The other day, I was reading an article on the BBC website about the ways in which the war in Ukraine may come to an end. It was a description by a diplomatic correspondent of five possible scenarios based on what we already know about the people and factions involved in this current European conflict. You can get the gist of it from this brief quote: “Few can predict the future with confidence, but here are some potential outcomes. Most are bleak.”
For friends of Krishnamurti, it will probably come as no surprise that this kind of article never explores the possibility that the war in Ukraine is no different in kind from the war being waged constantly within the individual human mind, including the mind of the writer of the article. There may be a difference of degree and appearance, but our inner and outer conflicts are essentially the same thing. For although the individual human mind has amassed a wealth of evidence to support the notion that it is an important separate identity, this sense of being a separate identity is what puts us all on the first step to murder. From the idea of the separate self comes all the rest of it - my self-esteem, my values, my family, my tribe, my nation, my culture, my beliefs, my rights, and so forth - and thus the foundations are laid from which one views the rest of the world. One may view this world positively or negatively, sentimentally or coldly, depending upon the nature of the personal foundation; but whichever way one looks at the world, it is a personal viewpoint born out of all those accumulated memories and interpretations of one’s own experiences and responses, both good and bad. This notion of separate individuality is bound to bring about conflict with others, conflict in varying degrees and with varying forms, from our minor domestic disputes to the full-blown military campaign.
In order for peace there has to be a total understanding of the fundamental cause of war and violence. By starting from an idea or a concept of what peace should look like, we shall never achieve anything but the invention of more and more contradictory ideas, about which we can endlessly argue and fight over. For the understanding of anything, there has to be a real and direct awareness of and contact with the thing that is being examined. And the thing that is being examined is always really the same thing: it is the mind of the examiner, the mind of the one who is looking. A question, a search, an enquiry must always return to the door of the questioner, the seeker, the enquirer. Once any movement away into ideas ceases, our problems are no longer imaginary and abstract. So we must start with ourselves; it is nonsense to start elsewhere.
If we don’t transform society - which is equally where we work or where we live - then who will do it? Who will transform society? Who or what will bring about the end of our conflicts both internal and external? Or is conflict the eternal human condition and nothing will change it? The great organised efforts of the past have all failed whether those efforts have been made in the religious, in the political or in the philosophical arena. They have all failed. Man is still fighting man, still hiding in his own corner of the world trying to stay safe, still self-protective and defensive, at times angry, guilty, fearful and puzzled. That is the life of man, generally. Either he is doing what he can to make his own corner more comfortable and secure or he is waiting for something better than all this - whether through good fortune, blind chance or fate - or he is just waiting for the peaceful oblivion of death. There are so many ways of escaping from this mess of the world, so many distractions.
You and I are this mess of society. Whatever relationship we have with one another here right now, that is the relationship we have with the rest of the world. Whatever is the essential quality of this relationship, the same quality must also be in our relationships with other people, from the closest life partner to the remotest stranger. And outside of our relationships with other people, there is no society. Society is our relationship. So society is here today between you and me, whoever we are.
It is living in the ignorance of our daily motives which causes us so much misery. Once those motives are examined and made clear, they are dissolved. This demands enormous self-discipline, in the sense of self-knowing, for it is not something that can be undertaken and tried out in an afternoon and then put aside. It is for a lifetime. And something requiring the entire span of one’s life has to be something one loves doing; it cannot be done for reasons of reward, pleasure, or for enhancing personal power. Only love can provide such energy, such effortlessness, and then it is not a thing of the mind at all. For then we can begin a dialogue with one another, as two friends talking together.
A dialogue is very different from a debate or a discussion. In a debate, the participants often arrive with prepared arguments and view-points; and therefore conflict is built into the very structure of the format for communication. In a discussion, although there may be many side tracks away from the main theme or topic, there is usually some central issue or problem for people to get to grips with; and often such topics attract to them people with their own prepared agendas and solutions. At the end of these sorts of things there is usually some sense of a conclusion, albeit a compromise or an agreement to disagree, whatever that means, or a sense of disjointed and abandoned projects.
But dialogue is different. There is no prepared agenda in the way that a debate or a discussion might operate because this is about two or more people looking at the whole panorama of existence, which includes looking carefully at themselves, at their relationship with each other and their relationship to the world outside.
Looking carefully at our lives in this way and getting involved in a dialogue, what is it that gets revealed? What is the new thing that gets discovered that we have never seen before? Obviously, the answer to this question cannot be stated in advance. In that respect it is a little like a rhetorical question. But it is a rhetorical question with some bite to it because the answer lies deep within the question; a surface glance and response are not enough. There is tremendous energy in a dialogue unlike in any other form of human communion. This energy soon gets dissipated as the past comes into play, whether as old images of the other participants, as a fixed world view or as vague hopes, dreams and wishes. But if you and I are determined to meet together, look together and think together then there is no doubt at all that something extraordinary happens. For then we begin to acquire an appetite for order, a natural desire for order, which nothing on earth can prevent.
Unfortunately, it seems that most human beings have an appetite for conflict, which is something left over from the ancient, animalistic part of the brain that seeks its own survival over everything else. Our ancestors were concerned primarily with the survival of their physical bodies and we still have that concern because it is the natural intelligence of every living organism to seek to maintain its own existence. But our psychological concerns have no such intelligence at their roots because our psyche is not a living organism. Although the human psyche is a vast and intricate structure, it is formed wholly from fragments of the past. There is order only when this entire structure has collapsed, when the past no longer imposes itself upon the present.
While one is caught up in all the contradictions of the psyche, the desire for order must always arise from a background of disorder; and the desire for freedom must always be conditioned by the prison walls. So our psychological appetites are inherently disordered. In a dialogue all this can be seen; and therefore an appetite develops for an order that has nothing whatsoever to do with the limited contradictions of the psyche. It is like finding fresh food after a lifetime spent eating highly processed meals.
A dialogue is also an invitation to expire psychologically well before one’s chronological expiry date is due. Then we shall find out that there is life after death. Psychologically, when we are separated from the rest of the world, whatever we do within that field of separation must inevitably create conflict. A dialogue explores the ending of that field, which is the ending of war.