Dialogue with Michael Toms in San Francisco
Thursday, May 3, 1984
Michael Toms: Krishnaji, welcome. It's good to be with you again. The last time we were together we talked about many things, but principally it revolved around your talking about your understanding and experience of meditation, and I was thinking as I was reflecting on our getting together and having a conversation, a dialogue, that many people, many of us, see ourselves in a world of conflict and chaos, and one of the things you said in the last conversation we had was, and I quote, « Love means the freedom from all conflict », and I thought that would be a good beginning point for us today. How do we, what is the first steps towards eliminating conflict? As you've suggested the conflict externally is the one that emanates from ourselves, but achieving that state of love you talk about and moving beyond conflict, where does that begin?
Krishnamurti: I think one has to go into it, not where it begins but rather what is conflict, not only externally but also inwardly. Psychologically it is far more important to understand the nature of conflict, rather than the outward conflict. After all the outward conflict is the result of our... of the society which human beings have created, with all the immorality, with all the corruption, and the monstrous things that are happening in society – human beings have created it. It is not the result of some divine structure. So unless we understand ourselves very deeply, and understand the nature and the structure of conflict, merely trying to organise a state where there is no conflict, or minimise conflict, seems rather vain and not go into it very deeply.
What is conflict in human beings? Why does it exist? It has existed for thousands of years, whether it is in the Far East, or in Europe or here, conflict has been one of the major problems: violence, the pursuit of violence, and the pursuit of ideals and so on. What is conflict? If we could discuss that, and understand why human beings have not resolved this problem after forty thousand years of evolution. It is really quite a... if you go into it very deeply whether it is possible to end psychological conflict altogether. It isn't a theory. To me theories and ideas and suppositions have no meaning whatsoever, because I think one has to look at things as they are, not translate « what is » into terms of « what should be ». We have to face things as they are and see if human beings, fairly intelligent, so-called educated, can end this conflict.
So let's begin to have a dialogue. What is conflict? Conflict implies contradiction: « what is » and « what should be ». Right? There is a duality, opposing elements in it: desiring one thing and then contradicting it by another desire. It is a very complex problem, it can't just be, say, « Tell me a system of how to end conflict », because that is too childish, because every system intrinsically has its own degeneration. Every – same as political, religious, or psychological, or even scientific systems; it is called entropy. So if we could talk over together not how to end conflict, but rather understand the whole nature of it.
M. Toms: Well, in order to have contradiction one has to have a sense of an idea, a concept, a sense of self is a word to be contradicted in the first place.
Krishnamurti: No. Why should we have an idea? Suppose one is violent, as human beings are violent. It is shown through five or six thousand years of war, practically every year, not only externally. Let us take an example, let us look at it that way. One is greedy. Why should you have the opposite of it? The idea of non-greed. Right? Why should we have the concept, or the idea, or a projection of not being greedy – why? The fact is we are greedy, let's deal with that, not with non-greed. I don't know if I am conveying.
M. Toms: Yes.
Krishnamurti: Why are we greedy? I mean greed has been one of the major drives of human activity. Right?
M. Toms: Yes.
Krishnamurti: So what is greed? If we could go into all this kind of thing, and not say merely, tell me quickly how to end conflict. That has no meaning. So, could we take an example like greed or violence, and see it in oneself, because we have created this society, it isn't a selfish activity, it isn't a self-centred process of self-concern. Human beings right through the world are violent, or greedy, or any other characteristic. Now, « what is » far important than « what should be » – right? – a human being is violent. That has been inherited through the animals and so on, right up to the human existence, present day existence,. Violence has been one of the characteristics or ethos of human beings, not only in their personal relationships but generally outwardly too.
