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Jiddu Krishnamurti on Violence and Sorrow

Jiddu Krishnamurti - I think there are really two fundamental problems, violence and sorrow. Unless we solve these, and go beyond them, all our efforts, our constant battles, have very little meaning. We seem to spend most of our lives within the field of ideologies, formulas, concepts, and by means of these we try to solve these two essential problems, violence and sorrow.

Every form of conflict is violence, not only the psychological conflict, within the skin, but also outwardly, in our relationships with other human beings, with society. And sorrow, it seems to me, is one of the most complex and difficult problems; the very complexity of it needs to be approached very simply. Any complex problem - specially a human problem and we have many of them - must surely be approached very clearly, very simply, without any ideological background; otherwise we translate what we see according to the conditioning and the peculiar idiosyncrasies and intentions that we have.

To understand the two essentially deep-rooted problems of violence and sorrow, we must not approach them merely verbally or intellectually; the intellect doesn't solve any problem at all, it may explain problems - any clever person can explain problems, - but the explanation, however erudite, however subtle, is not the reality. It is no use explaining to a man who is very hungry what marvellous food there is, it has no value at all. But if we go into these questions, not intellectually, but actually, totally, come to grips with them, unravelling these two terrible problems that destroy the mind, then perhaps we might go beyond.

We, as human beings, have accepted violence and sorrow as a way of life, having accepted them, we try to make the best of them. We worship sorrow, idealize it, and abide with it, as in the Christian world. In the Eastern world it is translated in other ways, but again the solution is not found. And as we said, this violence we have inherited from the animal, this aggression, this domination, with the desire for power, position and the urge to fulfil. Our brain structure which we have inherited from the animal, is itself the product of evolution, its function is not only to be self-protective but also to be aggressive, to be violent, to be very dominating, thinking in terms of position, prestige, with all of which you are all quite familiar.

Sorrow, the self-pity which is part of that sorrow, the loneliness, the utter meaninglessness of life, the boredom, the routine, deprive life of all sense of purpose, so we invent purpose; the intellectuals put together ideological purpose according to which we try to live. And not being able to solve these problems we go back to something that has been, either in our youth, or to the culture of tradition, depending upon race, country, and so on.

The more the problem becomes urgent, the more we escape to some form of ideological explanation from the past or to some ideological concept of the future, and we remain caught in this trap. And one observes, both in the East and in the West, the escapes into every form of entertainment, whether it is the entertainment of the Church, or the entertainment of football, or the cinema - and all the rest. The demand for entertainment, for distraction takes extraordinary forms, going to museums, talking endlessly about music, about the latest books, or writing about something which is dead and gone and buried, which has no value at all.

Apparently there are very few who are really serious. I mean by that word 'serious', the ability to go through a problem to the very end and resolve it; not resolving it according to one's personal inclination, or temperament, or according to the compulsion of environment, but putting all that aside, finding the truth of the matter, pursuing it to the very end. Such seriousness it seems is rather rare. And if one would solve these two fundamental issues, of violence and sorrow, one has to be serious and also one has to have a certain awareness, a certain attention, for nobody is going to solve these problems for us, obviously no old religions or carefully planned organizations, worked out by some authority or by the priest - nobody in that category is going to help us.

It's very obvious that they have no meaning at all, - you can see throughout the world the so-called young people are throwing all those out of the window; they have no meaning - the Church, the Gods, the beliefs, the dogmas, the rituals. And such authorities have ceased to have meaning for any serious man; obviously, when the world is in such confusion and misery, merely to look to some kind of authority - especially such organized authority as religious planning with sanctions - has no meaning whatsoever.

One cannot rely on anybody, on saviours, masters, not on anybody, including the speaker. And when we have rejected totally all the books, philosophies, the saints and the anarchists, we are face to face with ourselves as we are. That is a frightening and rather a depressing thing: to see ourselves actually as we are. No amount of philosophy, no amount of literature, dogma, ritual is ever going to solve this violence and sorrow. I think one has ultimately to come to this point and to resolve and go beyond. The more earnest one is, the more immediate the problem, the very urgency of it denies the authority one has so easily accepted.

Another problem is that of how to look into, and how to observe violence and sorrow as they exist in us. As we have said, human beings as individuals, are the product of society, of the culture in which we live, and that society and culture have been built by each one of us. Society is the product of human beings and we are of that product; and we are caught in this situation. We are caught in the trap of our individual inclinations, tendencies and pleasures and these are the structure of society. We are apt to regard the individual and society as two different things; and then it may be asked - What value has a human being who changes himself with regard to the whole structure of society? - which seems to me an absurd question.

We are dealing neither with an individual nor with a particular society, French, English, or whatever it is, but with the whole human problem. We are not dealing with the individual in relation to society or with the relationship of society, the collective, to the individual; we are trying to deal with the whole issue, not any separate issue.

