Krishnamurti on Aggression

Episode Notes

‘Aggression is the pattern from childhood – the education, our parents and society. Those around me are aggressive and it gives me pleasure. I accept this and become more aggressive’

This week’s episode on Aggression has four sections.

The first extract (2:28) is from Krishnamurti’s sixth talk in Saanen 1970, titled ‘We are conditioned to be aggressive.’

The second extract (12:02) is from the fourth question and answer meeting in Ojai 1980, titled ‘The pattern of aggression.’

The third extract (21:17) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk at Rajghat 1967, titled ‘Looking at aggression as it is.’

The final extract in this episode (1:08:55) is from the fourth talk in New York 1974, titled ‘Intelligence is above and beyond aggression.’

Part 1

We Are Conditioned To Be Aggressive

First we will, if you will also go with the speaker, take a voyage together into this question of conditioning and find out for oneself whether the mind can ever be totally and completely free of conditioning.

One can see, and it is fairly obvious, how superficially we are conditioned by the culture, the society, the propaganda around us; the conditioning of nationality, the conditioning of a particular religion or sect, the conditioning through education, through environmental influence – one can observe that fairly clearly and be aware of it. I think it is fairly clear and fairly simple how most human beings, in whatever country or race they belong, or any particular culture or religious propaganda, they are conditioned, shaped, moulded, held within that particular pattern. One can see that in oneself. And one can fairly easily put those conditionings aside.

Then there are deeper conditionings, such as this aggressive attitude towards life. Aggression implies also a sense of dominance, seeking power, position, prestige, and that is much more difficult, and one has to go into it very, very deeply to be completely free of it because it is very subtle and takes different forms. One may think one is not aggressive, but when one has a conclusion, an opinion, an evaluation, verbally and non-verbally, there is a sense of asserting, which gradually becomes aggressive and violent. One can see this in oneself.

To be aware of this conditioning of aggression: the very word that one uses. You may say it very gently, but there is a kick behind it, there is an assertive, dominant, compulsive action, which becomes very crude when it becomes violent. Now, that is our conditioning. That conditioning of aggression, whether one has derived it from the animal or one has, in one’s own self-assertive pleasure, become aggressive – that one has to discover because that is part of our conditioning. Is one aggressive in the total sense of that word? Aggressive. That word means ‘stepping forth’.

And one of our conditionings is comparison. Comparing not only with what you think is noble, or a hero, or a memory, but comparing secretly within yourself with what you would like to be and what you are. The comparative, assertive pursuit is also our conditioning. And again this is extraordinarily subtle. I compare myself to somebody who is a little more bright, a little more intelligent, a little more physically beautiful – regular features and all the rest of it – secretly or openly – this constant comparative enquiry, soliloquy, talking to oneself. Where there is comparison – please observe this in yourself – there is not only assertion, a form of aggression, but also the feeling of achievement. Therefore, in that there is frustration. When you can’t achieve, there is a sense of frustration and a feeling of inferiority. There is not only the aggressive conditioning, but also from childhood all our education, our educational system is based on this: compare, getting better marks, examinations, comparing yourself with somebody who is much cleverer – the battle goes on. And in that comparison is envy, jealousy, and all the conflict involved in that.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1970, Talk 6

Part 2

The Pattern of Aggression

Why do we, each one of us, live the way we do? Taking drugs, drinking, smoking, pursuing pleasure and aggression – why? Why? Why are we like this? Please, go into it with me.

Why are we aggressive? The whole society in which we live, in this society of the West, aggression is one of the most important things, and competition – they both go together. Why? You can see in the animals how aggressive they are, in mating in a certain season. They don’t compete, do they? You know, when a lion has killed a zebra, other lions share it. You have seen this on television and so on. But apparently, with us, aggression is the most deep-rooted thing, and competition. Why are we like this? Is it the fault of the society? Our education? But the society is what we have made of it. So don’t say its society, blame the society for this, or some education. But apparently we are deeply aggressive, and competitive. And if you are not competitive, if you are not aggressive, in this society, you are trodden down, you are discarded, you are looked down upon.

Why are we aggressive? Go on, examine it. Is it this emphasis on individual freedom, individual freedom, and that freedom demands that we must express ourselves at any cost? Is that it? Especially in this country, in the West, this sense of freedom – you know. If you have an instinct to do something, if you want to do something, you do it. Don’t restrain, don’t examine it, it doesn’t matter. If you have this feeling, act.

