Krishnamurti on Change
This week’s episode on Change has five sections.
The first extract (2:12) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1974, titled ‘If you change, humanity changes’.
The second extract (7:37) is from the second question and answer meeting in Madras 1981, titled ‘Why don’t we change?’
The third extract (23:06) is from the second talk in Saanen 1973, titled ‘The urgency of change’.
The fourth extract (34:13) is from later in the same talk, titled ‘Total transformation’.
The final extract this week (1:05:08) is from the third discussion in Saanen 1973, titled ‘Change without ambition’.
If You Change, Humanity Changes
If I may this morning – rather lovely after all these days of rain and clouds to see the mountains, the shadows and the rivers, and the pleasant smell of the air – I would like to talk about what responsibility is, which is, to be answerable to what?
In observing objectively, without any opinion or judgement, what is going on in the world – the recent war, the appalling misery and confusion – who is responsible, or answerable, for all this? To really find the right response, which is the right answer, we must look at the whole phenomenon of existence. At the one end, you have the extraordinary development of technology, which is almost destroying the earth; at the other end you have what may be called the hope, the demand, the entreatment of God, truth or what you will. There is this vast spectrum and we seem to answer only to a very small part of it.
There is this vast field of existence, of our daily living and we seem to be incapable of responding to the whole of it, not just part of it. And so we must find out for ourselves what is the right response, what is the right answer to all this. If we merely answer, are responsible, to a very small part of it, which is ourselves, our little circle and our little desires, our petty little responsibilities, our selfish enclosed movement, if we only respond to that, neglecting the whole of it, then we are bound to create not only suffering for ourselves, but suffering for the whole of mankind. Because, as we said the other day, our consciousness is its content, and when there is transformation in that consciousness, you affect the whole of consciousness of human beings. This is a fact. It is not an imagination, it is not a theory, it is not a speculative hope. If you change radically the content of your consciousness, you are affecting the consciousness of your neighbour, of your children, of your society, of all the consciousness of human beings.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1974, Talk 5
Why Don’t We Change?
We never notice the morning clouds, the parrots and their wayward flight. We never notice the dog on the wayside or the goats that lie in the middle of the road, or we never notice the beauty of a tree. And why, the questioner asks, don’t we change? What is the root of all this? A civilization like in India, which has probably existed three to four thousand years, a culture that has almost disappeared, which has now become extraordinarily mundane, worldly, money-minded, with corruption and all the rest of it, why it is that we don’t change?
If you ask yourself, if you are serious enough, why is it I don’t change, what is it that prevents us? Is it financial security, which we are seeking? Physical stability? That’s one point. Is it that we are intellectually able to discern, to distinguish, to understand, to be critical, to sustain a sceptical outlook on life? Which we don’t do. Is it that emotionally we are starved? We are very sensuous people: sex, pleasure, therefore demand for money, position, power, ambition, and all the rest of it – is this what is preventing us? Because we are all of us from childhood… from the moment the baby is born, it seeks security – physical, psychological security. It wants to be safe with the mother. If anyone dislikes the mother, the baby feels it. This has been tested out in the West.
The question is, why, realizing all this, do we not change? Or we never realise this fact. We just carry on in the good old tradition – Rama and all the rest of it – and our brains have become so accustomed to this pattern of living it refuses to change because it is very comfortable to live in a pattern. Is that the reason why we don’t change? Is it that we don’t have enough energy – both physical and psychological energy? We have plenty of energy. You go to the office every day for the rest of your life – that indicates a great deal of energy. The energy that we waste through quarrels, cruelty and indifference. We have got plenty of energy.
And again, why don’t we change? We know all this. Some of you perhaps have heard the speaker for the last thirty, forty, fifty years, and there is very little change – why? Answer it yourselves. Why is it that we have become so dull? Is it the tradition, your religion, your sacred books? I am asking you, please, investigate with me. Are all these the reasons why we don’t change?
