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A Question of Heart

A Q&A with Krishnamurti

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J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986), one of the great spiritual teachers of the twentieth century, conducted lengthy dialogues with  curious Buddhists in the 1970s. Participants included renowned Sri Lankan scholar and monk Walpola Rahula and physicist David Bohm. The following is an excerpt from Can Humanity Change? an edited record of the conversations, which took place in London.

Why in spite of [your teaching] for forty years has not a single human being become different? The gentleman asks why it is that though I have talked for forty years more or less of the same thing in different words and expressing it differently, there has not been one human being who is different. Why? Will you answer it, sir? Either what is being said is false and therefore has no position in the world; it is false and has no validity, and therefore you do not pay attention; your own reason, your own intelligence, your own affection, your own good sense says, “What rubbish you are talking!”; or, you hear what is being said, but it means nothing to you, because the other is much more important.

Why should truth be so impotent? Because truth has no action. Truth is weak. Truth is not utilitarian, truth cannot be organized. It is like the wind: You cannot catch it, you cannot take hold of it in your fist and say, “I have caught it.” Therefore it is tremendously vulnerable, impotent like the blade of grass on the roadside—you can kill it, you can destroy it. But we want it as a thing to be used for a better structure of society. And I am afraid you cannot use it, you cannot—it is like love, love is never potent. It is there for you, take it or leave it.

So, sirs, the problem is not that we have spoken for forty years. But the problem is: How is a human being, who has listened for forty years with a dry heart, without a tear in his eyes, who sees all this and does not do a thing, whose heart is broken up, whose heart is empty, whose mind is full of words and theories, and full of himself—how is he to make his heart love again? That is the real question.

From Can Humanity Change? J. Krishna-murti in Dialogue with Buddhists, edited by David Skitt, © 2003 by Krishnamurti Foundation Trust. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston,


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runsfree48's picture

(Bowing). Yes ... well, Truth is a philosophical and spiritual issue that drifts like a mist over the mountains of reality in an early morning breeze. Yet ... perhaps we can let go of the illusion of "Peace on Earth; Good Will to All Men", and focus on what we, as sentient beings, can do that is within our reach. Perhaps we can focus on "Peace in this Room; Good Will to All who are here now". Then we can directly interact with those here with us now. If someone else in the next room will take responsibility for Peace in this Room ... and so on, from room to room in the now of now; perhaps we humans might gain a tiny foothold on the larger process of "Peace on Earth". We cannot clean up the mess in Aisle 9 if we are in Aisle 3. Just a thought ...

fherman894's picture

Hearts do change. The Collective changes one heart at a time. We practice. Hearts open and ache. We respond to that ache, even though we don't understand why we ache. Something is moving, changing us-amazing! Fred

jillstagner's picture

Good Morning! I see that I joined this discussion last year at about this time. Well, I don't see alot of change in the human family. And it seems that some of us want to change and others don't care. I guess the best I can do is to be true to myself and hope that Good prevails! And pray, and I still believe in Unconditional Love. JILL.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Change happens, albeit on the level of one human being to another (too small to be seen from outer space). Change also occurs gradually, sometimes taking longer than 365 days. Some of us here can recall public nuclear attack shelters in the basements of major department stores prior to the end of the Cold War.

jillstagner's picture

Thanks Dominic. Mmmm. I don't know what to say. I'm not sure what will happen to others, but I sure will try to change myself.....for the better and that is all I can do for now! Jill. What did the Buddha say? Morality/Meditation/Wisdom. Sounds good to me!

trishaenglish's picture

If only people would make an effort to be "a light unto themselves"
which is all Krishnamurti wanted. His aim was to set human
beings "unconditionally free". But most people are satisfied to be
"secondhand human beings". They are interested in the Buddha's
teachings - or anyone else's teachings- just so long as they don't
have to think for themselves. It is easier to quote a pop-song than
to enquire and discover how to uncondition ourselves.

Everyone loves to quote the Buddha - but I haven't meet anyone yet,
who wants to be a Buddha and is prepared to do the work. And the
work is not the mechanical "practice" that everyone rants about. It
is much deeper than that. It literally involves self-knowing... and our
world simply isn't interested in that kind of enquiry. And it shows!

Dominic Gomez's picture

The work involved in practicing Buddhism can be daunting but do-able. It's called human revolution and begins with one's heart.

jillstagner's picture

Thank you! Yes, Love is the answer and that is all there really is. "Crystal blue persuasion", a song I used to know. (And also I really may be telling truth.) JILL.

