Krishnamurti on Life
This week’s episode on Life has four sections.
The first extract (2:06) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in Bangalore 1971, titled ‘What is our daily life?’
The second extract (9:44) is from the fourth talk in Saanen in 1973, titled ‘Is there a meaning to life?’
The third extract (39:16) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Ojai 1982, titled ‘A holistic view of life’.
The final extract this week (1:15:04) is from the fifth discussion in Saanen 1968, titled ‘The only thing important in life’.
What Is Our Daily Life?
Let us look actually what our life is, our daily life. Because if we don’t understand it, if we don’t bring order into it, if we merely slur over our daily activity or escape into some ideology or just be superficially satisfied with things as they are, then we have no basis for a life, a way of thinking, a way of action which will be right, which will be true. Without order, one must live in confusion. Without understanding order, which is virtue, then all morality becomes superficial, merely influenced by the environment, by the culture in which one lives, which is not moral at all. So one must find out for oneself what is order, whether this order is a pattern, a design, a thing that has been put together by man through various forms of compulsion, conformity, imitation. Or is order a living thing and therefore can never possibly be made into a pattern, into a conformity? We are going to go into that presently.
So to understand disorder, we must examine our life, our life as it is. What is our daily living? If you can bear to look at it, if you can observe it, what is actually our everyday life?
One can see that in that living there is a great deal of confusion, there is a great deal of conformity, contradiction, where every man is against another, where in the business world you are ready to cut another’s throat. Politically, sociologically, morally, there is a great deal of confusion. And when you look at your own life, you see that from the moment you are born till you die, it is a series of conflicts. Life has become a battlefield.
Please observe it – not that you must agree with the speaker, or disagree with him, but just observe it. Just watch your actual daily living. And when you do so observe, you cannot help seeing what actually is going on: how one is in despair, lonely, unhappy, in conflict, caught in a series of competition, aggression, brutality and violence – that is actually our daily life, and that we call living. And not being able to understand it or resolve it or go beyond it, we escape from it into some ideology: into the ideology of ancient philosophers, ancient teachers, ancient wisdom. And we think by escaping from the actual we have solved everything. And that is why philosophy, ideals, all the very various forms of networks of escape have not in any way resolved our problems; we are just as we were five thousand years ago or more: dull, repetitive, bitter, angry, violent, aggressive, with the occasional flash of some beauty, happiness – and always frightened of that one thing which we call death.
Our daily life has no beauty because again your religious teachers and your books have said, ‘Don’t have any desires, be desireless, don’t look at a woman, because you might be tempted; and to find God, truth, you must be a celibate.’ And our daily life is contrary to all the teachers, to all the sayings of the teachers. We are actually what we are – very petty, small, narrow-minded, frightened human beings. And without changing that, any amount of your seeking truth, or talking valiantly and most scholarly, or interpreting your Gita and the innumerable sacred books, has no value at all. So you might just as well throw away all the sacred books and start all over again because they, with their interpreters, their teachers, their gurus, have not brought enlightenment to you. Their authority, their compulsive discipline, their sanctions have no meaning at all. So you might just as well put them all aside and learn from yourself, for therein lies truth, not the truth of another.
So is it possible to change our life? Our lives are in disorder, our lives are in fragmentation: being something at the office, going to the temple, if you are still inclined that way, then something entirely different with the family, and in front of a big official you become, God knows, frightened, desperate, a sycophantic human being. And can we change all this? Because without changing our daily life, your asking what truth is, if there is a God or not, has no meaning whatsoever, because we are fragmented human beings, broken up. And until we are a total human entity, whole, complete, then only is there a possibility of coming upon that something which is timeless.
Krishnamurti in Bangalore 1971, Talk 2
Is There a Meaning to Life?
What is the meaning of life? I think if we could understand that, not verbally, not merely intellectually, structurally, linguistically, but seriously go into it and find out for ourselves what is the meaning of life, then perhaps we shall be able to find out for ourselves how to live in this world, though we may have, at least some of us, being serious, turned away from it.
I think there is a difference between the purpose of life and the meaning of life. One can project a purpose, a goal, an end, depending on one’s environment, the culture in which one has been brought up, or one’s own idiosyncrasy and temperament – out of one’s background one can project a purpose of life. The intellectuals have done it, the religious authorities have done it, and there is our own desire to have a purpose. I think the meaning of existence is different. You can’t invent a meaning. You can deceive yourself, you can say to yourself, ‘This is the meaning of my life’ – again depending on your economic, social or religious background, depending on your tendency, the cultural depth. To me, both are utterly meaningless because they do not reveal the real significance, meaning of life.
