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Questioner: What is it to be virtuous? What makes one act righteously? What is the foundation of morality? How do I know virtue without struggling for it? Is it an end in itself?
Krishnamurti: Can we discard the morality of society which is really quite immoral? Its morality has become respectable, approved by religious sanctions; and the morality of counter-revolution also soon becomes as immoral and respectable as that of well-established society. This morality is to go to war, to kill, to be aggressive, to seek power, to give hate its place; it is all the cruelty and injustice of established authority. This is not moral. But can one actually say that it is not moral? Because we are part of this society, whether we are conscious of it or not. Social morality is our morality, and can we easily put it aside? The ease with which we put it aside is the sign of our morality – not the effort it costs us to put it aside, not the reward, not the punishment for this effort but the consummate ease with which we discard it. If our behaviour is directed by the environment in which we live, controlled and shaped by it, then it is mechanical and heavily conditioned. And if our behaviour is the outcome of our own conditioned response, is it moral? If your action is based on fear and reward, is it righteous? If you behave rightly according to some ideological concept or principle, can that action be regarded as virtuous? So we must begin to find out how deeply we have discarded the morality of authority, imitation, conformity and obed- ience. Isn’t fear the basis of our morality? Unless these questions are fundamentally answered for oneself one cannot know what it is to be truly virtuous. As we said, with what ease you come out of this hypocrisy is of the greatest importance. If you merely disregard it, it doesn’t indicate that you are moral: you might be merely psychopathic. If you live a life of routine and contentment that is not morality either. The morality of the saint who conforms and follows the well-established tradition of sainthood is obviously not morality. So one can see that any conformity to a pattern, whether or not it is sanctioned by tradition, is not righteous behaviour. Only out of freedom can come virtue.
Can one free oneself with great skill from this network of what is considered moral? Skill in action comes with freedom, and so virtue.
Questioner: Can I free myself from social morality without fear, with the intelligence which is skill? I’m frightened at the very idea of being considered immoral by society. The young can do it, but I am middle-aged, and I have a family, and in my very blood there is respectability, the essence of the bourgeois. It is there, and I am frightened.
Krishnamurti: Either you accept social morality or reject it. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have one foot in hell and the other in heaven.
Questioner: So what am I to do? I see now what morality is, and yet I’m being immoral all the time. The older I grow the more hypocritical I become. I despise the social morality, and yet I want its benefits, its comfort, its security, psychological and material, and the elegance of a good address. That is my actual, deplorable state. What am I to do?
Krishnamurti: You can’t do anything but carry on as you are. It is much better to stop trying to be moral, stop trying to be concerned with virtue.
Questioner: But I can’t, I want the other! I see the beauty and the vigour of it, the cleanliness of it. What I am holding on to is dirty and ugly, but I can’t let it go.
Krishnamurti: Then there is no issue. You can’t have virtue and respectability. Virtue is freedom. Freedom is not an idea, a concept. When there is freedom there is attention, and only in this attention can goodness flower.