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Brussels 1956

Brussels, Belgium 3rd Public Talk 18th June 1956

It seems to me that it would be a waste of time and energy if one merely came to these talks as an intellectual distraction, or to find new ideas with which to play. We are concerned here with something much more fundamental than mere amusement or intellectual stimulation. We are concerned with a radical change in human thought; and this requires considerable inquiry, deep questioning and hard work.

A radical change is obviously necessary, because society is in conflict within itself. Although we profess love and brotherhood, every man is against another; each one belongs to a particular religion or country, and. the whole social structure of the world is based on conflict, on envy, on acquisition. Those of us who are really seriously concerned, who are at all alive to the whole human problem of existence, must be aware of the extraordinary suffering there is, both within and without. And we must also be aware of how urgent it is to bring about a fundamental change in human relationship - which is, after all, society.

At present what we call religion is principally a matter of conforming to a particular dogma or belief and the fact that we are greedy, envious, brutal, is evidently irrelevant. But religion, surely, is something quite different; it is the process of trying to find out, to establish, the right relationship between man and man, so that we do not merely conform to a particular pattern of society, or to the pattern of any belief or dogma.

If we are at all serious - as we must be in a world that is full of crises - we must be concerned, not merely intellectually or sentimentally, but as individuals, as vital human beings, with how to bring about a radical change. And it seems to me that it will be utterly useless for us to go through all these talks unless you and I are willing to inquire into the whole matter very deeply, actually experiencing as we go along. We shall have to feel out for ourselves how to change deeply and fundamentally, how to approach the whole problem anew, and not merely repeat the old pattern of existence in different ways and under different labels. Surely, to bring about a radical change in the world, we need a tremendous revolution - not a Communist revolution, which is no revolution at all, nor any revolution of a merely social nature, but a fundamental transformation in ourselves.

Is it possible to bring about this radical change? And what is the motive that makes us change? If there is a motive, is there a change? And what is the factor that brings this change? Is it the action of will, or the action of knowledge, or the action of mere social convenience? Or does the change come about, not at any of these levels, but much more radically, and away from all social and environmental influences? I think this must be a very deep problem for most of us, if we have thought about it at all. Because we see an enormous amount of starvation in Asia, while in the West there is over-production and the piling up of armaments. The whole of the West is much better off in the material sense; the people are more healthy, more vigorous, they have more to eat, and the Welfare State is bringing about security for old age; whereas, in the East there is not enough food for the majority of the people, there is starvation, and the exploitation of centuries continues. And even in the West there are contradictions, they are in conflict among themselves.

Seeing this whole picture - not as Christians or Communists, nor as representatives of the East or of the West, but as human beings who are struggling, who are suffering, who have love - we must surely be concerned to find out how to bring about a radical change, so that we do not continue in the same old patterns of existence. And can this change, this revolution, come about through conscious effort, or only through understanding the psyche, not merely intellectually, but actually? And who is the entity that is to bring about this change?

As a human being I see this extraordinary world problem; and I also see that the world problem is my problem, because society is what I am. I have been educated in a particular society, as we all have; as human beings we are conditioned. And how am I to bring about this change in myself, and so in society? Am I now different from society? Must I not break away from society totally, completely, if I am to affect society? And who is to break away from it? Is there an `I', a centre, from which there can be independent action which is not controlled, dominated, shaped by society? If there is a centre which is independent, uninfluenced by society, then that centre, given the opportunity, will act. But is there such a centre? Or is the totality of consciousness - the whole of it, not merely a segment - the result of innumerable social influences, contradictions and urges?

Can I - when I say "I" it also includes you - can I, who am the product of society, of time, of influence - can this `I', through any action, through any desire, through any compulsion, bring about a change? Is not this `I', who wishes to bring about a change, made up of all the various elements which also compose society? And if I merely alter one or two of these elements in myself discard one or two patterns, surely I have not broken away from society.

So it seems to me that we must first find out whether it is possible to change at all; and what is the force, what is the drive, what is the compulsion that makes me want to change? In what way is this whole structure of the `me' related to society? Am I - the thinker, the entity who wants, desires, seeks, who is frustrated, envious, brutal, loving, and all the rest of it - am I different from society? And what do we mean by society? Society is obviously the relationship between man and man, it is a structure we have built up in our relationship with others. That relationship, which is society, is based on acquisitiveness, envy, fear, ambition, on the seeking of power, position, prestige. And these things are what each one of us also wants - only perhaps in a more tolerant, more dignified, more respectable way. The very essence of society is the seeking of wealth, and the effort to fulfil one's ambition by identifying oneself with a particular group or country. Those who seek to reform - the missionaries, the internationalists, the believers - are also within the acquisitive pattern of society, as we all are.

