Krishnamurti on Struggle

Episode Notes

‘There is a way of living without conflict and struggle. It doesn’t mean becoming lazy, the mind becoming stagnant or dull. This way of living without effort can only come about if we understand the whole process of contradiction.’

This week’s episode on Struggle has four sections.

The first extract (2:48) is from the 1974 film Problems of Living, titled ‘We are caught in the trap of endless struggle’.

The second extract (8:44) is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in Bombay 1962, titled ‘Why do we struggle?’

The third extract (33:44) is from the first question and answer meeting at Rajghat in 1981, titled ‘We struggle for everything’.

The final extract in this episode (44:00) is from the fourth talk at Brockwood Park in 1980, titled ‘Struggling to end all struggle’.

Part 1

We Are Caught in the Trap of Endless Struggle

Yesterday evening I saw a boat going up the river at full sail, driven by the west wind. It was a large boat, heavily laden with firewood for the town. The sun was setting, and this wood against the sky was astonishingly beautiful. The boatman was just guiding it; there was no effort, for the wind was doing all the work. Similarly, if each one of us would understand the problem of struggle and conflict, then I think we would be able to live effortlessly, happily, with a smile on our face.

Our life, our everyday life, is based on two principles: fear and pleasure, reward and punishment. From this arises this constant struggle. From this also arises the whole question of behaviour because our behaviour, that is, conduct, how we treat others and treat ourselves, the manner of our speech, the activities of our daily life, are based on these two principles. As long as these two principles operate – fear and pleasure, reward and punishment – there must be not only contradiction in ourselves and therefore in our actions, but also in our relationship with each other, and struggle and effort to become something, to achieve something – psychologically we are speaking – becomes one of our major problems of life.

I don’t know if you have noticed how every human being, right throughout the world – it doesn’t matter where you go, whether the Far East, Near East, or in the West – man is caught in this web, in this trap of endless struggle. Struggle not only to live securely physically but also psychologically – the battle that goes on within oneself, which is most destructive. I do not know if you have noticed this in yourself, how your life, your daily life, is based on this extraordinary principle of fear and pleasure, and therefore one is trying to dominate the other, and from this arises this endless conflict. Is it possible to live a life without this constant battle, without this constant struggle, inwardly as well as outwardly?

To really understand this, you have to see what your life is first. That it is a struggle, that it is terribly frustrating, painful. Be aware of that, be conscious of it. Then don’t escape from it, don’t run away from what you see, don’t try to explain it, don’t try to rationalise it, but stay with what actually is, that you are struggling, that there is a battle going on inside yourself, to be different or to become different and so on. Just watch that. And in that watching, in that awareness, you will find that by the very act of that attention, the struggle comes to an end.

Krishnamurti, Problems of Living, 1974

Part 2

Why Do We Struggle?

Most of us are ambitious. Most of us are ridden by the desire for success, for fame, or by the desire to be known, and it is an everlasting struggle and effort. Struggle is apparently accepted by each one as a necessity in learning, in getting educated, in going to the office, in climbing the ladder of success, in understanding what is truth – everything has become a question of struggle, effort. To think, to love, to be kind, to have humility – all this has been reduced to a formula of struggle and effort, control and discipline. For me, such a life of discipline, control, struggle, subjugation and conformity, is destruction of the individual who must emerge. And it is only the individual that can find out the eternal, if there is such a thing as the eternal.

So we must understand struggle. I am using the word ‘understand’ in the sense not intellectually, not verbally, but actually observing the fact of what you are, the fact that you struggle from morning till night, from the moment you are born till the moment you die, fighting, quarrelling, making incessant effort without end. Surely, there must be a different way of living. But we have accepted the way of struggle. The schoolboy accepts it; the older generations have accepted it; and every saint, every philosopher, every teacher has asserted that you must struggle, that you must make an effort.

I am pointing out, if you will listen, that there is a way of living without effort – which does not mean that you become sluggish, that you become dormant, stagnant; on the contrary. That effort, that struggle, is a waste, and when effort, struggle, entirely, totally ceases, there is a way of living completely with such energy. And to find out such a way, we must inquire diligently, wisely and intelligently into this problem of struggle.

We are investigating; we are not accepting what is being said because it is not a question of accepting or rejecting. We are not doing propaganda – we will leave that to the politicians and others. Propaganda is the continuity of non-fact, and a man who would understand a fact must approach it without distortion, see clearly what are the problems involved in ambition, in desire, in struggle. And we are going to investigate together. Therefore, you are going to journey into yourself, and not merely listen to what is being said.