You can see what aggression does. You are aggressive and I am aggressive for the same job, the same this, that, the other. And so we are fighting each other all along the way, both psychologically and physically. And we carry on. That is part of our pattern, part of our social education. To break that pattern, we say we must exercise our will. Which is another aggression. When I exercise my will, will is another form of ‘I must’. That is another form of aggression. So can you have an insight into aggression?

You have understood my question, or is it too difficult?

That is, I am aggressive. Thank God I am not. I have never been. I don’t want to be (laughs). Suppose I am aggressive, and that is the pattern from childhood, that is the education, the mother, the father. And the society, the boys around me, are all aggressive. I see that and I like that; it gives me pleasure. I accept it, and I also become aggressive. Then as I grow up, somebody shows me the nature of aggression, what it does in society, how competition is destroying human beings. It is not only the speaker saying this; scientists are beginning to say this – so perhaps you will accept the scientists. So you explain it very carefully, all the reasons, the causes, and the destructive nature of competition, which is to compare, always comparing.

Now, a mind that doesn’t compare at all is a totally different kind of mind. It has got much more vitality. So one explains all this, and yet we go on being aggressive, competitive, comparing ourselves with somebody, always something much greater – not with the poorer; always something greater. So there is this pattern established, this cadre, this framework, in which the mind is caught. And listening to it you say, ‘I must get out of it, I must do something about it.’ Which is what? Another form of aggression. You understand? I wonder if you see that.

So can you, can we, have an insight into aggression? Not explanations, not the remembrance of all the implications of it, and so on and so on, which is constant examination, coming to a conclusion and acting according to that conclusion. That is not insight. Whereas if you have immediate insight into it, then you have broken the whole pattern of aggression.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 4

Part 3

Looking At Aggression as It Is

As one observes in the world, not only in this country but also in Europe, America, Russia and China, one sees a growing violence, not only in individual lives but also in the collective. People seem to get violent over such trivial things. In this country they are violent about language, regional language; and they are violent in other parts of the world over war, destruction, revolt, or, as in America, the black against the white – and so on. There is a general tendency towards anarchy, disruption, destruction, and there is more and more aggression. And, as one sees this happening, one asks oneself why. What are the causes of this terrible, destructive, brutal violence right through the world? I wonder if you have asked yourself this question – why? Or do you accept it as inevitable, as part of life?

Each of us, in one’s private life, is also violent. We get angry; we do not like people to criticize us, we do not brook any interference with our own particular lives; we are very defensive and therefore aggressive when we hold on to a particular belief or dogma, or when we worship our particular nationality, with the rag that is called the flag. So, individually, in our private secret lives, we are aggressive, we are violent; and also outwardly, in our relationship with others. When we are ambitious, greedy, acquisitive, we are also outwardly, collectively, aggressive, violent and destructive.

I wonder why this is happening now, during this present period in history, and why it has always happened in the past. There have been so many wars, so many disruptive, destructive forces let loose on the world – why? What is the reason for it? Not that knowing the cause and the reason for it will ever free the mind from violence, but it is right to inquire into why human beings throughout the ages have been so violent, brutal, aggressive, cruel and destructive – destroying their own species. If you ask why, what do you think is the reason for it? Bearing in mind that explanations and conclusions do not in any way remove violence. We will go into the question of freedom from violence, but first we must inquire why these violent reactions exist.

I think one of the reasons is the instinct we have inherited throughout the ages, which is derived from animals. You have seen dogs fighting, or bulls – the stronger fighting the weaker. Animals are aggressive and violent in nature, and as we human beings have evolved from them, we have also inherited this aggressive violence and hatred, which exists when we have territorial rights, rights over a piece of land, or sexual rights, as in the animal. So that is one of the causes. Another cause is the environment, the society in which we live, the culture in which we have been brought up, the education we have received. We are compelled by the society in which we live to be aggressive; each man fighting for himself, each man wanting a position, power, prestige. His concern is about himself. Though he may also be concerned with the family, with the group, with the nation and so on, essentially he is concerned with himself. He may work through the family, through the group, through the nation, but always he puts himself first. So the society in which we live is one of the contributory causes of this violence, that is, the behaviour which it imposes on us. In order to survive, it is said, you must be aggressive, you must fight. So environment has an extraordinary importance as a cause of violence, and this society in which we live is the product of all of us human beings; we ourselves have produced it.

