Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in 1895 into a modest Brahmin home in Madanapalle, India. His mother died when he was ten, and during his childhood he was delicate and frequently ill. When his father retired from government employment, he arranged with Annie Besant, the President of the International Theosophical Society, to work for this organization of which he had been a member for some years. Krishnamurti, then in his fourteenth year, moved with three of his brothers and his father to the Theosophical headquarters in Madras.
A deeply affectionate bond formed between Mrs. Besant and Krishnamurti, and she became his legal guardian. The theosophists had been awaiting the advent of a “World Teacher,” to prepare for whose coming they had formed a group known as the Order of the Star in the East, with Krishnamurti at its Head. In 1912 Krishnamurti was formally proclaimed the World Teacher, but in 1929 he disbanded the Order with his spiritually radical speech “Truth Is a Pathless Land.” By doing so he rejected estates, money, power, and all claims to authority or guru status.
For the rest of his life he traveled extensively, giving talks to all who cared to listen in Europe, India, the United States, South America, Australia, and New Zealand. Thousands from all walks of life came to hear him.
This part comprises a selection from his talks given in the mid-1930s. It includes one given in Mexico City and a series given in 1934 in Ojai, California, where Krishnamurti later spent the years of World War II (1939 to 1945).
You may ask, “What is it that you want to do? If you don’t want us to join any society or accept certain theories, what is it then that you want to do?”
What I want to do is to help you, the individual, to cross the stream of suffering, confusion and conflict, through deep and complete fulfillment. This fulfillment does not come through egotistic self-expression, nor through compulsion and imitation. Not through some fantastic sentiment and conclusions, but through clear thinking, through intelligent action, we shall cross this stream of pain and sorrow. There is a reality which can be understood only through deep and true fulfillment.
Before we can understand the richness and the beauty of fulfillment, mind must free itself from the background of tradition, habit, and prejudice. For example, if you belong to a particular political party, you naturally regard all your political considerations from the narrow, limited point of view of that party. If you have been brought up, nursed, conditioned in a certain religion, you look at life through its veil of prejudice and darkness. That background of tradition prevents the complete understanding of life, and so causes confusion and suffering.
I would beg of you to listen to what I have to say, freeing yourself for this hour at least from the background in which you have been brought up, with its traditions and prejudices, and think simply and directly about the many human problems.
To be truly critical is not to be in opposition. Most of us have been trained to oppose and not to criticize. When a man merely opposes, it generally indicates that he has some vested interest which he desires to protect, and that is not deep penetration through critical examination. True criticism lies in trying to understand the full significance of values without the hindrance of defensive reactions.
We see throughout the world extremes of poverty and riches, abundance and at the same time starvation; we have class distinction and racial hatred, the stupidity of nationalism and the appalling cruelty of war. There is exploitation of man by man; religions with their vested interests have become the means of exploitation, also dividing man from man. There is anxiety, confusion, hopelessness, frustration.
We see all this. It is part of our daily life. Caught up in the wheel of suffering, if you are at all thoughtful you must have asked yourself how these human problems can be solved. Either you are conscious of the chaotic state of the world, or you are completely asleep, living in a fantastic world, in an illusion. If you are aware, you must be grappling with these problems. In trying to solve them, some turn to experts for their solution, and follow their ideas and theories. Gradually they form themselves into an exclusive body, and thus they come into conflict with other experts and their parties; and the individual merely becomes a tool in the hands of the group or of the expert. Or you try to solve these problems by following a particular system, which, if you carefully examine it, becomes merely another means of exploiting the individual. Or you think that to change all this cruelty and horror there must be a mass movement, a collective action.
Now the idea of a mass movement becomes merely a catchword if you, the individual, who are part of the mass, do not understand your true function. True collective action can take place only when you, the individual, who are also the mass, are awake and take the full responsibility for your action without compulsion.
Please bear in mind that I am not giving you a system of philosophy which you can follow blindly, but I am trying to awaken the desire for true and intelligent fulfillment, which alone can bring about happy order and peace in the world.
There can be fundamental and lasting change in the world, there can be love and intelligent fulfillment, only when you wake up and begin to free yourself from the net of illusions, the many illusions which you have created about yourself through fear. When the mind frees itself from these hindrances, when there is that deep, inward, voluntary change, then only can there be true, lasting, collective action, in which there can be no compulsion.
Please understand that I am talking to you as an individual, not to a collective group or to a particular party. If you do not awaken to your full responsibility, to your fulfillment, then your function as a human being in society must be frustrated, limited, and in that lies sorrow.
