Interview by Wilfred Thomas
This interview by Wilfred Thomas with Krishnamurti took place at the recently-purchased Brockwood Park in Hampshire. It was recorded for Australian radio. Questions asked include: How old were you when you first heard the theosophists’ plans for you? When did you first have doubts about the pattern they had laid down for you? How are you reaching younger people? Do you think it is possible that humanity, instead of breaking up into national groups and races, will merge into one? What is your definition of love? What do you think happens when the body dies, reincarnation? You now have three institutions. Are they maintained by subscriptions?
Wilfred Thomas lived in Australia and then London. He began his career as a singer and later moved on to presenting and acting for television and radio.
Wilfred Thomas: Krishnamurti, how old were you when you first heard about the Theosophists’ plans for you?
Krishnamurti: I must have been about ten. I don’t remember exactly.
WT: You don’t remember how it felt at the time?
K: No, not at all.
WT: Did you really believe that you were the chosen one?
K: No, sir. May I tell you something? When they found us we were a very poor family and all the rest of it, Brahmins, and I’m afraid I can’t tell you with direct memory because I don’t remember it actually. I’m not pretending, I’m just stating facts. I believe when they found us we were very weak and one of the principal people who found us said, ‘He is going to be a great teacher,’ and so on, so on, so on. They formed an organisation around me. I was the head of it and there were thousands of members, money – you know, all the business of it.
WT: They didn’t use any drugs or hypnosis or anything like that?
K: For goodness sake, no. They are not that kind of people. They were very, very serious. They weren’t charlatans. They weren’t using a good old gimmick or trick to exploit people. They really – please believe me – sincerely believed what they were doing. It wasn’t just a hoax. It wasn’t to exploit people. They staked all their reputation, all their work, everything on this boy. So there was no question of drugs or hypnosis or suggestions made. They said, ‘This boy is going to be used by the great teacher,’ in whom they believed absolutely.
WT: And why did they believe this? Why did they believe that you had been chosen?
K: Because they were clairvoyant.
WT: They really were.
K: Probably they were. At the time they discovered the boy they certainly must have been, because they said, ‘This boy is going to be the great teacher. His body will be used.’ Whether you – it’s not a question of your belief, I’m just telling you what they sincerely, honestly and deeply believed. They believed because they said this happens every two thousand or whatever years, a great teacher appears on earth when the world is in chaos and he will give new kind of teachings and so on. That’s their fundamental, radical belief.
WT: They had some sort of occult instructions?
K: Yes, instructions, which they believed and they followed it.
WT: And you did too, of course, at first. But when did you first have doubts about the pattern they’d laid down for you?
K: You see, I never had doubts. Forgive me, using that word. You see, the boy must have been very vague and not all there, if I can put it that way. I should think he must have been a very dreamy boy. And so whatever they said didn’t deeply penetrate. You see, I mustn’t… They had been looking for a number of years – from what people have told me – for a boy. They had already brought an American boy to India, I believe, and the moment they saw me they dropped him because they said, ‘This is the boy we have been looking for.’ For two years they watched over this boy and his brother, gave him the right kind of food and all that, brought him to Europe, educated him. Nothing penetrated deeply. And they had built a tremendous organisation around this boy. It wasn’t just for money, for exploitation, but they – please, you have to be convinced – they really believed what they were doing. So when this boy began to talk he said, ‘Organisations are not the way to truth,’ and dissolved it.
WT: You just out of the blue decided that you didn’t want to have anything more to do with this particular programme, as it were.
K: No, with any religious organisation. Because it then becomes another sect, another division in the religious structure of man and say that’s all wrong, to divide people into Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and all the rest of it, he said it seems so absurd.
WT: This is a strange thing that you should have come to this conclusion. You must have studied a great deal.
K: No, I haven’t. If I may again say simply and very honestly, I don’t read any philosophy, any religious books. I read a weekly news magazine and occasionally a detective story, but otherwise I’m not a reader.
WT: It must have been a great blow to the Theosophical Society because it claimed this occult authority, and also to those who expected the coming of the World Teacher. Did the society close down then?
K: On the contrary; it is going on.
WT: It’s still going on?
K: Yes, of course.
WT: And when you dissolved the Order of the Star of the East you didn’t wish to set up a rival cult, obviously.
K: Good God, I didn’t want to…
WT: …have anything to do with it.
K: With any cult.
WT: But you still believe that you have a lot to teach.
K: I don’t believe; I do it.
WT: Well, what is the purpose of your mission to Australia?
