The Thinker and the Thought: “What you are, the world is. So your problem is the world’s problem”
Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer. In his early life, he was groomed to be the new ‘World Teacher’ (the Theosophical concept of Maitreya), but he later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the Theosophy organization behind it.
His interests included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, holistic inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasised that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external authority, be it religious, political, or social.
Krishnamurti was often seen as a spiritual master, although he interestingly mistrusted all religions and denounced the Eastern convention of deifying living spiritual masters. This gives some of his thinking an unusual and indeed at times devastating honesty. Perhaps nowhere is this more seen than in his critiques of the ego – the basis of both the modern personality and of most orthodox psychoanalytic thinking (the purpose of much Freudian and Jungian analysis is actually to strengthen the ego). The goal in Krishnamurti’s vision seems to be to go beyond both ‘self’ and beyond ‘mind’ (which, like Tolle, Krishnamurti equates with ego or what Blake calls “Selfhood”). “Judgement and comparison commit us irrevocably to duality”, he says – and we can never be happy therefore while we are in this state. And neither can those around us.
The following notes are from his work The First and Last Freedom. What is particularly interesting about his way of thinking is how it often challenges the basis of many contemporary forms of political activism, by suggesting that what we hate in existing external systems are often actually dissociated expressions of internal programs and relationships, and that the great secret to changing the world is therefore to change the nature of our actual relationships. What orthodox activism therefore tends to produce is not change, but division. Krishnamurti’s arguments are both thought-provoking and disturbing, because he forces us to see that many of the things we dislike in the current system are actually ways of being and relating that we ourselves embody.
The Politics of Relationship, and Relationships as Politics
Truth cannot be given to you by somebody. You have to discover it; and to discover, there must be a state of mind in which there is direct perception.
What is the relationship between yourself and the misery, the confusion, in and around you? Surely this confusion, this misery, did not come into being by itself. You and I have created it, not a capitalist nor a communist nor a fascist society, but you and I have created it in our relationship with each other. What you are within has been projected without, on to the world; what you are, what you think and what you feel, what you do in your everyday existence, is projected outwardly, and that constitutes the world.
What you are, the world is. So your problem is the world’s problem. What is our relationship based on ? The relationship between yourself and myself, between yourself and another – which is society – what is it based on? Surely not on love, though we talk about it. It is not based on love, because if there were love there would be order, there would be peace, happiness between you and me. But in that relationship between you and me there is a great deal of ill will which assumes the form of respect.
Revolution in society must begin with the inner, psychological transformation of the individual. Most of us want to see a radical transformation in the social structure. That is the whole battle that is going on in the world – to bring about a social revolution through communistic or any other means. Now if there is a social revolution, that is an action with regard to the outer structure of man, however radical that social revolution may be its very nature is static if there is no inward revolution of the individual, no psychological transformation.
Therefore to bring about a society that is not repetitive, nor static, not disintegrating, a society that is constantly alive, it is imperative that there should be a revolution in the psychological structure of the individual, for without inward, psychological revolution, mere transformation of the outer has very little significance.
Repetition versus Creation: The Left Brain versus the Right
Why is society crumbling, collapsing, as it surely is ? One of the fundamental reasons is that the individual, you, has ceased to be creative. I will explain what I mean.
You and I have become imitative, we are copying, outwardly and inwardly. Our education, our social structure, our so-called religious life, are all based on imitation; that is I fit into a particular social or religious formula. I have ceased to be a real individual; psychologically, I have become a mere repetitive machine with certain conditioned responses, whether those of the Hindu, the Christian, the Buddhist, the German or the Englishman. Our responses are conditioned according to the pattern of society, whether it is eastern or western, religious or materialistic. So one of the fundamental causes of the disintegration of society is imitation, and one of the disintegrating factors is the leader, whose very essence is imitation.
We can see that when there is imitation there must be disintegration; when there is authority there must be copying. And since our whole mental, psychological make-up is based on authority, there must be freedom from authority, to be creative. Have you not noticed that in moments of creativeness, those rather happy moments of vital interest, there is no sense of repetition, no sense of copying? Such moments are always new, fresh, creative, happy. So we see that one of the fundamental causes of the disintegration of society is copying, which is the worship of authority. The world is not something separate from you and me; the world, society, is the relationship that we establish or seek to establish between each other.
So you and I are the problem, and not the world, because the world is the projection of ourselves and to understand the world we must understand ourselves. That world is not separate from us; we are the world, and our problems are the world’s problems. This cannot be repeated too often, because we are so sluggish in our mentality that we think the world’s problems are not our business, that they have to be resolved by the United Nations or by substituting new leaders for the old. It is a very dull mentality that thinks like that, because we are responsible for this frightful misery and confusion in the world, this ever-impending war.
Intentions: Projection, or Empathy?
To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves; and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention.
The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves or to bring about a modified change through revolution, either of the left or of the right. It is important to understand that this is our responsibility, yours and mine; because, however small may be the world we live in, if we can transform ourselves, bring about a radically different point of view in our daily existence, then perhaps we shall affect the world at large, the extended relationship with others.
Most of us are not creative; we are repetitive machines, mere gramophone records playing over and over again certain songs of experience, certain conclusions and memories, either our own or those of another. Such repetition is not creative being – but it is what we want. Creativeness is quite a different state of being, is it not? It is a state in which the self is absent, in which the mind is no longer a focus of our experiences, our ambitions, our pursuits and our desires.