So the question is: How can there be this profound individual revolution? If there is this true, voluntary revolution on the part of the individual, then you will create the right environment for
all, without the distinction of class or race. Then the world will be a single human unit.
How are you going to awaken as individuals to this profound revolution? Now what I am going to say is not complicated, it is simple; and because of its very simplicity, I am afraid you will reject it as not being positive. What you call positive is to be given a definite plan, to be told exactly what to do. But if you can understand for yourself what are the hindrances that are preventing your deep and true fulfillment, then you will not become a mere follower and be exploited. All following is detrimental to completeness.
To have this profound revolution, you must become fully conscious of the structure which you have created about yourself and in which you are now caught. That is, we have now certain values, ideals, beliefs, which act as a net to hold the mind, and by questioning and understanding all their significance, we shall realize how they have come into existence. Before you can act fully and truly, you must know the prison in which you are living, how it has been created; and in examining it without any self-defense you will find out for yourself its true significance, which no other can convey to you. Through your own awakening of intelligence, through your own suffering you will discover the manner of true fulfillment.
Each one of us is seeking security, certainty, through egotistic thought and action, objectively and subjectively. If you are conscious of your own thought, you will see that you are pursuing your own egotistic certainty and security, both outwardly and inwardly. In reality, there is no such absolute division of life as the objective and the subjective world. I make this division only for convenience.
Objectively, this search for egotistic security and certainty expresses itself through family, which becomes a center of exploitation, based on acquisitiveness. If you examine it, you will see that what you call the love of family is nothing but possessiveness.
That search for security again expresses itself through class divisions, which develop into the stupidity of nationalism and imperialism, breeding hatred, racial antagonism, and the ultimate cruelty of war. So through our own egotistic desires we have created a world of nationalities and conflicting sovereign governments, whose function is to prepare for war and force man against man.
Then there is the search for egotistic security, certainty, through what we call religion. You like fondly to believe that divine beings have created these organized forms of belief which we call religions. You yourself have created them for your own convenience; through ages they have become sanctified, and you have now become enslaved to them. There can never be ideal religions, so let us not waste our time discussing them. They can exist only in theory, not in reality. Let us examine how we have created religions and in what manner we are enslaved to them. If you deeply examine them as they are, you will see that they are nothing but the vested interest of organized belief—holding, separating, and exploiting man. As you are objectively seeking security, so also you are seeking subjectively a different kind of security, certainty, which you call immortality. You crave egotistic continuance in the hereafter, calling it immortality. Later in my talks I will explain what to me is true immortality.
In your search for that security, fear is born, and so you submit yourself to another who promises you that immortality. Through fear you create a spiritual authority, and to administer that authority there are priests who exploit you through belief, dogma, and creed, through show, pomp, and pageantry, which throughout the world is called religion. It is essentially based on fear, though you may call it the love of God or truth; it is, if you examine it intelligently, nothing but the result of fear and, therefore, it must become one of the means of exploiting man. Through your own desire for immortality, for selfish continuance, you have built this illusion which you call religion, and you are unconsciously or consciously caught in it. Or you may not belong to any particular religion, but you may belong to some sect which subtly promises a reward, a subtle inflation of the ego in the hereafter. Or you may not belong to any society or sect, but there may be an inward desire, hidden and concealed, to seek your own immortality. So long as there is a desire for self-continuance in any form, there must be fear, which creates authority, and from this there come the subtle cruelty and stupidity of submitting oneself to exploitation. This exploitation is so subtle, so refined, that one becomes enamored of it, calling it spiritual progress and advancement toward perfection.
Now you, the individual, must become conscious of all this intricate structure, conscious of the source of fear, and be willing to eradicate it, whatever be the consequence. This means coming into conflict individually with the existing ideals and values; and
when the mind frees itself from the false, there can be the creation of right environment for the whole.
Your first concern is to become conscious of the prison; then you will see that your own thought is continually trying to avoid coming into conflict with the values of the prison. This escape creates ideals which, however beautiful, are but illusions. It is one of the tricks of the mind to escape into an ideal, because if it does not escape, it must come directly into conflict with the prison, with the environment. That is, the mind wants to escape into an illusion rather than face the suffering which will inevitably arise when it begins to question the values, the morality, the religion of the prison.
So what matters is to come into conflict with the traditions and values of the society and religion in which you are caught, and not intellectually escape through an ideal. When you begin to question these values, you begin to awaken that true intelligence which alone can solve the many human problems.
