The Causes of War

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Public Talk New York, USA – 17 April 1984

Probably since the beginning of man human beings have had no peace at all. And there have been a great many organisations, including this organisation, to bring about peace in the world – pacem in terris. But there has been no peace. For various obvious reasons: nationalism, various opposing religions, divisions of classes, races and so on. There have been divisions on the earth from the beginning of time: the family, the community, bigger community, the nation, and so on. And also from what one observes, religion has been one of the causes of wars. One sees the Israelis and the Arabs, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Americans and the Russians – ideas against ideas, ideologies opposing ideologies, the communist ideology and the so-called democratic ideologies. Why is it, after all these millennia upon millennia, why is it that human beings throughout the world don't live in peace? Why is it our society in which we live, whether it is in American society, the European, or Indian, or Japanese, that society has not given us peace either. That society, the culture, the tradition, is created by all human beings. We have created this society. We are responsible for this society, which is corrupt, immoral, violent, divisive, cruel and so on. We have created this, this society in which we live. We are the society.

Please the speaker is not a communist in the orthodox sense of that word. We are what we have made of the society, so we are society. That is a fact, not an exotic or stupid, irrational thought. We are society. Each one of us have made this terrible confusing, contradictory, brutal society. And until human beings, each one of us, radically transforms himself we will have perpetual wars, there will be no peace on earth. Religions have talked about it endlessly – the popes, the priests, local parish clergyman have talked about peace. This Institution, with all its power, with its position, with its international grasp, this Institution has not brought about peace either. Forgive me for saying this, if you don't mind. And will institutions, foundations, will they ever bring peace on earth? Or it doesn't lie in that field at all – organisations or institutions, propaganda and all the rest of it. Or do we realise, each one of us – I am asking this most respectfully – do we realise that we are responsible for this? Not intellectually or verbally, or just accepting a theory, but we are responsible for this horror that is going on in the world; every form of violence, terrorism, wars, we are responsible for it. War is not in Beirut, it is in our hearts and minds. This has been said so often, one is rather bored by all that. And we human beings seem to be incapable of living peacefully in our relationship with each other, living peacefully without any dogmatism, ideals, concepts. Because beliefs, faith, conclusions, ideals, have separated man. And man apparently has not been able to live without any of those bondages. Man is conditioned; human beings right throughout the world are conditioned. Their brains have been moulded according to a particular tradition, various forms of superstitions called religion. And is it possible for human beings, wherever they live, to be free of their conditioning? The conditioning as an American, as a European, Hindu and so on, is it possible for us, who are so advanced in technology, is it possible for us to radically, fundamentally, bring about psychological change? This is really a very, very serious question. This is what the biologists, bio-technologists are trying to do; trying to bring about a radical change in the very brain cells themselves so that human beings can live peacefully, not everlastingly fight each other.

J. Krishnamurti

So facing all this, not abstractly, as a human being, what is he to do actually? Form another group? Another religion? Another Institution? Or as a human being become aware of his conditioning, be concerned with his conditioning and free the brain from that conditioning. Otherwise we are going to have perpetual wars, there will be no peace on earth in spite of all the religions, in spite of every institution. It must begin with us, not with somebody else out there. So is it possible to bring about a deep mutation in the very brain cells themselves?

Why are human beings so conditioned – Germans, French, Russians, Italians, British, Americans, Hindus and so on – why? Is it because we want security, both external and inward? Is there such security inward, psychologically to be safe. Is there such security? Or psychological security is an illusion. We can go into all this in detail but our time is very, very limited.

So is there psychological security, either in the family, in a group, in a community, in a nation, and internationalism and all that business? Is there any kind of security inwardly? And that is, if we are not sure about that, certain, clear, we try to seek security outwardly, externally, through nations, through religious organisations, through some ideologies. So it is very important, it seems to one, that we should talk over together now, and discover for ourselves if there is an inner security – security in our relationships with each other, however intimate it may be, between man and woman, security in community and so on. Is there security in our relationship with each other, man and woman, wife and husband? If there is security why is there such contention between man and woman, wife and husband, such conflict in their relationship, each one pursuing his own ambitions, his own fulfilment, his own desires and so on. Is it not important to find out for ourselves if there is such security in relationship? If there is such security in this then that security is the beginning of peace. If there is no security in our relationship with each other that is the beginning of conflict, war.