Another of these causes is overpopulation. Throughout the world, this is becoming a problem, but especially in this country. More and more people are inhabiting the world, and all of them demand, and must have, employment, food, clothes and shelter. They are going to fight for these things, and they are going to fight much more when they live in big towns, which are already overcrowded, with no space between human beings. It is one of the most extraordinary things that the more we have become sophisticated, the more we have become so-called civilized, the less space we have. Go around any of the streets in Benares or Rome or London or New York, see how crowded it all is; and in the dwellings in these cities, there is hardly any space between human beings. They have experimented with putting thousands of rats in a small space. When they do that, the rats lose all sense of proportion, of value. The mothers with little babies neglect them; violence and disorder increase. So, lack of space is one of the contributory causes of this extraordinary violence.

But the major cause of violence, I think, is that each one of us is inwardly, psychologically, seeking security. In each one of us, the urge for psychological security, that inward sense of being safe, projects the demand, the outward demand, for security. Inwardly, each one of us wants to be secure, sure, certain. That is why we have all these marriage-laws, in order that we may possess a woman or a man, and so be secure in our relationship. If that relationship is attacked, we become violent, which is the psychological demand, the inward demand, to be certain of our relationship to everything. But there is no such thing as certainty or security in any relationship. Inwardly, psychologically, we should like to be secure but there is no such thing as permanent security. Your wife or husband may turn against you; your property may be taken away from you in a revolution.

So all these are the contributory causes of the violence which is prevalent, rampaging throughout the world. I think anybody who has observed, even if only a little, what is going on in the world, and especially in this unfortunate country, can also, without a great deal of intellectual study, observe and find out in themself those things which, projected outwardly, are the causes of this extraordinary brutality, callousness, indifference, violence.

Now, these are the explanations, and we can have more of them or go into them in greater detail. These are some of the major factors in bringing about this enormous, destructive, cruel relationship between man and man. Then what shall we do? Having more or less established the causes of violence, both inward violence and outward, then the problem arises: how do we free the mind from violence?

We were talking the other day to a very prominent politician – and God save the world from politicians! He was saying that violence is a necessary part of life. When a government official accepts violence as the norm, there is something radically wrong because the world needs peace, not violence. Man must be peaceful, for it is only through peace that he can find out what is true, what is beauty, what is love. Through violence, you can never find out what love is; you can never find out, without peace, what beauty is. So to accept violence as an essential part of daily life is a most perverse way of thinking.

The word ‘violence’ needs a great deal of explanation too because we think violence is merely such things as the burning of a house by crazy people, fighting a policeman, marching with a whole mob of people shouting, ‘You shall not!’ or, ‘You must!’, or war. That is what we call violence. But violence is much more subtle than that. When, for example, you compare yourself with another, that is part of violence; when you are imitating or trying to surpass another, which is competitiveness, that is also part of violence. The whole social and religious structure is based on this principle of comparison. Measuring yourself against another and so competing with them is part of this violence. It is also part of violence when you suppress your desires. That does not mean you must indulge your desires. It means that when you imitate, conform to a pattern, whether the pattern is established by society or by yourself, that is, when you are imitating, conforming, controlling, disciplining yourself, forcing yourself, that is also a part of violence. When you obey, that again is a part of violence – and most human beings are trained to obey. And this whole Indian structure – Hindu or Muslim or Catholic or what you will – this religious structure based on obedience, acceptance and authority; all this is part of violence.

So, violence towards what? I am being violent against what? If it is violence against society, it becomes revolt. That is one kind of violence. Then there is the violence of obedience, which says, ‘I do not know, but you do’ – so you become my authority, and I follow you. Please do go into this in yourself, and don’t just hear what the speaker is saying. Find out. Is it not a kind of violence when you set up another – it does not matter who it is – as your guru, your teacher, your saint? Whoever it is, once you accept them as your authority, inevitably you must be violent. Why? Why do you become violent when you accept authority? Because, since there are other kinds of authority, dozens of authorities, you feel impelled to assert that your authority is greater than the others. So we have to find out why, in accepting any kind of authority, whether it is social authority or the spiritual authority of a guru or a book, this breeds violence. It has, throughout the world – why? When you accept the authority of the Koran or the Bible, or of Jesus or whoever it may be, why does that cause violence?

What is violence? It is division, isn’t it? When you accept the authority of the Gita and I accept the authority of the Koran, you and I are bound to be separated by our beliefs, by our dogmas. Any form of separateness or division breeds violence. I hold to my book, to my authority, and you hold to yours. Superficially we may tolerate each other, perhaps living together in the same street or going to the same office, but inwardly we are separate; inwardly there is division between you and me – you the Hindu and I the Muslim, the Christian, the Buddhist, the communist, or whatever it may be. So essentially this division, brought about through belief, through authority, through psychological exclusiveness, does breed violence, and not only breeds violence but must exclude every form of affection and love. Please observe this in your own hearts; do not merely listen to the speaker. Look how you regard someone who is not of the same culture, who doesn’t have the same way of looking at things, who thinks differently from you – the occasions when you consider yourself slightly superior to someone else. When there is prejudice there is division, and prejudice is the most stupid form of thought, and being prejudiced is the most stupid way of living.

