What place has knowledge in human relationship?
February 07, 1984
One wonders why in a place like this we are being educated - for what? What is the relationship between this institution and the world? What place has knowledge, whether it is scientific, biological, or physics and so on - what relationship has that knowledge towards the world? And throughout the world we are all being educated along various lines and with their disciplines; and we human beings have very little place in this world. So one must, I feel, ask why these elaborate years of study, acquiring great deal of knowledge, great effort, and where is it all ending up? What place your scientific, and other disciplines, have relationship, actual, with the existing world? The existing world - the world in which we live our daily life, whether in America, Russia, Europe, or in India or Japan, that very life is being threatened by war. Not only conventional war, but also by nuclear war. Some scientists, we were told, top scientists gathered and wrote what they thought would happen if there was a nuclear war. They said that the whole earth will be covered by a thick layer of dust and smoke, and so the sun cannot possibly penetrate that, and the temperature will fall to 5 degrees below zero. So at the end of a nuclear war not a living thing will exist on the earth. That is one activity of human endeavour, highly technological, highly concerned, each technician with his own particular life, with his own particular discipline and totally disregarding what is happening to human beings throughout the world.
And also, as one observes, there is this vast technological advancement - tremendous, so rapid, and it may lead to extraordinary results. And also our human brains - not that the speaker is an expert in the study of the brain - but if one watches one's own activity in daily life, one sees there the various activities in the brain. There is this technological world which is progressing with abnormal speed in the last two hundred years, and added to that the computer, which probably will take over all the activities of human beings - most of it. Perhaps it will not be able to write great music, of Beethoven, Mozart or Bach, classical western music, but it will do most of the things that human beings are now doing. And what is going to happen to human brain? That is the technological world and the human world. We have given tremendous importance to the technological world. That is why you have this Institution, scientific and various other forms of study with their discipline. And we seem to neglect, perhaps totally, the whole human way of living, what is happening to man. That is, what is happening to you as a student or as a professor, what is your relationship with all the world, with all the things, most terrible things, horrible things that are happening and also all the excellent things like in the world of technology - rapid communication, surgery, medicine and all that side. And also they are inventing all the instruments of war that can destroy whole of humanity with one blow. This is not an exaggeration on the part of the speaker but this is a fact. If one lived in America, they have been talking a great deal about what will happen if there is a nuclear war. Ten million people in New York will be evaporated, completely gone, and hundred million people within a radius of hundred miles, or more or less. Technology is developing all that side. And human misery - the hovels, that you see in this country, especially in towns like this - human beings living in those hovels, breeding, children living in dirt, squalor, misery - on the other side. What relationship has knowledge - not only the scientific knowledge - every kind of knowledge that human beings have acquired during the last forty-five thousand years that they have been on earth as human beings, and we end up like this: war which has been going on for last five to six thousand years, destruction, hatred, misery, utter confusion and sorrow.
And on the other side, man trying to find something beyond himself, beyond his own misery, his own selfishness, his utter insufficiency, his lack of affection. They invent gods, especially in this country. I believe there are over three hundred thousand gods, and all that superstition and vast sums of money spent on all that. We were told the other day that a temple in south India, every third day it has a million dollars. So, we are asking you, professors with their knowledge and you acquiring their knowledge and searching for a vocation which will be imitation - and what has all that got to do with your daily living? The word and the deed are so far apart, and one wonders if we are aware of all this. Or you are enclosed in your own institution, enclave, so that you forget the world.
So we are asking what place all your knowledge - we are not against knowledge - we are asking, enquiring what place has knowledge which you are acquiring, which may be necessary in a certain area, what place has that in your relationship with the rest of humanity? Please, the speaker is not giving a lecture, he is not doing any kind of propaganda or trying to convince you of anything, but we are trying to observe together, see exactly what is happening, without any bias, without the speaker's or your prejudices, to see exactly what is taking place and facing it answer what is our response to all this.