So we ought to really seriously enquire into this question. That is become aware, conscious, of our relationship with each other because to go very far we must begin very near. And the nearest is man and woman, wife and husband. In that relationship there is conflict as there is now, then that conflict is spread; ultimately war. We have never given thought to this, that as our house is burning, which is society is burning, declining, degenerating, are we also degenerating? To slide, slip down, implies our whole life is a routine, our whole life is a series of battles, struggles, conflicts. If we don't alter there, how can you bring about peace on earth? It seems to logical, so rational, sane, but we don't do that. So could we, as human beings – not as Americans and all the rest of that business – could we as human beings become aware, pay attention to our intimate relationship, because unless the psychological world is quiet, sane, peaceful, that psychological state will always overcome every kind of organisation, whether it be communist organisation, totalitarian, or so-called democratic organisation. The psyche is far more important than the external legislation – governments and so on. I wonder if one realises all this? Do we, sitting here, peacefully, so-called peacefully, realise our responsibility as human beings? The wars that are going on in the world is our war, because our consciousness – if I can go into all this much more deeply – our human consciousness, which is made up of biological reactions, fears, hurts, pleasure, beliefs, dogmas, rituals and endless suffering – that is the content of our consciousness. If you observe this closely it is a fact that every human being throughout the world shares this, every human being suffers, every human being has fear, pleasure, sense of loneliness, despair, anxiety, confusion – every human being, whether they live in the Far East, or here, or in Russia, or in other places. We have been brought up, educated to consider ourselves as individuals. Is that so? Is that a fact? Because we share the consciousness of humanity, because we all suffer, we all go through great agonies, boredom, every form of uncertainty. You may have great talents, great capacities, but behind those capacities lies the ordinary, daily consciousness of all humanity. So each one is humanity, not separate individuals. I know you will not accept this because you have been conditioned from the beginning by religions, by society, by culture, that each one is separate individuals, separate soul, and therefore he must seek his own salvation, his own expression, his own fulfilment. And this so-called separate individuality is creating havoc in the world. Which does not mean that we all become the same automatic, turned out in the same mould. On the contrary. Freedom is the highest form of existence. It is the greatest art, to live freely. But we are not free. One thinks one is free to do what one likes, specially in this country each individual thinks he is supreme to do what he wants – his own fulfilment, the expression of his own desires and so on. But if we examine closely and seriously, we share the consciousness of the entire humanity. Because this is a fact. Individuality may be an illusion, and to that illusion we are committed. But when you travel around and observe very closely, every human being whether he has great position, great deal of money, status, power, he is like the rest of the world psychologically, he goes through great pain, desperate loneliness and all the rest of the psychological world of uncertainty, confusion. And we are the rest of humanity. We are not Africans and Europeans and all that nonsense. We are humanity. Unless we realise that one major fact in our life: we are the rest of humanity – black, white, purple or whatever colour they be – psychologically we are one; unless human beings deeply realise that we are going to have wars, we are going to be eternally in conflict, as we are now. And no organisation in the world is going to change that fact.

We have had religions all over… various types of religion – Catholic, the Protestant, and the division in Protestantism. There have been religions of various types in Asia, all invented by thought. And thought has made man separate because thought is the result of experience, knowledge, memory, and so thought is always limited. It is never complete. It can never be complete because it is based on knowledge and knowledge is always finite, limited. It can expand, it can change but it is still within the field of knowledge. And knowledge is always limited. And we try to change the world through our knowledge. And this experiment to change the world through knowledge has never succeeded.

