AN INTERVIEW ON CURRENT PROBLEMS
Eerde, Holland, 1929
INTERVIEWER: You have said that there is no distinction between a man and a woman. What exactly do you mean by that?
KRISHNAJI: When I said that I had in mind -and you will have to think it out, otherwise it sounds as if I were just playing with words- that life behind all form is one, the expressions of that life are not of very great importance.
INTERVIEWER: Quite, but you would say that the expression is different?
KRISHNAJI: The expression is different, but it is foolish to give too great an importance to the expression.
INTERVIEWER: I understand. We should not emphasize the form so much as the life behind all form?
KRISHNAJI: The Unity -yes- rather than the diversity.
INTERVIEWER: But, would you not say that woman is different in function from man?
KRISHNAJI: Of course.
INTERVIERWER: And that she is not freeing the expression of life in herself, if she does not fulfill her function?
KRISHNAJI: Of course not.
INTERVIEWER: Both should keep their distinctive expressions without over-emphasizing them? Both are expressions of life?
KRISHNAJI: I think it is absurd to give such tremendous importance to the distinctions between men and women. When I meet someone I regard that person as a human being. I do not say "This is a man; this is a woman."
INTERVIEWER: Would you say that it is good to have organizations to deal especially with women's problems or that in helping individuals to understand life we shall thereby solve all problems?
KRISHNAJI: It is good to have organizations but not to exaggerate their importance out of due proportion.
INTERVIEWER: Instead of having separate organizations for women would it not be better in every case to have men and women working together side by side?
KRISHNAJI: I should say the latter; of course it is better to emphasize the unity of human beings rather than to emphasize the diversity of forms, that is to say, the man and the woman separately. If you have separate organizations for men and women you will tend to set them apart from each other, which is what often happens at present and is absurd!
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that with the changing world conditions the codes regulating the relations of men and women must also change?
KRISHNAJI: Assuredly, of course.
INTERVIEWER: Even if mistakes are made in process of change, is that better than to go on keeping to traditional codes of morality?
KRISHNAJI: Certainly. Because to keep always in the same place means to stagnate. I am all for changing, even if mistakes are made in the process. Mistakes do not matter.
INTERVIEWER: In India the wife regards her husband as a god and marriage is for life. In America it is just the opposite; there is equality between husband and wife and divorce is frequent. Which system in your opinion works out best for the happiness of the family, the nation, the majority?
KRISHNAJI: You cannot ask which system is the better because you cannot standardize one system for the whole of the world. You cannot have one stereotyped code of morality for every country. One system may work very well in one country and very badly in another. You cannot grow a tropical flower in a cold climate.
INTERVIEWER: Would you not in any case think it undesirable to have predominance of one sex over another?
KRISHNAJI: I should, of course.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think it is useful then for different countries to experiment in different forms of sex relationship even if the result seems sometimes undesirable?
KRISHNAJI: Yes. People must work things out for themselves. It is no good saying, "I have found a house which suits me and therefore everybody must adopt the same kind of house."
INTERVIEWER: Shall we say that the experiments of two human individuals in their relationship with each other are justified?
KRISHNAJI: Surely. They have a perfect right to experiment between themselves, if they want to do so.
INTERVIEWER: It has been generally accepted that a man may sow his wild oats, as it is called, before marriage and a woman may not, but reformers have advocated a single standard of purity for men and women. This advocacy of the single standard seems to be working out differently from what the reformers anticipated. Instead of equal purity it seems to be resulting in equal license. Would you say that this is a step forward from the old idea of one standard for men and one for women?
KRISHNAJI: I should go behind all that. I mean that this way of looking at the problem only leads to all kinds of discussions and more problems. But if you realize that the ultimate happiness for all depends not on disorder of the emotions for either sex, but in harmonizing the emotions, all these problems will vanish.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think of the communal experiments with regard to the education of children now being made in Russia and Palestine?
