Krishnamurti on Crisis
‘The crisis is not in economics, politics or religion. The crisis is in our consciousness.’
This week’s episode on Crisis has four sections.
The first extract (2:26) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in Ojai 1985, titled ‘Where is the crisis?’
The second extract (6:30) is from the fourth talk in Ojai 1981, titled ‘The crisis must be answered’.
The third extract (28:15) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Ojai 1981, titled ‘To understand the crisis, we must be aware of thought’.
The final extract in this episode (50:12) is from the fifth talk in Bombay 1964, titled ‘Facing a crisis inactively’.
Where Is the Crisis?
It’s a nice, not too hot a morning, pleasant under the trees, and a rather cool breeze, which one hopes you will not mind, and it is rather convenient to go to sleep here. (Laughter) If you are well-covered with blankets and all the rest of it, a nice Sunday morning, free of all the office work and labour and travail and skill. And under the trees in the dappled light, it is rather pleasant. ‘You can go on talking, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll go to sleep and you go on.’ (Laughter) If that is what you want, go to sleep. But if we are serious, earnest, which we must be because that is one of the crises we have come to – it is no longer mere entertainment, no longer a mere intellectual game, or seeking sensation from one thing to another, or from another.
We have got to face some extraordinary crises in life – life being our consciousness. The crisis is not in economics, politics or religion, but the crisis is in our consciousness – why we are what we are after thousands and thousands of years. That is where the crisis is. Merely to solve the economic crisis or the political crisis or the brutality of ideologies and wars – it’s not only there, but is much deeper. So we are going to inquire first because they are all related. All problems are related to each other; they are not separate. If one can solve one problem completely, then you have solved all other problems because there is no separate problem, whether it be sexual, whether it be the desire to fulfil, and so on. So in the resolution of one is solved the whole thing, if you know how to do it.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1985, Talk 2
The Crisis Must Be Answered
We have been saying that the world is in a crisis, threatened by war, overpopulation, poverty, terrible division between nationalities, and all the absurdities that are going on in the name of religion. But the crisis, as we said, is in the human consciousness, in the mind, in the brain, in the heart, which cannot possibly be solved by politicians, or by the accumulated knowledge of scientists, nor is it an economic problem, but it has become, dangerously, a human problem. And apparently very few are inclined or interested to concern themselves with that crisis in the human mind.
If we are at all serious, and I hope we are, we must be concerned with the responsibility of all that is taking place in the world because, as we have explained quite often, our consciousness is not the particular consciousness of one person, it is the consciousness of all mankind because all human beings suffer, wherever they live. They are in conflict, misery, confusion, searching out leaders who are always betraying them, depending on priests who have given them a lot of words and meaningless answers. Nor can one depend on the scientists who, with their specialisations, are helping to destroy the world.
As this crisis is in ourselves, and nowhere else, so the responsibility, as we pointed out, becomes very great and very serious. And whether this consciousness with which we have lived for a million years can ever be transformed. There are some who say it cannot: human nature is what it is – modify it, accept it, slightly change it, but fundamentally it cannot possibly be changed. And if one accepts the philosophers and those who think in that manner, then man, human beings, must suffer endlessly, must remain in conflict everlastingly, there must be wars endlessly, as there have been for the last five thousand years, in recorded history, practically a war always somewhere on this earth, which is our earth, where we are meant to live, and not the American earth or the English earth, or the Indian or the Japanese, and so on. And this consciousness in which there is this crisis that must be answered, not by any particular specialist, professionals, but by us ordinary, everyday living human beings with their jobs, with their miseries and confusion.
Patience is timeless; impatience is full of time. One must have patience to listen to oneself. Now we depend on specialists, professors, those who tell you what to do. We have lost self-reliance. We have become more or less slaves to authority, whether it is scientific authority, religious, economic or environmental authority. All over the world, we are losing our sense of integrity. We depend on books. Books have their place, but to understand ourselves through books, through another, has led us to this confusion, to this crisis. As we have pointed out over and over again, we are thinking, reasoning, observing together. We are not accepting what the speaker is saying, or rejecting it. He is merely acting as a mirror in which we see ourselves. And when we begin to see ourselves as we are, then we can throw away, break up the mirror. The mirror has no value.
