Life in Freedom
If you would see life as a clear picture you must, by discriminating and selecting from your many experiences, gather the knowledge which will help you to the attainment of your goal. Life cannot be separated from thought, feeling and action, and when you understand life as a whole, using all experience as a ladder on which to climb, you attain.
My purpose is to make clear to you your own desires, to strengthen your own unique growth towards perfection. But if you merely obey me or use me as an authority, as a stepping-stone towards your goal, you will fail, because it will not be your own desire that urges you. Whereas, if you strengthen the understanding of your own desire and use all experience to that end, no one can destroy or take away that which you have gained.
As from out of a fire there comes forth a spark which can in its turn light a great flame, springing heavenwards, so in every man there is born the spark of desire, and I would strengthen that desire in you that you may be able for yourself to light the fire which is necessary for the fulfilment of life.
To follow another, whosoever he may be, is to me the very negation of what I hold to be true. Worship is contrary to all my ideas, especially worship of individuals, and if you regard me as an authority when this form of mine passes away you will again be bound to the same wheel of limitation. I do not want followers, I do not want disciples, I do not want praise or worship of any kind. I need nothing from anyone.
The time when one left the world and went away to a secluded spot, to a monastery, is past. The time for open life and clear understanding has come and I would speak of that understanding which I have found. I would show you how I have found my Beloved, how the Beloved is established in me, how the Beloved is the Beloved of all and how the Beloved and I are one so that there can be no separation either now or at any time.
I have long been in revolt from all things, from the authority of others, from the instruction of others, from the knowledge of others; I would not accept anything as Truth until I found the Truth myself. I never opposed the ideas of others but I would not accept their authority, their theory of life. Until I was in that state of revolt, until I became dissatisfied with everything, with every creed, with every dogma and belief, I was not able to find the Truth. Until I was able to destroy these things by constant struggle to understand what lies behind them, I was not able to attain the Truth I sought. Naturally, I did not think of all these things while I was young. They grew in me unconsciously but now I can place all the events of my life in their proper order and see in what manner I have developed to attain my goal, and have become my goal.
For long I have searched for that goal, and during my search I have watched people trapped in their desires, as a fly is caught in the web of a spider. Ever since I was able to think I have watched people absorbed in their own thoughts, suffocated by the futility of life. Wherever I went I saw people who believed that their happiness consisted in the multitude of possessions. I saw people who had all the comforts of this world, and yet their lives were in confusion because they were enslaved by these things. I saw people who loved greatly and yet were bound by their love, for they had not found the way to give love and yet be free. I saw people who were wise in knowledge; and yet they were bound by their very learning. I saw people who were steeped in religion and yet they were bound by their traditions and by their fear of the unknown.
I saw the wise withdraw from the world into their own seclusion, and the ignorant caught up in their own labors.
Watching people thus I have seen that they build for themselves walls of prejudice, walls of belief, walls of credulous thought, walls of great fear against which they fight, trying to escape from the very walls they themselves have built. Watching all people I have seen how useless is their struggle if they are not free from the very gods they worship, from the interpreters who would guide them. Each guide, each interpreter of the Truth translates that Truth according to his own limited vision. If you depend on the interpreter for your understanding you will only learn the Truth according to his limitations. But if you establish the goal for yourself, if you strengthen your own desire for Truth and test the keenness of that desire by observation, by welcoming sorrow and experience, then you need have no mediators, then there need exist nothing between you and your goal, between you and the Truth.
I would that I could make you certain of the Truth, for Truth is greater than every book of every religion, greater than every belief that you hold dear. But because you do not understand, Truth appears to you as something fearsome, an enemy to be conquered, and because of this fear you seek a mediator. But if you have a pure heart and a mind that is full with understanding, you do not need gurus, mediators who must inevitably condition, limit, the Truth.
Ever since I was young I have observed these things and I have never allowed myself to be caught up in any of these confusions. Because I have established my goal, because I have always regarded myself as a boat on the stream, having no connection with the land, where there is confusion, I have attained, and now I would share my experience with others. I would help those who are confused to make their minds and hearts simple in their desire for attainment.
Ever since I was a boy I have been, as most young people are, or should be, in revolt. Nothing satisfied me. I listened, I observed, I wanted something beyond mere phrases, the maya of words. I wanted to discover and to establish for myself a goal. I did not want to rely on anyone. I do not remember the time when I was being molded in my boyhood! But I can look back and see how nothing satisfied me.
When I went to Europe for the first time I lived among people who were wealthy and well educated, who held positions of social authority; but whatever their dignities or distinctions, they could not satisfy me. I was in revolt also against theosophists with all their jargon, their theories, their meetings, and their explanations of life. When I went to a meeting, the lecturers repeated the same ideas which did not satisfy me or make me happy. I went to fewer and fewer meetings, I saw less and less of the people who merely repeated the ideas of Theosophy. I questioned everything because I wanted to find out for myself.
