The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 20th December, 1947
You have suggested that, today, we should discuss together the practical steps to be taken by us in our daily life to give expression to the ideas we have hitherto considered, especially in relation to property.
Property implies continuity, acquisitiveness, possessiveness, domination, suppression, economic relation between man and man, ill-will, nationalism, war and peace and all the rest of it.
We consider practical steps in order to achieve an ideal, to achieve something, to achieve a result. This suggestion implies that what we have been discussing is impractical and that, being only theoretical, they need translation in our daily life through a certain set of regulations or practical ideas. It also implies that we do not understand the implications of that idea in regard to our daily activities now, and that by doing certain practices leading to a particular way of living, you will, in course of time, understand the implications.
Let us take, for instance, nationalism. How can you be practical about nationalism? If you understand it and its results in daily life, it drops away from you. You do not become international; you cease to be national and therefore you are a human being. How can you have a practical step to cease to be national?
Either we understand nationalism and its implications immediately and it drops away; or we do not understand and we think that, by doing certain actions, we will understand later. We know that nationalism causes separatism, exclusiveness, friction, ill-will and enmity. It acts as a barrier between people and prevents sane living. If I have more than I need of property, names, titles, etc, then they will cause envy. Similarly, if I say I am an Indian, I am a Hindu, and my whole patriotism is given to India, I am exclusive. It is the process of exclusiveness which ultimately leads to war.
Or you say that you must go through separation, through nationalism, in order to become international. That is, you must first be a Hindu and yet become brotherly with other people who call themselves by different names. Is that possible? If you call yourself a Hindu and I call myself a German, can we two meet as brothers? You keep your nationality and I keep my nationality; and can we two meet? Obviously we cannot, because we are more concerned with our names than with being really human. So you see the fallacy of saying that through nationalism we can become international though lots of people talk of it.
Nationalism in itself is an exclusive process and it is of recent growth caused by competition, economic frontiers, etc. It is not conducive to peace. The more you are national, the more you are identifying yourself with what you call your country in order to be something. If you are nobody you feel rather frustrated. One of the effects of industrialisation is to make you more and more mechanical and less and less important.
How can you be more practical if you do not see the significance of nationalism in all its different layers so that it may drop away of its own accord? If you have the intelligence to see that it is a cobra, you do not have to take practical steps to fight it. You just leave it alone. You want to have open relationship with others; you also see that nationalism is a poison which has degenerating effects in human relationship. Therefore nationalism drops away. You may have a little reaction when you hear that India beat Australia in cricket, but it does not become a problem.
So, your difficulty lies in seeing the thing clearly without any prejudice. The prejudice has been created by outside agencies as well as yourself. With regard to every subject, you are misinformed, you are badly educated and badly conditioned; and you try to interpret life through this misinformation. When you realize that your information is wrong you immediately put it aside.
You like to identify yourself with your country because it gives you a sense of warm feeling which can be whipped up to kill somebody. You become national and you like it because it gives you a warm sense of feeling that you are achieving something. So there are more soldiers, more armies, more dreadfulness. That is what we are achieving and that is not progress. Progress does not obviously lie through bloodshed.
There are only six countries, I believe, that can feed themselves; every other country is dependent on somebody else. Therefore, why not destroy all the frontiers and come together as human beings to meet our necessities of food, clothing and shelter? You want to know who is to do this. You and I have to do this. Who else is going to do it? Certainly not the capitalists, certainly not the political party - either the Left or the right - because they are committed. So, who is to do it except those people who see the thing clearly?
Nationalism is a modern invention, and it is really non-conducive to peace; it acts as a barrier between people. There is no practical step regarding it; either you see the thing or you do not. Your prejudices stand in the way of your finding it out.
You must see the whole significance of the idea of acquisitiveness which is expressed through property, through relationship and through ideation. I am not talking about merely the ethical, the moral or the religious, but the actual process of acquisition and what is implied in it. What are the effects of acquisitiveness? One is nationalism and another is the competition between you and me; another is the moral and social degradation in which is involved the whole idea of division of the high and the low.
Psychologically, it is very gratifying to own something; it feeds your vanity, you are somebody then. The effect of acquisition gives you a sense of life, a sense of struggle, a sense of existence. If you do not acquire what are you? You are nobody if you have no title, no property, or no name; and therefore things become important. Because inwardly you are nothing, you wish to acquire, which implies power, prestige, title and all the rest of it.
Then, mentally, you want to acquire knowledge. You are anchored to acquisition and you become a mental addict who always reads. A mind that is merely acquiring, ceases to function as an instrument of thought, it inevitably becomes dull without any pliability, it is slavish, it is uncreative, it is repetitive because it is merely acquiring what it calls knowledge. So, acquisition through experience, through memory or through knowledge and all the rest of it, is really a factor that dulls the mind and cripples thinking. To think, you must be free and not be anchored to acquisition, to property or to belief.
You may have no property, but mentally you may be anchored to acquisition, a mental addict who reads and reads. You should understand the significance of acquisition which is expressed in property, which does not mean that you must not have a little money, especially as the society around you is based on money. Some property, i.e. food, clothes, and shelter, is necessary for you and you must have it; but it should not become a psychological need.
