Krishnamurti on Ideals
‘If we can put away all ideals, understanding their escaping and postponing quality, and face something as it is, directly, immediately, give our full attention to it, then there is a possibility of transforming it.’
This week’s episode on Ideals has four sections.
The first extract (2:52) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Ojai 1978, titled ‘Why do we live with the pressure of ideals?’
The second extract (17:48) is from the third talk in Saanen 1979, titled ‘Is there security in ideals?’
The third extract (38:33) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in New Delhi 1972, titled ‘Ideals prevent action’.
The final extract (51:03) in this episode is from the ninth talk in Ojai 1949, titled ‘Ideals are a postponement’.
Why Do We Live With the Pressure of Ideals?
Most people have ideals – why? The Marxists, the totalitarian attitude – the future is all-important, not the present – the ideals of Lenin, Marx, Mao. Why have ideals? The Christian ideals and so on and so on – why have ideals become so important, and why do they act as an extraordinary pressure on us? Don’t they act as a pressure on you? So why do you accept the pressure of ideals? Go on, sirs, it’s so simple.
Please, perhaps at the end of the talk, or at another time, we can discuss it, you can ask me, but let me talk for a while.
Probably you haven’t thought about these matters at all. Perhaps it may be something totally new, and your mind is already rejecting it. Or you say, ‘What would happen if I had no ideals? I have lived so long with ideals, they have given me comfort, they have guided my life, they have acted as a solace, and so on – the mind being used to ideals, and when it is challenged it recoils and reacts. So please don’t do it; just find out; learn about it, not from me, the speaker. The speaker is teaching you nothing; he is just pointing out, showing you – take it or leave it, it doesn’t matter to me. But it is very important for you to find out why ideals have become of such extraordinary importance.
Ideals are always in the future, something in the distance, which indicates, doesn’t it, that you are not concerned with actually what is. You are observing ‘what is’ through the ideals of a future, so you have never come into contact directly with what is. The ideals of a good life, the ideals of an American way of living – whatever that may mean – the ideals of having no war – peace – the ideals of love, the ideal of a perfect marriage, perfect relationship. Now, who has created these ideals? Who has created this whole monstrous society, this immoral society? Obviously thought. No?
Please observe, learn, don’t reject, don’t say, ‘No, it’s not like that.’ Go into it. After all, you are here – perhaps some of you have come a long way – to find out. You know your own thoughts, you know your own reactions, you know your own way of thinking, so you are here to find out what somebody else has to say. So listen to the poor chap! Don’t say, ‘No, it’s all wrong.’
So thought, not being able to deal with the present, with ‘what is’, creates an ideal in the distance, hoping that ideal will help to understand the present, to deal with ‘what is’. And there is this constant battle between ‘what is’ actually and ‘what should be’. This battle, this conflict is one of the great pressures of our life. Why? Why do you have pressures of ideals? If you knew, or when you understand how to deal with actually ‘what is’, then ideals are not necessary at all.
Please investigate what the speaker is saying, don’t reject it. That is, why should you live in conflict between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’? Why? If you understand ‘what is’ then the conflict ceases between what is actually happening and what should be happening – which is so ridiculous. So our question is then: is it possible to observe, clearly without any pressure, ‘what is’? There is a pressure if you want to change it. There is pressure if you say, ‘This is ugly, brutal, and I must change it to something else.’ That becomes a pressure. So can you look at ‘what is’ without, again, using a word which drives you? I wonder if you understand all this.
Look: if one is greedy, angry or jealous, the word ‘jealousy’, ‘anger’, ‘greed’ have their associations of condemnation, rationalisation, saying, ‘It’s all right, why shouldn’t I be jealous’ – and so on. So the language is driving you. Do you see that? Can you observe that feeling you call greed, which you call anger or jealousy, without using the word? If you don’t use the word ‘greed’, ‘jealousy’ or ‘anger’, what takes place? The weight, the pressure of language has ended, stopped, therefore you are looking at a feeling which has no name, and therefore can go beyond it.
Right? Have some of you understood all this? Or shall I go into it much more?
Krishnamurti: All right, sir.
