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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 11th December, 1947

We were talking about evil in relation to the problem of duality and the conflict of the opposites, i.e. about what is going on in the world - left against the right, the believer against the non-believer, the communist against the capitalist, labour against capital, arrogance against humility, good against evil, etc. Now, is there such a thing as the opposites?

Someone of you said that good is that which gives the greatest happiness to the largest number of people. Is this so? The fighting men are extraordinarily delighted and happy if there is war. They are relieved of their responsibilities and they are told what to do. The greatest number of people like to believe in some kind of superstition, whether it is the superstition of nationality, or of race, superstition of a scientific man, or religious superstition. So, can we say good is what gives happiness to the most? Obviously not, nor what is harmful to the most is evil.

Is that the way of discovering the truth of anything, bringing in the utilitarian point of view? Is it not the correct way to view the thing as it is, and not be confused by its effect or action on the many or the one? Can we not think directly instead of bringing in its action, whether it is beneficial for the many or for the few? After all, the State decides what is good for the people, whether the right or the left, passes certain regulations and laws and says that he who obeys them is the good, and the person who is disobeying it is the evil.

Now, can you be called good when you are kind, merciful and generous spontaneously? Why do we name it? If a good action is said to be an example for others to follow, is it good? It ceases to be mercy when somebody imitates mercy. Why do we create these words, good and evil?

Let us consider the left and the right. Is the left different from the right? The left is the idea that sensory values are the only values worth cultivating, giving happiness to man; and that, therefore, man through the control of environment can be shaped according to the edicts of society and the State; in that control there should be no values except the sensory values. The Socialist, the Fascist and the Communist believe in that; to them the individual is not at all important, because he is merely the result of sensate values, to be controlled and shaped, or to be transformed and moulded, according to the desire of the State or what the State wants.

Then, there is the so-called opposite to it, the right - the absolutest as opposed to the materialist - he has only an absolute value which is God, in which is involved the priest, the Church, the organisation. The capitalists who believe in the absolute value of God are sacrificing the individuals through exploitation, ruthless murderous exploitation, corruption and competition; during a crisis, like a war, they too adopt the same attitude towards the individual as the communist.

Similarly, the man who believes in the Church and who wants to spread religion as a means of salvation, believes in the good end and says "let us make this world as ruthlessly efficient as possible" and fights the man who is against the Church.

But are they - the Communist and the Capitalist, or the Materialist and the Absolutist - the opposites? Is there the dual, the sensory and the non-sensory, as two in opposite? This is a problem confronting the people all over the world, the religious person who wants to spread religion and the other wanting to spread his external, materialistic, dialectic conclusions.

We are trying to find out whether the left is an opposite to the right, or is merely the extension of the right.

After all, without understanding the centre, the left or the right are the same. It is only when one understands the centre which is the individual from which the left and the right come into being, there can be true revolution, not revolution to the left or to the right. but, as long as you are thinking in terms of the left or the right, you cannot understand the centre.

The problem now is not whether the left is right or the right is wrong, but whether opposites exist, i.e. the problem of thesis and antithesis, "this" opposed to "that". Is there such a problem, the capitalist opposed to the communist, the communist opposed to the religious, that which is in contradiction to that which is not?

You are this and you want to be that; you are ignorant and you want to be enlightened; you are arrogant and you want to be humble. Or you are ambitious and ruthless, and you carry on. Thus your whole existence is a conflict of opposites. All your religious books and edicts are based on 'You are this and you must become that.' Are you satisfied with this struggle of opposites? The clerk becoming the manager and the manager becoming the executive, is our whole everyday struggle. Should you not question it to find out the reason for this conflict, this ceaseless battle till you die and to be still wanting to continue after death?

The conflict of the opposites exists in all the different layers of our existence - social, economic, political, inward, psychological, spiritual and so on. This is a constant battle between 'what you are' and 'what you would like to become'. As an example covering the whole of life - i.e. the Clerk becoming the Manager, the Priest becoming the Bishop, the Collector becoming the Governor, the ignorant becoming the enlightened, evil becoming the good and so on - let us consider 'arrogance'. I am arrogant and I spend my energy in becoming humble, adopting meditations, beliefs and ceremonies as helps to keep me on in this conflict of 'becoming' the opposite of 'what I am'. I have accepted this process of 'becoming' as the way of life, thoughtlessly and without any investigation, thinking it to be inevitable because all the religious people have told me like that. Is that the way to live? In order to understand the truth about this, I should not accept any contradiction, though I am caught in contradiction; but I must put it aside.

Someone says that, in order to bring abut peace, you must go to war, if necessary, with the anti-social people. He believes, therefore, that war is a means to peace. In order to fight the communist or the capitalist, you must be as clever as he and should employ all his methods, his ways, his propaganda, and his ways of telling lies, i.e. you have to become himself. England has fought for years for the freedom of labour and now directs it. Our whole existence is this, fighting evil by evil means, but saying, 'Well, I am not evil,' as though we are extraordinarily righteous. Wrong means will surely produce a wrong end.

