Why are we in conflict?
What is real freedom?
1st Public Talk, San Francisco, California
May 05, 1984
If I may I would like to point out this is a serious talk, today and tomorrow. It is not an entertainment, either intellectually or emotionally, sentimentally. Nor are we doing any kind of propaganda to convince you of anything, nor to bring about a new ideology or a philosophy, an exotic nonsense. So please this is a dialogue between you and the speaker. As there are so many people - a dialogue is only possible between two people, and a conversation is much more applicable, between you and the speaker, in which you are taking part in what he is saying, and not merely listening verbally, or intellectually, not only to the content of the word but also the deeper significance of the word. All this requires a great deal of attention and energy. And most of us waste our life. We waste our life in so many ways. And to grasp the whole significance of life and death, and to find out, or to come upon that which is beyond time, one needs a great deal of passion, a great sense of freedom, and that requires daily action. And we are going to go into all these matters.
First of all we should talk over together - I mean together, not that you listen to what the speaker is saying, agreeing, or disagreeing, or accepting certain ideas and rejecting others, but we are dealing with the whole existence of life, the whole problem of humanity; not only the particular problem of each one of us but the entire human existence. It may sound rather grandiose but it is not. Because each one of us, as we live, with our greeds, anxieties, pain, pleasure, passing love, hatreds, antagonisms, and the eternal conflict in which all human beings seem to live, from the most ancient of times to the present, all this requires that we think together. Not accepting what the speaker is saying but thinking together, which is very rare. Because if we can think together, not according to your particular way or tendency, or according to one's conditioning, but think about these various matters that we are going to discuss, if we could somehow manage to put away our personal opinions for a while, if you can, and also our various inclinations and sentiments of belief, and all that business, if we could observe together, think together, then it is possible, one feels, that one can understand at great depth the world of freedom.
Each one has a concept what freedom is. From the ancient of times, the Greeks and Egyptians, the Chinese and the Hindus have talked a great deal about freedom - freedom from all bondage, freedom from one's own self created prison, freedom from the various impressions, impositions of society, of all the religious structures, to be so completely free, not committed to any particular ideology, not pursuing one's own particular pleasure with all its complications and pain, to understand the real depth of freedom. Because we are in prison, both self-made and the society in which we live, this society is made by human beings. The present American culture, the way of life, the American way of life and so on, is made by the human beings that live on this side of the world. We are responsible, each one of us, whether we live in this country - affluent, fairly, economically uncertain, tremendous unemployment, and so on, all the political ugliness that is going on, we have created, each one of us, this society. Of that there is no doubt. One can question, but if one is fairly inquisitive, fairly playing a straight game to observe, then one can see that each one of us is responsible for this society in which we live, with all its corruption, immorality, injustice, poverty, the various forms of political tyranny, and so on. This society not only in this country but in Europe, India and China, we have created this. And mere reformation, or reorganisation of society has no meaning. We think it is progress when organisation is reorganised. I do not know if you have observed all this, impartially, objectively, with a great deal of scepticism, doubt.
Apparently not only in this country but all over the world human beings are becoming rather gullible. It has been encouraged by religions, specially by Christianity because if you doubt, question the whole structure of so-called religious existence, the whole thing collapses. And in the Asiatic world, specially the Buddhist and the ancient Hindus insisted that you must question, not accept, not obey. You must doubt, not only every kind of experience that you yourself have, the memories of that experience - question, doubt, enquire its significance. But apparently any form of doubt, enquiry into our very nature, into all the political, religious organisations. It is only through enquiry, not merely the enquiry of professionals, the experts, the specialists, but each one of us enquiring, questioning, asking, it becomes then very important for the brain because through doubt, questioning, the conditioning of the brain begins to break up.
I hope one hopes that each of us is following this conversation. The speaker is unfortunately sitting on a platform; it's merely for convenience. He is not a professional, he is not an expert, he is not a specialist on religion or any kind of philosophy. We are enquiring together into the whole problem of existence. So we are on the same level, with the same intensity, at the same time. We are taking a journey together. Perhaps one may walk very fast, or very slowly, but whether we walk slowly or very fast we are walking together. If one goes fast, one must not go so fast for the ones who are slow. So we are enquiring together, questioning what is freedom.
