The Mirror of Relationship
1st Public Talk 26th May, 1940
The world is ever in pain, in confusion; it has ever this problem of struggle and sorrow. We become conscious of this conflict, this pain, when it affects us personally or when it is immediately about us, as now. The problems of war have existed before, but most of us have not been concerned with them as they were remote, and not affecting us personally and deeply; but now war is at our door and that seems to dominate the minds of most people.
Now I am not going to answer the questions that must inevitably arise when one is immediately concerned with the problems of war, what attitude and action one should take with regard to it, and so on. But perhaps we shall talk over together a much deeper problem, for war is only an outward manifestation of inward confusion and struggle of hate and antagonism. The problem that we should discuss, which is ever present, is that of the individual and his relationship with another, which is society. If we can understand this complex problem then perhaps we shall be able to avoid the many causes that ultimately lead to war. War is a symptom, however brutal and diseased, and to deal with the outer manifestation without regard to the deeper causes of it, is futile and purposeless; in changing fundamentally the causes, perhaps we can bring about a peace that is not destroyed by outer circumstances.
Most of us are apt to think that through legislation, through mere organization or through leadership, the problems of war and peace and other human problems can be solved. As we do not want to be responsible, individually, for this inner and outer turmoil in our lives, we look to authorities, groups and mass action. Through these outward methods one may have temporary peace, but one can have that abiding, lasting peace only when the individual understands himself and his relationship with another, which makes society. Peace is within and not without; there can only be peace and happiness in the world when the individual - who is the world - sets about definitely to alter the causes within himself which produce confusion, sorrow, hate, and so on. I want to deal with these causes and how to change them, deeply and lastingly.
The world about us is in constant flux, constant change; there is incessant sorrow and pain. Amidst this mutation and conflict can there be lasting peace and happiness, independent of all circumstances? This peace and happiness can be discovered, hewn out of whatever circumstances the individual finds himself in. During these talks, I shall try to explain how to experiment with ourselves and thus free thought from its self-imposed limitations. But each one must experiment and live strenuously and not merely live on superficial action and phrases.
This earnest experiment must begin with ourselves, with each one of us, and it is vain merely to alter the outward conditions without deep, inward change. For what the individual is, society is; what his relationship is with another is the social structure of society. We cannot create a peaceful, intelligent society if the individual is intolerant, brutal, and competitive. If the individual lacks kindliness, affection, thoughtfulness, in his relationship with another he must inevitably produce conflict, antagonism, and confusion. Society is the extension of the individual; society is the projection of ourselves. Until we grasp this and understand ourselves profoundly and alter ourselves radically, the mere change of the outer will not create peace in the world, nor bring to it that tranquillity that is necessary for happy social relationship.
So let us not think of only altering the environment; this will and must take place if our whole attention is directed to the transformation of the individual, of ourselves, and our relationship with another. How can we have brotherhood in the world if we are intolerant, if we hate, if we are greedy? Surely this is obvious, isn't it? If each of us is driven by a consuming ambition, striving for success, seeking happiness in things, surely we must create a society, that is chaotic, ruthless, and destructive. If all of us here understand and agree deeply on this point, that the world is ourselves and what we are the world is, then we can proceed to think how to bring about the necessary change in ourselves. So long as we do not agree on this fundamental thing, but merely look to the environment for our peace and happiness, it assumes that immense importance which it has not, for we have created the environment, and without radical change in ourselves, it becomes an intolerable prison. We cling to the environment, hoping to find security and self-identified continuity in it, and thus resist all change of thought and values. But life is in continual flux and so there is constant conflict between desire which must ever become static and that reality which has no abode.
Man is the measure of all things, and if his vision is perverted, then what he thinks and creates must inevitably lead to disaster and sorrow. Out of what he thinks and feels, the individual builds the society. I personally feel that the world is myself, that what I do creates either peace or sorrow in the world that is myself, and as long as I do not understand myself, I cannot bring peace to the world; so my immediate concern is myself, not selfishly, not merely to alter myself in order to gain greater happiness, greater sensations, greater successes, for, as long as I do not understand myself, I must live in pain and sorrow and cannot discover an enduring peace and happiness.
To understand ourselves, we must first be interested in the discovery of ourselves, we must become alert about our own process of thought and feeling. With what are our thoughts and feelings mostly concerned? They are concerned with things, with people, and with ideas. These are the fundamental things in which we are interested-things, people, ideas.
