Krishnamurti on Society
‘We need a new society; and that society is not going to be created by anybody except by you. I do not think we feel the immense responsibility of this.’
This week’s episode on Society has five sections.
The first extract (2:29) is from Krishnamurti’s fourth question and answer meeting in Ojai 1981, titled ‘What is your relationship to society?’
The second extract (8:36) is from the third talk in Madras 1985, titled ‘Each one of us has built society’.
The third extract (19:10) is from Krishnamurti’s second question and answer meeting in Saanen 1982, titled ‘Is it possible to not contribute to the cruelty of society?’
The fourth extract (30:24) is from the fourth talk in Saanen 1972, titled ‘Society creates an image in us’.
The final extract (48:36) this week is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Bombay 1965, titled ‘We need a new society’.
What Is Your Relationship to Society?
Question: I am appalled at what is happening in society today. I do not want to be a part of it. And yet I realise I am not separate. What is my relationship to society?
Krishnamurti: What is your relationship to society? Why do you, if one may ask most respectfully, separate yourself from society?
Society is an abstraction, is it not? Society is put together by man in his relationship with another. But we have said: I am separate from society, and so I act upon society. I want to change society. Something abstract, not an actuality. Society is opinion, judgement, economics, political activity – all of that is part of what you call society. That society is built by us, by our parents, grandparents, all the rest of it. It is built by us. So we are that. This is so. Is this also another revolution?
Society is not separate from me. I am the society. The speaker is not saying because he is a communist or any of that kind of thing. The communists have maintained this as a theory, and as a theory they have said, change society, control it, shape it, become a dictator, totalitarian then man will change. You know all that business. Whereas on the contrary, man has created it. Unless man changes, society cannot change – unless the computers come along with their robots and change the whole structure of the economic society. So one is not separate from society. One is the world. If one realises that, one would never put this question!
Then the problem, the question is: what am I to do, how am I to radically transform myself? That is the real question. How am I not to be self-centred everlastingly? How is all self-centred activity to come to an end? We never ask these questions. So in your leisure moments, please ask these questions. When you are not totally occupied with your pleasures, with your occupations, with wanting to be somebody, with success, you know all the rest of it, perhaps you will have time to ask this question. Ask it and remain with it, not try to find… remain with the question and see what happens. Because if you say, ‘I must change myself,’ who is the entity that is demanding change?
So one discovers that the thinker is the thought. There is no thinker apart from thought, there is no experiencer apart from experience, there is no analyser apart from the analysis, that which is analysed. So when you realise that, a totally different movement takes place.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 4
Each One of Us Has Built Society
Sorrow is not only your sorrow, your personal sorrow, but there is the sorrow of the world. The sorrow of those people who have been killed in the war, maimed, blinded, no arms and no legs, just the torso, and of their relatives – how many mothers have cried, sisters, wives, lovers and so on? Don’t you know all this, or are you only concerned with your own sorrow? If we are honest, we say, ‘Sorry, I am only concerned with my own sorrow.’ I recognise the sorrow of others: those people who are dying in Beirut, Nicaragua, San Salvador and Vietnam. They are so far away, it doesn’t touch us.
So there is personal sorrow and the sorrow of the world. It is still sorrow. Your sorrow is like the sorrow of another. It is one’s sorrow when one loses one’s son, wife or husband. And what a lot of fuss we make about it, weeping, crying, wanting comfort! And there is all the sorrow of thousands, millions of human beings, who are suffering also, like you. And this sorrow, like fear, like pleasure, is common to mankind. It is the sorrow of humanity and that sorrow has never ended. Probably it will never end because we have made the world so monstrous. This society which we have built doesn’t exist by itself. We have built it through our fear, through our greed, through our selfishness and our monstrous activity. This society is corrupt beyond words. We have made it because we are corrupt. And this corruption is self-interest, primarily. And so society is not going to help us. Religions have not helped mankind, have not prevented wars. You talk endlessly of non-violence, peace in the world. ‘I must have peace of mind’ – you know all that nonsense.
