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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

As we look at the chaos, misery, confusion in the world, what is the central issue as remedy? The central issue is attaining the complete, absolute freedom of man, inwardly, then outwardly. We might say, ‘I agree with that intellectually’ but no action follows. Why do we not accept the truth instantly? It is like the rich person who hears the word 'generosity', and feels vaguely the beauty of it, yet goes back to miserliness. We do not accept, or even see, the truth when we have a vested interest in not seeing it. A man is afraid of looking at the truth because he is afraid. He believes that by looking he will lose his family, his money, position, his job, will fail to get the girl, all the rest of it, which means, he will lose his security and hope for pleasure and happiness. He is frightened to lose his security and therefore he will say he cannot understand the truth, and will refuse to even look at it.




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Editor’s prefatory comments:

Jiddu Krishnamurti has been an important teacher in my life. I began learning about the “true” and “false” selves about 15 years ago, and his insights served to inaugurate this vital area of enquiry.

He was the one to make clear that “guru” signifies merely “one who points,” not “infallible sage.” Pointing the way is what even the best teachers provide, but no more. One must walk the path of enlightenment alone, no one can do this for us.




Public Talk 2, Saanen, Switzerland - 09 July 1968

IT IS IMPORTANT to understand what co-operation is and when to co-operate and when not to co-operate.

To understand the state of mind that will not co-operate one also must learn what it means to co-operate; both are important. Surely, most of us co-operate when there is self interest, when we see profit or pleasure or gain in co-operating; then we generally do co-operate, we put our hearts and our minds into it; we give ourselves over to a commitment, to something that we believe in, with that authority, with that ideal, we co-operate.

But also, it seems to me, it is very important to learn when not to co-operate; most of us are unwilling, when we are in a mood to co-operate, to find out what it is not to co-operate; the two go together really. It is important to understand that if we co-operate round an idea, round a person, if we take a stand about something round which we co-operate, then there ceases to be co-operation. When interest in that idea, in that authority, ceases, we break away from it and then try to co-operate with another idea or with another authority. All such co-operation, surely, is based on self interest. And when that co-operation, which is self interest, no longer brings any profit, gain or pleasure, then we cease to co-operate.

To understand when not to co-operate is as important as to understand when to co-operate. Co-operation really must come out of a totally different dimension; that is what we are going to talk about presently.

We asked, when we last met here, 'what is the essential question, the essential issue, in human life'? I do not know if you have gone into it, if you have thought about it. But what do you think is really the central issue in human life as if you have gone into it, if you have thought about it. But what do you think is really the central issue in human life as it is lived in this world, with all this turmoil, chaos, misery, confusion, with people trying to dominate each other and so on and on?

I wonder what to you is the central issue or the only challenge that must be responded to when you actually see what is taking place throughout the world, the conflict of various kinds, the student and political conflict, the divisions between man and man, the ideological differences for which we are willing to kill each other, the religious differences which beget intolerance, the various forms of brutality and so on? Seeing all that in front of us actually not theoretically what is the central issue?

The speaker will point out what the central issue is, please do not agree or disagree. Examine, look at it, see whether it is true or false. To find out what is true one must look objectively, critically and also intimately. One must look at it with that personal interest that you give when you are undergoing some crisis in your life, when your whole being is challenged. The central issue is the complete, absolute, freedom of man first, psychologically or inwardly, then outwardly. There is no division between the inner and the outer; but for clarity's sake one must first understand inward freedom. One must find out whether it is at all possible to live in this world in psychological freedom, not neurotically retiring to some monastery, or secluding oneself in an isolated tower of one's imagination.

Living in this world, that is the only challenge one has freedom. If there is no freedom, inwardly, then the chaos begins and there are the innumerable psychological conflicts, oppositions, indecisions, lack of clarity, lack of deep insight, which obviously expresses itself outwardly.

Can one live in this world, in freedom, belonging to no political party, neither communism nor capitalism, belonging to no religion, accepting no authority outwardly?

One has to follow the laws of the country (keeping to the right or the left when you are driving) but the decision to obey, to comply, comes from inward freedom; the acceptance of the outer demand, outer law, is the acceptance from an inward freedom. That is the central issue and there is no other issue.

We human beings are not free, we are heavily conditioned by the culture we live in, by the social environment, by religion, by the vested interest of the army, or politics, or the ideological commitment to which we have given ourselves over.

So, being conditioned we are aggressive. The sociologists, the anthropologists and the economists explain this aggression. There are two theories: either you have inherited this sense of aggressive spirit from the animal or the society which each human being has built impels you, compels you, forces you, to be aggressive. But the fact is more important than the theory; it is irrelevant whether aggression is derived from the animal or from society. We are aggressive, we are brutal, we are not capable of looking at and examining impartially another's suggestion, view or thought.