So we are saying that the crisis is in our minds and our hearts. And we don’t seem to be able to understand that crisis. Understanding brings its own discipline – not the discipline of conformity, not the discipline of imitation, not the discipline to accept something, however great or small. Discipline means – the root meaning of the word ‘discipline’ comes from the word ‘disciple’. A disciple is one who learns – not from another, however wise, however enlightened, however knowledgeable, but learning from our own self-education, learning about ourselves – because there is our crisis. We have handed ourselves over to the priests, to the scholars, to the professors, to the philosophers, to the analysts, and unfortunately, recently, we have handed ourselves over to gurus from India or Asia – which is most unfortunate. They have become rich, exploiting people. It has become a great religion as it is now, a great business affair – which again is obvious.
So we are saying that one has to observe oneself, learn about oneself. Not from anybody because they themselves are not studying themselves. They have theories, speculative ideas. They have experimented on animals, pigeons and so on, but they have never looked at themselves actually as they are, with their greed, with their ambition, with their competition, with their aggressiveness, violence and so on – all that we are. In the understanding of that, actually understanding not merely the verbal description of what we are but the actual understanding of our reactions, our thoughts, our anger, our wounds, our aggressiveness, violence and so on, looking at it, out of that understanding, observation, comes this discipline which is constantly learning anew.
Perhaps we have lost the meaning of the word ‘discipline’; we have relegated it to the soldier, to some monks and so on. In this country especially, we have lost the meaning of that word. If you are a careerist, in that career there is a certain demand for discipline. If you are a carpenter, the very understanding of the wood, the tools, the nature of design, that observation, that understanding brings its own learning, its own discipline, its own action. But apparently we have lost that because we are all so terribly concerned to get on, to climb the ladder of success, to become something – if you observe all this – and therefore we are becoming more and more and more superficial. You have got a marvellous country, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, from the highest snow-capped mountains to the desert, to the vast rivers and the deep valleys, and the great trees. It is a marvellous country, and we human beings are destroying all that because we want to get on, god knows where, but get on.
We are observing all this ourselves, please, you are not following the speaker. The speaker is not your guru, your leader; you are not his followers. One has to wipe away all that and examine closely what we are doing as human beings.
In this consciousness there is disorder, and we are trying to bring order in that by conformity, by acceptance, by obedience. We have never understood what order is. As the speaker has been in this country for the last sixty years, I have seen every kind of phase, fad, always something new. And we live – practically, socially, morally, ethically – in disorder. Without understanding order in the deepest sense of that word, meditation becomes utterly meaningless. We think that through meditation, we will bring order. That is the trick that has been played upon us for a million years. But order begins at home, near.
So we have to investigate together what that order is because our consciousness, as we said, is in total disarray. It is in conflict; it is battling itself against something which it has created. So we are, together, going to inquire: what is order? We are using that word to imply a state of mind, not as an ideal, a state of mind, a state of heart in which there is no conflict whatsoever. Conflict indicates disorder. Choice indicates disorder. A man who chooses is really not actually free; he is confused.
Please don’t accept what is being said. It is important, one thinks, that one must cultivate or have this sense of scepticism, especially in psychological matters. There must be doubt. And if you observe, in the Asiatic world – India, and so on – doubt has been one of the precepts of religion. The Hindus and Buddhists have talked a great deal about doubt. But in the Christian world, doubt is denied because that world is based on faith. And if you question, you are either excommunicated or tortured – as they have done in the past, burnt – but now you are tolerated. There isn’t much difference.
So please observe yourself, your environment, your society and your own thoughts with considerable doubt. And also listen to the speaker with doubt, with questioning, demanding of yourself. You are doubting all that you have thought, observed, learnt, so that the mind, the brain is free to observe. And also doubt must be kept on a leash, like a dog. If you keep a dog on the leash all the time, the poor animal withers. You must know when to let it go, run, chase, jump. Similarly, one must hold doubt on a leash, and also one must learn the subtlety of when to let it go.
So we are asking: why is it that man has lived in this disorder for millions and millions of years? We human beings, wherever we are, what is the cause of this disorder?
