Disintegration and Progress

Professor P. Krishna

(Talk delivered at the KFI Gathering in Chennai on 22 January 2005)


This is meant to be a dialogue between us, positing the truth as the unknown and investigating together to discover it. I mean that seriously, because the opinions of any individual, however great he might be, are not important. Agreeing or disagreeing with opinions is not learning. We learnt that from Krishnaji. He told us that even what he said was not important, but the questions were important. It was important to investigate them through our own observation of life and of our consciousness. He also pointed out that the spirit in which we investigate those questions is more important than the questions themselves, because one is not doing this inquiry in order to come upon an answer. Answers, ideas and solutions are trivial things. They do not contribute to wisdom; they contribute to knowledge. For a particular question we can know what the answer is and that becomes an idea, a piece of knowledge in our head. But that knowledge does not bring wisdom—wisdom being something different, which is a by-product of what he called self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is not knowledge about the self, but that understanding which one has come upon through one’s own perception of the truth, so that it is something real for oneself and not merely an idea. It is only such knowledge, if you might call it knowledge at all, that contributes to wisdom, to an actual transformation within us. It is not a decision to be different but an organic change in the way one relates with people, with things, with the whole world, and also with oneself.

The dilemma facing our modern society.(if I might summarise it in a few words), is that we have progressed tremendously in knowledge, in science and technology and in the arts, in philosophy, in history, geography, the environment and everything else, but we have no evolved psychologically. Through our knowledge we have come upon a lot of power in our hands and that has enabled us to outwardly change the way we live in our society. If we look at the way we were living in 1905 all over the world, and the way we are living today in 2005, there has been a tremendous change outwardly. They say that society has changed more in these last one hundred years than it did in thousands of years before that. But not everything has changed. Krishnaji raised the question: Has there been psychological evolution at all? That means, have we become wiser in the last 1,000 or 2,000 years? We have read the Mahabharata and are familiar with the characters desribed there. Are we wiser today than those characters described in that epic, or are we still like Duryodhana, Bhima, Shakuni, Arjuna and all the others? Some of us may be a little wiser than others, but basically don’t we all still live with the same divisions, the same hatred, the same propensity for war, the same cunning and greed which existed 5000 years ago? We are still operating in the same manner, which means there has been no psychological evolution at all. When you couple this fact with the fact that we have arrived at tremendous power without growing in wisdom, you can see why society has become so much more dangerous; why there is degeneration all around us.

If during the Mahabharata instead of having bows and arrows they had had nuclear bombs, I do not know if we would be here today. So, that is the state of modern society: in our understanding and our wisdom we are still primitive, but we now have all this power that has come from so-called progress. That is what has made things more dangerous. Inwardly, perhaps, we may not have become worse than we were before. I am not sure if the measure of hatred or inner violence in our consciousness is any different from what it was in our forefathers; but certainly its manifestation outside, which depends on how much power we have, has changed a million times—and that is what has made the situation very dangerous. So the fundamental question that one has to ask, even if it seems an impossible question, is: Why have we not grown in wisdom? This dilemma was expressed very beautifully in a poem by T.S. Eliot called ‘The Rock’. The last stanza of it summarizes this dilemma and runs like this:

Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in our knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
In two thousand years the cycles of heaven
Take us away from God and unto dust.

So is progress an illusion? Is our considering ourselves as extremely intelligent beings in the 21st century false? Are we really intelligent? If we are then why are we facing all this degeneration? Krishnaji pointed out that there is no intelligence without love and compassion. So have we defined intelligence unintelligently? I am just raising a lot of questions for us to deliberate on, and not answering them, because, as I said before, the answers are not important but the questions are important. We learned from Krishnamurti the importance of staying with questions, and exploring those questions in our daily life through our own observation of our own consciousness and how it responds in various relationships, without coming to any conclusions or forming strong opinions. In that exploration there is the possibility for a learning mind approaching the issue with humility, to come upon a deeper perception which is not merely a conclusion of thought. It is that deep insight, which brings about transformation in consciousness. The rest of it is only a change in ideas, and change in ideas does not contribute to the transformation of consciousness. It does not contribute to self-knowledge or wisdom.

