Our Relationship with the World (Part II) : Relationship to Society



by Prof. P. Krishna

Rector, Rajghat Education Centre, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi 221001, India


( Second talk delivered on this topic at the Krishnamurti Gathering held in Saanen, Switzerland on 31 July, 1995. )

We said last time that if we do not identify ourselves with anything in particular, like either the body or the brain, or the nation, or a particular religion, or a particular family, then we are not separate entities and in that sense, we are the world. But when we do separate ourselves through identification, which may be either by choice or simply through inertia, through habit, something which we have never questioned, then that affects our whole relationship with everything in this world. It makes us possessive, it makes us exploit relationships for this me and everything then is directly or indirectly used to further this sense of the me. So the brain starts functioning like a lawyer, defending and protecting that which it has identified with, and the very thought process gets coloured; it can no longer investigate or explore freely, which may be the right function of thought. Instead it goes in the direction of justifying, defending, feeling superior, saying, "What I am saying is right, what is mine is better than what is yours", leading to a sense of competition and rivalry. The source of the whole thing, lies in the identification with the me and the mine. Having done that, we feel we are separate individuals, but that may not be a fact. It may have become a fact for us, because psychologically we let all this happen.

If we are one with the world, then it means also that one is responsible for the whole world--not just for me, my school, my nation, my religion, my family, but for the whole world. What does it mean to be responsible for the whole world? Does it seem like it makes sense ? Also, if we are the world, then it means that the world must be terribly affected by the way we are which is the other way around: not only you are the world, but the world is you. Can we examine it in that way ? Is the world really affected by the way we are ? If it isn't, then I am not the world, and the world is not me ! Then I am something separate from the world. The connection is not very apparent, so can we investigate it ? Let us take a specific example. We are all aware of what is happening in what was Yugoslavia, in Bosnia. Are we responsible for what is happening there or only those people are responsible who are directly involved in it ? You could take any other example : what is happening in Ireland, what is happening in Kashmir, what is being done to nature. Are the pollution, the nuclear catastrophes only the work of the industrialists, the scientists, and we are not responsible for them ? Are the scientist, the politician, the leaders in Bosnia, separate from us and therefore we are not responsible for what is happening there ? It appears that way, doesn't it ? We often blame the people of that particular location for behaving in that way. We either pity them, or we condemn them. But we don't observe them and, from that, learn what our responsibility is. Because we don't see the connection, we don't feel responsible. I think it's important to question that. Because it may be a very convenient thing that our mind has invented, to separate itself out from other people, and feel" I am not responsible for that". It may be an escape. I am not saying it is but we need to investigate that. A religious mind questions everything. So one is asking: "Are those human beings separate from me ? Or are we really essentially the same, a part of this world, and therefore whatever we are affects the whole world ?" Krishnamurti has pointed out that society is an abstraction. There is no such thing as society, separate from us. It is our relationship with each other, which is vitally affected by what we are, which creates that society and what happens in that society. Is that true ? Let's look at it. After all, society is a collection of what we call individuals. They may not be individuals, but that's what we call them for the time being, because that is how we refer to people. Now, if there is a collection of a million or billion individuals, each one of whom feels he is a separate individual, a separate entity, each one of whom is self-centred, aggressive, violent, in competition with others, struggling, in conflict, can you create out of them, a society which is peaceful, which is nonviolent, which is gentle, orderly, or is that inherently impossible ? What we are trying at present in the world is that we are taking the individual for granted. We are even training him in education to feel that he is a separate individual, that he should be ambitious, he should be aggressive, he should put himself forward, he should assert his ego to succeed in life. And having made such individuals then we are saying : "Why don't we have peace in society, why don't we have love, why do we have all this violence and how can we contain it "? In order to contain it, we have the police force, we have the entire judicial system, which punishes the offender, we have rules and regulations. At the international level, we have the United Nations. Whenever there is a situation of war between two countries, the United Nations tries to intervene and prevent that war from happening. So we have set up mechanisms for preventing war. Will that remove the causes of war ? If it does not remove the causes of war, we're going to perpetually have this problem of war and perpetually need a United Nations to contain it. It is the same with the judicial system. We first produce violent, aggressive individuals, who are the result of that society--born in that society, growing up in imitation of that society, educated in that society, who turn into rapists, or dacoits or criminals; then, to protect society from them, we catch hold of them, we have an entire police force to control them. Will that control change that individual ? Will putting him in prison change him, make him peaceful, or will he become more bitter, more violent, so that we need even more control ? I am just pointing out what we are actually doing. It becomes a perennial problem that on the one hand we are producing human beings like this, and on the other trying to control them.

