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What significance has desire?
What significance has desire?
During the last few times we have met we have been talking about fear, and perhaps we could approach it from a different angle. Fear breeds every form of illusion and self-deception, and it seems to me that unless one's mind is totally free from every form of fear, then every thought, every action is coloured by it. Though we have talked about it in some detail I think it might be worthwhile to approach it differently. It would be a good thing if one could find out for oneself how to go into a thing like fear, how to unravel it, not only at the conscious level but at the deeper layers, the hidden recesses of one's own consciousness. How does one penetrate, for instance, into desire? Because desire, with its urgency, its incessant demand for self-fulfilment, breeds fear and brings about self-contradiction.
Now, what significance has desire? And in the process of uncovering it, can one come to understand the urge to fulfil, with its frustrations and miseries? And can one understand the process of comparison? Because, it seems to me that where there is comparison there is also the urge for power. All these things are linked together, and perhaps this evening we can go into it fairly deeply.
You see, I feel there is a state of mind which is above and beyond feeling and thought; but to come to that, it requires an enormous understanding of the process of feeling and also the process of thinking. The only thing we have is our feeling and thinking. The feeling is prompted by desire, it is strengthened and maintained by the urge of desire; and desire is always in terms of the furthering of pleasure and the avoidance of pain and suffering. Therefore, behind desire there is always the shadow of fear. So it seems to me that a mind that would think precisely, without any perversion, any twist, must enquire into the whole issue of desire.
Now, how does one enquire? How does one set about unravelling this extraordinarily subtle thing called desire, which is the basis of all psychological promptings? The urge to fulfil invariably brings frustration, fear and sorrow; and so the so-called religious people have said that we must put away desire; so we try to dominate it, suppress it, sublimate it or escape from it through various forms of identification with something. Desire means conflict. I want to be something, and in the very process of trying to become that something there is conflict, and then comes the demand, the effort to escape from the conflict. Outwardly desire is expressed in society as acquisitiveness, the pursuit of the more; and inwardly it is expressed as progress towards certainty.
And can desire be controlled? Should it be controlled? Or must one give full vent, full expression to it? That is the problem. If one gives full expression to it there is always the uncertainty of what may be the result, and therefore a sense of frustration and fear. If one disciplines it, controls it, shapes it, that also involves conflict between that which is and that which should be. And of course if one suppresses it, sublimates it through various forms of identification - with a particular group, a particular set of ideas, a belief, and so on - there is still conflict. Desire seems to breed conflict, and I think most of us are aware of this. If we are at all intellectual we find a safety-valve in order not to give it full rein, and our desires take the form of intellectual conceits, vanities and purposes, the acquisition of knowledge, cleverness.
And desire, hoping to achieve, to fulfil, is always comparing. I do not know if you have noticed how one is forever comparing comparing oneself with another, comparing one's dress, one's looks, one's experiences, comparing ideas, pictures, and so on. Do we really comprehend anything through comparison? And can the mind cease to compare altogether? Can one, perhaps, begin to understand what desire is and not seek to suppress it? I think it is fairly obvious that suppression is futile, though it is extraordinarily prevalent throughout the world, especially among those people who are trying to record their own saintliness. Whether one suppresses a little, or completely, it is still there, only it takes a different form of expression.
Now, passion and lust are two different things though they are both forms of desire. You must have passion. To live with something beautiful or with something ugly there must be passion, otherwise the beauty dulls the mind and the ugly thing distorts the mind. Passion is energy; and merely suppressing desire does not bring about this extraordinary sense of intensity, of passion. Of course, if desire identifies itself with an idea, with a symbol, with a philosophy, it does bring about a certain kind of intensity. You know the people who trot around the world doing all kinds of good work, trying to tell people what they should be and what they should not be. I do not mean that kind of intensity; because if they were to stop talking, stop doing good works and all the rest of it, they would find themselves caught in their own miseries, their own travail. But there is an intensity which comes into being when you understand desire and when you see the complete significance of all suppression, sublimation, substitution, escape.
I hope you are not merely listening to the words, but are aware of your own forms of desire, and that you quickly, swiftly perceive the road along which it is going and where it leads, and how you have suppressed desire, identified it with something. After all, the purpose of these discussions is not for you to listen to me, but so to listen as to discover, to see the whole map of oneself, the extraordinary complexity of oneself the twists, the narrow paths, the ambitions, the urges, the compulsions, the beliefs, the dogmas. After all, if one does not see all that, is not aware of all that, then these meetings are absolutely useless; they become just another form of entertainment, perhaps a little more intellectual, but at the end of it one is left with ashes. Words are ashes, and to live on explanations, on words, gives rise to an empty life, an arid existence.
So I think it would be worthwhile if we could, during the process of these discussions, really battle with ourselves, unravel things, and then perhaps go beyond and above this process of feeling and thought. I would like us this evening to come to that; but one cannot come to it unless one really understands - not merely verbally or intellectually - the extensiveness of desire and all its significance.
