J. Krishnamurti on Violence and Wars

Is man forever condemned to live in conflict, in wars? Or is there a way out of all this? Certainly not through religions, as they are; not through political organisation, whether it is democratic or totalitarian or Marxist. Nor through divisions of nationalities. As long as you remain an American, and the speaker remains a Hindu or a Buddhist or Muslim, we’ll have no peace on earth. Nor the racial divisions, as the Jew, the Arab, and the Hindu, and so on. Nor culturally. So it’s a very important question to ask of ourselves; not of another, not whether governments can bring about peace. Governments are created by what we are. They have been structured, put together by our own demands.

So, one asks, is it possible to have peace on this earth? This has been a cry for centuries; long before Christianity came into being. 2,500 years ago the Buddha was talking about peace. And we are still talking about it. And so realising all this, what is one to do? Individuals, so-called individual effort to live in peace doesn’t affect the whole world. You may live peacefully in this lovely valley; quietly, not too ambitious, not too corrupt, not too competitive; and live here quietly. Perhaps get on with your wife or your husband, but will that affect the whole of human consciousness? Or, the problem is much greater, much more profound. To find that out, if we are at all serious… and please, if one may remind you, this is not an entertainment, this is far too serious. We have to think together; not the speaker thinks and explains and describes, but together… like two old friends, sitting under the shade of the trees, and talking about all this, not merely intellectually, but their hearts are disturbed. They are greatly concerned about what is happening in the world and what is happening to themselves. Like two old friends who have an amiable conversation; not convincing one or the other; not stimulating one or the other; not sticking to one’s opinions and judgements and conclusions; two old friends who have lived together, walked together, seen many things of the world. You and the speaker are like that; so that we can think together, not what to think, or how to think, but think, observe together; observe the same tree, the skies, the birds, and the astonishing beauty of the mountains. And so together, actually together, not you listen to the speaker, but together explore into this question; the question being – one puts to the other – can we live, not only you and I, but the rest of humanity? Because this earth is ours, not the American or the Irish or the English or the French, it’s our earth. We are its guests. We have to live here peacefully.
And the one says to the other: what is the cause of all this? If one can find the cause, then the effect can end, the symptom. War is a symptom. The cause is very, very deep, complex. As when you can find the cause of a disease, that disease can be cured. So the two friends – I hope we are friends talking over together – two friends say: what is the cause of all this? Why have human beings become like this? So thoughtless, only concerned with themselves, and nothing matters except their own desires, their own urges, their own impulse; their own ambition, their own success; whether the success be in business world or in the professorial world. And also psychologically, inwardly, we want to be somebody, become somebody. So please, one says to the other, do listen carefully what I am telling you. Is there psychological evolution at all? That’s a very, very serious question. That is: is there a becoming at all, psychologically? And that becoming, inwardly achieving, from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’, from misery to some form of happiness, from confusion to enlightenment, which is to become – from that ‘which is’ to ‘what should be’; that is becoming.

That becoming implies time. And this becoming, each one trying to become psychologically something, may be the same movement as physically to become from a clerk to whatever it is – bishop. No – local priest to become a bishop; like a clerk to become an executive. It’s the same movement, the same wave, brought over to the psychological realm. I hope – the friend is asking the other – I hope I am making myself clear. He says you are not quite clear. Go into it a little bit more.
In all religions and psychological world, the idea of change is to become. Right? I am confused, I must change this confusion to become clear. I quarrel with my wife, but the change to stop that, or to end that quarrel is to move from the violence to non-violence. That is: there is always the attempt to be something that which is not. Right? So the friend says that’s fairly clear; fairly, not too clear. But we’ll go on with our conversation; it’s a lovely morning, we have plenty of time, the sun is warm, and the shadows are many. And the shadows matter as much as the sun. There is great beauty in the shadows; but most of us are concerned with light, enlightenment, and we want to achieve that. This very psychological achievement may be one of the factors of conflict in life. So – my friend says – let’s examine that fact. What is it to become? I hope my friend is very interested – and I hope you are too; and listening to this conversation; which is you and the speaker. You and the speaker. There’s no friend outside you and the speaker. So, he says: is that the fundamental cause of division? Division must exist, the other explains, as long as there is the psyche, the self, the ‘me’, the ego, the person, is separating himself from the other. But the other says this has been a long history, this is what the human condition is; that we have been trained, educated to accept both religiously and economically and so on that we are individuals, separate from the rest of mankind, separate from another. And the friend says is that so? Are we really individuals? I know this is the tradition, this is what all religions have said – separate souls in Christianity, and the Hindus, and so on. But together, you as the friend and the speaker as the other, are going to examine whether we are really individuals at all. Be patient, please. See all the implications of it before you deny or accept. Now you accept it; it’s your condition, as an individual, free to do what you want to do. And the totalitarian denies this; they say you are just a cog in the whole social structure.

