Krishnamurti on Conflict
‘Where there is division there must be conflict. That is a law, and we all know this.’
This week’s episode on Conflict has four sections.
The first extract (2:32) is from Krishnamurti’s second question and answer meeting in Ojai 1981, titled ‘Where there is division there is conflict.’
The second extract (28:51) is from the fifth talk in Saanen 1977, titled ‘Is it possible to live without conflict?’
The third extract (39:02) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk at Brockwood Park in 1984, titled ‘Is thought the cause of conflict?’
The final extract this week (52:00) is from the third question and answer meeting in Saanen 1981, titled ‘The root of conflict in relationship.’
Where There Is Division There Is Conflict
When you are asking the question of why human beings are in conflict, you are asking a tremendous question. Not, ‘Why I am in conflict?’ – you are asking why human beings who have lived over five, ten – I don’t know – million years and only one or two human beings have solved it; the rest of mankind is caught in this travail. And it is important to understand this, and to ask also whether it is at all possible to be utterly, totally, absolutely free of conflict. Not occasionally, not when you are looking at the mountain or the beauty of the hills, or the shadows and the heavens, but in daily life, why.
Where there is contradiction, there must be conflict. Where there is division there must be conflict. Physical division as one nation opposed to another nation, one set of dogmas against another set of dogmas, one superstition opposed to another superstition, one conclusion opposed to another conclusion, one experience greater than the other experience – this constant division, contradiction, opposition must invariably create conflict. That is a law. Not my law; it is the law, and we all know this. You see the United Nations, you see what is happening in Russia and Afghanistan, all the horrors that are going on, one ideology opposed to other ideologies. And we have never solved this problem.
Is it that we like to live in conflict? You say that nature is in conflict. That is one of our favourite excuses. You see the bigger animal kill the smaller animal, you see one plant searching for light and the bigger tree shadowing it – there is constant struggle in nature, which the speaker questions. We call it conflict, with our own minds which are full of conflict, misery and all that, and we say nature is in conflict. But nature is not in conflict if you let it alone. You know all that, I don’t have to go into it.
We are asking why human beings who have lived for millions and millions of years have tolerated, put up with conflict. Is it habit? We have got used to this conflict, wars, the chicanery that is going on among the governments. Is it that we are so dull that we never challenge ourselves? And if you are in conflict, you invent a thousand escapes from conflict. We have a marvellous network of escapes, from God to football. Both are the same when you are escaping; one is not more noble than the other.
Can we find out now, this morning, talking over as two friends, friends who are concerned with this issue, resolve it, which means not take time? See our conflict. That is, we are, each one of us, so self-centred; each one of us is so concerned about himself: his happiness, his fulfilment, his sorrow, his escape, his belief. All this he is clinging to. That is, where there is attachment, there must be conflict. It is a fact. If I am attached to my Hinduism, or whatever it is, I am frightened to let go because I don’t know what will happen. I want to be certain. And being uncertain, being self-centred, I want to become something, become nobler, be successful in this world, more money, more pleasure, more insurance, go from one concept of God, a saviour, to another.
Being self-centred, and my wife also being self-centred, naturally there must be conflict. This is inevitable. I am seeking my fulfilment through sex, through oh so many things, and she is also doing the same. So they are two separate entities – at least they think they are separate – with their tremendous urges, reactions, prejudices, brutalities, ambitions, to be something at any price. How can these two opposing, contradictory human beings be free from this toil and conflict? They can never be. Never, either in heaven or in other places. How can they? This is so obvious, but the obvious we generally deny because it is simple. We want something complex, something we can study, analyse, discuss, you know, play around with. We can never see something obvious, simple, and say, ‘Let’s deal with it. Let’s find out if one can be really, deeply not self-centred.’ All our education, all our religious aspirations and all that encourages this self-centredness – that you are going to be saved – you know the whole monstrous, organised religious attitude is encouraging this. The Indians have it in their particular way, and the Christians, and the Buddhists – you know, the whole world.