So, this morning I would like to explore this question in that spirit, without the desire to find answers, merely to explore in order to understand all its implications and to understand what is. What is is not only what is visible at the surface, but when one probes deeply one discovers that there is a lot more that one does not see in the superficial viewing, analysis and argument. So with that awareness that we really do not know the truth and a state of learning which is not attached to any opinions let us explore for the love of understanding what is. That is the essence of the religious mind — religion being the quest for truth, and truth being the unknown. So this morning I would like to do that in the form of a dialogue with oneself and ask fundamental questions.

One such question is, why does anything that man touches, that he discovers, that he invents become so complicated and complex? We invented money—it seems a simple enough invention. Before that, people used to take their goods to the marketplace and had to exchange goods which others had brought there, and it must have occurred that it is much more sensible to give a slip of paper and say: I have given this much to you and you can take whenever you want an equivalent amount from me. That paper became the rupee note when the government stamped it and so on. So a very simple, intelligent device invented for the convenience of barter, so essential. But that invention of ours today has become this vast economic system with interest rates, foreign exchange rates, stock market speculation, investment, and nobody can predict what is going to happen. And what is worse, that damned thing which we invented now dictates our life. Seriously, sir, seriously. It dictates what your children will see, what they will read, what education they will receive in the university. They are no longer free to do what they are interested in doing because the money is being dangled in front of them and they are being directed [led] in that direction. So we have become slaves to our own invention.

Take sexuality, we did not invent it, we got it as a gift from Nature. Animals have it too, plants have it. It has come to us in evolution. But no animal has made it such a complex thing as we have. That has become this whole world of pornography, the pursuit of pleasure. And now even if you want to buy a car or a toaster, they use sex to promote it.

Einstein found the equation e = mc˛. A tremendous truth about Nature that mass is simply another form of energy. But immediately man said, can I use this to make a bomb? That comes from the hatred in our consciousness. You want to make war, then you want to use that new discovery for war. And something like 60% of the entire scientific budget comes from the budget of the Defence Department, which means that the entire scientific effort is not merely being directed to discover the truth about Nature, though they might say so, but because their intention is to use that to kill. They call it ‘defence’. A humorist once said: ‘Never believe something, until the Government denies it.’ So when they call it ‘defence’ we know what they mean.

So why does anything that we do become corrupt, become complicated? This is related to the question we were asking the other as to what is the relationship between evil and good. If you look at that, you will see that the source of all this disorder outside is the same as the source of all this disorder within us, in our consciousness. And the root of it is the ego process in each human being. You can contain its manifestation, and that is what we are trying to do through organizations like the United Nation, the police force, and so forth. We are trying to contain the manifestation of the ego process which creates all this division between me and you, my country and your country, my religion and your religion, and so on. It brings in this whole business of ‘mine’ and ‘the other’, ‘not mine’. And from there arises all the disorder. And if we do not tackle it there, which is what Krishnamurti pointed out, the rest of it follows as a logical consequence. You would only be treating the symptoms outwardly and containing the symptoms. It is like if one is getting boils all over the body, and one is busy treating each boil and healing it without ever asking the question: why am I getting all these boils all over the body? There is a cause. Unless you eliminate that cause, the illness will continue and you are dealing only with the symptoms outside. And the state of the world is like that. We are continuously having wars, and there are deep-rooted reasons for those wars. Those reasons are not eliminated by the United Nations or by all the diplomacy and so on. They are maintained. So it is only an outer treatment of the symptoms, and life becomes busy doing this, but it will never solve the problems. Just as if you are healing only the boils at each point on your body without ever finding out the deeper cause that is creating them, the body will remain sick.

