Krishnamurti on Nonviolence

J. Krishnamurti is a spiritual teacher that I often return to and wrestle with!  Here are some past posts on him:

Krishnamurti-An Uncompromising Teacher

Krishnamurti-Freedom from the Known

Krishnamurti Talks About Nature

I always come away the better for my encounters with this remarkable teacher, and I always learn new and skillful ways to look at and deal with things like anger and violence.  In this series of excerpts from talks he gave, Krishnamurti challenges us to take an utterly new tack on how to deal with violence.  Not by trying to be nonviolent, not by setting up nonviolence against violence, but by looking into violence itself, without resistance or opposition so that this very deep and clear insight dissolves the violence in us.

Krishnamurti’s “non-dual” approach can be very powerful and can often help folks get out of the trap of opposites that he talks about. But I would add that the Buddha’s teachings on how to deal with what the Buddha terms “unwholesome” qualities of thought includes the non-dual approach that Krishnamurti talks about and also includes skillful ways of dealing with violent or angry thoughts.  In modern terms, the Buddha’s teachings includes what might be called a behavioral or cognitive approach to the problem of violence that does include striving not to act in certain ways and changing one’s behavior and ways of thinking and feeling.

I wouldn’t say one approach is better or “higher” than the other.  The Buddha was the supreme pragmatist.  Use what works.  If Krishnamurti’s “non-dual” approach leads to the end of suffering, to an actual end of violence in us, that’s the only important test.  Each of us must find out for ourselves what works.  And in that spirit of open-mindedness and investigation, I offer this clear and profound teaching from a truly great teacher, J. Krishnamurti.

J. Krishnamurti talks about Non-violence

J. Krishnamurti Teaching

You see, we realize that we must change. Let us take as an example violence and brutality – those are facts. Human beings are brutal and violent; they have built a society which is violent in spite of all that the religions have said about loving your neighbour and loving God. All these things are just ideas, they have no value whatsoever, because man remains brutal, violent and selfish. And being violent, he invents the opposite, which is non-violence. Please go into this with me. Man is trying all the time to become non-violent. So there is conflict between what is, which is violence, and what should be, which is nonviolence. There is conflict between the two. That is the very essence of wastage of energy.

As long as there is duality between what is and what should be – man trying to become something else, making an effort to achieve what `should be’ – that conflict is waste of energy. As long as there is conflict between the opposites, man has not enough energy to change. Why should I have the opposite at all, as nonviolence, as the ideal? The ideal is not real, it has no meaning, it only leads to various forms of hypocrisy; being violent and pretending not to be violent. Or if you say you are an idealist and will eventually become peaceful, that is a great pretence, an excuse, because it will take many years for you to be without violence – indeed it may never happen. In the meantime you are a hypocrite and still violent. So if we can, not in abstraction but actually, put aside completely all ideals and only deal with the fact – which is violence – then there is no wastage of energy. This is really very important to understand, it isn’t a particular theory of the speaker.

As long as man lives in the corridor of opposites he must waste energy and therefore he can never change. So with one breath you could wipe away all ideologies, all opposites. Please go into it and understand this; it is really quite extraordinary what takes place. If a man who is angry pretends or tries not to be angry, in that there is conflict. But if he says, `I will observe what anger is, not try to escape or rationalize it,’ then there is energy to understand and put an end to anger. If we merely develop an idea that the mind must be free from conditioning, there will remain a duality between the fact and what `should be.’ Therefore it is a waste of energy. Whereas if you say, `I will find out in what manner the mind is conditioned,’ it is like going to the surgeon when one has cancer. The surgeon is concerned with operating and removing the disease. But if the patient is thinking about what a marvellous time he is going to have afterward, or is frightened about the operation, that is waste of energy.

The Flight of the Eagle Chapter 4 1st Public Talk Amsterdam 1969


When we use time as a means of acquiring a quality, a virtue, or a state of being, we are merely postponing or avoiding what is; and I think it is important to understand this point. Greed or violence causes pain, disturbance, in the world of our relationship with another, which is society; and being conscious of this state of disturbance, which we term greed or violence, we say to ourselves, “I will get out of it in time. I will practise non-violence, I will practise non-envy, I will practise peace”. Now, you want to practise non-violence because violence is a state of disturbance, conflict, and you think that in time you will gain nonviolence and overcome the conflict. So, what is actually happening? Being in a state of conflict, you want to achieve a state in which there is no conflict.