There is sorrow in the world and can that sorrow end? Perhaps you have never even asked that question. We suffer and put up with suffering, take comfort in religion or some doctrine, some belief. It is a strange fact, isn’t it: if one loses one’s wife or son or a relative, we carry that pain all our life. Don’t you? I have the photo of my son on the desk and I weep quietly to myself. Or I weep publicly, which is with my friends. We never say, ‘That is the end of it. I’ll never carry the memory of pain.’ It is not brutal – put away the pain of loss in two or three days, not through years. Which doesn’t mean that there is callousness. On the contrary. This everlasting talk about one’s son or husband having died, you keep that up – it is a form of entertainment, gossip. (I am sorry if I’ve put it brutally.)
So we are asking whether sorrow can end. Not this sorrow of the world –there are going to be wars because human beings are violent – they cry, their own son killed in a war, but your son is quite safe. So society we have built – Each one of us has contributed to this society, to the political world, to the world of nationalities with their divisions – that will go on because a vast number of human beings want all that, voting for someone.
So you will say: if I end my sorrow, if that is possible, what effect has that on the rest of the world? It is like asking: what happens if I free myself from all the trivialities of life, all the pain and the anxiety and the loneliness, and the sorrow of my life? I want to cry for you. All this is to you meaningless. You will ask yourself: why free myself from sorrow, how will it affect the world? Will the world change because I have changed? That is a wrong question because when you ask such a question you are finding an excuse not to change. That becomes an easy way out from your own change. And you say, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter if I change or not because we are all like that, and I must live in this world, so I will listen to you, sounds good, but I will carry on in my own way.’ So asking a question: if I change, will the world change? – that is a totally wrong question. Then you are looking for reward and punishment. If you radically change, you will find out whether it has an effect on the world or not.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1985, Talk 3
Is It Possible to Not Contribute to the Cruelty of Society?
Question: I have lived in a forest, close to nature. There is no violence there, but the outer world is the real jungle. How am I to live in it without becoming part of its competition, brutality, violence and cruelty?
Krishnamurti: First, how easy it is to live by yourself in a wood. I tell my friend I have done it, without any boast or anything – it is natural. I’ve done it, it is very easy because you are not related to anybody. You look at the trees, the rivers, the plants. They invite you to look at them. The more you look at a tree, the more beautiful it becomes – the shadows, the leaves fluttering in the wind. It doesn’t demand anything of you. You are enjoying yourself, listening to the birds, to the sound of water, to the lovely clear morning. And one is tempted to live like that forever. But you can’t. Even there, if you live in a forest, you are related to somebody or something. You are related to the man who brings you milk. So even though one is a hermit, one is always living in a certain kind of relationship with another. And if you are a neurotic saint – most saints are neurotic – then it becomes very easy, then they give you food, clothes and all the rest of it.
So when one enters the world, the trouble begins – the world which human beings have created, not only the past generation upon generation, which has created this society, but also all of us are contributing to it. When you buy a stamp, when you post a letter, you are contributing to war. When you take the train, you are contributing to war. So you might say, I won’t take a train, I won’t post a letter, I won’t telephone, I won’t pay taxes, and so on. Taxes are rather difficult – the Government will be after you, if you have money. So what will you do? Withdraw completely, not write a letter, not travel? You understand, this question has been put to the speaker often.
Say you are against war, for peace and so on – you are contributing to it by travelling all over the world. So where shall I stop? Not write a letter? Not travel? Not do all the things that are contributory to war? Or do you ask a much more fundamental question, which is, why does war exist at all? Why has man, who is so-called civilised, so-called educated, why does he support killing another, another human being? So what is the fundamental question there? Is it nationality? Is it this whole idea of isolation – national isolation, individual isolation, communal isolation? When I put on a monk’s robe or a different kind of robe, I am isolating myself. So is isolation the cause of war? Obviously. When I say I am British, you are French, you are this or that, I am isolating myself. I have a long tradition as British or Indian – if I am an Indian, I have a much more ancient tradition, which is isolating me. So any form of isolation must contribute to war. War being not only killing each other but conflict with each other.
