Krishnamurti on Compassion
‘Compassion means passion for all human beings, animals and nature. How can there be compassion when there is fear or when the mind is constantly pursuing pleasure?’
This week’s podcast has six sections. The first extract (2:08) is from Krishnamurti’s fourth talk in Madras 1983, titled ‘What is compassion?’.
The second extract (7:02) is from the second talk in San Francisco 1973, titled ‘We have no compassion’
The third extract (15:02) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk at Brockwood Park in 1975, titled ‘The ending of sorrow is the beginning of compassion’.
The fourth extract (29:37) is from the second question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1979, titled ‘Compassion is supreme’.
The fifth extract (34:44) is from Krishnamurti’s third question and answer meeting in Ojai 1982, titled ‘Compassion can only exist when the self is not’.
The final extract this week (46:08) is from the fifth discussion in Saanen 1975, titled ‘Without compassion, the sacred cannot be found’.
What Is Compassion?
How can one be compassionate if one belongs to any religion, follows any guru, believes in something – in scriptures, in a guru and so on, attached to a conclusion? When you accept your guru, you have come to a conclusion. Or when you strongly believe in God or in a saviour, or in this or that, can there be compassion? You may do social work, help the poor, out of pity, out of sympathy, out of charity, but is all that love and compassion? So in understanding the nature of love, having that quality, which is mind in the heart, that is intelligence, which is a very complex question. Intelligence is the understanding or the discovering of what love is.
Intelligence has nothing whatsoever to do with thought, with cleverness, with knowledge. You may be very clever in your studies, in your job, in being able to argue very cleverly, reasonably, but that is not intelligence. Intelligence goes with love and compassion. And with that intelligence, if there is, if you have come upon it – and you cannot come upon it as an individual; compassion is not yours or mine, like thought is not yours or mine. Where there is intelligence, there is no me and you. Intelligence doesn’t abide in your heart or in your mind. Intelligence, which is supreme, is everywhere. It is that intelligence that moves the earth and the heavens and the stars, because that is compassion.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1983, Talk 4
We Have No Compassion
We have no compassion. We have a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of experience; we can do extraordinary things, medically, technologically, scientifically, but we have no compassion whatsoever. Compassion means passion for all human beings, and animals and nature. And how can there be compassion when there is fear, when the mind is constantly pursuing pleasure? You want pleasure, to control fear, put it underground, and also you want compassion – you want them all. You can’t have it. You can have compassion only when fear is not. And that is why it is so important to understand fear in our relationships. Fear can be totally uprooted when you can observe reaction without naming it. The very naming of it is the projection of the past. So thought sustains and pursues pleasure, and thought also gives strength to fear – I am afraid of what might happen tomorrow, I am afraid of losing a job, I am afraid of time as death. So thought is responsible for fear.
We live in thought. Our daily activity is based on thought. So what place has thought in human relationship? You have insulted me. That leaves a memory, that leaves a mark as memory in my mind, and I look at you with that memory. Or if you flatter me, I look at you with that memory. So I never look at you without the eyes of the past. So it is very important to understand what place thought has in relationship. If it has a place, then relationship is a routine, a mechanical, daily meaningless pleasure and fear.
So one comes to the question then: what is love? Is it the product of thought? Unfortunately it has been made as the product of thought – love of God and love of man and the destruction of nature. Go into this question deeply to find out for yourself what love is, because without that, without that quality of compassion, we will always suffer. And to come upon it, for the mind to have that deep compassion, one must understand suffering, for passion is the outcome of suffering.
The meaning of the word ‘passion’, its root meaning, is sorrow, suffering. And most of us escape from suffering. Not that we must accept suffering – that is silly, both physically as well as psychologically. Is thought the movement of suffering, or is suffering something entirely different from thought? Therefore it is immensely important to understand the machinery of thinking – not verbally understand it but actually observe in ourselves what thinking is and see what its relationship is in our daily life.
We will continue next Saturday, if you will, about the question of what love is, what compassion is and what death is. That is, what living is. Love and death are part of life. Living not comprehending death is no living at all. Living without this compassion makes life an empty shell, which has to be filled with pleasure.
