J. Krishnamurti: Know Yourself. As printed in the May 1925 issue of The Herald of the Star magazine.
I think there is no more interesting or more promising subject, none more exciting, than the study of oneself. At the age 15 or 16, one is usually immersed in oneself. There is nothing else that interests a person so much. Later he falls in love with somebody; but still he is wrapt up in himself. There is, you find, much more intelligence shown in the study of himself, and very little thought given to somebody else. He quite willingly pays a palmist Rs. 15 to get him to tell us all about ourselves. And we feel quite comfortable in the thought that we are going to be great one day - without, apparently, having to struggle to achieve greatness. There is only one subject that really appeals to us and that is ourselves. We discuss ourselves, and in an approving sort of way consider how we behave, in what manner we evolve, and so on.
It seems to me that if we think entirely from that point of view, from the point which interests ourselves alone, we shall not understand why we exist, or why anything in the world, at all, exists. Of course it is true that one has to understand oneself first before one can find out anything about life in general. Philosophy, religion and other subjects have no real value, no real sway over an individual, or have only a modicum of influence, when they only point out how he can escape certain things, how he can avoid evil, and so on. But those of us who are Star members, or belong to such other organisations, should have some conception of a definite plan in evolution.
We are in a position to examine things roost valuable to the self - things that produce in the self the desire to evolve. In all of us there is the desire to find out for ourselves how far we can understand ourselves and what affects us. The average person is far more interested in himself than in anybody else. Luxury, comfort, happiness, everything must subserve his ends. When everything has been done to satisfy himself, then only one thinks of others. When I have had enough food and sleep, I turn to think about others. That is the average view. If you have had a surfeit of love, or of happiness, you are led to think of another.
But to achieve that happiness, we must find out how far we fit into a definite plan. We must be conscious that there is a plan in which each one of us has a role to play, and must have determination with which we shall act, with which we shall create the environment into which we shall either fit - or not; and if we are willing to look at it with the right attitude we shall be able to find out how far we shall fit into that plan. For me, I can imagine that the Gods that be have said that Krishna shall fit into a certain definite plan, and that whatever else he does, shall have no value, and as long as he fits into that plan, Krishna shall evolve and be happy. I was interested and watched myself, and I could see from year to year a definite change, a definite orientation, a definite transformation and I could see what my definite role was. And so each one of us must find out what path we shall tread and what shall be our special work.
It often happens that most of us are willing to go up to the altar and pour forth our devotion. Devotion however is, in varying degrees, in most of us, but it cannot and must not satisfy us. If I went to Dr. Besant and told her: "I am willing to serve you in any capacity. I am willing to sacrifice everything and my only desire is to work at the cost of comfort, independence, and so forth," she would say, "Oh, very nice; what capacities do you bring with you. In what manner can you render service to the Master?'' Devotion must have an outlet in physical work; and so if we have to determine what role we each one of us have to play, before we offer ourselves, we must find out what are our capacities. When to a Theosophist or a Star member or anyone, the call comes to "sacrifice everything and come to the Master," it is not enough to ask the Master merely to accept our devotion; we must give Him something that will enable Him to guide us. In other words, you must have certain capacities to bring with you to the Master and not go just empty-handed. If I can go to the Master and say "I can do this or that, I can write or paint or compose music or act," He will say: "All right, that is your way. Go and find out, discover what your talents are, and once you have found that out, you will know how to suffer and to serve." For there are very few indeed who can say, "I can do this; along this line lies my sacrifice in the work of the Master. We consider that we have sacrificed when we have done without something which we can easily give up.
If I had a vision of something particular that the Teacher wanted done, I would go about with a different mind. And if I needed wealth, I would go and accumulate it, not for myself but for the Master, and in accumulating it, I should know that I have to sacrifice, and have to put up with a great deal of suffering and misunderstanding. But it is the attitude that matters. We are afraid that our capacities may not lead us along the path laid down for us. So we have to find out before we can truly serve, in what manner each one of us can serve Him, in what manner we can offer our sacrifice, and in discovering what our path is we shall find out to which type we belong, whether to the type which goes to the world and evolves in the world, so to speak or is kept in a hot-house and evolves, like a plant, equally strongly. There are people who work in the world for a number of years, who work and do everything without finding out what the real purpose of life is. They discover what their purpose is by chance, but they have accumulated all that the world has to give, and when they come into contact with the spiritual realities they give up their all that they have gained, whereas those who have grown in the hot house apart from the world reach the goal by another path.