As long as the mind is caught up in false values, there cannot be fulfillment. Completeness alone will reveal truth, the movement of eternal life.
Mexico City, October 20, 1935
It is my purpose during these talks not so much to give a system of thought as to awaken thought, and to do that I am going to make certain statements, naturally not dogmatic, which I hope you will consider. As you consider them, there will arise many questions; if you will kindly put these to me, I will try to answer them, and thus we can discuss further what I have to say.
I wonder why most of you come here? Presumably you are seeking something. And what are you seeking? You cannot answer that question, naturally, because your search varies, the object of your search varies; the object of your search is constantly changing, so you do not definitely know what you seek, what you want. But you have established, unfortunately, a habit of going from one supposed spiritual teacher to another supposed spiritual teacher, of joining various organizations, societies, and of following systems; in other words, trying to find out what gives you greater and greater satisfaction, excitement.
This process of going from one school of thought to another, from one system of thought to another, from one teacher to another, you call the search for truth. In other words, you are going from one idea to another idea, from one system of thought to another, accumulating, hoping to understand life, trying to fathom its significance, its struggles, each time declaring that you have found something.
Now, I hope you won’t say at the end of my talks that you have found something, because the moment you have found something you are already lost; it is an anchor to which mind clings and, therefore, that eternal movement, this true search of which I am going to speak, ceases. And most minds are looking for a definite aim, with this definite desire to find, and when once there is established this desire, you will find something. But it won’t be something living; it will be a dead thing that you will find and, therefore, you will put that away to turn to another; and this process of continually choosing, continually discarding, you call acquiring wisdom, experience, or truth.
Probably most of you have come here with this attitude, consciously or unconsciously, so your thought is expended merely on the search for schemes and confirmations, on the desire to join a
movement or form groups, without the clarity of the fundamental or trying to understand what these fundamental things of life mean. So as I said, I am not putting forward an ideal to be imitated, a goal to be found; but my purpose is, rather, to awaken that thought by which the mind can liberate itself from these things which we have established, which we have taken for granted as being true.
Now, each one tries to immortalize the product of environment; that thing which is the result of the environment we try to make eternal. That is, the various fears, hopes, longings, prejudices, likes, and personal views which we glorify as our temperament are, after all, the result, the product, of environment; and this bundle of memories, which is the result of environment, the product of the reactions to environment, becomes that consciousness which we call the “I.” Is that not so? The whole struggle is between the result of environment, with which mind identifies itself and becomes the “I,” between that and environment. After all, the “I,” the consciousness with which the mind identifies itself, is the result of environment. The struggle takes place between that “I” and the constantly changing environment.
You are continually seeking immortality for this “I.” In other words, falsehood tries to become the real, the eternal. When you understand the significance of the environment, there is no reaction and, therefore, no conflict between the reaction, that is, between what we call the “I” and the creator of the reaction, which is the environment. So this seeking for immortality, this craving to be certain, to be lasting, is called the process of evolution, the process of acquiring truth or God or the understanding of life. And anyone who helps you toward this, who helps you to immortalize reaction, which we call the “I,” you make of him your redeemer, your savior, your master, your teacher, and you follow his system. You follow him with thought, or without thought; with thought when you think that you are following him with intelligence because he is going to lead you to immortality, to the realization of that ecstasy. That is, you want another to immortalize for you that reaction which is the outcome of environment, which is in itself inherently false. Out of the desire to immortalize that which is false you create religions, sociological systems and divisions, political methods, economic panaceas, and moral standards. So gradually in this process of developing systems to make the individual immortal, lasting, secure, the individual is completely
lost, and he comes into conflict with the creations of his own search, with the creations which are born out of his longing to be secure and which he calls immortality.
After all, why should religions exist? Religions as divisions of thought have grown, have been glorified and nourished by sets of beliefs because there is this desire that you shall realize, that you shall attain, that there shall be immortality.
And again, moral standards are merely the creations of society, so that the individual may be held within its bondage. To me, morality cannot be standardized. There cannot be at the same time morality and standards. There can only be intelligence, which is not, which cannot be, standardized. But we shall go into that in my later talks.
So this continual search in which each one of us is caught up, the search for happiness, for truth, for reality, for health—this continual desire is cultivated by each one of us in order that we may be secure, permanent. And out of that search for permanency, there must be conflict, conflict between the result of environment, that is, the “I,” and the environment itself.
Now if you come to think of it, what is the “I”? When you talk about “I,” “mine,” my house, my enjoyment, my wife, my child, my love, my temperament, what is that? It is nothing but the result of environment, and t...