So let's take violence: what is violence? Why are we violent? Don't say society has made me violent, or the environment has made me violent, because the society is created by each one of us. The environment is structured by all of us, not nature, naturally, but the society in which we live, social interrelationship, social activity and so on – all that, what we call society. We have created it. I think that's... We go about altering the organization of society. The more you organise it the worst it seems to get. Whereas if we say we are responsible for it, completely, each one of us, whether we live in Asia or in Europe or here, each human being living on this earth, which is beautiful, extraordinarily alive, nature, because we have created this society we try to change the organization of society, we never say, « I will change, I am violent, I am responsible for violence ». The world is now, as we all know, is aflame, terrible things are happening of which most of us are not even aware. And that world is us, we are the world. We are not separate from the world, we are not separate from society. So, our consciousness – if we can use that word and go into that nature of consciousness a little later – our consciousness is part of violence, violence is part of that consciousness.
So, what is violence? Not only getting angry and hitting each other, killing each other, but also inwardly, psychologically, what is violence? Aggression obviously, competition, which is encouraged by the world tremendously, especially in this country – if you compete you become successful. And violence is also essentially, « I am », « I must be ». I am – if you want to go into it very deeply – I am ignorant but I will be knowledgeable; there is this constant struggle of conformity, imitation, which are all various forms of violence – aggression, the urge to succeed, to compete, the conformity, imitation, all those are various forms of violence. You may not agree with this, but if you go into it these are various aspects of violence. So what is the root of violence? These are the various aspects, like a prism. So what is... why are human beings, whether highly sophisticated or the man in the... never read a book, doesn't even know how to write, he is also violent – the extreme rich and the extreme poor, the black and – you know the whole division, classical division, aristocratic division. Is division one of the factors of conflict; me and you? I don't know if you are...
M. Toms: The feeling of being separate from another.
Krishnamurti: Separate. The American and the Russian, ideologically divided; one as a system of tyranny, the other so-called democratic society. Ideals. So, ideals are in conflict. I believe in one thing and you believe in another. I am a Jew, you are a Arab. You understand?
M. Toms: Yes.
Krishnamurti: So is this division basically one of the causes, or major cause of conflict, not only outside but inside? One is a Catholic. After two thousand years of propaganda – forgive me if I can put it that way – you have divided yourself, say, I am a Catholic, I am a Protestant, I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, and all the rest of that terrible division that exists, geographically, nationally, racially and specially religiously. So can man be free of all this? Not speculatively free but actually free from all religious divisions. After all the Hindus, three thousand to five thousand years have lived with certain traditions, cultivated, propagandised, brainwashed; so has the Muslims, so have the Christians. So, you understand, the problem is enormous. As the problem is enormous we never approach it simply. I don't know if I am making...
M. Toms: We see it as very complex.
Krishnamurti: We see it complex, but we – see the simplicity of it that as long as there is division there must be conflict. That's a law. Not invented by the speaker, by me, it is a law where there is the Arab, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or various sects and belief, multiplication of sects, multiplication of gurus, and all the absurdities of all that. So could we see the logic of it, the sanity of it, and set aside all this? Not be a Hindu, not outwardly, I don't mean outwardly, inwardly; not be a Catholic. Because this division, which is based on belief...
M. Toms: It is extremely difficult for most people to give up beliefs.
Krishnamurti: Of course. Because certain forms of belief give them security. They feel safe. They feel protected by long centuries of certain beliefs, certain dogmas.
M. Toms: Some people think that is a natural inclination to feel safe and secure, that that's something that is built into human nature.
Krishnamurti: One must be secure, but not in illusions. If we accept security to be in illusions, like nationalism is an illusion, and so on, that very acceptance of certain ideological or conceptual or belief is dividing the people.
M. Toms: You are saying that something like nationalism is an illusion because it is a belief system?
M. Toms: That's why it is illusory.
Krishnamurti: We are human beings first, not Americans, Russians, or Hindus, we are human beings. And if we are human beings why introduce all this... First let's understand ourselves, knowing that we are responsible for the society which we have created, for the wars. Wars exist because of nationalism, economic divisions – my country first, my religion first. You see all this – every magazine is that, every politician and so on. And that's why I feel... one feels the world is getting more and more dangerous to live in, the threatening of war – all based on this narrow concept of human existence.