So what is the deeper cause? And unless we deal with it there, we are not really dealing with the thing intelligently. So we must ask ourselves: What is this ego process? From where does it originate? Is it inevitable? Is it our own creation or has Nature created it? Is it possible to be free, to end this process within oneself? These are all fundamental questions. They may have been asked for 2,000 years or more, but they are existential, live questions. So one must go into it afresh, without saying to oneself whether it is possible or not possible, because when you say, ‘it is impossible’, it takes away the energy from exploring, because the mind says: ‘Oh, it is impossible, leave it alone; I want to do only that which is possible’, which then makes it impossible all the more. So is it impossible because it is innately impossible, or is it impossible because we have not paid heed or attention to this problem? You cannot answer that question until you have really and sincerely attempted to do it. That is why one must do this exploration without seeking a result out of it, which means for the love of it, just for understanding oneself.

So I ask myself: What is this ego process? Is it there in Nature? After all, we are all part of Nature. And you can see that the trees have no ego. The animals have very little [cut in the tape]. They are like little children—and we were all little children; we were not born with the ego. So where does it come from? There may be great disasters in Nature. That tsunami wave that came and destroyed much. It may be inconvenient for us, but it does not come in order to kills us. There is no intentionality in Nature, and it is that intentionality which is the ego. Nature has this cosmic order which follows certain laws that the scientists are trying to determine. And that order creates all the phenomena—sometimes it is convenient for us, like the rainfall and so on, and sometimes it is inconvenient for us. But it is neither intentionally trying to create convenience or inconvenience. So there is no ego in Nature anywhere. So why is it there in us? Are we born with it? When I look at that, when I look at children, I see that they fight, but the next day they have forgotten; they do not stick on with their hurt. They are quickly friends again. Whereas if two adults fight, it is so difficult for them to forget and forgive and to die to that hurt. So obviously we are not born with the ego. We have built it up as we grow up.

And you can see in yourself, when you think of your own state as a child and your state now. It is so difficult for a grown up human being to make friends with another human being. The mind is calculating, cunning. It says: Should I make friends with him or not? Will it be beneficial or not? It goes on all the time in subtle ways. In childhood you did not do that. You were friends with the neighbour’s child or with the servant’s child. There was an innocence, and that innocence goes away. It is taken away by the ego process. So what is this ego process? Can we go deeper into it?

In the course of evolution, when the human being came out of the egg—what he had through genetic mutation and so on, which distinguishes him as a human being—was enhanced memory, enhanced capacity to think—and language is included in that capacity, the ability to learn language; every child learns language—and the enhanced capacity for imagination. These were the gifts which were given to us by Nature. But Nature does not dictate which way we should use these gifts. So we have to ask ourselves, have we used these additional capacities which we have over the animals, who are were our biological ancestors—to be more kind, to be more gentle, to be more protective of the earth, of the environment, and even of our own species? The answer was given yesterday by Mark Lee when he told us that in the last ten years human beings have killed 30 million people of their own kind, their own species, in wars. That is how horrendous this ego process is in each one of us. And that is at the root of the cause why we fight within the family, between brothers, between husband and wife, why we dominate and so on. It is not different from the cause of the war in Kashmir or in Ireland or in Iraq. It is the same cause, the same domination—that which goes on within us, each individual, projects itself in a big way, and then we object to it and call it war and so on. But then that is only a question of manifestation on a larger scale, but the root of it, the causation, is the same.

So we must examine that causation. If I want to learn about myself I must examine that. How does it begin? If you ask that and you watch a child growing and slowly becoming egotistic, this process becoming stronger, you will see that when these capacities for imagination and thinking and enhanced memory are combined with the instinct of pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, which is also there in the animal, it now extends to us and becomes the pursuit of psychological pleasure and pain. It is not just physical pleasure and pain as in the case of animals, but it is now also psychological pleasure and pain. And when you combine that with these abilities, the mind is all the time calculating whether it can get more security in the future, whether it can get more pleasure in the future. So the desire to accumulate for the future and the desire to protect oneself in the future from any kind of harm seems perfectly natural, in the sense that when you have that instinct and you have these capacities, it is going to form the ego—it is like chemistry. If you start with calcium, carbon and oxygen atoms, you are going to end up with calcium carbonate. It is like that.