It is natural and healthy to want security. You need food, clothes and shelter – everyone does, that is natural. And is there security psychologically, which we want? We want security in our relationships, however intimate or not. We want to be quite sure our wife or husband remains with us. We are so terribly attached. If one could understand the nature of attachment, with all its consequences, and see the very danger of such an attachment, which denies love – if one really saw that and dropped it immediately, then perhaps some change can take place. But we don’t. You hear this, that attachment in any form, to anything, is very, very corrupting, destructive. We can go into it, explain that when you are attached to somebody or to a principle, or to an ideal, to a belief, you are not only separating yourself from another but from that attachment to a belief, to a person, to an ideal, there is fear, there is jealousy, there is anxiety, a sense of possessive pleasure, and therefore always a state of uncertainty inwardly. One knows the consequences of attachment. Now, would you change that immediately? Or just listen, fold your hands most respectfully, and turn up the next day while we talk about attachment. You understand? Why? Why are we so sluggish? You ask it.
One realises that basically, deeply, one doesn’t want to change, and therefore there are various forms of escape. There are not only drugs, chemical drugs one takes in order to escape from one’s narrow, ugly, sloppy life – takes them to have more experience and have a different vision, through alcohol, LSD, marijuana, all those things that are going on in this world. Why is our mind so dull that we don’t see danger and change immediately – why? This is real sorrow, you understand? This incapacity to bring about a change in ourselves and therefore in society, in our relationship, this incapacity makes one not only time-bound, but we don’t flower, we don’t grow, we don’t move. So what is one to do? Do you want more shocks, more pain, more suffering to make one change?
There are those who say, as human beings will not change, therefore let’s create a society that will control the human being – the communist world, the totalitarian world, the socialist world. The more we are uncertain, as is now taking place in the world, the more insecure, we turn to tradition, we turn to gurus, or join some political party – all this going on, if you have realised.
So at the end of all this, why don’t we change? Why? Is it the utter unwillingness, the utter stupidity? When you observe all this throughout the world, it is a very sad affair. There is marvellous technology, which is growing at such immense speed. And man cannot keep up with it psychologically, so he is going to destroy human beings. I don’t know if you are aware of all this. So what are you going to do? Carry on as before? Probably you will.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 2
The Urgency of Change
We were saying, seeing what the world is about us and what we are, actually not theoretically, what a world we have created – a world of great brutality, division, wars, appalling cruelties, suffering – seeing all this, one feels, if one is at all serious, that there must be great change, not only outwardly but especially within oneself.
I do not know if you feel the same thing as the speaker does: how very important it is that there should be this psychological revolution, because every other form of revolution, social reform, a little patchwork here and there, has been of no avail – they haven’t fundamentally, deeply changed man. And unless man changes himself, he always overcomes whatever the structure be, according to his particular conditioning. I think that is fairly obvious, both historically and actually. And if you also feel the urgency, the seriousness of this change, of this transformation, of this revolution, you must have asked: how is a human mind, which has created the outward environment, how can that, not merely structurally, but how can the outward change be brought about in relation to the inward change?
That is, if you see the necessity of this deep inward change of the mind, and if you take it really seriously, then the question inevitably arises: how am I, caught in this world, trapped in this peculiar culture and civilisation, to fundamentally change, and what is involved in this change? I am sure you must have asked it. The more serious one is the more urgent the question becomes.
Can this change be brought about by another, by a philosophy, by a new kind of social structure, by a new religion or a new belief? When you put that question to yourself, you have seen whether a new belief has any validity at all. Because all belief, however great, however convenient, is always the outcome of a series of processes of thought. I believe in something, a beautiful ideal. That ideal is the structure brought about by thought, obviously. When you believe in, or have faith in something, it is the result of the process of mentation. Will a new structure, socially, economically, change the human mind? Or will it make it more superficial, more convenient, more attractive, more satisfying? And therefore it will not actually bring about this change. Will a new authority? Obviously not because any authority, however new, is still patterned after the old.
So what will change man? And what is there to be changed? If one observes oneself, we are caught in a world of knowledge, of a culture, of a civilisation which has conditioned our mind. Our conditioning is the result of a culture, of a civilisation – the Western culture, the Eastern culture and so on. That is the result of our conditioning: the culture, the environment, the civilisation has produced this mind. I think we all accept that naturally and logically, if you observe it.
Now what am I to do? As a human being living in this world, a monstrous world, with very little meaning, what am I to do? How am I to transform myself? How am I to change radically? I see I have to change radically because everything about me, the way I live, working, working, working, frightened, violence, wars, insecurity, all the religious structure which has no meaning at all anymore, the political chicanery, corruption – seeing all this, how am I to change so that it has an effect on the world, and also my conduct, my behaviour, my way of living is totally different?