You see, the ideal has become a part of knowledge. Right? So knowledge has become a pressure. I’m an American, or I’m a Hindu or whatever it is, some idiotic name. And that acts as a great pressure, and that pressure divides people – the Arab and the Jew – a very good example – the Indian and the Muslim, the Hindu. You follow?
So as most of us unfortunately live in the future called the ideal, we are never capable of observing actually what is going on. Either we are living in the past – the past is our knowledge, accumulated through millions of years, which has conditioned our mind, our brain, and so we are either living in the past yesterdays or in the future yesterdays. The future is the past yesterday, passing through the present, modified and going on. It is still yesterday. I wonder if you see all this. We are not talking about philosophy. I particularly don’t like philosophy. Philosophy means the love of life, love of truth, love of wisdom, not theories, not ideals, but actually the love of wisdom. But you cannot love wisdom, something in the future. But you can only love something that you look at, what actually is in your hand. And to observe what is actually in your hand with all your heart, with all your capacity to look, without naming it, then the thing that you look at becomes extraordinarily beautiful, or something that has no value at all.
Are you following all this? Are you doing all this? Or am I talking to an empty wall?
So can you be free of ideals and the pressure of the conflict that comes about between actually ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’? It is a cruel way of living, isn’t it, twisting your whole life into ‘what should be’ – your education, your religious institutions, everything has made you accept the pressure of ideals and live with it. So are you free of that so that you are capable, that you have energy, to look at ‘what is’? You have no energy if you are wasting it in some ideals. That is real wastage. It saps your energy because ideals bring about conflict: your ideals, my ideals, somebody else’s ideals – it is too complicated and too silly.
Now, can we move away from that? Move in the sense that you have understood it, you have grasped it, learnt about it; therefore it has no value anymore, and you are a free human being who is only observing ‘what is’ and nothing else.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1978, Talk 1
Is There Security in Ideals?
Each human being seeks psychological security, inward security, relying on belief, holding on, hoping thereby to find security in a belief, in an ideal, in a person, in a concept, in an experience. And does he ever find security in any of this? And if he doesn’t, why does he hold on to them?
If one may, let us think over this question together. That is, if you are willing, put aside your particular vanity, your particular prejudice, your own conclusions and let us think over this problem together. Which means you are not accepting what the speaker is saying. Nor are you accepting your own conclusions – because you have none, you have put them aside. So let us think this over very carefully, and this may be one of the factors, that human beings are so frightened. Why does the mind cling to a particular memory, to a particular experience, hold on to a belief which has lost all meaning. Why? Let’s talk it over together.
Either he is incapable of seeing the facts, or he likes to live in an illusion, in a make-belief which has nothing whatsoever to do with actuality: the actuality being what is taking place now. Or he separates the experience, the idea, the ideal, the belief as being not accurate but holds on to them because intellectually he is incapable of investigating. You follow? Now if we may proceed step by step.
Have you any beliefs that you hold on to? And if you hold on to a belief, what is that belief? How does it come into being? Either through centuries of propaganda, as most religions have done – that is their metier, that is their investment. For centuries, a belief has been created, and one accepts it naturally from childhood, and it is easier to follow what has been the tradition rather than to break away from it. If you have no particular beliefs, then ideals. The word ‘idea’, I believe, comes from the Greek, which means to see, to observe. Not observe and then from it a conclusion, which becomes an idea. The word ‘idea’ actually means to observe.
Now, have we ideals, which is the future? The future which is going to be achieved. The ideal has been projected from the experiences of the past, from certain conclusions which have been gathered, and from that you project an ideal, historical, worldly, or personal. That is the past projecting a concept as an ideal, which is in the future, and conforming to the future, to that ideal. It is the same movement from the past, modified through the present, to the future. Right? That is clear, isn’t it? Now you see that, that when you have an ideal there must be a contradiction in your daily life because that ideal is something non real, nonfactual. But the factual is what is happening and hence there is a conflict, an adjustment, an imitation, a division. So there is a constant approximating one’s action to something which is not factual. That is illusory. This is actual.
Now, after explaining that very carefully, we can go much more into detail. Do you actually see this fact, or are you already translating it into an idea? Please observe yourself. That is, one has an ideal, and you see the nature of the ideal, how the ideal comes into being.