In Russia, the communists thought that by controlling through the State, in a very tight way, they can change the human being. For seventy years this experiment was done, with tremendous repression and cruelty-- trying to create equality among human beings outwardly enforcing that equality, and hoping it would go into the interior. Trying to move from the periphery towards the centre, not the other way, not operating at the source of the problem, but with the symptoms. It has not worked, it did not work. You needed repression and more repression, with the result that when they suddenly removed all that repression there is tremendous chaos-- which is what the actuality is. So how does the actuality change ? It may be just a matter of chance that what is happening in Bosnia is not happening here. Just as much a matter of chance as it is where the next storm will come in the atmosphere, or where there will be the next earthquake. The causes may be deep down somewhere, though the manifestation takes place in one particular place. The human beings in Yugoslavia are no different from you and me and what could happen there can happen here tomorrow, the potential for it exists, unless we inwardly transform and are totally free of violence. Are we ? Or is it that right now, around us, circumstances are such that we can afford to be non-violent ? If we were in Bosnia, the circumstances would be such that we could not afford to be non violent, so we would choose to be violent. So, is non-violence a matter of choice ? That is a question that has often been asked : whether Gandhi was really non violent, or whether he chose non-violence because violence would not have succeeded against the British ? If the enemy is powerful, strong, much more capable of violence than you are, then it is stupid to try to overthrow him with violence, he will win. So you cannot fight him and if you can not fight him, try non-violence ! Then it just becomes another weapon to fight with. Then it is not really non-violence, when it is a matter of choice. Or did Gandhi have nothing to do with violence because there was no violence in him ? So he refused to kill, refused to hurt anybody, irrespective of what the consequences may be-- one may be decimated, destroyed, it does not matter. That is a totally different state from the one of choosing to adopt a non-violent movement as the better choice in a given situation.

Krishnamurti was lecturing in India when Gandhi was murdered, in January 1948. And he was asked by someone in the audience : Sir, who was responsible for the murder of Gandhi ?" His answer was that each one of us was responsible--each one who identifies with a particular religion, who forms a group, who belongs to a caste, who hates his fellow man either because of his ideas or because of the colour of his skin, who is divided. Of course there were only a few individuals who plotted and pulled the trigger of the gun and according to the law, only those men were responsible and were hanged. But we have all contributed in producing that man. It is like having a whole sea of violence to which each one of us is contributing his share. In that sea storms are bound to arise. Those storms are your little wars--sometimes in Iraq, sometimes in Kashmir, sometimes elsewhere. But they arise in that sea, and each one of us contributes to that sea of violence. Because we are the world, if we are violent, the world is violent. If the way I look upon my wife, my child, the tree in the garden, nature, the river, is exploitative in its outlook - which means basically separating oneself out and saying. "How can I make use of these things for my profit ?" - if each one of us is that way, then society will be the way we see it in operation. Somewhere, the manifestation may be more violent than elsewhere but the potential is every where. In that sense, you could say that the third world war is already on. The United Nations and the politicians call it a war only when the violence manifests beyond a certain extent, beyond a certain level, but the third world war is already going on in the minds of men, in the hatred between nations, in the use of violence to solve problems. It is already going on because the psychological warfare is already going on. And every war has sown the seeds for the next war. We have seen all this happen, we have read it in history, in our education, but we somehow feel separate from it. We feel Hitler was responsible for that war; but were we not responsible for the creation of Hitler ? Are we, perhaps, through our process of education, through our bringing up, creating little Hitlers ? We object only to the big Hitler, because he does things that are destructive and inconvenient for us, but the little Hitlers are also inconvenient ! A father who is a little Hitler in his family is very inconvenient for his children, for that family but that is legal. So we have accepted a certain amount of violence as the norm, and we object only when that violence manifests in a bigger way. Then, we regard it as illegal, immoral, we call it war.