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1981, Talk 4
To Understand the Crisis, We Must Be Aware of Thought
So to understand the crisis in consciousness, in our very being, one must inquire very closely into the nature of thought, because that is the only instrument we have. We may invent intuition, a hunch, and so on, but it is still based on thought. Thought is the basis of all this. One wonders if one recognises this, and sees what thought has done. Thought has created the world in which we live, the society in which we live. The society is an abstraction. Society is an abstraction; what is real is relationship between man and man. Socialists, communists, democrats and so on are trying to change society, the social structure, all over the world, but they are never concerned with the relationship between man and man, man and woman and so on because that relationship makes society – which is again a fact. If your relationship with another is correct, true, has integrity, your society will then be totally different. But society, which is an abstraction, is being changed by machines – not by revolutions – by computers, by the atom bomb, by all the technological inventions that thought has brought about. That is changing society, the structure. But human beings remain as they are: selfish, self-centred, completely concerned with their own dignity, with their own vanity, with their own ambition, with their own fulfilment, with their own desires.
So in order to understand and bring about a radical change in the crisis, or to respond to that crisis correctly, which means accurately, completely, one must inquire very deeply into the nature of thought – why thought has become so extraordinarily important in life. And is there another instrument apart from thought? We are going to go into it very carefully without any superstition, without any mystification, without any sense of acceptance, having faith and all that nonsense. We are going to, together, examine what thought is, how it has created this terrible mess and problems and so on. And we are going to inquire also together: if thought is not the instrument of the resolution of this crisis, is there another?
Please, as we pointed out, we are exploring together. You are not listening to what the speaker is saying – merely accepting or agreeing, or then not – but joining together to find out. The speaker has no authority; he is not a guru, thank God! So there is no relationship, which is so utterly false, between the teacher and the taught; there is only the act of learning. Not you teach me and I teach you, which becomes ridiculous, but rather that together, as two human beings, think together – which doesn’t mean you agree with me, or I agree with you, but together examine the nature of thought. By thought we live. By thought we destroy each other. So thought has become astonishingly important in our lives. Thought divides each one of us in our relationship – man and woman.
I do not know if you have gone into it, how thought divides a relationship, and so there is everlasting battle in that relationship. We will go into all that, perhaps not during this first talk, but as there are going to be several, we will go into all this, if you are interested. The speaker is not persuading you, he is not stimulating you, he is not acting as a drug, but together we will see this crisis. And we must resolve this crisis, or respond to this crisis properly, directly, sanely, rationally, not according to our particular narrow belief or faith, or some kind of idiotic concept.
So we are asking: what is the nature of thought and why has thought become so devastatingly important? You may say, ‘If there is no thought, what? I am reduced to a vegetable.’ Thought has its function. It has. Also thought has brought about this terrible atom bomb that is going to destroy human beings, and war. Thought has divided the world into nationalities. Thought has divided the Christian from the Muslim, from the Hindu. Having divided, it says, ‘We must love one another.’ Having divided, it says, ‘There is only one saviour who alone is responsible for your sorrow’ – and all the rest of it. Thought is responsible for all this, and if we really are not sensitively aware of the movement of thought and all its activity, then we shall not be able to meet this crisis. And if we cannot, we are going to destroy each other. This is not a prophecy – you can see it written on the wall, unless you are totally blind, totally insensitive, so absorbed in your own petty little self. It is all there for anyone to see, to see what is going to happen and what must be done. So, that is, together – and I mean together; not that the speaker is going to tell you and you accept it; then it becomes rather silly – but together find out why thought has become so supreme, and what is the source of thought, what is the origin of thought, what is the beginning of thought.
We have got ten minutes more. Time is an extraordinary thing! Understand time because time is also thought. So if we understand the nature of thought, we shall understand the nature of time. If there is an ending to thought, that is real meditation. There is an ending to time, not physical time, but where time must have a stop. And we are going to discover that for ourselves in these talks. That is, if you care to listen, care to share, think over together, then we will find, discover it for ourselves, and not be taught by another.
If you are taught by another, you become a second-hand human being, which we are. We are what everybody has thought, from Aristotle, the Greeks, from the ancient Hindus and the ancient Buddhists, and so on, so on – all that is handed down and we are all that. So we are utterly mediocre people. There is nothing original, not in the field of technology, but of course there are inventions. You identify with invention and you think you are unique, but thought is common to all mankind – black, brown, or whatever colour or nationality and so on – thought is common. Therefore there is a common bondage between all of us. And unless we understand the extraordinary subtlety of thought with its memory, we shall not be able to meet this crisis. So we will go into it if time will permit – five minutes!