Now, is that state of no-conflict the result of time, of a duration? Obviously not. Because, while you are achieving a state of nonviolence, you are still being violent and are therefore still in conflict. So, our problem is, can a conflict, a disturbance, be overcome in a period of time, whether it be days, years, or lives? What happens when you say, “I am going to practise nonviolence during a certain period of time”? The very practice indicates that you are in conflict, does it not? You would not practise if you were not resisting conflict; and you say the resistance to conflict is necessary in order to overcome conflict and for that resistance you must have time. But the very resistance to conflict is itself a form of conflict. You are spending your energy in resisting conflict in the form of what you call greed, envy, or violence, but your mind is still in conflict. So, it is important to see the falseness of the process of depending on time as a means of overcoming violence, and thereby be free of that process. Then you are able to be what you are: a psychological disturbance which is violence itself.

1948 6th Public Talk, Bangalore, India


Krishnamurti: The problem is: by nature, in my thoughts, in the way I live, I am a violent human being, aggressive, competitive, brutal and all the rest of it – I am that. And I say to myself, `How am Itolive differently,’ because violence breeds tremendous antagonism and destruction in the world. I want to understand it and be free of it, live differently. So I ask myself, `What is this violence in me?’ Is it frustration, because I want to be famous and I know I can’t be, therefore I hate people who are famous?’ I am jealous and I want to be non- jealous and I hate this state of jealousy with all its anxiety and fear and annoyance, therefore I suppress it. I do all this and I realize it is a way of violence.

Now I want to find out if that is inevitable; or if there is a way of understanding it, looking at it, coming to grips with it so that I shall live differently. So I must find out what violence is. Questioner: It’s a reaction. Krishnamurti: You are too quick. Does that help me to under: stand the nature of my violence? I want to go into it, I want to find out. I see that as long as there is a duality – that is, violence and nonviolence – there must be conflict and therefore more violence. As long as I impose on the fact that I am stupid the idea that I must be clever, there is the beginning of violence. When I compare myself with you, who are much more that I am, that’s also violence. Comparison, suppression, control – all those indicate a form of violence. I am made like that. I compare, I suppress, I am ambitious. Realizing that, how am I to live nonviolently? I want to find a way of living without all this strife.

Questioner: Isn’t it the `me’ and the self that is against the fact?

Krishnamurti: We’ll come to that. See the fact, see what is happening first. My whole life, from when I was educated till now, has been a form of violence. The society in which I live is a form of violence. Society tells me to conform, accept, do this, not do that, and I follow it. That is a form of violence. And when I revolt against society, that also is a form of violence (revolt in the sense that I don’t accept the values which society has laid down). I revolt against it and then create my own values, which become the pattern; and that pattern is imposed on others or on myself, which becomes another form of violence. I live that kind of life. That is: I am violent. Now what shall I do?

Questioner: First, you should ask yourself why you don’t want to be violent anymore.

Krishnamurti: Because I see what violence has done in the world as it is; wars outwardly, conflict within, conflict in relationship. Objectively and inwardly I see this battle going on and I say, `Surely there must be a different way of living.’

The Flight of the Eagle Chapter 9 1st Public Dialogue Saanen 1969


J. Krishnamurti

A man who is pursuing an ideal can never know a new mind, and that is the curse on this land. We are all idealists wanting to conform to nonviolence, to this, or to that. We are all imitators. That is why we have never a fresh mind, a mind which is completely, totally new, which is yours, not Sankara’s, not of Marx, not of somebody else. That total newness, that complete state of mind, can only come into being when there is no experiencer and no experience; that state is there only when you can die totally to each day, to everything that you have gathered psychologically. Then only is there a possibility of a complete regeneration. That is not an impossibility, that is not a rhetoric statement. It is possible if you think it out, go into it deeply; that is why it is important to know, to listen to what is truth. But you cannot listen to what is truth when your mind is not silent. If your mind is continually asking, demanding, begging, wanting this or that, putting this away and gathering that, such a mind is not a quiet mind.

Just be quiet, be still. Look at the trees, the birds, the sky, the beauty, the rich qualities of human existence. Just watch silently and be aware. Into that silence comes that something which is not measurable, which is not of time.

1954 1st Public Talk, Bombay

About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

2 Responses to “Krishnamurti on Nonviolence”

  1. As an ardent follower myself of Krishnamurti’s principles, I re-read the articles today. They certainly give much insight and understanding. His teachings make life easier and and simple.


    20 December 2010

    • Hello, dear visitor from Kuwait! I love how spiritual teachings reach across borders and oceans and bring people together in their love of and quest to know and be truth. I too have read and studied Krishnamurti for much of my life, and his teachings have been a true companions and compass. Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to comment.

      With best wishes,

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