Krishnamurti on Relationships & Self-Knowledge


The following are some of my favorite Krishnamurti quotes and excerpts that I have accumulated over the years. And some of these may include my own amending and modifications, because when I read, I don’t just consider what the author is saying (remember that line from “Dead Poets Society“?), I consider my own thoughts and ideas as well.  Thus when I read I oftentimes take someone else’s passage and rewrite it weaving in my own thoughts and insights into it in order to better digest it and make it even more true—the idea being we write by necessity, because we haven’t yet found anyone else saying what we want to say or what we think needs to be said. (In fact, I think this is the only way to genuinely read something and digest something—to consider it so deeply and thoroughly that amending it with our own thoughts and observations and insights seems only natural.  That’s what shows the evidence that we have actually thought about it and not just swallowed something whole or uncritically.)  Usually when I do this, I put my thoughts and ideas in brackets or parentheses and include ellipses, et cetera. But these are from my own private journals, so I never originally intended to share these.

Relationship is self-revelation; it is because we do not want to be revealed to ourselves that we run away and hide in comfort.

Only in relationship can you know yourself, not in abstraction and certainly not in isolation. The movement of behavior is the sure guide to yourself. It is the mirror of your consciousness: the mirror will reveal its content, the images, the attachments, the fears, the loneliness, the joys and sorrow. Poverty lies in running away from this. . . .

Life cannot be without relationship. If we can deeply understand the problem of relationship between oneself and another then perhaps we shall understand and solve the problems of society, for society is but the extension of ourselves. The environment which we call society is created by past generations; we accept it, as it helps us to maintain our greed, possessiveness, illusion. In this illusion there cannot be unity or peace. As long as we do not understand individual relationship, we cannot have a peaceful society.

Life is experience, experience in relationship. One cannot live in isolation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself. Without relationship you are not; for to be is to be related. You exist only in relationship; otherwise you do not exist. You exist because you are related. Without relationship, I am not. To understand myself, I must understand relationship. And it is the lack of understanding of relationship that causes conflict.

There is little real understanding of relationship because most of people use relationship merely as a means of furthering achievement, furthering gratification, furthering comfort, furthering security, furthering ego.

But relationship can also be a means of self-discovery. Relationship is a mirror in which I can see myself. That mirror can either be distorted, or it can be ‘as is’, reflecting that which is. But most of us see in relationship, in that mirror, things we would rather not see, and things we want and hope to see; so we do not see what is. (And we do not see ‘what is’ because we do not want to see what it is. We sense that to see ourselves as we are would be too intense, painful, unsettling, humbling, wounding, degrading. So we would rather idealize, project, deny, distort, blame, lie, or in some other way escape and avoid real self-knowledge, and instead surround ourselves with others who will validate and reflect back to us our warped and distorted self-image. [My parenthetical])

If we examine our life, our relationship with another, we shall see that it is a process of isolation. We are really not concerned with another; though we talk a great deal about it, actually we are not concerned. We are related to someone only so long as that relationship gratifies us, so long as it gives us a refuge, so long as it satisfies us. But the moment there is a disturbance in the relationship which produces discomfort in ourselves, we discard that relationship. In other words, there is relationship only so long as we are gratified. This may sound harsh, but if you really examine your life very closely you will see it is a fact; and to avoid a fact is to live in ignorance, which can never produce right relationship.

Relationship is a process of self-revelation; relationship is a mirror in which you begin to discover yourself as you are—your tendencies, pretensions, selfish and limited motives, fears, and so on. In relationship, if you are aware, you will find that you are being exposed, and being exposed causes conflict and pain. The thoughtful person welcomes this self-exposure as a means to bring about order and clarity, to free his thinking and feeling from isolating, avoidant, self-enclosing tendencies. But most of us want to seek comfort and gratification in relationship; we do not desire to be revealed to ourselves, we do not wish to study ourselves as we are, so relationship becomes wearisome and we seek to escape. We seek peace in relationship and if we do not find it then we try to bring about changes till we find what we seek—dull comfort, some anesthesiant or distraction to cover up our emptiness and fears. But relationship will ever be painful, a constant struggle, till out of it comes deep and extensional self-knowledge. With deep self-knowledge there comes the ability to love more genuinely.