Lenin, the Marxists, the Maoists, have these ideals after studying history and coming to their own particular conclusion about history and then projecting the ideas, and then making human beings conform to those ideas. So have you as a human being, thinking this out very carefully, do you see the falseness of it and therefore letting it go? Or you feel if you have an ideal you are doing something, you are active, you are accomplishing, fulfilling your ideals? And that gives one great satisfaction, vanity, sense of purpose.
So after talking over together – together – does one put aside ideals? If you do, then you say, ‘Is it possible then to face actually what is happening?’ Not in contrast to the ideal and measuring what is happening according to the ideal, but having the capacity to face what is actually going on. In that observation of what is actually taking place, there is no conflict; you are watching. I wonder if you see this. Are we together in this? Please bear in mind we are thinking this out together.
It is very important that we not only learn to listen properly but also have the capacity which comes naturally if you are interested, in being able to see what is false. And it is finished: I will put aside my opinion, I won’t let that interfere. And can we together put aside all our ideals? Because we are thinking this out together because we are inquiring into the question of security. We think we are secure when we pursue an ideal, however false it is, however unreal it is, which has no validity. It gives a certain sense of purpose, and that sense of purpose gives a certain quality of assurance, satisfaction, security.
Right? Can we go along? Not go along verbally, but actually you have put aside your ideals.
So now we are inquiring into the question of security, and why human beings, right throughout the world, hold on to experience. Please ask yourself. Not only sexual, physical experiences, but also so-called spiritual experiences, which are much more dangerous. You walk along by yourself or with others; you suddenly have some kind of ecstasy, some kind of delight, and that experience you store, hold on to. The thing is over, and there is the memory of it, and one holds on to that memory, which is called experience. The actual word ‘experience’ means ‘to go through’. To go through and finish with, not carry on in your memory that which has happened. Now, especially in so-called psychological experiences or religious experiences, which are very, very subtle in their happenings, the human mind takes delight in something which is not ordinary. Ordinary being that which is happening every day. That which has happened suddenly, or which has happened after unconsciously working at it and then happening, and holding on to it – why? Does that give one a certain sense of having experiences, known, something not ordinary? And that gives one a delight, a great pleasure, and in that experience there is a certain quality of security because you have experienced something totally other than ‘what is’. And belief, ideal, experience, remembrances, do they give security? Actual security, as physical security? Or does the mind like to live in a certain area of illusion?
Please, we are thinking over together; we are not doing propaganda or trying to convince you of anything. But we are trying together to find out why human beings hold on to illusions, which are obvious to another.
Now is it, as we said, that it gives a great sense of superiority? ‘I have had something which you fellows haven’t had.’ That is the whole gamut of the gurus: ‘I know, you don’t know.’ And why do human beings live in this way? Why do you or ‘X’ live this way? Please think it out. Let’s think it over together because your experience is personal, enclosing, self-centred, and the other is the same. So there is always your experience different from mine, or another’s, and mine is better than yours, so there is always this division going on. So are we, in thinking this out together, holding on to our experiences, our beliefs, our ideals, our conclusions, knowing that they are merely a verbal structure, knowing that they are merely a thing that is gone, finished, in the past?
Why do we hold on? Is it we want to live with certain illusions in which we take delight? So does security lie in illusions? Apparently, a vast majority of people in the world like to live in illusions, whether scientific illusions or religious illusions or economic illusions or national illusions. They seem to like it. And perhaps we are serious, not wanting mere entertainment; we are deeply concerned with the social structure which is destructive, dangerous, and we human beings say we must bring about a different quality of mind and a different society.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1979, Talk 3
Ideals Prevent Action
What is the relationship of thought to action? Living is action; relationship is action. Without action, you cannot live. Whether you talk, whether you eat, whether you do anything, that is action. What relationship, we are asking, has thought to action? Thought has created ideas, ideals, conclusions, and from those conclusions you act.
You are following this? Ah, no, you are not. All of you have ideals, haven’t you? No? Haven’t you? Yes? Now, you have ideals. I haven’t got any, but you have, and therefore our communication ceases. So we are going to explore why you have ideals and if you act according to those ideals. Is that action at all, or is it incomplete action, therefore no action?