We are inquiring into the origin of thought, in five minutes. Thought is born of experience. Thought is born out of experience which becomes knowledge stored up in the brain as memory, various types of memories – technological, personal, national, historical, scientific and so on. So, experience, knowledge. From knowledge is memory, the remembering of past things. Then from memory thought. Then from thought there is action, and that action brings further knowledge. So we are caught in this. That is, experience, which may be personal or global, and knowledge which is global – from knowledge, which is stored up in the brain as memory, and from that memory respond, a response which is thought. Then thought acts this way or that way, rightly, wrongly, skilfully or with great subtlety, and from that further knowledge. So in this chain the human brain works. It is caught in this chain – which is a fact, if you observe it very closely. And that is why thought has become so extraordinarily important. And as it is born out of experience and knowledge, and as knowledge can never be complete or whole at any time, so thought is always limited, it is always broken up. And whatever it touches must bring about division. Obviously.
So do we see the truth of that? That knowledge can never be complete, and thought then must be incomplete, limited, fragmentary, and whatever it does, whether it creates the United Nations, or invents God, it must always be limited, and therefore, being incomplete, it must bring about disharmony and conflict. If one realises this completely, not as a theory or idea, but as an actuality, then thought has its place. Because if you have no knowledge of where you are going after this meeting, it would be absurd. So knowledge has a place, but knowledge, psychological knowledge, which is the ‘me’, which thought has put together, the self and the self-centred activity different from and in the relationship with another, that brings about conflict, confusion, misery.
So if one understands that very, very deeply, then one can begin to inquire: is there a totally different kind of instrument that is not fragmentary, that is whole?
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1981, Talk 1
Facing a Crisis Inactively
Most of us bring the past into the present, and the present becomes mechanical. You observe your own life, and you will see how extraordinarily mechanical it is! You function like a machine, like a rather poor imitation of an electronic brain, because you have accepted, you have got used to time. Now, there is a life out of time when you understand the past – the past being memory and nothing else.
Memory as knowledge, the accumulation of experiences, the things that man has gathered for millions of years – that is the past, conscious or unconscious; all the traditions are there. And you come to the present with that, the now, and therefore you are not living at all. You are living with memories, with the dead ashes of yesterday. Do watch yourself. Then out of the dead ashes of memory, you invent the tomorrow: I will be non-violent one day; I am violent today and I will keep on polishing my lovely violence till, one day, I will be free and be non-violent – which is so infantile, juvenile! You have accepted it; you do not spit on that idea. And there are people who talk such nonsense, and you treat them as great people because you are caught in time, as they are caught in time. They are not liberating you; they are not making you face the fact of time, which is to bring the whole past into the present, as a crisis.
You know what happens when you are in a crisis – an actual crisis, not an invented crisis, not a crisis of words, ideas and theories? When you are actually confronted with a crisis that demands your complete attention – complete attention being attention with your mind, your eyes, your ears, your heart, your nerves, the whole of your being – do you know what happens? Then there is no past; then there is nobody to tell you what to do; then out of that tremendous attention comes spontaneity; then in that state, there is no time. But the moment you begin to think about the crisis, the moment you begin to ‘think’, all the past comes into action. Thought is the reaction of the past – association, and all the rest of it. And then you have the beginning of time and sorrow.
Therefore when a mind is not really in a state of action but in a state of inaction, from that comes further inaction, which is of time. There are two kinds of inaction: the inaction that time breeds, and the inaction which is the total state of the mind when it is confronted with a tremendous crisis. Out of facing a tremendous crisis, the mind itself is completely inactive, which is, free from all thought. And out of that inaction, there is action. And that is the only action that counts, not the other.
So one has to understand the nature of time and the meaning of time. By the word ‘understand’, I mean really one has lived with it, gone into it, not accepted any theory, any verbal explanation, and not escaped through the past, but has actually gone into this phenomenon of psychological time. When you go into it, you bring time into a crisis. Then that crisis makes you completely attentive, and therefore the mind is in a state of action. The mind is always acting because, then, it is free from that state of the past and the future, which is time. In that state, when the mind is not concerned with the past or the future, the present has a different meaning. It is not a theory, it is not a state of despair. So the ending of sorrow is the ending of thought, and the ending of thought is the beginning of wisdom. The ending of sorrow is wisdom.
Krishnamurti in Bombay, Talk 5