I walked about the streets, watching the faces of people who perhaps watched me with even greater interest. I went to theaters, I saw how people amused themselves trying to forget their unhappiness, thinking that they were solving their problems by drugging their hearts and minds with superficial excitement.
I saw people with political, social or religious power -and yet they did not have that one essential thing in their lives, which is happiness.
I attended labor meetings, communist meetings, and listened to what their leaders had to say. They were generally protesting against something. I was interested but they did not give me satisfaction.
By observation of one type and another I gathered experience vicariously. Within everyone there was a latent volcano of unhappiness and discontent. I passed from one pleasure to another, from one amusement to another, in search of happiness and found it not. I watched the amusements of the young people, their dances, their dresses, their extravagances, and I saw that they were not happy with the happiness which I was seeking. I watched people who had very little in life, who wanted to tear down those things which others had built up. They thought that they were solving life by destroying and building differently and yet they were unhappy.
I saw people who desired to serve going into those quarters where the poor and the degraded live. They desired to help but were themselves helpless. How can you cure another of disease if you are yourself a victim of that disease?
I saw people satisfied with the stagnation which is unproductive, uncreative -the bourgeois type which never struggles to be above the surface or falls below it and so feels its weight.
I read books on philosophy, on religion, biographies of great people and yet they could not give me what I wanted. I wanted to be so certain, so positive, in my attitude towards life that nothing could disturb me.
Then I came to India and I saw that the people there were deluding themselves equally, carrying on the same old traditions, treating women cruelly. At the same time they called themselves very religious and painted their faces with ashes. In India they may have the most sacred books in the world, they may have the greatest philosophies, they may have constructed wonderful temples in the past, but none of these was able to give me what I wanted. Neither in Europe nor in India could I find happiness.
Still I wandered always in search of this happiness which I knew must exist. This was not a merely intellectual or emotional conviction. It was like the hidden perfection, which cannot be described, but of whose existence you are certain. You cannot ask a bud how it opens, in what manner it gives forth its scent, at what time of the morning it unfolds itself to the sun. But if you watch carefully, if you observe keenly, you will discover for yourself the hidden beauty of perfection.
Still lacking the fixed purpose from which comes the delight of living, I went to California. Circumstances forced me there because my brother was ill. There among the hills we lived in a small house in complete retirement, doing everything for ourselves. If you would discover Truth you must for a time withdraw from the world. In that retired spot my brother and I talked much together. We meditated, trying to understand, for meditation of the heart is understanding.
There I was naturally driven within myself and I learned that as long as I had no definite goal or purpose in life, I was, like the rest of mankind, tossed about as a ship on a stormy sea. With that in my mind, after rejecting all lesser things, I established for myself my goal. I wanted to enter into eternal happiness. I wanted to become the very goal. I wanted to drink from the source of life. I wanted to unite the beginning and the end. I fixed that goal as my Beloved and that Beloved is Life, the Life of all things. I wanted to destroy the separation that exists between man and his goal. I said to myself that as long as there is this void of separation between myself and my goal there is bound to be misery, disturbance and doubt. There will be authority which I must obey, to which I must yield. As long as there is separation between you and me there is unhappiness for us both. So I set about destroying all the barriers that I had previously erected. I began to reject, to renounce, to set aside what I had gathered and little by little I approached my goal.
When my brother died, the experience it brought me was great, not the sorrow -sorrow is momentary and passes away, but the joy of experience remains. If you understand life rightly then death becomes an experience out of which you can build your house of perfection, your house of delight. When my brother died, that gap of separation still existed in me; I saw him once or twice after death but that did not satisfy me. How can you be satisfied alone? You may invent phrases, you may have great knowledge of books; but as long as there is within you separation and loneliness, there is sorrow. Because I desired to establish life within myself, because I desired to become united with the goal, I struggled. Life is a process of struggle, of continuous gathering of the dust of experience.
If you are lost on a dark night and you see a distant light, you make your way towards that light with bleeding feet, through bogs, through pitfalls, through difficulties, because you know that the light indicates a human dwelling. So have I walked and struggled towards that light which is my goal, which is the goal of all humanity because it is humanity itself. All the pitfalls, all the things which entangle, all the things which hurt, are transient and pass away. I suffered but I set about to free myself from everything that bound me, till in the end I became united with the Beloved, I entered into the sea of liberation and established that liberation within me.
The simple union with the Beloved, the direct way of attainment, which is the eternal way, gives ecstasy to life. If you search for Truth in the realms of maya, in the realm of the intellect or of mere emotionalism, or in the physical sense-world alone, you will never find it. Yet when you have found it you realize that it is contained in them all. You cannot separate life from any expression of life and yet you must be able to distinguish between life and its expressions... Because at first I tried to separate life from the goal, because to me life was one thing and knowledge another, everything became confused and I turned for support to tradition, to comfort, to self-contentment and satisfaction. When you perceive the light of your goal you are guided by it as a ship is guided by a lighthouse on a dark shore. When you have seen that vision of perfection, that hidden beauty which cannot be explained in words, which is beyond intellectual theories and mere emotional excitement, it will act as your eternal guide, it will shed its light upon your path and whatever your experience or lack of experience may be, you will attain. Attainment is not for the few but for all, at whatever stage of evolution they may be. You can perceive the Beloved when you have learned to translate the ordinary sorrows and pleasures of life into terms of eternal Truth. If you can interpret all experience in the light of your goal, then you will become united with that goal.
