Why can’t man live peacefully on the earth?
United Nations Talks
Public Talk, New York, New York State
April 11, 1985
I am supposed to talk on World Peace beyond the 40th anniversary of the United Nations.
Mankind, man, has lived on this earth over fifty thousand years, and perhaps much longer or for less duration. During all this long evolution man has not found peace on earth - 'pacem in terris' has been preached long before Christianity, by the ancient Hindus and the Buddhists. And during all this time man has lived in conflict, not only conflict with his neighbour but with people of his own community, of his own society, with his own family, he has fought, struggled against man for the last five thousand years and perhaps more. Historically there have been wars practically every year. And we are still at war. I believe there are forty wars going on at the present time. And the religious hierarchy, not only the Catholics but the other groups have talked about 'pacem in terris', peace on earth, goodwill among men. It has never come about - to have peace on earth. And they have talked about peace when you die you go to heaven and you have peace there.
One wonders, if one is at all serious, why man kills another human being - in the name of god, in the name of peace, in the name of some ideology, or for his country - whatever that may mean - or for the king and the queen, and all the rest of that business. Probably we all know this: that man has never lived on this earth, which is being slowly destroyed; why man cannot live at peace with another human being; why there are separate nations, which is after all a glorified tribalism. And religions, whether it be Christianity, Hinduism, or Buddhism, they are also at war with each other. Nations are at war, groups are at war, ideologies, whether it is the Russian or the American, or any other category of ideologies, they are all at war with each other, conflict. And after living on this earth for so many centuries, why is it man cannot live peacefully on this marvellous earth? This question has been asked over and over again. An organisation like this has been formed round that. What is the future of this particular organisation? After the 40th year what lies beyond?
Time is a strange factor in life. Time is very important for all of us. And the future is, what is present. The future is now, because the present, which is also the past, modifying itself now, becomes the future. This has been the cycle of time, the path of time. And now, not after 40 years of this organisation, but now, at the present time if there is no radical change, fundamental mutation, the future is, what is now. And that has been historically proved, and we can prove it in our daily lives.
So the question really is: whether human beings, you and us, sitting on the platform - I am sorry to be sitting up here - we are human beings. And as long as we with each other, or with man and woman, are in perpetual conflict there will be no peace on this earth. One may talk about it endlessly. The Roman Catholic hierarchy talks about 'pacem in terris', and they have been also responsible for appalling wars in the past. A hundred years of war, torture, all kinds of horrible things they have done to man. These are all facts, actualities, not the speaker's wish. And religions, including Islam, Hindus, Buddhists and so on, they have had their own kind of war. And the future beyond the 40th anniversary is what is going on now.
One wonders if one realises that. The present is not only the past, but also contains the future; the past modifying itself constantly through the present and projecting the future. If we don't stop quarrels, struggles, antagonism, hate now, it will be like that tomorrow. And you can stretch out that tomorrow for a thousand years, it will be still tomorrow.
So it behoves us to ask ourselves whether we, as human beings, single or a community or in a family, whether we can live peacefully with each other. Organisations have not solved this problem. You can reorganise but war still goes on. So organisations, whether it is world organisation or a particular kind of organisation to bring about peace, such organisations will never succeed because human beings individually, collectively, nationally, are in conflict. Strong nations, like America or Russia, are at war with each other - economically, ideologically, and actually - not bloodshed yet. So peace cannot possibly exist on this earth if there are nationalities, which, as we said, is glorified tribalism. Nationalities give certain security. Man needs security and he invests in nationalism, or in a particular ideology or belief. Beliefs, ideologies and so on, have separated man. And organisations cannot possibly bring about peace between man and man because he believes in something, he believes in certain ideologies, he believes in god and others don't.
I wonder if one has ever considered: religions based on a book - whether the Koran or the Bible - become very bigoted, narrow and fundamentalist. And religions like the Hindu and the Buddhist, they have many, many books, all considered sacred, real, straight from God's mouth! So they are not so bigoted, they are tolerant, they absorb. So there is this conflict going on: those who rely, put their faith in books, and those who do not put their faith in any book. So conflict between the book and those who accept multiple books. I wonder if one is aware of all this.
And we are asking deeply, if you are serious at all, whether you and I, and those of us who are involved in organisations, can live at peace with each other. Peace requires a great deal of intelligence, not just demonstrations against a particular form of war, against a nuclear or atom bomb and so on. Those are the products of minds, brains that are entrenched in nationalism, in some particular form of belief, ideology. So they are supplying armaments - the powerful ones, whether it be Russia, America, or England or France - armaments to the rest of the world, and they also talk about peace, supplying at the same time armaments.