So every human being has the capacity for the ego process in his consciousness. But are we completely trapped in this, or can we free ourselves by learning about it? After all, the biologist explains how violence has come into us from our biological past, and their explanation is not wrong. But if you accept that explanation, then this violence is inevitable. But that is not true. A human being can add to that violence and become a Hitler, or he can become a Gandhi or a Krishnamurti. So one can see that there is a certain amount of freedom which is given to man, which is not given to animals. You cannot make a tiger into a vegetarian, you would have to force him, but a human being, though he was born in a non-vegetarian environment, may become a vegetarian, may come upon compassion, so we have this capacity for change. And that is why this whole question about what is moral, what is right, and what is immoral and what is wrong arises only for man. If I was completely determined by my past, I am not responsible for what I do. How can you blame me? But that is not completely so. That is why we must exercise these capacities to learn for ourselves. And we can free ourselves of this through our own understanding of ourselves.

And that is what I understand Krishnamurti is asking us to do. He is saying: ‘You have cultivated enquiry regarding the outer world, as science enquiring into Nature; you have cultivated enquiry into social problems in order to solve them; but you have not cultivated inquiry in order to understand yourself. You are so ignorant of yourself.’ In his book, Education and the Significance of Life he says: ‘The ignorant man is not the unlearned (meaning the uneducated), but the one who does not know himself. And the learned man is stupid when he relies on his knowledge to give him understanding.’ Similar things were pointed out by the Budha, by Socrates, and by several others. We worship these people; we have a very high opinion of [regard for] these people; but have we listened to them? Are we doing what they asked us to do? Why not? Is it because we are not really convinced of the truth of this? Why are we still egotistic, even after knowing all the arguments?

Logically it can be shown how destructive the ego is. I can do it with you in five minutes. Maybe I should. I am a scientist; I like to make equations. You take anything, any virtue, any quality—add the ego to it and see what it becomes. Take love—add the ego to it and it becomes attachment, possessiveness, jealousy, dependence. Take humility—add the ego to it and it becomes inferiority, being small, servile. Take power, which is the ability to do things—add the ego to it and it becomes domination, exploitation. You take anything. Take sexuality—add the ego to it and it becomes lust, pornography. So the problem is not sexuality or love; there is no problem with what is; there is the problem with this ego. It is the source of all problems, both in our personal life and out there, in society, because ‘we are the world’, if we have understood that. That is what it means—whatever happens in society is a reflection or projection of what is happening inside of us.

So we must ask ourselves, is it possible to free ourselves of this ego process? Now if it is something that Nature has created in us, like my kidneys or my heart, my lungs—you cannot get rid of it, you must only cope with it, manage it. But if it is something which we create out of our own thinking or out of our own manner in which we are approaching life, then I can learn not to approach life that way—if I see the danger of it. In the video yesterday Krishnaji asked that question. He said, ‘Sir, do you perceive the danger of this—the danger—as you perceive the danger of fire? Do you perceive it that way, or intellectually, argument, and say, yes, I agree, logically correct? That does not work.’ But if it is danger, then action follows. It is not your action. Then Nature’s intelligence acts. Nature has put an intelligence into the organism to protect itself. But when you make it into a virtue, saying ‘I must not be egotistic’, but you do not see the danger of it, it continues, and creates this conflict between what we are and what we think we should be. And we have read that being explained by Krishnaji.

So why are we not aware of its danger, though we can logically create these equations, as we have just done, and conclude: Yes, the ego is bad for man. It will not go away just because you have concluded this. It does not lie within volition. You can decide which house to buy, which job to take, which car to drive or not drive. These are within our decision, but you cannot decide not to worry, to be happy, to love, even to make friends, to perceive beauty. So the greatest things in life are those you cannot decide to have, but they can come to you. They are a by-product of understanding oneself and life, of coming upon sensitivity. In other words, they are a by-product of right living. And to find out about right living I have to find out if this ego process can end, and why it goes on. And it does not end because I want it to end. It can end if I perceive the danger of it. Can we?

