“Probably since the beginning, human beings have had no peace at all.”

Little has changed since J. Krishnamurti first spoke these words in 1984, as conflicts and divisions have permeated our society as much now as from the beginning of time. With conflicts brewing globally and most recently with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are again called to observe, experience, and reflect upon the nature of war. We must ask ourselves: are we part of a process that ultimately produces war? Are the causes political, geographical, ideological, economic? Or are they rather psychological? These questions often point to an uncomfortable conclusion: war starts in our consciousness, and we could all be responsible for it.

Krishnamurti says that war is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday living.

War is a symptom of the society we have created, of our divided natures, communities, nations, ideologies. We are all responsible for our society, and as its creators, we are inseparable from its reality. Once we recognize that we are society, we wonder: what aspects of our behavior and psychology could be perpetuating conflict? Violence is part of this equation and part of our lives, but how subtle can violence be? Judging oneself and others, jealousy, not caring for or about others, comparing oneself to others – are these oblique ways of generating violence?

There are no simple answers to these problems and they require daily observation and understanding of our behavior and relationships. We need a change – in ourselves, in our society, and thus the world. Krishnamurti offers his insights into the causes of war in the following excerpt from a Public Talk in New York in 1984:

We are what we have made of the society, so we are society. That is a fact, not an exotic or stupid, irrational thought. We are society. Each one of us have made this terrible confusing, contradictory, brutal society. And until human beings, each one of us, radically transforms themselves we will have perpetual wars, there will be no peace on earth. Religions have talked about it endlessly – the popes, the priests, local parish clergymen have talked about peace. This institution, with all its power, with its position, with its international grasp, this institution has not brought about peace either. Forgive me for saying this, if you don’t mind. And will institutions, foundations, will they ever bring peace on earth? Or it doesn’t lie in that field at all – organizations or institutions, propaganda, and all the rest of it. Or do we realize, each one of us – I am asking this most respectfully – do we realize that we are responsible for this? Not intellectually or verbally, or just accepting a theory, but we are responsible for this horror that is going on in the world; every form of violence, terrorism, wars, we are responsible for it. War is not in Beirut, it is in our hearts and minds. This has been said so often, one is rather bored by all that. And we human beings seem to be incapable of living peacefully in our relationship with each other, living peacefully without any dogmatism, ideals, concepts. Because beliefs, faith, conclusions, ideals, have separated human beings. And human beings apparently have not been able to live without any of those bondages. Human beings right throughout the world are conditioned. Their brains have been molded according to a particular tradition, various forms of superstitions called religion. And is it possible for human beings, wherever they live, to be free of their conditioning? Is it possible for us, who are so advanced in technology, is it possible for us to radically, fundamentally, bring about psychological change? This is really a very, very serious question. This is what the biologists, bio-technologists are trying to do; trying to bring about a radical change in the very brain cells themselves so that human beings can live peacefully, not everlastingly fight each other.

So facing all this, not abstractly, as a human being, what is he to do actually? Form another group? Another religion? Another institution? Or as a human being become aware of his conditioning, be concerned with his conditioning, and free the brain from that conditioning. Otherwise, we are going to have perpetual wars, there will be no peace on earth in spite of all the religions, in spite of every institution. It must begin with us, not with somebody else out there. So is it possible to bring about a deep mutation in the very brain cells themselves?

Why are human beings so conditioned – Germans, French, Russians, Italians, British, Americans, Hindus, and so on –why? Is it because we want security, both external and inward? Is there such inward security – to be psychologically safe? Is there such security? Is there psychological security, either in the family, in a group, in a community, in a nation, and internationalism and all that business? Is there any kind of security inwardly? And that is, if we are not sure about that, certain, clear, we try to seek security outwardly, externally, through nations, through religious organizations, through some ideologies. So it is very important, it seems to one, that we should talk over together now, and discover for ourselves if there is inner security – security in our relationships with each other, however intimate it may be, between man and woman, security in community and so on. Is there security in our relationship with each other? If there is security, why is there such contention between man and woman, wife and husband, such conflict in their relationship, each one pursuing his own ambitions, his own fulfillment, his own desires, and so on? Is it not important to find out for ourselves if there is such security in relationship? If there is such security in this then that security is the beginning of peace. If there is no security in our relationship with each other that is the beginning of conflict, war.