Being conditioned, life becomes fragmentary; life, which is the everyday living, the everyday thoughts, the aspirations, the sense of self improvement which is such an ugly thing that is all fragmentary. This conditioning makes each one of us a self-centred human being, fighting for his 'self', for his family, for his nation, for his belief.

And so ideological differences arise; you are a Christian and another is a Muslim or a Hindu. You two may tolerate each other, but basically, inwardly, there is a deep division, contempt, one feels superior and all the rest of it. So, this conditioning not only makes us self-centred but also in that very self-centredness there is the process of isolation, of separation, of division and this makes it utterly impossible for us to co-operate.

One asks, is it possible to be free? Is it possible for us as we are, conditioned, shaped by every influence, by propaganda, by the books we read, the cinemas, the radios, the magazines all impinging on the mind, shaping it to live in this world completely free, not only consciously, but at the very roots of our being? That, it seems to me, is the challenge, is the only issue.

Because if one is not free, there is no love; there is jealousy, anxiety, fear, domination, the pursuit of pleasure, sexually or otherwise. If one is not free one cannot see clearly and there is no sense of beauty.

This is not mere argument, supporting a theory that man must be free; such a theory again becomes an ideology, which again will divide people. So, if to you that is the central issue, the main challenge of life, then it is not a question of whether you are happy or unhappy that becomes secondary whether you can get on with others or whether your beliefs and your opinions are more important than those of another.

All those are side issues which will be answered if this central issue is fully, deeply, understood and answered. If you really feel that that is the only challenge in life seeing the actual facts around you and the actual facts inside yourself, how narrow, petty, small we are, anxious, guilty, fearful if you see that hanging on to other people's ideas, opinions, judgments, worshipping public opinion, having heroes, examples, breeds fragmentation and division if you yourself have seen very clearly the whole map of human existence with its nationalities and wars, the divisions of gods and priests and ideologies, the conflict and the misery and the sorrow, if you yourself see all this, not as given by another, not as an idea, not as a something to be aspired to, then there is a complete inward sense of freedom, then there is no fear of death, then you and the speaker are in communion, you and the speaker can communicate with each other.

Is it at all possible, we can then go into it step by step? But if to you that is not the main interest, that is not the main challenge and you ask if it is possible for a human being to find God, Truth, Love and all the rest of it, you are not free, then how can you find anything; how can you explore, take a voyage, if you carry with you all that burden, all that fear that you have accumulated through generation after generation? That is the only issue; is it possible for human beings, you and me, to be really free?

Perhaps you might say that we cannot be free from physical pain. Most of us have had physical pain of some kind or other and if you are really free you will know how to deal with that pain. But if you are frightened, not being free, then disease becomes an astonishingly burdensome thing. So, if you and the speaker see this clearly not that the speaker is imposing that as an idea, or influencing you, or because of his emphasis you also unconsciously or consciously accept it then there will be communication between us.

Please do see the importance of that; if you also see the truth of it, then we two together can find out whether it is at all possible to be completely, wholly, free. Can we start from there? As we begin to examine and understand the issue, the enormous implications, the nature and the quality of it will become more clear. But if you say, 'it is not possible' or, 'it is possible', then you have ceased to enquire, ceased to feel your way into it.

So, if I may suggest, do not say to yourself, 'it is possible', or, 'it is not possible'. There are those intellectuals and others who say, 'it is not possible, therefore let us condition the mind better, let us brainwash it first and then make it comply, obey, follow, accept, both outwardly technologically and inwardly so as to follow the authority of the state, of the guru, of the priest, of the ideal' and so on and so on. And if you say, 'it is possible', that is just an idea, it is not a fact; most of us live in a vague, non-factual, ideological world. A man who is willing to go into this question deeply must be free to look, he must be free from saying to himself, 'it is possible', or, 'it is not possible'. So, to examine the question we begin with freedom, freedom is not at the end.

Here is the question, whether it is possible for a human being, you, an individual, living in this world, going to the office, or keeping a house, having children and so on and on, living in a very complex society, living intimately in a relationship, whether it is possible to be free? Is it possible to live, a man with a woman, in a relationship in which there is complete freedom, in which there is no domination, no jealousy, no obedience and therefore a relationship in which perhaps there is love? Now, is this possible?

How can one see anything clearly, the trees and the stars, the world and the society which man has created, which is yourself, if there is not freedom? If you come to it, if you look at it with an idea, with an ideology, with fear, with hope, with anxiety, with guilt and all the rest of the agony, obviously you cannot see.