We are enquiring together what place has knowledge in the world of human relationship. What place has all your scientific information, gathered, stored in the brain as memory? And memory is always in the past. Knowledge is never complete, whether in the future or in the past, knowledge is never complete because experience from which knowledge arises is also limited, incomplete. There can be no complete experience. So from experience knowledge, whether it is scientific, human and so on, stored in the brain as memory, and from that memory arises thought, and thought is the very essence of knowledge. The thinker is knowledge, is the activity of knowledge, and the thought of the thinker is also part of knowledge. There is no thinker apart from thought. And the world, both in the scientific world, in all the cruelty that is going on - brutality, torture, inhumanity, the utter disregard for other human beings, all the things that are taking place in the world - poetry, great paintings, music. And this evening when you saw the sunlight on the water, the sparkling water, clear, so extraordinarily beautiful, and all that thought has built, except nature. Nature - tiger is not created by thought. That lake which you see everyday - probably you have got used to it, probably you hardly look at it - man has not created that. Apart from nature, the heavens and all the things of the earth, thought has not built, had no relationship to all that. But thought has invented gods, thought has built the most marvellous architecture: the great temples of this country, the great mosques, the great cathedrals of Europe, and all the things that are in it are put together by thought. And thought is limited; there is no complete thought. Thought can never be complete. It can imagine, it can measure the heavens, but thought is always limited. And technology, the technological world is the product of thought. Without thought you couldn't produce a submarine or go to the moon or invent the nuclear bomb. Thought has been responsible for all this. And facing all this we have innumerable problems - the world is faced with tremendous problems both politically, economically, socially, and also, if you are interested in that kind of affair, in religion - not the religion that is going on throughout the world which is mere superstition, lot of faith and belief, which has nothing whatever to do with what is true religion.
So, having laid down, laid before you what is going on in the world - of which I am quite sure you are quite aware - what is your response to all this? Not just one particular aspect of life but to the whole of existence of man, that is, your whole existence till you die, from now till you die - what is the meaning of all this? So what is your answer, your response to the world, to your vocation, which is imitation, conformity, absorption, either using that knowledge skilfully or inefficiently. And what is you relationship with your neighbour, with your wife, with your husband? And what is the relationship with the rest of humanity? If you are at all thinking about these things, one must have a answer. We have lived on this earth, as the biologists and others point out, as Homo sapiens, for forty to fifty thousand years. We have had wars, confusion, uncertainty, insecurity, misery, great anxiety. After all these thousands and thousands of years, we are still very primitive. We may be extraordinarily technologically advanced, but inwardly, in the psychological world which dominates always the outer, the external, we are primitive, brutal, violent, selfish, superstitious, frightened and so on. So, we are keeping the two, that is, the external, the technological, the daily travail, and the inward life - these two are completely separate. You may have excellent theories about human nature in the psychological world, you may be great technicians, and all that which are the movement of memory, knowledge, and that has nothing whatever to do with your daily behaviour. The two are divorced, the word and the deed, and that is what we have been educated for. So, our education, our knowledge, which is completely limited, will always be limited, what has knowledge to do with our human relationship? Doesn't knowledge kill love?
Do you understand what we are saying? May I go on with what I am saying because this is not, as I have pointed out, a lecture to inform and to instruct. So this is not a lecture. This is a conversation, a dialogue between us, in which you are taking part. You are not merely, if I may most respectfully point out, you are not merely listening to the speaker, words, intellectually grasping certain concepts, ideas, but we are having a dialogue, a conversation about the whole of existence as human beings. So please, you are taking part in what the speaker is saying, not merely listening to certain words. We live by words. Our whole brain is a network of words, and words are not the actual. This microphone, the word 'microphone' is not the actual thing you see. But we are so caught up, so conditioned by words, by language, by tradition, by knowledge, and so our brain is never free. We are problem-solving machines, aren't we? We have been trained from childhood to learn mathematics, and that becomes a problem for a child - or geography, or history, physics and so on - and also it becomes a problem in a school, in college, in universities, in institutions. We are problem-solving machines. That is a fact. And we have made life, the living, into a vast dreadful problem. So we are so conditioned, our brains, and our brain has divided the world. That is, a Christian, into the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Islamic world - separate, divided. And this division of nationalism is one of the causes of war. The causes of war is economic division, each country concerned with itself.