In our everyday life, we have thoughtlessly accepted as inevitable this struggle of opposites - I am this and I want to become that - without knowing the whole significance of 'what I am'; so, the end also is bound to be thoughtless.

It is thoughtless on the part of an arrogant man to struggle to become humble; he will never become humble. What does 'to become' mean? 'I am this' and 'I want to become that.' 'I am arrogant' is a fact and I know it. But 'humility' I do not know; it is an objective which I would like to be. Humility, therefore, is not the actual; but the ideal. That is one part of the problem. The other part of the problem is the idea of becoming.

Is there a becoming at all? I know the acorn becomes the oak; this is not a becoming; it is what it is all the time and it has its own becoming. There is no becoming of an acorn into the rose or the pine tree. If you can understand the problem of becoming, then perhaps you will discover the truth about duality.

You are 'A', and you want to become 'B'. Now, what is 'B'? Is it not a negative response to what is 'A'? You are arrogant and the negative response is humility and you must become that. That is, you are arrogant; and negatively you are going to become that which is humble. You find arrogance not so pleasurable as you thought it was, because there is pain involved and arrogance does not pay you; perhaps becoming humble will pay you. Thus, 'becoming' implies a profit motive.

You say that you, being arrogant, want to become humble because then only can you get to God. This means that you want a result which is more beneficial, less harmful, and happier than arrogance. The real motive for a 'becoming' is for a profit, not only physiologically, but psychologically. You are 'arrogant,' the 'A'; and you want to get away from that. You begin to say that arrogance does not pay and therefore you create humility, the 'B'; you try to become that which is non-existent, as 'B' is non-existent but theoretical and ideological. You have created the opposite 'B' which is non-existent and yet you are trying to become that. 'A' alone, arrogance, is existent. Because it is not profitable you want to become the opposite which is humility. When you examine the opposite and you see what is involved in it, you see that you have created it as a negative response. Therefore, in creating the opposite,the opposite has the seed of arrogance. 'B' has the seed of 'A' because 'B' has been brought into being through 'A'. It is only an ideological thing which is to be got and it is not existent apart from A. So, you have found out that the conflict between 'A' and 'B' is fallacious and does not lead you anywhere.

As another illustration of this conflict of opposites, let us take 'fear' and 'bravery'. You are afraid and you want to become brave, because fear does not pay in the world and everybody says you must be brave; which means, you want to become brave because you are afraid. The motive is still fear. Though you have taken the cloak of bravery, there is still fear. The intention in becoming brave is still fear. Therefore, bravery, as the opposite of fear, has the seed of fear.

Similarly about anger. We are not discussing how to get rid of anger. First, we must know what we are doing before we get rid of anger. You are angry and what is your response? You said to another something sharp and you regret; and you say 'I wish I did not get angry'. Again, you are angry and again you say "Awful, what is the matter?" and you create the opposite which is non-anger, because anger is very disturbing. If you can understand the conflict of the opposites, you may be able to deal with anger quite differently.

You are in a state which is very disturbing and you do not like that state. You like the state which is quite peaceful and more profitable. Therefore, you are moving from 'what you are' to 'what you want to be' as the opposite of 'what you are', with a motive for profit. The opposite is created on account of your desire for profit or benefit, for a result; it is non-existent. Therefore, the fight between the so-called opposites is between 'what is' and 'what is not'. How can there be a fight between one which is existent and some- thing which in non-existent apart from it? It is only on the verbal level. Therefore, the fight is an illusion, a stupid and thoughtless action.

Conflict between the opposites - whether it is the left or the right, between capital and labour, between God and Devil, is non-existent: because, there is only one thing, 'what is': and any movement away from 'what is' is stupidity. Therefore, the conflict has no significance.

To understand the disturbing state in which you find yourself, you must first stop the fighting with the opposite which is non-existent, i.e. you must give up the struggle to become the opposite. Do not condemn that state nor identify yourself with it. Then, watch it with your whole being and be aware of it.

Whenever we have a feeling, we generally name it so that we may recognise it and also communicate it, if necessary, to others. Investigation into and understanding of the feeling itself, which is changing and in movement, demands freedom from terminology, as the term is not the thing that it is supposed to denote.

If a feeling is investigated through a term, the term becomes important and not the feeling. When communicated to another, that other interprets the term or the word according to his own feeling. Thus, the term influences, modifies, and shapes the feeling. For the same reasons, the word 'God' is not 'God' and yet it has become an extraordinarily important word. We shall discuss further this question of terminology in relation to feelings, at our next meeting.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 11th December, 1947

Jiddu Krishnamurti texts. The Observer Is the Observed. Contains reports of spontaneous discourses about life and reality, given at different times between 1945 and 1948.


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