Paris 4th Public Talk 12th September 1961
We were talking the other day about desire and the conflict which arises from desire; and I would like to continue with that, and to talk also about need, passion and love, because I think they are all related. If we can go into it all deeply and fundamentally, then perhaps we shall be able to understand the whole significance of desire. But before we can understand desire, with all its conflicts and tortures, I think we ought to understand the question of need.
We do, of course, need certain superficial outward things, like clothes, shelter and food. Those are absolutely essential for all. But I wonder if we need anything else, at all? Psychologically, is there actually any need for sex, for fame, for the compulsive urge of ambition, the everlasting inward demand for more and more? What do we need, psychologically? We think we need a great many things, and from that arises all the sorrow of dependence. But if we really go into it deeply and enquire, is there any essential need at all, psychologically, inwardly? I think it would be worthwhile if we would seriously ask ourselves this question. The psychological dependence on another in relationship, the need to be in communion with another, the need to commit oneself to some form of thought and activity, the need to fulfil, to become famous - we all know such needs and we are everlastingly yielding to them. And I think it would be significant if we could, each one of us, try to find out what our needs actually are, and to what extent we depend on them. Because without understanding need, we shall not be able to understand desire, nor shall we be able to understand passion, and therefore love. Whether one is rich or poor, one obviously needs food, clothes and shelter, though even there the need can be limited, small, or expansive. But beyond that, is there any need at all? Why have our psychological needs become so important, such a compelling driving force? And are they merely an escape from something much deeper?
In enquiring into all this we are not talking in terms of analysis. We are trying to face the fact, to see exactly what is; and that does not need any form of analysis, psychology or roundabout cunning explanations. What we are trying to do is to see for ourselves what our psychological needs are, not to explain them away, not to rationalize them, not to say, `What shall I do without them? I must have them'. All those things shut the door to further enquiry. And obviously the door is also closed tightly when the enquiry is merely verbal, intellectual or emotional. The door is open when we really want to face the fact, and that does not need a great intellect. To understand a very complex problem you need a clear, simple mind; but simplicity and clarity are denied when you have a lot of theories and are trying to avoid facing the issue.
So, the question is: why have we such a driving need to fulfil, why are we so ruthlessly ambitious, why has sex such an extraordinary importance in our life? It is not a matter of the quality or number of one's needs, whether one has the maximum or the minimum; but why there is this tremendous urge to fulfil, in family, in a name, in a position and so on, with all the anxiety of it, the frustration, the misery - which society encourages and the church blesses.
Now, when you examine it, pushing aside the superficial response of saying, `What would happen to me if I did not succeed in life?', I think you will find that there is a much deeper issue in it, which is the fear of `not being', of complete isolation, of emptiness and loneliness. It is there, deeply hidden - this tremendous sense of anxiety, this fear of being cut off from everything. That is why we cling to all forms of relationship. That is why there is this need to belong to something, to a cult, to a society, to engage in certain activities, to hold on to some belief; because thereby we escape from that reality which is actually there, deep, within. It is that fear, surely, which forces the mind, the brain, the whole being, to commit itself to some form of belief or relationship which then becomes the necessity, the need.
I do not know if you have gone that far in this enquiry, not verbally but actually. It means to find out for yourself and to face the fact that one is completely nothing, that inwardly one is as empty as a shell, covered with a lot of jewels of knowledge and experience which are actually nothing but words, explanations. Now, to face that fact without despair, without feeling how terrible it is, but just to be with it, it is first necessary to understand need. If we understand the significance of need then it will not have such sway over our. minds and hearts. We will come back to it later, but let us go on to consider desire. We know, do we not?, the desire which contradicts itself, which is tortured, pulling in different directions; the pain, the turmoil, the anxiety of desire, and the disciplining, the controlling. And in the everlasting battle with it we twist it out of all shape and recognition; but it is there, constantly watching, waiting, pushing. Do what you will, sublimate it, escape from it, deny it or accept, give it full rein - it is always there. And we know how the religious teachers and others have said that we should be desireless, cultivate detachment, be free from desire - which is really absurd, because desire has to be understood, not destroyed. If you destroy desire, you may destroy life itself. If you pervert desire, shape it, control it, dominate it, suppress it, you may be destroying something extraordinarily beautiful.