After all, that is the great illusion of mankind, is it not? It thinks that acting out of self-interest is in its self-interest, and does not question that. Is it? After all, that is what we have been doing for thousands of years—each one acting out of self-interest. And that is what has brought the world to the present state. So is it really in our interest? We are hurtling towards a catastrophe. The next world war, if it comes, will eliminate all of us. We have brought this danger upon ourselves. So obviously, it is not in our self-interest. And yet, it appears to be in our self-interest, because if I can do something and make a little profit it appears that I will benefit from it. So is it the outcome of a narrow vision? When I see only up to here, I feel it is beneficial. If I saw very far, both in time and in space, then I would see it is disastrous! So how does one expand one’s vision, and why is the vision so confined?

[Let us] go back to the child. He grows up being attached to his parents, his family. He grows up in a society, in a religion, and acquires all that. He starts feeling safe within that. He calls it ‘My house, my religion, my family’, and feels secure within that. And that is the trap of this conditioning which we have to see through. That is a natural process. But if that traps your thinking, and my thinking thereafter is all the time to secure the profit, the benefit of the ‘me’ and the ‘mine’, then that is the ego process. Can we see this trap and the danger of being in this trap, that my thought process is no longer free to enquire? It is all the time seeking to justify the ‘me’ and the ‘mine’. It is arguing like a lawyer. Each one of us has a personal lawyer sitting up here who is all the time arguing in favour of oneself, ‘me’ and what I call ‘mine’. This means it [the thought process] is no longer an instrument for inquiring into what is true. So long as I am seeking profits, or seeking satisfaction for the ‘me’ and the ‘mine’, I am not seeking the truth. And therefore it is very easy to say ‘I am a seeker of truth’, but are we? Or are we seeking satisfaction in one form or another, in which case we are not really seeking the truth?

So can the passion for learning be so strong that it can overcome this instinct of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, not just physical but psychological pain, hurt. Truth may hurt me. It does; it comes as a revelation, as a disillusion, which means one is going on with some illusion which one found comforting and pleasant, and then it shocks you. So unless we are willing to face psychological pain, and perhaps also physical pain, we cannot really say we are in quest of truth. So you can say it is difficult and chicken out, which is what most of us do. And we say, ‘It is meant for the Buddha, I’m not the Buddha, I’m an ordinary man’, and then we continue. But then see logically that if we continue like that we have no right to complain about the quarrels, about the wars, about our children getting killed in that war, in the riot, because all that is a consequence which follows out of that kind of living. But we do complain. So it is illogical, irrational. To see the truth of this, is to see that the mind is caught in illusion, and that all disorder, all division, arises out of that illusion.

So this quest for self-knowledge is the quest for the ending of illusion, without which there is no ending of disorder within, and therefore out there in society. But we have not inculcated that quest. That is what Krishnaji was doing. For 60 years he went around the world pointing out our state, saying: ‘For God’s sake, enquire; see the importance of not continuing in illusion.’

The only way to end illusion is to enquire into what is true, because illusion means we are taking something to be true when it is not true, or we are giving tremendous importance to something when it is not really that important in life. Both are illusions. So to discover for oneself what is the right place of everything in our life, is to discover order. And we really do not know that. So it is really something one has to discover, which is unknown. The truth is the unknown. That is why Krishnaji called it ‘the art of living’. And art is something that cannot be directed, that cannot be prescribed. You cannot write guidelines of how to make a beautiful picture. It has the right proportion, and that right proportion creates beauty. But we have a way of finding out when it is in the wrong place—it will create disorder; it will create conflict within me. And I can use that as a source to learn for myself where is that conflict coming from. We normally look for the external cause of that conflict, but that is not important, though it may be necessary. The important thing is to find out the inner cause of that conflict and use it as a ground for learning about oneself. Then it becomes an instrument of self-knowledge. Without this learning about ourselves, he pointed out to us, there is no basis or foundation for our meditation, for our practices and so on.