So what is a human being to do, if you are serious, concerned with the world, with your own life? What is a human being to do? Form innumerable organisations, with their bosses and their secretaries and so on? Or each one of us is responsible because we have created this society. We are responsible for every kind of war. So is it possible, not merely intellectually, but actually, in our daily life, radically change, bring about deep mutation? Unless we are capable of doing that we are going to have perpetual wars. No organisation in the world has prevented any wars. For the last historical process there have been practically wars every year, for the last five, six thousand years, all over the world. And man has been responsible for these wars. You may not have a war in America, in this part of the world, but you have wars in other parts of the world because we are divided – as Americans and Russians and English and French, and all the rest of it – not only nationally but religiously – Christians, Buddhists, Hindus. So this constant division, both outwardly and inwardly, it is bringing about great conflict. We are one human being, not separate. We don't seem to realise that. You suffer, you go through great anxieties, uncertainties, and so does every other human being in the world. And we haven't been able to solve that basic issue: whether we can live with ourselves peacefully – peace doesn't begin on the other side of the world – whether we live peacefully, without conflict. And I think this is a very important question which we must put to ourselves. Why is it that human beings who have lived on this earth perhaps fifty thousand years, we have done extraordinary things technologically, we have done practically nothing in our relationship with each other, we are perpetually in conflict with each other, man and woman, and this conflict is extended into war.

So, we are asking a most fundamental question: why do human beings who have lived on this earth for so many millennia, who have done extraordinary things technologically, who have brought about good health for people – we have done the most incredible things externally but inwardly we are savages. Forgive me the use of that word. We are fighting each other, even in our most intimate relationships. So how can one have external peace in the world, pacem in terris, if one is not peaceful in oneself? We never answer that question, we are always trying to bring changes in the outer, but we never ask of ourselves why we live this way, perpetually in conflict. Fairly obvious when you ask that question seriously, not casually; we never spend a day trying to find out why we live this way, a vast network of escapes from this basic fact. And we are still going on. We never seem to realise unless each one of us fundamentally changes radically there will be no peace on earth – as long as you are an American and they Russian, different ideologies, different concepts, different gods, and so on, we will never have peace on this earth. So it behoves us, and each one of us, to find out why we live this way. And whether it is possible radically to change our whole psyche. If there is not a revolution there mere outward revolutions have very little meaning. We have had Communist revolution, French revolution, other forms of revolution throughout the world and we remain what we are: self-centred, cruel, all the rest of it.

I have finished sirs.

Chairman: Questions, affirmative sir?

Krishnamurti: Yes sir, ask any kind of question.

C: Krishnaji will be glad to answer any questions that you might have.

Q: I have a question. You have given us a bleak and pessimistic picture of the world in which we live and of ourselves. Do you see any positive signs around? If you look around in this present world do you see any positive developments, something which gives you any hope? Not something inside us and hidden but something visible for all.

K: I don't know why you say, sir, you have only presented a negative side. What is actually going on throughout the world is a very positive thing. You may regard it as negative but the conflicts, the wars, the brutalities, and all those kinds of things are going on. And you ask what is the positive response to all this. Who has created all this? This mess in the world, this terrible killing, war after war – who has been responsible for all this? Aren't we each of us responsible? As long as we are nationalistic, as long as we are concerned with our own fulfilments, our own desires, aren't we responsible for all this mess that is going on? Or is it merely in Beirut that it is going on, not here? We have had two terrible wars and we are preparing for other wars, unless human beings – you and I – radically change, fundamentally we are going to have wars all the time. So your question, sir, is, if I have understood it correctly: what is a human being to do. Right sir?

Q: No, I asked whether you see anything positive.

K: Yes.

Q: If something positive is going on, not just what we have to do, but if you see signs that something right is being done.

K: Yes sir. Something positive. I don't know what you mean by that word 'positive'. I am not dodging the question. I am not evading it, but I would like to know, if you would kindly explain, what you mean by the positive.

Q: Well, let's assume you see some people, or even a group – even I think you don't believe very much in groups – who are doing something which goes in the direction of this inner change that you deem necessary to bring peace in the world.