Krishnamurti in San Francisco 1973, Talk 2
The Ending of Sorrow Is the Beginning of Compassion
When there is freedom from suffering, there is compassion – not before. You can talk about it, write books about it, discuss what compassion is, but the ending of sorrow is the beginning of compassion. The human mind has put up with suffering, endless suffering, having children killed in wars, suffering and willing to accept further suffering by future wars; the suffering through education. Modern education is to achieve a technological… nothing else, and that brings great sorrow. So compassion, which is love, can only come when you understand fully the depth of suffering and the ending of suffering. Can that suffering end – not in somebody else, in you?
The Christians have made a parody of suffering. Sorry to use that word, but it is actually so. The Hindus have made it into an intellectual affair, that what you have done in the past life, you are paying for it in the present life, and for the future there will be happiness if you behave properly now. But they never behave properly now. So they carry on with this belief, which is utterly meaningless. But if one who is serious, who is concerned with compassion, what it means to love – because without that you can do what you like, you can build all the skyscrapers, have a marvellous economic world and social behaviour and all that, without that life becomes a desert.
So to understand what it means, or to live with compassion, you must understand what suffering is. Is suffering apart from physical pain, physical disease, physical accident, which generally affects the mind, distorts the mind? If you have had physical pain for some time, it twists your mind. To be aware that the physical pain cannot touch the mind requires tremendous inward awareness. Apart from the physical, there is suffering of every kind – suffering in loneliness, suffering when there is no love, or you are not loved, the longing for you to be loved and never finding it satisfactory. We make love into something to be satisfied; we want love to be gratified. And we suffer because there is death. There is suffering because there is never a moment of complete wholeness, a complete sense of totality, but always living in fragmentation, which is contradiction, strife, confusion and misery. And to escape from that, we go to temples, take drugs and go to various forms of entertainment, religious and non-religious, group therapy and individual therapy. You know all those tricks we play upon ourselves and upon others – if you are clever enough to play tricks upon others. So there is this immense suffering brought by man against man. We bring suffering to all the animals. We kill them, eat them; we have destroyed species after species because our love is fragmented: we love God and kill human beings.
So there is this problem. Can that end? Can suffering totally end so that there is complete and whole compassion? Suffering means, the root meaning is to have passion. Not the Christian passion. Passion – not lust; that is too cheap, that is very easy, but to have compassion, which means passion for all, for all things. That can only come when there is total freedom from suffering.
It is a very complex problem, like everything, like fear, pleasure and suffering. They are all interrelated, and to go into it and see whether the mind, which includes the brain can ever be free completely of all psychological suffering, inward suffering. If we don’t understand that and are not free, we will bring suffering to others, as we have done. Though you believe in God, in Christ, in Buddha, and all kinds of beliefs, you have killed men generation after generation – what we do, what our politicians do in India and here. So what is suffering? Why is it that human beings who think of themselves as extraordinarily alive and intelligent – why have they allowed themselves to suffer?
There is suffering when there is jealousy. Jealousy is a form of suffering, a form of hate – not only jealousy of those who have achieved something in this world, or supposedly achieved in another world – envy is part of our structure, part of our nature, which is to compare ourselves with somebody else. And can you live without comparison? We think without comparison we shall not evolve, we shall not grow, we shall not be somebody, but have you ever tried to live really, actually without comparing yourself with anybody? You have read the lives of saints, etc., etc., and if you are inclined that way, as you get older, you want to become like that. Not when you are young – you spit on all that – but as you are approaching the grave, you wake up.
So there are different forms of suffering, and can you look at it, observe it, without trying to escape from it, just remain solidly with that thing? My wife – I am not married – runs away from me, or looks at another man, even though the wedding has by law said she belongs to me and I hold her – stupid stuff all this! – when she moves away from me, I am jealous because I possess. In possession I feel satisfied, I feel safe. And also it feels good to be possessed; that also gives satisfaction. And that jealousy, that envy, that hatred, can you look at it without any movement of thought and remain with it? Jealousy is a reaction, a reaction which has been named through memory as jealousy, and I have been educated to run away from it, to rationalise it or to indulge in it – and hate, anger and all the rest of it. But without doing any of that, can my mind solidly remain with it without any movement? Do it and you will see what happens.
