What is this thing we call living?

Published: 06th October 2013 10:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th October 2013 10:42 AM   |  A+A-

Man has throughout the ages been seeking something beyond himself, beyond material welfare, something we call truth or God or reality, a timeless state, something that cannot be disturbed by circumstances, by thought or by human corruption.

Man has always asked the question: what is it all about? Has life any meaning at all? He sees the enormous confusion of life, the brutalities, the revolts, the wars, the endless divisions of religion, ideology and nationality, and with a sense of deep abiding frustration he asks, what is one to do, what is this thing we call living, is there anything beyond it?

And not finding this nameless thing of a thousand names which he has always sought, he has cultivated faith, faith in a saviour or an ideal and faith invariably breeds violence.

In this constant battle which we call living, we try to set a code of conduct according to the society in which we are brought up, whether it be a communist society or a so-called free society; we accept a standard of behaviour as part of our tradition as Hindus or Muslims or Christians or whatever we happen to be. For centuries we have been spoon-fed by our teachers, by our authorities, by our books, our saints.

We say, ‘Tell me all about it— what lies beyond the hills and the mountains and the earth?’ and we are satisfied with their descriptions, which means that we live on words.We have lived on what we have been told, either guided by our inclinations, our tendencies or compelled to accept by circumstances and environment.  We are the result of all kinds of influences and there is nothing new in us; nothing original, pristine, clear.

Throughout theological history we have been assured by religious leaders that if we perform certain rituals, repeat certain prayers or mantras, conform to certain patterns, suppress our desires, control our thoughts, sublimate our passions, limit our appetites and refrain from sexual indulgence, we shall, after sufficient torture of the mind and body, find something beyond this little life. And that is what millions of people have done through the ages, either in isolation, going off into the desert or into the mountains or a cave or wandering from village to village with a begging bowl, or, in a group, joining a monastery, forcing their minds to conform to an established pattern. But a tortured mind, a broken mind, a mind which wants to escape from all turmoil, which has denied the outer world and been made dull through discipline and conformity— such a mind, however long it seeks, will find only according to its own distortion.

So to discover whether there actually is or is not something beyond this anxious, guilty, fearful, competitive existence, it seems to me that one must have a completely different approach altogether.

This article has been written by by Jiddu Krishnamurti.

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