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The Mirror of Relationship

New York City, NY
1st Public Talk 1st June, 1936

In the world today, there are those who maintain that the individual is nothing but a social entity, that he is merely the product of conflicting environment. There are others who assert that man is divine, and this idea is expressed and interpreted in various forms to be found in religions.

The implications in the idea that man is a social entity are many, and seemingly logical. If you deeply accept the idea that man is essentially a social entity, then you will favour the regimentation of thought and expression in every department of life. If you maintain that man is merely the result of environment, then system naturally becomes supremely important and on that all emphasis should be laid; then moulds by which man must be shaped acquire great value. You have then discipline, coercion, and ultimately the final authority of society calling itself government, or the authority of groups or of ideal concepts. Then social morality is merely for convenience; and our existence, a matter of brief span, is followed by annihilation.

I need not go into the many implications in the idea that man is merely a social entity. If you are interested you can see for yourself its significance, and if you accept the idea that individuality is merely the product of environment, then your moral, social and religious conceptions must necessarily undergo a complete change.

If, however, you accept the religious idea that there is some unseen, divine power which controls your destiny, and so compels obedience, reverence and worship, then you must also recognize the implications in this conception. From the deep acceptance of this divine power, there must follow a complete social and moral reorganization. This acceptance is based on faith, which must give birth to fear, though you cover up this fear by asserting that it is love. You accept this religious idea because in it there is the promise of personal immortality. Its morality is subtly based on self-perpetuation, on reward and punishment. In this conception there is also the idea of achievement, of egotistic pursuit and success. And, if you accept it, then you must seek guides, masters, paths, disciplines, and perpetuate the many subtle forms of authority.

There are these two categories of thought, and they must inevitably come into acute conflict. Each one of us has to discover for himself if either of these seemingly contradictory conceptions of man is true; whether the individual is merely the result of environmental influences and of heredity, which develop certain peculiarities and characteristics, or whether there is some hidden power which is guiding, controlling, forcing man's destiny and fulfilment. Either you accept simultaneously both these conceptions though they are diametrically opposed to each other, or you make a choice between them, that is, a choice between regimentation of thought and expression of the individual, and the religious conception that some unseen intelligence is creating, guiding and shaping man's future and his happiness, an idea based on faith, on craving for self-perpetuation which prevents true discernment. Now if you are indifferent to this idea, again your very indifference is but an indication of thoughtlessness, therefore a prejudice, preventing true comprehension.

Choice is based on like and dislike, on prejudice and tendencies, and so it loses all validity. Instead of belonging to either of these two groups, or being forced to make a choice, I say that there is a different approach to the comprehension of individuality, of man. This approach lies through direct discernment, through the proof of action, without violation of sanity and intelligence.

How are you, as individuals, going to discover whether man is divine in limitation, or merely a plaything of social events? This problem loses its mere intellectual significance and becomes tremendously vital when you test it in action. Then, how is one to act? How is one to live?

If you accept the idea that you are merely a social entity, then action becomes seemingly simple; you are then trained through education, through subtle compulsion, and through the constant instilling of certain ideas, to conform to a certain pattern of conduct, relationship. On the other hand, if you truly accepted the religious conception of some unseen power controlling and guiding your life, then your action would have a totally different significance from what it has now. Then you would have a different relationship, which is morality, with other individuals, with society; and it would imply the cessation of wars, class distinction, exploitation.

But as this true relationship does not exist in the world, it is obvious that you are wholly uncertain about the real significance of individuality and of action. For, if you truly accepted the religious idea that you are guided by some supreme entity, then, perhaps, your moral and social action would be sane, balanced and intelligent; but as it is not, you obviously do not accept this idea, although you profess to accept it. Hence the many churches, with their various forms of exploitation. If you maintain that you are nothing but a social entity, then likewise there must be a complete change in your attitude and in your action. And this change has not taken place. All this indicates that you are in a state of lethargy and are only pursuing your own idiosyncrasies.

To be completely and vitally uncertain is essential in order to understand the process of individuality, to find out what is permanent, to discover that which is true. You have to find out for yourself whether you are in this state of complete uncertainty, neither accepting the individual as a social entity, with all its implications, nor accepting the individual as something supreme, as being divinely guided, with all the implications in this idea. Then alone there is a possibility of true discernment and comprehension.