So, I am not different from society - which is so obvious, is it not? The whole social structure is based on this drive to be great, to fulfil one's ambition, to distract oneself, to escape from pain or pursue amusement; and it gives rise to brutality, to war, to hatred, with occasional use of the word `love'. That is the source from which all our thinking comes - and we are aware of it. Now, how are you and I, as two human beings concerned with this enormous problem - how are we to break away from society? How are we to completely free ourselves from all the things which society represents, and of which we are made up - envy, hate, ambition, greed, vanity, the search for power, for position, and so on? For only then is it possible to break away from society, not by becoming a hermit and wearing a loincloth, or going into a monastery - that is not breaking away from society; because even though I may enter a monastery, I am still ambitious to become the abbot, or to be more `spiritual' than somebody else.

So how is that centre, from which all my thinking and your thinking proceeds. to be changed? Can it be changed through discontent? If there is any form of change through discontent, it will produce a pattern, will it not?, which will again create a structure in which the dominant factor will be the desire for satisfaction. If my change is based on discontent, then the mind is seeking contentment, satisfaction - which is exactly what society is after; so I am back again in the old pattern, only under a different name. A fundamental change cannot possibly be brought about through discontent, and I think this is very important to understand. If I change because I am dissatisfied with things as they are in the world - with the rottenness, the vanity, the snobbishness, the cruelty, the rich and the poor - if, seeing all that, I am merely discontented, and my drive to change is based on that discontent, then surely I will create a new pattern of society which will be similar to the old, only in different terms. I think one must see this very clearly. For unfortunately, most of the so-called change which is brought about in the world comes through discontent, dissatisfaction.

How is one, then, to bring about this change? I do not know if you have thought it out seriously and deeply, with real intention to find out. If one has, one can see that when any form of motive brings about change, it is no change at all So long as I am discontented, or identify myself with a group or a belief, so long as I have a motive of any sort, noble or personal, that motive is bound to create the old pattern again in a different field. And yet I know there must be change. For unless one changes, not superficially, but radically, one is dead - even though one may have all the latest improvements, the latest gadgets and mechanical conveniences - including the electronic brain, which does some things much better than the human mind.

So, if we are at all serious, our problem is how to bring about this fundamental change. A change which is conscious is surely no change at all. The mind of each one of us is formed, shaped through motive, through drive, through urge, through desire, through time; it is educated in the pattern of society. And for such a mind, can there be a conscious, deliberate action of will which will bring about this change? Is it not rather that a change, this fundamental, radical revolution, comes only when the mind has dissociated itself from the centre which is the `me', which is society? After all, the `me', this centre from which all our thinking takes place, is the result of social influences, of reaction between man and man; it is the result of time; and any change which is brought about from this centre is still part of the centre. It seems to me very important to understand this; for surely, any action based on will is no action at all, because it creates contradiction, struggle, and therefore repression, defence, resistance. Similarly, action brought about by desiring to do `good' leads to innumerable contradictions and misery. How can one know what is good for the whole of man?

Furthermore, any action based on the intellectual gathering of information, which is called knowledge, again conditions the mind. Action born of knowledge is bound to be limited. And yet knowledge is the whole content of one's mind, is it not? Although one may think there is a God who is going to influence one's action, that concept is still within the field of thought.

So, being very desirous to bring about a change, what are you and I to do? Can the mind totally free itself from ambition? I am taking that as an example. Can it be completely free from envy, which is part of ambition? - the envy that is always comparing, desiring to have more knowledge, more success, more power, more money or prestige. Can the mind - which is the result of this society based on acquisitiveness and comparative thinking - totally free itself from envy and ambition, from wanting more, more, more? If we could understand this one thing - how to free the mind from envy - , then perhaps we should be able to break away from the whole structure of society.