In the same way, when you suffer psychologically, to remain with it completely without a single movement of thought. Then you will see out of that suffering comes that strange thing called passion. And if you have no passion of that kind, you cannot be creative. So out of that suffering comes compassion. And that energy is totally different from the mechanistic energy of thought.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1975, Talk 2
Compassion Is Supreme
The mind has understood the nature of sorrow, and therefore freedom from sorrow – which doesn’t mean indifference but freedom from sorrow. These are only indications, not the final thing. If these don’t exist, the other final thing cannot be. You understand the point? I don’t think you do.
A man or woman has spent years and years searching, seeking, asking, demanding, so-called sacrificing, taking vows of celibacy, poverty, and at the end of it all says, ‘My God, I have nothing. I have ashes in my hand.’ Even though they think they have in their hands Christ or Jesus or the Buddha, it is still ashes. I wonder if you see all this. And such a person asks: what is the right action in my life, the right action which will be right under all circumstances? It doesn’t vary from time to time according to culture, according to nation, according to education – right, precise, actual.
When all this is clear, that your mind is totally unattached to itself, to its own body and no has fear, and the ending of sorrow, then if that is clear, the one thing is compassion. Out of all this comes compassion. Then compassion is not ashes in your hand. It isn’t the compassion that does social reforms, social work, or of the saints. It isn’t the compassion of the saints, compassion of the people who go out in the war and heal people, doctors and so on, so on. It is not that at all. It is the one answer that is true under all circumstances, and therefore out of that right action. Because compassion goes with intelligence. If there is no intelligence which is born out of compassion then you get lost in trivialities. And the world then accepts those trivialities as being extraordinary acts of compassion. They become saints and they become heroes; they become all kinds of idiotic recognitions of silly people.
So there is one act, one quality that is supreme, and that is compassion with its intelligence. And out of that intelligence there is right action under all circumstances.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1979, Question and Answer Meeting 2
Compassion Can Only Exist When the Self Is Not
Question: Won’t we find the truth you speak of through loving service to humanity, through acts of love and compassion?
Krishnamurti: Oh, this is a lovely question.
Do-gooders are always helping society, the poor, devoting their life to poverty and helping others to accept the poverty or to move out of that poverty. This is going on, recognised by religious people as a great act, making them saints. You know all this, you read about it almost every day in the papers – the missionaries that go out. It is all so ridiculous.
Now, the questioner says: through acts of love, compassion and service, do we find that truth which is not yours or mine, or doesn’t belong to any religion? Now do you love? Do you have compassion? Do you want to help or serve another? When you set out to serve another, to help another, it means you know much better than the other fellow does. I think there is a great deal of vanity in all this, in the name of service, in the name of love. Don’t you think so? A great deal of self-expression. I want to fulfil myself through various activities, maybe service, maybe that which is called love, or through what we call love and compassion. Isn’t it natural, and a healthy indication to help another? That is natural. Why do we make a dance and a song about it?
And compassion, what is it? What does that mean? The meaning of that word ‘passion’ for all, feeling deep passion for all, means that feeling of great intensity, not to kill another human being, not to kill a living thing. Then you will say: when you kill a cabbage, that is to kill something. So, where do you draw the line? To kill a human being? To kill a baby seal? To kill your enemy, who is aggressive, as you yourself have been aggressive last year?
So can compassion exist, love exist when there is no… when there is antagonism, when there is competition, when each one of us is seeking success? Go into all this.
So, in having self-knowing – let’s put it this way – in knowing myself, which is knowing the content of my consciousness, which is myself, the content: the beliefs, the antagonisms, the agony, the loneliness, the suffering, the pain, the desire to be secure – all that and more is my consciousness – without knowing that, understanding the whole conflicting, destructive combination which is my consciousness, how can I love? How can I have that thing called compassion? So to know, the understanding of oneself – not the improvement of the self, which is merely the improvement of my selfishness, which can be marvellous if you want that kind of thing – the understanding of myself, the understanding of my reactions, the way I think – you know, the whole movement of myself. The ancient Greeks and the ancient Hindus talked about ‘know thyself,’ but very few people have really studied themselves. They have studied the animals: rats, guinea pigs, dogs, monkeys, vivisection – you know all that, what is happening – and through them they hope to understand themselves. They talk about behaviour, but they never study themselves. We are the greatest experimenters, if we are, in ourselves.