You have ideals, many of them. These ideals are projected by thought, aren’t they? That is, you are violent and you say, ‘I must not be violent’ – the ideal of not being violent. So there is the fact of being violent and the ideal of not being violent. So there is a time interval, a time interval between the fact and ‘what should be’. The ‘what should be’ is the ideal, and you think you are acting according to an ideal, when actually what you are doing is being violent.
What is the function of an ideal? Has it any value at all? Or is it a postponement or an avoidance of facing the fact, and altering the fact instantly? You have an ideal of non-violence, and you are violent. You think gradually, day after day, by practising non-violence, you will achieve a state of mind in which violence has ceased to be. What actually takes place? You are being violent every day and hoping to change violence according to the pattern you have set. Therefore, such action is inaction.
I wonder if you get it. Tant pis! I cannot help it if you don’t get it.
Look, if you are hungry you want to be fed now. You have no ideals about food. You may like certain kinds of food but you want to be fed now. Why don’t you do the same with regard to violence? Why do you have ideals about violence? Why don’t you end it? Whereas if you have an ideal, you are postponing the act of understanding it and putting an end to violence. It is the act of a lazy mind, not an idealistic mind. Can you do it? Now, that is insight, isn’t it? To see the significance of an ideal, to have an insight into it, that insight frees you instantly from violence. Whereas if you conclude that you must not be violent, then this conclusion becomes the ideal, and therefore incomplete action.
You’ve got it now? I wonder why you haven’t thought out all these things for yourself, why you depend on somebody else to tell you all this. You see what great sorrow there is in this: that you should be told by somebody else about a simple fact like ideals. Isn’t that a great sorrow? Therefore you depend on somebody else, and that dependence breeds fear, and fear breads sorrow. Our education, our books, our teachers have helped you to depend on somebody else: the guru will tell you what to do, the Upanishads say this and that or the Gita says that, so you are never capable of looking at things for yourself, understanding them and going beyond them.
Insight, which is, the actual word, is ‘theory’. As we said, the word ‘theory’ means observation, having insight into something. So what relationship has thought to action? Has it any relationship at all, except in the field of technology? Do you understand my question? Have you understood my question? I see thought creating an ideal or an idea about action prevents action – which I have just explained. So, what relationship has thought to action? Is there any relationship for a harmonious, total action? Or thought will always prevent the harmonious, total action? So is there an action in which thought doesn’t enter at all?
You are following all this? Do please. Avanti, come together, let’s move, don’t let’s stop in one place.
I see thought brings about incomplete action and that incomplete action breeds conflict, sorrow, pain, confusion. That is obvious. Thought in technology is absolutely necessary, but thought in relationship with each other, and therefore action, in that relationship thought has no place because thought divides. You are used to action based on ideas and therefore there is division in action, contradiction in action. Now what we are asking is: is there an action in which this contradiction, this conflict, this division doesn’t exist at all, an action which is total, harmonious, non-fragmentary?
Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1972, Talk 2
Ideals Are a Postponement
Question: We have a collection of ideals, and the choice is wide. We try to realise them through various methods. This is a long and time-taking way. In listening to you, I feel that the distinction or space between ideal and practice is illusory. Is this so?
Krishnamurti: First of all, are we aware, each one of us, that we have ideals, and that, having these ideals, we are trying to practise them, or live up to them, or approximate ourselves to them?
Take the question of violence. We have the ideal of non-violence, and we try to practise that ideal in our daily lives. Or take any other ideal that you have. We are trying to live up to it all the time, to practise it, if we are serious and not merely living on the verbal level. And that takes time, a constant application, a series of failures, and so on.
Why do we have ideals? Any collection of them, why do we have them? Do they better our lives? And is virtue to be gained through constant disciplining? Is virtue a result, or is it something quite different? Take humility – can you practise humility, or does humility come into being when the self is not important? Then the ‘me’ and the ‘mine’ do not predominate. But if we make that into an ideal, that the self should not predominate, then arises the question: how to come to that state? So, this whole process is very complicated and unreal, is it not? There must be a different approach to this problem, surely? Is not a collection of ideals an escape? Because it gives us time to play with it – we say, ‘I am practising it, I am disciplining myself; one day I will be that; it is necessary to go slowly, to evolve towards it’ – you know all the various explanations that we give.
