Krishnamurti on Authority
This week’s episode on Authority has five sections.
The first extract (2:11) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in New Delhi 1962, titled ‘Breaking down authority’.
The second extract (18:20) is from the fourth talk at Brockwood Park in 1975, titled ‘We accept the authority of gurus’.
The third extract (25:12) is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in Bombay 1967, titled ‘Spiritual authority is an evil thing’.
The fourth extract (43:54) is from the second talk at Brockwood Park in 1971, titled ‘Cooperation without authority’.
The final extract this week (50:59) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in Saanen 1970, titled ‘Freedom implies the cessation of all authority’.
Breaking Down Authority
For most of us, authority is very important – the authority of books, the so-called sacred books; the authority of the policeman, the law; the authority of the boss, the tradition; authority as the domination of the husband over the wife or the wife over the husband, and of the parent over the child; the authority that makes you obey; the authority that has created such disorder in this world. For through obedience you do not create order, but you bring disorder – as all tyrannies do bring disorder. This again is a fact, both an outward and an inward fact, that you obey. And your constant demand is to find an assuring, comforting, enduring authority that will give you great, immense satisfaction which you call peace.
Do please listen to this and apply it to yourself. You are not listening to words, you are listening to yourself. You are not listening to ideas, you are observing yourself in a mirror. You may turn your back, you may not look at the mirror, but it is there if you look, if you want it. As you are here, do look at the mirror which is yourself.
So there is authority – the authority that makes you do things, the authority of right conduct, the authority that says that you must not and that you must, the authority that destroys all creativity – which is shown in the soldier. The soldier is not allowed to think, he is only allowed to obey. The more completely he obeys authority without hesitation, the more is he the complete soldier. Then for him, he has no responsibility. His superiors take responsibility, and that is a reason why war is popular. That is what most of us want: the authority of the guru who tells you what to do – and you don’t have to think, you don’t have to feel, you don’t have to question; you just follow.
So obedience becomes almost second nature. And a nation brought up on obedience is a nation that ceases to be. That is what is happening in this unfortunate country. There is no questioning; you don’t break down authority – I do not mean the authority of the government and the authority of the law; if you do break that down, if you do not pay taxes, you will go to prison. That is very simple – I don’t mean breaking down that kind of authority; that would be too stupid and immature. When I speak of breaking down authority, I mean the breaking down of the psychological authority, the authority that one has built up within oneself, which is to obey – to obey the guru, to obey tradition, to obey what you have been told, to bend your knee to the so-called religions which are nothing else but propaganda. We will go into the whole question of religion later. So authority cripples all that and brings about deterioration; you are never free, there is always fear.
How can a mind ridden by authority of every kind, from the little authority to the great authority of the highest guru, Shankara and all the saints – how can such a mind ever find out what is true for itself? Surely, it has to find out what is true for itself; it need not be told by a thousand gurus what is true, for all of them may be wrong – they probably are. But you have to find out, and to find out you have to destroy every authority that you have created within yourself. That very denial brings what you may call disorder, because that disorder is really fear which arises when you begin to question this inward authority and so tear down the house that one has built up through centuries, especially in this country, which is in a state of deterioration. You see this fact of authority and follow it. You say: what would happen if there were no inward authority? Probably if there were no inward authority, you would be disturbed for a few days but soon you would find another authority to replace the old. And in the meantime there is disorder, and you are frightened by that disorder.
Surely you must tear down everything to create. You must question everything. And in that very questioning, the individual comes into being; otherwise, we remain the mass. And that is what is necessary at the present time – to question everything, to question not to find out the answer. If you question with a motive, it is no longer questioning; then you are merely seeking a result. But if you question without a motive – which is quite an extraordinary thing to do – then your mind is completely capable of seeing what is true.