In the world, and specially in the modern world, which is the American world, which is spreading all over the world except in the totalitarian states, though there too there are dissent, disagreements, and so on - in this world we are slaves to experts, specially in this country - sex specialists, specialists of behaviour, specialists of make-up - right? - specialists how you dress, how you walk, how you bear your children, all the rest of it. And these specialists are becoming more and more powerful right through the world. And through there is there freedom? Please consider what the speaker is saying seriously. We need specialists of certain kinds, but to be told all your life that you must think this way, do that, you know, all the rest of it, that surely conditions the brain. As in the East and in Europe, tradition has conditioned the brain, whether that tradition be ten days or ten thousand years that tradition has conditioned the brain. The tradition of the specialist, the tradition of politicians and the scientist. Is that freedom? Though each one of us thinks we are free to do what we want to do. As is happening in the world, each one thinks that he is free to express, to fulfil, to assert, compete and so on. He calls all that freedom. And that freedom, if one observes very carefully and objectively, has brought about great chaos in the world, great misery, each one out for himself. And certain psychologists encourage that - fulfil yourself, do what you want to do and so on. And this is called freedom. But is it freedom? The word 'freedom' etymologically also means love. When each one is competing, each one is seeking success and so on, is there love in all that? So one must enquire very deeply together, what is real freedom. Freedom from something is not freedom. Freedom means the ending, the ending which has no continuity. And this sense of freedom can alone bring that passion which is the ending of sorrow - which we will go into a little later presently. And when there is passion there is action. We also ought to enquire: what is action? What is the relationship of action to time - I hope you don't mind my going into all this, do you? Do you mind?
Krishnamurti: Perhaps some of you, if I may most respectfully say, have thought about these matters, or you may not have; all this may be new, or you have read some of things that the speaker has said, unfortunately (laughter), and you then repeat. Perhaps some of you having read, you say I know exactly what he is going to say next. (Laughter) Which means you are not actually listening. You are carrying your memory of what you have read and interpreting what is being said according to the knowledge that you have accumulated, so you actually then are not listening. I am saying this most respectfully.
So freedom: what is the relationship of freedom to action? And what is action is relationship to passion? And we are wasting our life, because we have only one life. Some of you may believe in reincarnation, next life, after death, that's a very pleasant comforting concept, belief, but death is not something that gives a continuity - which we will go into when we talk about all that. So most of us waste our life. We mean by wasting life, though we have to earn our livelihood, a vocation which is now becoming more and more imitative, a vocation that demands all our energy from morning until night, from nine o'clock till five o'clock, and then some form of entertainment, either religious, sexual, or listening to the 'tube', or reading some kind of books, intellectual or romantic, or thrillers. This is our life. At the end of time we die. And we have never enquired how to live, what is the art of living. And if we begin to enquire into it, the art, not the repetitive processes of life because art demands a great deal of observation, a great deal of attention, awareness, not only of external things but the whole enormous field of the inward psychological, psychic process - that's far more vast than the external world. And that psychological world controls, shapes the outer world, as is shown in the totalitarian states, they hope by changing the environment, controlling the environment, forcing people to think along a certain way human beings will be different. That is one of their tenets. And it has failed because the psyche is far greater, has greater vitality, greater energy than all the outward structure. And we are going to enquire into that area.
To enquire and observe into the whole psychological world of each one of us you require passion, not just intellectual entertainment, intellectual dissection, analysis - you need passion and energy. And that energy now is being wasted through conflict, because each one of us, whether we are rich or poor, ignorant, or the great scientists, the ordinary person that lives a monotonous daily life, and the man in the jungle, in the small village, uneducated, he has constant conflict. All human beings have great conflict, struggle, pain. And to enquire into that conflict, whether it is possible to end that conflict inwardly, psychologically, to go into it demands not only energy but real passion to find out. Passion to find out whether conflict, human conflict, can ever end. Or must it everlastingly go on?