Because I am united eternally, inseparably with my Beloved -who is the Beloved of all, who is yourself- I would show you the way, because you are in pain, in sorrow, in doubt. But I can only be a sign-post for you. You must have the strength of your own desire to attain. You must experience the pain and the sorrow in your own self. You must strive for yourself. Your desire must come from your very soul. It must be the result of your own experience, for by that alone will you attain.
By telling you of my attainment I do not wish to create authority because if I create authority in your mind I shall destroy your own perception of the Truth. I want to make you breathe the fresh air of the mountains, but if you seek my authority you will remain in your dark valley of limitation. It is much easier for you to follow and worship blindly than to understand and so become truly free.
Until I was able to identify myself with the goal, which is the Beloved of all, which is the Source and the End of all, I did not want to say that I had found and in finding had become the Beloved. Till I was able to unite with the eternal I could not pass on the Truth to others; till I was certain of having found the lasting goal I did not want to say that I was the Teacher. Now that I have found, now that I have established the Beloved within myself, now that the Beloved is myself I would give you of the Truth -not that it should be received with authority but with understanding. It does not matter whether you accept or reject it. When a flower opens and gives its scent it does not heed if the passer-by does not delight in its fragrance.
I have painted my picture on the canvas and I want you to examine it critically, not blindly. I want you to create because of that picture a new picture for yourself. I want you to fall in love with the picture, not with the painter, to fall in love with the Truth and not with him who brings the Truth. Fall in love with yourself and then you will fall in love with everyone.
In order to attain liberation it is not necessary to join any organization, any religion, because they are binding, they are limiting, they hold you to a particular form of worship and belief. If you long for freedom you will fight, as I have fought, against authority of any kind, for authority is the antithesis of spirituality. If I were to use authority today and you accepted my authority, it would not make you free, you would be merely following the freedom of another. In following the freedom of another, you are binding yourself more strongly to the wheel of limitation. Do not allow your mind or your heart to be bound by anything or by any one. If you do, you will establish another religion, another temple. While destroying one set of beliefs you will establish another set of beliefs. I am fighting against all traditions that bind, all worship that narrows, all following that corrupts the heart. If you would find that freedom to which I would point the way, you will begin, as I began, by being discontented, by being in revolt, in inner dissent with everything about you. You frequently use the phrase, "We will obey our leaders." Who are your leaders? I never want to be a leader. I never want to have authority. I want you to become your own leaders.
Life is simple and magnificent, lovely and divine, but you want all the beauty and the freshness of the dawn and of the still night to be caught and held in a narrow circle so that you can worship it. Go down to the sea-beach of an evening when the fresh breezes are blowing and all the blades of grass are in motion and the particles of sand are flying about and the trees are waving their branches, and the waves of the sea are breaking over each other. You want to gather and bind all that beauty into a narrow temple. You need have no beliefs in order to live nobly. And yet you say, "I must worship Gods, I must perform rites, I must go to shrines, I must follow this and do that." It is an eternal must. That way of living is not living at all.
Whatever you do, do not create another temple around me. I shall not be held within it. I want to be your companion with the freshness of the breeze. I want to free you from your own limitations, to encourage within you individual creation, individual perfection, individual uniqueness. The self can only be purified and truly transcended when it has developed its own individual uniqueness to perfection; not when it is held in limitations, bound by traditions, by forms, and by all the unnecessary paraphernalia which you think essential to your well-being.
I remember a story written by a Norwegian. The hero of that story, in search for freedom and happiness, joins one religion after another and worships one God after another, performs one ceremony after another, and still he cannot find what he seeks. At length he becomes a Buddhist and drops his physical body and enters Nirvana. He enters the Nirvana of the books and there he sees all the Gods of all the religions seated and conversing with each other. They offer him a vacant seat. This hero appears as a flame, but this flame does not want to be caught and while all the Gods try to catch hold of him he disappears. The Gods cannot follow him because even Gods themselves are bound.
Do not be bound by me or by any one. Happiness is within yourself.
I set out to find for myself the purpose of life and I found it, without the authority of another. I have entered that sea of liberation and happiness in which there is no limitation or negation because it is the fulfilment of life.
Because after my long journey towards attainment and perfection I have attained that perfection and established it in my heart, and because my mind is tranquil and eternally liberated as the flame, I would give of that understanding to all.
Life in Freedom
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Life in Freedom. Talks in Benares, Ojai and Ommen, 1928.