So the fact is: where there is division there must be conflict. See the truth of it, the actuality of it. That is, I want to fulfil my desire, and she does too, so my desire is opposed to her desire. We don’t tackle desire itself. I try to fulfil my desire as opposed to her desire. Whereas the understanding of desire is important, not my fulfilment of my desire. We are concerned with desire, not my desire. I identity with my particular experience, my particular desire, my particular fear, fear of my particular death – this identity with an idea, or identity with some actual fact, like I have pain, I have a toothache. All right, I have a toothache – get on with it! You follow? But not the everlasting concern about oneself.
See the truth of this, that where there is separation, there must be conflict – the Arabs and Jews, see what is happening. The earth is ours to live upon, to share. It is our earth, not the Arab world and, you know, for God’s sake! And apparently we don’t see that. So can we perceive the truth of it? The truth, the actual fact, not the theory that separations will bring conflict but the actual feeling, the truth of it. Can you feel it, see it? Not the intellectual concept of seeing, the intellectual comprehension that division must inevitably create conflict, but the actual fact of it. If a group of people see it, who are still part of humanity, they… I mean, it is like a tremendous movement taken in a totally different direction. But apparently we cannot do this. And out of this comes misery, conflict, confusion and problems, endlessly.
You know, the speaker has been saying for the last sixty years that truth is a pathless land. Which is a fact. There is no path to it, no saviour to it, no leader, no system, nothing but the understanding of the fact that truth has no path. If you see that, see also very clearly for yourself that any form of division must inevitably create conflict. From this, the question arises: we live in a society whose laws, governments and religions are all struggling against each other in the world, wanting to be more powerful than anybody else. This is our cycle, this is our culture, and this culture has been like this for a million years. In ancient Egypt, five thousand years ago, they were trying to be supreme over everybody else, and we are carrying that same pattern through life.
So what shall we do? As a human being, who is actually the rest of mankind, what will you do? You hear something true, which is a fact, a physical fact: the Arab and the Jew, you opposed to somebody else, you with your belief, with your experience, with your knowledge, opposed to somebody else with their knowledge – conflict – what will you do? When you see the truth that division in any form is destructive, and the world is caught in this destructiveness, what is your relationship with the world? And somebody comes along, takes your property or this or that, and so creates conflict – what is your action?
So can you, when you leave this grove, be free of conflict? And it is only a person that is free from conflict that can meet conflict. Not the person who is in conflict; he merely perpetuates more conflict. But a human being who is free from conflict, he can meet it, legally, in any way, because he himself is free from this torture.
Question: You have said that when one gives complete attention to a problem then the problem flowers and withers away. Can you explain this further?
Krishnamurti: Now there is this problem of conflict. Can you watch your conflict and give it complete attention? Please just listen to it for a few minutes. Listen. You have a problem, which is conflict. Can you look at it, not only listen to the problem, the tones, the content, the subtleties of the problem – can you look at it without trying to resolve it, without trying to give it any direction, without any motive? When you have a motive, it gives it a direction, and therefore you are distorting the problem.
So can you sensitively be aware of conflict? Not act upon it. Because you are part of that conflict. You are conflict, so if you act upon it, you are further creating more conflict. So look at that conflict – the little one and the whole human conflict, the personal and the global, look at it. Listen to its story. Don’t you tell what the story is; let it tell you the story. Like a child who is sitting on your lap, whom you love, is telling you a story, you don’t interrupt the child. You are not rude; you want him to tell you all about it. In the same way, let this conflict tell you all about it. Only you have to have ears to listen to it, not only with hearing of the ear but also hear inwardly the nature of it. Can you so listen to it, giving your whole attention to it, without any effort?
