Krishnamurti on Violence
This week’s episode on Violence has five sections.
The first extract (2:12) is from Krishnamurti’s first discussion at Brockwood Park in 1977, titled ‘What is violence?’
The second extract (8:06) is from the second talk in Bombay 1983, titled ‘Facing the fact of violence’
The third extract (15:14) is from the first question and answer meeting in Saanen 1982, titled ‘Does violence have an opposite?’
The fourth extract (28:48) is from the first talk in San Francisco 1983, titled ‘Ending violence without motive’.
The final extract this week (49:10) is from the first question and answer meeting in Saanen 1981, titled ‘Are you adding to the violence in the world?
What Is Violence?
What is violence? How does violence arise? There is not only physical violence, hitting each other, throwing bombs at each other, killing each other, but also there are various forms of violence. It is violence when human beings are in conflict psychologically – that is a form of violence, surely. It is another form of violence when we imitate, when we conform, when we follow – all those are indications, like being angry and so on, a form of violence. So when we talk about violence, we are not only talking about psychological factors of violence but also the physical actions of violence – hitting each other, throwing bombs, and so on, so on, so on. The terrorists, the totalitarian states which suppress people – all that is a form of violence.
Is it possible to be free of violence, psychologically? Let’s begin first psychologically, not physically. We are asking if it is possible. It is only possible, isn’t it, when you can come face to face with it and deal with it, not have theories and ideals of non-violence and all the rest of it. That is an escape from the fact. I want to be free from violence, therefore there must be an awareness of all the factors of violence, and observe them, not run away from them, not say, ‘I must change them, I must become non-violent.’ In becoming non-violent you are in conflict. Because you are violent and you want to become non-violent, therefore you make an effort and that very effort is a form of violence. Can we go on from there?
So is it possible to be free of violence and look at the whole issue, the complex problem of violence psychologically? Which means, are we imitating, conforming, adjusting ourselves to a pattern which we or others have established for us? All those are symptoms of violence, like anger, hatred, jealousy. Now, can we remain with that factor of violence and be aware choicelessly of the whole structure of violence? Will you do it? Are you doing it now? Are you doing it, or is it just a theory about violence? Where there is division between man and man, woman and man and so on, there must be conflict, which is a form of violence. Nationalism and so on is a form of violence, obviously. When there are two dogmatic beliefs, and each trying to convert the other, oppose each other, it is a form of violence. So are we aware of this factor in our life? And when you become aware of it, what are you going to do? Do you say, ‘Yes, I am aware of it,’ but carry on with violence? Therefore it becomes a very serious matter.
If one is really to be free of violence, look at it, live with it, understand it, go into it and see all the multiple forms of violence. Totally be acquainted with it. And when you are acquainted with something, it flowers and then withers away; you don’t have to fight it.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park 1977, Discussion 1
Facing the Fact of Violence
I am violent. That is the only state, violence, not non-violence. The ‘non-violence’ is just an idea, it’s not a fact. So where there is violence and non-violence, there must be conflict. And in this country you, have talked endlessly about non-violence and probably you are also very violent people. So, the fact and the non-fact.
The fact is human beings throughout the world are violent. That’s a fact. Violence means not only physically but also imitation, conformity, obedience, accepting, and various other forms of violence. That is ‘what is’; the other is not. But if you are conditioned to the other, that is, to pursue non-violence while violent, that is, to pursue away from the fact, then you must have conflict. But whereas if one dealt with ‘what is’, that is, I am violent, I am not seeking non-violence, which is nonsense, because while I am seeking non-violence I am being violent, I am sowing seeds of violence. So there is only one fact, that is, I am violent.
So, in the understanding of the nature and the structure of violence, there may be the ending of violence. But the ending of violence is not a problem. Our minds are trained, educated to solve problems – mathematical problems, economic problems, political problems and so on. We are trained, educated, our brains are conditioned to deal mechanically with problems. And we make of life, as we said, a series of endless problems psychologically, and so on. We went into that yesterday, we are not going to go into it more, because there is lots more to be talked about. So there is only fact, not the opposite. If this is very clear, that the ideal, the principle, that which you call the noble, are all illusions. What is fact is we are violent, ignoble, corrupt, uncertain, and so on. Those are facts and we have to deal with facts. Facts, if you face them, do not create problems. It is like that.
So, I discover that I am violent and I have no opposite to it. I reject totally the opposite, it has no meaning. So I have only this fact. Now, how do I deal with fact? You understand my question? How do I approach the fact? How do I look at the fact? What is my motive in looking at the fact? What is the direction in which I want the fact to move? I must be aware of the nature and the structure of the fact, to be aware without choice, of the fact.
Are you doing this as we are talking, or you’re just happily listening to a lot of words and picking up here and there some words that will be convenient and suitable, and not listening totally to your own inquiry?