It is a vast cynical world and cynicism can never tolerate affection, care, love. I think we have lost that quality - quality of compassion. Not analyse what is compassion - it can be analysed very easily. You cannot analyse love. Love is not within the limits of the brain, because the brain is the instrument of sensation, it is the centre of all reaction and action, and we try to find peace, love, within this limited area. Which means, thought is not love because thought is based on experience, which is limited, and on knowledge, which is always limited, whether now or in the future. So knowledge is always limited. And having knowledge, which is contained in the brain as memory, from that memory springs thought. This can be observed very simply and easily if one examines oneself, if one looks at one's own activity of thought, experience, knowledge. You don't have to read any book, or become a specialist to understand your own way of thinking, living.
So thought is always limited, whether it is now or in the future. And we try to solve all our problems, both technological, religious, and personal, through the activity of thought. Surely thought is not love, love is not sensation or pleasure, it is not the result of desire. It is something entirely different. To come upon that love, which is compassion, with its own intelligence, one has to understand oneself, what we are - not through analysts, but understanding our own sorrows, our own pleasures, our own beliefs.
You know wherever you go, all over the world, mankind, human beings, suffer, for various reasons, it might be petty or some very, very deep incident that has caused pain, sorrow. And every human being on this earth goes through that on a minor scale or a tremendous incident, as death. And sorrow is shared by all mankind, it is not your sorrow or mine, it is mankind's sorrow, mankind's anxiety, pain, loneliness, despair, aggressiveness. So you, and we, are the rest of humanity, we are not separate human beings psychologically. You may be a woman, I may be a man, you may be tall, dark, short and so on, but inwardly, psychologically, which is far more important, we are the rest of mankind. You are the rest of mankind, and so if you kill another, if you are in conflict with another, you are destroying yourself. You can observe this very, very carefully if you look at yourself without any distortion.
So there can only be peace when mankind, when you and I, have no conflict in ourselves. And you might say, 'If one achieves, or comes to an end of all conflict within oneself, how will it affect the rest of mankind?' This is a very, very old question. This has been put thousands of years before Christ, if he ever existed. And we have to ask whether in ourselves sorrow, pain and anxiety, and all that, can ever end. If one applies, looks, observes with great attention, as you look with considerable attention when you are combing your hair, or shaving, with that quality of attention, heightened, you can observe yourself - all the nuances, subtleties. And the mirror is your relationship between human beings. In that mirror you can see yourself exactly as you are. But most of us are frightened to see what we are, and so we gradually develop resistance, guilt, and all the rest of that business. So we never ask for total freedom - not to do what you like, but to be free from choice. Where there are multiple choices there are multiple confusions.
So can we live on this earth, 'pacem in terris', with great understanding of mankind, which is to understand yourself so profoundly, not according to some psychologist, analyst. They too have to be analysed. So we can, without turning to the professionals, as simple laymen we can observe our own idiosyncrasies, tendencies. Our brain - the speaker is not a specialist about brain matter - our brain has been conditioned to war, to hate, to conflict. It is conditioned through this long period of evolution, whether that brain with its cells, which contain all the memories, whether that brain can free itself from its own conditioning. You know it is very simple to answer such a question. If you have been going north all the days of your life, as humanity has been going in a particular direction, which is conflict, and somebody comes along and says, 'That leads nowhere'. And he is serious, and perhaps you are serious. Then he says, 'Go south, go east, any other direction but that'. And when you actually move away from that direction there is a mutation in the very brain cells themselves because you have broken the pattern. And that pattern must be broken now, not forty years or a hundred years later.
And can human beings have the vitality, the energy, to transform themselves to civilised human beings, not killing each other?
Chairman: May we ask questions?
K: Yes, sir, ask any questions. Delighted!
Chairman: We have time for some questions and Mr Krishnamurti has kindly agreed to answer any questions you may ask. When you ask a question please raise your hand so that the sound will be connected. Thank you.
QUESTION: I am asking a question with regard to wanting a spiritual expression that I feel linked up with. Am I being heard? I don’t think so. Yes? I feel there is a disconnecting sense that is being communicated to me. I would look forward to a spiritual connection to myself and fellow people in this group that would be an elevating sense. That is what I would look forward to experiencing at this lecture, a more uplifting spiritual sense of oneness, rather than an intellectual expression.