But to understand that one thing, to really go into it, requires a great deal of attention. After all, most of us are ambitious - if not in regard to this world, because here we have been frustrated, then our ambitions turn to the other world, where we want to sit next to God, we want to be spiritual entities. Here or hereafter, we want to be somebody - which does not mean we must not be anybody. But the urge, the compulsion, the thing that makes me desire to be something - can that be completely cut off? If my mind does not shake itself totally free from all that, then, however much I may,desire to change, I shall merely be caught in a new pattern in which the seed of ambition still exists, only in a different garb.

So, how is the mind to free itself from this problem of ambition, envy, the desire for more? How is it to free itself, not merely from wanting a better job, a bigger house, a finer car, and all that kind of thing, but from the totality of envy, right through? I see that if I resist envy, my very resistance is another form of ambition, because I want to get rid of envy in order to be something else; therefore resistance has no value. By suppressing envy I am not free of it, it is still there, rotting and distorting one's vision; and then there is bitterness, cynicism. So I see the futility of suppression, of resistance, and also the futility of trying to escape from envy, or to find a substitute for it, or to sublimate it. That whole process implies the desire not to be this, but to be something else, all of which is still within the field of envy.

We all know what envy is; and can the mind totally dissociate itself from envy? To dissociate itself from envy, the mind must first be aware that it is envious. And are we aware of it? Do we know that we are envious? Or do we only agree that we are envious because we know the word `envy'? If you care to, I think you should experiment with what I am saying, not tomorrow, or later on, but now. Let us take that word `envy' and actually go through the whole experience of it, fundamentally, deeply, and see if one cannot totally wipe away envy from one's whole process of thinking. When we use that word we mean not only the envy of wanting more than one has, but the envy of comparison, the envy of wishing to be something different from what one is, the envy that creates the ideal and the pursuit of that ideal. The man who is free of envy has no ideal - not because he is satisfied with what he is, but because he no longer thinks in terms of the `more' and therefore knows no discontent. It is only the demand for the `more' that creates discontent, envy, and time in which to become something. Can the mind free itself from that whole process?

I think the mind can be totally free - not merely verbally, but it can really experience freedom. And this experiencing of freedom is not a fancy, an illusion. Envy can actually be rooted out. Then life becomes an entirely different thing. Then perhaps we shall know what love is, what peace is; we shall know what it is to be truly content without decaying.

So, do we know that we are envious? I hope you will be good enough to follow this rather closely, for then perhaps we shall be able not only to think it out together, but actually to eradicate this thing - not for the moment, but finally.

We know all the various reasons why we are discontented; and we also know what envy implies, both socially and inwardly. But do we actually experience envy? Surely, there is a great difference between actually experiencing something, and merely having a theory or an opinion about it - or allowing the word `envy' to influence us, and therefore condemning it. Do I know envy directly? Do we know anything directly, or merely through the word? The moment I use the word `envy', all the sociological implications come up, and I condemn that feeling. When I use the word `love', again I am conditioned by sociological influences, and I accept the feeling which that word represents. The one I reject, the other I accept.

So, am I aware that the word itself has an extraordinary influence on me, on the mind? And can the mind be free of the word? I think that is the first thing - to recognize the influence of and to be free, if one can, of the word itself. If you will experiment with this, you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is for the mind to free itself from words. And that may be one of the fundamental reasons why the mind is never free from envy - because it is caught in words.

Now, can the mind be free from the effect of that word `envy' - not only nervously, neurologically, but inwardly? If the mind can be free from that word, does not the mind then look directly at the feeling which it has called `envy'? And in giving full attention to that feeling without naming it, is there not a cessation of the feeling?

Perhaps all this sounds a bit too complex. But surely, if one would understand the whole process of envy, one must go into it very deeply, and not merely accept or reject envy, or try to resist it and cultivate a virtue in its place. When virtue is cultivated, it is no longer virtue. A man who tries to cultivate goodness, has ceased to be good. Goodness is something entirely different. If I try to free myself from envy by cultivating a state of mind in which there is no envy, I am still envious, because the drive to cultivate a state of non-envy is based on envy.

If I would eradicate the feeling called `envy', I must understand this whole problem, so that the mind can dissociate itself from all words, including that particular word `envy'. And if it does, is there envy? But merely getting rid of the word as a clever trick in order not to be envious, does not bring about a mind that is completely still, without a word. Only the mind that is completely still, without a word, without a movement, without an image, that is no longer functioning from the centre which is society - only such a mind is free from envy, and can therefore function in a totally different dimension. To me, such a mind is a religious mind. And it is only the religious man who is really revolutionary - not the man who believes, who belongs to a certain church or organization. The truly religious man has nothing to do with all that, for he is outside of society, and it is only he who can bring about a fundamental change in mankind, through right education.

