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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)


WE HAVE BEEN talking of so many things, of the many problems of life, have we not? But I wonder if we really know what a problem is. Problems become difficult to solve if they are allowed to take root in the mind. The mind creates the problems, and then becomes the soil in which they take root; and once a problem is well established in the mind it is very difficult to uproot it. What is essential is for the mind itself to see the problem and not give it the soil to grow.

One of the basic problems confronting the world is the problem of co-operation. What does the word `co-operation' mean? To co-operate is to do things together, to build together, to feel together, to have something in common so that we can freely work together. But people generally don't feel inclined to work together naturally, easily, happily; and so they are compelled to work together through various inducements: threat, fear, punishment, reward. This is the common practice throughout the world. Under tyrannical governments you are brutally forced to work together; if you don't `co-operate' you are liquidated or sent to a concentration camp. In the so-called civilized nations you are induced to work together through the concept of `my country', or for an ideology which has been very carefully worked out and widely propagated so that you accept it; or you work together to carry out a plan which somebody has drawn up, a blueprint for Utopia.

So, it is the plan, the idea, the authority which induces people to work together. This is generally called co-operation, and in it there is always the implication of reward or punishment, which means that behind such `co-operation' there is fear. You are always working for something - for the country, for the king, for the party, for God or the Master, for peace, or to bring about this or that reform. Your idea of co-operation is to work together for a particular result. You have an ideal - to build a perfect school, or what you will - towards which you are working, therefore you say co-operation is necessary. All this implies authority, does it not? There is always someone who is supposed to know what is the right thing to do, and therefore you say, "We must co-operate in carrying it out".

Now, I don't call that co-operation at all. That is not co-operation, it is a form of greed, a form of fear, compulsion. Behind it there is the threat that if you don't `co-operate' the government won't recognize you or the Five Year plan will fail, or you will be sent to a concentration camp, or your country will lose the war, or you may not go to heaven. There is always some form of inducement, and where there is inducement there cannot be real co-operation.

Nor is it co-operation when you and I work together merely because we have mutually agreed to do something. In any such agreement what is important is the doing of that particular thing, not working together. You and I may agree to build a bridge, or construct a road, or plant some trees together, but in that agreement there is always the fear of disagreement, the fear that I may not do my share and let you do the whole thing.

So it is not co-operation when we work together through any form of inducement, or by mere agreement, because behind all such effort there is the implication of gaining or avoiding something.

To me, co-operation is entirely different. Co-operation is the fun of being and doing together - not necessarily doing something in particular. Do you understand? Young children normally have a feeling for being and doing together. Haven't you noticed this? They will co-operate in anything. There is no question of agreement or disagreement, reward or punishment; they just want to help. They co-operate instinctively, for the fun of being and doing together. But grown-up people destroy this natural, spontaneous spirit of co-operation in children by saying, "If you do this I will give you that; if you don't do this I won't let you go to the cinema", which introduces the corruptive element.

So, real co-operation comes, not through merely agreeing to carry out some project together, but with the joy, the feeling of togetherness, if one may use that word; because in that feeling there is not the obstinacy of personal ideation, personal opinion.

When you know such co-operation, you will also know when not to co-operate, which is equally important. Do you understand? It is necessary for all of us to awaken in ourselves this spirit of co-operation, for then it will not be a mere plan or agreement which causes us to work together, but an extraordinary feeling of togetherness, the sense of joy in being and doing together without any thought of reward or punishment. That is very important. But it is equally important to know when not to co-operate; because if we are not wise we may co-operate with the unwise, with ambitious leaders who have grandiose schemes, fantastic ideas, like Hitler and other tyrants down through the ages. So we must know when not to co-operate; and we can know this only when we know the joy of real co-operation.