Creativeness is not a continuous state, it is new from moment to moment, it is a movement in which there is not the `me’, the `mine’, in which the thought is not focused on any particular experience, ambition, achievement, purpose and motive.
It is only when the self is not that there is creativeness – that state of being in which alone there can be reality, the creator of all things. But that state cannot be conceived or imagined, it cannot be formulated or copied, it cannot be attained through any system, through any philosophy, through any discipline; on the contrary, it comes into being only through understanding the total process of oneself.
In it [the ego self] is included the competition, the desire to be. The whole process of that is the self; and we know actually when we are faced with it that it is an evil thing. I am using the word `evil’ intentionally, because the self is dividing: the self is self-enclosing: its activities, however noble, are separative and isolating. We know all this. We also know those extraordinary moments when the self is not there, in which there is no sense of endeavour, of effort, and which happens when there is love.
Now what brings about dissolution of the self? Religious and other groups have offered identification, have they not? “Identify yourself with a larger, and the self disappears”, is what they say. But surely identification is still the process of the self; the larger is simply the projection of the ‘me’, which I experience and which therefore strengthens the ‘me’.
When you believe that there is truth, God, the timeless state, immortality, is that not the process of strengthening the self? The self has projected that thing which you feel and believe will come and destroy the self.
[In many programs of so-called ‘Self-actualization’] you have not really destroyed the self but only given it a different name, a different quality; the self is still there, because you have experienced it. Thus our action from the beginning to the end is the same action, only we think it is evolving, growing, becoming more and more beautiful; but, if you observe inwardly, it is the same action going on, the same `me’ functioning at different levels with different labels, different names.
When you see the whole process, the cunning, extraordinary inventions, the intelligence of the self, how it covers itself up through identification, through virtue, through experience, through belief, through knowledge; when you see that the mind is moving in a circle, in a cage of its own making, what happens?
When you are aware of it, fully cognizant of it, then are you not extraordinarily quiet – not through compulsion, not through any reward, not through any fear?
When you recognize that every movement of the mind is merely a form of strengthening the self when you observe it, see it, when you are completely aware of it in action, when you come to that point – not ideologically, verbally, not through projected experiencing, but when you are actually in that state – then you will see that the mind, being utterly still, has no power of creating. Whatever the mind creates is in a circle, within the field of the self.
A virtuous man is a righteous man, and a righteous man can never understand what is truth because virtue to him is the covering of the self the strengthening of the self because he is pursuing virtue. When he says “I must be without greed”, the state of non-greed which he experiences only strengthens the self. That is why it is so important to be poor, not only in the things of the world but also in belief and in knowledge.
Thus a religious man is not really one who puts on a robe or a loincloth, or lives on one meal a day, or has taken innumerable vows to be this and not to be that, but is he who is inwardly simple, who is not becoming anything. Such a mind is capable of extraordinary receptivity, because there is no barrier, there is no fear, there is no going towards something; therefore it is capable of receiving grace, God, truth, or what you will.
When you see this process, when you are really aware of it without opposition, without a sense of temptation, without resistance, without justifying or judging it, then you will discover that the mind is capable of receiving the new and that the new is never a sensation; therefore it can never be recognized, re-experienced. It is a state of being in which creativeness comes without invitation, without memory; and that is reality.
The Revolution of Affect
Awareness is a state in which there is no condemnation, no justification or identification, and therefore there is understanding; in that state of passive, alert awareness there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced.
Until we understand how to transcend this separative thinking, this process of giving emphasis to the ‘me’ and the ‘mine’, whether in the collective form or in individual form, we shall not have peace; we shall have constant conflict and wars.
We talk about love; we say we love people, that we love our children, our wife, our neighbour, that we love nature; but the moment we are conscious that we love, self-activity has come into being; therefore it ceases to be love.
Obviously, there must be a radical revolution. The world crisis demands it. Our lives demand it. Our everyday incidents, pursuits, anxieties, demand it. Our problems demand it. There must be a fundamental, radical revolution, because everything about us has collapsed. Though seemingly there is order, in fact there is slow decay, destruction: the wave of destruction is constantly overtaking the wave of life.
So there must be a revolution – but not a revolution based on an idea. Such a revolution is merely the continuation of the idea, not a radical transformation. A revolution based on an idea brings bloodshed, disruption, chaos. Transformation is not in the future, can never be in the future. It can only be now, from moment to moment.
Love is not different from truth. Love is that state in which the thought process, as time, has completely ceased. Where love is, there is transformation. Without love, revolution has no meaning, for then revolution is merely destruction, decay, a greater and greater evermounting misery. Where there is love, there is revolution, because love is transformation from moment to moment.”
– Krishnamurti. The First and Last Freedom
I am in you and you in me, mutual in love divine:
Fibres of love from man to man thro Albions pleasant land.
In all the dark Atlantic vale down from the hills of Surrey
A black water accumulates, return Albion! Return!
Thy brethren call thee, and thy fathers, and thy sons,
Thy nurses and thy mothers, thy sisters and thy daughters
Weep at thy souls disease, and the Divine Vision is darkend …
I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend
Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
Lo! We are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
– William Blake, Jerusalem 45: 7-20