When we ask, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ is it a reaction because we find life as we live now has no meaning whatsoever – the daily routine, the office, the factory, the labour, endless travail, struggle in our relationship with each other, the sense of lack of love, loneliness, weary years, and then ultimately die? This existence of life, as it is now, has very little meaning, or none at all.
Religious people throughout the world have tried to give a meaning – saints, saviours, the various gurus. Apparently they are springing like mushrooms in this country and in the world. Don’t eat these mushrooms, they are dangerous! They have invented according to their particular experience, according to their conditioning, a purpose and a meaning to life. Again based on their rationalisation, if intellectual, and if you are religiously inclined, on their conditioning according to their particular sect, religious belief and so on. As we said, they are essentially based on the movement of thought.
Thought is knowledge, experience, memory. Whatever the culture in which one has been brought up, according to that culture and background one can project, invent, imagine, linguistically, emotionally, intellectually a meaning to life. And without finding it out for ourselves, not according to any philosopher – I really don’t like to use that word ‘philosopher’ because the word means the love of truth in daily life, not a clever, cunning, highly educated mind that invents a theory. Such people are called philosophers: intellectually they may invent, or by their very clever reasoning project or give a meaning to life. We generally accept such meaning because we have no meaning to our own lives. If there is somebody who says, ‘This is the meaning of life,’ we are only too eager, delighted to accept what others have said.
It is important now to find out, if you are serious at all and if you have rejected completely the purposes and meanings others have given, or you have given out of your own suffering, out of your own loneliness, out of your own feeling that life has no meaning, therefore you have to invent a meaning – if you can reject all that, put aside all that, which is quite an arduous thing to do because we like to cling to our own particular beliefs, to our own particular experiences, to our own desire to find something that has a meaning – if one can put aside all that because they are all illusions, have no meaning – verbally they may have a meaning, ideologically, but in substance, in reality, as an actual fact in daily life they have no meaning whatsoever – if you and the speaker together share this question in all seriousness, committing ourselves totally to find out, we can ask: what is the meaning of life?
Has it any meaning at all? If you are putting that question – has it any meaning? – are you putting it as a reaction because you find it has no meaning, or are you putting it to find out, to inquire, to investigate? If you are investigating, inquiring, we can share that together, but if you have a purpose, a meaning, and the speaker or another has no purpose or meaning, then we cannot possibly share. We can only share that which both of us are aware, know the significance and the intention of.
So that being clear, let’s proceed to find out if there is a meaning to life. It is necessary, absolutely necessary because modern culture, or ancient culture, has imposed on us certain values, certain moralities. The religious structure has given us a background of a purpose – heaven and hell – you know, all that. Now, a mind that is really very serious – and we are here for that purpose, we are serious, at least some of us, I hope so. As we said, this is not an entertainment, intellectual, verbal or religious entertainment – the speaker is very serious, and if you are also very serious then we can meet together, we can talk over together, share together.
Now, how are you going to find out what is the purpose of life? Because once you discover it as a reality, not as an idea, something somebody else has projected, or you yourself have projected, but if you can discover for yourself the purpose, the meaning of life – the meaning, the significance, the depth, the beauty – then it has a relationship with regard to your actions, with regard to your relationship with another, with regard to your whole living. So how do we begin to inquire: what is the meaning of life? Will thought reveal it – thinking about it, rationalising, discussing and trying to find out the truth through opinions, which is dialectic? You may have an opinion of what the meaning of life is, and another may have another meaning, and through exchange of opinions, reason, can you come upon the truth of what is the meaning of life?
We are taking a journey together into this matter. You are not merely listening to a speaker, to a lot of words, ideas or imagination. We are actually together sharing this problem, seriously. So through opinions, you cannot find it. So you have to discard opinions. Can you discard actually? If you have, can you find it through very careful analysis? Analysis, as we explained the other day, is a process of paralysis. Paralysis through analysis! We went into that the other day. Can you discover it through the movement of time, as thought? Please, are you following all this?
Is it a matter of time? That is, investigating through the process of thinking what others have said, or through careful rationalisation – which thought can do excellently, objectively? So can thought reveal the meaning of life? Thought, as we said, is the movement within the area of time. Thought is time. And our brain, the whole structure of our mind, is based on time.
So we have these problems: opinion, what others have said – whether it is Mao, Lenin, various saviours, gurus, intellectuals, you accept them or reject them, or through the capacity of a mind that can think very clearly and logically and say to itself, ‘This is the meaning of life.’ Can thought do that? Thought being the response of memory, knowledge, experience, which is the past. So can the past reveal the full meaning of life?