K: Yes sir. There are several organisations that talk about peace in the world, various groups that are talking about peace in the world – pacem in terris. The pope says it, other religious organisations assert it – you must have peace on earth. And you are asking, if I understand rightly: are there individuals, groups, organisations that are working for it. Right? And that organisations, groups, people working for it may be considered positive action. I question that. Where does peace begin? In your heart, in your mind, or in organisations? Where is there man can live peacefully, not going to sleep like a vegetable – peacefully. To live peacefully demands tremendous intelligence in our daily life. And can organisations help each one of us to live peacefully? Or it must begin with us, each one of us.

Yes, sir.

Q: Sir, how to go about this attainment of the internal security, psychological security within ourselves.

Q: It's not an opinion.

K: I am just a common man who hasn't been exposed to all these things, spiritual things, but I would wish to know how exactly to go about the basic transformation which you are hinting at – the attainment of peace within.

K: Sir, every religion has talked about it – right sir? Books have been written about it. Believe in god, you will have peace. Follow this path, you will have peace. Follow this guru, you will have peace. Follow this particular doctrine, and so on. Mankind has done all this, various form – be a Christian, be a – you know, all the rest of it – man has not found peace. So you are asking, if I understand rightly, how is one, a human being, to live psychologically, inwardly, peacefully. Sir, that requires – not that the speaker is avoiding the question – that requires a great deal of enquiry, not just a few phrases. First of all why are we in conflict, not only in ourselves but externally, why are we in conflict? Is it because there is this dualistic existence, the outer and the inner? Is there in each one of us opposing desires, opposing ideals, opposing sensations, opposing pursuits? Is conflict brought about by thought? Please this requires – I don't know if we have time to go into all this. What is conflict, why do we have conflict psychologically? Is it brought about by contradictory desires? This whole concept of individuality, is that the basic cause of conflict? “I must fulfil.” “I must do what I want to do.” I am not advocating or suggesting that we all become communists – they have their own problems, their own misery, confusion, their own appalling – etc., I won't go into all that, you know all about it.

So why is there in the very psyche, in the very structure of our thinking, conflict? Can human beings live without conflict? And there are those who say conflict is necessary to evolve. And we have had conflicts for fifty thousand years, as human beings. Have we evolved tremendously? Perhaps externally we have but inwardly we are pretty poor specimens. So, sir, one has to become aware of what we are, of what each one of us is – aware. To be aware choicelessly. If you want to go into all that, which is very complex: to live a life without analysis but pure observation without the observer. It leads to all kinds of issues which we haven't time to go into.

Yes, sir?

Q: I'm a member of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers, and we believe like you that we must start with inner peace. But we also feel that our inner peace should affect what we do outwardly, that we should also be concerned with say, reconciliation between warring people. But from our point of peace within why should there be a conflict between the inner and the outer peace?

K: Yes, sir. Why is there conflict between the inner peace and the outer peace. Is that right sir? Am I putting it right?

Q: Or why, if we are trying to attain inner peace why can't we also to that inner peace try to bring about outer peace in the world too?

K: Are we seeking a psychological state where there is no conflict? Are we really seeking it? If we are seeking it where must it begin? Mustn't it begin in our relationship? Without relationship you cannot exist. So our relationship is the most important thing. If in that relationship there is no peace, externally we will project that conflict externally. This is an obvious fact. If each one of us really basically lived with complete peace, pacem, then would we not create a world which is peaceful?

Yes, sir?

Q: I wonder what proportion of humanity would be able to respond to the very good sense of your comments. I have the uneasy feeling that most of the world is suffering from intense poverty, the kind of poverty that even makes people wonder whether they will eat that week, whether such circumstances will permit the kind of reflection which would be necessary to precede mutation is a highly questionable idea. And therefore leads me to the notion that perhaps institutions such as are sponsored by the United Nations and other non-governmental organisations may be necessary supplementary mechanisms to make the situation somewhat easier to allow the kind of change which is so necessary. We may have to wait fifty thousand years more otherwise.