So what is one to do? Knowing that we human beings are violent, are separative – and these are facts, not ideas; not theories, but actual facts, what are we to do? Outwardly there must be one universal language. Outwardly, you understand. There must be one government caring for the whole world, not separate governments concerned only with separate countries – India, China, Russia or America – because that always breeds division – economic, social and class division.

So, first, outwardly, one language, not Hindi or English, but one universal language. Then, again outwardly, a world-planning for the whole of mankind. Inwardly, then, it becomes much more interesting, much more vital, much more demanding.

So how is a human being, that is, you, to be free of this violence? People have tried every way. For when the monk or sannyasi renounces the world, he hopes to renounce not only worldly things but also all the brutalities of life. But he doesn’t; you cannot escape from violence by repeating some mantra, and all the rest of those rituals; you cannot possibly escape from the fact of anything. I cannot possibly escape from what I actually am. I can invent a series of networks of escapes, but those escapes will inevitably become extraordinarily important and therefore separative, and so again produce violence.

So the first thing is not to escape from the fact. Do please listen to this – not to escape from the fact that I am violent. Non-violence has no place whatsoever; it is a romantic, unrealistic formula. All ideation, all ideology – ‘what should be’, as the opposite of ‘what is’ – is romantic and not factual. Therefore one must put away all ideals completely. Can we do that? If we are thinking in terms of non-violence, which is what most of us are thinking, and yet, being violent say, ‘I must not be violent,’ that ‘must not’ breeds a pattern of being non-violent. That is, non-violence becomes an ideal. But the fact is you are violent, so why bother with romantic, idiotic ideals? So, can you be with the fact and not with the escape?

First, then, there must be order outwardly – and there cannot be order unless there is a universal language and a planning for the whole of mankind, which means the ending of all nationalities. Then, inwardly, there must be a freeing of the mind from all escapes, so that it faces the fact of ‘what is’. Can I look at the fact of my being violent and not say, ‘I must not be violent,’ and not condemn it or justify it but just look at the fact of my being violent?

This brings us to a very important question, I think perhaps the crucial question: what does it mean to look, to listen? For if I do not know how to look, then I am bound to condemn or justify, or to seek some form of escape. It is because I do not know how to look at anything that I begin to condemn it, to justify it, to say it is right or wrong, it must not be, or it should be. So I must first learn to look, not only objectively, outwardly, but also inwardly.

Look at a tree. Please, this is very important. You may have heard the speaker say this often, but really to look at a tree is one of the most difficult things to do. You can look at a tree because it is objective, away from the centre, over there. When you look at that tree, how do you look at it? Do you look at it with your mind or do you look at it with your eyes? Or do you look at it with your eyes plus your mind? If you look at a tree, you see it not only visually with your eyes, but your looking also evokes certain memories, certain associations. I look at that tree and say, ‘That is a tamarind.’ When I say it is a tamarind, or a mimosa or whatever it is, I have already stopped looking. Do observe it in yourselves. My mind is already distracted by saying, ‘That is a tamarind,’ whereas to look at a tree I must give complete attention to the looking. So to look is only possible when thought in no way interferes with the looking. Thought is memory, experience and knowledge, and when all that comes in, it is interfering with looking, with attention.

Now, it is fairly easy to look at a tree because it is something outside. But to look at oneself, to see actually what one is, to look at this violence without any condemnation, justification, explanation, just to look at it – to do that you must have plenty of energy, mustn’t you?

Now, observe what is happening here. The speaker is saying something to you, and to listen you have to give your whole attention. To find out exactly what he is saying, you must give attention. But if you are taking notes, if you are looking at somebody else, if you are tired, if you are sleepy, if you are yawning or scratching – or agreeing or disagreeing – then you are not giving complete attention. So to listen to the word, to the train that is going over that bridge, to listen to the movement of the wind in the leaves, not casually but to listen to it, you must have tremendous energy. That can only come into being when there is no explanation – when thought doesn’t say, ‘The tree is pleasant,’ or, ‘The noise of the train is interfering with my listening,’ and so on.

So can I, and can you, look at this violence, whose cause we have explained somewhat, can we look at this violence without any justification? Without condemning it, can we look at it as it is?