Question: Although what you say seems to be of the highest religious quality, you do not lay down any mode of conduct. Why don't you do this? Most of us definitely need one.

Krishnamurti: Why do we want a mode of conduct? If we can be a light unto ourselves, why do we want someone else to lay down the rules of behaviour? The question is not, "Why don't you lay down a mode of conduct?", which is too silly, but rather, "Can we be a light unto ourselves under all circumstances?" Though we may fail, though we may make mistakes, isn't it possible to be a light unto ourselves, and not look to another, not seek authority of any kind to tell us what to do? I think this can come about only when we are not seeking comfort, when we are not stretching out a hand and begging someone to give us something by which we shall be satisfied, by which we shall know. We can be a light unto ourselves only when we understand ourselves totally and completely, right through. It is an arduous task to, know oneself; it requires persistent inquiry, alertness, watchfulness. But unfortunately most of us are lazy, and we turn to somebody else to tell us what to do, to take the responsibility off our shoulders; we push it off on the priest, or on God, or on some specialist. That is why we ask this question. We want to be told how to act in order to arrive safely at the other shore. But there is no other shore; there is only a process of travelling, of learning, of experiencing - not something to be arrived at or achieved. One has to be both the teacher and the pupil oneself. That requires energy, attention, watchfulness; but we are lazy, and it is much easier to be told what to do. The man who tells you what to do you set up as your authority, and you become his slave; therefore you are never free, you are never a light unto yourself. So you invent the exploiter, and you become the exploited.

To find out how to be a light unto ourselves, how to think truly and rightly from moment to moment, requires a great deal of energy; it is really hard work. But unfortunately we want an easy way, a short cut, so we become increasingly lazy; and old age and death await us.

We can find a mode of conduct in any religious book; they all tell us what to do - to be kind, to be loving, to be good, and all the rest of it. But surely that is not enough, because we are human beings, with extraordinary capacity to do good and to do evil; and without understanding for oneself the whole mechanism of the mind, the whole structure of one's own being, without knowing love, merely to have a mode of conduct seems to me utterly useless. We can always circumvent the mode of conduct, and we do. But if we begin to understand the whole content of ourselves, from the very heart, then we shall not look to another. Then we shall be our own saviours, we shall be our own teachers and our own pupils.

Question: What is the fundamental difference between the materialistic and the religious concept of life?

Krishnamurti: Do you think there is any fundamental difference between the materialistic and the so-called religious concept of life? Material things, made by hand or by machinery, are invented by the mind; and what we call the religious life may also be an invention of the mind - because it is the mind that invents ideas, gods, rituals, saviours. So why separate the two? The materialistic existence, and the so-called spiritual existence, are both a product of the mind - of the mind that is seeking position, power, wealth, comfort, whether physically or psychologically. You may not worship the things made by the hand; but to worship the things made by the mind, is still materialistic, unspiritual. You may worship ideas, ideals - the idea of heaven, the ideal of goodness, of beauty - , as others worship refrigerators, cars; but it is all within the field of the mind.

So the question is not, "What is the difference between the materialistic and the religious concept of life?", but whether the mind can free itself from all idealization and the worship of ideas. Can the mind cease creating images and becoming a slave to those images, both materially and in thought? It is much more difficult to be free from thought images than it is to be free from material things. After all, you can fairly easily be detached from your coat, or your car, but it is much more difficult to be free from ideas, beliefs, dogmas, nationalities, because these are your gods.

I think it is only when one is free from ideas, from images, from concepts, from conclusions, that one will find out what it is to be really spiritual. Otherwise we shall live in a phoney world of spirituality, a world without any meaning beyond mere sentimentality and emotionalism.

So the man who would seek out what is true must not only be free of the idol made by the hand; he must also be free of the idea which lies behind the idol, and which is produced by the mind. Only the man who is free of the idea and the symbol, as well as of material things, can know what it is to be truly religious.

June 18, 1956


Brussels 1956

Brussels, Belgium 3rd Public Talk 18th June 1956

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