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1973, Talk 2
The problem is: the transformation of the total activity of man. If you are vitally interested in it, seriously committed to the solution of this problem, that is, how can the mind which has been shaped through time, through culture, through civilisations, how can that mind be totally transformed so that it moves, acts, functions in a different way altogether? If that is your problem then we can share it together, but if you say, ‘I have a personal problem which I must solve with my relationship with my wife, with my neighbour, I have a particular disease, I want to have it cured, I hope you will cure it, do this,’ then we are not sharing the issue, problem. But we will share this problem if you and I are completely interested, totally committed to the solution of this. For me, that is the only problem. In the resolution of that problem, I will solve all the other problems – my relationship with another, my loneliness, my despairs, my anxieties, fears, pleasures, the solution of death, meditation, reality – everything is involved in this.
So if it is your interest, your serious intention to go to the very end of it, then we can talk this over together, like two friends, quietly, deeply investigating, tracing out, inquiring. And we can only inquire if you are not committed to any other thing but this. If your mind is not free, you can’t inquire, you can’t investigate. But in the process of investigation of the central issue, the other problems which you have will be solved – whether they be economic, social, religious, personal imbalance, and all the rest of it. If that is clear, then we can proceed and find out together. I am not laying down dogmatically or hesitantly, but inquiring together, in which there is no authority whatsoever, neither your authority nor that of the speaker. We are together inquiring, exploring whether the mind can be totally transformed.
This mind that we have, whether it is a European mind, or the Eastern mind, with its peculiarities and superstitions, or the Western mind with its absurdities, technological knowledge, this mind is what we are concerned with. Now, what is this mind? If you observe your own mind, which is the Western mind – I am not dividing West and East, I am talking here to you who are Westerners, therefore it is for convenience’s sake. I do not regard the human mind as West or the East; it is a human mind. Now, this mind is conditioned by a culture, by an environment – economic, social, climatic – this mind has been shaped through time, through knowledge, through experience, to face the world, to look at the world in terms of money, power, pleasure, and to be able to kill. Right? Look at it. Probably Christians have killed more people than any other people in the world, including Genghis Khan and all the rest of that gang!
So you are conditioned to kill, not only other human beings through scientific warfare, but also to kill animals for your food. And money has become extraordinarily important – the pursuit of money because having money gives you pleasure, position, so-called freedom and security. And you have been conditioned religiously to accept an image, transferring all your particular sorrows to that image. Your religion is based on authority, tradition, rituals, dogmas, the infallibility of certain people. Socially you are seeking power – competition is very rampant and you can compete efficiently when you have great knowledge.
So education is the cultivation of memory, so that you have an instrument which is efficient, to kill, to survive. That is your conditioning, as it is in the East, in a different way. I think there is no question about this. That conditioning is knowledge.
Please, I am talking; it doesn’t mean I am the only person talking. We are investigating together, and in this investigation, you see that technologically, scientifically, medically, you have advanced tremendously. But also you have destroyed the earth, you have killed thousands and thousands of people, for an idea or for money or for the exploitation of the earth. You call yourselves Christians, you say you love God, and you kill man! This is your heredity, this is your conditioning, and as long as there is no freedom from that conditioning there cannot possibly be a transformation of the mind.
So transformation of the mind implies total negation of this civilisation and this culture. You understand what we are talking about? Total denial of this monstrous culture that made us what we are, each one fighting for himself. And in this culture we say we must work, change the world, have different values, a new structure. Why should I work? You say you must work in order to survive, which means maintain the structure as it is. And the reaction to that is, ‘I won’t work; why should I work?’
Life has no meaning as it is now. Has it? You suffer; you are constantly in battle with yourself, with your wife or husband, with your neighbour – conflict, conflict. And your ethic says work, but your ethic doesn’t say, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Unless you find the meaning of life, why should you work? Either to support the structure, or the new structure, or a new kind of self-denial – you know what is happening in the world. Why should I work at all? And the culture has given a meaning to life in work, in the Christian gods, a meaning to life in going to the moon, becoming a successful person in the world. Your meaning is out there. And that is losing its significance. These are all facts.
