Is our struggle inevitable?
Most of us are deeply conditioned by the idea of struggle as a way of life. In fact, we are taught from childhood that only through struggle can one succeed.
Years ago, I asked my father, working for decades towards a ‘better India’, first as part of a now-defunct political party and then editing India’s only liberal magazine: “For fifty years, you have fought for a better India. Has this country become better?”. “No. In fact, it has become far worse”, he said. The debate started—me talking about how democracy was a failed idea and him countering that it was the best system available. On it went until I said, “perhaps we are not truly grasping at the real problem, an understanding of which could lead to a different approach”. His response was something that most of us can relate to: “I can only do what I know. What else is there than to keep struggling and fighting for what is right?”
Most of us are deeply conditioned by the idea of struggle as a way of life. In fact, we are taught from childhood that only through struggle can one succeed. This is at the very heart of the problem that J. Krishnamurti, sage, religious teacher and one of 20th century’s most original and influential thinkers, pointed out: “One is so accustomed to conflict and struggle; one even feels that when there is no conflict one is not growing, not developing, not creating, that one is not functioning properly.”
Krishnamurti was born in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh, in 1895. At a young age he was discovered by the Theosophical Society to be the World Teacher they had long predicted. He was groomed to take on the role and an organization was formed around him. However, he disbanded the organization saying that “Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect”.
From then on for the next sixty years, till he died in 1986, Krishnamurti unraveled the human condition like no one else had done before. He said: “I do not demand your faith; I am not setting myself up as an authority. I have nothing to teach you—no new philosophy, no new system, no new path to reality.” Yet he had a profound impact on human consciousness. His insights came from his own unfettered exploration of human nature. He dialogued, from their unique perspectives, and as a friend, with famous scientists, religious people and those living everyday lives of struggle and sorrow.
Krishnamurti’s starting point was always the individual. “You are the world”, he pointed out time and again. “The world is you; you are the problem; the problem is not separate from you; the world is the projection of yourself. The world cannot be transformed till you are.”
It was only through relationship that one could deeply understand oneself. “Relationship, surely, is the mirror in which you discover yourself. Without relationship ‘you’ are not. To be is to be related; to be related is existence. ‘You’ exist only in relationship; otherwise you do not exist, existence has no meaning. It is not because you think you are that you come into existence. You exist because you are related, and it is the lack of understanding of relationship that causes conflict”, he said.
But the real challenge lies in how we observe ourselves in relationship. Invariably it is our past, which includes our beliefs and experiences, through which we observe. What we observe is our interpretation of that which is being observed. Krishnamurti often said, “The observer is the observed”, and “Most of us see in relationship, in that mirror, things we would rather see; we do not see ‘what is’. We would rather idealize, escape; we would rather live in the future than understand that relationship in the immediate present.”
Krishnamurti then would go on to lay bare the workings of the ‘observer’, the ‘me’, that lead to fear, violence, sorrow, greed, jealousy, and hatred. Each of these were explored meticulously to bring about an insight into oneself. Giving a new meaning to meditation, he showed that any effort towards meditating was counterproductive as the existing baggage of the meditator influenced the process. Only “choiceless awareness” could bring about right meditation.
Krishnamurti was emphatic: “In bringing about a radical change in the human being, in you, you are naturally bringing about a radical change in the structure and nature of society. It must begin not outwardly, but inwardly.”
For Krishnamurti, this inward change was not an intellectual feat but needed a deeply religious quality. To a question on how a new society could come in to being, he said: “You raised a question: what is sacred? Without finding that, without coming upon it—not you finding it—without that coming into being, you cannot have a new culture, you cannot have a new human quality.”
In response to the ongoing world crisis, the Krishnamurti Foundation of India has brought out a digital booklet that encapsulates the teachings relevant to our time. The Real Crisis – Digital Booklet can be downloaded for free from www.kfionline.org
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