Why do we struggle? What is the essence of struggle? What is the essence of ambition? Surely, conflict is the essence of ambition. Why are we so everlastingly ambitious at all levels of our existence? The so-called spiritual man, the sannyasi, the man with a beard, the politicians, the merchant, the man who is acquiring knowledge – they are all ambitious. Why? Why this conflict and struggle? Conflict exists because there is contradiction. If there was no contradiction, there would be no struggle.

Please follow this, not the words, but actually observe yourself as it were in a mirror. If there was no contradiction, there need be no effort. And we are a mass of contradiction. Why does this contradiction exist? Why does desire tear in different directions? Being torn in different directions, we say to ourselves, ‘I must be without desire,’ or ‘I must control the desire.’ Psychologically, it is impossible to control desire; you have to understand it, you have to unravel it, you have to go to the full length, not in its expression, not in its fulfilment, but understand the whole significance of desire which breeds contradiction. Because it breeds contradiction, we resist desire, we suppress desire. We say to ourselves, ‘We must be desireless’ – which is to destroy the whole immensity of life. For desire is part of life, and merely to suppress it, deny it, control it, is to shut off the immensity of life.

So, struggle exists because there is contradiction outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly there is the attraction of power, position or prestige, which is offered to a man who seeks status. There is a living with function. We have to function as human beings, we have to go to the office, we have to learn, we have to do things – a function. But with that function goes the desire to be more than a functionary, because you use that function as a means to acquire power, position, prestige, and so there is contradiction. Function produces contradiction when there is the desire to use function to arrive, to achieve success, to achieve power. Please observe this. This is a fact. Cooking is treated by people not as a function but as a position, as a status, and therefore with contempt, and so there is a contradiction. The minister, the man of power, the man of position, the man of wealth, you treat him with respect, with tremendous consideration because he will give you, or can offer, patronage. So he uses his function to achieve status – which you also want – and therefore there is contradiction.

So where there is function which gives status, there must be a contradiction. And society is based on this: that the function is not important, but the status is important – status being power. And that contradiction is sustained by society. Whether it is the function of a minister or of a saint, with it goes prestige. And what you want is not the function; what you respect is not the function but the status, and therefore you have contradiction.

A man who uses function to achieve status can never be efficient. And we need to be efficient in this world because function matters enormously. The rocket that goes to the moon has a million parts. Literally a million parts, and if even one of those parts does not function properly, it cannot go. And the man who designs it cannot seek, through that design, status; he must love what he is doing, otherwise he cannot make the thing perfect. It is only the man who loves what he is doing, whatever it be – design, construction, structure – and is not deriving a psychological status, a psychological position – such an entity alone can be efficient and not be ruthless. It is the man who is using function for status who becomes ruthless.

So, struggle is not necessary to learn a technique. But through your education, the society in which you are brought up forces you not to love what you are doing, but to pursue the necessity of a particular demand of the society. Society now demands engineers or scientists, and everybody becomes an engineer or a scientist because it is more profitable. But very few are real scientists, real engineers; they are using science and engineering as a means of acquiring money, position, prestige. So they are breeding contradiction. And outwardly there is all the expression of society with its wealth, comfort and progress. We all want wealth. We all are caught in this mania to achieve success in the world, to derive fame.

Why is there this intense desire on the part of each one – almost everyone – to achieve fame? Why is there this desire? I do not know if you have gone very far into that question. Let us look at it. Let us find out why you want to fulfil, why you want success, why there is this incessant battle with yourself.

Surely, for most of us, we are aware at some time or other, consciously or unconsciously, that there is a great emptiness, loneliness in us. You know what that phrase means ‘to be lonely’? It means to have no relationship with anything, to be completely cut off, to be in solitude, suddenly to find oneself alone, inwardly. And we are all the time struggling psychologically to fill that loneliness, to escape from it.

I do not know if you are aware of your own loneliness, if you have ever come across it. And because we are so frightened of that loneliness, we run away from it. So there is a contradiction. We try to escape from that loneliness through knowledge, through success, through money, through sex, through religion, through every form, but the fact is that you are lonely – which you don’t want to face – and you are escaping from it, and so there is contradiction which breeds conflict.

We are concerned with conflict. A man who has no conflict is not ambitious. And a man who is ambitious can never love; he does not know what it means to love because he is concerned with himself and with his own ideas and his own achievements. A man who seeks fame, how can he love, how can he have kindliness, generosity? And this sense of achievement can only come about when there is an escape from the fact that you are lonely. Do what you will, until you understand that extraordinary loneliness, your gods, your knowledge, your power or your position, have no value; nor does virtue have any value.