So we are questioning not only the psychological becoming may be an illusion, and also psychologically we are not separate; because you suffer, you are confused, you are unhappy, you are anxious, uncertain, insecure; you may have security outwardly – even that is becoming more and more uncertain. There are millions unemployed in this country; and in England. Four million people are unemployed in England; a small country. And the unemployment in India is something they don’t know. This unemployment is causing great misery, unhappiness, and conflict, hate.
So we are questioning together – you and the other friend are questioning – whether we are individuals at all. Or, we are like the rest of humanity; the rest of humanity is unhappy, sorrow-ridden, fearful, believing in some fantastic romantic nonsense; they go through great suffering; uncertainty, like you. And our reaction, which is part of our consciousness, is similar to the other. This is an absolute fact. You may not like to think about it, you might like to think that you are totally separate from another, which is quite absurd. So your consciousness, which is you – what you think, what you believe, what your conclusions, prejudices, your vanity, arrogance, aggression, pain, grief, sorrow – is shared by all humanity. That’s our conditioning; whether you are a Catholic or a Protestant or whatever you are.

So, our consciousness is your essence, what your life is. That is the truth. And so you actually share the rest of humanity; you are the rest of humanity. You are humanity. This is a tremendous thing to realise. You may believe in a certain form of a saviour and the other believe in certain form of ideologies and so on; belief is common to all of us; fear is common to all of us; loneliness, the agony of loneliness is shared by the rest of humanity. So when one realises the truth of that, becoming – that is, to change from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’ – has a totally different meaning. The friend says I don’t understand that at all. What do you mean by that? The friend says I don’t quite know, but let’s examine it. I hope you are all following all this; because it’s your life, not mine. It’s your daily life – whether you live in this valley, New York or other big cities, all the cities of the world – it’s our life. We have to understand that, not from another, but to examine the facts of our life; to look at ourselves as you look at yourself when you comb your hair or shaving, objectively, sanely, rationally, without any distortion, seeing things as they are, and not be frightened or ashamed; but to observe.
So the friend says all my life I have tried to change from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’. I know violence, disorder, I’ve known all that very well. And that disorder and violence, I’ve tried to change; that is, to become from violence to non-violence; from disorder to order. Now is there – the other friend says – is there… the fly likes me. (Laughter). The other friend says is non-violence a fact? Or just an imaginary conclusion, a reaction from the fact of violence? I hope we understand each other. I am violent; I project the idea of non-violence, because that’s part of my conditioning. I have lived in disorder and I try to seek order; that is, to change ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’. That’s part of becoming. And that may be the cause of conflict. And so let’s examine that carefully. You’re examining it, not the speaker is examining it. I must constantly… one must constantly remember that. And the speaker will constantly remind his friend that it’s not a one-sided conversation; it’s not one-sided communication. We are both of us friends, you and the speaker are observing all this. The speaker is expressing it in words, but you are also observing it, not only the words but the fact. So the friend says can this violence end? Not become non-violent. Can envy, greed, fear end? Not become courageous, free from this or that. That’s the question. So the other friend says I’ll show it to you. Only perhaps this may be new to you, so please kindly listen most attentively.

First realise what we are doing; that is: ‘what is’ to become the ideal, which is ‘what should be’. The ideal is non-existent, is non-fact. But ‘what is’ is a fact. Right? So let’s understand ‘what is’ and not the idea of non-violence, which is absurd. This has been preached by various people in India, beginning with Tolstoy and others. This is our tradition, this is our conditioning; this is our attempt to become something. And we have never achieved anything. We have never become non-violent. Never. So let’s examine carefully whether it is possible to end that ‘which is’, to end that disorder or violence. End, not become something. I hope we understand each other. The becoming implies time. This is very important to understand. When we talk about fear, which shall presently, we’ll go into the question of time; which is extraordinarily complex.