KRISHNAJI: I should say that in certain cases it might be excellent, in others bad. Again you cannot lay down a standard which all must follow.
INTERVIEWER: So again you would say it is an interesting experiment and we should wait and see the results?
KRISHNAJI: Suppose that a child needs very much affection; it would probably get it at home, then home life would be better for the child. But if the mother has to work and is always out, then some kind of communal institution might be better. But again I do not think that you can try and systematize education for the whole world. I would try experiments in small communities and in schools to see how they work out, instead of taking the children of an entire nation and trying to bring them up on the same system. Do you see what I mean?
INTERVIEWER: I understand. In England now, for instance, we have throughout the country home life and the public school standardized practically for the whole nation. And any experiment made outside that standardization is taboo. How can you break through that condition?
KRISHNAJI: By hurling yourself against it.
INTERVIEWER: Yes, but in questions of education it is your child that you hurl against it.
KRISHNAJI: I would experiment with my child.
INTERVIEWER: Even at the risk of his cursing you afterwards?
KRISHNAJI: Of course, it is your duty.
INTERVIEWER: You think that if you have got a different ideal of life from the community you have the duty to bring up your child in that ideal, and so try and break down tradition?
KRISHNAJI: After all, he is your child; you are partly responsible for him. I should experiment and not be concerned as to whether he will curse you afterwards. After all, he may curse you just as much even if you follow tradition.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that there should be complete freedom in all family relationships?
KRISHNAJI: I don't quite follow.
INTERVIEWER: I mean that there should not be either jealousy or a sense of possessiveness.
KRISHNAJI: Of course not, especially with regard to children.
INTERVIEWER: That means that we should realize that the child has got its own independent life to develop. You said the other day that people are caught up in their own creation, would this apply also to a mother and her children?
KRISHNAJI: Most certainly. If you do not give your children freedom, when they grow up, they will break away from the family, and then your hearts will be broken.
INTERVIEWER: The wise parent, then, would give the child freedom to learn by its own mistakes, by its own experience.
KRISHNAJI: Of course, after all you grow by experience. But while he is young, you should try to set before him his ultimate goal.
INTERVIEWER: The training of a child begins before it can speak, how then can you set before it the goal?
KRISHNAJI: When he is very young, you must protect him from doing harm to himself and others, then later by precept, explaining to him what is going to be for his eventual happiness.
INTERVIEWER: How would you inculcate discipline without repression?
KRISHNAJI: Whatever discipline you exercise should be based on the goal he is eventually to reach, namely, freedom and happiness. I would show him towards what he is growing, his ultimate fulfilment, and help him to adapt himself to that. In everything that you do, you should keep the goal in view, and hence your discipline must aim at helping the child to realize that at a certain stage he will be above all discipline.
INTERVIEWER: Quite. In fact discipline should be merely a passage way towards freedom.
KRISHNAJI: Absolute freedom.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think it is possible to eliminate all fear in the training of children?
INTERVIEWER: Even if the people around them still suffer from fear?
KRISHNAJI: Oh, absolutely. I am sure that it can be done. It is being done in California. The children there seem to have no fear.
INTERVIEWER: Then you would say that fear was largely a matter of environment, but are not some children born more nervous than others?
KRISHNAJI: Yes, but this can be helped by not always adding to that fear; fears of getting ill, fears of getting hurt and other fears.
INTERVIEWER: How would you help young people to get over their sex impulses and difficulties?
KRISHNAJI: I would explain my point of view to them by a simile. If you wish to produce a perfect rose, you must cut off the other buds which are spoiling the growth of the perfect flower.
INTERVIEWER: But before the desire arises to become the perfect rose, would not the lesser desires continue to express themselves?
KRISHNAJI: Of course. But while expressing themselves, you would need to exercise control in order to prevent them from doing harm to you or to others.
INTERVIEWER: In other words, a community must protect its citizens?
KRISHNAJI: Yes, but always with that ultimate ideal in view.
INTERVIEWER: Then a nation in framing its laws should also have that ultimate goal for all citizens in view?