K: First of all, they have asked me to go there. And I don’t go unless invited because I have no money. I don’t possess. I don’t want to, you know, go into all that kind of thing. So when they asked me, they have been asking me for several years to go.
WT: And you will be giving talks there.
K: Probably discussions, talks.
WT: People will undoubtedly come to you with some of their problems to discuss with you. Do you welcome that sort of thing?
K: I don’t welcome or not welcome. If they want to see me, they will see me. If they don’t, they don’t. I don’t want to impress anybody. I want to be really totally anonymous. It isn’t a personal cult and all that rubbish.
WT: Of course, this is going to be a rather impertinent question, I’m afraid.
K: Do please, you can ask it.
WT: Australians of my generation may associate you with that amphitheatre the Theosophists built at Balmoral from which believers who bought seats could witness the second coming. At least, that’s what the papers said. Is that what actually happened?
K: I believe so.
WT: That was after your time though, was it?
K: No. I don’t remember exactly. I think it must have been around ‘25, ‘26 or ‘27 – I don’t remember exactly. They started something of that kind. But when I dissolved all – you follow? – all that kind of thing, they said, ‘Lord!’ – you know?
WT: Of course, that helped to rather discredit the Society I should have thought.
K: No, you see, sir, you must keep the two things clear. The Society was one thing and the Order of the Star was in the other. The Society believed in brotherhood and all that kind of stuff, and the Order of the Star expressly believed that they would follow what the teacher would say. So when that was dissolved the Theosophical Society went on.
WT: How are you reaching the younger people? Because that’s rather important.
K: I recently spoke in America at various universities, crammed full of young people, both hippies, non-hippies, the people who take drugs and who don’t take. Here too, in London. I talk every summer in Switzerland and there are hundreds of young people.
WT: You mentioned the hippies. The drop-outs and the hippies, they are searching for freedom and love. Do you think they’re on the right track?
K: Their idea of freedom, from what I have discussed with them, is very, very limited. They want to be free of a particular society, a particular culture or against a particular section of a social structure. And to them freedom is more or less to do what they want to do, more or less free love, sleep with whom you like, and the idea of a continuous relationship is rather tiresome. Their revolt unfortunately is a revolt against a pattern of a social order and in that revolt they hope to overthrow that order and bring about a different order. But it’ll be – if they don’t understand how that order has come into being, this present social structure or the establishment, they’ll create one exactly like it. This is the pattern which all revolutionaries have followed. I mean, the communist revolution believed, withering of the state, no army, and look what’s happening.
WT: In other words, it’s not possible to build a reformed social structure without conflicting interests leading to violence and misery, as the always do.
K: Obviously. The moment you have violence and physical revolution, as one sees, it will invariably lead to dictatorship.
WT: They must have authority anyway, mustn’t they, to follow some sort of rules.
K: Yes. You see, that’s just the whole… they dislike authority and yet they have their own authority. It implies following, imitating, conforming. Authority has now become to mean – not only among the hippies but generally – a thing which must be established in order to survive. And through authority is the denial of survival. Every human being wants to survive and so they think survival is to identify oneself with the family, with the group, with the community, with the nation, and so there are divisions between nations, and therefore destroy their desire to have security. They don’t have it, because there are wars. Look what’s happening.
WT: Yes, yes.
K: That’s why I feel religions have divided man – Catholic, Protestant and all the rest of it – nationalities have divided man, beliefs have divided man, not only outwardly but inwardly, so there is tremendous violence involved in all this division.
WT: Do you think that it’s possible in the distant future that humanity will instead of breaking up into smaller national groups and races, groups will merge into one? It will be a long way ahead, I should think.
K: I’m afraid so. Because, you see, the desire to identify with something greater is so strong. The greater is their projection of what they think is great – like nationality or God or this or that – and so that keeps them divided, like the Arabs and the Jews. It’s too… they are both Semitic race and they are at it.
WT: And what about your own country?
K: That’s just it – Muslim, Hindus, the whole thing is so shockingly absurd.
WT: What solution do you think there is to this tremendous problem?
K: I think there is a solution to this problem, sir, in a new kind of education where the individual and the community are not given such extraordinary importance. What is important is not the individual or the community – how to act in all relationships, whether it’s individual relationship with another or communal relationship – whether human beings can live together in co-operation, not opposed to each other.
WT: What would your definition of love be? We were talking about the hippies and the drop-outs and their love.