So it is important that there should be a new mind, a fresh mind. And such a mind is not possible if it is burdened with authority. Authority is not only the authority of the guru, the authority of the book, the authority of the wife or the husband and all the rest of it, the authority or the will to dominate, but also there is a much deeper significance of authority, which is experience. Most of us live by experience, and experience becomes authority. There is the experience of the scientist who has accumulated for centuries knowledge which is authority, and also there is the experience each one of us has gathered as knowledge, and that becomes our authority, which again is the past: the authority of which the conscious mind is aware and also the authority which is the accumulated experience in the unconscious. Experience is the reaction to challenge. I ask you something. The very asking is a challenge to which you respond, and the responding is the experiencing. And that experiencing is the result of your previous experiences which become the authority.
Please, it is quite simple. It may sound very complicated, but it is not.
All experience is of the past. And any response of experience which is of the past will not break down the wall of the past. So authority of any kind, inward or outward, will not free the mind from the past. And you can never be a master of the future, except in mechanical things, because the future is the unknown. But we look at the future, the tomorrow, with the eyes of the past, and therefore we think we can control it. And we do control it mechanically – tomorrow you are going to the office, tomorrow you are going to have certain results in your activities, and so on. Mechanically you will do all kinds of things; therefore you think you are the master of the future, but you are not.
Psychologically you are not the master of the future which is tomorrow. How can you be the master of something which you don’t know? How can you be the master of a mind which is – which must be – young, fresh, innocent? So when you see – I am using the word ‘see’ in the way I have talked about seeing – that certain outward forms of authority are necessary, like the authority of the engineer, the doctor, the government, the law, the policeman, but every other form of authority is destructive and prevents the mind from being free, then the mind can be free. And it is only the free mind that can go beyond.
Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1962, Talk 2
We Accept the Authority of Gurus
We accept the authority of the gurus, the priests, because we think they know and we don’t know. If you examine the whole idea of the guru, which is becoming rather a nuisance in this country, and in America, and the world over – I am sorry, I am rather allergic to gurus! I know several of them, many of them; they come to see me. They say: what you are saying is the highest truth. They know how to flatter! But they say: we are dealing with people who are ignorant, and we are the intermediaries, and we want to help them. So they assume authority and therefore deny freedom. I do not know if you have not noticed, not one single guru has raised his voice against tyranny.
So a man who would understand what freedom is must totally deny authority, which is extraordinarily difficult, which demands great attention because we may reject the authority of a guru, of a priest, of an idea but establish an authority in ourselves. That is, I think it is right, I know what I am saying, it is my experience. All that gives one the authority to assert, which is the same thing as the guru or priest.
So can the mind be free of authority, which means tradition, which means accepting of another as your guide – except in the technological field; it is natural there – as somebody to tell you what to do. If you reject that authority, as one must if there is to be freedom – and man must be free; if he is not, he is becoming a serf, a slave and denying the beauty and the depth of human spirit. Now, can the mind put aside all authority in the psychological sense? If you put aside the authority of the policeman, you will be in trouble! This requires a great deal of inward awareness. One obeys and accepts authority because in oneself there is uncertainty, confusion, loneliness and the desire to find something permanent, something lasting. But is there anything lasting, anything that is permanent, created by thought? Or thought gives to itself permanency? And in investigating that, the mind desires to have something it can cling to, some certainty, some psychological security. This is what happens in all our relationships with each other. I depend on you psychologically because in myself I am uncertain, confused, lonely, and I am attached to you, I possess you, I dominate you. So is freedom possible, living in this world, without authority, without the image, without the sense of dependency and therefore independency? So is freedom from something, or is freedom per se?
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1975, Talk 4
Spiritual Authority Is an Evil Thing
We have disorder both outwardly and inwardly. There is no question about this. There is general chaos, both outwardly and inwardly. Man is groping to find a way out of this chaos, asking, demanding, seeking new leaders, and if he can find a new leader, political or religious, he will follow him. That is, man is willing to follow a mechanically established routine, a purpose, a system.
But when one observes how this disorder has come into being, one sees that wherever there has been authority, especially inward authority, there must be disorder. One accepts the inward authority of another, of a teacher, of a guru, of a book and so on. That is, by following another – his precepts, his sayings, his commands and his authority – in a mechanical way, one hopes to bring about order within oneself. Order is necessary to have peace, but the order we create in the pursuit of, or in following, an authority breeds disorder. You can observe what is happening in the world, especially in this country where authority still reigns, where inward authority, the demand, the urge to follow somebody is very strong and is a part of the tradition, a part of the culture. That is why there are so many ashramas, little or big – which are really concentration camps because there you are told exactly what to do. There is the authority of the so-called spiritual leaders, and like all concentration camps, they try to destroy you, they try to mould you into a new pattern.