How does one then deal with fact? That is, how do I observe the fact that I am violent. That violence is shown when I get angry, when I am jealous, when I am trying to compare myself with another. If I am doing all that, then it is impossible to face facts. A good mind faces facts. If you are in business, you face facts and deal with the fact, change the fact. You don’t pretend that you will do something else away from the fact – then you are not a good businessman. But here we are so ineffectual, we don’t change, because we don’t deal with facts. Psychologically, inwardly we avoid them, we escape from them, or when we do discover them we suppress them and so there is no resolution of any of them.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1983, Talk 2
Does Violence Have an Opposite?
We’re asking, is there a psychological opposite? There is the opposite: man/woman, darkness and light, pain and no pain – you follow? – there is the opposite, naturally, but we’re asking, does conflict exist in the psychological opposite? So is there an opposite to ‘what is’?
I am violent, and is there an opposite to violence? Many philosophers and many teachers and many idealists have said the opposite is the concept of non-violence. Then we have the problem right away of the concept and the fact. So there is a division of time. Time being ‘what is’, which is violence, to be transformed through a series of investigations, to arrive at the opposite which is non-violence, which is the end of violence. Now, where there is opposites, there must be conflict – good and bad. We’re talking psychologically, first.
So there is violence probably in all human beings – inherited from the animal and so on, so on, so on, and cultivated, carefully, through nationalism, separatism, through the idea that each one of us is utterly separate from everybody else, psychologically. Religions throughout the world have maintained this, that you are a separate soul. We’ve talked about that during the last talks.
Now we are asking: is there psychologically an opposite to ‘what is’? I am violent. Why does the thought create the opposite? The fact is I am violent, the fact is I am anxious, the fact is I am greedy, envious, lonely. Those are facts. The opposite is a non-fact. Right? Do we accept that? What matters is not that there should be freedom from violence, what matters is to understand the nature of violence and to see if violence can end, not create the opposite. The moment thought creates the opposite, conflict begins. Is this clear? Can we go on from there?
So one is violent. Can we look at that quality, that reaction, and find out whether it is possible to end violence, not create a state of mind which says, ‘I’m free from violence.’ Ending violence, not the continuation of violence as non-violence. That is, the opposite is inevitably born from its own opposite. So is it possible to observe violence and end it?
What is violence? Anger, the desire to hurt another. Violence is competition, comparison, imitation – all that is considered violence. An ambitious man is naturally violent. We have described what violence is. And without creating the opposite, can this state of violence end? Because we see the opposite must create conflict. But if I say to myself, I must end violence in order to achieve another state, that is again escaping from ‘what is’. So, can that end, and not let it continue in another form, at another level?
So let’s find out together whether violence, with all its extraordinary complexity, can end. That is, can we observe the reaction which the word has awakened? The word. For most of us, the word is extraordinarily important. So can we look at this reaction called violence without the word? It’s really quite a complex issue this. Can I look at my wife, if I have one, or girlfriend, without the word? Without the word which creates the image, the word which is the symbol, and discover that thought is the movement of verbalisation. Are you doing all this together? Are we? Or are you merely listening to the speaker? You know, we are caught in a network of words. We are German, French, Italian, whatever it is. Those are just labels, words. But behind that word is a great deal of culture, certain traditions, and so on, so on, so on.
So can one observe this fact of violence without the word? That’s the first question. Then is the word creating the feeling? When I say ‘my wife’, the word creates the feeling. So can we look at this reaction without the word? See what the implications of that are. That is, the word is the remembrance or the association of the past incidents which I have called ‘violent’. So when I use the word, I have related the present response to the past, and therefore the past is judging. This requires a lot of exercise of the brain, exercise to observe very, very, very closely when you’re looking at this fact of violence. So is there a freedom from the word, so that you look? When you free the brain, when there is freedom from the word, what remains? Only the reaction – right? – which you have named as violent. I wonder if you follow all this. Are we meeting each other or am I talking to myself?
You see, in observation, to be free of time. Time being the past – right? – modifying the present, and continuing. The past accumulation of memories, experience, knowledge, meeting the present, modified or not modified, and continuing – which is the future. Now, to look at violence without the idea of time.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1982, Question and Answer Meeting 1
Ending Violence Without Motive
Disorder exists as long as there is this idea of evolution. We are not talking about fundamental absurdities – there is evolution, from the baby into a grown-up man. There is evolution as the seed which grows into a marvellous tree. There is evolution in learning. One doesn’t know Russian but needs time to learn, and that is part of evolution. To learn a skill requires time – that is also evolution. Time, thought, is the process of evolution.