K: Right. I think, sir, a positive statement of what love is, is not love. But we can see what it is not. Is love pleasure or desire? Because when there is pleasure there is inevitably fear. And generally love is associated with sex, which becomes pleasure. In which pleasure, there must be domination, possessiveness, attachment, jealousy – all that is involved in what is generally called love. And the principle of all this is pleasure. Are they not, pleasure and fear, the two sides of the same coin?
WT: Yes, because I understand how fear comes into a love situation because of the fear of losing that love, with the attachment, the possessiveness. And this, as you say, is the reverse of pleasure. It seems that love is generally based on a sort of gratitude for something.
K: Gratitude or satisfaction. Most people are terribly lonely, bored with life, and pleasure becomes the means of escape from their loneliness, from their depression, from their ugliness, from their brutality and all the rest of it. So one has to understand this extraordinary principle of pleasure on which most of our culture is based – morally, religiously, sexually, aesthetically, you know, every way that is the principle on which man functions. So one has to, if you want to go into it, it’s fairly simple to see it. One can see how pleasure is sustained by thought. You had an extraordinary meal yesterday and it brought you pleasure and you want that pleasure to be repeated tomorrow. One had physical pain and you are afraid that it might happen again. The fear comes in when you say… when you think what might happen. Like in death. Put it away, as far away as you can, death, because you are afraid of what might happen and you don’t want to die. Again thought puts it as far away as possible and never understands what death is, nor does it understand pleasure and fear. So it must escape in sex. Because thought and fear become mechanical. And all our culture is mechanical, because most people are second-hand people. I don’t know if… I’m not insulting but just saying what is. So, to really understand the immense thing called love one has to understand this too.
WT: What do you think happens when the physical body dies? Reincarnation.
K: The whole of Asia believes in reincarnation, that there is – I don’t know if you want to go into it deeply – that there is such a thing as the soul, as the self, which is being constantly made perfect though time. Which means repeated births. Which if one believes in that, that is that you will be born next life in a better condition in order to become more and more perfect till you reach whatever you reach, implies that you must behave rightly now. You follow, sir? If you believe in reincarnation, what is important is what your conduct is now, how you live now, what kind of person you are now, because if you are brutal, if you are violent, if you are ugly, you are going to continue that same thing next life. But most people who believe in this don’t care two pins how they live now. It’s just a theory to them. You follow? It gives them a kind of comfort because they don’t know what death is – at least have some belief. So there is this whole theory or a belief in reincarnation, in the perfection of a human mind growing through time becoming perfect. That’s the idea of reincarnation. And if you say, ‘What do you believe?’ I say I don’t believe in anything. Now wait a minute, it’s not agnostic, it’s not… I see a different way of living.
That is, sir, if you are interested in it, death is something, as love, something must be extraordinary, not something to be afraid of. And to find out what it means one must die every day. To die to every event, every pain, every ambition, die to all that you have cherished as the important thing. Otherwise you are just living in the past. And most people are living in the past. Or rather, not living in the past – they are the past. So can one die, that is, to yesterday, to everything? You follow, sir? Not just one particular form of pain or one particular form of fear or pleasure, but the feeling of emptying the mind of all the problems of yesterday.
WT: And you can do that?
K: Otherwise I wouldn’t talk about it. I would be hypocritical; an ugly thing to talk about something which you don’t… which is not actual.
WT: Do you think that the Maharishi who got such publicity through the Beatles has been a good or a bad influence? You were talking about Eastern religions and Eastern beliefs.
K: I don’t know the gentleman. And I don’t like to talk about others. But when Eastern religions or their representatives come over to the West or go south, like in Australia, they are carrying with them their conditioning, their particular religious conditioning, and imposing that conditioning over people who are already conditioned in their belief. So really what is important is not the East or the West, whether the human mind can be really unconditioned.
WT: The Eastern religions are based on a style of living which are completely different to the ones that exist in the industrial West.
K: Yes. In the industrialisation which is taking place in India, that’s disappearing too.
WT: Is it?
K: Yes, breaking the whole structure of… a religious way of life is breaking down. I mean, in the old days the religious man was one who meditated three times a day, didn’t hurt people, didn’t kill, was really inwardly, you know, worshipping reality or living a life, a righteous life. But all that’s…
WT: Well, it’s very difficult with motor trucks going by and so on, to sit by the side of the road and meditate.
K: Well, they do.
WT: They do still.
Talking about love again, I would have thought that a love which is so diffused, although it may be more ideal than the passionate sort of love that we think about as love, surely it’s pretty cold and a dull thing.