We have to understand desire; and it is very difficult to understand something which is so vital, so demanding, so urgent because in the very fulfilment of desire passion is engendered, with the pleasure and the pain of it. And if one is to understand desire, obviously, there must be no choice. You cannot judge desire as being good or bad, noble or ignoble, or say, `I will keep this desire and deny that one'. All that must be set aside if we are to find out the truth of desire - the beauty of it, the ugliness or whatever it may be. It is a very curious thing to consider, but here in the West, the Occident, many desires can be fulfilled. You have cars, prosperity, better health, the ability to read books, acquire knowledge and accumulate various types of experience whereas when you go to the Orient they are wanting food, clothing and shelter, still caught in the misery and degradation of poverty. But in the West as well as in the East desire is burning all the time, in every direction; outward and deep within, it is there. The man who renounces the world is as crippled by his desire to pursue God as the man who pursues prosperity. So it is there all the time burning, contradicting itself, creating turmoil, anxiety, guilt and despair.
I do not know if you have ever experimented with it at all. But what happens if you do not condemn desire, do not judge it as being good or bad, but simply be aware of it? I wonder if you know what it means to be aware of something? Most of us are not aware because we have become so accustomed to condemning, judging, evaluating, identifying, choosing. Choice obviously prevents awareness because choice is always made as a result of conflict. To be aware when you enter a room, to see all the furniture, the carpet or its absence, and so on - just to see it, to be aware of it all without any sense of judgment - is very difficult. Have you ever tried to look at a person, a flower, at an idea, an emotion, without any choice, any judgment?
And if one does the same thing with desire, if one lives with it - not denying it or saying, `What shall I do with this desire? It is so ugly, so rampant, so violent', not giving it a name, a symbol, not covering it with a word - then, is it any longer the cause of turmoil? Is desire then something to be put away, destroyed? We want to destroy it because one desire tears against another creating conflict, misery and contradiction; and one can see how one tries to escape from this everlasting conflict. So can one be aware of the totality of desire? What I mean by totality is not just one desire or many desires, but the total quality of desire itself. And one can be aware of the totality of desire only when there is no opinion about it, no word, no judgment, no choice. To be aware of every desire as it arises, not to identify oneself with it or condemn it, in that state of alertness, is it then desire, or is it a flame, a passion that is necessary? The word `passion' is generally kept for one thing, sex. But, for me, passion is not sex. You must have passion, intensity, to really live with anything; to live fully, to look at a mountain, a tree, to really look at a human being, you must have passionate intensity. But that passion, that flame is denied when you are hedged around by various urges, demands, contradictions, fears. How can a flame survive when it is smothered by a lot of smoke? Our life is but smoke; we are looking for the flame but we are denying it by suppressing, controlling, shaping the thing we call desire.
Without passion how can there be beauty? I do not mean the beauty of pictures, buildings, painted women and all the rest of it. They have their own forms of beauty but we are not talking of superficial beauty. A thing put together by man, like a cathedral, a temple, a picture, a poem or a statue may or may not be beautiful. But there is a beauty which is beyond feeling and thought and which cannot be realized, understood or known if there is not passion. So do not misunderstand the word `passion'. It is not an ugly word; it is not a thing you can buy in the market or talk about romantically. It has nothing whatever to do with emotion, feeling. It is not a respectable thing; it is a flame that destroys anything that is false. And we are always so afraid to allow that flame to devour the things that we hold dear, the things that we call important.
After all, the lives we lead at present, based on needs, desires and the ways of controlling desire, make us more shallow and empty than ever. We may be very clever, very learned, able to repeat what we have gathered; but the electronic machines are doing that, and already in some fields the machines are more capable than man, more accurate and swifter in their calculations. So we always come back to the same thing which is that life as we live it now is so very superficial, narrow, limited, all because deep down we are empty, lonely, and always trying to cover it up to fill up that emptiness; therefore the need, the desire becomes a terrible thing. Nothing can fill that deep void within - no gods, no saviours, no knowledge, no relationship, no children, no husband, no wife; nothing. But if the mind, the brain, the whole of your being can look at it, live with it, then you will see that psychologically, inwardly, there is no need for anything. That is true freedom.
But that requires very deep insight, profound enquiry, ceaseless watching; and out of that perhaps we shall know what love is. How can there be love when there is attachment, jealousy, envy, ambition and all the pretence which goes with that word? Then, if we have gone through that emptiness - which is an actuality, not a myth, not an idea - we shall find that love and desire and passion are the same thing. If you destroy one, you destroy the other; if you corrupt one, you corrupt beauty. To go into all this requires, not a detached mind, not a dedicated mind or a religious mind, but a mind that is enquiring, that is never satisfied, that is always looking, watching, observing itself, knowing itself. Without love you will never find out what truth is.
Question: How can one find out what is one's main problem?