We have got these three things, which are really one, but it doesn’t matter – for the moment we will look at them separately: opinion; what others have said, the saints, the saviours, the teachers, the books; and your own thought. So can you depend on your thought? And you may not be perfectly balanced; most of us are slightly neurotic. And can you depend on what others have said, it doesn’t matter who it is – the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Indian books and so on and so on? Can you depend on your own thinking? Have you sufficient confidence – that isn’t the word – have you sufficient knowledge which you have put to the test to find out? So we can reject opinion, what others say, what the meaning of life is to you, and what others have said. It is only fools who advise! So we can reject that without too much thought.
Then can you look at your culture, of which you are a part, the culture that says, ‘The meaning of life is this, work endlessly, in the office, in the factory and bear the responsibility of a family’? And your culture says, whether it is this culture, Western culture or any culture, it doesn’t matter – all cultures are more or less the same – your culture says that you will live in heaven if you are good on earth. And that is the meaning of life, going to heaven! And also your culture says, ‘Why bother what the meaning of life is, just live, put up with the ugliness, the beastly existence, the sorrow, the pain, the anxiety, the pleasures, the fears, the utter boredom, the loneliness, put up with it, that is part of your life, you can’t go beyond it, therefore enjoy, make pleasure as the main thing of your life.’ And that is what you are doing.
So we are asking: is pleasure the full meaning of life? And that is what you want, that is what you are seeking, a permanent, enduring, continuous pleasure – right? – not only sexually but also in your relationship with others. Pleasure, which you derive in work, in fulfilment, in becoming ambitious, achievement, success, in possession, either of ideas or of things – the principle of pleasure is for most people the meaning of life. Please let’s be terribly honest. We can so easily deceive ourselves. And in the pursuit of pleasure, fulfilment becomes extraordinarily important – sexually, fulfilment of your desires, fulfilment to be somebody important, famous, successful – all that. Now, is pleasure the full deep meaning of life? Which is what you want. Is that the meaning of life? If you accept that, as you do, that is the meaning of life – the fulfilment, the self-aggrandisement, the sexual pleasures, the pleasure of competition, success, wanting to be known, self-importance, self-centred activity. All that gives pleasure. If that is the meaning of life, then life becomes terribly superficial, doesn’t it? And that is what we have done. That is what we have done actually. We have made life, in the pursuit of pleasure, very superficial. Haven’t you noticed it? You may be very clever, you may be a great artist, pianist, or whatever you are, an expert, a good or swindling politician, whatever it is, but it is all on the surface.
So knowing that is a superficial life, then you ask: is there not a deeper meaning?
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1973, Talk 4
A Holistic View of Life
So if one is aware of all this, as one must be, what is our response? Not a partial but total response to the whole phenomena that is going on, taking place in the world. Do we only consider our own personal lives? How to live a quiet, serene, undisturbed life in some corner, or are we concerned with the total human existence, with the total humanity? If we are only concerned with our own particular life, however troublesome it is, however limited it is, however much it is sorrowful and painful, then one does not realise the part is the whole. So one has to look at life, not the American life or the Asiatic life, but life as a whole – holistic observation. The observation is not a particular observation – it is not my observation or your particular observation but the observation that comprehends the totality, the holistic view of life. Each one of us has been concerned with his own particular problems: problems of more money, no job, seeking one’s own fulfilment, seeking everlastingly pleasure; frightened, isolated, lonely, depressed, suffering, and creating, being personal, a saviour outside who will transform or bring about a salvation for ourselves, for each one of us. This tradition has been going on in the Western world for two thousand years, and the Asiatic world, which is probably the explosion from India over the East, has also maintained the same thing in different words, with different symbols, different pictures, different conclusions. But it is the same individual search for his own salvation, for his own particular happiness, to resolve his many complex problems. That’s what each one of us is trying to do.
If we cannot solve our particular problem, there are the specialists of various kinds, psychological specialists to whom one goes to resolve our problems. They too have not succeeded. Nor the scientists – on the contrary. Technologically, the scientists have helped enormously – less disease, better communication, cures, sanitation, and so on and so on. And also the scientists are maintaining war. Scientists are responsible for all the gadgets of war. They are responsible for murdering millions and millions of people in one blow. So scientists are not going to save mankind, nor the politicians, whether in the East or West, or in the middle part of the world. They seek power, position, and they play all kinds of tricks on human thought. You know all this. And in the Western world we elect them – God knows how we elect them. And in the Russian world, you don’t; they are a totalitarian dictatorship, a complete prison. And it is exactly the same thing in the religious world, so-called religious world: the authority of hierarchy, the authority of the Pope, the bishop, the archbishop and the local priest, in the name of some image which thought has created.