Wars have not ended for a million years. We have continually had wars, and we are still having wars-- big wars and small wars. No animal, not even the tiger, whom we consider most ferocious, has ever created that kind of destruction which we human beings have created-- that is a fact. I am not saying it just to make us feel small. It is a fact for which we are responsible. No other animal, no other species has created that much destruction on Earth, as we have created. Again that is a fact. You can look at history, see what mankind has done. Is this going to change through a new political system, through another government, through the United Nations or some other organization ? How will it change ? If we are the world, and we don't change, the world doesn't change ! You can organize things in a communist manner and you will have the violence of communism. Or you can organize things in a capitalistic manner, and you will have the violence of capitalism. Show me a place where three is no violence? How can there be if there is violence in each one of us ? So none of those systems is going to solve the problem. They are only meant to contain it, to put a policeman there to make me orderly, because I am not orderly in myself. That is why I need the system, I need a policeman to create order. We believe that an external agency will bring order into society, which is me ! That may be an illusion. It has not worked for thousands of years or at least as far as the recorded history we know. No amount of repression has done away with it. No amount of control, organizing, this form of politics, that form of politics, has solved it. And still, we are not learning the basic lesson that each one of us is responsible. I am not contributing to the war in Bosnia, only if I have ended violence within me; otherwise I am contributing to it. Just as in science you would say that if you take calcium and carbon and oxygen atoms, you will get calcium carbonate, and they can tell you what the properties of that material will be, it is equally true that if you take individuals of the kind that we are producing, self-centered, violent, ambitious, concerned mainly with their own success, talking a little bit of love without understanding what it means, then there is no way you can have a society that is peaceful, non-violent and orderly. That is as clear a fact as the scientific fact about a collection of atoms.

So if that is true, then what is our responsibility ? Is it our responsibility to become a politician, so that we are in a position of power, and therefore can affect and influence things from there ? That is often put forward as an argument. Often people say good people must enter politics, so that they can rise and come to power, and then goodness will be in power. By the time you rise to the top, you will cease to be good ! Which means we have to understand our relationship with power. I think it was Shakespeare who said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". But I question it.

I think that happens because we don't understand our relationship to power. Power cannot corrupt, if you are incorruptible. Power corrupts, because we are corruptible. And what we see in the world by way of goodness is often just born of innocence. Children are innocent, they are good, but unless that goodness is rooted in understanding it is very fragile. Because a good human being, with very little self-knowledge, is completely corruptible, easily corruptible. Take a villager from India who is very good because he is very simple, you take him to the city and he gets corrupted in three months ! So goodness is very, very fragile, unless it is rooted in understanding. Therefore it seems to me that our first responsibility is to understand ourselves, to free ourselves from this division which is within us, which separates us from the rest of the world and affects all our relationships. Because so long as each one of us is that way, our governments are going to be that way, our industries are going to be that way, and all this is going to happen.

What is happening in the world is not different from what is happening inside you and me. That same attitude of exploitation of everything--of your friend, of your neighbour, of your nation, of nature, of using the other person for our own ends, is the basis of all our relationships. In the book by Krishnamurti called Krishnamurti to Himself', there is a passage in which he says "If you have no relationship with that tree on the distant hill, you will have no relationship with mankind." To me, it means that if you have relationships only with things which matter to you, if all our relationships are based on what we can get out of them, then we will have no relationship with mankind, because that outlook is not an outlook of love, it is one of exploitation. But if I respect that tree because it is another living entity out there, a part of this world, a fellow living thing and care for it, then I have a relationship with it, then there is love. There is no purpose to that love. When there is goodness for a purpose it is not goodness, it is cold, calculated avarice, it is a pretense of goodness. When you are good for nothing you are really good ! So, all that is involved in the statement "You are the world". Then one is totally responsible for everything that happens in this world.