If you see, as well as the speaker, the importance of being completely free from fear, from jealousy, anxiety, free from the fear of death and the fear of not being loved, from the fear of loneliness and the fear of not becoming successful, famous, achieving, you know, all the fears if for you this is the central issue then we can start from there.

Complete freedom is the only issue in human existence, for man has sought freedom from the very beginning of time, only he has said 'there is freedom in heaven, not on earth', each group, each community, has its different ideology of freedom. Discarding, putting aside, all that, we are asking, if, living here, now, it is possible to be free? If you and I see this common factor as the only challenge in life then we can begin to find out for ourselves in what manner to approach it, how to look at it, how to come by it. Shall we start from there?

First of all, is there a system, please think this out together, is there a system, a method? Everybody says there is a method, do this, do that, follow this guru, follow this path, meditate this way you follow a system, a gradual, step by step achievement, a mould into which you fit, hoping at the end you are going to come to this extraordinary freedom which they all promise.

So, that is the first thing one has to enquire into, not verbally but actually, so that if it is not a fact you will break it down and never under any circumstance accept a system, a method, a discipline. Please see the importance of the words which we are using. A system implies the acceptance of an authority who gives you the system and the following of that system implies discipline, doing the same thing over and over again, suppressing your own demands and responses in order to be free.

Is there truth in this whole idea of a system? Follow this carefully, both inwardly and outwardly. The communist promises Utopia and the guru, the teacher, the saviour says, do this thing; see all the implications of it. We don't want to make it too complex at the beginning it will become quite complex as we go on but if you accept a system, whether it be in a school, in politics or inwardly, then there is no learning, there is no direct communication between the teacher and the student.

But when there is no distance between the professor and the student, then they are both examining, discussing and there is freedom to look and to learn. If you accept a rigid regime laid down by some unfortunate guru and they are very popular at the present time, throughout the world. and you follow it, what actually has taken place? You are destroying yourself in order to achieve the freedom promised by another, handing yourself over to something which may be utterly false, utterly stupid, having no reality in it at all.

So one must be very clear about this right from the beginning; if you are very clear, you have discarded it completely, you will never go back to it. You understand, you no longer belong to any nation, to any ideology, to any religion, to any political party; they are all based on formulas, ideologies and systems that hold out promises; no system, outwardly, is going to help man. On the contrary, systems are going to divide people, that is what has always been happening in the world.

And inwardly, to accept another as your authority, to accept the authority of a system, is to live in isolation, in separateness, therefore there is no freedom.

So, how does one understand and come by freedom naturally for it is not something which you grope after, clutch at, or cultivate: when you cultivate something it is artificial. If you see the truth of this, then all systems and methods of meditation have no value at all; therefore you have broken down one of the greatest factors of conditioning. When you see the truth, that no system is ever going to help man to be free, when you see the truth of it, you are already free of that tremendous falsehood.

Now are you free of that, not tomorrow, not in days to come, but now, actually? We cannot go any further until everyone of us understands this, not abstractly, not as an idea, but actually sees the fact of it, for when you see the fact that it has no value, it is gone, finished. Can we discuss that, not as an argument for and against, but actually look at it, examine it, talk it over together, as two friends to find out the truth of it?

Do you understand what we are doing? We are seeing the factors of conditioning. Seeing, not doing something about it. Seeing it, is the very doing of it. Right? If I see an abyss I act, there is immediate action. If I see something poisonous I do not take it, it is finished, the non-action is instantaneous. So do we see this fact that one of the major conditioning factors is this acceptance of systems, with all the authority, with all the nuances involved? Can we discuss it, or has the speaker overwhelmed you, I hope not?

Questioner: It is very easy to follow you verbally, in words; in ideas it is not very difficult...