And so seeing all this made sorrow, one has shed tears, not sentimental tears; one has inquired, searched, looked here and there – none of them give the answer. They say, ‘Follow me, worship me, accept this pattern of behaviour, work for another, don’t work for yourself, be concerned about the society, not about yourself.’ But all those statements have no meaning because one has not found the meaning of life, the meaning of existence, which cannot be found in any book, in another, in following a guru, an authority – none of them give you the meaning of existence; you have to find it for yourself. That is what we are going to do.
The speaker is not telling you the significance or the meaning of life, but together, and I mean together, like taking a journey, a walk together, we will find out. And to find the meaning, not the purpose – you can invent a purpose; if you are clever, intellectual or fairly reasonable, fairly balanced, you can either invent or accept or put together a purpose. The purpose has no meaning. Purpose, the end of life, is totally different from the meaning of existence, the meaning of life. The one becomes superficial, whereas if one is really inquiring into the deep meaning of living, it leads the mind very, very far.
So our minds are conditioned from the moment we are born, or previously, until we die. And the transformation is the total freedom from this conditioning. And this conditioning exists through the various movements of culture – artistic, religious, technological, political, economic, scientific, and all that. Can this mind be aware of this conditioning? Can you be aware of it? Aware in the sense, I mean by that word, to observe – please listen to this – to observe without any distortion, to observe your conditioning, that is, your culture, your civilisation, all the movements of social reforms. You know all that is going on in the world, of which you are a part – to observe that, to become aware of that. We mean by that word ‘aware’ to observe without any distortion of opinion, conclusion, without the interference of your tendency or your particular experience, to be aware of this conditioning without any choice – just to watch. And in the observation of it, you will then deny, if you go deeply enough, totally all this culture. And yet you have to live in this world. That is the problem. You understand? I hope you are following all this. You know, to me this is… I am burning with it.
How can I, how can this mind live in this world, which is so appalling, so destructive, so meaningless, and turn my back on it completely? And I mean by turning my back, actually put away all the rubbish it has put in my mind – their religions, their attitudes, their opinions, their immorality, their sense of monetary importance, you know, the whole of that, the killing. Can I turn my back on it and yet live here? Not withdraw, not run away into some monastery; that has no meaning. I do not know if you have ever played that game of withdrawing from the world – withdrawing into a monastery or into your room, cutting everything out of it so that you are completely isolated. And if you have ever done it, even for a day or a week, you will soon find out that is not the way out. That is again the movement of thought, which in its reaction to this mad, confused, insane world says, ‘I can only solve it by withdrawing from it.’
So my question is first, can this mind, which is the result of this civilisation and this culture, and therefore which has very little meaning, can the mind become aware of it choicelessly, observe? And yet I have to live here; I have to do things every day. How is this possible? You are following all this?
First of all, we must be very clear that the description is not the described. What we have described, put into words, is not the thing itself. And second, are you very certain, clear that there must be radical transformation, not have your finger in this social order, or in this Church, or in this sect, or in this book – but total transformation? And third, this mind, which is the result of this culture, this civilisation, it is the result of that, and to be free of that conditioning, you must totally deny the culture, and yet live in this world.
Now how is this to be done? I hope you are following all this. I hope I am making myself clear. I have to live in this world with all the madness around me, this madness which has tried to give a meaning to life, and in the observation of it I see it has no meaning. I have to live with this structure and yet not belong to it in any way. Now is this possible?
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1973, Talk
Change Without Ambition
Can I live in a world that is tremendously ambitious, and therefore deceitful and dishonest? How am I to live there, in that world? Because I don’t want to be ambitious – I see what the result of ambition is: loneliness, despair, ugliness, violence and all the rest of it. Now I say to myself, how am I to live with you who are ambitious? So I say to myself, am I ambitious? Am I ambitious – not somebody else, not the world, because the world is me, I am the world, and that is to me a burning reality, not just a phrase. So, am I ambitious? Now I am going to learn. I am going to observe, learn and find out if I am ambitious, not just in one direction but in my whole life. Not the ambitions to have a bigger house only, the ambition to be successful, the ambition to achieve a result, fame, money, and also ambition to achieve or transform ‘what is’ into the perfect state. I am ugly and I want to transform that into the most beautiful state. All that and more is ambition. And I watch it. I am going to watch it, that’s my life, you understand? I am going to watch it with passion – not just sit down and discuss about it. I am watching it night and day because I know, I have realised the truth that loneliness is the most terrible thing because it is most destructive in relationship. And human beings cannot live by themselves, life is relationship. Life is action in that relationship. If in that relationship there is isolation there is total inaction. I realise that, not verbally, but, you know, a burning reality. Now I am watching.