What takes place when you give complete attention to the thing that we call violence? Violence is not only what separates human beings, through belief, conditioning and so on, but also what comes into being when we are seeking personal security, or the security of individuality through a pattern of society. Can you look at that violence with complete attention? And when you look at that violence with complete attention, what takes place? When you give complete attention to anything – your learning of history or mathematics, looking at your wife or husband – what takes place? I do not know if you have gone into it – probably most of us have never given complete attention to anything – but when you do, what takes place?

What is attention? Surely when you are giving complete attention, there is care. And you cannot care if you have no affection, no love. When you give attention, in which there is love, is there violence?

Formerly, I have condemned violence, I have escaped from it, I have justified it, I have said it is natural. All these things are inattention. But when I give attention to what I have called violence – and in that attention there is care, affection, love – where is there space for violence? So it is important when we are going into this question of violence to understand very deeply what attention is.

Attention is not concentration. Concentration is a most stupid way of dealing with anything. When a schoolboy is forced to concentrate on a book when he wants to look out of the window, what takes place? He wants to look out of the window, and the teacher says, ‘Look at your book – concentrate.’ What takes place? There is a conflict, isn’t there? He wants to look at the beauty of a tree, or just to look at it casually, or see who is going by, or watch a bird preening itself, and at the same time he feels he must look at the book. So what takes place? There is a conflict, isn’t there? He wants to look over there, and at the same time he wants to look at the book. In that conflict he is neither looking at the book nor looking at the tree or the bird. Whereas if he were really attentive, he would be attentive to both, to everything – to the colours, to the people sitting next to him, to what they are doing, to how they are scratching their heads, or taking notes, or not paying attention – he would be aware of everything.

So violence is not to be fought against, is not to be suppressed, not to be transcended, transmuted, gone above and beyond. Violence is to be looked at. When you look at something with care, with attention, you begin to understand it, and therefore there is no place for violence at all. It is only the inattentive, the thoughtless, the prejudiced, who are violent. So the stupid man is violent, not the man who is attentive, who looks, who cares, has love. For this man, there is no place for violence, either in gesture, or in word, or in action.

Krishnamurti at Rajghat in 1967, Talk 1

Part 4

Intelligence Is Above and Beyond Aggression

If you would understand what meditation is, the mind must be totally free from all violence and aggression. This is a very serious matter, and if you don’t want to listen to it, don’t. But you should know something of all this; it is good for you to know this.

We are educated in violence. Our ways of life; all our activity is a form of violence. We are geared to war, and war is very profitable. We are educated to kill, not only the poor animals for our food, but also kill our neighbours in the name of God, in the name of peace, in the name of our country, in the name of our bank account. And it is part of our tradition, religiously, economically and socially – the competition of the priest to become a bishop, climb the ladder, the hierarchical ladder of spiritual whatever it is. And we are also aggressive. We think it is necessary to be aggressive in order to progress.

The word ‘progress’ at one time meant ‘to enter the enemy country fully armed’. I hope you appreciate the meaning of that word. And aggression was a form of security. The animals, if you have observed them, are very aggressive amongst themselves – as in the ‘top dog’. So there is in us not only aggression but violence. And we deem it necessary.

Intelligence is above and beyond violence and aggression. That intelligence comes when one understands the full nature and structure of violence outwardly and inwardly, with all its aggression. Then in that understanding flowers intelligence. That intelligence can operate in our daily life, and therefore there needs to be no violence at all. Intelligence is not an intellectual thing; intelligence comes into being when man is whole, when he is acting totally with all his being, when he is not fragmented, when his actions are not contradictory, and when he is aware of his contradictions choicelessly. Then out of that awareness comes this sensitive, pliable, rich intelligence, which will operate in our daily life, which will give us deep abiding security, which violence and aggression cannot. So a mind that is inquiring into meditation must be free of violence and aggression.

And there arises a question, which is, where do you draw the line between intelligence and violence? You kill animals to eat – and the animals are becoming rather expensive because they need a great deal of the land – and so gradually people are being forced to become vegetarians, of necessity. A writer some time ago wrote an article in this country saying: vegetarianism is spreading like some awful disease in this beautiful land. So where do you draw the line? You put on shoes of leather, you support war when you buy a stamp and when you pay your tax. Where do you draw the line between the least killing, the least violence and aggression?

The intelligence that is not involved in violence, in killing, when that intelligence operates, there is no line. It will operate intelligently when the problem is put before you.

Krishnamurti in New York 1974, Talk 4

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