I think one can see that every form of disciplining, controlling, suppressing, substituting or sublimating, perverts the beauty of desire and therefore makes the mind and heart incapable of being young, swift. I think that must be very clearly perceived. And is it possible to really see this, trained, as one has been, in a society whose values are acquisitive, whose religious dogmas and beliefs entail every form of twisting, suppressing desire? Desire obviously means comparison; and comparison, if one goes into it more deeply, leads to the urge for power.
You see, we talk a great deal about peace and love and all that kind of thing. Every politician throughout the world is everlastingly talking about his god, his peace, his love. And can a mind that has not understood the whole significance of desire know what love is? And the religious people consider desire evil - except the one desire for God, or Jesus or somebody; and the monasteries are filled with such people. Can such minds see the immensity of that thing which we cover by the word `love'?
So, if one sees the significance of suppression, and therefore there is no longer the urge to suppress, transmute and all the rest of it, then what is one to do with desire? It is there, burning, urging us to fulfil, to get ahead, to get a car, a bigger house, and so on. It is there; so what is one to do? I wonder if we have ever asked ourselves that question? We are so used to controlling it, shaping it, curbing it, adding ballast to it, or approximating it to something else - which is comparison. And can we ever stop that process? You see, it is only when that process has stopped completely that one can ask what one is to do with desire. I do not know if you have got to that point.
It means, really, can one live in this world without ambition? Can you go to the office and work without ambition? And if you did, would not your competitor wipe you out? And is there not the fear that if there was no ambition one would just fade away? If I may suggest it, do put this question to yourself. When do you ask: what to do with desire? Must you first go through all the forms of fulfilment with their frustrations, miseries, fears, guilt and anxiety? Or perhaps you never put that question at all, but only suppress all the time. Perhaps if you have not found happiness, position, prestige in one direction, you turn in another direction; these are the outward and the inward expressions of it. When one is a nobody in this disintegrating world, one turns inward for fulfilment. You never put that question when you are right in the wake of it, do you?
For a mind that is really enquiring, that really wants to find out if there is God, truth, something beyond all words, it is surely very important to understand this thing called desire. Is it right to be desireless? And if you kill desire, do you not also kill all feeling, with all its qualities of sensitivity? Feeling is a part of desire, is it not?
So, if one has gone into all the implications of suppression, then is one no longer suppressing, no longer substituting? It is not merely a matter of verbally mesmerizing yourself; it is quite an arduous thing - if you have gone that far. Because, a part of this desire is discontent, discontent with what we are; and at the back of this discontent is the urge for power, to be something, to fulfil in some way. Most of us are caught in this wheel of fulfilment and frustration; and with the everlasting battle of self-pity, one ultimately goes through the door of despair.
Now, can one actually see all this, and not take days, months, years over it? Can one see this everlasting search for fulfillment how we know it is going to bring misery and yet we keep on with it? Can we see it all as the whole content of our life, and cut at the very root of it? And then, if one has gone that far - or rather, that near - what is one to do with desire? Is there any need, then, to do anything about desire? Do you follow?
So far, we have always done something about desire, given it the right channel, the right slant, the right aim, the right end. And if the mind - which is conditioned, which is always thinking in terms of achievement, through training, through education and so on - is no longer trying to shape desire as something apart from itself if the mind is no longer interfering with desire, if I may use that word, then what is wrong with desire? Then, is it the thing we have always known as desire? Please, sirs, go along with it, come with me.
You see, we have always thought of desire in terms of fulfilment, achieving, gaining, getting rich, inwardly or outwardly, in terms of avoidance, in terms of `the more'. And when you see all that, and put it away, then the feeling, which we have so far called desire, has a totally different meaning, has it not?
Then you can see a beautiful car, a lovely house, a lovely dress without any reaction of wanting, identifying.
You know the whole social approach to existence in which you have been brought up, educated since childhood; all the ideation, the search for fulfilment, that you must be better than the next man and so on. When you see the whole content of this conflict, and when it has fallen away from you from within, dropped from your hand, then is desire that which it previously was?
After all, to feel is to think, is it not? The two are inseparable. When I see a child in misery, starving, then I want to cut out society, the politician, and all the rest of them, and do something about it. The feeling always goes with the thought. And feeling is perception, sensation, touch, and all the rest of it. To feel is to be sensitive: and the more sensitive you are the more you get hurt; so you begin to build a defence, a shield. All this is a form of desire. To cease to be sensitive is obviously to become inwardly paralysed, to die. Perhaps most of us are paralysed; that is what happens to us through education, through social relationships, contacts, knowledge - everything makes us dull, stupid, insensitive. And living in a tomb, we try to feel.
Realizing all this, then is there a limit to desire? I do not know what other word to use for that thing which we have called desire. Do you see what has happened - if you have gone into it? It is no longer feeling or thought - it is something entirely different, in which feeling and thought are included. Do go into it. Most of our lives are so terribly dull, full of routine, boredom - you know very well the horrors of your existence, the mediocrity of it-; and we have not understood even a day or even a minute of our lives, if we have not understood some of all this. And that is probably why we are all so terribly `spiritual', mediocre!