This is a very important question to talk over, because when it is suggested that we work together, your immediate response is likely to be, "What for? What shall we do together?" In other words, the thing to be done becomes more important than the feeling of being and doing together; and when the thing to be done - the plan, the concept, the ideological Utopia - assumes primary importance, then there is no real co-operation. Then it is only the idea that is binding us together; and if one idea can bind us together, another idea can divide us. So, what matters is to awaken in ourselves this spirit of co-operation, this feeling of joy in being and doing together, without any thought of reward or punishment. Most young people have it spontaneously, freely, if it is not corrupted by their elders.

Questioner: How can we get rid of our mental worries if we can't avoid the situations which cause them?

Krishnamurti: Then you have to face them, have you not? To get rid of worry you generally try to escape from the problem; you go to the temple or the cinema, you read a magazine, turn on the radio, or seek some other form of distrac- tion. But escape does not solve the problem, because when you come back it is still there; so why not face it from the very beginning?

Now, what is worry? You worry about whether you will pass your examinations, and you are afraid that you won't; so you sweat over it, spend sleepless nights. If you don't pass, your parents will be disappointed; and also you would like to be able to say, "I have done it, I have passed my examinations". You go on worrying right up to examination day and until you know the results. Can you escape, run away from the situation? Actually, you can't, can you? So you have to face it. But why worry about it? You have studied, you have done your best, and you will pass or not pass. The more you worry about it the more frightened and nervous you become, and the less you are capable of thinking; and when the day arrives you cannot write a thing, you can only look at the clock - which is what happened to me!

When the mind goes over and over a problem and is ceaselessly concerned with it, that is what we call worry, is it not? Now, how is one to get rid of worry? First of all, it is important for the mind not to give soil for the problem to take root.

Do you know what the mind is? Great philosophers have spent many years in examining the nature of the mind, and books have been written about it; but, if one really gives one's whole attention to it, I think it is fairly simple to find out what the mind is. Have you ever observed your own mind? All that you have learnt up to now, the memory of all your little experiences, what you have been told by your parents, by your teachers, the things that you have read in books or observed in the world around you - all this is the mind. It is the mind that observes, that discerns, that learns, that cultivates so-called virtues, that communicates ideas, that has desires and fears. It is not only what you see on the surface, but also the deep layers of the unconscious in which are hidden the racial ambitions, motives, urges, conflicts. All this is the mind, which is called consciousness.

Now, the mind wants to be occupied with something, like a mother worrying about her children, or a housewife about her kitchen, or a politician about his popularity or his position in parliament; and a mind that is occupied is incapable of solving any problem. Do you see that? It is only the unoccupied mind that can be fresh to understand a problem.

Observe your own mind and you will see how restless it is, always occupied with something: with what somebody said yesterday, with something you have just learned, with what you are going to do tomorrow, and so on. It is never unoccupied - which does not mean a stagnant mind, or a kind of mental vacuum. As long as it is occupied, whether with the highest or the lowest, the mind is small, petty; and a petty mind can never resolve any problem, it can only be occupied with it. However big a problem may be, in being occupied with it the mind makes it petty. Only a mind that is unoccupied and therefore fresh can tackle and resolve the problem.

But it is very difficult to have an unoccupied mind. Sometime when you are sitting quietly by the river, or in your room, observe yourself and you will see how constantly that little space of which we are conscious, and which we call the mind, is filled with the many thoughts that come precipitately into it. As long as the mind is filled, occupied with something - whether it be the mind of a housewife or of the greatest scientist - it is small, petty, and whatever problem it tackles, it cannot resolve that problem. Whereas, a mind that is unoccupied, that has space, can tackle the problem and resolve it, because such a mind is fresh, it approaches the problem anew, not with the ancient heritage of its own memories and traditions.

Questioner: How can we know ourselves?