And as human beings, separated, isolated, we haven’t been able to solve our problems. We are highly educated, cunning, self-centred, capable of extraordinary things outwardly, but inwardly we are more or less what we have been for a million years: we hate, we compete, we destroy each other – which is what is going on actually at the present moment. You have heard the experts talking about the recent war: they are not talking about human beings being killed, but destroying airfields, blowing up this or that. So there is this total confusion in the world, of which one is quite sure we are all aware of.
From that arises the question: what shall we do? A friend some time ago told the speaker, you can’t do anything. You are beating your head against a wall. It will go on like this for the next million years: fighting, killing, destroying each other, competition, caught in various forms of illusion. This will go on, don’t waste your life and time. This tragedy, the terrifying events that may happen by some crazy person pressing a button, or the computer taking over man’s capacities, thinking much quicker, more accurately; and the computer too may destroy the human being, the human mind, the human brain, because the computer and the robot can do all kinds of things, as they are doing in Japan. So what is going to happen to human beings? So this is the vast problem which we are facing.
And our education from childhood till we pass, if we are lucky, through college or university, is to specialise in some form or another, accumulate a lot of knowledge, store it up in the brain and act, get a job and hold on to the job skilfully, if you can, for the rest of one’s life, going to the office from morning till the evening, and dying at the end of it all. This is not a pessimistic attitude or observation; this is what actually is going on. When one observes the actuality, the fact, one is neither depressed, optimistic or pessimistic – it is so.
One asks, if one is at all serious and responsible: what is one to do? Retire into monasteries? Form a commune? Go off to Asia and pursue Zen meditation or other forms of meditation? One is asking this question seriously when confronted with this crisis in consciousness. The crisis is not over there, outside of us. The crisis is in us. You know that saying, ‘We have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us’?
So the crisis is not economic, or war, the bomb, the politicians, the scientists, but the crisis is within us; the crisis is in our consciousness. Until we understand very profoundly the nature of that consciousness, and question, delve deeply into it and find out for ourselves whether there can be a total mutation in that consciousness, the world will go on creating more misery, more confusion, more horror. So our responsibility is not some kind of altruistic action, political or economic, but to comprehend the nature of our being; why we human beings, living on this beautiful, lovely earth, have become like this.
So we should, if you are willing, if it is your responsibility, perceive together the nature of our consciousness, the nature of our being. This is not, as we said, a lecture. A lecture being a dissertation on a particular subject giving or pointing out information – that’s what one means by a lecture – but here we are trying together, you and the speaker together, not separately, together, to observe the movement of this consciousness and its relationship to the world, and whether that consciousness is individual, separate, or that consciousness is the whole of mankind.
We are educated from childhood to be individuals, with a separate soul – if you believe in that kind of stuff. You have been trained, educated, conditioned to think as an individual. You think that because you have a separate name, separate form, that is dark, light, tall, short, fair, black, and so on, and your particular tendency, you think you are a separate individual, with your own particular experiences and so on. Now we are going to question that very idea, whether we are individuals. It doesn’t mean that we are kind of amorphous beings, but actually, are we individuals? The whole world maintains, both religiously and in other ways, that we are separate individuals, and from that concept, and perhaps from that illusion, each one of us is trying to fulfil, become something. In that becoming something, we are competing against another, fighting another. So if we maintain that way of life, we must inevitably cling to nationalities, tribalism, war.
Why do we hold on to nationalism? The passion behind it, which is what is happening now – the British against the Argentines, the Jew against the Arab, Arab against the Jew, and so on – why do we give such extraordinary passionate importance to nationalism, which is essentially tribalism? Why? Is it because in tribalism, holding on to the tribe, to the group, there is a certain security, not only physical security but psychological security, an inward sense of completeness, fullness? If that is so, then the other tribe also feels the same; and hence division and hence war and conflict.
If one actually sees the truth of this, not theoretically, and if one wants to live on this earth, which is our earth, not yours or mine, American or Russian or Hindu, it is our earth to live on, then there is no nationalism at all. There is only human existence. One life. It is not your life or my life, it is living the whole of life. This tradition of individuality has been perpetuated by religions both in the East and in the West: individual saviour for each individual, and so on, so on. Now is this so? You know, it is very good to doubt, very good to have a mind that questions, doesn’t accept; a mind that says, we cannot possibly live anymore like this, in this brutal, violent manner. So doubt, questioning, has extraordinary importance, not just accepting the way of life one has lived perhaps for fifty, sixty or thirty years, or the way one has lived for a million years.