KRISHNAJI: Of course. The government that is wise will consider what is best for all its people.
INTERVIEWER: Then you would define a wise government as a government that would lead all its people toward ultimate freedom?
INTERVIEWER: You say that we should not be afraid of desires, nor repress them and that the more desires we have the better?
KRISHNAJI: The better, yes.
INTERVIEWER: But how would that work out in practice?
KRISHNAJI: It does work out in practice. If you have a great many desires, you will gradually eliminate them one by one, until you allow certain desires to dominate and the others to die away.
INTERVIEWER: Then you would say that everybody at a certain stage should satisfy his desires, but when he becomes too much of a nuisance to the rest of the community...
KRISHNAJI: The community always looks after itself.
INTERVIEWER: But should a person satisfy desires which can only perhaps injure himself?
KRISHNAJI: Of course. You can't prevent him, nobody can do that, even laws do not. You cannot prevent a man getting drunk if he wishes to do so, but when he becomes a nuisance, then you interfere.
INTERVIEWER: And before that, you would not try to prevent it?
KRISHNAJI: What can you do?
INTERVIEWER: I mean, it would be better to let him experiment than try to force him to be sober.
KRISHNAJI: Of course, because if you force him, he is not really changed.
INTERVIEWER: Then would you say that prohibition as it is being practiced in some countries is wrong?
KRISHNAJI: I don't think so. If you take what I am saying from a negative point of view, it will produce chaos, but if you could have laws laid down by men who have seen the goal and who want to help those who have not yet seen it to work towards that goal, the result would be to produce order.
INTERVIEWER: The goal you speak of can be the guide for those people who have seen it, but what would be the guide for those who have not yet seen it?
KRISHNAJI: Laws laid down by the men who have seen the goal and who are helping people towards that goal.
INTERVIEWER: You say that there is no good and no evil, but that all is experience; does it mean that every experience is of equal value?
KRISHNAJI: It depends upon the individual. You cannot say that all experience is of equal value for all people.
INTERVIEWER: Must everyone go through all the experiences generally called evil?
KRISHNAJI: Of course not, but it may be essential for some; it depends on the individual development. Everyone must go through all experiences but they need not go through them all in reality -they can do it vicariously, by imagination.
INTERVIEWER: Would you say in the same way that beauty and ugliness are both expressions of life or that ugliness is just a lack of harmony?
KRISHNAJI: A lack of harmony, assuredly. And evil is the same thing of course.
INTERVIEWER: So that ugliness and evil are really a distortion of good, and sorrow the other side of joy?
KRISHNAJI: All are necessary for growth but they may be experienced vicariously.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think of the respective importance of good heredity and environment?
KRISHNAJI: Both are necessary. You cannot compare the child of a savage with the child of a civilized person.
INTERVIEWER: That is to say that if you were to take a child from a very bad family, even a good environment would not change him very much!
KRISHNAJI: Of course not. You need both conditions for the fulfilment of the child.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think of Voronoff and his experiments?
KRISHNAJI: I think they are barbarous.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that any experiments in the world of form can injure life?
KRISHNAJI: No, I would not say injure life, but retard its fulfilment.
INTERVIEWER: The effort to create a sort of ape man...
KRISHNAJI: Is the retarding of that fulfilment.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that a scientist who is essentially an experimenter should try everything or do you consider that certain experiments are inadmissible?
KRISHNAJI: I should say that they are inadmissible if they involve injury or cruelty whether to an animal or to humanity as in war.
INTERVIEWER: Would you say that all experiments on animals are inadmissible, because they do not all involve cruelty, experiments in diet for instance?
KRISHNAJI: But you cannot say which are cruel and which are not. You may injure an animal by experimenting with its food...
INTERVIEWER: Then would you say that no experiments on animals are justified even for the advancement of human knowledge or the relief of human suffering?
KRISHNAJI: I certainly would.