K: First of all, I don't understand the word 'spiritual'. Is it emotional, romantic, ideological, or something vague in the air, or facing actuality, what is going on now, both in ourselves and in the world? Because you are the world, you are not separate from the world. We have created this society, and we are that society. And whatever experiences one has, so-called religious and spiritual, one must doubt those very experiences, one must question, be sceptical. I wonder if you realise that the word 'scepticism', questioning, enquiring, is not advocated in the Christian world. Whereas in Buddhism, and Hinduism, that is one of the essential things, you must question everything, until you discover or come upon that truth, which is not yours, or any others, it is truth.
And this enquiry is not intellectual. Intellect is only a part of the whole human structure. One must look at the world and oneself as a holistic being. And truth is not something to be experienced. If one may point out, who is the experiencer apart from experience? Is not the experiencer part of the experience? Otherwise he wouldn't know what experience he has had. So the experiencer is the experience; the thinker is the thought; the observer, in its psychological sense, is the observed. There is no difference. And where there is difference, separation, there comes conflict. With the end of conflict there is freedom, and only then truth can come into being. All this is not intellectual, for god's sake. This is something that one lives, finds out.
QUESTION: You laid a great deal of stress on enquiry and scepticism. I wonder if you could tell me if faith plays a role in there too?
K: What is faith? What do you put your faith in? One has faith in some experience, one has faith in some belief, or in a symbol, and so on. Why does one have faith? Is it out of fear, out of uncertainty, out of a sense of insecurity? When you have faith, for instance as a Hindu in some symbol, and you hold on to that faith, or to that symbol, then you are at war with the rest of the world. But to enquire gently, hesitantly, questioning, asking yourself, then out of that comes clarity. And there must be clarity to understand that which is eternal.
QUESTION: At the end you said that we need to break the pattern of conflict between man. My question to you is, do you see that as something of an evolutionary process that will inevitably happen? Or do you see it as something that we all have to work very hard to achieve? And there is an expression that goes something like this: in times of darkness the eye begins to see. And why I am throwing that at you because in a sense it is either going to happen, or it is not going to happen, but how do you see it happening?
K: I don't quite understand your question, sir.
Q: All right. You talk about breaking the pattern, man has a pattern, the brain has a pattern, and that pattern has to be broken in order for there to be peace in the world.
K: Of course.
Q: Now do you see the breaking of that pattern being an active movement, or a natural progression in the evolution of man?
K: Sir, have we evolved at all?
Q: I think we are continuously evolving.
K: So you accept evolution - psychological evolution, we are not talking about biological or technical evolution - psychological evolution. After a million years, of fifty thousand years, have we changed deeply? Aren't we very primitive, barbarous? So I am asking if you will consider whether there is psychological evolution at all? I question it. Personally, to the speaker, there is no psychological evolution: there is only the ending of sorrow, of pain, anxiety, loneliness, despair and all that. Man has lived with it for a million years. And if we rely on time, which is thought - time and thought go together - if we rely on evolution then another thousand years or more, and we will still be barbarous.
Q: My question is: what would have to happen within man’s mind for there to begin to be psychological evolution as the speaker understands it?
K: What about psychological evolution? I don't quite understand the question.
Q: You have said that you do not think there has been psychological evolution. My question is: what can happen so that there will be, so that there can be, psychological evolution.
K: Madam, I am afraid we haven't understood each other. We have lived on this earth from the historical, as well as ancient enquiry, on this earth for fifty thousand years or more, or less. And during that long period of evolution, psychologically, inwardly, subjectively, we have remained more or less barbarous - hating each other, killing each other. And time is not going to solve that problem, which is evolution. And is it possible - we are asking - for each human being, who is the rest of the world, whether that psychological movement can stop and see something afresh?
Q: I wanted to ask you the same question phrased in a different way: what should we do in order to effect this resistance towards evolution. I just want to say one more thing. There was a Dr Bohm last month, he said the same thing which you are saying in a different way, he is a scientist, he was explaining the same problem. I wonder what do you think we could do, as a matter of fact, what could we do right now in order to effect this?
K: I have got it. What could you do right now? Right? Change completely! (laughter) - both psychologically and outwardly. First the psychological revolution, not evolution, but revolution, change completely. That is the real action of humankind, not trying to fiddle around on the periphery.
QUESTION: You stated that an important condition for understanding humankind is beginning to understand ourselves clearly. Do you see that in these rooms within the next forty years, at the United Nations, that this understanding of humankind through understanding ourselves will become a part of global decision making?
