UNDERSTANDING FREEDOM AND DISCIPLINEJIDDU KRISHNAMURTI
Jiddu Krishnamurti was a world renowned writer and speaker on fundamental philosophical and spiritual subjects such as the purpose of meditation, human relationships, and how to bring about positive change in global society. His supporters, working through several non-profit foundations, oversee a number of independent schools centred on his views on education, in India, England and the United States. His talks, group and individual discussions, and other writings are published in a variety of formats including print, audio-video as well as online, in many languages.
The problem of discipline is really quite complex, because most of us think that through some form of discipline we shall eventually have freedom. Discipline is the cultivation of resistance, is it not? By resisting, by building a barrier within ourselves against something which we consider wrong, we think we shall be more capable of understanding and of being free to live fully; but that is not a fact, is it? Surely, it is only when there is freedom, real freedom to think, to discover—that you can find out anything.
But freedom obviously cannot exist in a frame. And most of us live in a frame, in a world enclosed by ideas, do we not? For instance, you are told by your parents and your teachers what is right and what is wrong. You know what people say, what the priest says, what tradition says, and what you have learned in school. All this forms a kind of enclosure within which you live; and, living in that enclosure, you say you are free. Are you? Can a man ever be free as long as he lives in a prison?
So, one has to break down the prison walls of tradition. One has to experiment and discover on one’s own, and not merely follow somebody, however good, however noble and exciting that person may be, and however happy one may feel in his presence. What has significance is to be able to examine and not just accept all the values created by tradition, all the things that people have said are good, beneficial, worthwhile. The moment you accept, you begin to conform, to imitate; and conforming, imitating, following, can never make one free and happy.
Our elders say that you must be disciplined. Discipline is imposed upon you by yourself, and by others from outside. But what is important is to be free to think, to inquire, so that you begin to find out for yourself. To think deeply, to go into things and discover for oneself what is true, is very difficult; it requires alert perception, constant inquiry, and most people have neither the inclination nor the energy for that. They say, ‘You know better than I do; you are my guru, my teacher, and I shall follow you.’
So, it is very important that from the tenderest age you are free to find out, and are not enclosed by a wall of do’s and don’ts; for if you are constantly told what to do and what not to do, what will happen to your intelligence? You will be a thoughtless entity who just walks into some career, who is told by his parents whom to marry or not to marry; and that is obviously not the action of intelligence. You may pass your examinations and be very well off, you may have good clothes and plenty of jewels, you may have friends and prestige; but as long as you are bound by tradition, there can be no intelligence.
Surely, intelligence comes into being only when you are free to question, free to think out and discover, so that your mind becomes very active, very alert and clear. Then you are a fully integrated individual—not a frightened entity who, not knowing what to do, inwardly feels one thing and outwardly conforms to something different.
Intelligence demands that you break away from tradition and live on your own; but you are enclosed by your parents’ ideas and by the traditions of society. So there is a conflict going on inwardly, is there not? You are all young, but I don’t think you are too young to be aware of this. So there is an inward struggle going on; and as long as you do not resolve that struggle you are going to be caught in conflict, in pain, in sorrow, everlastingly wanting to do something and being prevented from doing it.
If you go into it very carefully you will see that discipline and freedom are contradictory, and that in seeking real freedom there is set going quite a different process which brings its own clarification so that you just do not do certain things.
While you are young it is very important that you be free to find out, and be helped to find out, what you really want to do in life. If you don’t find out while you are young, you will never find out, you will never be free and happy individuals. The seed must be sown now, so that you begin now to take the initiative.
On the road you have often passed villagers carrying heavy loads, have you not? Those poor women with torn and dirty clothes, with insufficient food, working day after day for a pittance—do you have any feeling for them? Or are you so frightened, so concerned about yourself, about your examinations, about your looks, about your saris, that you never pay any attention to them? Do you feel you are much better than they, that you belong to a higher class and therefore need have no regard for them? Don’t you want to help them? No? That indicates how you are thinking. Are you so dulled by centuries of tradition, by what your fathers and mothers say, so conscious of belonging to a certain class, that you do not even look at the villagers? Are you actually so blinded that you do not know what is happening around you?
It is fear—fear of what your parents will say, of what the teachers will say, fear of tradition, fear of life—that gradually destroys sensitivity, is it not? To be sensitive is to feel, to receive impressions, to have sympathy for those who are suffering, to have affection, to be aware of the things that are happening around you. When the temple bell is ringing, are you aware of it? Do you listen to the sound? Do you ever see the sunlight on the water? Are you aware of the poor people, the villagers who have been controlled, trodden down for centuries by exploiters? When you see a servant carrying a heavy carpet, do you give him a helping hand?
All this implies sensitivity. But, you see, sensitivity is destroyed when one is disciplined, when one is fearful or concerned with oneself. To be concerned about one’s looks, about one’s saris, to think about oneself all the time— which most of us do in some form or other—is to be insensitive, for then the mind and heart are enclosed and one loses all appreciation of beauty. To be really free implies great sensitivity. There is no freedom if you are enclosed by self-interest or by various walls of discipline. As long as your life is a process of imitation there can be no sensitivity, no freedom. It is very important, while you are here, to sow the seed of freedom, which is to awaken intelligence; for with that intelligence you can tackle all the problems of life.