So, sir, let’s understand whether it’s possible to end ‘what is’; not to change ‘what is’ into that which we would like to be. We’ll take the question of violence. And if you prefer disorder, both are the same; it doesn’t matter what you take. Violence is inherited from beyond all time, from the animal, from the ape and to us. We have inherited it. That’s a fact, we are violent people. Otherwise we wouldn’t be killing anybody; we wouldn’t be hurting anybody; we wouldn’t say a word against anybody; but we are by nature violent. Now what is the meaning of that word? To hold that word, feel the weight of that word, the complications of that word. Not merely physical violence: the terrorist throwing bombs; those terrorists who want to change society through various forms of disturbance and bombing and so on, they have never changed society. And there are the terrorists who do it for the fun of it. Violence is not only physical but psychological, much more. Violence is conformity, because conform to something, not understand ‘what is’, but to conform, imitate. And violence must exist as long as there is division outwardly and inwardly. Conflict is the very nature of violence. The friend says yes, I see that. That’s fairly clear. Now how do you end it? How do you end the whole complex question of violence? He says I understand very well that to become non-violent is a part of violence. Right? Part of violence, because you have projected from violence non-violence. And I understand that very clearly, that projection is really illusion. So I have rejected that concept, or that idea, that feeling that you must become non-violent. He says I understand that very clearly. There is only this fact. Now, what am I to do?

And the friend says don’t ask me – listen carefully – don’t ask me, but let’s look at it. The moment you ask what to do, or how to do, you put the other fellow as your guide. You make him your authority; therefore friendship ceases. Right? So together let’s look at it. Being free altogether from the idea of non-violence, observe what is violence; look at it; give attention to the fact, not escape from it, not rationalise it. Don’t say why you shouldn’t be violent, it’s part of myself. But if that is part of yourself, you’ll always create wars of different kinds: wars between yourself and your wife, wars between… killing others and so on.

So look at it without conflict. You understand? Look at it as though it was not separate from you. You understand all this? This is rather difficult. Which is: violence is part of you, you are violent, like you are greedy. Greed is not separate from you. Suffering is not separate from you. Anxiety, loneliness, depression, all that is you. But our tradition, our education has said you are separate from that. Right? So where there is separation, where there is duality, there must be conflict. Like the Jew, Arab, I’m taking that, probably you’ll understand that better. Between the conflict of two great powers, division, and so on. So, it’s you; you are that. You are not separate from that. The analyser is not different from the analysed. Right? I hope you’ve… The friend says I follow this a little more. Go on, explain a bit more. He says I will.

We observe the tree, the mountains, you observe your wife and your children, and who is the observer and who is the observed? Please, I am going into it carefully, follow this. Is the observer different from the tree? Of course he is different, I hope. The observer is different from that mountain. The observer is different from the computer. But is the observer different from anxiety? The anxiety is a reaction, put into words as anxiety, but the feeling is you. The word is different – please follow this – the word is different, but the word is never the thing. The thing is the feeling of anxiety, feeling of violence. The word ‘violence’ is not that. So watch carefully that the word doesn’t entangle your observation. You are following? Because our brain is caught in a network of words. When I say you are an American, you feel very proud. When I call myself South African or a Zulu, I feel – you follow – something totally different. So one must be very careful that the language doesn’t condition our thinking. This is quite a different problem. Right?

So the friend says to the other, observe this feeling without the word. If you use the word, you strengthen the past memories of that particular feeling. Are you following? This is the act of observation in which the word is not the thing and the observer is the observed. The observer who says I am violent, that observer is violence. Right? So the observer is the observed. The thinker is the thought. The experiencer who says I must experience nirvana or heaven or whatever is the experience. Right? The analyser is the analysed and so on. So look at that fact of that feeling, without a word, without analysing it, just look. That is, be with it. Be with this thing as is. Which means you bring all your attention to it. Right? By analysing, examining, that’s all waste of energy, whereas if you give your total attention, which is give all your energy to the feeling, then that feeling has total ending.

The friend says are you mesmerising me by being so vehement, by being so passionate about it? I say no. I’m not stimulating you, I’m not telling you what to do. You yourself have realised that non-violence is non-fact, it’s not real. What is real is violence. You yourself have realised it. You yourself have said yes, I am violent; not I am separate from the violence. The word separates. But the fact of the feeling is me. Me is my nose, my eyes, my face, my name, my character, my… that’s me. I am not separate from all that. When you separate, you act upon it. Right? Which means conflict. Therefore, you have fundamentally erased the cause of conflict when you are that, not separate from that. Is this clear? Right?

So we have… the friends have learned something. I have learned a great phenomenon, which I have never realised before. Before I have separated my feelings as though I was different from my feeling. Now I realise the truth that I am that. Therefore I remain with it. And when you remain with it, hold it, you are out of that, that gives you tremendous energy. And that energy dissipates, ends that violence completely. Not for a day, not while you are sitting here, but it’s the end of it.

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