K: I couldn't answer that question because I don't belong to the organisation. Ask the bosses! (laughter)
Q: I am the UN representative for the World Citizens Assembly and Culture of the communications co-ordination committee for the UN and I’d like to, for the record, state that Mr Marcel Bob who asked this very significant question before is also a member of that group and I trust that you and he will have a chance to talk a bit later because many of his writings seem to be highly related to your conclusion, but I would like to add another note, perhaps a note of greater encouragement in my question. You indicated that organisations may not provide the answer, and you also indicated that the history of humanity would incline you to pessimism about the future or salvation. I think it depends upon the nature of the organisations and whether these are serving the interests of humanity and prepared to evolve, as the UN and many other groups evolve, and as humans evolve. For the record let me just read a sentence from Dr Louis Thomas. You probably know him as a fellow author and scientist, also Chancellor of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Centre. He states, ‘We can build structures for human society never seen before, thought never thought before, music never heard before, provided we do not kill ourselves off and provided we can connect ourselves by the affection and respect for which our genes are also coded. There is no end to what we might do on or off this planet.’ And the implication there, which I share, is that we have evolved because we have the capacity for love and co-operation, and that we are not doomed because we manifest hate and fear and greed, and have succumbed in the past to iniquities like that. But by the very existence of the United Nations we have an illustration of man’s capacity for growth and shared goals. I think that the present does contain the future and we by acting energetically in the present can affect our future and our survival. Therefore I ask, what is the answer to the question you raised about when one achieves peace within oneself, how will it affect the rest of humanity, given the time limits?
K: What is the question, sir?
Q: The question was: when one achieves peace within oneself how will it affect the rest of humanity without organisational structures?
K: I explained that, forgive me, sir, I explained it. To say, if I change how will it affect mankind, the rest of the world? That is the question, isn't it, sir? Wait a minute, sir.
Q: That is the question.
K: I think if I may most respectfully point out, that is a wrong question. Change and you will see what happens. (applause) This is really a very important thing. We have to put aside all the side issues. Please do realise something tremendous: that you are the rest of mankind psychologically. You are mankind, whether you live in India, Russia, China or in America, or Europe, you are the rest of mankind, because you suffer, and everyone on this earth suffers in his own way. We share that suffering, it is not my suffering. So when you ask a question: what difference will it make if I or you change, if I may most humbly point out, it is a wrong question. You are avoiding the central issue. And we never seem to face the central issue, the central challenge that demands that we live totally differently, not as Americans, Russians, Indians, or Buddhists or Christians.
I wonder if you have realised, Christians have been responsible for killing humans far more than any other religious group. Don't get angry, please! Then Islam, the Muslim world, then the Hindus and the Buddhists come much later. So if the so-called Christians, the Catholics included, about eight hundred million people, if they said, 'No more war', you will have peace on this earth. But they won't say that. It is only Buddhism and Hinduism, said, 'Don't kill. If you kill' - they believe in reincarnation - 'you will pay next life. Therefore don't kill, don't kill the least little thing, except what you have to eat, vegetables and so on. But don't kill.' We as Brahmins were brought up that way, not to kill a fly, not to kill animals for your food. But all that is gone. So please, we are suggesting that the central issue to stop wars is, you must stop your own antagonisms, your own conflicts, your own misery and suffering.
Why do we choose, apart from physical things - two good materials, clothes, between cars? You choose there because of their function, their mileage and so on. But psychologically why do you choose at all? Why is there this choice? There is choice: you can move from one town to another, from one job to another - not in Russia, not in the tyrannical world, in the totalitarian world you are stuck in your place, you are not allowed to move - unless the bosses agree. And in this country, in so-called democratic societies, you have a choice to do what you like. And you call that freedom - to fulfil yourself, to become a great success. You have there tremendous choice. Now we are talking about choice in the psychological field. If you see things very clearly there is no choice. It is unfortunate that we don't see things clearly. We don't see clearly that nationalism is one of the causes of war. We don't clearly see that ideologies breed wars, whether it is the Marxist ideology, or Lenin, or our own particular form of ideologies. So we choose from one ideology to another, one religion to another, one group to another, and we think we are free. On the contrary, it shows confusion. And when we are confused we act in confusion, therefore multiply confusions, as the politicians are doing - forgive me.
Q: We have a written question here for Mr Krishnamurti. Do you believe in the so-called realised soul?
K: Do you believe in so-called realised souls? I don't know what it means. (laughter) Just a minute, sir.
QUESTION: I’m sorry right now you are talking from a public forum and once this lecture is over probably you will return to a privacy that probably you cherish greatly. So there is for most human beings in this world a division between public life and private life. Could you comment on this division? Do you feel it leads to conflict, is it necessary?