And when you are responsible, you care, you do not contribute to violence. The only way you can not contribute to it, is to end violence, end greed, end the ego. But you can not end it by volition because that volition is of the ego. But by understanding it, not by condemning it but by becoming familiar with its ways, seeing how it interferes in every relationship, by watching it, one can free one's consciousness of it. Only then does one not contribute to the chaos in the world. The disorder, in human society, including all the environmental disasters, is not unconnected with our inner state-- the real source of it lies in the hearts and minds of men. Therefore this becomes our first responsibility and perhaps the only responsibility, because if this ends everything else is gone -- we do not need the United Nations, we do not need all these controls, nationalities competing with each other to exploit. So it is not just a lofty philosophic statement : "You are the world." It is a fact that entails an enormous responsibility. Perhaps we can discuss it.

Question : What is the basic cause for the identification with the body and mind, which creates the ego and separates us out from the rest of the world and then affects all our relation- ships ? 

P.K. : If we observe a small child -- and we have all been children -- then we can study it by watching how as they grow, the sense of self develops. Whatever happens with children has happened with us because we are not different from them. Scientists and psychologists tell us that a child, at the time of its birth, does not have this feeling of self-consciousness. It does not feel it is separate from the rest of the world, it does not even know that his arm is his.

Very small children are sometimes upset with their mother that they are having pain in their head and their mother does not know anything about it. They do not know that she has no way of knowing unless they tell ! So the sense of self is not inherently there right from birth, it is something we acquire along the way. I think it begins the moment a child begins to sense that when it falls it feels pain but not his brother or mother. He begins to feel that his body is separate -- which is a fact. Then comes the concern with 'my' pain and 'my' pleasure and with it, the natural tendency to pursue pleasure and to avoid pain. The brain then sets into motion a discriminating agency which is pursuing pleasure, avoiding pain, foreseeing what is going to happen, fearing, so all that kind of thinking is born. I am not condemning it or saying it is good or bad - I am just describing what one can observe. I do not think you can bring up a child not to develop an ego. You can not bring up children in such a way that they will not be conditioned at all. Basically the brain is recording whatever that child is experiencing -- when he fights, reads the newspaper, hears his father speaking or watches television - that is going to condition the brain of the child. You cannot possibly avoid conditioning the mind of the child. From that conditioning arises the identification, the preferences, the censor, the judgment, the likes and dislikes, and all that goes into constituting the ego.

Thereafter, we accept that there is no go except to live with this ego. So when the ego is hurt, we have developed mechanisms for consolation-- we use our relationships to console us and we begin to need that relationship for consolation. Every time I am hurt I need somebody to console me, so I become attached to that person. It is a mechanism we develop to protect us from the hurt. So the me and the mine develop and the whole turmoil begins.

That is how identification begins. I feel afraid, I feel insecure, so I like to belong to a community, a nation, I feel they will come and protect me. But, in the long run, you can see that is exactly what the man in another community, another nation is also doing -- he is also identifying with his nation, his religion, for the same reasons I am identifying with mine and then because we are unintelligent about it, we fight and destroy each other. This phenomenon is creating the greatest insecurity, the greatest problem for the world. So it is not really solving our insecurity but it appears to us as if it solves our insecurity. Therefore we identify and the self is built up through illusion.

Then there comes along a man like Krishnamurti who says, - Sir, look at it, you don't have to live that way, it is stupid to live that way.

it is not solving any problems. We may have acquired all this in childhood but we also have the capacity, the intelligence to watch it and eliminate it. But we do not look at it, we are all the time interested in avoiding the pain, both psychological and physical, and in cultivating pleasure. So we do not understand the mechanism at all. We have desire and we seek fulfillment but we never understand desire. We say "This is noble desire, that is ignoble desire. These are good habits, those are bad habits." But we have never questioned habit itself, not understood what habit is. We object to it when the desire is for alcohol and we consider it very noble when it is ambition for some work we are doing. So we have merely categorized it as good habit, bad habit, noble desire, ignoble desire, without understanding either habit or desire. A man like Krishnamurti comes along and says, "That is all very well, but it is too superficial.

Look at desire itself, what it does. You have to understand desire.