So we come to this issue - which is really very interesting, if you have gone into it. The thing that we have called desire, with all its corruptions, its travail, its miseries, its suffering, impotence, enthusiasm, interests and so on - one has seen the full depth of it all; at one glance one can see it. You know how you do not have to get drunk to know what sobriety is. In the same way if one sees the process of fulfilment completely, it is finished; every form of fulfilment, every form of being or becoming something, has ended.
Question: I think one need to get drunk to know what drunkenness is.
Krishnamurti: Surely that is rather far-fetched, is it not? that one needs to know what it is to be drunk, and therefore one must drink? Must one go through murder to know what murder is? Sirs, do not let us be clever. Let us really apply our minds to all this.
Question: It is the contradictions in desire that make it so impossible to deal with it.
Krishnamurti: Why are there contradictions, sir? Do please follow it through. I want to be rich, powerful, important; and yet I see the futility of it, because I see that the big people, with all their titles and so forth, are just nobodies. So there is a contradiction. Now, why? Why is there this pull in different directions, why is it not all in one direction? Do you follow what I mean? If I want to be a politician, why not be a politician, and get on with it? Why is there this withdrawal from it? Do please let us discuss it for a few minutes.
Question: We are afraid of what might happen if we give ourselves over entirely to one desire.
Krishnamurti: Have you given yourself to anything once, totally, completely?
Question: Once or twice, for a few minutes.
Krishnamurti: Been completely in it? Perhaps sexually; but apart from that do you know when you have given yourself to something, totally? I question it.
Question: Perhaps in listening to music.
Krishnamurti: Look, sir. A toy absorbs a child. You give a child a toy, and he is completely happy; he is not restless, he is taken up with it, completely there. Is that giving yourself to something? The politicians, the religious people, they give themselves over to something. Why? Because it means power, position, prestige. The idea of being a somebody absorbs them like a toy. When you identify yourself with something, is that giving yourself over to something? There are people who identify themselves with their country, their queen, their king and so on, which is another form of absorption. Is that giving oneself over to something?
Question: Is it possible ever actually to give oneself over to something in so far as there is always a schism between?
Krishnamurti: That's it, sir. That is exactly right. You see, we cannot give ourselves over to something.
Question: Is it possible to give oneself over to someone?
Krishnamurti: We try to. We try to identify ourselves with the husband, the wife, the child, the name - but you know better than I do what happens; so, why talk about it? You see we are deviating from the thing we are talking about.
Question: A desire is right and good when it does not damage anything else.
Krishnamurti: Is there wrong desire and right desire? You see, you are going back to the beginning; we covered the whole field, surely. Do you see how we have translated it already - the desire that is good and bad, worthwhile and not worthwhile, noble and ignoble, harmful and beneficial? Look deep into it. You have divided it, have you not? That very division is the cause of conflict. Having introduced the conflict by the division, you have then introduced a further problem: how to get rid of the conflict?
You see, sirs, we have been talking for fifty minutes, this evening, to see if one can really see the significance of desire. And when one really sees the significance of desire, which includes both the good and the bad, when one sees the total meaning of this conflict, this division - not just verbally, but comprehends it fully, puts one's teeth into it - then there is only desire. But, you see, we insist on evaluating it as good and bad, beneficial and non-beneficial. I thought at the beginning we could wipe away this division, but it is not so easy; it requires application, perception, insight.
Question: Is it possible to get rid of the object and stay with the essence of desire?
Krishnamurti: Why should I get rid of the object? What is wrong with a beautiful car? You see, you are creating conflict for yourself when you make this division of the essence and the object. The direction of the essence changes the object all the time, and that is the misery of it. When one is young, one wants the world; and as one grows older, one is fed up with the world.
You see, we were trying to understand desire and thereby let conflict die away, wither away. We have touched on so many things this evening. The urge for power which is so strong in all of us, so embedded, and which includes the dominance over the servant, the husband, the wife - you know it all. Perhaps some of you, in the course of the discussion this evening, have gone into this thing, have seen that where the mind is seeking fulfilment, there is frustration and therefore misery and conflict. The very seeing of it is the dropping of it. Perhaps some of you have not merely followed the words, but understood the implications of the feeling of wanting to fulfil, to be something - the ignobleness of it. The politician seeks fulfilment, the priest does it, everybody does it, and one sees the vulgarity of it all, if I may use that word. Can one really drop it? If you see it as you see a poisonous thing, then it is like a tremendous burden taken off your shoulders. You are out of it; with a flick, it is gone. Then you will come to that point which is really extraordinarily significant. Not all this - all this has its own significance - but something else, which is a mind that has understood desire, the feeling and the thought, and therefore goes beyond and above it. Do you understand the nature of such a mind not the verbal description of it? The mind, then, is highly sensitive, capable of intense reactions without conflict, sensitive to every form of demand; such a mind is above all feeling and thought, and its activity is no longer within the field of so-called desire.
For most of us, I am afraid, this is a lot of froth, a state to be desired or created. But you cannot come to it that way nor by any means. It comes into being when one really understands all this, and you do not have to do a thing.
You see - if you will not misunderstand what is being said - if you could leave desire alone, either to wither away - just leave it alone - , that is the very essence of a mind which is not in conflict.
May 16, 1961