I do not know if you have not enquired, or observed, that we are supposed to have lived on this earth - according to the archaeologists, and biologists and so on - forty to fifty thousand years. From the most ancient civilisations to the present time they have all lived in conflict, not only with nature but conflict externally through wars, conflict also inwardly. This duration of forty thousand or fifty thousand years of human evolution has brought us where we are, still in conflict. I wonder if we realise that. Not theoretically, not intellectually, or some fanciful hope, but actually realise how deeply we are in conflict with each other; and not only with each other but in ourselves. And we have accepted this conflict as the way of life, not only externally as war, destroying millions and millions of people, though they talk about pacem in terris, which means peace on earth, all religions, except perhaps Buddhism and Hinduism, have killed more people - religions, nationalities, all that. The glorification of tribalism. That's been the external world of conflict - competition, aggression, each one seeking his own success, his own fulfilment. Externally we are in conflict, and also inwardly. That's a fact, it is not a theory. If one sees oneself as you see yourself in a mirror, you see you are in conflict - with your wife, with your husband, with your neighbour, with god, with all the things that human beings have created outwardly and inwardly. And we have never enquired whether we can possibly be free from conflict. We are enquiring now together. Inevitably you will ask the speaker, Are you free from conflict? Naturally. If he was not he wouldn't talk about it. That would be hypocrisy. And the speaker practically all his life has abhorred any kind of dishonest hypocritical thinking or way of life. But to enquire into it together requires that you share, involve yourself, commit yourself to find out whether conflict can end, living in this world - not go off to some kind of monastery, or escape into some kind of ashrama and all that silly nonsense. Why are we in conflict? What's the cause, the very nature and the structure of conflict?
Please, most of us wait for an answer, for somebody to tell you. That's the function of the specialist. But there are no specialists here. We are asking each other what's the cause of it. What's the cause of wars, outwardly - economic wars, social wars, and the destruction of human beings - what's the cause of it? Is it not nationalities? Each nation thinking it is separate from the rest of the world, not only national, which is a glorification of tribalism, but also externally the ideologies of the communists, of the totalitarian states and the democratic world - different ideologies, different beliefs, dialectical materialism on one side, and the other, belief in god, democratic and so on. They are still ideals. So ideals are at war, beliefs are at war. If you believe in certain forms of dogmatism of Christianity, or the superstitions and dogmatism of Hinduism or Buddhism, these very beliefs, these very faiths divide human beings. You are Catholic, Protestant, and thousand divisions of Protestantism, as they are in the Hinduism, and Buddhists - the North Buddhists and the South Buddhists. So the major cause of external conflict is division. Obviously. I hope - one hopes we are following each other this. Where there is division there must be conflict. And in ourselves we are broken up, fragmented. Each one of us thinks he is separate from another - don't we? Religions throughout the world have encouraged that you are separate, you have a separate soul, separate individuality. Please follow this, don't reject it. We are not asking you to accept anything, we are enquiring. In the Asiatic world, as well as in India, they believe in this separate individuality, separate atman and so on; as you do here in the Christian world, your soul is separate, to be saved and so on. So from childhood this sense of division, this fragmentation within ourselves is the basic cause of conflict, each one seeking his own salvation religiously - whatever that may mean. Each one wanting to express himself, fulfil himself, pursuing his own ideals, his own ambitions, and your wife and your husband do exactly the same thing, each one pursuing his own pleasure, his own desire. So we can see that conflict must exist as long as there is division. Can this division end? Can this division which has brought about such misery, confusion, ugliness, and brutality in the world, can this division end in each one of us?
You may intellectually ask this question and speculate about it. Perhaps some of you will say, 'No, it is not possible. It is the way of life. In nature there is conflict, everything is struggling to reach the light, bigger animals killing the little ones and so on. So we are part of that nature so we must live in conflict. This is the way of life.' We have accepted this, not only as a tradition, but we have been encouraged, instructed, educated, to carry on with conflict. So we are enquiring together whether this division in ourselves can end. That is, the opposing desires - wanting, not wanting, pursuing, you know all the rest of that - opposing energies which bring such extraordinary conflict and misery; can all that end?