Desire has its own consequences even though it may be for a noble end." But I have not understood that so I keep playing with choosing between desires. Which means we have not really understood our consciousness, and so long as our consciousness continues to be the same, we can go on playing at the periphery, it will be like creating soap bubbles with one hand and erasing them with the other. Not a particularly intelligent way of spending time ! So we have to address that problem. At present we are not doing that.

We are in fact exploiting the ego in the child to coerce him to do what we want him to do. We tell him, "If you do well in Mathematics, I will give you chocolates". In using reward and punishment we appeal to his ego. We are not trying to show him the beauty of mathematics, the joy of learning it, we induce him to do it for a reward. So we create human beings who are to do it for a reward. So we create human beings who are energized only when there is a gain. When he grows up he is always asking, "What is the point of doing this, what will I get out of it ?" If he is not getting anything out of it he slumps. But you dangle a reward in front of him and he is totally energized.

Energy is generated only when his self-interest is involved. We assume that energy is born only out of self-interest, which is the ego. We have not questioned that, we have not found out if there may be an energy which is not from the ego. We accept that if there is no ego, there is no self, then there will be no energy, no ambition and we will slump. So we have the energy of the ego and we have the wars too ! You cannot have the one without the other, that is all that one is pointing out. It is as absurd as wanting to have an object in the sun but not have its shadow ! 

Question : If the entire universe is governed by a certain cosmic order, then is the ego also not a part of that order ?

 P.K. : I doubt it, I question it. Everything that happens without the interference of human beings is a part of that order. The tiger attacking and eating a lamb is a part of the universal order. The volcano, the earthquake are also a part of that order though they may not suit us ! To define order as that which suits us is too trivial a definition of order. The universe does not exist in order to suit us.

It is all something that follows the laws of Nature and therefore something inevitable. It is bound to happen that way, Nature is that way. It is not moral or immoral, it is that way because the laws of the universe are that way. But that is not true when the Hindu kills the Muslim or the Arab kills the Jew. Their enmity is not governed by the laws of Nature. That enmity is born out of illusions produced by the human imagination. If you do not have the illusions it will not happen. When it is born out of illusion it is part of disorder. So, by definition, when something happens in accordance with Nature's laws, it is part of order, even though it may be inconvenient to us.

But when it arises from illusions created by human thought and imagination, it is a part of disorder, not order. That includes the apparent order which sometimes thought creates outwardly, like the order of communism or the order created by the military-- it is all a part of disorder. It is only apparently orderly when all those military men wear the same uniform and walk in the same style, to the same beat of martial music. If you are nationalistic you may feel uplifted when you see that display but that whole feeling is also a part of disorder because it arises out of illusions. That is a very very superficial order. Those men may not be disciplined at all.

They are momentarily doing that to feel disciplined, but that is not discipline. We have to understand deeply what discipline means. One may be a totally undisciplined person and for half or one hour act in a very disciplined manner; that is not discipline, that is hypocrisy.

We get taken in by appearances because we do not go deep into it. The differences we feel between one human being and another also arise because we look at human beings superficially, by their labels, by their professions, by their religious identifications. we judge human beings on that basis. It may be that the difference we see is only because we see superficially. If we really regard a human being deeply and are aware of the depths of his consciousness, we may find there is little difference between one human being and another. The Buddha said, "One human being differs from another only as much as one candle differs from another candle; and that difference is not more than the difference between a candle and what it was a little while earlier !" We have to go into that deeply to understand what it means.

Question : I have a question about energy. When I watch myself and make judgments, I find that in the end I feel exhausted. Is there a way of not forming opinions and not making judgments which conserves energy ?

 P.K. : You know, it appears to us that the ambitious man is terribly energetic because he is passionately working at his mission. But where there is ambition there is violence, there is friction, conflict. Where there is conflict there is also wastage of energy.

We all get energized for a particular purpose. At the time of war, when we all feel it is important for our nation to win, look at the amount of energy we are capable of. All that energy is there, available. But the mind conjures it up when it has a cause like that in front of it. When we are not intelligent we spend it on stupid causes like war, like fighting our neighbour, creating tension in a relationship and so on. But if we are intelligent, all that energy is available for joy, for living with happiness, for exploring - it does not have to be spent on a battle, whether it be a battle out there in war or with a colleague in the office with whom one is competing -- it is all the same, it is violence.