Krishnamurti: ...but to actually shake off the acceptance of systems is quite another matter: Isn't that right, Sir? What do you mean, Sir, when you say, 'I follow you verbally, clearly?, Do you mean, we understand the words you are speaking, hear the words, and nothing else which means, what? You are listening to words and obviously you can listen to words that have no meaning whatsoever. The question is, how is it possible to listen to the words so that at the same time the very listening is the action? One says, 'I intellectually understand what you are talking about the words are clear, perhaps the reasoning is fairly good, somewhat logical' and so on and so on 'I understand all that intellectually, but the actual action does not take place I am not free of the acceptance of systems, completely'. Now, how is this gap between the intellect and the action to be bridged? Is that clear? I understand, from the words, intellectually, what you have said this morning, but there is no actual freedom derived from that understanding; how is this intellectual concept to become action, instantly? Now, why is it that we think we understand intellectually? Why do we place intellectual understanding first? Why does that become dominant? You understand my question? I am sure you all feel you understand intellectually, very well, what the speaker is talking about, then you say to yourself, 'how am I to put that into action?' So understanding is one thing and action is another, then we are battling to bridge the two. But is there understanding, at all, intellectually; it may be a false statement which becomes a block, a hindrance? You see, look, watch it carefully, for that becomes a system you follow? the system which everybody uses, 'intellectually I understand' and it may be utterly false. All that we mean is, 'I hear what you are talking about', hear the vibrations of those words pass through my ears and that is all, nothing happens. It is like a man or a woman who has plenty of money and who hears the word 'generosity' and feels vaguely the beauty of it yet goes back to miserliness, to ungenerosity. So, do not let us say, 'I understand', do not let us say, 'I have grasped what you are talking about' when we have merely heard a lot of words. Then, the question is, why do you not see the truth that no system outwardly or inwardly is going to bring freedom, free man from his misery? Why do you not see the truth of it, instantly? That is the problem, not, how to bridge the gap between the intellectual grasp of something and the putting of it into action. Why do you not see complete truth of this fact what is preventing you?

Questioner: We believe in the system.

Krishnamurti: We believe in the system! Why? That is your conditioning. Your conditioning dictates all the time, it prevents you from seeing the truth of one of the major factors of life, which conditions man to accept the system, the class difference, the system of war and the system that promises peace, which in turn is destroyed by nationality which is another system. Why do we not see this truth, is it because we have vested interest in the system? If we saw the truth of it we might lose money, we might not get a job, we would be alone in a monstrously ugly world.

Editor's note: K is absolutely right. If a man has a vested interest not to understand, he will not understand. If the ego even subliminally sees that accepting the truth will make him an outcast, he may very well say "I do not understand."

So, we consciously or unconsciously say, 'I understand very well what you are talking about but I cannot do it, good morning' and that's the end of that; that would be most honest.

Questioner: Sir, for us to communicate either with you or each other we have to be in movement and movement takes energy. The question is, why is it that sometimes we can bring up this energy and sometimes we cannot?

Krishnamurti: Now as we are listening to this question, why do you not see the truth of this fact that systems are destructive, separative? To see it you need energy, why do you not have the energy now, to see it, now, not tomorrow? Is it that you have not the energy to see it now because you are frightened, unconsciously, deep down, is there not a resistance to it because it means you have to give up your guru, you have to give up your nationality, you have to give up your particular ideology and so on and so on? Therefore you say, 'I understand intellectually'.

Questioner: The system prevents you from seeing the truth of the matter.

Krishnamurti: Which is true. The system educates you, establishes you, gives you a position, therefore you do not question the system, either outwardly or inwardly. A communist, well-placed in the communist field will not question the system, because in the very questioning it would be destroyed, for him tyranny is important, both outwardly and inwardly. But that is not the question we are asking.

Why is it, as you are listening, you do not have the energy to look? To have energy to look you must be attentive, you must give your mind and your heart to the looking why don't you?

Questioner: What do you say to the man who is afraid to look?

Krishnamurti: You cannot force him to look, obviously. You cannot cajole him. You cannot promise that if he looks he will get something. You can say 'do not bother to look, but be aware of your fear', 'do not bother to look at this factor of the systems that have been developed through centuries, but be aware of your fear'. But he may well say 'I do not want even to be aware, I do not want even to touch it, go near it'. Then you cannot help, because he himself is preventing himself from looking, because he thinks that by looking he will lose his family, his money, position, job all the rest of it which means he will lose security. He is frightened to lose his security. But look at what is taking place, for it is all just an idea you follow? he may never lose his security, something else may take place. Thought says, 'be careful, do not look' thought creates fear. Thought prevents him from looking, saying, 'if you do look you may create such confusion in your life' as though he is not living in confusion now! So thought begets fear and prevents the seeing of the truth that no system on God's earth, or, in the world of any guru, saviour or commissar, is going to free you.

Questioner: Perhaps a person cannot realize fear because he knows not what it is?

Krishnamurti: Oh, well, if you do not know what fear is then there is no problem, then you are free even the poor birds are frightened. That man has accepted systems as inevitable is one of the major blocks in the human mind. These systems have been created by man in his search for security. The search for security through systems is destroying man which is obvious when you see outwardly what is taking place and the same thing is happening inwardly my guru, your guru, my truth and your truth, my path and your path, my family and your family; it is all preventing man from being free. Being free gives then a totally different meaning to life, sex, may have a totally different meaning, then there will be peace in the world and not this division between man and man. But you have to have the energy to see, which means giving your heart and mind to look not looking with eyes full of fear.



Editor's last word:

This is an incredibly insighful lecture by K.