Question: Virtue does not appear to be a very prominent feature in your teachings. Why is this? Has the virtuous life so small a part to play in the realization of truth?
Krishnamurti: What do you mean by virtue? Do you mean by virtue, a contrast to vice? That is, do you call courage, bravery, a virtue in contrast to fear? First of all, one is afraid, and you think you must develop the idea of courage, so you pursue courage; that is, you are running away from fear, and this process of running away from fear you call braveness, courage, which becomes virtue. To me, a man that pursues a virtue is no longer virtuous; whereas, if you begin to find out what causes fear, not cover up fear by the idea of what you think is brave, but try to find out what is the fundamental cause of fear, then in the discovery of the cause you are neither courageous nor fearful, you are free of both these opposites.
After all, virtue is merely the result of a false environment, isn't it? To resist the environment, you must have great character nowadays. At least that is what is called character. That is, society has created, or rather we have helped to create a society in which to be non-possessive is considered a great virtue. Isn't it? We have established a society where possessiveness indicates constant fight with your neighbour, consciously or unconsciously, constant battle, self-assertion, continual cutting out of others; and a man who does not want to do that, you call a virtuous man, a noble man. To me it has nothing to do with nobility or virtue.
If the environment is changed, if the social conditions are changed, then to be possessive or non-possessive is the same thing, then you call possessiveness neither virtue nor an evil thing. Whereas now, as society is constituted, to break away from these false standards is considered either a virtue or a sin. But if we begin to alter the environment in which the mind and heart are held, then this whole idea of virtue and sin have a different meaning altogether; because, to me, virtue is not to be sought after, to be gained, to be possessed, or sin to be abhorred or run away from - whatever is meant by sin. So to me, to live naturally, that demands a great deal of intelligence, not brutal, savage, unthinking life, primitive life - I do not mean that when I use the word "naturally." To live a natural life, full, spontaneous life, creative, intelligent life, you can only do that when you understand the false standards and the true standards of society, and have broken away from it because you understand their significance; therefore, you are no longer bound by this pursuit of the opposite which we call virtue. To put it very briefly, when you are afraid you are seeking courage, and we call that courage a virtue; whereas, really, what are you doing? You are running away from fear. You are trying to cover up fear by an idea, what you call courage. So momentarily you may cover up fear by an idea of what you call courage, but fear will continue to exist and show itself in different forms; whereas, if you try to find out what is the fundamental cause of fear, then mind is not caught up in the conflict of opposites.
Vasanta School Gardens, Auckland New Zealand
2nd Pulic Talk, 31st March, 1934