There is great misery, poverty, brutality in this country. When you drive down from Bombay, you see all those huts, tents, filthy; human beings are living there. You want to cry when you see all that, and nobody cares. I know, you listen to this, what the speaker has to say, but it will make very little dent. Governments don't care, individuals don't care, because they are only concerned with themselves, with their power, with their knowledge, with their money. The modern civilisation is based on power and money. And students throughout the world, because the speaker has spoken at many universities in America and some of the institutions in this country, and they are all being trained to seek a vocation of imitation, to be safe, to pass examinations, get a degree, PhD and all the rest it, and get a job either in this country or go to America. Probably, as I was informed this afternoon, 30 per cent of you go to America where you make a lot of money. That's all your knowledge is leading you to. And we are asking, if you are at all serious - and youth generally is serious about certain matters - what is your response, your action to all this that is going on? Either you withdraw from it, join some cranky institution, ashrama, some gurus who are making tons of money, or enter into the world, caught in it. Or you have a life of your own. And what is the purpose of your existence? What is the meaning of your existence?
Please, the speaker is saying all this in humility. He is only challenging you. What is the purpose of all this? Is life's purpose merely to earn money, to be married, house, power, position? Is that the purpose of your life? And apparently it is. That is what you are all being trained for. That is what you want, and if you are dissatisfied with that, then you invent a purpose; the purpose is to find god or some kind of imaginative illumination. Or if that doesn't satisfy you, you take to drugs, drink, and all the rest of vast amusement. One wonders if you have realised what the entertainment industry is doing to you. There is not only the religious entertainment - going to temples, puja and all the circus that goes on round a temple, or a church or mosque. Please don't get annoyed, I am just pointing this out. And what is the purpose of all this? On earth we have lived for forty to fifty thousand years. Please realise this. We have evolved, we have gone through great many tears, laughter, pain, anxiety and yet we remain what we are - selfish, narrow-minded, concerned with ourselves, and to hell with everything else. That's an actual fact.
So, if one may ask, are you wasting your life? Life, which is so complex, which has no readymade answers, life which is so vast and therefore it is something most extraordinarily sacred, and what do we do with it? You have to answer this question, whether you are old or young, well established in a position - wealth, power - is that the whole meaning of life? And if that is the whole meaning of life, which is to have knowledge, knowing that knowledge will always be limited, therefore thought will always be limited and therefore divisive, therefore bringing about great conflict in oneself and therefore outwardly, externally, and knowing - if one has examined it objectively, without any fear - that the whole religious structure throughout the world is just utterly meaningless. So, you as students and professors, with that marvellous lake, with the sun on it, the beauty of it, the poem of it, the grandeur, what is your response, what is your responsibility?
You see, we have always had leaders. In this country especially and also in Europe, more so, you had leaders here, one after the other, both religious, political, social and all that business. And where have they led you? Where has Marx led the communist world? Where has all your sacred - so-called sacred - literature: Upanishads, Gita and all those books - there is nothing sacred about them, no book is sacred. All those things that we have invented. So, what is the meaning of all this existence? You may not want to look at it, you may want to avoid. You may say 'I am too young, it's not my business.' And the older people say 'Sorry, we are too old, we can't face it any more.' They are willing to die. And so what is your knowledge leading to - conformity? Imitation? Absorption of all this information? And nothing original, nothing pristine. And what place has knowledge in love? Is not knowledge the enemy of love, the destroyer of love? Would you please consider this? You give about twenty or thirty years to acquiring - in the acquisition of physics, linguistic experimentation, with biology, sociology, with philosophy, psychoanalysis, psychiatry and so on - you give years and years and you don't give one day or one hour to find out for yourself what you are and why you are living like this.
After all, sirs and ladies - you don't mind if I say 'Sirs'? Sirs includes the ladies, all right? Don't be offended if we do not say sirs and ladies. After all sirs, have you observed, that human beings whether they live in America, both the affluent and also a great deal of poverty, misery in America, a great deal of poverty in Europe, nearly four million people unemployed in England, and all the tyranny that is going on in Russia, the brutality of it all in the name of Marx and socialism, and you come to this country: poverty, incurable, most appalling poverty. We have been brought up in it, not you perhaps who have wealth, power - all of us of my generation, that particular people, have lived through poverty. And have you realised, if I may most politely point out, that whether they live in an affluent society, whether they live in castles or in huts, or whether they live as students, this human consciousness is shared by all human beings because all human beings suffer, go through great agonies, great sense of loneliness, despair, meaningless of this existence. All human beings on this earth, which is so extraordinarily beautiful, which you are very sedulously destroying it. We are living on this earth and all human beings, whether they are the poorest, the most illiterate or the highly sophisticated, great professors of great knowledge, they all suffer, they all face death, they go through great sense of desperate loneliness. We share all this. Every human being on this earth shares all this.