It cannot possibly end through volition, that is by will. I hope we are following all this, are we together, somewhat at least? I'll go on if you will permit it, though perhaps some of you are too tired at the end of a long week. So we will go on into this. Can this division end? We were saying that through any form of volition, desire, motivation, wanting to end this conflict, that very desire to end conflict breeds further conflict, doesn't it? I want to end conflict. Why? Because I hope to live a very peaceful life, and yet I have to live in this world - in the world of business, science and relationship with each other, and so on - modern world. Can I exist in this modern world without conflict? All the business world is based on conflict - competition, one firm, business firm against another - this endless conflict that is going on outwardly. And inwardly first, can this end? Not externally. We are always talking about can I live in this world externally without conflict, but we will find the right answer, right action, when we enquire into the conflict that each one of us has. Can this division - opposing desires, opposing demands, individual urges - can all that division end?
It can only end if one is capable - I won't use the word 'capable', sorry - if one can observe. Observe conflict, not try to end it, not try to transform into another form of conflict, but to observe it. Which means, to be aware, to give our attention completely to what is conflict and how it arises, which is the dualistic opposing drives of energy; just to observe it.
Have we ever observed anything completely? When you look out of that window and you see the sea, turbulent one morning and utterly quiet in the evening, have you ever observed without any words, without saying, how beautiful, how noisy, how disturbing it all is? Have you ever observed with all your senses, with all you being, that extraordinary water, the sea? To observe it without any reaction, just to watch. If you have ever done it, in the same way to observe without any reaction, without any motive, because the moment you have a motive that motive gives a direction. And in that direction there is conflict, but just to observe the whole phenomenon of conflict, its cause, not only division, imitation, conformity, all that. Just to be aware of the total nature and the structure of conflict. When you give complete attention then you will see for yourself whether that conflict ends or not. But that requires, as we said, a great deal of energy and that energy can only come when there is passion behind it, when you really want to find out. You give a great deal of time and energy to making money, years, as you give a great deal of energy to be entertained. But you never give energy deeply and profoundly, completely attentive, to find out whether conflict can ever end. So observation, not volition, not any action of will, or resolution, but to observe with all your being what is the nature and the structure of conflict. Then one of the conditioning of the brain comes to an end. Because all human beings throughout the world are conditioned - as Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Mohammed - all the varieties of human invention.
To enquire into our conditioning. We are conditioned; you are Americans - American way of life. If you are Catholic you have been conditioned for two thousand years; if you are Protestant from the period of Henry VIII who just wanted to get rid of Catholicism, the pope, in order to marry somebody or other. There is various forms of conditioning by the religious, social, cultural condition of India, Japan and all the rest of the world. We are conditioned. And that conditioning is our consciousness.
I hope this is not too many things in one talk. But as we have only one other talk we must put everything we can in two talks. I hope you don't mind - if you can tolerate it, and if you can take the journey with the speaker.
As we were saying, we are conditioned - by the newspapers, all the various forms of media, you know, magazines and so on, the whole... You have been conditioned. And this conditioning is our consciousness, not only biological reactions, sensory reactions, sexual reactions and so on, that is part of our conditioning. And also various forms of beliefs, faiths and dogmas, by ideologies, by the various religious rituals; the linguistic - if that is possible - conditioning, which the speaker questions very urgently, whether linguistic language conditions the brain. We have discussed this matter with certain linguistic experts and so on. I question one questions that. I won't go into it because it is too complicated for the moment. So we are conditioned. Our consciousness is all the knowledge we have acquired, the experience, the faith, the belief, the dogmas, the rituals, and also fear, pleasure, sorrow, pain. Our conditioning is essentially knowledge. We have acquired knowledge through forty thousand years, or more. And we are adding to that knowledge day after day, more and more. The scientists are adding knowledge day after day, month after month, to what they already know. And this knowledge is acquired through experience - testing out, experimenting, trying out, if it doesn't succeed they put it aside, begin again. So there is constant expansion of knowledge, both in ourselves and externally. And knowledge because it is based on experience is limited. There can be no complete knowledge about anything, including god. Knowledge is always - present and in the future - is always limited; it can be expanded, added, but it still has its own limitation. So thought, which is born of knowledge, stored in the brain as memory, that thought is limited. There is no complete thought.