When you are with a child who is telling you a story, you are not making an effort and saying, ‘I must control myself. I must be more patient.’ You are listening because you love that child. In the same way, listen and then you will see the problem flowers, grows, shows its whole content. And when it has shown all its content, it passes away; it is finished. That is the flowering and the withering of a problem, which doesn’t take time. It is only the impatient mind that has time, that says, ‘I must solve this.’ But a mind that is listening very carefully, sensitively, alert to all its tiny movements, and its very, very subtle movements, when you listen to it, when you give your complete attention to it – and you cannot give complete attention if you have a motive, if you have a direction, if you say, I must do this; then nothing will happen – but if you give your total attention, the problem shows itself fully and so dissolves. Like a flower – in the morning the bud is there; in the evening it is withered.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 2
Is It Possible To Live Without Conflict?
So our question then is: is it possible to live a daily life without any conflict whatsoever? Most people would say you must have conflict, otherwise there is no growth; part of life is conflict – a tree in a forest fights, struggles to reach the sun, which is a form of conflict. Every animal and so on makes conflict, but we are human beings, supposed to be intelligent, supposed to be educated, supposed to have sufficient knowledge, historical, and yet we are constantly in conflict. Now discontent says: why should I be in conflict?
We are educated to conflict. Conflict implies comparison, imitation, conformity, adjustment to a pattern, a modified continuity of what has been through the present to the future. All this is a process of conflict. The deeper the conflict, the more neurotic one becomes. And therefore not to have conflict at all. One believes in something most deeply; you believe in God most deeply and say, ‘His will be done’ – and we create a monstrous world, which is his will being done!
And conflict implies comparison. To live without comparison. Please do it now. Which means no ideal, no authority of a pattern, no conformity to a particular idea or ideology, and therefore freedom from the prison of ideas so that there is no comparison, no imitation, no conformity. Therefore you are stuck with ‘what is’, actually ‘what is’. Comparison comes only when you compare ‘what is’ with ‘what should be’, or ‘what might be’ or try to transform ‘what is’ into something that is not. All this implies conflict.
Thousands go to India from America and Europe to find enlightenment, to find the real guru, because they realise their religion, their outlook is very limited, materialistic, and India is supposed to be tremendously spiritual – which it is not – and so people go and try to find out. And the guru, the pattern, the tradition says, ‘Do this, then that’ – which is conformity. And they try every way, which is to bring about greater conflict in themselves. This is what is happening right throughout the world. And so we are asking: is it possible to live without conflict?
Now, it is possible when you have an insight into what is being said – to find out actually in daily life, to live without comparison. Therefore you remove a tremendous burden. And if you remove the burden of comparison, imitation, conformity, adjustment, modification, then you are left with ‘what is’. Conflict exists only when you try to do something with ‘what is’. When you try to transform it, modify it, change it, or suppress it, run away from it, then conflict arises. But if you have an insight into ‘what is’ then conflict ceases. When there is no comparison and so on, then you are left with ‘what is’. Conflict arises only when you are moving away from ‘what is’. And what happens with the thing, ‘what is’? Now I’ll show you.
One is greedy, envious or violent. The fact is that you are violent, greedy, envious. That is a fact. The non-fact is non-violence: you must not be greedy, you must be noble, etc., etc. So there is a movement away from ‘what is’ and therefore that is conflict. So when you do not move away from ‘what is’, when thought does not move away, then there is only ‘what is’. I am violent, one is violent – that is a fact. There is no escape from it whatsoever, no suppression of all the violence, which is another form of violence. So you are left with violence, or with greed, or with envy.
Can you have an insight into violence? Violence implies conflict, violence implies running away from ‘what is’, violence implies having an ideal of non-violence. So when you put away all that, you are left with ‘what is’ – and to have an insight into that. That can only happen – please follow this, give your heart to this! – that can only happen when you are completely free of any form of having a desire to change ‘what is’.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1977, Talk 5
Is Thought the Cause of Conflict?
We are asking whether thought, the whole process of thinking, is one of the basic causes of conflict, which is also war, ultimately. Therefore one has to Inquire, as we did, into what time is. Time is the past, the present and the future. It is a continuous series of movements associated. So that time is the past, the present and the future, and that time is contained in the now. Is that one of the factors of conflict: time?
Also we are asking: is thought, the whole process of thinking, both objectively and subjectively – thinking – is that also one of the major causes of conflict? And to go into that, we have to ask: what is thinking?