K: Between public life and private life? Is that the question?
Q: Yes, thank you.
K: Why do you separate this? Why do we separate public life as though something outside, and private life? If one lived correctly, precisely, not intellectually, but holistically, then there is no outward life and private life. Holistically, that is to live as a whole human being, not as a sectarian, not as an individual, not as petty little minds, brains active in our self interest. Sorry if I am emphatic. Is that finished, sir?
Chairman: There are two more questions.
K: I don't mind, I don't mind.
QUESTION: If you are living peacefully and the tyrant attacks, do you not defend?
K: What will you do then? If you live peacefully and a tyrant or a robber attacks you, what will you do? That is the question. Do you live peacefully for a day or two? Or you've lived peacefully all your life? If you have lived peacefully for many years then you will do the right thing when you are attacked. (laughter)
Sirs, the speaker has been at this, talking for the last sixty years, and more - all over the world except behind the Iron Curtain. Before the war he was all over Europe - and these questions have been put to the speaker for sixty years. The same pattern is being repeated by the young generation, by a civilisation that is recent like America, the same questions, with the same intention, to trap the speaker, or to really understand the speaker, or to understand themselves. And if you have the misfortune or the fortune to have talked for sixty years you know all the answers and all the questions. There is no difference between question and answer. If you understand the question really deeply the answer is in the question.
Chairman: Mr Robert Miller would like to ask a question.
QUESTION: Well, it is not to ask a question, it is just to congratulate you for your statement. And to confirm that having lived in this organisation for almost forty years and having lived more than sixty years, I have come to the same conclusion as you. We are all being programmed, we are being programmed into a nation, into an ideology, into a religion. And all these are fragmented human beings. It took me forty years to be in this house to be de-programmed from the two or three nationalities which were imposed on me, each time I got also a gun to shoot at the other direction. And it is here after having seen the world in its totality and humanity in its totality that I have come to the conclusion that it is more important to be a human being than to be a Jew, or a Catholic or a Frenchman, or a Russian, or a white, or a black.
K: Quite right.
Q: And in my book I will not kill under any reason, and for any nation, or for any religion, or for any ideology. This is the conclusion which is also yours.
K: Is it a conclusion, sir? Or an actuality?
Q: That is my actuality.
K: That's right. Not a conclusion. (applause)
Q: Ambassador Barrys would like to comment.
Q: It’s not a comment, it’s a question. I am not arguing about religions but I will remind that, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is not exactly a Christian precept. On the contrary, Christ thought the peaceful way is: care for your fellow human beings, have compassion and love for one another. But I would like to know how to break this pattern of confrontation among human beings. I am not talking about States because States are formed by human beings and governments too, they are human beings that rule the countries. How could we break this pattern? How is it that mankind has not been able to practise such glowing thoughts as those that Christ wrote to us and that were written also by all religions as Hinduism and Buddhism. I would like very much to see if we could find a formula, a solution to break that terrible pattern of confrontation, and hate even between families, as Mr Krishnamurti has pointed out because it is not just war among nations, there is always a confrontation, duality even among children you see one is with Mama and the other one wants to immediately be there. That pattern, how could we break it? Thank you.
K: May I answer you question? We are programmed, like computers - we are Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and so on. As Mr (?) pointed out, we are conditioned. Do we realise or see actually, actually, not theoretically, or ideologically, but actually see that we are programmed? Or is it just a casual statement? If you are actually programmed and you realise the consequences of being programmed. One of the consequences has been hating, or war, or separating yourself from others. If one realises that you are being programmed, pressurised, preached at, and if one really sees that, you abandon it, you don't want a formula for it. The moment you have a formula then you are caught in it. Then you become programmed again because you have your programme and the other fellow brings you another programme. So what is important is to realise the actuality of being programmed, not intellectually, with all your blood, energy.
Chairman: Because of the time element we will not be able to entertain any more questions. On behalf of the Pacem in Terris Society and the Movement for a Better World, we would like to thank our honoured guest-speaker and Brother Pillar and Ambassador Barrys who are the Honorary Presidents of the Society, and all of you who came to attend the lecture today.
I have a very simple ceremony before you leave. Mr Krishnamurti was here last year on the 17th of April, just around the time we had the Pacem in Terris day. And this year we were very fortunate to have on the twenty second anniversary of the Pacem in Terris , and you have already heard about it. On behalf of the Pacem in Terris Society at the United Nations, we have the honour of presenting you, Mr Krishnamurti, the World Teacher, with the United Nations 1984 Peace medal. (applause)