If we look into our lives and observe relationship, we see it is a process of building resistance against another, a wall over which we look and observe the other; but we always retain the wall and remain behind the psychological wall. So long as we live in isolation, behind a wall, there is no relationship with another; and we live enclosed because it is much more gratifying, we think it is much more secure. The world is so disruptive, there is so much sorrow, so much pain, war, destruction, misery, that we want to escape and live within the walls of security of our own psychological being. So, relationship with most of us is actually a process of isolation, and obviously such relationship builds a society which is also isolating. That is exactly what is happening throughout the world: you remain in your isolation and stretch your hand over the wall, calling it nationalism, brotherhood or what you will, but actually sovereign governments, armies, continue. Still clinging to your own limitations, you think you can create world unity, world peace. But that is impossible. So long as you have a frontier, whether national, economic, religious or social, it is an obvious fact that there cannot be peace in the world.

One of the big takeaways from all of these passage for me was and still is that when it comes to relationships, most of us do not want to see ourselves as we are, or be seen by another for who and what we are.

We want to see ourselves in a distorted and idealized (or “PhotoShopped”) way.

The ego craves that—affirmation, validation, belonging, control, to be seen and thought of in a positive way.

The ego does not like to be seen or thought of in a negative or disvalidating way. The ego cannot handle criticism—seemingly no matter how carefully it is delivered, and seemingly no matter how true it may be. The ego can’t handle the truth. Instead of the truth and reality, the ego wants to believe what it wants to believe, what it feels good to believe, and it doesn’t want to try and get to the bottom of why it is believing as it is believing.  This type of self-knowledge is too painful.  Thus the ego wants to believe the best about itself, about ourselves, independent of any findings to the contrary. And so our relationships tend to be carefully controlled attempts at controlling other people’s impressions and thoughts about us. So most of us tend to try to surround ourselves with those who will reflect back to us only what we want to see about ourselves and what we’re prepared to see about ourselves.  (“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? . . . “)  We don’t surround ourselves with honest mirrors; we don’t have in our closet friends our best critics as well.  Thus if someone reflects back too much of us, that person is walled out, banished, ostracized, and our defensive spin-apparatus kicks into high gear.

Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.” – M. Scott Peck.

But we want to cheat on this equation and get happiness and mental health on the cheap, on sale, at a discounted price.

But this can’t be done.

Mental health never goes on sale. If we want to be truly happy and mentally healthy then we have to be willing to pay full price—sell everything we have and actually buy the field where mental health is to be had.

But this is not the way of human nature.

Human nature means that there is a part of us—the part of us that drive most of us most of the time—that is lazy, loves to be comfortable, likes short cuts, is addicted to the path of least resistance, and that would rather distort things than face the truth.

Thus most of us opt for something less than mental health—for some degree of mental unhealth—because we refuse to tolerate the costs to ourselves—the expense to our comfort and pride—i.e. the stress and anxiety and discomfort—that real mental health will require.

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

This is especially true of our relationship to Truth and Reality. Truth and reality are dizzying and disorienting and stressful up front, but down the road they lead to true strength and health and courage. Truth and reality tend to make us lose our footing momentarily.

But to resist this—to close ourselves off to truth—to close our minds to truth and opt to live in a self-protective bell jar—is lose oneself in a much more dramatic and harmful way. It is to risk losing oneself forever (paraphrasing Lewis, “The doors to hell are held shut from inside“). This is the way mental unhealth and even mental illness often proceed—by not being willing to dare to lose one’s footing momentarily, by refusing to do so, for the sake of truth. And so in order not to lose our footing, we have to turn to denial, distortion, and other means in order to maintain our balance. But the cost is that we have taken a wrong turn.