K: No, on the contrary, sir. On the contrary. When there is no conflict – you follow? – when the human mind is not caught up in conflict, which it is now because human life is a battlefield in himself and outwardly – when that disappears you have tremendous energy. And tremendous energy means passion. Not sex, because sex has become important because every other form of living is mechanical. I don’t know if you… And sex is the only release which is non-mechanical, for the moment.
WT: And of course it’s being exploited commercially, isn’t it?
K: Of course, naturally. All religions are exploiting people. Religions have become really instruments of propaganda. I mean, from childhood one is brought up to believe, if you are a Hindu, in their gods, if you are a Christian, in their gods. So this whole propaganda, which is a form of exploitation.
WT: Now you have three institutions, one in America, one in Switzerland and one here. Are they maintained by subscriptions or what?
K: No, sir, they are really not institutions, they are really… There are two schools in India with which I am connected and the school here at Brockwood. And the Foundation in America exists to publish books and nothing else. They are not building any kind of temples and churches and all the rest of that rubbish. These schools are trying to see if we cannot bring about a different kind of education. Now the present education is to cultivate a particular corner of the field and neglect the whole vast field of existence. What here we are trying to do – whether it’ll succeed or not, that is irrelevant – is to see if we cannot understand not only the little field, the little corner, but the rest of the vast field. And therefore that brings about a form, which is so essential in all human existence, is co-operation – to see if we cannot co-operate without the authority of a belief that brings people together to co-operate, or a person that brings about co-operation. Intelligence implies co-operation. Otherwise we can’t exist. So we discuss, we talk whenever I am here and also all the people here are interested in what we are talking about and to see if they can carry it out.
WT: You give them some academic instruction as well.
K: Absolutely, they have all the academic side of it – the little corner. (Laughs)
WT: Yes. And do you have children of various nationalities?
K: I believe there are seven or eight nationalities here – German, French, American – I don’t know – you know? – and so on.
WT: That’s good. And do you think that when they go out into the world they’ll be able to carry your teachings with them? Do you think they’ll find it too much of a jolt?
K: Sir, it is not my teaching, it is what they are learning. I mean, the capacity to learn is far more important than what is taught. After all, what we are talking about is not some belief or some kind of propaganda. We say learn; what does it means to learn? To learn you need to have a great deal of curiosity and great passion, without any motive behind it. If you have a motive, you can’t learn. Then that motive directs you, what you should learn and therefore limits your learning. Then it makes for knowledge and not for learning.
WT: Do you think some people are… or do you think that all people have a limit to their capacity to learn, or do you think that you can encourage them to learn to go beyond that barrier?
K: Yes, I think so.
WT: You think you can encourage it.
K: Absolutely, I have seen it. You see, the school here has just started last year – at the beginning of… it’s just a year and a half old – and so it’s still very young, tender, and therefore one can’t say, ‘Well, which boy or which girl?’ But it has been… it is possible absolutely. Otherwise what’s the point of all this? Not only…
WT: Exactly, but I have often thought when you meet somebody who is stupid, apparently, and incapable of learning, but you feel that is not… because they’ve had the wrong influences.
K: No, it all depends what you call learning.
WT: Well, even such things as reading and writing.
K: Then they are either mentally retarded or they haven’t been taught properly, or taught with fear – you follow? – so they…
WT: Fear, yes, that’s very important, isn’t it? I remember I was terrified with mathematics teachers because I was no good at it.
K: I know, sir. So that’s why the relationship between the teacher and the student is really very important, because they both need educating, both the educator and the educated – you follow?
K: So. And both have to learn, learn in the sense: knowledge is one thing and learning is another. Knowledge becomes mechanical. You can add to it, you can take away from this knowledge, but learning is not mechanical, non-mechanical, it’s all the time learning. The moment you have learnt and act from what you have learnt it becomes mechanical. But learning and acting go together even in, what I have been told about factories and all that, the man who does things mechanically doesn’t produce so much, but the man who learns as he goes along produces much more because he’s much more interested.
WT: That of course is very important. The factory hand who is doing a mechanical and an uninteresting job, I don’t know that – how do you feel about this? – do you think that he is able to think a great deal about spiritual things?
K: No, sir, but he hasn’t time, he is worn out.
K: The whole structure makes it impossible. That’s why, you see, when the students and the hippies say, ‘Change the structure,’ there is a great deal in what they say. It must be changed. The social morality is utterly immoral. But to change it through violence is to produce more violence, more dictatorship, higher bureaucracy, which denies all freedom.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park, 1 June 1970