Now, is there a different approach? Because we can see that the constant disciplining towards an ideal, approximating oneself to an ideal, does not really bring about the solution of the problem. We are no more kindly, we are not less violent. We may be superficially but not fundamentally. So how is one, then, to be non-greedy without having the ideal of non-greed?
Suppose, for example, I am greedy – or I am mean or angry – any of these things. The ordinary process is to have an ideal and try to approximate myself to that ideal all the time through practice, discipline and so on. Does that free me from greed, from anger, from violence? What will free me from violence is to be free from my desire to be something, from my desire to gain something, to protect something, to achieve a result, and so on. So our difficulty is, is it not, is that, having these ideals, there is this constant desire to be something, to become something. And that is really the crux of the matter. After all, greed or anger is one of the expressions of the ‘me’, the self, the ‘I’, and as long as that ‘I’ remains, anger will continue. Merely to discipline it to function in a certain way does not free it from anger. This process only emphasizes the self, the ‘me’, does it not?
Now, if I realise that I am angry or greedy, need I go through all the disciplinary process in order to be free from it? Is there not a different approach to it, a different way of tackling it? I can tackle it differently only when I no longer take pleasure in sensation.
Anger gives me a sensation of pleasure, doesn’t it. Though I may dislike it afterwards, at the time there is an excitement involved in it. It is a release. So the first thing, it seems to me, is to be aware of this process, to see that the ideal does not eradicate anything but is merely a form of postponement. That is, to understand something, I must give it full attention, and an ideal is merely a distraction which prevents my giving that feeling or that quality full attention at a given time. If I am fully aware, if I give my full attention to the quality I call greed, without the distraction of an ideal, then am I not in a position to understand greed and so dissolve it?
You see, we are so accustomed to postponement, and ideals help us to postpone. But if we can put away all ideals because we understand the escapes, the postponing quality of an ideal, and face the thing as it is, directly, immediately, give our full attention to it, then, surely, there is a possibility of transforming it.
If I realise that I am violent, if I am aware of it without trying to transform it or become non-violent – if I am merely aware of it, then, because my attention is fully given to it, it opens up the various implications of violence, and therefore, surely, there is an inward transformation. But if I practise non-violence or non-greed, or what you will, then I am merely postponing, am I not, because I am not giving my attention to ‘what is’, which is greed or violence.
You see, most of us have ideals either as a means of postponing or to be something, to achieve a result. In the very desire to become the ideal, surely there is violence involved. In the very becoming of something, moving myself towards a goal, surely violence is involved. You see, we all want to be something. We want to be happy, we want to be more beautiful, we want to be more virtuous, we want to be more and more and more. Surely, in the very desire for something more, there is violence involved, there is greed involved. But, if we realise that the more we want to be something, the more conflict there is, then we can see that the ideal merely helps us to increase our conflict – which doesn’t mean that I am satisfied with what I am. On the contrary. As long as I want to be something more, there must be conflict, there must be pain, there must be anger and violence. If I really feel that, if I am profoundly affected by it, see it, am aware of it, then I am able to deal with the problem immediately, without having a collection of ideals to encourage me to be this or that. Then my action is immediate; my relationship with it is direct.
But there also arises in this another problem, which is that of the experiencer and the experience. With most of us, the experiencer and the experience are two different processes. The ideal and myself are two different states: I want to become that. Therefore, the ‘I’, the experiencer, the thinker, is different from the thought. Is that so? Is the thinker different from the thought? Or is there only thought, which creates the thinker? So, as long as I am separate from the thought, I can manipulate thought, I can change it, transform it. But is the ‘I’, who is operating on a thought, different from the thought? Surely, they are a joint phenomenon, are they not? The thinker and the thought are one, not separate.
When one is angry, one is angry: there is an integrated feeling which we term anger. Then I say, ‘I am angry.’ Therefore, I separate myself from that anger, and then I can operate on it, do something about it. But if I realise that I am anger, that I am that quality itself, that the quality is not separable from me, surely, when I experience that, then there is quite a different action, quite a different approach.