INTERVIEWER: Is it right ever to appeal to a child to do right for the sake of someone it loves?
KRISHNAJI: Certainly not.
INTERVIEWER: What I mean is that the appeal is often made to children: Do that because mother or father would like it or because it will please God.
KRISHNAJI: I would never do that. I would teach him to respect what is right -the word right is a difficult word to use- I would teach him to respect the intrinsic value of things. Do you see what I mean? The true proportion of things.
INTERVIEWER: Supposing for instance, as often happens, especially in a small house, the mother has a very bad headache and the child is making a noise. Would you not appeal to it to be quiet for the sake of the mother?
KRISHNAJI: Of course I would. I should ask him to respect your feelings as you would respect his feelings if he had the same headache. We should awaken feelings of respect for each other. In other words, awaken the desire to kill selfishness.
INTERVIEWER: Should there be no motive for conduct except the desire to fulfil life, and might not this lead to gross selfishness?
KRISHNAJI: Anyhow there is selfishness, let us take that for granted. What you want to do is to purify that selfishness.
INTERVIEWER: Let me take a case of a religious organization. They find someone who is a so-called sinner and by appeals to him based upon the love of God or of a Saviour they try to turn him from the error of his ways. Do you think that this effect has gone to the root of the trouble or will be permanent?
KRISHNAJI: Of course not. It is like superficially mending a hole. You put a thin plank over it and the next time someone treads on the plank it collapses.
INTERVIEWER: Practically you would say that all these problems which I have put before you arise because people...
KRISHNAJI: Are trying to evade life.
INTERVIEWER: Because they are afraid to face life in its brutality, in its cruelty?
KRISHNAJI: In its one-pointedness, its enthusiastic one-pointedness.
INTERVIEWER: What I mean is that life is a cruel thing.
KRISHNAJI: I say no, life is a joyous thing essentially, but when you bind life by all these rigid moralities and traditions, and dogmas and creeds, then there is misery.
INTERVIEWER: The misery arises out of the binding of life rather than out of the freedom of life?
KRISHNAJI: Surely. Freedom of life does not mean disorder of life, does not mean chaos, and just everyone doing anything he wants. That is not the freedom of life. The tree, when you give it a chance, protect it when it is young, will grow straight, because it has developed its own resistance; but the moment you make it delicate, then it gets crooked.
INTERVIEWER: So that practically it comes to this -that all the cruelties, miseries, sufferings, sins, that are in the world are the result of...
KRISHNAJI: Fear. It is out of fear that people have wrapped life round with codes of morality and systems of belief.
INTERVIEWER: And so that these man-made laws and codes have produced the very miseries they were intended to cure?
KRISHNAJI: Of course, because the man-made laws have been made by men who have not perceived the final goal towards which they are making. And that is why it is so important to insist upon the final thing first, and then all the regulations, all the disciplines, will follow.
INTERVIEWER: Do you anticipate that you will get enough people to understand your point of view to carry out your ideas?
KRISHNAJI: I don't mind. It does not in the least concern me whether I shall have at the end of my life thirty people who understand or three hundred. I am like an artist who paints a picture because he must, otherwise he is unhappy -not unhappy, but he must obey that creative impulse.
INTERVIEWER: For anyone who has perceived even dimly the goal, which is the fulfilment of life, is it not a waste of time to be occupied with compromises?
KRISHNAJI: I say that when you have perceived or attained the goal, compromises, renunciations, do not exist. If you have seen the goal, compromise ceases to exist. It is then a question of a different attitude.
INTERVIEWER: I meant rather that from the practical point of view, supposing a statesman were to understand your point of view, would it not be waste of time for him to continue tinkering with things as they are now instead of giving up his present position and getting down to fundamentals?
KRISHNAJI: I should say that all compromise is a "stepping down " of the Truth, is trying to reduce something which cannot be reduced, and that for anyone who has understood life these compromises are impossible.
AN INTERVIEW ON CURRENT PROBLEMS
Eerde, Holland, 1929
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