And we will take many more wrong turns in order to continuing not having to face the truth and deal with the adding up consequences of continuing not to face the truth.

A lie usually doesn’t stop with just one lie—it can’t: because it takes many more lies to maintain the first. Lying tends to be something that compounds itself, sometimes exponentially so.

And so to not be willing to lose our footing momentarily for the sake of truth, we end up living less than truthful lives in a world where we regularly distort and deny reality.

And then we partner up with another who more or less is doing the same.

And down the road we wonder why we’re having relationship troubles!

If mental health can be defined as an ongoing dedication to reality at all costs, then mental unhealth (or even some forms of mental illness) can be thought of as an ongoing attempt not to have face reality—including perhaps most of all not having face oneself and see oneself realistically, objectively. And mental unhealth or illness would mean being willing to deny reality and deny truth at seemingly any cost. When we are mentally unhealthy, we fight (tooth and nail) for our blind spots, we fight for the scales over our eyes, we fight for our distortions and warped lenses, we fight for the plank in our own eye. And the more mentally unhealthy or fragile we are, the more tenaciously and stubbornly we fight.

The proof of this? We show little to no hint of introspection and responsibility; we show little to no evidence that we are considering honestly that we may be wrong or that we may have things wrong.

The more mentally unhealthy we are, the less able we are to look at ourselves honestly and clearly and confront ourselves legitimately. As Schnarch put it—

Only the best in us talks about the worst in us, because the worst in us lies about itself and its own existence.”

When the worst in us even tries to talk about us (itself), it does so dishonestly, distortedly. It doesn’t really talk about principle, goodness, health, Love, objectivity, growing up—the things that what’s best in us tends to talk about and focus on—what’s worst in us talks about much less than this.

In fact, when we’re mentally out of shape and or unhealthy—when we’re meeting life and others from what’s much less than best in us—we show little to no willingness to really look at ourselves, see our own processes, consider the ways in which we may be distorting or warping things.  When we’re living from whart’s worst in us, it’s as if we do not exist: we’re right, we’re sure of ourselves, and there’s no evidence of any introspection or self-reflection or self-confrontation.  What’s worst in us simply refuses to do this.  It doesn’t want to look in the mirror, and it despises anyone who might be functioning as a true mirror; instead it craves validation, distortion, to be seen as it wants to be seen, to be seen on its own (warped) terms.

Thus the more mentally unhealthy and out of shape we are—the more we’re living from less than what’s best in us—the more we automatically put off facing our fears and facing ourselves honestly, as well as the more we naturally put off the costs of this postponing—we postpone this as well. Everything realistic and painful is postponed. When we have a free moment, we don’t read something truthful and deep, or write or meditate, or in some way try to strengthen and grow ourselves; rather we turn to comfort—TV, a meaningless book or magazine, busyness, trivia, escape and or numbing (discursiveness) of some sort.

But the more we become truly mentally healthy, the less of a “walk-away” or an avoidant approach to life and other people we have. Avoiding difficulty or challenges becomes our last option, not our first; avoidance does not lead to strength, facing difficulties squarely and honestly and legitimately does. The more truly dedicated to truth we become, the more we let everything become our teacher—including difficult people. We don’t fall back on weak-minded rationalizations (rational sounding lies) where we find it easy to avoid difficulty and avoid difficult other people.

We don’t rationalize our avoidance and try to spin it as strength. When we are mentally healthy and dedicated to truth, we see our avoidance for what it is most of the time—a weakness, not a strength; something crooked, not something straight. When we are mentally healthy and becoming mentally healthier, we have a qualm (with ourselves) when we walk away, bail out, avoid, tell ourselves a lie/rationalization. When we’re mentally unhealthy and out of shape (when we’re living life as an ego), then we have no qualms about being routinely so avoidant and so easily walling others out and suppressing opposing opinions.

And the more mentally healthy we are becoming, the less we seek to suppress and wall out contrary opinions and the less we live in a bell jar. Instead we put our map out there and we deal with criticism and divergent points of view fairly, honestly, legitimately. We don’t glibly run from them or seek to suppress them.

When we’re dedicated to truth we argue and disagree differently, we do relationships differently. It’s not about who’s right, but what’s right (or true). We are more open. When we are more sure of ourselves, we have a better foundation to stand on (truth; not lies and half-truths and distortions), and because of that we are more willing to face different opinions.

When we’re not sure of ourselves, when we are standing on a very shaky foundation of denial, distortion, half-truths and lies, we avoid contrary opinions.

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Immature Love, Intimacy, Intimate Relationships, Kierkegaard, Krishnamurti, M. Scott Peck, Real Love, Schnarch, Spiritual Growth, The Road Less Traveled, Truth, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Krishnamurti on Relationships & Self-Knowledge

  1. granbee says:

    No wonder we are in so much conflict in the world! We are afraid of what the type of relationships required for peace will show us about ourselves! We can only deal peacefully and lovingly with contrary opinions when we are confident about looking at ourselves in the mirror of those relationships!

    • John says:

      Exactly! If peace were easy, then everybody would be doing it; but peace is not easy, because what it requires is the ability to look honestly and deeply at ourselves. And this most of us lack. Which is why we tend to be so avoidant in our relationships and in general. We don’t like conflict and differences because we don’t know how to deal with them, we don’t know how to explore them and process them.

      So how do we process differences and conflicts and disagreements legitimately? By processing them *fairly*. Which means by also looking honestly and without distortions at ourselves (no easy feat!)—or at least being willing to. Whenever we’re in a disagreement or argument or difference of opinion, if we’re not willing to look at ourselves and examine (scrutinize) our own point of view and ideas with the same scrutiny we are showing the other person, then we’re part of the problem in the relationship and not part of the solution.

      Real peace—and not that glib bs facile escapist/avoidant brand of faux-peace—will only come about as more and more people, as more and more of us, are willing to look at and observe ourselves fairly, honestly, without distortion, without self-serving biases, without spin and softeners. As an honest search for truth and reality and accurate self-knowledge (the type of honesty that we would be confronted with if we were to watch ourselves on video or on an unedited reality TV show!) becomes more and more of a concern for us, then our relationships will change for the better and become healthier and we will be better able to resolve differences productively, peaceably, in a truly friendly way.

      Kindest regards, and thank you for reading and for your very perceptive comment!

      John

  2. Nataly says:

    This is a lot for me to digest today but it also FEELS like there is a lot of truth in it even though my head is arguing the points. Head and heart will have to digest separately and then find a way to link it and reconcile it against each other. Thank you. 🙂 xo.

    • John says:

      You are more than welcome, Nataly, and thank you for reading and for commenting! 🙂

      And by all means, argue away, wrestle with yourself, wrestle with what I’ve written and shared here; wrestling is good, very good. As Rilke wrote,

      “What we choose to fight is so tiny!
      What fights us is so great!
      If only we would let ourselves be dominated
      as things do by some immense storm,
      we would become strong too, and not need names.

      “When we win it’s with small things,
      and the triumph itself makes us small.
      What is extraordinary and eternal
      does not want to be bent by us.”

      (from the poem “The Man Watching”)

      Thesis — antithesis — synthesis. This is the way wrestling and real thinking goes, in my opinion. if something I’ve written (or Krishnamurti has written) sounds close to true, but needs a little (or a lot of) amending, in your opinion, then I hope you’ll do so and rewrite it so that it sounds even truer.

      I hope you’ll write your arguings and even share some of them here or on your blog.

      Warmest regards as always, Nataly, and best wishes in your digesting and reconciling!

      John

  3. Pingback: The Heart of Love: Who to Exclude & Why | What Is Real True Love?

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