We can only understand something when we see the totality of it, when we see its whole structure and the meaning of it. You cannot see the whole pattern of life, the whole movement of life, if you merely take one part of it and are tremendously concerned about that particular part. It is only when we see the whole map that we can see where we are and choose a particular road.

So we are not concerned with individual salvation or individual liberation, or whatever the individual is trying to seek but rather with the whole movement of life, the understanding of the whole current of existence; then perhaps the individual problems can be approached entirely differently. It becomes extremely difficult to see the whole issue, to understand it - it demands attention.

One cannot understand anything intellectually - you may hear words, give explanations, find out the cause, but that is not understanding. Understanding - as one observes oneself - takes place only when the mind, including the brain, is totally attentive. And one is not attentive when one is interpreting and translating what one sees according to one's background. You must have noticed - obviously most of us have - that when the mind is completely quiet - not demanding, not fussing around, not tearing to pieces the problem, but I really facing the problem with complete quietness - then there is an understanding. That very understanding is the action, the liberating force or energy, which frees us from the problem.

So we are using the word 'understand' in that sense, not intellectual or emotional understanding. And this understanding is rather a negation of the positive, the positive being understanding with the motive to do something about it. Most of us, when we have a problem, are inclined to worry about it, to tear it to pieces, to analyse it, to find a formula for dealing with it. And thought - as one may observe - is always the response of the old; thought is never new, yet the problem is always new. We translate the new, the problem, in terms of thought, and thought which is old is therefore positive, and active to do something about it.

Thought is the response of the past, it is memory, experience, accumulated knowledge, it is old, and challenges are always new, if they are challenges. From that background of knowledge, experience, memory, arises the response as thought - thought is always of the past - and thought translates the challenge or the problem in terms of that past. And thought, if one observes it, makes a positive response with regard to the problem in terms of the past.

So thought is not the way out; and this doesn't mean that one becomes nebulous, vague, absent-minded or more neurotic. On the contrary, the more you give attention, complete attention, to anything, it doesn't matter what it is, then in that attention you observe that there is no thought, no thinking; there is then no centre which is in operation as thought. So, understanding takes place - understanding, or observing, which are all the same - without the response of the background of thought; understanding is immediate action.

Am I making it somewhat clear or is it too abstract? I hope you are not translating what is being said in terms of some oriental mystical nonsense! Look! - if I want to understand a child, I have to observe him, I have to watch him, I have to pay attention to him. I watch him playing, crying, misbehaving, doing everything - I just watch him - I don't correct him; I want to understand and therefore I have no prejudices, I have no patterns of thought - as to what he must or must not do - as to what is good and what is bad. I just watch, and in that watchful attention I begin to understand the whole nature of his activity.

In the same way, to observe nature, a flower, is fairly simple; nature does not demand very much of us, just to watch an objective thing is very simple. But to watch what is going on inwardly, to watch this violence, this sorrow, with that clarity of attention is not so simple. That watching, that observing, denies totally every form of personal inclination, tendency, or the compulsive demand of society, that very watching is like watching the movement of a whole river. If you sit on a bank and watch the river go by, you see everything. But you, watching from the bank, and the movement of the river, are two different things; you are the observer and the movement of the river is the thing observed. But when you are in the water - not sitting on the bank - then you are part of that movement, there is no observer at all. In the same way, watch this violence and sorrow, not as an observer observing the thing, but with this cessation of space between the observer and the observed. It is part of the whole enquiry which is meditation of life.

As we said earlier, we human beings are violent and this we inherit from the animal, and this we never really go into because we have the concept of non-violence; we are concerned with the concept and ideology of non-violence, of what should be, but not with the fact of what actually is. Please - if I may suggest - do not merely listen to a lot of words; words are words, they have not very much meaning. Semantically one can go into the meaning of words, but the word is not the thing, explanation is not the fact, that which is; and one is apt to be caught in the trap of words and one listens only to words, endlessly - words are ashes, they have no meaning.

But if one listens beyond the word, observing oneself as one actually is, - not now, because you are sitting here, listening to a talk, but actuality, when you are outside, to watch yourselves - not egotistically, not introspectively, not analytically, but just observing what is actuality going on, then one can discover for oneself not only the superficial violence, such as anger, the demand for position and so on, but also the deep-rooted violence. And when you discover that, the concept of non-violence has really no validity at all. What had validity is the fact, violence.

Observe the fact of violence in the Orient, in India they have been talking endlessly about non-violence, preaching practicing - all nonsense - the moment there is any for of challenge it disappears and they become violent. Here also they talk endlessly about peace, in all the churches, of love, goodness, loving your neighbour - yet you have had the most terrible wars, fifteen thousand of them, within the last five thousand years. And one has to observe how deep-rooted this violence is within oneself, in the demand for fulfilment, in competing and always comparing oneself with somebody else, in imitating, in obedience and in the following of somebody, conforming to a pattern - all that is a form of violence.