If you are in this state, as most thoughtful people must be, not following any dogma, belief, or ideal, then you will perceive that to understand what is, you must know what you are. You cannot understand any other process - the world as society is a series of processes which are in a state of being born, of becoming - except the one which is focussed in the individual as consciousness. If you can understand the process of consciousness, of individuality, then there is a possibility of comprehending the world and its events. Reality is to be discerned only in knowing and in understanding the transient process of the "I". If I can comprehend myself, what I am, how I have come into being, whether the "I" is an identity in itself and what is the nature of its existence, then there is a possibility of comprehending the real, the true.

I will explain this process of the "I" of individuality. There is energy which is unique to each individual, and which is without a beginning. This energy - please do not attribute to it any divinity or give to it a particular quality - in its process of self-acting development, creates its own substance or material, which is sensation, discernment and consciousness. This is the abstract as consciousness. The actual is action. Of course, there is no such absolute division. Action proceeds from ignorance, which exists where there are prejudices, tendencies, cravings, that must result in sorrow. So existence becomes a conflict, a friction. That is, consciousness is both discernment and action. Through the constant interaction between those cravings, prejudices, tendencies, and the limitations which this action is creating, there arises friction, the "I" process.

If you examine deeply, you will perceive that individuality is only a series of limitations, a series of accumulative actions, of hindrances, which give to consciousness the identity called the "I". The "I" is only a series of memories, tendencies, which are born of craving, and action is that friction between craving and its object. If action is the result of a prejudice, of fear, of some belief, then that action produces further limitation. If you have been raised in a particular religious belief or if you have developed a particular tendency, it must create a resistance against the movement of life. These resistances, these self-protective, egotistic walls of security, give birth to the "I" process, which is maintaining itself through its own activities. To understand yourself, you must become conscious of this process of the building up of the "I". You will then discern that this process has no beginning, and yet by constant awareness and by right effort it can be brought to an end. The art of living is to bring this "I" process to an end. It is an art that needs great discernment and right effort. We cannot understand any other process except that process which is consciousness, upon which depends individuality. By right effort, there is the discernment of the coming into being of the "I" process, and by right effort there is the ending of that process. From this arises the bliss of reality, the beauty of life as eternal movement.

This you can prove to yourself, it does not demand any faith, nor does it depend upon any system of thought or of belief. Only, it demands an integrated awareness and right effort, which will dissolve the self-created illusions and limitations and thus bring about the bliss of reality.

Question: A genuine desire to spread happiness around and help to make of this world a nobler place for all to live in is guiding me in life and dictating my actions. This attitude makes me use the wealth and prestige I possess, not as a means of self-gratification, but merely as a sacred trust, and supplies an urge to life. What, fundamentally, is wrong in such an attitude, and am I guilty of exploiting my friends and fellow beings?

Krishnamurti: Whether you are exploiting or not depends on what you mean by helping and spreading happiness. You can help another and so enslave him, or you can help another to comprehend himself and so to fulfil deeply. You can spread happiness by encouraging illusion, giving superficial comfort and security which appear to be lasting. Or you can help another to discern the many illusions in which he is caught; if you are capable of doing this, then you are not exploiting. But, in order not to exploit fundamentally, you must be free yourself from those illusions and comforts in which you or another is held. You must discern your own limitations before you can truly help another. Many people throughout the world earnestly desire to aid others, but this help generally consists in converting others to their own particular belief, system or religion. It is but the substitution of one kind of prison for another. This exchange does not bring about comprehension but only creates greater confusion. In deeply comprehending oneself lies the bliss for which each individual is struggling and groping. Question: Don't you think that it is necessary to go through the experience of exploitation in order to learn not to exploit, to acquire in order not to be acquisitive, and so on?

Krishnamurti: It is a very comforting idea that you must first possess, and then learn not to acquire!

Acquisition is a form of pleasure, and during its process, that is, while acquiring, gathering, there comes suffering, and in order to avoid it you begin to say to yourself, "I must not acquire". Not to be acquisitive becomes a new virtue, a new pleasure. But if you examine the desire that prompts you not to acquire, you will see that it is based on a deeper desire to protect yourself from pain. So you are really seeking pleasure, both in acquisitiveness and in non-acquisitiveness. Fundamentally, acquisitiveness and non-acquisitiveness are the same, as they both spring from the desire not to be involved in pain. Developing a particular quality merely creates a wall of self-protection, of resistance against the movement of life. In this resistance, within these prison walls of self-protection, lies sorrow, confusion.

Now there is a different way of looking at this problem of opposites. It is to discern directly, to perceive integrally, that all tendencies and virtues hold within themselves their own opposites, and that to develop an opposite is to escape from actuality.