The communists in Russia, the regimes of dictatorship, brought about concentration camps to change opinion, to change the way of thinking, to force people. And this is exactly what is happening. The more there is chaos in the world, the more there are the so-called ashrams, which are essentially concentration camps, to twist people, to mould them, to force them to a certain pattern, promising them a marvellous future. And the dullards accept this. They accept this because then they have physical security. The boss, the commissar, the guru, the authority tells them exactly what to do; and they will willingly do it because they are promised heaven or whatever it is, and in the meantime there is physical security. This type of mechanical obedience – all obedience is mechanical – does breed great disorder, as one observes from history and from the everyday incidents of life.
So, for the comprehension of disorder, one has to understand the causes of disorder. The primary cause of disorder is the pursuit or the seeking of a reality which another promises. As most of us are in confusion, as most of us are in turmoil, we would rather mechanically follow somebody who will assure us of a comfortable spiritual life. It is one of the most extraordinary things that politically we are against tyranny and dictatorship – the more liberal, the more civilized, the more free the people are, the more they abhor and detest tyranny, politically and economically – but inwardly, they would accept the authority and tyranny of another. That is, we twist our minds, twist our thoughts and our way of life to conform to a certain pattern established by another as the way to reality. When we do that, we are actually destroying clarity, because clarity or light has to be found by oneself, not through another, not through a book, not through any saint. Generally, the saints are distorted human beings. Because they lead a so-called simple life, others are greatly impressed. But their minds are twisted and they create what they think is reality.
But actually to understand disorder, one has to understand the whole structure of authority, not only inwardly but also outwardly. One cannot deny outward authority. That is necessary. It is essential for any civilized society. But what we are saying is about the authority of another, including that of the speaker. There can be order only when we understand the disorder that each one of us brings about because we are part of society; we have created the structure of society, and in that society we are caught. We, as human beings who have inherited animal instincts, have to find light and order. And we cannot find that light and order, or that understanding, through another – it does not matter who it is – because the experiences of another may be false.
All experiences must be questioned, whether your own or of another. Experience is the continuation of a bundle of memories, which translates the response to a challenge according to its conditioning. Experience is to respond to a challenge, and that experience can only respond according to its background. If you are a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian, you are conditioned by your culture, by your religion, and that background projects every form of experience. The more clever you are in interpreting that experience, the more you are respected. Of course, with all that goes with it all the circus.
So we must question, we must doubt, not only the experience of another but also our own experience. To seek further experience through expansion of consciousness, which is being done through various forms of psychedelic drugs, is still within the field of consciousness, and therefore very limited. So a person who is seeking experience in any form – especially the so-called religious, spiritual experience – must not only question it, doubt it, but must totally set it aside. A mind that is very clear, a mind that is full of attention and love, why should such a mind demand any more experience?
What is true cannot be invited. You can practise any amount of prayer, breathing and all the rest of the tricks that human beings do in order to find some reality, some experience, but truth cannot be invited. That which is measurable can come, but not the immeasurable. And a man who is pursuing that which cannot understood by a mind that is conditioned, breeds disorder, not only outwardly but inwardly. So authority must be totally set aside, and that is one of the most difficult things to do.
From childhood we are led by authority – the authority of the family, the mother and the father; the authority of the school, the teacher and so on. There must be the authority of a scientist, the authority of a technologist, but the so-called spiritual authority is an evil thing, and that is one of the major causes of disorder because that is what has divided the world into various forms of religions, into various forms of ideologies.