Now seeing all that, which requires intelligence, not just a vague utopian idea, seeing that, the very perception of this fact that where there is isolation of any kind, belonging to one group against another group, one sect against another, one uniform of purple, yellow – isolating – these contribute to isolation and therefore inevitable conflict. To perceive that, to see the truth of it, requires intelligence, not saying, ‘I agree with it,’ and doing nothing about it. But when I see the truth of it, that very perception is the action of intelligence. So with that intelligence, I enter the world. Which is, that intelligence which has no cause, that love that has no cause, that compassion obviously cannot have a cause. With that beauty, with that clarity, with that energy, I meet, I meet the world which is brutal. I act from that love. Or rather, that love that has no cause acts. I may be a beggar or a very good technician, but the quality of that can never enter the world of ambition, brutality, violence.
Now, my friend says, ‘I understand. I understand very clearly what you say. I have grasped intellectually what you have said, superficially. How am I to capture it, how am I to hold it, as I hold breath, as I breathe, hold something so enormous? What is the method, the system that will help me?’ Of course, when you follow a system, you are gone, finished because you want to achieve that state of real love and you want to achieve because you are unhappy, therefore you have a motive, therefore it is not intelligence, therefore it is not love. So when you have this perfume, then you can go through the world never that perfume losing its beauty.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1982, Question and Answer Meeting 2
Society Creates an Image in Us
The image we have about ourselves is created by society, by the culture in which we live. The culture says compare, measure yourself against another. Compare yourself with the hero, with the saint, with a clever man, with a man who puts words on pages, or sculpts – compare yourself from the beginning to the end. You are comparing, aren’t you? No? Measuring yourself. This measurement is part of our culture. And so you say to yourself, ‘I am clever,’ or, ‘I am dull. I am dull in comparison with somebody who is clever, more learned, more subtle, more intelligent, more something’ – when you have a measure there must be the ‘more’ or the ‘less’. That is part of our culture. Now I am asking myself: why do I have this measure? It has been given to me. Or I have carefully cultivated myself – the bigger car, the bigger house, the bigger mind, the gradual process of attainment – you know – the whole process of our existence is based on measurement – the rich, the poor, building it up, the man who is healthy, the man who is unhealthy, the man who is a saint and the sinner.
Now, can the mind live without measurement, which means comparison? Can you? Have you ever tried psychologically never to compare? You have to compare when you get clothes – I am not talking about that. You have to compare a house, building a house – you know – there it is necessary, but psychologically it is part of our inheritance – like Jesus, like the Buddha, it is our inheritance. We are brought up from childhood to measure, which is part of our hurt. If I have no measurement, I am not hurt. Now, what am I to do? I measure. You sit there and the speaker sits on a platform; there is a division, height and low, and you say, ‘How does that man sitting there know so much? I know so little.’ This comparison is everlasting, and when you compare you become inferior or superior.
In comparison you come to a conclusion, and that conclusion brings about neurotic habits. I conclude about something through comparison, and I hold on to that comparison, that conclusion, irrespective of facts, of what is real. Because I have compared, I have watched, I have learnt, I hold on. Haven’t you noticed it? And that is a state of neuroticism, isn’t it? Now why do I compare? Partly habit, partly inheritance, partly it is profitable, and through comparison I feel I am alive because I am struggling. I am fighting to be like you and that gives me vitality. I get depressed and all the rest of it. So I am asking myself, is it possible to live a life in which there is no comparison at all and yet not be satisfied?
The moment I do not compare, is there satisfaction in ‘what is’? Or when I cease to compare then I am face to face with ‘what is’. And when I compare, it is an escape from ‘what is’ and therefore it is a waste of energy. And I need energy; there must be energy to face ‘what is’. So am I dissipating energy through comparison? And if I am, and I have an insight into all this, which is your insight, not mine, then I have energy which is not wasted through comparison, measurement, feeling inferior, superior, depressed and all the rest of it. Therefore you have energy to face what actually is, which is yourself. How do you know that you are dull or unintelligent? You are comparing with somebody else and therefore you say, ‘I am unintelligent.’ If you don’t compare, are you dull? Only you don’t know, so you begin to face things.