M. Toms: The idea of nationalism.
Krishnamurti: Nationalism. Not only that, the idea I am a Christian, I am a Catholic, Protestant and the innumerable divisions in Christianity, like in Hinduism and so on. The world if Islam is broken up. They all believe in god. Your god and my god. But god, if I may be – I am not an atheist, I am a very religious person, but god is the invention of thought, born of fear, born of uncertainty, born of terrible loneliness, separation. Therefore I project an idea of god. Look at it, sir, sanely and logically. The Hindu god, the Muslim, the Christian god, and they all talk about peace and they are all fighting each other. Peace requires, to understand peace requires a great deal of intelligence, which is not based on some kind of belief.
So, let's come back to the point: as long as there is division in myself, fragmentation, broken up, that very fragmentation is one of the major causes of conflict – I want this, and a little later I don't want it. So if you want to go into it very deeply, isn't desire one of the causes of conflict?
M. Toms: The desire for achieving something.
Krishnamurti: Desire in itself, per se. Isn't it one of the major causes of conflict? I desire to be powerful – power. We all want power, from the president down to the prime minister to each one of us, we all want power – power in our little yard. And the desire for power is one of the causes of conflict. Another cause is, I seek power, I want power more than anything else, which means money, position, security, popularity, the whole superstitious nonsense that is going on in the world. Sorry if I put it emphatically. So, as conflict is a very complex problem one has to approach it very simply, and freely.
So, as long as there is division, nationally, religiously, economically, socially, there must be conflict, outside as well as psychologically. And to end that conflict one has to go into this whole content of our consciousness. Some scientists and psychologists perhaps don't accept consciousness, but consciousness is our reactions, both biological, psychological reactions. Right? And also our fears, our anxieties, our depression, our beliefs and so on, the whole human nature, what humans are. That's our consciousness. I am a Catholic, a Protestant and so on, so on. Right, sir?
M. Toms: Aren't those belief systems that are the contents of consciousness?
Krishnamurti: Belief is, of course.
M. Toms: Yes.
M.T. Krishnaji, you were speaking about consciousness.
Krishnamurti: Yes, sir. Can there be... You see, the crisis is in our consciousness, not in the world.
M. Toms: It is internal as opposed to being external.
Krishnamurti: The crisis we think is economic, political or so on, but the crisis is in our consciousness, because we have lived for fifty thousand years on this earth and we haven't hardly changed at all, psychologically. Technologically we have tremendously advanced, frighteningly advanced – atom bombs and all the rest of it. And also technologically man has, technology has given man a great deal of health and so on, so on; communication – this is it: radio, television and so on, but inwardly we are almost the same what we have been – frightened, lonely, depressed, violent, greedy, you know the whole human nature. There we are almost static. And if we remain as we are we'll be, for the next forty thousand exactly what we are. I don't know if you want to go into it, that is, we have to go into the question of time.
Time is part of our consciousness. I have been, I will be – the past, the present and the future. So, if we do not psychologically have tremendous revolution inwardly we will be tomorrow exactly what we are. This is so. There is no question of disputing that point. So, can we change now? Not wait for tomorrow, and gradual process. The gradual process has led us to this. I mean Darwin and all those species of – you know all that, but we have not basically brought about a deep fundamental change in ourselves, in our consciousness. And that change, we think, will come through evolution: give me time, I will become. Man has had forty thousand years and more of time, and we are still a little bit barbarians. I am using the word « barbarian » in the right sense of that word.
So, is it possible for a human being realizing all this, that time is an enemy of man, psychologically – I need time to learn a language, to understand the computer, to go to the Moon, I need a great deal of time, but psychologically, inwardly, if we think in terms of time we will be caught in the same process as we have been for forty thousand years. This is logical. But we don't want to be logical, we want to be romantic and all the rest of the business. So, is it possible to have a complete change in the content of our consciousness? You understand?