So we are questioning the reality of individuality. Your consciousness – we understand by the meaning of that word ‘to be conscious’ the content of your consciousness – to be conscious means to be aware, to know, to perceive, to observe – is your consciousness with its content, the content being your belief, your pleasure, your experience, your particular knowledge you have gathered, either through some particular external subject or the knowledge you have gathered about yourself – your fears, the attachments, the pain, the agony of loneliness, the sorrow, the search for something more than mere physical existence – all that is one’s consciousness with its content. The content makes the consciousness. Without content, there is not consciousness as we know it. Here there is no room for argument; it is so. Your consciousness, which is very complex, contradictory, with such extraordinary vitality, that consciousness, is it yours? Is thought yours? Or there is only thinking, which is neither East nor West. There is only thinking, which is common to all mankind, whether rich or poor, technicians with their extraordinary capacity, or the monk who withdraws from the world and is consecrating himself to an idea, it is still thinking. Is this consciousness common to all mankind? Common in the sense not degrading. Is this consciousness yours or also the rest of mankind?
Wherever one goes, one sees suffering, pain, anxiety, loneliness, insanity, fear, seeking security, caught in knowledge, the urge of desire, loneliness. It is common. It is the ground on which every human being stands. Your consciousness is the consciousness of humanity, the rest of humanity. This is logical. You may disagree; you may say your consciousness is separate, and it must be separate – but is it so? If one understands the nature of this, that you are the rest of mankind, though we may have a different name, we may live in different parts of the world, educated in different ways, affluent or very poor, when you go behind the mask, deeply, you are like the rest of mankind, aching, lonely, suffering, despairing, neurotic, belief, believing in some illusion, and so on. Whether you go to the East or West, this is so. You may not like it; you may like to think that you are a totally independent, free individual. But when you observe very deeply, you are the rest of humanity. You may accept this as an idea, an abstraction, as a marvellous concept, but the idea is not the actual. An abstraction is not what actually is taking place. But most of us make an abstraction of ‘what is’ into an idea, and then pursue the idea, which is really non-factual.
So that is so, that is, my consciousness and yours, with all its content – the content in itself is contradictory, confused, struggling against each other: fact and non-fact, wanting to be happy, being unhappy, wanting peace, living without violence and yet being violent – our consciousness in itself is disorder. It is the root of dissension. And until we understand, go into it very deeply, and discover total order, we shall have always disorder in the world.
So a serious person – I mean by that word, not easily dissuaded from the pursuit of understanding, the pursuit of delving deeply into himself, into his consciousness, which is the common consciousness of all man – a man who is not easily persuaded by amusement, entertainment, which is perhaps sometimes necessary, but to pursue consistently, every day into the nature of man, that is, into yourself, to observe what is actually going on within oneself, and from that observation action takes place. Not what shall I do as a separate human being? But action which comes out of total, holistic observation of life.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1982, Talk 1
The Only Thing Important in Life
We have these questions. A life in which the very living is the beauty of action and love – and without love, there is always right and wrong action breeding conflict, contradiction and opposition. And there is only one true action, one action, only one action and no other action, which is the action that comes out of love, and therefore never contradictory, never breeding conflict. You know, love is both aggressive and non-aggressive – don’t misunderstand it – love isn’t something pacific, quiet, put somewhere down in the cellar, or in heaven. When you love, you have vitality, drive, intensity and the immediacy of action. So is it possible for us human beings to be involved in this beauty of action, which is love?
Can we talk about this, or is that enough for this morning? ‘Sufficient unto the day the evil thereof.’
You know, it would be quite extraordinary, wouldn’t it, if all of us here in this tent, in this structure, in this building, if we could come upon this, not as an idea, not something speculatively to be reached, but actually from this day to step out into a different dimension and live a life so whole, complete, so sacred. Such a life is the religious life. There is no other life, no other religion, because such a life will answer every problem, because love is very intelligent. It is the highest form of sensitivity and therefore extraordinarily intelligent and practical. And because there is love, there is humility. You know I could go on like this all the morning. That is the only thing that’s important in life, one is steeped in it. One lives it, or you don’t. If we could all of us come into this naturally, easily, without any conflict or effort, then we are living a different life, a life of great intelligence, sagacity, clarity. It is this clarity which is a light to oneself, this clarity solves all problems.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1968, Talk 5