Now why is it that things have assumed such an immense importance in our lives? Why is it that things, property, houses, clothes, and so on, take such a dominant place in our lives? Is it because we merely need them, or is it that we depend upon them for our psychological happiness? We all need clothes, food, and shelter. This is obvious. But why is it that they have assumed such tremendous importance, significance? Things assume such disproportionate value and significance because we psychologically depend on them for our well being. They feed our vanity; they give us social prestige; they give us the means for procuring power. We use them in order to achieve purposes other than what they in themselves signify. We need food, clothes, shelter, which is natural and not perverting, but when we depend upon things for our gratification, when things become psychological necessities, they assume an altogether disproportionate value and importance, and hence the struggle and conflict to possess, and the various means to hold those things upon which we depend.
Ask yourself this question: Am I dependent on things for my psychological happiness, satisfaction? If you earnestly seek to answer this apparently simple question you will discover the complex process of your thought and feeling. If things are a physical necessity, then you put an intelligent limitation on them, then they do not assume that overwhelming importance which they have when they become a psychological necessity. In this way you begin to understand the nature of sensation and gratification; for the mind that would understand truth must be free of such bondages. To free the mind from sensation and satisfaction, you must begin with those sensations with which you are familiar, and there lay the right foundation for understanding. Sensation has its place, and by comprehending it, it does not assume the stupid distortion which it has now.
Many think that if the things of the world were well-organized so that all have enough of them, then it will be a happy and peaceful world, but I am afraid this will not be so if individually we have not understood their true significance. We depend on things because inwardly we are poor and we cover up that poverty of being with things, and these outward accumulations, these superficial possessions, become so vitally important that for them we are willing to lie, cheat, battle, and destroy each other. For things are a means to power, to self-glory. Without understanding the nature of this inward poverty of being, mere change of organization for fair distribution of things, however necessary, will create other ways and means of gaining power and self-glory.
Most of us are concerned with things and to understand our right relationship to them requires intelligence. It is not asceticism nor acquisitiveness, it is not renunciation nor accumulation, but a free, intelligent awareness of needs without the clawing dependence upon things. When you understand this there is not the sorrow of giving up nor the pain of competitive struggle. Is one capable of critically examining and understanding the difference between one's needs and the psychological dependence on things? You are not going to answer this question within this hour. You will answer it only if you are persistently earnest, if your purpose is unwavering and clear.
Surely we can begin to discover what is our relationship to things. It is based on greed, is it not? But when does need become greed? Is it not greed when thought, perceiving its own emptiness, its own worthlessness, proceeds to invest things with an importance greater than their own intrinsic worth and thereby create a dependence on them? This dependence may produce a sort of social cohesion but in it there is always conflict, pain, disintegration. We must make our thought process clear, and we can do this if in our daily life we become aware of this greed with its appalling results. This awareness of need and greed will help to lay the right foundation to our thinking. Greed in one form or another is ever the cause of antagonism, ruthless national hatred, and subtle brutalities. If we do not understand and grapple with greed, how can we understand, then, reality which transcends all these forms of struggle and sorrow? We must begin with ourselves, with our relationship to things and to people. I took things first because most of us are concerned with them. To us they are of tremendous importance. Wars are about things and our social and moral values are based on them. Without understanding the complex process of greed we shall not understand reality.
Questioner: We are in imminent danger of being involved in the war. Why not give us some concrete suggestions of how to fight against it?
Krishnamurti: There is really only one war, the war within ourselves, which produces external wars. I am only concerned with the war that is within ourselves. If we can understand and transcend intelligently that war within us, then perhaps there will be a peace in the world. I say perhaps, because there can be peace in the world only when each one of us is integrally peaceful. One can have this integrated peace within oneself if one is earnest and intelligently aware. The conflict that creates this hate is within yourself, and that is your first problem. If you are in the process of solving it, you will know what that tranquillity is, but merely to have suggestions or instructions given by another, what you should do under this or that circumstance, does not bring about peace. Great intelligence and deep understanding, not mere assertions, not blind acceptance of any theory, but continual awareness, strenuous questioning with delicacy and care, will create within us abiding peace. So our first task is with ourselves, for the world is ourselves in extension. We try to alter the circumference without fundamentally altering the centre; we are concerned with the periphery without understanding the core. When there is peace at the centre then there is a possibility of it in the world.
Questioner: Would you please explain more fully in what sense you use the word "sensation".