So we ought to really seriously enquire into this question. That is to become aware, conscious, of our relationship with each other because to go very far we must begin very near. And the nearest is the relationship with each other. In that relationship there is conflict as there is now, then that conflict is spread; ultimately war. We have never given thought to this, that as our house is burning, which is society is burning, declining, degenerating, are we also degenerating? To slide, slip down, implies our whole life is a routine, our whole life is a series of battles, struggles, conflicts. If we don’t alter there, how can you bring about peace on earth? It seems so logical, so rational, sane, but we don’t do that. So could we, as human beings – not as Americans and all the rest of that business – could we as human beings become aware, pay attention to our intimate relationship, because unless the psychological world is quiet, sane, peaceful, that psychological state will always overcome every kind of organization, whether it be communist organization, totalitarian, or so-called democratic organization. The psyche is far more important than the external legislation – governments and so on. I wonder if one realizes all this? Do we, sitting here, peacefully, so-called peacefully, realize our responsibility as human beings? The wars that are going on in the world is our war, because of our consciousness – if I can go into all this much more deeply – our human consciousness, which is made up of biological reactions, fears, hurts, pleasure, beliefs, dogmas, rituals and endless suffering – that is the content of our consciousness. If you observe this closely it is a fact that every human being throughout the world shares this, every human being suffers, every human being has fear, pleasure, sense of loneliness, despair, anxiety, confusion – every human being, whether they live in the Far East, or here, or in Russia, or in other places. We have been brought up, educated to consider ourselves as individuals. Is that so? Is that a fact? Because we share the consciousness of humanity, because we all suffer, we all go through great agonies, boredom, every form of uncertainty. You may have great talents, great capacities, but behind those capacities lies the ordinary, daily consciousness of all humanity. So each one is humanity, not separate individuals. I know you will not accept this because you have been conditioned from the beginning by religions, by society, by culture, that each one is a separate individual, separate soul, and therefore he must seek his own salvation, his own expression, his own fulfillment. And this so-called separate individuality is creating havoc in the world. Which does not mean that we all become the same automatic, turned out in the same mold. On the contrary. Freedom is the highest form of existence. It is the greatest art, to live freely. But we are not free. One thinks one is free to do what one likes, especially in this country each individual thinks he is supreme to do what he wants – his own fulfillment, the expression of his own desires, and so on. But if we examine closely and seriously, we share the consciousness of the entire humanity. Because this is a fact. Individuality may be an illusion, and to that illusion, we are committed. But when you travel around and observe very closely, every human being whether they have great position, great deal of money, status, power, they are like the rest of the world psychologically, they go through great pain, desperate loneliness, and all the rest of the psychological world of uncertainty, confusion. And we are the rest of humanity. We are not Africans and Europeans and all that nonsense. We are humanity. Unless we realize that one major fact in our life: we are the rest of humanity – black, white, purple, or whatever color they are – psychologically we are one; unless human beings deeply realize that fact, we are going to have wars, we are going to be eternally in conflict, as we are now.


No organization in the world has prevented any wars. For the last historical process, there have been practically wars every year, for the last five, six thousand years, all over the world. And human beings have been responsible for these wars. You may not have a war in America, in this part of the world, but you have wars in other parts of the world because we are divided – as Americans and Russians and English and French, and all the rest of it – not only nationally but religiously – Christians, Buddhists, Hindus. So this constant division, both outwardly and inwardly, is bringing about great conflict. We are one human being, not separate. We don’t seem to realize that. You suffer, you go through great anxieties, uncertainties, and so does every other human being in the world. And we haven’t been able to solve that basic issue: whether we can live with ourselves peacefully – peace doesn’t begin on the other side of the world – whether we live peacefully, without conflict. And I think this is a very important question which we must put to ourselves. Why is it that human beings who have lived on this earth perhaps fifty thousand years, we have done extraordinary things technologically, we have done practically nothing in our relationship with each other, we are perpetually in conflict with each other, man and woman, and this conflict is extended into war.

So, we are asking a most fundamental question: why do human beings who have lived on this earth for so many millennia, who have done extraordinary things technologically, who have brought about good health for people – we have done the most incredible things externally but inwardly we are savages. Forgive me for the use of that word. We are fighting each other, even in our most intimate relationships. So how can one have external peace in the world, pacem in terris, if one is not peaceful in oneself? We never answer that question, we are always trying to bring changes in the outer, but we never ask ourselves why we live this way, perpetually in conflict. Fairly obvious when you ask that question seriously, not casually; we never spend a day trying to find out why we live this way, a vast network of escapes from this basic fact. And we are still going on. We never seem to realize unless each one of us fundamentally changes radically there will be no peace on earth – as long as you are an American and they are Russian, different ideologies, different concepts, different gods, and so on, we will never have peace on this earth. So it behooves us, and each one of us, to find out why we live this way. And whether it is possible radically to change our whole psyche. If there is not a revolution there, mere outward revolutions have very little meaning. We have had Communist revolution, French revolution, other forms of revolution throughout the world and we remain what we are: self-centered, cruel, all the rest of it.

The full excerpt of “The Causes of War” (New York, 1984) can be found at jkrishnamurti.org/teachings along with hundreds of other talks digitally archived by The Krishnamurti Foundation of America.