What will you do with your life?
Don’t you want to find out if it is possible to live in this world richly, fully, happily, creatively, without the destructive drive of ambition and competition? Don’t you want to know how to live so that your life will not destroy another or cast a shadow across their path? We think this is a utopian dream which can never be brought about in fact, but I am not talking about utopia; that would be nonsense. Can you and I, who are ordinary people, live creatively in this world without the drive of ambition which shows itself in various ways as the desire for power and position? You will find the right answer when you love what you are doing. If you are an engineer merely because you must earn a livelihood, or because your father or society expects it of you, that is a form of compulsion; and compulsion in any form creates contradiction and conflict. Whereas if you really love to be an engineer or a scientist, or if you can plant a tree, paint a picture, or write a poem, not to gain recognition but just because you love to do it, then you will find that you never compete with another. I think this is the real key: to love what you do.
From the book What Are You Doing With Your Life? by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here
How we waste our life!
They were marching in a long procession, the generals with their decorations, bright uniforms, plumed hats, brass breastplates, swords and spurs; the lady in her carriage all dressed up, surrounded by soldiers, more uniforms coming on behind, top hats. People stood gaping at them. They would have liked to be in that procession. If you strip these people of their uniforms, their feathers and their grand-sounding names, they will be like the people standing by the roadside, gaping nobodies. It is the same everywhere: the name, the position, the prestige are what matter. The writer, the artist, the musician, the director, the head of a big company, strip them of their outward show and their small status, and what is left? There are these two things, function and status. Function is exploited to achieve status. Confusion arises when we give status to function, and yet they are always overlapping. The cook is looked down upon, and the man in uniform is respected. In this procession, we are all caught, disrespect for the one and respect for the other.
One wonders if one stripped oneself of the status, the glamour of titles, the furniture, the dead memories, what actually would be left. If one has capacity, that cannot be minimised. However, if such capacity is used to achieve position, power, status, then the mischief begins. Capacity is exploited for money, position, status. If one has no capacity, one may even then have status through money, family, hereditary or social circumstances. All this is vulgarity. We are part of it. What makes us so vulgar, so common and cheap? This ugliness is directly proportionate to the amount of status. Everyone gaping at this endless procession is us. The onlooker who gapes creates the status which he admires, so does the queen in the golden carriage. Both are equally vulgar.
Why are we caught in this stream? Why do we take part in this? The audience is as much responsible for the spectacle as the people strutting on the stage. We are the actors and the audience. When we object to the show of status, it is not that we repudiate status but rather that we attach importance to it; we would like to be there on the stage ourselves—‘or at least my son…’ We read all this and perhaps smile ironically or bitterly, reflecting on the vanity of the spectacle, but we watch the procession. Why can’t we, when we look at it, really laugh and throw it all aside? To throw it all aside, we must throw it all aside within ourselves, not only outside.
That is why one leaves the world and become a monk or sannyasi. But there too there is peculiar status, position and illusion. The society makes the sannyasi, and the sannyasi is the reaction to society. There too is the vulgarity and the parade. Would there be a monk if there were no recognition of the monk? Is this accolade of recognition any different from the recognition of the generals? We are all in this game, and why are we playing it? Is it the utter inward poverty, the total insufficiency in ourselves, which neither book nor priests nor gods nor any audience can ever fill? Neither your friend nor your wife can fill it. Is it that we are afraid of living with the past, with death?
How we waste our life! In the procession or out of the procession we are always of it, as long as this aching void remains. This is what makes us vulgar, frightened, and so we become attached and depend. And the whole strife of the procession goes on whether you are in it or admiring from the grandstand. To leave it all is to be free of this emptiness. If you try to leave it or determine to leave it, you cannot, for it is yourself. You are of it, so you cannot do anything about it. The negation of this vulgarity which is yourself, is freedom from this emptiness. This negation is the act of complete inaction with regard to emptiness.
From the book Can the Mind Be Quiet? by J. Krishnamurti
VIDEO: What is the right way to earn a living?