We spend our days and nights and years thinking. All our actions are based on thinking. In our relationship with each other, thinking plays an immense part. Thinking is part of recognition and knowledge. Thinking has done extraordinary things objectively, from the latest bomb, the atom bomb, to the most complicated ceramic structure, the great battleships, submarines and computers. And also thinking has given mankind great medicines, surgery and so on. So we have to inquire: what is thinking?
When the question is asked: what is thinking? – are you thinking, or listening to the question and observing thinking? Someone is asking you: what is thinking? Do you immediately find what is thinking, work at it, inquire, search, or do you listen to the question? Listen, which means there must be a quality of silence when you are listening.
We are asking: what is thinking? Probably you have never asked this question of yourself, or perhaps the professionals have not written about it. Perhaps you are used to being told by professionals what thinking is and then you repeat. But that prevents inquiry into what thinking is; you are merely repeating. That is not thinking. So what is thinking? What is the origin of thought? Thought that has put man on the moon, thought that has divided the world into nationalities, thought that has made wars, thought between you and your wife or husband, girl, boy and so on – what is this enormous energy of thought?
Is not thinking a process of memory? Process of memory. Memory is stored in the brain. Memory comes with knowledge. Knowledge is based on experience. All scientific knowledge is based on experiment, theories, hypothesis, knowledge, always adding more and more and more. In any field, whether it be in the mathematical world, biological or aerodynamics and so on, in every field, knowledge is based on experience. When there is knowledge, it is being added all the time, accumulated, therefore experience is limited. So knowledge is limited, both now and in the future. Knowledge is always limited, and so memory is limited, and thus thought is limited. Anything that is limited must cause conflict.
If one is thinking about oneself from morning till night, as most people do – their worries, their problems, their like and dislike, perpetually concerned with their own self – that is a very, very limited way of living. Therefore that which is limited must inevitably cause conflict. When Britain says, ‘We are British,’ it is very limited, and therefore they are perpetually at war. They have lost empires – you know all that business. France is limited, and so every country wanting security creates boundaries of thought, culture, language, and therefore it is limited. So every form of limitation must inevitably cause conflict. And one finds security in this limitation because the brain is seeking all the time some form of security, whether the security is illusory or actual. And most of us want security in some form of illusion. These are facts. And thought, being always limited, can think expansively, can imagine the limitless horizon, limitless universe, but because it thinks, it imagines, that is limited. So wherever there is a limitation, there must be war, there must be conflict because that limitation divides, separates.
So when you see that, will you cease to be British, will you cease to be German, French, Indian, and all that nonsense? Because then your brain is extraordinarily free from limitation and it has got tremendous energy then. So limitation is a waste of life. When one is thinking about oneself, that is, how to meditate, how to become religious, how to be happy, how to be… you know, how to be free of problems, it is all thinking about oneself. That thinking about oneself is very limited, and therefore in our relationship there is always conflict.
Therefore thought and time, we said, is the causation, one of the major reasons for conflict. If one understands that deeply, not verbally, not merely repeating something somebody has said, but actually your own perception, seeing the truth of it, that very perception frees the brain from conflict.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1984, Talk 1
The Root of Conflict in Relationship
We are penetrating into the problem of why two people can never seem to live together without conflict. What is the root of this conflict? What is the depth or the superficiality of this conflict? And what is my relationship with her, or with somebody? Is it superficial, that is, sexual, attraction, curiosity, excitement? These are all superficial – sensory responses are superficial. So I realise these responses are superficial, and as long as I try to find an answer superficially, I will never be able to see the depth of the problem. So am I free from the superficial responses and the problems that superficial responses create and try to solve those problems superficially?
I have seen that so I won’t find an answer superficially. Therefore I say: what is the root of it? Is it education? Is it that being a man, I want to dominate the other, possess the other? I am attached so deeply; I don’t want to let go? And do I see that being tied, attached, will invariably bring about corruption? Corruption in the sense: I am jealous, I am anxious, I am frightened – all the sequences of attachment one knows very well. Is that the cause of it, or is the cause much deeper?
First of all, we said superficial, then emotional attachments, emotional, sentimental or romantic dependence. If I discard those, is there still a deeper issue involved in this? We are now moving from the superficial, lower and deeper and deeper so that we can find out for ourselves what is the root of it. I hope you are doing this with me.
Now how do I find the root of it? How do you find the root of it? Are you wanting an answer, wanting to find the root of it, therefore making a tremendous effort, or you want to find it so your mind, your brain is quiet, looking? So it is not agitated. It is not the activity of desire, will. It is just watching. Are we doing this together, just watching to see what is the deep root, or deep cause, the basis of this conflict between human beings?
Is it the sense of individual separation? See; go into it very carefully, please. Is it the individual concept that I am separate from the other, basically? Though biologically we are different, there is a sense of deep-rooted individual, separative action. Is that the root of it, or is there still a deeper root, a deeper layer?
I wonder if you are following all this. We are together in this? First sensory responses, sensual responses, then emotional, romantic, sentimental responses, then attachment, with all its corruption. Or is it something profoundly conditioned in the brain that says, ‘I am an individual, and she’ – or he – ‘is an individual, and we are separate entities, each must fulfil in his own way, and therefore the separation is basic’? Is that so? Is it basic, or have I been educated to that, that I am an individual and she is also an individual – she must fulfil herself in her own way and I must equally? So we have already started, from the very beginning, these two separate directions, maybe running parallel together but never meeting, like two railway lines that never meet. And all I am doing is trying to meet, trying to live harmoniously, struggling: ‘Oh, darling, you are so good’ – repeat, repeat, but never meet.
So if that is the cause, and apparently it appears to be the cause, the root of it, is that separative existence of an individual a reality, or is it an illusion, an illusion I have been nourishing, cherishing, holding on to, without any validity behind it? If it has no validity, I must be quite sure, absolutely, irrevocably sure that it is an illusion. Can the brain break away from that illusion and realise we are all similar psychologically?
My consciousness is the consciousness of the rest of mankind. Though biologically we differ, psychologically consciousness is similar to all human beings. If I once realise this, not intellectually but at depth, in my heart, in my blood, in my guts, the feeling, then my relationship to another undergoes a radical change. Inevitable!
Now the questioner asks: we are in conflict. Must it end? If we battle with each other all day long, as most people do – struggle, conflict, you know, the bitterness, the anger, the hatred, the repulsion – we bear it as long as we can, then comes a moment we have to break. We know the familiar pattern of this. There are more divorces than marriages after marriages. And the questioner asks: what is one to do? If I am everlastingly in conflict with my wife and somehow I can’t patch it over, must the relationship end? Or I understand basically the cause of this disruption, of this conflict, which is the sense of separate individualities, and I have seen the illusory nature of it, and therefore I am no longer pursuing the individual line. Therefore what takes place between me, who has perceived that and lives it, not verbally maintains it but actually lives it – what is my relationship with the person, with the woman who still thinks in terms of the individual? It is very interesting; go into it.
I see, or she sees – better put it onto her – she sees the foolishness, the absurdity, the illusory nature of the individual. She understands it, she feels it, and I don’t because I am male, I am more aggressive, more driving and all the rest of that. So what takes place between us? She has comprehended the nature, and I have not. She won’t quarrel with me. Never. She won’t enter into that area at all, but I am constantly pushing her, driving her, and trying to pull her out of that area. I am creating the conflict, not she. You have understood how the whole thing has moved? The whole thing has moved. There are no two people quarrelling but only one. See what has taken place. And I, if I am at all sensitive, if I have real feeling for her, I begin to also transform, because she is irrevocably there. She will not move out of that area. See what happens. If two immovable objects meet, there is conflict, but if one is immovable, the lady, and I am movable, I naturally yield to that which is immovable. This is very simple.
So the problem then is resolved if one has real comprehension of relationship without the image – which we went into previously. Then by her very presence, by her very vitality of actuality, she is going to transform me.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 3