Do please listen to what speaker is saying. Don't get bored. Nobody is going to tell you all this. We share the common sorrow, the sorrow of the whole of mankind. Our consciousness is made up of all this. Your consciousness is not yours, though your tradition, both religious, economic, social, says you are a separate individual. Your whole consciousness, your consciousness is what you are - your belief, your superstitions, your fears, your anxieties, your faith, your lack of love, your selfishness is the consciousness of all humanity. There is no escape from - that's a fact. And therefore you are not an individual. You may be tall, you may be a woman or a man, you may have fair skin and so on, but you are not an individual - not the individual in the sense, in the communist sense, Marxist sense - we are talking of something much deeper than social product.
So you are not an individual. You are the whole of humanity, because you smile, you laugh, you shed tears, you go through great turmoil, you make effort, conflict, facing insecurity. And the Americans are doing exactly the same thing, so are the Russians. So you are actually the rest of mankind. You are not a Hindu though you like to call yourself a Hindu. That is just your local, provincial, narrow conditioning.
So facing all this, are you going to waste your life getting a job, passing some examinations, being trained to imitate? That's what you are being taught - to imitate, to conform, to fit into the pattern. And is that the end of life? Then you will ask: What shall we do? Is there something else? To find something totally different from all this you have to have a great deal of intelligence. Intelligence is not knowledge. Knowledge gives you capacity, knowledge gives you position, status. Knowledge is not love. Knowledge is not compassion. It is only where there is love and compassion there is intelligence, and that intelligence has nothing whatsoever to do with the cunning intelligence of thought. So we must ask - if the speaker can most politely put it before you - what is the meaning of your existence? Are you wasting your life? And this is the only life you have. You may think there is reincarnation, that you will be born next life. That may be merely theory. But what matters is - even if you believe in reincarnation - what matters is how you live now - if you are good, if you are not violent, if you are a total human being, not broken up into scientists, biologists, special careers - then your life is broken up, conflict, and so your life is never a holistic movement. So considering all this, will you waste your life? Nobody can answer that question except yourself. If the speaker were to tell you, which he won't because it is absurd, unintelligent, stupid, to say what is the purpose of life. The purpose of life is what you are doing now - study or you have already a job, earn more money, more status, more power. And that is what you want, and that is the purpose of your life. And also you have to face the ultimate thing which is death. You may not, as you are all young people, but also it is there for you as well as for the older generation - it is always there. And can you live with death? That requires a great deal of enquiry, to live with death. Not commit suicide, not run away from death, but to know the depth and the greatness and the tremendous vitality of death.
This is all of life. This is the whole of life, to have knowledge, to be able to enquire into the whole psychological world of which you are. To understand all that - not from books, not from philosophers, not from your professors, but learn from yourself what you are. And you will discover, if you go into yourself, that your whole life is based on becoming something, as a clerk becomes a manager, the reader becomes the professor, the chief minister ultimately becomes the prime minister and so on - they are always both outwardly and inwardly trying to become something. And this is what we call living. Never a moment of quietness, never a moment of great beauty in our life, but the incessant chattering of the brain.
And you, if one may point out, you are facing all this. Don't disregard all this because the psychological world, the inner world, what you are inwardly, overcomes whatever social structure, governments are established - always overcomes all that. As you see it in Russia, they started out by having no government, no army, no division, no nationality; they said governments will disappear, but the psyche was far more stronger than the superficial social structure. So they have there now the privileged, the top people who have everything in the world, the best of everything, like here, the top people.