M. Toms: Yes.
Krishnamurti: The content is our beliefs, our ideals, our fears, our nationalities, you know, the whole structure and nature of human psyche is our consciousness. And if there is no basic revolution there, psychologically, we shall be another ten thousand years we'll be exactly what we are.
So we are asking a very serious question, which we have discussed with many scientists, with so-called brain specialists and so on: can there be a radical change in the nature... in the very psyche, which is made up of consciousness, so that the brain cells themselves are different? I don't know if you want to go into all that.
M. Toms: Is consciousness limited to the brain?
Krishnamurti: Yes, of course. Part of the brain. The brain is the centre of our reactions, both biological, physiological and psychological. Right? And that brain has been conditioned for forty thousand years to be violent, for two thousand years to be a Christian, or two thousand years to be a Catholic, and so on. I hope I am not disturbing (laughs) the people who are so attached to their particular forms of beliefs.
M. Toms: You may be. That's all right.
Krishnamurti: That's all right. I don't mind. (Laughs) You can throw me out whenever you want to. But these are obviously logical, sane facts. And most of us are unwilling to face facts, and change the facts. To change the fact is to remain with it, give your whole attention to the fact. But you cannot give your whole attention if the fact is looked at with an ideal. Fact is fact. The non-fact is the ideal. I don't know if you are following. So could we pay, give complete attention to what we are? What we are is what is happening every moment – anger, pleasure, sexual demands, various aspects of violence and so on, the whole content of our consciousness as they arise. Which is, the « me », the self, is consciousness. I don't know if I am making...
M. Toms: Yes.
Krishnamurti: My consciousness is knowledge. I am frightened, that is knowledge. I am greedy, I am a Christian, I am a Hindu, Islam and so on, that is based on knowledge. So the self, the « me », the persona, is knowledge.
M. Toms: We also have this sense of wanting to accumulate more of that knowledge.
Krishnamurti: Yes. Not only that it gives one power, position, status and so on, but also it's very satisfying to have power, power over somebody. The whole tyrannical, political world, the totalitarian states are tremendously powerful. Look at Poland – you know all the rest... The few are in power, it's like good old – you know, sir, the good old system of tyranny.
So, we are asking a very serious question, whether the human brain which has been conditioned for forty thousand years in this state can radically transform, change itself – not transform, because transform means changing from one form to another form. But radically change to something totally new. Sir, I don't know if you want to go into all this, it involves the question of death.
M. Toms: Yes. Please.
Krishnamurti: Dying. I don't know if you want to go into all that. You wanted to discuss something about meditation.
M. Toms: Well we did that last time. I think you should continue.
Krishnamurti: All right, sir.
I think death is an extraordinarily important factor in life, because we are all going to die, whether we are Christians or Hindus we are all going to die. Some believe in reincarnation, life after death, you know, and that belief has no actual effect in daily life, it is just a belief, a comforting belief, but the actual living of that, because if I die and born next life, which means what I do now matters next life: correct behaviour, morality, no corruption and so on, because whatever I am now I will be next life. But that belief has no value. You follow?
M. Toms: Yes.
Krishnamurti: It is like playing a game.
M. Toms: It hasn't made much of a difference to your situation.
Krishnamurti: None at all. So death is an extraordinarily important thing in life. But we have separated living from death. We are frightened even to talk about it. And there are lots of books being written now, how to die happily. (Laughs) It sounds silly.
M. Toms: Well I think most of us are terror-stricken about the idea of death, so...
M. Toms: ...if you can die happily, it seems to be something someone would gravitate to naturally.
Krishnamurti: It sounds rather absurd, to die happily. Nobody wants to die.