The art of living
Is it possible to live in this world without problems and conflict? For most of us life, our daily living, is a series of struggles, conflicts, pain and varieties of anxieties. But is it possible in this crazy world to live a life in which every kind of problem and conflict doesn’t exist? It may sound rather absurd to think about such a thing, to live without a single conflict. The inquiry into this question requires considerable intelligence, energy and application. So if we could think together, go into this problem of whether there is an art of living in which one can live a daily life without all the turmoil, the pain of change and the anxiety involved in that change. Is it possible to live such a life? To ask such a question may seem quite incredible because our life from the moment we are born till we die is a series of conflicts and struggles, with ambition trying to fulfil itself, and the pain, sorrow and pleasure of existence.
The art of living is the greatest, most important art.
So let’s go into this question of the art of living in daily life. We have many arts: painting, making a marvellous shoe, the art of engineering, the art of communication—there are many, many arts. But most of us have never asked this question of the art of living. The art of living is the greatest, most important art. In spite of that, we have not inquired deeply in what is the art of living our daily life, which requires such subtlety, sensitivity and a great deal of freedom. Without freedom, you cannot find out what is the art of living. It is not a method or system. It is not asking another how to find the art of living, but it requires considerable intellectual activity and deep abiding honesty.
Very few of us are honest. It is getting worse and worse in the world: we are not honest people. We say one thing and do another, we talk about philosophy, God, all the theories the ancient Indians invented, and we are rather good at all that kind of stuff. But the word, description and explanation are not the deed or action, and that is why there is a great deal of dishonesty. To inquire into the art of living there must be a fundamental, unshakeable, immutable honesty, an honesty that is not corruptible, which doesn’t adjust itself to environment, demands or various forms of challenges. It requires great integrity to find out because we are dealing with a very complex problem. It is not easy to live a perfectly orderly life that does not dissipate energy, a life without illusion or tradition. Tradition, however old or modern, is merely carrying on the old pattern, and the old pattern cannot possibly adjust itself to the new.
So you are exercising your brain, with your own sense of urgency and demand, to find out if there is a way of living which is totally orderly. So please, if you will, be serious. You may not be serious for the rest of the year, or rest of the week, but at least for once in your life be earnest, be completely honest with yourself. Then we can together go into the question of the art of living. How are we going to find out? Art is to put everything in its right place, not exaggerating one thing or the other, not giving more importance to one’s instinct or urges in one direction and neglecting the other.
To inquire into the art of living there must be an immutable honesty
Please, see how important it is to find a way of living in which conflict and problems don’t exist. Conflict and problems waste our energy, and one has to find out why problems exist. We are talking about the problems of human beings. We are first human beings and afterwards scientists, engineers, businessmen and all the rest of it. First we are human beings, but when you give importance to other things you forget this.
The art of living means to lead a daily life with the tremendous precision and accuracy of order. Order does not mean conformity, following and adjusting yourself to a pattern. It means to become fully conscious, aware of one’s disorder. Inwardly we live in disorder and contradiction. In the endeavour to change ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’, there is an interval in which conflict takes place. And that conflict is the essence of disorder. Where there is division in us psychologically, there must be conflict and therefore disorder. As long as there is disorder, trying to find order is still disorder.
I am confused; my life is in disorder. I am fragmented, broken up inside, and out of that confusion I create a pattern, an ideal, a scheme, and I say I am going to live according to that scheme. But the origin of that scheme is born out of my confusion. So what I have to understand is why am I confused and disorderly. If I can understand that, out of that comprehension and perception, order naturally comes without effort. That is, if I can find the causation of my confusion, confusion doesn’t exist, and there is order. So what is the cause? If I am ill, I go to the doctor. The doctor says I am eating things that upset my organism, so he says not to. So I change: I eat properly. In the same way, if we can find the cause, the effect is changed. And if there is a change in the effect, there is a change in the cause.
Disorder can be totally wiped out.
So, order is only possible when we understand the nature of disorder. The nature of disorder can be totally wiped out. If I am quarrelling with my wife or husband, I find out why we are quarrelling. We say, ‘Let’s talk about it, see why we quarrel,’ and thereby we begin to communicate with each other and ultimately come to a point where both of us agree. So similarly, together, to live a completely orderly life—that is the art of living.