So we have many, many images, a collection of images – religious, economic, social, images based on relationship, and so on. These images are deep down conclusions. And if I do not analyse or use dreams as a means of analysis, if I am awake during the day and watch, then the problem is non-existent. Thought has created the problem, thought that says, ‘Yes, that is so, I compare, I have images, I have been hurt, I must go beyond them.’ It is thought that is saying it; it is thought that created these images. So thought is creating a problem about the images, and when you see the truth of it, then thought doesn’t make it a problem. For God’s sake, see how extraordinarily simple and subtle and beautiful it is. If you see that once – finished! Then you have energy to face actually ‘what is’.
So then you can say, ‘What am I?’ If I am no longer comparing, no longer imitating – comparison means imitating, conformity – if there are no hurts, no conclusions and therefore no image, what am I? I am all these things. The thought that says, ‘I must analyse, I must go beyond this, I am in conflict, I must’ – it is thought that created all these images and divisions, and it is thought that says, ‘I must go beyond all this to live a peaceful, heavenly, quiet life of enlightenment.’ It is not enlightenment, it is just an idea of enlightenment. Then what am I? Am I the word? Am I the description? Am I the thought, which is the response of accumulated memory, experience, knowledge, which are all words, symbols, ideas? Then the mind is completely empty. Can the mind face this complete not being? It is the wanting to be that is the problem.
I wonder if you are getting all this. If you can’t, I must go on. So take what you can; what you can’t, let go.
Civilisation says to me: be something, a success, join a community, grow long hair, have short hair, take drugs, don’t take drugs, go to church, don’t go to church, be free, think independently. The society, whether it is small or large, is forcing me to conform to a pattern. And the pattern is my image. I am that image. I am the image that is described by the professionals, by myself, when I am alone, the agonies of that image, the jealousies, the fears, the pleasures. I see all the image is what makes the mind so utterly superficial. Do you agree? Do you see that? Are you aware that your mind is superficial? Or you are agreeing with the description of the superficial mind.
So can the mind be without comparison, without conformity? I conform when I put on trousers. When I go to India, I don’t conform; I put on some other clothes. I have to conform at a certain level – keep to the left side of the road, or the right side of the road. But psychologically there is no conformity anymore. This urge to conform is the product of the society in which I live, the image I have built in myself with the help of others. And I see that image can be hurt. It is the image that is hurt. And it is that image in comparison that feels great or small, inferior or superior. And when there is no measurement, is there an image? Therefore the mind is capable of living without a single image, and therefore incapable of ever being hurt. Do you see it? Then only I can have relationship. I may want that relationship – I have that relationship with you but you may be hurt, you may have an image about me, and you refuse to move from that image. Then the battle begins. You have no image, but I have an image and I refuse to give up my image because I love my image. That is my neuroticism, that is my conclusion. And where is the relationship between you and me? There isn’t any. You say you must have relationship. The neurotic person says you must have relationship with everybody. How can I? How can you with me who has got an image? And I am holding on to that image.
So the mind is capable of living without a single image and therefore without any conclusion so it can never be hurt, or be in a state of measurement. It is only such a mind that is innocent and therefore free.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1972, Talk 4
We Need a New Society
As an individual, it is your responsibility to bring about a tremendous change in the world. It is your responsibility because you are part of this society because you are part of this tremendous sorrow of man, this constant effort, struggle, pain and anxiety. You are responsible. Unless you realise that immense responsibility and come directly in contact with that responsibility and listen to the whole structure and machinery of that responsibility, do what you will – go to every temple, to every guru, to every master, to every religious book in the world – your action has no meaning whatsoever because those are mere escapes from actuality.
So we have to understand this existence, this life and our relationship to society. We have not only to understand our relationship with each other, with society, but to bring about a radical change in that relationship. And that is our responsibility. I do not think we feel this urgency. We look to the politicians, we look to some philosophy, we look to something mysterious that will bring about an alteration within ourselves. There is no way out except that you become aware of this immense responsibility as a human being, and becoming aware of that responsibility, you learn all about it and do not bring all your previous knowledge to learn. And to learn there must be freedom, otherwise you will repeat the same thing over and over again. You cannot learn ahimsa.
