to live freely. But we are not free. One thinks one is free to do what one likes, especially in this country each individual thinks he is supreme to do what he wants – his own fulfilment, the expression of his own desires, and so on. But if we examine closely and seriously, we share the consciousness of the entire humanity. This is a fact. Individuality may be an illusion, and to that illusion we are committed. When you travel around and observe very closely, every human being, whether he has great position, a great deal of money, status, power, he is like the rest of the world psychologically; he goes through great pain, desperate loneliness and all the rest of the psychological world of uncertainty and confusion.

We are the rest of humanity. We are not Africans and Europeans and all that nonsense. We are humanity. Unless we realise that one major fact in our life, that we are the rest of humanity – black, white, purple or whatever colour they be – psychologically we are one; unless human beings deeply realise that, we are going to have wars, we are going to be eternally in conflict, as we are now. And no organisation in the world is going to change that fact.

We have had religions all over, various types of religion – Catholic, Protestant, and the divisions in Protestantism. There have been religions of various types in Asia, all invented by thought. And thought has made man separate because thought is the result of experience, knowledge and memory, and so thought is always limited. It is never complete. It can never be complete because it is based on knowledge and knowledge is always finite, limited. It can expand, it can change, but it is still within the field of knowledge. And knowledge is always limited. And we try to change the world through our knowledge, and this experiment to change the world through knowledge has never succeeded.

So what is a human being to do, if you are serious, concerned with the world, with your own life? What is a human being to do? Form innumerable organisations, with their bosses and their secretaries and so on? Or, each one of us is responsible because we have created this society. We are responsible for every kind of war. So is it possible, not merely intellectually, but actually, in our daily life, to radically change, bring about deep mutation? Unless we are capable of doing that, we are going to have perpetual wars.

No organisation in the world has prevented wars. In the last historical process, there have been wars practically every year, for the last five or six thousand years, all over the world. And man has been responsible for these wars. You may not have a war in America, in this part of the world, but you have wars in other parts of the world because we are divided – as Americans and Russians and English and French, and all the rest of it – not only nationally but religiously – Christians, Buddhists, Hindus. So this constant division, both outwardly and inwardly, is bringing about great conflict. We are one human being, not separate. We don’t seem to realise that. You suffer, you go through great anxieties, uncertainties, and so does every other human being in the world. And we haven’t been able to solve that basic issue: whether we can live with ourselves peacefully – peace doesn’t begin on the other side of the world – whether we live peacefully, without conflict. And I think this is a very important question which we must put to ourselves. Why is it that human beings, who have lived on this earth perhaps fifty thousand years, having done extraordinary things technologically, we have done practically nothing in our relationship with each other? We are perpetually in conflict with each other, man and woman, and this conflict is extended into war.

So we are asking a most fundamental question: why do human beings, who have lived on this earth for so many millennia, who have done extraordinary things technologically, who have brought about good health for people – we have done the most incredible things externally but inwardly we are savages. Forgive me for the use of that word. We are fighting each other, even in our most intimate relationships. So how can one have external peace in the world, Pacem in Terris, if one is not peaceful in oneself? We never answer that question, we are always trying to bring changes in the outer, but we never ask of ourselves why we live this way, perpetually in conflict. It’s fairly obvious when you ask that question seriously, not casually – we never spend a day trying to find out why we live this way, a vast network of escapes from this basic fact. And we are still going on. We never seem to realise that unless each one of us fundamentally changes, radically there will be no peace on earth. As long as you are an American, and they Russian, with different ideologies, different concepts, different gods, and so on, we will never have peace on this earth.

So it behoves us, and each one of us, to find out why we live this way, and whether it is possible to radically change our whole psyche. If there is not a revolution there, mere outward revolutions have very little meaning. We have had communist revolutions, The French Revolution, other forms of revolution throughout the world, and we remain what we are: self-centred, cruel, and all the rest of it.

Krishnamurti in New York 1984, United Nations Talk

Part 4

How Can I Not Contribute to War?

Question: I have lived in a forest, close to nature. There is no violence there, but the outer world is the real jungle. How am I to live in it without becoming part of its competition, brutality, violence and cruelty?

Krishnamurti: First, how easy it is to live by yourself in a wood. I have done it – without boasting or anything. It is natural. It is very easy because you are not related to anybody; you look at the trees, the river, the plants. They invite you to look at them. The more you look at a tree, the more beautiful it becomes. The shadow, the leaves fluttering in the wind. It doesn’t demand anything of you. You are enjoying yourself, listening to the birds, to the sound of water, to the lovely clear morning. And one is tempted to live like that forever. But you can’t. Even there, if you live in a forest, you are related to somebody or something. You are related to the man who brings you milk. So even though one is a hermit, you are always living in a certain kind of relationship with another. And if you are a neurotic saint, then it becomes very easy. (Most saints are neurotic.) Then they give you food, clothes and all the rest of it.

So when one enters the world, the trouble begins – the world human beings have created, not only the past generation upon generation, which has created this society, but also all of us are contributing to it. When you buy a stamp, when you post a letter, you are contributing to war. When you take the train, you are contributing to war. So you might say, ‘I won’t take a train, I won’t post a letter, I won’t telephone, I won’t pay taxes,’ and so on. Taxes are rather difficult – the Government will be after you, if you have money. So what will you do? Withdraw completely, not write a letter, not travel? You understand, this question has been put to the speaker often. Say you are against war, for peace and so on, but you are contributing to it by travelling all over the world. So where shall I stop? Not write a letter, not travel, not do all the things that are contributory to or help war? Or do you ask a much more fundamental question, which is, why does war exist at all?