So we are familiar with the energy that is used by the self but we have never discovered whether it is possible to have the same energy without the self. Of course it is possible. Indeed we do it too - it is not as if we are all the time self-centred. There are moments when the self is absent but we do not give importance to them because we are so much taken up with the activities of the self that our attention is focused on them. When we do something which is just out of love, it is treated as something on the side as a hobby. We are often not aware of it, but we of course have that capacity. The Gita posed the question, "Can you work like an ambitious man without being ambitious ?" That challenge we have not answered in 5000 years ! 

Question: Is not mental energy different from physical energy ? I may have a lot of physical energy but very little mental energy. That seems to be another kind of energy.

P.K. : Sir, energy is a very funny thing. When you are tired, feeling low in energy, if a tiger walks into the door you will discover energy. (laughter). You will run like you had all the energy in the world. It's not you who do that, the human system has that capacity -- the adrenalin is secreted, the whole body is energized for that particular purpose and immediately the energy appears. So the energy is not there when the mind is disinterested, then the energy does not appear. And it is disinterested because it only looks for reward and where there is no reward it is not interested. A man like K is saying, "Sir, can you live with that energy irrespective of reward -- in everything you do". Can we live that way ? To polish one's shoes that way, with enthusiasm, with zest, excel in that-- bathe that way, walk that way, talk to a friend that way. The same energy which is there when you are going to double your salary can be there when you are doing all this without wanting anything out of it. But if we say that is important, this is not important, then it does not come. Our mind has created what is important and what is unimportant and we are training our children to do that also. Notice young children are not that way. They play with a friend and have tremendous energy for no reason. Then the adults come in and tell them "Come on, you are wasting your time, do this". So he discovers that there is such a thing as wasting time -- when he is enjoying himself, he is wasting time ! So we are trained into the culture of non-enjoyment, which is the culture of achievement. Then we enjoy not the doing but only the achievement. We have become like that. There is pleasure only in the achievement, not in the doing. Which means one is not living creatively. We have to find out if it is possible to do the same thing out of love, which does not mean the reward or the result is not there but that is not your concern. It may be there, it may not be there. Like a painter who loves to paint and enjoys it irrespective of whether his painting sells or does not sell. K. is asking us if we can live that way -- from the heart, not from the mind for the mind is always measuring, calculating what is profitable and what is not profitable.

Question: Krishnamurti has pointed out that the real crisis is in the consciousness of man, not out there in society. But we find that the situation in society is deteriorating day by day. What can you say about that ?

 P.K. : We can only say that we have been warned. We cannot say afterwards that we did not know, because Krishnamurti has pointed out that if we go on this way, without taking responsibility for ourselves, working only at the periphery, trying to solve problems externally, then we are never going to be able to solve it. Meanwhile science and technology are producing more and more power, so the manifestation of the violence in us has now acquired the capacity to decimate a million people with just one bomb. It is not so much that the violence in our consciousness has increased but its external manifestation has grown ten thousand times. So we are in a much greater crisis now. The inner crisis in our consciousness is not greater but the outer crisis in society is much greater and we do not have much time left. Therefore there is now a greater urgency for the inner transformation to take place. If you really ask me what is going to happen, I cannot forecast because I am not an astrologer, but the violence is growing decade after decade. We cannot say when it will turn into a third world war -- it may not manifest for 20 years or it may occur very soon, but the potential for it is all the time there because we are constantly feeding it. We think it is Mr. Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin and other leaders who make the war. That may be only the triggering mechanism. The actual problem is the TNT in the hearts and minds of men - the division, the hatred between people. The real question is not the trigger, the question is why do we build up the TNT ? Having done that we are busy preventing the spark that ignites it ! That is the state in which we are living continuously and we are not objecting to the TNT, we are only objecting to the spark. Obviously that is not an intelligent way to live. The hatred in the hearts will not go away just by wishing. It takes a lot of self-knowledge to end it. That is our most important task.

Thank you, Sirs. That is enough for a day !

Our Relationship to the World (Part III): Relationship to our fellow human beings