Now how does this loneliness come about? You understand what I mean by the word ‘loneliness’? Perhaps many of you have not felt that because you have never been alone, because you are always surrounded by your friends or family; you are always doing something, going to a cinema or to a temple, doing puja, being active all the time, and therefore never aware of yourself or of what is going on within yourself. So very few know this sense of complete loneliness. You must have come across it, perhaps when you are sitting alone on a bus, or suddenly when you are talking to your husband or wife, or when you are surrounded by your friends, you are aware that you are completely alone, lonely. And it is a very frightening thing suddenly to come upon it. And being frightened and not being able to do anything about it, you run away from it and thereby you create a contradiction. And where there is contradiction there is conflict.

So all our life, wherever we go, whatever we touch is conflict. Is there a way of living without conflict? There is a way of living without conflict, without struggle. It does not mean becoming lazy, the mind going stagnant, dull. That way of living without effort can only come about if we understand this whole process of contradiction. Contradiction exists where there is an ideal. The ideal of nobility, the ideal of goodness, the ideal of non-violence, that you must be this, you must not be that – all this breeds contradiction.

Please listen to this because if you can listen, you can walk away from here without conflict for the rest of your life. Then ambition, struggle and the brutality of ambition and the ruthlessness of ambition, all that will go away. You will have a simple, clear, unspotted mind. And it is only that unspotted mind that can function clearly, design without seeking perversion, without seeking position, and therefore love what it is doing. And it is only love that has no contradiction. And to understand that extraordinary state, you must understand the contradiction in yourself.

Krishnamurti in Bombay 1962, Talk 3

Part 3

We Struggle for Everything

We have made life into a marvellous machine of struggle. We are struggling for everything: for God, for meditation, for love – struggle, struggle, struggle. And you say that listening, seeing and learning are also a struggle. I say no.

Why do we make life into a struggle? Answer this question, put it to yourself: whether you can live without any conflict in life. Don’t say no.

We are used to conflict. To reach God, enlightenment, nirvana or self-realisation, blah, blah, you struggle, struggle, struggle, take vows, all these peculiar robes that you have. We are asking: is there a way of living which is not lazy, which is not comforting, which is not merely routine, routine – is there a way of living daily life without a single shadow of conflict?

Q: Yes, when you go in deep sleep…

K: Lovely! The gentleman says those who are in deep sleep. Perhaps all of you are! We are talking about daily living, not when you are fast asleep. Even when you are fast asleep, the brain is still active, still dreaming. Have you ever even asked, inquired to find out if it is possible to live a life, daily life, without a single sense of conflict, without a single sense of a problem, without this terrible sense of ‘I must control’? The speaker says – not theoretically; don’t accept it – the speaker says, yes it is possible: not escape, not go off into the Himalayas or become a hermit, but living here on this earth, meeting people, married, if you are, and doing everything that one has to, to live without conflict. Find out!

Why is there conflict in our life? Is it not because we are all trying to become something? If I am not good, I will be good. This idea of perpetual movement of becoming something, ultimately becoming enlightened, which is nonsense. So what is it that is becoming? Who is it that is becoming? The ‘me’? And what is the ‘me’? My name, my form, my memory, my education, my attachments, my bank account, if I have one, and so on, so on. Why can’t we face all this! Why can’t we look at it instead of imagining all kinds of things. As long as there is a desire to become, there must be conflict. Then you will say, ‘If I don’t become, what will happen? If I don’t succeed in the office, what will happen to me?’ Go on, answer it yourself; I don’t have to answer it. If you don’t become something in the office, you won’t have more money, better cars, better toilets, and so on, so on, so on. And if you don’t become something inwardly, you will never reach whatever you want to reach. So this struggle is going on all the time, for the rich man and the poor man. So can you find out for yourself whether it is possible to live happily on this earth without all this monstrous divisions and mess?

Meditation is something immense. It cannot come through struggle, through practise, through a system, because your mind then becomes routine, mechanical. By listening, seeing, learning, you can also make that mechanical. You can make anything mechanical. But see for oneself, aware of one’s brain, mind, how it is becoming mechanical. The very perception of the danger ends the danger. That is, when you stand on a precipice, the very danger demands that you act. When you see a cobra near you, you act. But we don’t see the danger of this mechanical process of living. Why don’t you see the danger? Why don’t you see the danger of having a leader, religious leaders? Look at you all! You want somebody to tell you what to do – in meditation, how to lead a spiritual life, what to do in politics, what to do in business – told, educated, go to Harvard to become a business manager, go to this place – you are all being told what to do. And the speaker refuses to tell you what to do, and so you think he is evading. Whereas he is saying simply: look at the facts. Just look at it – why you put on those robes, why somebody does it – just look. And when you look very carefully, observe without any prejudice, then the story is told by that which you are observing. Then as the story ends, the observation ends.