So we are questioning – please listen, if you will kindly and amicably – is there psychological, psychic evolution at all? I, you, becoming something. To become implies time, growth, like the seed into a tree. Is there psychological evolution at all? I know we accept that as a fact, that I will become something. Perhaps that is the result of being a clerk, becoming a manager, the manager becoming the executive, the executive becoming God! (Laughter) We carry that same principle into the psychological world, that I will become something, reach heaven, reach illumination, or whatever one aspires to. So we are asking, questioning, doubting whether there is psychological evolution at all.
That is, the psyche, part of the psyche is violence. We all know what violence is, both physically and psychologically. Violence is a very complex problem. Violence exists as long as there is comparison, as long as there is imitation and conformity. Violence. We all are violent, inherited from the past, and it is a common effort to end violence through non-violence. We are all saying this, propagated by several people from India and Tolstoy, and others – pursue non-violence, politically and in other ways. Non-violence is a non-fact. It is an illusion. It has no reality. What has reality is violence. And when you pursue non-violence you are cheating yourself. Non-violence doesn’t exist, it is an idea, it is a theory. But what exists actually is violence. And as we said, this violence is part of your psyche, of you. Will violence end through time, through evolution? I hope you are putting the question to yourself. That is, will one gradually understand, delve, find the cause, and gradually dissipate this violence? The moment you admit graduality and the future, it implies evolution.
Violence cannot end through evolution, now or in the future, because man has lived for a million years or less in violence. It is part of his nature, part of his psyche, part of his consciousness, his action and reaction. You hate me and I hate you, you kick me and I kick you. That’s what we are doing. That is what man has done for thousands of years. And we say to ourselves, someday it will end, through The League of Nations – absurd, isn’t it – through some divine action, through some mutation in the psyche, suddenly.
So is it possible to end violence, not sometime in the future but immediately? The whole content of violence, not the word only but the significance of that word, the depth of that word, the content of that word, which is not merely the physical action but the whole movement of me, the ego and you, separate, trying to conform, trying to imitate, trying to become. All that is part of violence. Aggression is violence. Competitiveness is violence. And to talk about being free from competitiveness is an anathema in this country. You abhor it. You will say, ‘Doesn’t all nature compete? Doesn’t a tree struggle against other trees to find light?’ But we are supposed to be human beings with some kind of intelligence.
So we are asking, is it possible for violence to end instantly, not gradually? It is a very serious question. We will see whether it is possible or not to end violence. Without any motive because the moment you have a motive to end violence, that very motive becomes part of violence. I hope you understand all this. If or when you want to end violence because it is profitable, because it is the right thing to do, or you think violence is anti-religious and you want to live a peaceful life, any kind of motive behind the act of ending of violence is the continuation of violence. One hopes you understand this. You can look at it for yourself. If you want to end violence, it can’t have direction, you can’t have a motive which says, ‘I will end it.’ So we are going to find out. I think there is time. We will go on. May we? You aren’t too tired?
Krishnamurti: I am surprised! (Laughter) One is surprised because this is a very serious matter. You have listened for an hour and a half. If you are working, if your brain is active, inquiring, questioning, doubting. Your brain must be tired because you are not used to this kind of thinking and looking. But we will go on.
We are asking the question. When you ask a question there is doubt behind it, there is scepticism. And scepticism, doubt, clarifies the brain – which is against all your religion. You don’t doubt your guru, you don’t doubt your religious authorities, you don’t doubt the whole rigmarole of religious entertainment. So when you question whether violence can end instantly, the whole complexity of violence, you are doubting, questioning, asking. Asking yourself. Now let’s find out, probe together whether it is possible to end violence completely so that you can live in this earth peacefully. Because if you are violent you cannot possibly live peacefully. That’s not a motive. But the fact is we are violence – violence between man and man, woman and man, and so on. What is violence? It is a reaction. It is a response. It is there, inherited perhaps in the very genes themselves. We are asking, can all that end?
How do you observe? Observe a tree, observe the lovely sunset or the beauty of the sky in the evening. How do you observe things? When you look at the new moon, just over the horizon, a slip of light, hardly perceptible, when you look at it, what is your reaction? Do you say, ‘How beautiful it is,’ and turn away to other things? Do you ever look totally, completely, attentively at anything? Do you ever look at your wife or husband, or your children, completely, without any reaction of a parent, and all that business? Just to look. Can you look at a tree without naming it? Can you look at that moon, the full moon of an evening, when the heavens are clear and all the evening light is awake? Do you ever look at it without the word, without all the remembrance of full moons of yesterdays? Just to look at it. When you so look at it there is a totally different movement going on. It is not the movement of thought, it is not the movement of pleasure, it is not a remembrance of something past. You are looking at it as though for the first time in your life when you don’t name it.