In other words, we are confused human beings, and out of that confusion we are choosing between what is pleasant and what is unpleasant. The choice of a confused mind only adds to the confusion. So this pursuit of truth and coming upon clarity is more important that the choices that we are all the time making. That is the cure, and we are capable of it. In a sense, the truth is eternal, it is something that is always there. It has always been there. The truth that Patanjali or Socrates talked about is no different than the truth that Krishnamurti is talking about, or what the truth is, because the truth is the fact. That has not changed. We have a consciousness and the eyes to see and the senses to perceive that truth. What is blocking it? The world? I may blame television and propaganda for blocking it, I may blame my parents for conditioning my mind, but if they had not conditioned it, something else would have. But the fact is there is nothing between me and truth except myself.

So I am seeking to perceive the truth and I am myself in the way. See the truth of that. How do you get yourself out of the way? We have to die, to the ‘me’, to this ego process. But we cannot die, it is not a voluntary process. But by exploring it, by watching it in our own life, which means not condemning it, because when we condemn something we do not watch. We have to have the patience to watch and see how it arises, what it is doing to our life in all our relationships. And perhaps in that watching it may dawn on the consciousness that I am myself creating this thing, and that I am myself responsible for creating all this misery in my life. And when we see the danger of that process maybe it will end. But we do not have the patience to watch long enough. We are satisfied. If we solve the immediate problem, we are satisfied. If I may give a metaphor, there is the problem of hatred, of jealousy, of attachment, desire and frustration—numerous problems—like a tree with many branches, and at the root of it is this ego process.

Now when one of these problems manifests in our life and we start enquiring to solve it, and when it is solved, we stop. Do not stop. Continue with it though the pain has disappeared. Continue with it. Each one of them has the opportunity [potential] that if you trace it far enough you will come to the root, and you have the possibility of uprooting the whole tree. It does not have much significance to cut just one branch, because when the root is there, another branch will grow. The metaphor is fairly apt. And Krishnaji says: Keep watching. Start with whatever is occupying your mind, but do not accept simple answers. Do not escape. Do not get satisfied with solving the immediate problem. Ask why did it arise, go deep into it, and it gives you an opportunity to learn about yourself deeply. It is possible, but we have not really devoted ourselves. We do it on the side, as a hobby, a little bit. But we have not made that a passion. It is not a question of only analysis and thinking about it, because, as he has explained to us, thought is from memory and all the conditioning is stored in memory. And therefore thought is the instrument of conditioning. It is not a free instrument; it is a coloured instrument. But it has the value of communication. It has the value of creating the question, but it cannot answer that question. You must not take the question answer from thought, otherwise it is another intellectual conclusion. So is there another instrument in us which is not corrupted by our conditioning? The answer is yes. We are capable of awareness. Without that you could never have the freedom to come out of conditioning, which influences and traps the thought process. That is why he talked about ‘choiceless awareness’. Watch choicelessly, watch, do not argue, take the argument only as a question. But the answer comes from watching, not from concluding. It is not a logical conclusion. That does not work here. It works in science, but it does not work in this religious quest.

So that is the work—to come upon this enquiring mind. There is a quotation there in the bookshop where he says: ‘Sir, you must plough the field’, which is what we have done, ‘You must plough the field with thought, analysis, questioning. Then leave it fallow.’ The leaving it fallow is important, because in that silence, it regenerates. Thought is not the instrument of regeneration, but, as I said, it has the value of creating the question. Even Krishnamurti’s books will not give you regeneration. But they can give you the question. But we must explore that question in our own life, in our own consciousness, to receive from it the wisdom that it can give, if we put in that work and approach it in that way. And each one of us has to do that. It is not enough if Buddha does it and then he gives you guidelines and you will live that way. All that has been tried—it has failed. At the end of all that we are the way we are. That is why Krishnamurti wanted this inculcated in education, because it is necessary for every human being. It is not just that there is a religious man who will do this and then he will tell us how to live. It is not possible. Each one of us must grow in wisdom. Which means this enquiry, this learning mind—which is investigating what is true and what is false—we must anchor it in the child, in the student. It is more important to create this enquiry in the mind than the scientific enquiry. The scientists, they teach science and make it extremely important to inculcate enquiry. But we have not cared to inculcate this inquiry, to create an inquiring mind. And that is why he was interested in a different education, which will lay equal emphasis on knowledge and on self-knowledge.

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