And to know oneself is to understand, look in the mirror of our relationship. I can’t know myself just by thinking about myself, whether I am this, whether I am that, but I can understand myself when it is revealed in my relationship to my wife, to my children, to my neighbour, to governments, to everything. I see myself as I am, not as I would like to be, but actually as I am. Then there is a possibility of seeing what actually is, there is a possibility of changing that, of bringing about transformation in that. But we never study ourselves. We are always studying books, and the books tell us what we are, and we try to adjust ourselves to what others have told us. What others have told us is what we are, so why do we have to be told by others what we are? Because we want to be quite certain that what we study is accurate, so we turn to others. We make mistakes, we say, this is right, this is wrong, I did this, but there is this constant awareness of one’s reaction in one’s relationship. That requires attention, a great deal of sensitivity. To be physically sensitive. Not be drugged, not take alcohol, smoke – how can you then be sensitive?
So, compassion, love can only exist when the self is not. As we said the other day, when you are not, that which is immense is.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1982, Question and Answer Meeting 3
Without Compassion, the Sacred Can’t Be Found
Krishnamurti: What is love and compassion? Is the love that we have spacious? That is good! Or is it terribly limited? Is compassion without a border, therefore infinite space? We are going to examine that.
The love that we have in the world of reality, that love is pleasure. Would you acknowledge that, or you are all too holy for that?
Questioner: The way we love is sentimental.
K: Sentimentality. Love is called sentimentality, romantic, pleasurable, and the pursuit of that pleasure is called love. I love you because you give me sexual satisfaction, or you give me comfort, you support me, you fulfil my loneliness; I depend on you emotionally, psychologically and physically. So I am attached to you, and when there is any trouble between you and me, there is antagonism, there is jealousy, being wounded, there is hate. All that we call love, and say, ‘I am very sensitive.’ So in that love, as we call it, which is both divine and not divine – the divine love is the invention of thought – in that love, there is no space. Because there is no space there is violence in it.
Then what is compassion? And is love pleasure? Is love the fulfilment of desire?
I love you, and in that there is pleasure, and if in that love there is any disturbance there is jealousy, antagonism and all the rest of it. And in that love there is no space because I am holding, I am clinging. So the so-called love has no space, and therefore that love is really irresponsible. And responsibility comes into being only when there is compassion. Compassion, not for you, but compassion. Like the sun, it is not shining for you. So where there is vast space there is compassion. And that vast space cannot come into being if there is a centre as the ‘me’.
So without compassion there is no meditation. Without compassion, which means passion for everything, care for everything, respect for everything, without compassion what is sacred can never be found.
We have created… thought has created something sacred: the temples, the churches, the symbols, and we worship those symbols and call those sacred. But it is the movement of thought in time and measure, so that is not sacred.
Once in India, the speaker was asked by the followers of Mr Gandhi who had said, ‘All peoples can enter. Every type of strata of human society can enter into the temple, for God is there for everybody.’ And they asked me, ‘What do you say to that question?’ I said, ‘Anybody can enter, it doesn’t matter who goes in because God isn’t there.’ God is an idea put together by thought. But one has to find that which is eternally, incorruptibly sacred, and that can only come when there is compassion. Which means when you have understood the whole significance of suffering – suffering not only of yourself but the suffering of the world. The suffering of the world is truth; it is there. It is not a sentimental, romantic fluttering of thought; it is actually there, as in us. To live with that suffering, go to its very end without escaping from it, when you don’t escape you have tremendous energy to meet that suffering, then only you go beyond it. Out of that comes compassion.
Meditation then is none of the things that have been traditionally brought from India to this country – those are all the activities of thought. Meditation then is the total comprehension of the movement of thought, giving it the right place, the correct place. Thought has its correct place, and that correct place can only be understood or seen or have an insight into when you understand totally the movement of thought – all its activity, all its cunning, its deceptions, its illusions. Then when you understand pleasure and the whole significance of fear, out of that there is this thing called suffering, which man has never been able to solve. Christianity has made a parody of it. We have never been able to solve it, and therefore we have never been compassionate.
Compassion comes only when you have understood the whole meaning of suffering, and no longer suffer. Therefore out of that comes compassion. It is only the compassionate mind that can meditate and find that which is eternally sacred.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1975, Discussion 5