The art of living also implies that there should be no fear—fear of psychological insecurity, fear of death, of not becoming something, fear of losing or gaining—the whole problem of fear. Is it possible to be totally free of fear? A mind that is frightened is a dull mind, not capable of observing. We are all frightened inwardly, and the inward activity shapes and controls the outer. We have lived with fear from childhood, but what are its nature and structure? How does fear arise? What is the root cause of it? There are various forms of fear—shall we deal with them one by one, or shall we find out the root of it, the cause of it? What is the root of fear? What brings all this fear about? Fear is most destructive. If one lives in nervous tension, feeling small, frightened, every kind of neurotic action takes place, being irrational and pretending to be rational. So it is important to find out for yourself the root of it. Are there many roots or one single root?
Change from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’ is one of the causes of fear. I may not ever arrive, and I am frightened of that. I am also frightened of what is going on now, and of the past. But what is fear itself? How does it come about? If you and I can walk together, journey together into the nature of fear, and you capture the truth of the cause of fear, then you are free. Unless you want to be frightened for the rest of your life, which makes you feel at least you have something to hold on to.
What are the past, the present and the future? The past is all that you have accumulated as memory, the remembrance of things gone. The present is the past, modifying itself into the future. So you are the memories—the whole accumulation of the past. You are that, a bundle of memories. If you had no memories, you would not exist. So you are that. The past has been gathered through time: I had an experience a week ago, and that experience has left a memory. That memory is born from past experience. When I use the word ‘past’, it is already time. So the past is time. The past is knowledge and experience, stored in the brain as memory, and from memory thought arises. So time and memory are the past, and time and thought are the same, not separate.
So, fear is both time and thought. I did something a week ago, which caused fear. I remember that fear and I want to prevent it from happening again. So the past incident caused fear, and it is recorded in the brain as memory. That recording is time. And thought is also time because thought comes into being through memory, knowledge or experience. So thought and time are together, not separate. And is time-thought the root of fear? Don’t say, ‘How am I to stop time and thought?’ If you ask ‘how’, you demand a system, a method, and you will practise it, which means time, and you are back again in the same old pattern. But if you understand, grasp, have an insight into the nature of fear and the causation of fear, which is thought and time, if you really grasp that, then hold it, don’t run away from it.
Death is one of the fundamental fears of life.
Fear arises from something that has happened before. The pain of yesterday is recorded and the memory, which is the recording, says ‘I hope it won’t happen again.’ This whole process is fear. If you understand the principle of it, the fundamental nature of fear, you can deal with it, but if you are escaping from fear, trying to rationalise it, then for the rest of your life you are frightened. So, the root of fear is time-thought. If you understand that, you see the beauty and subtlety of it.
Death is one of the fundamental fears of life. Death is for everybody an absolute certainty. You cannot escape from it. You might live longer by not wasting your energy, by leading a simple, sane, rational life, but however you live, death is inevitable. Would you face that fact? What is the art of living so that one is not afraid of death? Why are we afraid of death? Why is there this torment and suffering of leaving one’s family and all the things one has accumulated? The art of living is not only to find out how to live our daily life but also to find out the significance of death. What is death? What do we mean by dying? If we can understand that, then life and death can live together, not death at the end of one’s life when the organism ends, but to live with death and life together. Put this question to yourself, whether it is possible to live with death—which is the art of living. To find that out, you must find out what is living, which is an art. If there is right living, perhaps death is also part of it.
So, what is living? You have to answer this question for yourself. What is your life? What is your daily life? Your life is a long series of daily lives, which is pain, anxiety, insecurity, uncertainty, illusory devotion to some entity you have invented, a make-believe life, having faith and belief. You are attached to your house, to your money, to your wife or husband, to your children. You are attached. This is your life, constant struggle, effort, comfort, pain, loneliness, sorrow. And you are afraid to let that go. I am attached to my furniture. I won’t give it away; it is mine. I have lived with it for years, and it is part of me. When I am attached to that furniture, that furniture is me. But death says to you, ‘My friend, you can’t take it with you.’ So can you be totally free of that attachment to that furniture? You may live with that furniture, but you are free of attachment to that. That is death. So you are living and dying all the time. See the beauty of it! See the freedom that gives you, the energy and capacity. Where you are attached, there is fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Uncertainty and fear cause sorrow.
The art of living is to have no fear or sorrow.