Please, question this, doubt it, ask, find out. Because this is very important because our consciousness is the essence of thought, essence of knowledge. Therefore our consciousness which is in the whole capacity of the brain and so on, is always limited, therefore conditioned. It can thought can imagine, speculate the immeasurable, this space, endless and so on, but whatever thought does it is still limited. Do we see this fact? Because it is very important, if one may point out, to understand this, not merely intellectually but see actually whatever we are thinking, and any action of thought is always limited, whether it is political, economic, or religious. Thought has invented god - sorry, I hope you will not be shocked by all this (laughter).
K: Just a minute, sirs.
If you have no fear, completely no fear both of external incidents, accidents, and also inwardly absolutely no fear of death, of tomorrow, of time, then what is the necessity for god? Then you yourself then there is that state which is eternal - which we won't go into now.
So, it is important, essential that we understand the nature of thought. Thought has created the most astonishingly beautiful things - great paintings, great poems. Thought has created all the world of technology from the neutron bombs to instant communication, all the instruments of war, the submarine - you know all the rest of it, the computer and so on. Thought has done all this. The most beautiful architecture of cathedrals of Europe, and all the things that are in the cathedrals and in the churches are put together by thought. So thought is, whatever it has created externally or inwardly, is limited, and therefore fragmented. Thought is a material process, therefore there is nothing sacred that thought has created. And everything that thought has created we call religion. You might say it is divine revelation straight from heaven, but that very idea 'straight from heaven', or 'revelation' is still the activity of thought - super-consciousness and so on, all those inventions of the gurus that have come to this country, unfortunately. You have your own gurus, the priests - don't add more. You have enough of them.
So we have to understand really the nature of thought. Thought is born of knowledge, stored in the brain as memory. So thought is a material process. And knowledge is necessary at a certain level of existence - I need knowledge to write a letter, to go from here to there, knowledge is necessary to drive a car, to do anything physically. Knowledge has certain place, but we are asking: has knowledge any place in the psychological world? Which is, has knowledge any place between you and your wife, your husband? Please enquire into it. Knowledge being the memories that you have accumulated in that relationship between man and woman, both sexual memories, pleasure, pain, antagonism and all the rest of it, and also the images, the knowledge, the pictures about each other. So we are asking a very fundamental question, whether knowledge in relationship is not one of the factors of conflict. You certainly have, haven't you sirs, if I may ask, an image about your wife - and the wife about the husband, or the girl about the boy or so on. Each one creates not only his own image but also the image of another. You certainly have created I am quite sure about the speaker, otherwise you wouldn't be here. And that image is preventing actually from understanding each other. So when one is living most intimately with another, and through that relationship you accumulate day after day, night and day, day in and day out, memories of each other. And these memories, which are images, prevent actual relationship with each other. This is a fact. These memories are the dividing factor, and therefore conflict between man and woman.
So can the recording processes of the brain in relationship stop? You understand the question? If one is married - suppose I am married, I am not - suppose I am married. Don't ask me, Why are you not married? (Laughter) That would be an easy way out. Suppose I am married: attraction, sex, and all the rest of it. And day after day, month after month for years I have put together a great deal of knowledge about her, and she has done exactly the same thing about me. And these images, this knowledge one has of each other is bringing a division and therefore conflict. Can this conflict end in relationship? Because that is most important, essential because relationship is one of the most wonderful things if you can have without a single shadow of conflict. Because one cannot live on this marvellous earth without relationship.
Loneliness is a form of total separation, total division. And being frightened of that thing called loneliness, with all its depression, with all its ugliness of loneliness we try to establish a relationship with another, whether that establishment is consciously or unconsciously. And therefore we become attached to the picture, to the memory of the woman or the man, or the various forms of relationship - homosexuals and all the rest of that business. It is a crazy world, isn't it! It is becoming more and more insane, and we are all adding to it. And to be free, this is freedom, to be actually free from the image-building process, that is real freedom - not to do what you like, which becomes too childish, too utterly immature, but the freedom that comes totally when in relationship there is no accumulation of memories. Is that possible? Or is it a vain hope or something to be desired in heaven, which is absurd of course.