So, what are you going to do after listening to this talk - not a lecture - a conversation between you and the speaker? What is your responsibility? Is your brain open to all this? A global affair, or your own narrow little yard, the narrow little self, the 'me', which is a very small affair. Or you are going to be concerned with the whole world, which means you cannot be an Indian any more, you cannot be a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist. All those divisions are destructive, they have no meaning. We have to bring a new civilisation, a new culture, a new way of looking at life.
I've finished talking. Do you want to ask questions? The speaker has stopped, do you want to ask any questions, written or otherwise? I am not the oracle. Mon Dieu.
Question 1: Knowledge of any kind cannot be bad. What could possibly be bad is the use of it, the use it is put into. In the opinion of this listener the call of the day is to acquire or cultivate the sense, which is again knowledge, of properly using knowledge for proper causes. Kindly comment.
Krishnamurti: Who is the user? Who is the entity that is using knowledge properly or wrongly? Right? Is not the entity, the user, of knowledge, himself knowledge? You understand my question? You have asked a question that if we use knowledge rightly it is all right, it is the wrong usage of knowledge that is wrong - that's bluntly put. But I am asking, the speaker is asking the questioner, who is the user who uses knowledge rightly? Is not the user, the thinker, the entity, isn't he also knowledge? Is he separate from knowledge? Or the problem is not the right usage of knowledge, right or wrong usage, but what place has knowledge? It has knowledge in the right place, which is to drive a car, to write a letter, if you are a carpenter, to use the knowledge that you have acquired about the wood, the shape of the wood, the quality of the wood, the grain of the wood and so on. There you need knowledge, but do we need knowledge about oneself? Because oneself is knowledge. I don't know if you understand it. Is the speaker answering your question, sir?
First of all, if I may most respectfully point out, the question is wrong. You assume - if I may point out most politely - you assume that the user of knowledge is different from knowledge. Who are you who is going to use knowledge? Are you not the result of centuries of knowledge - unconscious, conscious? You, the self, is knowledge. So you have divided knowledge and the entity that uses knowledge, but both are based on knowledge. So we are saying that knowledge has a definite place in the world of daily activity, but psychological knowledge, that is, the knowledge that you have about your wife, and you have about your husband, that knowledge is divisive, that knowledge prevents love. You can see this simply. You have an image about your wife, and the wife has an image about you, and the images are built through knowledge. You have been with her for twenty years or five days, and you have already got knowledge about her, so you have built an image about her, and the images have relationship, not you and the woman or the man. Sir, these are all facts if you examine it closely.
Question 2: As said by you, we are problem-solving machines, which means machines meant for research and scientific investigation. Do you think then that all the problems of humanity would be solved if life is organised from the point of view of developing, producing and maintaining these machines scientifically with an aim to promote research and science, and not left to develop haphazardly as is going on today?
K: I don't
Questioner: He says, you say we are all problem-solving machines, in which case...
K: Organise it. Yes, organise it. May I tell you a story? Two friends who were walking in one of the dirty streets of Bombay, and one of them picks up something from the pavement and looks at it, and his face is tremendously illuminated, happy - he cannot hold himself. And he keeps looking at this extraordinary thing he has picked up. And his friend says, 'What have you picked up? You look so happy, so radiant, something has happened to you, what have you picked up?' He said, 'I have picked up truth.' And the friend says, 'Marvellous, let's go and organise it.' No laugh? Do you see the point of that story? You want everything organised, put in their categories. Organisation demands hierarchy, and you are used to hierarchy, both religiously, politically, socially - somebody always in authority above you. So what does authority do to you? Of course the professor knows more about physics than you do, the surgeon knows more than the beginner in medicine, but why do you need hierarchy, authority, in the spiritual world - forgive me if I use that word 'spiritual' because that has been misused that word - why do you want authority about yourself? Who is going to tell you about yourself? The professors? Volumes have been written, from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, what you are. And probably some of you have read them but you remain what you are. And you want what you are to be organised.
So organisation in certain areas are necessary, and in the other psychological world it is destructive because then psychologically we become slaves to organisations.
Question 3: Throughout your talk you claimed that there is already a lot of confusion in this world, but I do not remember you having given a suggestion or a solution regarding that. Don’t you think that this adds to the confusion rather than reduce it? (Laughter)
K: Certainly. Certainly it adds more confusion. But I didn't say the confusion is not there, it is there. I don't claim it. Walk down any street in Bombay, or in Paris or in New York, or where you will, there is a great deal of confusion - that's a fact. Aren't you in confusion? And the questioner says that's a negative statement. What is your positive statement? You understand? You have said that there is confusion - I claim, as the questioner says - I don't claim it. It would be absurd if I claimed - but it is a fact. The fact is that where there is confusion there is conflict; like the Arab and the Jew, both are semitic people, divided by propaganda on the part of the Jews for four to five thousand years, on the part of the Muslim between sixteen hundred years - they are fighting each other, killing each other. That is the essence of confusion, it's not I claim it - it is so. Aren't you all confused? When you look at yourself honestly, clearly, aren't you all confused? You may be good at your science, you may have a good job, settled, but inwardly aren't you all asking what is it all about? You are confused. And the questioner says what is your positive remedy, positive action, or suggestion about this confusion. The speaker says there is no suggestion. He is not offering you a thing. He is not telling you what to do. But look at this confusion carefully, don't say there is no confusion. You mean to say when you drive to Bombay, the centre of Bombay, you don't see all those hovels, people living there, breeding, those children, unhealthy - is that not confusion. Poverty is confusion, isn't there confusion about gods - the Christian god, your Hindu god - isn't that all confusion?
So the speaker says, look at the confusion, don't run away from it. Then what happens? Where does the confusion begin? Out there, or in here? Please answer that question, who put this question. Where does the confusion lie, who has created those hovels which we pass daily by? We human beings - you - because you have rotten government, unconscious community, scandalous behaviour, and you allow all that day after day, year after year. So if you realise you have brought this about, your government, your gods, you are responsible for all this. You are responsible for war because you are a Hindu or you are a Jew or a Christian. Therefore don't be a Jew, don't be a Hindu, so that you are the whole of humanity, you are a human being not a label.
Question 4: What is love and how does it arise?
K: Good god! (Laughter) Don't you know what love is? Apparently you don't. Do you love your wife, if you are married? Do you love your children? If you loved your children would you make them conform to this particular rotten society, immoral society, send them to war to be killed?
So the questioner says, what is love and how does it arise? My god! It means, sir, first of all, what is love? Can you describe it? Can you put it into words? Or would you find out what is not love? Would you approach it negatively, not positively - say what is love, tell me how to get it. Do you realise, sir, who put this question, what this implies? That you have never loved anybody, whether you are married, whether you have had sex, children. So what is love? Would you approach it negatively, saying what it is not. Is love jealousy? Is love devotion? Is love possessiveness, domination - man dominating the woman as in this country it is happening? Is that love? Is love attachment? Where there is attachment there is fear. Right? If you are attached to your wife and she turns away from you, you become jealous, angry, hatred - all the ugly things that go on. So could you, if one may point out most gently, find out what love is by negating what is not.
An ambitious man, as most of you are, can never know love, he is only concerned with himself. A man who is devoted to god, goes to temples, mosques, churches, tremendous devotion to his guru - you know how they kowtow to the guru, go almost on their knees to the so-called guru, who is just like you. Is devotion love? Or real sentiment, emotion? So find out, sir. Find out what it is not, and then you have that perfume, that extraordinary thing, then life has a meaning, not all your knowledge.
I am afraid we must stop now. It is a quarter to eight.
And also - if I may spend two minutes - Hindus are accustomed to meditation. It's one of their games. What is meditation? Why do you meditate? You meditate in order to achieve something. Right? Achieve happiness, peace, or whatever you like - illumination, peace of mind and all that business. Your meditation is just like any other person who says, 'I am going to become a businessman', only you call it meditation, the other calls it business. Both want to achieve something. Is that meditation? Or meditation is something entirely different? I won't go into that question, it is too complicated. But you should look at all this - not think about it, look at it. If you have time, if you have the inclination, if you are interested, and obviously if you are serious and concerned with what is happening in the world, happening to yourself, you have to look at all this. And of course you are too busy studying books and you won't have time, and therefore you are destroying the world, not looking at your own life and your relationship to the world.