Sorrow is part of life. Everyone on earth has suffered, shed tears. Man has killed man throughout history in the name of religion, God and nationality. Man has suffered immensely. And we have never been able to solve the problem of suffering. Where there is suffering, there is no love. In suffering, there is self-pity, fear of loneliness, separation, division, remorse, guilt—all this is contained in that word. Not having solved it, we put up with it, shed tears and carry memories. Is there an end to sorrow, or must we carry this burden for ever and ever? To find that out is also the art of living. The art of living is to have no fear or sorrow. So that is one of the problems of life, whether it is possible to live without sorrow.
What is sorrow? Why do we suffer? We have not inquired into sorrow and asked whether it can end, not at the end of one’s life, but now, today. What is its cause? Is it self-pity? Is it attachment? What is that attachment? To whom am I attached? To my son? What is my son? I have an image of him, I want him to be something, and I am desperately attached because he will carry on my business, he will be better at getting more money. Also, I have a certain affection for him. We will not call it love, but a certain kind of affection. I want him to inherit my money, possessions and house, and when he dies, everything goes. That is, my picture of him, my wanting him to be this and that, that has come to an end, and I am shocked.
Death, of course, is the final sorrow. But if you are living with death and life together, there is no change. You are incarnating every day afresh—not you; a new thing is incarnating every day afresh. In that, there is great beauty. That is creation. In that, there is tremendous freedom. Freedom implies love. The art of living and the art of dying, together, bring about great love. Love has its own intelligence, something outside of the brain.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1984, Talk 3
VIDEO: A possibility of change
Right livelihood in the world of reality
What do you think is the right livelihood? Not what is the most convenient, profitable, enjoyable or gainful, but what is the right livelihood? How will you find out what is right? The word ‘right’ means correct, accurate. It cannot be accurate if you do something for profit or pleasure only. This is a complex thing. Everything that thought has put together is reality. This tent has been put together by thought; it is a reality. The tree has not been put together by thought, but it is a reality. Illusions are reality—the illusions that one has, imagination, all that is reality. And the action from those illusions is neurotic, which is also reality. So when you ask what right livelihood is, you must understand what reality is. Reality is not truth.
What is correct action in this reality? And how will you discover for yourself what is right in this reality? We have to find out what is the accurate, correct, right action or right livelihood in the world of reality. Reality includes illusion. Belief is an illusion, and the activities of belief are neurotic. Nationalism and all the rest of it is another form of reality, but an illusion. So taking all that as reality, what is the right action there? Who is going to tell you? Nobody. But when you see reality without illusion, the very perception of that reality is intelligence, in which there is no mixture of reality and illusion.
So when there is the observation of reality, the reality of the tree, the reality of the tent, reality which thought has put together, including visions and illusions, when you see all that reality, the very perception of that is intelligence. So intelligence says what you are going to do. Intelligence is to perceive what is and what is not. To perceive ‘what is’ and see the reality of ‘what is’ means you don’t have any psychological involvement or demands, which are all forms of illusion. To see all that is intelligence, and that intelligence will operate wherever you are. Therefore that will tell you what to do.
Then what is truth? What is the link between reality and truth? The link is intelligence. Intelligence sees the totality of reality and therefore does not carry it over to truth. And truth then operates on reality through intelligence.
From the book Truth and Actuality by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here
VIDEO: A different way of living
We say that one must make one’s way through life; each one out for himself, whether in the name of business, religion or country. You want to become famous, and so does your neighbour, and so does his neighbour: and so it is with everyone. Thus we build a society based on ambition, envy and acquisitiveness, in which each is the enemy of another; and you are educated to conform to this disintegrating society, to fit into its vicious frame.
‘But what are we to do?’ one asks. ‘It seems we must conform to society or be destroyed. Is there any way out of it?’
At present, you are so-called educated to fit into this society; your capacities are developed to enable you to make a living within the pattern. Your parents, your educators, your governments, are all concerned with your efficiency and financial security. They want you to be ‘good citizens’, which means being respectably ambitious, everlastingly acquisitive and indulging in that socially accepted ruthlessness called competition, so that you and they may be secure. This is what constitutes being a so-called good citizen; but is it good, or something very evil?
Love implies that those who are loved be left wholly free to grow in their fullness, to be something greater than mere social machines. Love does not compel, either openly or through the subtle threat of duties and responsibilities.
From the book What are you doing with your life? by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here
Krishnamurti Foundation Trust
Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Limited
Hampshire SO24 0LQ
Telephone: +44 1962 771525
Company Registration No. 1055588
Registered Charity No. 312865
© 2020 Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd