Questioner: The problem of earning a decent living is predominant with most of us. Since economic currents of the world are hopelessly interdependent I find that almost anything I do either exploits others or contributes to the cause of war. How is one who honestly wishes to achieve right means of livelihood to withdraw from the wheels of exploitation and war?
Krishnamurti: For him who truly wishes to find a right means of livelihood economic life, as it is at present organized, is certainly difficult. As the questioner says, economic currents are interrelated and so it is a complex problem, and as with all complex human problems it must be approached with simplicity. As society is becoming more and more complex and organized, regimentation of thought and action is being enforced for the sake of efficiency. Efficiency becomes ruthlessness when sensory values predominate, when eternal value is set aside.
Obviously there are wrong means of livelihood. He who helps in manufacturing arms and other methods to kill his fellowman is surely occupied with furthering violence which never brings about peace in the world; the politician who, either for the benefit of his nation or of himself or of an ideology, is occupied in ruling and exploiting others, is surely employing wrong means of livelihood which lead to war, to the misery and sorrow of man; the priest who holds to a specialized prejudice, dogma or belief, to a particular form of worship and prayer is also using wrong means of livelihood, for he is only spreading ignorance and intolerance which set man against man. Any profession that leads to and maintains the divisions and conflict between man and man is obviously a wrong means of livelihood. Such occupations lead to exploitation and strife.
Our means of livelihood are dictated, are they not, through tradition or through greed and ambition? Generally we do not deliberately set about choosing the right means of livelihood. We are only too thankful to get what we can and blindly follow the economic system that is about us. But the questioner wants to know how to withdraw from exploitation and war. To withdraw from them he must not allow himself to be influenced, nor follow traditional occupation, nor must he be envious and ambitious. Many of us choose some profession because of tradition or because we are of a family of lawyers or soldiers or politicians or traders; or our greed for power and position dictates our occupation; ambition drives us to compete and be ruthless in our desire to succeed. So he who would not exploit or contribute to the cause of war must cease to follow tradition, cease to be greedy, ambitious, self-seeking. If he abstains from these he will naturally find right occupation.
But though it is important and beneficial, right occupation is not an end in itself. You may have a right means of livelihood but if you are inwardly insufficient and poor you will be a source of misery to yourself and so to others; you will be thoughtless, violent, self-assertive. Without that inward freedom of Reality you will have no joy, no peace. In the search and discovery of that inward Reality alone can we be not only content with little, but aware of something that is beyond all measure. It is this which must be first sought out; then other things will come into being in its wake.
This inward freedom of creative Reality is not a gift; it is to be discovered and experienced. It is not an acquisition to be gathered to yourself to glorify yourself. It is a state of being, as silence, in which there is no becoming, in which there is completeness. This creativeness may not necessarily seek expression; it is not a talent that demands an outward manifestation. You need not be a great artist nor have an audience; if you seek these you will miss that inward Reality. It is neither a gift, nor is it the outcome of talent; it is to be found, this imperishable treasure, when thought frees itself from lust, ill will and ignorance; when thought frees itself from worldliness and personal craving to be; it is to be experienced through right thinking and meditation. Without this inward freedom of Reality existence is pain. As a thirsty man seeks water, so must we seek. Reality alone can quench the thirst of impermanency.
2nd Public Talk 1945