Let's enquire into it. You see the speaker has gone into it very deeply for himself, but to go into it you must enquire why the brain records. The brain is recording, that's its function, part of it. Recording how to learn French or Russian, or whatever language, recording the various forms of business activities, recording - you know, the whole machinery of the brain is recording. So why should it record in relationship? Why should my brain record the insult or the encouragement or the flattery of my wife? Why should it record? Have you ever enquired into it? Probably not. Probably it is too boring to enquire into all this. (Laughter) Most of us are satisfied with the way we live - accepting, carrying on till we get old and die. To carry on that way is a wastage of energy. There is no art in that. There is no beauty in that. Just to carry on day after day following the same routine, the same misery, the same confusion, insecurity and so on. And at the end of it all it is so meaningless, die. But if you begin to enquire why the brain must record. It is necessary to record at a certain level, physically - how to drive a car, how to be a good carpenter, or some kind of ugly politician and all that business - but in relationship with each other why should there be recording at all? Does that recording give us security in our relationship? Is there security in relationship? I believe there are more divorces in this country than marriages. (Laughter) I heard we heard the other day a girl saying - just about to marry the next day - she said, There is always divorce. (Laughter)
So, you understand, relationship is a very, very serious matter. But the quality of that relationship is destroyed when the brain is recording all the petty little incidents, nagging, pleasure - you know what goes on between ordinary relationships. Each one seeking his own ambition, his own fulfilment, his own pleasure. That utterly destroys relationship. And so is love a matter of thought? Is love desire? Is love pleasure? Is love memory? Please do enquire into all this - not only enquire intellectually but actually in the very enquiry is action. When you act, and that action demands passion, not just intellectual concept or desire. Love is not lust, love is not within the orbit of thought. But when the brain merely is a recording machinery in our relationship you destroy everything that is love.
You may say 'It is very easy for you to talk that way because you are not married.' Many people have told me this - which is nonsense. I live with people. The speaker lives with a great many people, both in India, Europe and America, a great many, constantly.
When thought has really been understood, its nature, its structure, its activity, its limitation - understood, which is, observed, acted upon, that very observation is its action. Then there is a totally different quality of relationship. Because love is outside the brain, not within the confines of thought.
So our conditioning is the movement of thought, like fear. We have lived with fear for centuries, millions of years, thousands of years, and we are still afraid, outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly we want security, physical security. One must have physical security. But that outward security becomes insecurity when one is seeking psychological security. I hope you follow all this. We want psychological security first. Psychologically to be safe, we want in our relationship to be completely secure - it is my permanent wife! (Laughter) Or if that permanency doesn't exist with that woman, I will try and find it with another woman. (Laughter) You may laugh at this, but this is what is happening in the world. Probably this is what has happened to you. And perhaps that is why you laugh it off very quickly. So one has to enquire very, very deeply whether there is any security, permanency in life, inwardly. Or the search for inward security, which is ultimately god and so on, is that security an illusion, and therefore there is no security psychologically, but only that supreme intelligence - not of books, not of knowledge. That supreme intelligence comes, exists only where there is love and compassion. That intelligence then acts.
You may say All this is so far fetched, so complicated, but it isn't. Life is living is a very complex process, isn't it? You must know all that much more than the speaker does. It is a very, very complicated process - getting to the office, to the factory, writing - you follow? - the whole way of living is a very, very complex process. And that which is complex must be approached with great simplicity. To be psychologically simple, not stupidly simple, but to see the quality of simplicity. I do not know if you have gone into all this.
The word 'innocence' means, etymologically, not to hurt and not to be hurt. But we are hurt from childhood - by the parents, by the fellow students, through university and so on - we are perpetually being hurt, wounded psychologically, aren't you? And that hurt we carry through life, with all its agony. When one is hurt there is always the fear of not being hurt, so one builds a wall round oneself and resists, and all the rest of it. But never to be hurt is simplicity. Now with that simplicity to approach the very, very complex problem of life, which is the art of living. And all this requires a great deal of energy, passion, and a great sense of freedom to observe.
Right sir, that is enough for today. We will continue tomorrow morning with the other facts of life.