So can you move from the outer, which is looking at the moon, move inwardly to this whole structure of violence, look at it without any reaction, without naming it as violence? That sense of clear observation without any motive, without any reaction or bias. Just to look at this extraordinary thing we have called violence. It is like looking at a great precious jewel. It is not yours or mine, but it is there in your hands. When you so look at it so completely attentively, that which has been called violence with all its movement ends totally.
You are not, please, learning from the speaker how to observe. You are learning for yourself what it means to observe. Observe the hall, be aware of nature, the structure of the hall in which we are, the rain, the clouds, those extraordinary clouds full of light and depth and quality, just to observe all this. And so one can observe what violence means. And when there is such observation with great attention – because you cannot observe if there is no attention. The word ‘attention’ means to grasp, to go out and take. We are not meaning in that sense. To attend. To attend to what you are saying, to attend to your thoughts, to attend diligently this violence which has brought such great misery to human beings. When there is such pure attention, which is the gathering of all your energy to focus on the fact of this reaction called violence, there is an ending completely of that violence. Please don’t accept it from the speaker. He is not your authority, he is not your guru, he is not a professional, but you are observing this fact for yourself, seeing the truth of it.
Krishnamurti in San Francisco 1983, Talk 1
Are You Adding to the Violence in the World?
First of all, the earth on which we live is our earth. It is not the British earth, the French earth or German, Russian, Indian or Chinese, it is our earth on which we are all living. That is a fact. But thought has divided racially, geographically, culturally, economically. That division is causing havoc in the world. Obviously – there is no denial of that. That is rational, objective, sane. And we have been saying human beings living on this earth – which is our earth, all of ours, not the isolated, divided communities, it is our earth on which we are all living, though politically, economically we have divided it for security, for various forms of patriotic, illusory reasons which eventually bring about war.
We have also said that human consciousness is – please go into this with me, you may disagree, you may say it is all nonsense, but please listen to it and see if it is not rational, objective, sane. All our human consciousness is similar. On whatever part of the earth we live, we all go through a great deal of suffering, a great deal of pain, great anxiety, uncertainty, fear. And we have occasionally, or perhaps often, pleasure. This is the common ground on which all human beings stand. This is an irrefutable fact. We may try to dodge it, we may try to say it is not, that I am an individual and so on, but when you look at it objectively, non-personally, not as British, French and so on, in examination you will find that our consciousness is like the consciousness of all human beings, psychologically. You may be tall, you may be fair, you may have long hair, I may be black or white, or pink or whatever it is, but inwardly, psychologically we are all having a terrible time. We all have a great sense of desperate loneliness. You may have children, a husband, all the rest of it, but when you are alone you have this feeling that you have no relationship with anything, totally isolated. I am sure most of us have had that feeling. And we are saying this is the common ground on which all humanity stands. And whatever happens in the field of this consciousness, we are responsible.
That is, if I am violent, I am adding violence to that consciousness which is common to all of us. If I am not violent, I am not adding to it, I am bringing a totally new factor to that consciousness. So I am profoundly responsible: either to contribute to that violence, to that confusion, to that terrible division, or, as I recognise deeply in my heart, in my blood, in the depth of my being, that I am the rest of the world, I am mankind, I am the world, the world is not separate from me, then I become totally responsible, obviously, which is rational, objective, sane. The other is insanity, to call oneself a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Christian and all the rest of it – they are just labels.
So one has that feeling, that reality, the truth of it, that every human being living on this earth is responsible not only for himself but responsible for everything that is happening. Now how will one translate that in daily life? How will you translate it? If you have that feeling, not an intellectual conclusion as an ideal and so on, then it has no reality, but if the truth is that you are standing on the ground which is common to all mankind, and you feel totally responsible, then what is your action towards society, towards the world in which you are actually living? The world as it is now is full of violence, and only a very, very, very few people escape from it because they are carefully guarded, protected and all the rest of it.
Suppose I realise I am totally responsible – what is my action then? Shall I join a group of terrorists? Obviously not. Obviously, competitiveness between nations is destroying the world – the more powerful, the less powerful, and the less powerful trying to become more powerful, which is competition. Not only nationally, which is destroying the world. Realizing that I am the rest of mankind and I am totally responsible, shall I be competitive? Please answer these questions. When I feel responsible for this, naturally I cease to be competitive. And also the world, the religious world as well as the economic world, the social world, is based on hierarchical principle, and shall I also have this concept of hierarchical outlook? Obviously not, because that again is the one who says, ‘I know,’ and the other says, ‘I do not know.’ The one who says ‘I know’ is now taking a superior position, economically, socially, religiously and has a status. And if you want that status, go after it, but you are contributing to the confusion of the world.
So there are actual, objective, sane actions when you perceive, when you realise in your heart of hearts, in the depth of your being that you are the rest of mankind and that we are all standing on the same ground.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 1