Am I ambitious to transform ‘what is’ into ‘what should be’, the ideal? That’s a form of ambition, to change what I am into what I should be. Am I doing that? That is, are you doing that? When I say ‘I’, I am talking about you. Don’t just escape; I am talking about you when I talk about me because you are me. Because you are the world and I am part of that world.
So I watch. And I say, yes, I want to change ‘what is’ into ‘what should be’. And I realise how absurd that is. That is a part of ambition given to me by education, culture, tradition. In school, ‘A’ is better than ‘B’, copy ‘A’ – you know, all that business. The religions have said change from what you are to what you should be. So I realise the falseness of it and I totally discard it. You understand what ‘discard it’ means? I will not touch it. So I accept ‘what is’. I see ‘what is’ and I see ‘what is’ isn’t good enough. Right? So how am I to transform it without the ambition of changing it into something? Are you following all this?
Now I see what it is. I am greedy. I don’t want to transform it into non-greed. I am violent. I don’t want to transform it into non-violence. But that violence must undergo a radical change. Now what am I to do with it? You are following all this? What am I to do with it? What is my mind, which has been trained, educated, disciplined to be ambitious, violent? And I realise to change that into something else is still violence, so I won’t proceed along those lines. I am left with ‘what is’, which is violence. So what takes place? How am I to observe it? How is the mind to observe it without wanting to change it? You understand what I am saying? Leave it there for the moment.
How is the mind to change this educated, sophisticated ambition, give it complete change so that there is not a breath of ambition? And I watch it, I observe it – all day, not just… All day I am watching how my ambition is active. Because I am very serious. Because loneliness is a terrible thing in relationship. And man can’t live without relationship. He may pretend, he may say, ‘I love you,’ but then fight another.
So how is the mind to transform totally the thing called ambition? Any form of exercise of will is still ambition. I am observing. All this is observation. I see any form of exercise of will to transform ‘what is’ – violence or ambition – is another form of ambition. Right? I have discovered that. So the discovery of it has given me energy. So I can discard will. The mind says, no, that is finished, I will never, under any circumstances, exercise will because that is part of ambition.
And I see conformity is one of the educated reactions of the culture in which I live. Conform: long hair, short hair, short trousers, short skirt. Conform: outwardly and inwardly conform – become a Buddhist, a Catholic, a Muslim. Conform. I have been taught from childhood to conform. In the class, I am made to conform: ‘A’ is better than you; you must be like ‘A’, get better marks than ‘A’. Right? So I am forced, educated, compelled to conform. What takes place when I conform? Have you not asked? I’m asking: what takes place when you conform? What takes place when you are conforming? Struggle, isn’t there? Conflict. I am this, and you want me to be that. So there is conflict, there is the loss of energy, there is fear that I am not what you expect me to be. So conformity, will, desire to change ‘what is’, is all part of ambition. I am observing this.
So during the day I observe and I say, ‘I will not conform. I will understand what conformity is.’ I am conforming when I put on trousers. I am conforming when I keep to the left side of the road, or the right side of the road. I am conforming when I learn a language. I conform when I shake hands. (In India they don’t shake hands, they do something else.) So I am conforming in a certain direction, at a certain level. At other levels I am not conforming, because that is part of isolation.
So what has happened? What has happened to the mind that has observed the activities of ambition – conformity, will, the desire to change ‘what is’ into ‘what should be’, and so on? Those are all the activities of ambition, which has produced this sense of desperate loneliness from which all kinds of neurotic activities take place. And as I have observed it, watched it, without doing a thing about it, then out of that observation the activity of ambition has come to an end because the mind has become extraordinarily sensitive to ambition. It is like it cannot tolerate ambition. Therefore, becoming very sensitive, it has become extraordinarily intelligent.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1973, Discussion 3