Why has man, who is so-called civilised, so-called educated, why does he support killing another, another human being? So what is the fundamental question there? Is it nationality? Is it this whole idea of isolation? National isolation, individual isolation, communal isolation. When I put on a monk’s robe or a different kind of robe, I am isolating myself. So is isolation the cause of war? Obviously. When I say, ‘I’m British, you’re French, you’re this, you’re that,’ I’m isolating myself. I have a long tradition as British or Indian. If I am an Indian, I have a much more ancient tradition, which is isolating me. So any form of isolation must contribute to war – war being not only killing each other but the conflict with each other.

Now, seeing all that requires intelligence, not just a vague utopian idea. The very perception of this fact, that where there is isolation of any kind, belonging to one group against another group, one sect against another, one uniform of purple, yellow –isolating, contributing to isolation and therefore inevitable conflict – to perceive that, to see the truth of it, requires intelligence. Not saying, ‘I agree with it’ and doing nothing about it, but when I see the truth of it, that very perception is the action of intelligence.

So with that intelligence, I enter the world. Which is, that intelligence has no cause. That love that has no cause. Compassion obviously cannot have a cause. With that beauty, with that clarity, with that energy, I meet, I meet the world which is brutal. I act from that love. Or rather, that love that has no cause acts. I may be a beggar or a very good technician, but the quality of that can never enter the world of ambition, brutality and violence.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1982, Question and Answer Meeting 2

Part 5

Can We Live Without Bringing Suffering or Death?

Question: How is one to live on this earth without harm or destruction to its beauty, without bringing suffering and death to others?

Krishnamurti: Have you ever asked this question actually? Not theoretically but actually put that question, face it. Don’t run away from it, do not explain that it is necessary and all the rest of it, but look at it, confront it. Have you ever asked such a question? Not en masse, making a demonstration against some politician who wants to destroy a National Park or this or that. To ask such a question means you are burning with it; it is something tremendously real, not just a fanciful question to pass the time of day. To live on this earth with its extraordinary beauty and not to destroy it. To end sorrow. And not kill another. Not kill another human being, not kill a living human thing.

There are those people in India, a certain sect: their transportation is to walk; they take no trains, no aeroplanes, no carriages, nothing but walking. They put on a mask so as not to kill an insect by breathing. There is a whole group of them. Some of that group came to see the speaker having walked eight hundred miles, from April to January, and never taking any transportation except walking. And they won’t kill.

And there are those who do kill – kill for sport, kill for amusement, kill for profit – the whole meat industry. Destroy the earth, dump poisonous gas – you know all that is happening in this country – pollute the air and waters, and pollute each other. This is what we are doing to the earth and to ourselves.

And the questioner asks: can we live on this earth with its great beauty and not bring suffering to others or death? It is a very, very serious question – to live a life without causing suffering to others or causing death to others. That means not killing a human being, not killing any animal for sport, for your food. Do you understand all this? This is the question.

There were a certain class of people in India at a certain time who never ate meat. They thought killing was wrong. They were called, at the time, Brahmins. And the Western civilisation has never inquired into whether killing is right, whether killing any living thing is justified. The Western world has destroyed whole races of people. This country has destroyed the Indians of this country, wiped them out because they wanted land, and all that.

So can we live on this earth without killing, without war? I can answer it, but what value has it to you, because you are killing? I am not advocating vegetarianism. Some author wrote some time ago – a cutting was sent to me – he wrote saying: ‘Vegetarianism is spreading like some foul disease in this country.’ Even then you kill the cabbage. So where do you draw the line? Do you make a problem of it? Do you understand my question? If you are against war, as certain human beings are, including myself, against war, killing other human beings for whatever reason, then you cannot post a letter. Right? The stamp you buy, the food you get, all that, part of it goes to defence and armaments. If you buy petrol – gas in this country – part of that goes, your tax… and so on and so on. So what will you do? If you don’t pay taxes, you are fined or sent to jail. If you don’t buy stamps, you can’t write letters. And you can’t travel. Are you following all this? It amuses you? So you drive yourself into a corner. And living in a corner seems rather futile. So what will you do? If you say, ‘I won’t travel, I won’t write a letter, all this helps to maintain the army and navy, and armaments’ – you follow, the whole racket of it – or would you approach it differently?

Why do we kill? Religions, especially Christianity, have probably killed more people on earth. They have tortured people, called them heretics, burnt them – you know all the history of it. The Muslims have done it, the Islamic world; probably the Hindus and the Buddhists are the only people… their religions forbid.

How can one live on this earth without killing another and causing suffering for another? To go into this question very deeply – really, it is a very, very serious question – is there that quality of love that answers this question? If you love another, if you love another human being, are you willing to kill that human being? Would you then kill anything? Except you need certain food, vegetables, nuts and so on, but apart from that, would you kill anything? Go into all these questions and live it, for God’s sake, don’t talk about it.

What is dividing the world is ideals, the ideology of one group against another group – this eternal division, apparently an everlasting division, between man and woman, and so on. They have tried to bridge this through logic, through reason, through various institutions, foundations and organisations, and they have not succeeded in any way. This is a fact. Knowledge has not solved this problem either – knowledge in the sense of accumulated experience and so on. And thought has certainly not solved this problem.

So there is only one issue out of it: to discover or find out what love is. Love is not desire, love is not possession, love is not selfish, egocentric activity – me first and you second. Apparently, that love has no meaning to most people. They may write books about it but it has no meaning, so invent that quality, that perfume, that fire, that compassion. Compassion has its intelligence. That is supreme intelligence. When there is that intelligence which is born of compassion, love, then all these problems will be solved simply, quietly. But we never pursue the question to the very end. You may pursue it intellectually, verbally, but to do it with your heart, with your mind, with your passion behind it, then the earth will remain beautiful. And then there is a great sense of beauty in oneself.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1984, Question and Answer Meeting 2

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