To be free of that violence, demands extraordinary attention and care; otherwise I don't see how there can be peace in the world. There may be so-called peace, between two wars, between two conflicts, but that is not real peace, deep within, untouched by any ideology, or by any thought, not put together by some meaningless little philosophy. If one hasn't that peace, how can one have love, affection, care; or how, if there is no peace, can one create anything? One may draw pictures, write poems, write books about the past, and all the rest, but it all leads to conflict, to darkness. But to have this freedom from violence, - totally, not just partially, fragmentarily - one has to go into the problem very deeply.

One has to understand the nature of pleasure; violence and pleasure are intimately related. Because again, as one observes oneself, one will see that our whole psychology is based on pleasure - apart from what the psychologists and the analysts talk about, one does not have to read a lot of books to see this - not only the sensory pleasures, as sex, but also the pleasure of achievement, the pleasure of success, of fulfilment, of achieving position, prestige, power. Again, all this exists in the animal. In a farmyard, where there are poultry, you see this same phenomenon taking place. There is pleasure, in the sense of taking delight, or of insulting.

To achieve enjoyment, to achieve position, prestige, to be somebody famous, is a form of violence - you have to be aggressive. If one is not aggressive in this world, one is just downtrodden, pushed aside; so that one may well ask the question, 'Can I live without aggression, and yet live in this society?' Probably not, why should one live in society? - in the psychological structure of society, I mean. One has to live in the outward structure of society - having a job, a few clothes, a house, and so on - but why should one live in its psychological structure?

Why should one accept the norm of society which requires that one must become a successful writer, must be a famous man, must have...oh, you know, all the rest of it? All that is part of the pleasure principle which translates itself in violence. In church you say, love your neighbour - and in business you cut his throat; the norm of society has no meaning. The whole structure of the army, any structure based on the hierarchic principle, on authority, is again domination and pleasure, which is again part of violence, basic violence. To understand all this demands a great deal of observation - it is not a matter of capacity - you begin to understand, the more you observe. The very seeing is the acting.

Pleasure is what we are seeking all the time. We want greater pleasure - the ultimate pleasure, of course, is to have God. In the pursuit of pleasure there is fear, and we are burdened all our life with this dark thing called fear. Fear, sorrow, thought, violence, aggression - they are all interrelated. Therefore, in understanding one thing clearly, you understand beyond it.

One can take time and analyse the whole of the emotional and the intellectual structure of one's being, analyzing, bit by bit - which the analysts do, hoping to bring about a certain normal relationship between the individual and society - but all that involves time. Or, one can see that one is violent and understand the cause of it directly; one knows the cause of it. But to see each and every form of violence involves time; to unravel it exhaustively in all its forms demands months, years of time. Such an approach, it seems to me, is absurd. It is like a man who is violent and is trying to be non-violent, in the meantime he is sowing the seed of violence all the time.

So the question is whether you can see the whole thing immediately and resolve it immediately - that is really the issue - not bit by bit, taking day after day, month after month; that is a terrible, dreary, endless job, it involves a very careful, analytical mind, a mind that can dissect, see every aspect and not miss one detail - when a particular detail is missed the whole picture goes wrong. Not only does that involve time but in it there is also a concept which you have established of what it is to be free from violence. I don't know if you are following this? That concept, that thought which you use as a means of attempting to get rid of violence actually creates violence; violence is created by thought.

So the question is, is it possible to see the whole thing immediately? - not intellectually, if you put it as an intellectual problem it has no issue at all, then you'll just commit suicide as many intellectuals do, either actually commit suicide, or invent a theory, a belief, a dogma, a concept and become slaves to that - which is a form of suicide - or go back to the old religions, and become a Catholic, or a Protestant, or a Hindu, a follower of Zen, or whatever.

So the question is, is it possible to see the whole thing immediately, and with the very seeing of it, the ending of it?

You see wholly when the problem is sufficiently urgent, not only urgent for yourself but also for the world. There is war outwardly and war inwardly within each one of us, is it possible to end it immediately, psychologically turning your back on it? Nobody can answer that question except yourself except yourself when you answer it, not depending on any authority, on any intellectual or emotional concepts or formulas or ideologies. But as we said, this demands a great deal of inward seriousness, a great deal of earnest observation - observing when you are sitting in a bus the things about you, without choice, observing the thing within oneself that is moving, changing, observing without any motive, just everything as it is. What 'is', is much more important than what 'should' be. Out of this care and attention, perhaps, we will know what it is to love.

Source:J. Krishnamurti Talks in Europe 1967 1st Public Talk Paris 16th April 1967

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