So it does not matter as long as you have learnt what both the war Ids can give, and not till then will you be able to serve the world. Just imagine a person who is brought up, say, in a temple where he is suppressed, where he develops complexes. When such a person goes out into the world, he has a thundering good time; and it is the same with the person who works in the outside world. You cannot evolve along one definite line. You must evolve all round and until then we shall only hinder and not help.
As I know my own path, so we must each one of us discover our own path and until that discovery is made we shall not be able or fit to serve the Master. Those of us who have imagination, who have in any degree the capacity to take an impersonal view of life, can find this out. But most of us have neither the desire to serve, nor the desire to attain our path or goal.
The trouble with us is that as in the outside world, we have our own vested interests. And as long as there is the element of selfishness, we shall not discover the path. Each one of us wants the Master to come down for us; but what we have not learnt is that even if, as we imagine, He came down from the clouds, we shall not be able to serve Him, because we have not equipped ourselves for rendering Him service.
We must find out in what way we can serve, and that means the complete upsetting of oneself, one's relations, &c. It is not that we have not the desire, not the same longing that great people have; but with us it is not constant. There is not the continuous pressure that keeps us going on and on and on. It means real sacrifice, means subjugating oneself in everything and not letting the self get on top. Then we shall not warp things to suit our prejudices, but we shall understand them in a complete way; in other words, become really simple.
We must have the courage and determination to give up; and when one has achieved and climbed some distance, one discovers how foolish is one who is struggling about what is so trivial, so common. There are so many subjects with which we are struggling in a complicated manner; but if we but let ourselves expand a little, all these subjects become simple, all complications vanish. But it requires constant watching of oneself, being on the look-out to see if one is doing the right thing or the wrong thing.
Each one of us knows these things through and through, and yet if the Teacher came and asked what each one of us could do, in what way we had acted during His absence, in what way we had fulfilled our role, what would our answer be? It is astonishing how we cannot change, as we should, like a flower. Our belief though strong, is not the belief of a man who acts with a fixed determination. Those are the people, however, that the Master wants for His service, and not those who are merely devoted, without that devotion leading to action. If one can set aside one's own evolution, and work and forget oneself in the work, then one is a true server and gets nearer to the Master. It may be that I am young, that I have not suffered as the old have suffered, but if suffering can damp out enthusiasm, it is not worth having. But what has suffering taught us?
As I said at the beginning, there is nothing so absorbing as the study of ourselves. That is the only subject that is worth thinking about; because it means change. There is nobody to force the older, and so they become crystallised. What matters is to find out what we can do and how far we can sacrifice; what our strength is and what our capacities are. When one sees people in an attitude of reverence, I often wonder what they have done by way of sacrifice.
In the coming years, either one has to adapt oneself quickly to the changing current, or go right out of it all. When you have definitely caught a glimpse of the Plan, however passing that glimpse, and know that you have to go on, you just go on, because it is much more fun than just marking time. What matters is that one must do something to change. Old age does not mean that you cannot change. On the other hand, it ought to be easier for the old, because they have had experience, and they have had suffering; and yet one goes on in the same old way of perpetual neglect. If you want to earn money, go and earn millions and offer them to the Master, and you can do it if you have the right attitude. And it is the same with whatever else you want to do - type-writing, shorthand or anything else you wish to make your special work for the Master. The attitude is what matters and when once you have attained this all the rest will follow.
J. Krishnamurti: Know Yourself. As printed in the May 1925 issue of The Herald of the Star magazine.
By J. Krishnamurti, as printed in the May 1925 issue of The Herald of the Star magazine.