Now we separate ourselves from the thought, from the feeling, from the quality. Therefore, the ‘I’ is a separate entity from the quality, and therefore the ‘I’ can operate on the quality. But the quality is not different from the ‘I’, from the thinker. And when there is that integrated experience in which the thinker and the thought are one, not separate, then, surely, there is quite a different approach, a different response.
Again, experiment with this and you will see. Because at the moment of experiencing, there is neither the experiencer nor the experience. It is only as the experiencing fades that there is the experiencer and the experience. Then the experiencer says, ‘I like that,’ or, ‘I don’t like it,’ ‘I want more of it,’ or, ‘I want less of it.’ Then, he wants to cultivate the ideal, to become the ideal. But if the thinker is the thought, and there are not two separate processes, then his whole attitude is transformed. Then there is quite a different response with regard to thought. Then there is no longer approximating thought to an ideal, or getting rid of thought. Then there is no maker of effort. And I think it is really very important to discover this for oneself, to experience this directly, not because I say so or someone else says so. It is important to come to this experience: that the thinker is the thought. Don’t let that become a new jargon, a new set of words which we use.
Through verbalisation, we don’t experience. We merely have sensations – and sensations are not experience. And if one can be aware of this joint phenomenon, of this process in which the thinker and the thought are one, then I think the problem will be understood much more profoundly than when we merely have ideals or have none, which is really beside the point.
If I am my thoughts, and my thoughts are not different from me, then there is no maker of effort. Then I do not become that; then I am no longer cultivating virtue. Not that I am already virtuous. The moment I am conscious that I am virtuous, I am not virtuous. The moment I am conscious that I am humble, surely humility ceases. So, if I can understand the maker of effort – the ‘me’ becoming its own self-projected demands, desires, which are the same as myself – then surely there is a radical transformation in my whole outlook. That is why it is important to have right meditation, to know what right meditation means. It is not the approximation to an ideal; it is not trying to reach out and get something; it is not to attain, to concentrate, to develop certain qualities, and so on – which we discussed previously. Right meditation is the understanding of this whole process of the ‘me’, of the self. Because, as I said, right meditation is self-knowledge; and without meditation, one cannot find out what the process of the self is.
If there is no meditator to meditate upon something, then meditation is the experiencing of that which is, the total process of the thinker as the thought. Then only is there a possibility that the mind can be really quiet. Then it is possible to discover if there is something beyond the mind – which is not a mere verbal assertion that there is or that there is not, that there is atman, the soul, or what you will – we are not discussing those things. It is going beyond all verbal expression. Then the mind is quiet – not merely on the higher level, the upper level of the mind, but the whole content of the mind, the whole consciousness is quiet. But there is no quietness if there is a maker of effort. And there will be the maker, the will of action, as long as he thinks he is separate from the thought.
This requires a great deal of going into, of thinking out, not just experiencing it superficially and sensationally. And when one has that direct experience, then becoming the ideal is illusory; it has no meaning at all. Then it is altogether a wrong approach. Then one sees that this whole process of becoming the more, the greater, has nothing to do with reality. Reality comes into being only when the mind is completely quiet, when there is no effort. Virtue is that state of freedom in which there is no maker of effort. Therefore, virtue is a state in which effort has completely ceased. But if you make an effort to become virtuous, surely it is no longer virtue.
So, as long as we do not understand, do not experience that the thinker and the thought are one, all these problems will exist. But the moment we experience that, the maker of effort comes to an end. To experience that, one must be completely aware of the process of one’s own thinking and feeling, of one’s desire to become. And that is why it is important, if one is really seeking reality, or God, or what you will, to see that this whole mentality of climbing, evolving, growing, achieving, must come to an end.
We are much too worldly. With the mentality of the clerk becoming the boss, the foreman becoming the executive – with that mentality we approach reality. We think we will do the same thing: climb the ladder of success. I am afraid it cannot be done that way. If you do, you will live in a world of illusion, and therefore of conflict, pain, misery and strife. But if one discards all such mentality, such thoughts, such points of view, then one becomes really humble. One is, not becomes. Then there is a possibility of having a direct experience of reality, which alone will dissolve all our problems – not our cunning efforts, not our great intellect, not our deep and wide knowledge.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1949, Talk 9