Krishnamurti at Rajghat in 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 1

Part 4

Struggling to End All Struggle

Then there is the problem now – not a problem: what is meditation? Please, take proper positions. I can see it happening! (Laughter)

You know, man, human beings have always sought, because their minds are everlastingly chattering, everlastingly moving from one thing to another, driven by desire, driven by reward and avoidance, pain, it is always trying to find some kind of quietness, some kind of peace in which at least for ten minutes it can be quiet. So man has sought this. Go to the church, sit there quietly, go to a marvellous cathedral when there is no circus going on and be quiet. And it is a strange fact that in all these churches there is never a moment of quietness, except when it is empty. The priest is doing something, you are doing something, everybody is chanting, replying, incense, this, that – never quiet, except when the cathedral is empty of human beings. The same in the temples, the same in the mosques. Is it because those people in authority of the church, temple, and so on, never want you to be quiet so that you will begin to question? Because if you are quiet, you might inquire. If you are quiet, you might begin to doubt. But if you are occupied all the time, you never have time to look around, to question, to doubt, to ask. That may be one of the great tricks of the human mind.

So we are asking: what is meditation? And why should one meditate? Is it natural? Natural – you understand? – like breathing, like seeing, like hearing. Is it natural? And why have we made it so unnatural? Taking postures, following systems – Buddhist meditation, Tibetan meditation, Christian meditation, the Tantra meditations – you don’t know them, perhaps. Some of you may know – and the meditations set by your favourite guru. We are asking: aren’t all those really abnormal? Why should I take a certain position to meditate? Why should I practise, practise, practise – to arrive where? To follow a system, twenty minutes in the morning, twenty minutes in the afternoon, twenty minutes in the evening, to have a quiet mind. Having achieved a little quiet mind, I can go off and do other mischief all day long! These are actual facts I am telling you.

Is there a way of meditating which is none of these things? Till now, we said meditation is to quieten the mind, first, to have a mind that is capable of observation, to have a mind that is completely centred, completely concentrated, so that there is no thought except one thought, one picture, one image, one centre upon which you are looking. I don’t know if you have gone through all this. The speaker has played with them, for half an hour, each of these meditations, ten minutes, five minutes, and they meant nothing.

So you have to go into this question: who is the controller and the controlled? Our whole life, if you observe, is this, controlling and not controlling: I must control my emotions, I must control my thinking; I can only control my thinking by constant practice, and to practise, I must have a system. The system implies a mechanical process, making the mind mechanical, more and more. It is already mechanical now, but we want to make it much more, so that it gradually becomes more and more dull. We go through all this – why? If you are meditating according to TM, or according to somebody else – why? Because you want to have an experience – either through drugs, and you know drugs do you harm, therefore you say no, you put that aside, but by practising something you will experience something else.

I don’t know if you have ever gone into the question of experience, why human beings are demanding experience. Either the mind is asleep and therefore an experience means a challenge, or the mind is awake and therefore doesn’t need an experience. So one has to find out if your mind is asleep or bored with the experience that you have: sex, drugs, all the rest of other experiences – you want something far beyond all that. You are always craving for experience: more delightful, more extravagant, more communicable, and all the rest of it. Why does the mind demand experience? Ask yourself, please.

There is only one thing: a mind that is very clear is free from all entanglements of attachment and so on. Such a mind is a light to itself; therefore it doesn’t want any experience. There is nothing to experience. You cannot experience enlightenment. The very idea of experiencing it is such a stupid thing to say. ‘I have achieved enlightenment’ – it is really dishonest. You cannot experience truth because there must be an experiencer to experience. If there is no experiencer, there is no experience at all. But we are attached to our experiencer, and therefore we are always asking for more and more and more.

So meditation, generally as is accepted now, is the practice of a system, breathing properly, sitting in the right position – the lotus position or whatever position you take – wanting or craving for greater experience, or the ultimate experience. This is what we are doing. Therefore all that is a constant struggle, a neverending struggle. This neverending struggle is hoping to end all struggles.

Look what I have done: I am struggling, struggling, struggling to end struggling, which is sometime in the future. See what tricks I have played on myself. I am caught in time. I don’t say, ‘Why should I struggle at all?’ If I can end this struggle, that is enlightenment. To have no shadow of conflict. But we do not want to make all those efforts; we are caught in time. And to be free of time is to be free to have pure observation. Then the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet. You don’t have to make the mind quiet. You understand this? If you end all conflict, the mind naturally becomes quiet. And when the mind is absolutely silent, without any movement of thought, then perhaps you will see something – perhaps there is something sacred beyond all words. And this man has sought everlastingly, something that is beyond measure, beyond thought, which is incorruptible, unnameable, eternal. That can only take place when the mind is absolutely free and completely silent.

So one must begin very near. Very near. And when you begin very near, there is no ‘far’ – you understand? When you begin near, there is no distance and therefore there is no time. And it is only then that which is most holy can be.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1980, Talk 4

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