Krishnamurti: You know your face because you have often looked at it reflected in the mirror. Now, there is a mirror in which you can see yourself entirely - not your face, but all that you think, all that you feel, your motives, your appetites, your urges and fears. That mirror is the mirror of relationship: the relationship between you and your parents, between you and your teachers, between you and the river, the trees, the earth, between you and your thoughts. Relationship is a mirror in which you can see yourself, not as you would wish to be, but as you are. I may wish, when looking in an ordinary mirror, that it would show me to be beautiful, but that does not happen because the mirror reflects my face exactly as it is and I cannot deceive myself. Similarly, I can see myself exactly as I am in the mirror of my relationship with others. I can observe how I talk to people: most politely to those who I think can give me something, and rudely or contemptuously to those who cannot. I am attentive to those I am afraid of. I get up when important people come in, but when the servant enters I pay no attention. So, by observing myself in relationship, I have found out how falsely I respect people, have I not? And I can also discover myself as I am in my relationship with the trees and the birds, with ideas and books.

You may have all the academic degrees in the world, but if you don't know yourself you are a most stupid person. To know oneself is the very purpose of all education. Without self-knowledge, merely to gather facts or take notes so that you can pass examinations is a stupid way of existence. You may be able to quote the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Koran and the Bible, but unless you know yourself you are like a parrot repeating words. Whereas, the moment you begin to know yourself, however little, there is already set going an extraordinary process of creativeness. It is a discovery to suddenly see yourself as you actually are: greedy, quarrelsome, angry, envious, stupid. To see the fact without trying to alter it, just to see exactly what you are is an astonishing revelation. From there you can go deeper and deeper, infinitely, because there is no end to self-knowledge.

Through self-knowledge you begin to find out what is God, what is truth, what is that state which is timeless. Your teacher may pass on to you the knowledge which he received from his teacher, and you may do well in your examinations, get a degree and all the rest of it; but, without knowing yourself as you know your own face in the mirror, all other knowledge has very little meaning. Learned people who don't know themselves are really unintelligent; they don't know what thinking is, what life is. That is why it is important for the educator to be educated in the true sense of the word, which means that he must know the workings of his own mind and heart, see himself exactly as he is in the mirror of relationship. Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. in self-knowledge is the whole universe; it embraces all the struggles of humanity.

Questioner: Can we know ourselves without an inspirer?

Krishnamurti: To know yourself must you have an inspirer, somebody to urge, stimulate, push you on? Listen to the question very carefully and you will discover the true answer. You know, half the problem is solved if you study it, is it not? But you cannot study the problem fully if your mind is occupied too eagerly with finding an answer.

The question is: in order to have self-knowledge must there not be someone to inspire us?

Now, if you must have a guru, somebody to inspire you, to encourage you, to tell you that you are doing well, it means that you are relying on that person, and inevitably you are lost when he goes away someday. The moment you depend on a person or an idea for inspiration there is bound to be fear, therefore it is not true inspiration at all. Whereas, if you watch a dead body being carried away, or observe two people quarrelling, does it not make you think? When you see somebody being very ambitious, or notice how you all fall at the feet of your governor when he comes in, does it not make you reflect? So there is inspiration in everything, from the falling of a leaf or the death of a bird to man's own behaviour. If you watch all these things you are learning all the time; but if you look to one person as your teacher, then you are lost and that person becomes your nightmare. That is why it is very important not to follow anybody, not to have one particular teacher, but to learn from the river, the flowers, the trees, from the woman who carries a burden, from the members of your family and from your own thoughts. This is an education which nobody can give you but yourself, and that is the beauty of it. It demands ceaseless watchfulness, a constantly inquiring mind. You have to learn by observing, by struggling, by being happy and tearful. Questioner: With all the contradictions in oneself, how is it possible to be and to do simultaneously?

Krishnamurti: Do you know what self-contradiction is? If I want to do a particular thing in life and at the same time I want to please my parents, who would like me to do something else, there is in me a conflict, a contradiction. Now, how am I to resolve it? If I cannot resolve this contradiction in myself, there can obviously be no integration of being and doing. So the first thing is to be free of self-contradiction.