I do not know if you have not noticed that there is so much confusion, misery and sorrow in the world, and that man, the modern-day man, has not been able to find a way out of it. So he resorts to the past. He thinks he must go back five thousand or seven thousand years and resuscitate that past to bring about a revival. Again, there is no answer that way. There is no answer through time. Time can make life more happy, more comfortable, but comfort and pleasure are not the absolute answers to life. Nor does the answer lie through reform. Nor is there a way out through any temple, through any sacred book. I think one has to realise the seriousness of all this and put away all that nonsense and come face to face with facts – which is our life, our everyday brutal, anxious, insecure, cruel life, with its pleasures, with its amusements – and to see if one can bring about, as a human being who has lived for two million years, a radical transformation within oneself, and therefore within the structure of society.
To be aware of this responsibility means great, arduous work. We have to work not only within ourselves but also in our relationship with others. I mean by work, not the practice of some silly formula, some absurd theory, some fantastic assertions of a philosopher, guru or teacher. Those are all too infantile, immature. When we talk about work, we mean becoming aware of the responsibility, as a human being living in this world, that he has to work to bring about a change within himself. And if he really changes, if he brings about a mutation within himself, then he will transform society.
Society is not transformed through any revolution, economic or social. We have seen this through the French and Russian Revolutions. The everlasting hope of man that by altering the outward things, the inward nature of man can be transformed, has never been fulfilled and never will be. The outward change, the economic change, which is bound to come to this country which is so poor – that is not going to change man’s attitude, the ways of life, his misery, his confusion.
So to bring about a total change of man, man has to become aware of himself – that is, he has to learn about himself anew. Man, according to the recent discoveries of Anthropology, has lived for two million years, and man has not found a way out of his misery. He has escaped from it, he has run away into some fanciful illusion, but he has not found it, he has not built a society that is totally free. He has not built a society which is not a society of conformity.
If you observe, there are those societies which through necessity cooperate. Through necessity, through compulsion, through an industrial revolution, people must live together; they must cooperate, they must conform, they must follow a pattern. And in that society, as one can observe, there are still conflicts: each man is still against the other because he is ambitious and competitive, though he may talk about the love of the neighbour. By force, he must cooperate, but through that cooperation, through that assertion of loving the neighbour, he is competitive, ruthless and ambitious. Therefore such a pattern of society brings about its own destruction. Then there is a form of society where there is no civic consciousness at all; each man is out for himself.
As you observe in this country, each man is concerned with his family, with his group, with his class, with his particular part of the country, with his linguistic divisions, and he has no civic consciousness. He is not at all conscious of what is happening to his neighbour. He does not care; he is totally indifferent to what happens. But yet, if you observe, his religious books have told him that perhaps he will live next life. Therefore he must behave. That is karma: what he does now will matter, how he talks, how he tells things – it does not matter to whom; that behaviour is righteousness and if he does not behave now, he pays for it next life. This is the crude form. On that, you have been brought up for centuries, and yet such beliefs, such ideas have no importance in your life because you do not believe. You still carry on as though this is the only life that matters. Because you are competitive, you are ambitious, you destroy your neighbour; you are not at all civic-minded, socially.
So there are these two forms of society. One form is such that the human being that lives in it is made to conform, made to cooperate out of necessity. Thus the human being becomes civic-minded: he does not throw things out on the road because he would be punished. There is order, but within that order, within that framework, each man is against the other. In the other form of society, as in this country, there is no framework. Here you have no civic consciousness at all because you do not believe one bit in what you think you are being told. You have these two forms of society, and each of these societies, inherently within itself, has the seed of its own destruction.
So a religious man is concerned with creating a new society which is neither this nor that, but something entirely different – which is, each human being behaves righteously every minute because he understands his responsibility as a human being. He alone is responsible and no other – how he behaves, what his activities are, whether he is ambitious, cruel, destructive, hating, jealous, competitive; what his fears are. It is only such a mind that can bring about a new society.
And we do need a new society. And that society is not going to be created by anybody except by you. I do not think we feel the immense responsibility of this. That is the first thing that matters. That is the foundation, which is righteous behaviour, right conduct – not the conduct of a pattern but the conduct which comes about through learning. If you are all the time learning, that very learning brings about its own righteous action. Therefore it is only the religious mind that can create this new society.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1965, Talk 1