Would it be true to say that you must hate in order to love? This never happens in actuality. You love, and then because in your love there is possessiveness, there arise frustration, jealousy and fear. This process awakens hatred. Then begins the conflict of opposites. If acquisitiveness in itself is ugly and evil, then why develop its opposite? Because you do not discern that it,is ugly and evil, but you want to avoid the pain involved in it, you develop its opposite. All opposites must create conflict, because they are essentially unintelligent. A man who is afraid develops bravery. This process of developing bravery is really an escape from fear, but if he discerns the cause of fear, fear will naturally cease. Why is he not capable of direct discernment? Because, if there is direct perception, there must be action, and in order to avoid action one develops the opposite and so establishes a series of subtle escapes.

Question: As social entities we have various responsibilities, as workers, voters, and executive heads. At present the basis of most of these activities is class division, which has fostered a class consciousness. If we are to break down these barriers which are responsible for so much social and economic chaos, we at once become antisocial. What contribution have you to make toward the solution of this modern worldwide problem?

Krishnamurti: Do you really think that it is antisocial to break away from this system of exploitation, of class consciousness, of competition? Surely not. One is afraid of creating chaos - as though there were not confusion now - in breaking away from this system of division and exploitation; but if there is discernment that exploitation is inherently wrong, then there is the awakening of true intelligence which alone can create order and the well-being of man. Now the existing system is based on individual security, the security and comfort that are implied in immortality and economic well-being. Surely it is this acquisitive existence that is antisocial and not the breaking away from a conception and a system that are essentially false and stupid. This system is creating great chaos, confusion, and is bringing about wars. Now we are antisocial through our acquisitive pursuits, whether it is the acquisitive pursuit of God or of wealth. Since we are caught up in this process of acquisition, whether it is of virtue or of power in society, since we are caught up in this machine which we have created, we must intelligently break away from it. Such an act of intelligence is not antisocial, it is an act of sanity and balance.

Question: Have you no use for public opinion? Is not mass psychology important for leaders of men?

Krishnamurti: Public opinion is generally moulded by the bias of leaders, and to allow oneself to be moulded by that opinion is surely not intelligent. It is not spiritual, if you like to use that word. Take, for example, war. It is one thing to die for a cause, voluntarily, and it is quite another thing that a group of people or a set of leaders should send you to kill or be killed. Mob psychology is developed and is deliberately used for various purposes. In that there is no intelligence.

Question: All I gather from your writings and utterances is an insistence on self-denudation, the necessity of removing every emotional comfort and solace. As this leaves me no happier, in fact less happy than before, to me your teaching only carries a destructive note. What is its constructive side, if it has one? Krishnamurti: What do you mean by constructive help? To be told what to do? To be given a system? To have someone direct and guide you? To be told how to meditate, or what kind of discipline you should follow? Is this really constructive, or is it destructive of intelligence?

What is the motive which prompted this question? If you examine it, you will see that it is based on fear, fear of not realizing what is called happiness, truth; fear and distrust of one's own effort and of uncertainty. What you would call positive teaching is utterly destructive of intelligence, making you thoughtless and automatic. You want to be told what to think and how to act; but a teaching that insists that through your own ignorant action - ignorance being the lack of comprehension of oneself - you are increasing and perpetuating limitation and sorrow, such a teaching you call destructive. If you truly understand what I am saying, you will discern that it is not negative. On the contrary, you will see that it brings about tremendous self-reliance, and so gives you the strength of direct perception.

Question: What relation has memory to living?

Krishnamurti: Memory acts as a resistance against the movement of life. Memory is but the many layers of self-protective responses against life. Thus action or experience, instead of liberating, creates further limitation and sorrow. These memories with their tendencies and cravings form consciousness, on which individuality is based. From this there arise division, conflict and sorrow.

The present chaos, conflict and misery can be understood and solved only when each individual discerns the process of ignorance which he is engendering through his own action. To bring about order and the well-being of man, each one, through his own right endeavour, has to discern this process and bring about its end. This demands an alertness of mind and right effort, not the following of a particular system of thought, nor the disciplining of the mind and heart, in order to gain that reality which cannot be described or conceived. Only when the cause of sorrow is dissolved is there the bliss of reality.

The Mirror of Relationship

New York City, NY
1st Public Talk 1st June, 1936

Jiddu Krishnamurti. The Mirror of Relationship. The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1936..1944.


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