When you understand the significance of acquisitiveness, it is very simple to deal with property. You may prevent, by legislation, the acquisition of property; but people may still be acquisitive in some other direction, which may be equally disastrous, like knowledge which gives one an extraordinary sense of superiority. What is the practicability wanted here? The problem is how to give up the property or how to arrange the property to suit your convenience. You can only deal with it when you understand the full significance of it. What is your attitude to property? Are you depending on legislation with regard to your conduct toward property? The world is confused; and the more it is confused, the more the individual wants security, i.e. you want to be secure. This leads to conflict in you as well as outside you. This conflict will cease only when you understand and are aware of the significance of acquiring property; then there will not arise the question of how you will escape from the conflict.
There are various forms of relationship - such as relationship with things which are considered to be property, relationship to the bank account, relationship to law which sustains the property; and the relationship to human beings. The relationship to human beings is more difficult and more subtle; and the difficulty arises when there is no love. Love cannot be learned through Pelmanism, through practice, or through following some steps. If there is love, you will understand relationship; love will then show the way out of this horrible mess of husband and wife and relationship between man and man. Why don't we love? What is preventing us from loving? If you can find out the cause, perhaps you may know how to love. Love is not something abstract, but it is an extraordinary sense of intelligence, a heightened form of intelligence. If you are intelligent then perhaps there will be love.
Why is it that the relationship between man and man has become so difficult? It may be because they are not dealing with it intelligently and they do not know what intelligence is. Perhaps you can find out what intelligence is, negatively.
My relation with you is society. The society is non-existent without you and me. The group is you and me; you and I create the whole structure of society. When we examine the relationship between one another now, we find there is conflict. Average existence is a conflict. To deal with this conflict intelligently, I must examine the relationship as it is and not as I would like it to be.
I notice conflict in my relationship with my wife. To understand this, I must, first of all, know if I am related at all. If I am related, there should be communion, exchange of feeling and thinking out of the problem together. To be is to be related. I have taken it for granted that I am related to my wife; perhaps I am not. There is no real contact with her so I remain isolated. Yet, I think I am in relationship with her; and so, 'relationship' may be merely an expression or a term without any meaning because if I am related to her, it will have a different meaning.
Can two entities in isolation live together? If my whole motive is to be self-protected, is there any relationship? So, the problem is not that I do not love her or she does not love me, or she dominates over me; but perhaps she and I are not related for the very simple reason that she is exclusive in herself and I am exclusive in myself. That is our daily activity - I with my interests and my purposes and she with hers. We say we are related, but we two are working exclusively in ourselves. Therefore the next question is: why am I doing it?
It is suggested that common interest brings about communion. Is it so? You and I are interested in education, we both have common interests and we belong to the same society. We meet in the temple; but, in the market, we cut each other's throat.
Why does each one of us, in our relationship with one another, try to isolate oneself? Is this inevitable in the sense of a rose becoming a rose? Is this process natural? If it is natural or inevitable, then there is nothing more to be said about it, and there will be constant conflict between you and me; there will be no peace between you and society, between you and myself. If it is inevitable, there can never be love, not a moment of complete quietness between us. We know of moments when there is creation, though such moments are rare. Creation takes place not in conflict but only when the conflict ceases, when there is silence, when there is a sense of fullness. So, we find that the conflict is not inevitable. We have now to understand why we isolate ourselves in relationship.
It is said in all religious literature that, to find God, you must withdraw and be alone. When you seek God, Reality, Truth, you are alone not because you want to be alone but because a lot of stupid people around you force you to be alone. You say nationalism is wrong, Brahmanism is wrong, etc.; but society will not accept all this because it does not like to change. So, though you do not push yourself away from it, the society pushes you out and then says that you must be alone to find out Truth.
Nobody can be alone; he is always in relationship with the person who gives him food. He is alone only in repudiating the faiths and refusing the things which society accepts. So, it is a wrong conclusion leading to illusion, that you must be alone to find God. I now see that I would be acting falsely if I am isolating myself because society has been telling me that I should be alone to find Reality.
On examining further, we find that one of the reasons for exclusion is labour, functional existence. We are isolating ourselves according to function. Functions have become very important in our life for the very simple reason that our life is based on sensate values. Through functions, I am isolating myself because I have divided life into categories of functions, higher and lower, like minister and scavenger, etc.
Why are we isolating psychologically? I am living in isolation and my whole struggle is to live in more and more isolation. I live with my neighbour and he is also doing exactly the same as I am doing. I know that isolation is not an inevitable process. Then why do I psychologically isolate myself? My strife is to protect myself. Similarly you are protecting yourself. This means mutual self-protection for avoiding a conflict.
But, we have not understood self-protection. After all, any enclosure, psychological or physical, is self-protection, is isolation. I put a wall around myself, psychologically, for the obvious reason to protect myself. The more I try to protect myself, the greater the isolation, the greater is the conflict. Protecting myself by putting a wall psychologically around me creates a barrier. You have a wall around you and I have a wall around me and we keep on strengthening our respective walls. When you and I thus come in contact, what will be our relationship? The more I am enclosed in myself the more violent I become, the more aggressive I am; similarly you.
To have right relationship, this barrier of psychological enclosure around each one of us has to be pulled down. Obviously, as I cannot do anything with others, I must first start with myself and set about to pull down the enclosure which I am putting up around me for self-protection.
The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 20th 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.