M. Toms: Yes. True enough.
Krishnamurti: Nobody wants, because living is very important to them. Is living so important? What is living? What is it we call living? Going to the office every day for the next fifty years? Having conflict day after day, struggle, pain, sorrow, pleasure...
M. Toms: I think most people would say that living is trying to be happy, pursuing some form of pleasure.
Krishnamurti: Is there? Some form of pleasure, which endures for a couple of weeks and then you change to some other pleasure. So the pleasure is a very insubstantial thing. So this process of living, what we call living, is a conflict from the moment you are born till you die – struggle – right? – with an occasional flare of joy and flare of something else, but this battle goes on all the time. Right? This thing we call living. I am not... we are not saying death is preferable. That's absurd. But why have we separated the two? Death means the ending.
M. Toms: Ending of what?
M. Toms: Ending.
Krishnamurti: Biologically ending, physically, ending to all my attachments, to this house, to my wife, to my children, to my books, to my bank account. I am attached. And death comes along, by accident, disease, or old age, says sorry old boy, that's the end of it. You can't take it with you.
M. Toms: Yes. Right. (Laughs)
Krishnamurti: So, this is a really very important question to ask. Instead of separating living and dying, giving it a long duration of time, because where there is fear of death there is no love, there is no passion, except lust. Freedom and passion go together. So, ending – what is it to end?
M. Toms: That sense of self, the « me » is going to be gone.
Krishnamurti: No, to end, sir, to end something.
M. Toms: Finished, it's over.
Krishnamurti: No, no. Go into the question of ending. Of course finishing something, but the nature of ending something – ending. Do we ever end anything? That is, if we end something, in that very ending there is something else coming. I have got cancer – suppose – if I end it I will be very happy. There is always a reward, or a punishment. I don't know if... So we live... our life is based on reward and punishment. And we have never enquired what it means to end. End. Not, if I end what is there? If you say there is something there, you have already projected something, therefore you have never ended. This is really a very interesting question, the ending.
So death is a form of ending. And because we are frightened of it we invent life after death, and we have proofs and you know all the rest of it, which is all rather speculative, doubtful, suspicious. But if you could live with death, which doesn't mean suicide, live with death – morning, evening, day in and day out, live with it. So there is no attachment. I am no longer a Hindu – ending everything. It's not a question of determination. Why separate living, death, and be frightened of it, terrified? And the expense of all that: the funerals (laughs), specially in the western country, profit – you follow? – the whole commercialism around death.
M. Toms: What is the link between our fear of death and our conflict?
Krishnamurti: Sir, to end conflict. Not, if I end conflict what is there? Not to ask that question. To end it. Because this is very important, because...
Could we look at it differently? We are wasting our energy, tremendously – conflict is wastage of energy. Like an internal combustion machine, if you put gravel into it, it wears itself out. So we are wearing ourselves out psychologically – constant conflict, struggle, never a period of quietness. And to have quiet you meditate. Another struggle. Which is the best meditation, how am I to practice, I must practice – follow? – that's also conflict.
M. Toms: Another system, another belief, another idea.
Krishnamurti: Never a day in which you are absolutely quiet, not occupied with something or other. So, the ending totally has a... is the cessation of wasting energy. I don't know... If I have no conflict I have got tremendous energy. If I am not frightened, fear, that's great energy. So we are wasting our energy. And to live a life without wasting energy – you understand, sir? – that is something extraordinary. Which means as long as we are wasting energy our life becomes very small, selfish, narrow, broken up. If there is no wastage of energy, no conflict, which is very, very – we went into it – then there is an art of living, which you don't learn in schools, or colleges, or from some specialists. You yourself become aware of it, attentive. And that very attention is like a flame which burns out the wastage of energy; wastage.
That enough, sir?
M. Toms: (Laughs) Well, I am sure there is a lot more, but...
Krishnamurti: Lots more.
M. Toms: ...you've covered it pretty well. I want to thank you for being with us.
Dialogue with Michael Toms in San Francisco
Thursday, May 3, 1984
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