K: We know personally a great deal of poverty, we have been brought up in it. The whole of India, multiplying fifteen million people every year. A great deal of poverty. How do we change that? Obviously from what one observes, as long as there is the economy based on one particular community, nation – it is a global problem, not nationalistic or any particular organisation, it is a global problem of poverty. Unless we attack that, sir, I don't see how we are going to change the world, poverty, and overpopulation. In Europe population is decreasing and in Asia it is increasing at an appalling rate, and governments are unable to stop that, their own local governments. They have been talking about birth control, family… and all the rest of it, but it is having very little effect in India. So isn't it, sirs, the economic problem is a global problem, not of any particular group, any particular nation. Unless we have that global feeling for humanity we are going to continue for centuries, though this particular organisation may be helpful, we are going to have poverty always.

Q: Sir, you must excuse me but I'm a little unsteady on this seat. I don't feel very secure…

K: Would you like to come and sit here sir? (Laughter) I would be delighted, somebody to share the platform.

Q: I'd be glad to come.

K: Come and sit down, sir.

Q: I have been reporting this organisation as a correspondent, unhappily an American correspondent, for thirty eight years, and during that time I have heard much about you. That was a great challenge to this organisation now, happily only by ignorant people – hopefully I should have said. I went a long way to find out some answers to the questions that came up year after year in a monumental combination of minds from governments, from non-governmental organisations, from scholars, educators like yourself – not too many like yourself.

K: I am not an educator, sir. (Laughter)

Q: I am not either.

K: Thank god! (Laughter)

Q: And as I wondered to find out what I can do to become educated because education in the slums where I was brought up, in New York, was a heaven to be devoutly pursued. So I got lost in a book one time on anthropology and I pursued it further as the Colonies were breaking up and the tribes were breaking up with them, sir. It seems to me that I have made a discovery then which I am going to put to you now.

K: I am not the Delphic Oracle, sir. (Laughter)

Q: You need not apologise, sir. (Laughter) You have a very extraordinary audience here by past experiences. It suddenly occurred to me that the tribal man was peaceful compared to the highly civilised Europeans who made two world wars.

K: Yes, sir. Agreed.

Q: And now as I listen to you I am beginning to understand why that thought came to me and that is, that in the tribe there is a psychological security, and the individual being conditioned, as you say, by the society in which he lives, is prone to be a psychologically peaceful man and that's how he was conquered by other peoples, the civilised peoples, the multilingual peoples. I do not suggest that we can go back to the tribal society but I am saying it only because you have deplored, rightly, the situation in which man after fifty million, or is it fifteen million, or who knows, it's enough for him to have learned something, but he didn't.

K: Yes, sir.

Q: So I want to ask your comment on all I have said, which is quite a challenge, isn't it? May I sit for your answer?

K: The question being, sir, why hasn't man changed. Why hasn't he learnt.

Q: That's right. The eternal question.

K: Yes, sir. Why has man remained inwardly primitive? Right sir?

Q: I used the word 'primitive' in a complimentary sense.

K: Yes. Why? Is it because culturally, socially, we have looked for the outer to change the inner? You understand, the Communists have done that. Change the structure, the outward structure of society, pass new laws, control thought and so on, and you will then change the inner man. And it hasn't worked out. And shouldn't we, if we are educated, or even primitive in the most politest sense of that word, shouldn't we begin with understanding each one, with ourselves what we are, and there radically, fundamentally change. Unless we do that we will go on for the next fifty thousand years.

Q: You and I won't. (Laughter)

K: You and I won't but the common current of consciousness will go on. But if you and another change radically you affect that consciousness.

Q: I say yes.

K: Therefore we must find people, small groups of people – whether in America, in Europe, India and so on – one or two who are concerned completely with this inner psychological fundamental change. And I think it is possible.

Q: Of course it is.

K: Therefore we are working for it.

Q: Or you wouldn't be sitting here.

K: Quite right.

C: Excuse me.

Q: Sorry.

C: Thank you, sir.

Dear friends, let me on your behalf, thank Krishnaji for being with us this afternoon and as he always does, for sharing his thoughts with us. And please, no clap.

Thank you again.

(Clapping) (Laughter)

Originally posted at



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