Krishnamurti: Why divide problems as major and minor? Is not everything a problems? Why make them little or big problems, essential or unessential problems? If we could understand one problem, go into it very deeply however small or big it is, then we would uncover all problems. This is not a rhetorical answer. Take any problem: anger, jealousy, envy, hatred - we know them all very well. If you go into anger very deeply, not just brush it aside, then what is involved? Why is one angry? Because one is hurt, someone has said an unkind thing; and when someone says a flattering thing you are pleased. Why are you hurt? Self-importance, is it not? And why is there self-importance? Because one has an idea, a symbol of oneself, an image of oneself, what one should be what one is or what one should not be. Why does one create an image about oneself? Because one has never studied what one is, actually. We think we should be this or that, the ideal, the hero, the example. What awakens anger is that our ideal, the idea we have of ourselves, is attacked. And our idea about ourselves is our escape from the fact of what we are. But when you are observing the actual fact of what you are, no one can hurt you. Then, if one is a liar and is told that one is a liar it does not mean that one is hurt; it is a fact. But when you are pretending you are not a liar and are told that you are, then you get angry, violent. So we are always living in an ideational world, a world of myth and never in the world of actuality. To observe what is, to see it, actually be familiar with it, there must be no judgment, no evaluation, no opinion, no fear.
Question: Can one liberate oneself by following any particular religion?
Krishnamurti: Certainly not. You know, two thousand years or five thousand years of teaching which persuades you to believe in a certain thing is not religion. It is propaganda. You have been told for centuries that you are a Frenchman, an Englishman, a Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist or a Moslem, and you repeat those words endlessly. And do you mean to say that a mind which has been so conditioned, so influenced and become such a slave to propaganda, ceremony, and the show of religion can, within that conditioning, be liberated?
Question: You have said that by believing in God one does not find God; but can one find God through revelation?
Krishnamurti: Why do you want things to be revealed to you when you do not know your own self? Your own self has been revealed to you this evening; the way you think, the way you act, your motives, ambitions, urges, your incessant battles with yourself. It has been revealed to you, but you do not know anything about it. You only know your theories, visions. And if you do not know what is immediate, near at hand, how can you know something which is immense? So it is much better to begin with that which is very close, which is yourself. And when all deceptions, illusions have been wiped away you will find out for yourself what is the real. Then you do not have to believe in God, you do not have to have a doctrine; it is there, that which is sublime, unnameable.
Question: Why does fear come upon us when we become conscious of our own emptiness?
Krishnamurti: Fear only comes into being when you are escaping from the thing which is; when you are avoiding it, pushing it away. When you are actually confronted with the thing facing it, then is there fear? Escaping, moving away from the fact causes fear. Fear is the process of thought, and thought is of time; and without understanding the whole process of thought and time you will not understand fear. To look at the fact without avoidance is the ending of fear.
Question: You have said that our essential needs are food, clothing and shelter, whereas sex belongs to the world of psychological desires. Can you explain that further?
Krishnamurti: I am sure this is a question everyone is waiting to find out about! What is sex? Is it the act, or the pleasurable images, the thought, the memories around it all? Or is it just a biological fact? And is there the memory, the picture, the excitement, the need when there is love - if I may use that word without spoiling it? I think one has to understand the physical, biological fact. That is one thing. All the romanticism, the excitement, the feeling that one has given oneself over to another, the identification of oneself with another in that relationship, the sense of continuity, the satisfaction - all that is another thing. When we are really concerned with desire, with need, how deeply does sex play a part? Is it a psychological need, as it is a biological need? It requires a very clear, sharp mind, brain, to differentiate between the physical need and the psychological need. Many things are involved in sex, not just the act. The desire to forget oneself in another, the continuity of a relationship, children, and trying to find immortality through the children, the wife, the husband, the sense of giving oneself over to another, with all the problems of jealousy, attachment, fear - the agony of it all - is all that love? If there is no understanding of need, basically, deep down, completely, in the dark recesses of one's own consciousness, then sex, love and desire play havoc in our lives.
Question: Can liberation be realized by everyone?
Krishnamurti: Surely. It is not given to the few. Liberation is not a form of snobbishness; it is there for anyone who will enquire into it. It is there with an ever widening, deepening beauty and strength when there is self-knowing. And anyone can begin to find out about himself by watching himself, as you watch yourself in a mirror. The mirror does not lie; it shows you exactly what your face looks like. In the same way you can watch yourself without distortion. Then you begin to find out about yourself. Self-knowing, learning about yourself is an extraordinary thing. The way to reality, to that unknown immensity, is not through a church door, not through any book, but through the door of self-knowing.
September 12, 1961
Paris 4th Public Talk 12th September 1961
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