Question: What are the foundations of right livelihood? How can I find out whether my livelihood is right, and how am I to find right livelihood in a basically wrong society?
Krishnamurti: In a basically wrong society, there cannot be right livelihood. What is happening throughout the world at the present time? Whatever livelihood we have brings us to war, to general misery and destruction - which is an obvious fact. Whatever we do inevitably leads to conflict, to decay, to ruthlessness and sorrow. So, the present society is basically wrong; it is founded, is it not?, on envy, hate, and the desire for power; and such a society is bound to create wrong means of livelihood, such as the soldier, the policeman, and the lawyer. By their very nature, they are a disintegrating factor in society, and the more lawyers, policemen, and soldiers there are, the more obvious the decay of society. That is what is happening throughout the world: there are more soldiers, more policemen, more lawyers, and naturally the business man goes with them. So, all that has to be changed in order to found a right society - and we think such a task is impossible. It is not, Sir; but it is you and I who have to do it. Because, at present, whatever livelihood we undertake either creates misery for another, or leads to the ultimate destruction of mankind - which is shown in our daily existence.
So, how can that be changed? It can be changed only when you and I are not seeking power, are not envious, are not full of hatred and antagonism. When you, in your relationship, bring about that transformation, then you are helping to create a new society, a society in which there are people who are not held by tradition, who do not ask anything for themselves, who are not pursuing power because inwardly they are rich, they have found reality. Only the man who seeks reality can create a new society; only the man who loves can bring about a transformation in the world. I know this is not a satisfactory answer for a person who wants to find out what is the right livelihood in the present structure of society, You must do the best you can in the present structure of society - either become a photographer, a merchant, a lawyer, a policeman, or whatever it is. But if you do, be conscious of what you are doing, be intelligent, be aware, fully cognizant, of what you are perpetuating, recognize the whole structure of society, with its corruption, with its hatred, with its envy; and if you yourself do not yield to these things, then perhaps you will be able to create a new society. But the moment you ask what is right livelihood, all these questions are inevitably there, are they not? Because, you are not satisfied with your livelihood - you want to be envied, you want to have power, you want to have greater comforts and luxuries, position and authority, and therefore you are inevitably creating or maintaining a society which will bring destruction upon man, upon yourself. And if you clearly see that process of destruction in your own livelihood, if you see that it is the result of your own pursuit of livelihood, then obviously you will find the right means of earning money. But first you must see the picture of society as it is, a disintegrating, corrupted society; and when you see it very clearly, then your means of earning a livelihood will come. But first you must see the picture, see the world as it is, with its national divisions, with its cruelties, ambitions, hatreds and controls. Then, as you see it more clearly, you will find that a right means of livelihood comes into being - you don't have to seek it. But the difficulty with most of us is that we have too many responsibilities; fathers, mothers, are waiting for us to earn money and support them. And as it is difficult to get a job the way society is at the present time, any job is welcome; so we fall into the machinery of society. But those who are not so compelled, who have no need of an immediate job and can therefore look at the whole picture, it is they who are responsible. But, you see, those who are not concerned with an immediate job are caught up in something else - they are concerned with their self-expansion, with their comforts, with their luxuries, with their amusements. They have time, but are dissipating it. And those who have time are responsible for the alteration of society; those who are not immediately pressed for a livelihood should really concern themselves with this whole problem of existence, and not get entangled in mere political action, in superficial activities. Those who have time and so-called leisure should seek out truth, because it is they who can bring about a revolution in the world, not the man whose stomach is empty. But, unfortunately, those who have leisure are not occupied with the eternal. They are occupied in filling their time. Therefore, they also are a cause of misery and confusion in the world. So, those of you who are listening, those of you who have a little time, should give thought and consideration to this problem, and by your own transformation you will bring about a world revolution.
Public Talk 28th March, 1948