Krishnamurti: The process of living is partly sensation; seeing, tasting, touching, thinking, and so on. If we seek pleasure through sensation or use sensation for increasing gratification, then thought becomes a slave of desire. There is a sort of psychological satisfaction in possessing and in being possessed. When the sensation of possession is satisfied, then thought seeks other types of sensation and pleasure, so desire is continually changing its object of gratification until reality is assumed to be a form of pleasure which is hoped to be permeate. The constant desire for greater and greater sensation must inevitably lead to pain and sorrow; one does not often realize this and one craves for an enduring satisfaction, a final security in an idea, person, or things. This craving for a finality is the result of a series of satisfactions and disappointments but the desire for permanency is still a form of sensation and gratification. If each one of us can understand the process of sensation and pleasure with regard, let us say, to things, then we shall begin to be aware when needs become the means of greater satisfaction, and the pursuit of this greater satisfaction, we shall perceive, is greed. This intelligent perception or awareness places a natural limit to sensation, without the conflict of control. So without deeply and fully understanding the process of sensation and outgoing desires, if we try to seek reality, peace, happiness, then what we may find, though we may call it the eternal and so on, will only be the result of pleasure and craving and therefore not real.
Questioner: What is the wisest step to take to understand oneself most unselfishly? Krishnamurti: Do you think there are two ways of understanding oneself, selfishly and unselfishly? You just understand yourself, not selfishly or unselfishly. If you try to understand yourself selfishly, you don't understand yourself at all, because your being is of the self. If you say to yourself, I must unselfishly understand myself, you are presupposing a condition; you are establishing a concept which may be utterly false. So, to understand yourself, you must see yourself as you are, not biased by the selfish or the unselfish thought. To understand yourself you must create a mirror that reflects accurately what you are. We do not like to create for ourselves such a faculty that reflects purely, without bias, for we are concerned with judgment and alteration. Alteration depends on the background in which we have been brought up. If we are religious persons we will change ourselves according to our religious concepts and dogmas. If we think in social terms we will alter ourselves according to social morality. But to understand ourselves clearly and fully, we must perceive ourselves as we are, without prejudice, without condemnation. To perceive so clearly, without bias, requires constant alertness, a peculiar, alert passivity that needs patience and care. But this is difficult, as most of us are carried away by our sensations and desires; we want to keep, store up, that which is pleasant in us and reject that which is unpleasant. The desire to hold on and the desire to deny is not conducive to the understanding of yourself, but when you see, yourself clearly, without any distortion, then you begin to find out why distortion has taken place. Then you begin to discover the cause, and that, again, requires keen alertness, serious purpose. In the process of understanding yourself, mind must not be burdened with craving, however subtle, for a result. If you are seeking a result, then you are not concerned with the process of understanding yourself; you are after gain, achievement, success, which has its own sorrow and reward. To understand yourself, you must have a mind-heart that is clear, without fear, without the entanglements of hope.
Questioner: How can one alter oneself without creating resistance?
Krishnamurti: In the very idea of altering oneself there is implied a preconceived pattern which prevents critical understanding. If you have a preconception of what you want to be, of what you should be, then surely your awareness of what you are is not critical, as you are then only concerned with conforming or with denying. We want to be this or that, and hence we are incapable of real critical examination of what we are, and therefore when we alter in relationship with what we want to be, we are bound to create resistances and so fundamental change does not take place at all.
Instead of being concerned with the change that must take place in ourselves, let us see if we have preconceived ideas of what we should be. As we have them our attention should be turned to the inquiry of how and why they have come into being. If we seriously inquire, we shall find that fear creates various patterns, preconceived ideas of ourselves and what we should be. Without these preconceptions, what are you? And so, having concepts and images of what you should be, you are striving after them, which only distorts your critical comprehension of yourself, thus building up resistances. But if you are capable of looking at yourself as you are, then there is a possibility of radical change which is not brought about through comparison. All comparative change is a change only in resistance.
Questioner: What about a school for children? This is a present need.
Krishnamurti: This is not only a present need but a need of all times. It becomes important and immediate when we have our own children and circumstances are critical. Circumstances are ever critical to the thoughtful. If the parents, the guardians, are themselves in confusion, how can they establish schools in which children shall be brought up without confusion, without hate and ignorance? Surely this again is the same old problem, is it not, that you must begin with yourself, and because of your interest, you create or help to create schools in which there may grow up a generation which is not bound by fear and hate.
The Mirror of Relationship
1st Public Talk 26th May, 1940
Jiddu Krishnamurti. The Mirror of Relationship. The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1936..1944.