Suppose you want to study painting because to paint is the joy of your life, and your father says that you must become a lawyer or a business man, otherwise he will cut you off and not pay for your education, there is then a contradiction in you, is there not? Now, how are you to remove that inner contradiction, to be free of the struggle and the pain of it? As long as you are caught in self-contradiction you cannot think; so you must remove the contradiction, you must do one thing or the other. Which will it be? Will you yield to your father? If you do, it means that you have put away your joy, you have wed something which you do not love; and will that resolve the contradiction? Whereas, if you withstand your father, if you say, "Sorry, I don't care if I have to beg, starve, I am going to paint", then there is no contradiction; then being and doing are simultaneous, because you know what you want to do and you do it with your whole heart. But if you become a lawyer or a business man while inside you are burning to be a painter, then for the rest of your life you will be a dull, weary human being living in torment, in frustration, in misery, being destroyed and destroying others.

This is a very important problem for you to think out, because as you grow up your parents are going to want you to do certain things, and if you are not very clear in yourself about what you really want to do you will be led like a sheep to the slaughter. But if you find out what it is you love to do and give your whole life to it, then there is no contradiction, and in that state your being is your doing. Questioner: For the sake of what we love to do should we forget our duty to our parents?

Krishnamurti: What do you mean by that extraordinary word `duty'? Duty to whom? To your parents, to the government, to society? If your parents say it is your duty to become a lawyer and properly support them, and you really want to be a sannyasi, what will you do? In India to be a sannyasi is safe and respectable, so your father may agree. When you put on the ascetic's robe you have already become a great man, and your father can trade on it. But if you want to work with your hands, if you want to be a simple carpenter or a maker of beautiful things of clay, then where does your duty lie? Can anyone tell you? Must you not think it out very carefully for yourself seeing all the implications involved, so that you can say, "This I feel is the right thing for me to do and I shall stick to it whether my parents agree or not"? Not merely to comply with what your parents and society want you to do, but really to think out the implications of duty; to see very clearly what is true and stick to it right through life, even though it may mean starvation, misery, death - to do that requires a great deal of intelligence, perception, insight, and also a great deal of love. You see, if you support your parents merely because you think it is your duty, then your support is a thing of the market place, without deep significance, because in it there is no love.

Questioner: However much I may want to be an engineer, if my father is against it and won't help me, how can I study engineering?

Krishnamurti: If you persist in wanting to be an engineer even though your father turns you out of the house, do you mean to say that you won't find ways and means to study engineering? You will beg, go to friends. Sir, life is very strange. The moment you are very clear about what you want to do, things happen. Life comes to your aid - a friend, a relation, a teacher, a grandmother, somebody helps you. But if you are afraid to try because your father may turn you out, then you are lost. Life never comes to the aid of those who merely yield to some demand out of fear. But if you say, "This is what I really want to do and I am going to pursue it", then you will find that something miraculous takes place. You may have to go hungry, struggle to get through, but you will be a worthwhile human being, not a mere copy, and that is the miracle of it.

You see, most of us are frightened to stand alone; and I know this is especially difficult for you who are young, because there is no economic freedom in this country as there is in America or Europe. Here the country is overpopulated, so everybody gives in. You say, "What will happen to me?" But if you hold on, you will find that something or somebody helps you. When you really stand against the popular demand then you are an individual and life comes to your aid.

You know, in biology there is a phenomenon called the sport, which is a sudden and spontaneous deviation from the type. If you have a garden and have cultivated a particular species of flower, one morning you may find that something totally new has come out of that species. That new thing is called the sport. Being new it stands out, and the gardener takes a special interest in it. And life is like that. The moment you venture out, something takes place in you and about you. Life comes to your aid in various ways. You may not like the form in which it comes to you - it may be misery, struggle, starvation - but when you invite life, things begin to happen. But you see, we don't want to invite life, we want to play a safe game; and those who play a safe game die very safely. Is that not so?