So to free the mind from all authority, there must be self-knowing, that is, self-knowledge. I do not mean the higher self or the Atman, which are all the inventions of the mind, the inventions of thought, inventions born out of fear. We are talking of self-knowing: knowing oneself actually as one is, not as one should be – to see that one is stupid, that one is afraid, that one is ambitious, that one is cruel, violent, greedy; the motives behind one’s thought, the motives behind one’s action – that is the beginning of knowing oneself. If you do not know yourself, how the structure of your mind operates, how you feel, what you think, what your motives are, why you do certain things and avoid other things, how you are pursuing pleasure – unless you know all this basically, you are capable of deceiving yourself, of creating great harm, not only to yourself but to others.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1967, Talk 3
Cooperation Without Authority
Life is action, living is action. Sitting quietly, attempting to meditate – I don’t know what that may mean to you – that is an action. Everything is action – living is action, and in that action there is contradiction. In that action there is incomplete and complete action. When action is complete, there is no regret, there is no looking back or suffering – it is over, finished. But most of our actions are not complete in our relationships, and this inaction in relationship is caused by the authority of the image which we have about ourselves or about another.
Please investigate it together so that we understand something of this because I want to this morning if we can, go into the question of freedom and fear.
These images one has – you know what I mean by images; you have images haven’t you, about yourself, dozens of them – these images become the authority in action. And when we have, for instance, communes – and they are being formed all over the world, little groups – for those communes to function easily, efficiently, without any conflict between each other, if I belong to that commune, a particular commune, I have an image what that commune should be, and that image becomes the authority, though I reject the authority of the establishment. So I am still slave to authority. Though outwardly I reject the authority of the older generation and their whole set of ideas, beliefs, dogmas, the way of their life, I am still conforming to the pattern of authority. That authority exerts itself when another image comes into conflict with it, and we soon find the commune is broken up, as in society, as in every established order.
So is it possible to act without the image as the authority? Because otherwise our relationship in cooperation, in living together, becomes a contradiction, becomes a conflict – one authority imposing on another authority. I come here expecting the people who live here to behave in a certain way – that is my authority and I assert that authority over others, and then there is conflict between me and the people who are here.
So I am asking myself, and you too I hope, whether we can have a relationship and therefore cooperation without any authority of the image? Because more and more, as one observes in the world, whether in Europe, in America, in Asia, in India, this problem is becoming more and more important: how to live together without any conflict. How to work together, cooperate together, bring about a decent society in which every form of conflict, inwardly, which extended becomes war, ends. Can we live together without this conflict? Which means, can I live in this world, with many or with few, without any sense of authority as the image which I have established for myself as the pattern of behaviour?
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1971, Talk 2
Freedom Implies the Complete Cessation of All Authority
There is the authority of another, and the dependence on another; there is the authority of tradition; there is the authority of the past as memory, as experience and knowledge. And there is the authority of an experience which is immediate. You have had an experience and that becomes the authority. That experience is based on your past, on accumulated knowledge – otherwise, if you don’t recognise that as experience, as something new, it is not an experience. Are you following all this? Am I talking too much and too fast? You are following all this, which is following yourself, not me, not the speaker – right?
So there are these various categories of authority, and how can a mind, a brain which is so conditioned by authority, imitation, conformity, adjustment, how can such a mind and heart listen to anything completely new? How can one listen to the beauty of a day when the mind and the heart and the brain are clouded by the past as the authority? So if you see that, not verbally, not intellectually but actually perceive the fact, the actual what is, that is, a mind that is burdened by the past, conditioned by various forms of authority is not free and therefore cannot see completely, if you actually see that then the past is set aside without effort.
So freedom implies the complete cessation of all authority inwardly. And from that quality of mind that is free, an outward freedom comes, takes place which is entirely different from the reaction of an opposing or resisting factor.
Are you following all this? Are you also working as hard as the speaker? Or you are merely listening, hearing? What we are saying is really quite simple, and it is because of its very simplicity you will miss it.
Our minds, our brains are conditioned through authority, through imitation and conformity – that is a fact. And therefore freedom cannot exist to such a mind. It can talk endlessly about freedom, and revolt against certain outward forms of restrictions, but it is not a free mind. The mind that is actually free has no inward authority whatsoever – and we have explained very carefully what authority means. Have you, as a human being, any form of authority on which you depend? If you do, you cannot have freedom. And it is only the free mind that knows what it means to love and meditate.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1970, Talk 2