Patricia.I's picture

Jill, that is just plain jaded. :)

I can get pretty discouraged myself. Krishnamurti sums up the problem:
How is a human being, who has listened for forty years with a dry heart, without a tear in his eyes, who sees all this and does not do a thing, whose heart is broken up, whose heart is empty, whose mind is full of words and theories, and full of himself—how is he to make his heart love again? That is the real question.

And the answer?
How about a little crystal blue persuasion?

Look over yonder what do you see
The sun is a-risin' most definitely
A new day is comin' people are changin'
Ain't it beautiful crystal blue persuasion

Better get ready gonna see the light
Love, love is the answer and that's all right
So don't you give up now so easy to find
Just look to your soul and open your mind

Crystal blue persuasion, mm-hmm
It's a new vibration
Crystal blue persuasion, crystal
Blue persuasion

Maybe tomorrow when He looks down
Every green field and every town
All of his children every nation
There'll be peace and good brotherhood
Crystal blue persuasion

jillstagner's picture

Thank you all for your input. This is what I think and it is not so nice. I believe humans are endowed with a gene which makes us antisocial in many ways. To combat this we need to mutate into something better! We can strive and we can do good things, but there always seems to be this element of something like the "original sin". I don't like it, but it seems to be the truth and this I have listened to. And Buddhist teachings have helped me cope with the pain and suffering. I do not know what else there is. JILL.

jackelope65's picture

The study of Epigenetics demonstrates that genes can be turned either on or off by the milieu they are in, being affected by diet, activity, and thought patterns. No baloney, we can change our future and educate others how to change theirs.

rohiller's picture

Genes control nothing. A mutation is not needed. The societal conditioning that leads to ideas like origin sin IS the problem. The Western religious traditions do not serve us (humanity) well though there be many good ideas embedded in them. The problem is that it is not easy for the average person to separate the wheat from the chaff.

On the genetic point, you might want to have a look into the work of Bruce Lipton, author of "Biology of Belief". Here is a link to a very good summary:

At least that is how I am seeing it...

Sareen's picture

‎"In the face of all the challenges we face today, is my optimism about the future of humanity idealistic? Perhaps it is. Is it unrealistic? Certainly not. To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up."- His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Optimism can make us blind to reality, but without it we may become indifferent. When I have recognized that I was avoiding something by putting on my rose colored glasses, there has always been a quality of perseverance available to dust myself off and get up and get going. I think this is part of the solution for loving again; seeing clearly where we had been caught in a pattern that kept us from being present with reality, not giving up, knowing that we have deepened our capacity for presence by letting go of another layer of conditioned patterning.

This phase may include remorse, a determination not to make the same mistakes and forgiveness for self and other. Sometimes this is purely internal work and sometimes it is appropriate to communicate this with others. Our hearts may have the opportunity for a deeper opening if we become vulnerable to communicating directly with others about harm which has occurred.

This is apparently a valuable step in healing from trauma where it has occurred, as in "Truth and Reconciliation" processes that have occurred in societies where atrocities have taken place, or between individuals where there has been an abuse of power(parents and children, teachers and students, doctors and patients, criminal and victim, etc.) There may also be situations where power has been roughly equal and two people have harmed each other, and there is an option for direct communication to assist in healing. Very often people act in harmful ways without any intent to harm, and yet harm occurs. Seeing clearly is especially important here, because the harm occurred through a lack of awareness of our conditioned patterns. To see more clearly, hearing directly from the other person has the possibility of opening us up further to our capacity for wisdom and love. This can take a great deal of courage..we will have to let go of any need to see ourselves as special.

robertomainetti's picture

krishnamurti thoughts reach me when i was 19 and they give me something that change my life...thank you for this article

jillstagner's picture

Beautifully stated. Doesn't anyone listen anymore to anything? Can someone lighten my spirit and tell me something good?????

rrg144's picture

But if we're really listening, we don't have to be told anything.

Patricia.I's picture


gribneal's picture

I live in a very conservative region of my state and am accustomed to reading letters to the editor condemning us all to hell, and that can be quite disconcerting. However, on the other side, the schools in this area are adopting "Rachel's Challenge" to try to alleviate the bullying in schools and teen suicides. To see these children with tears in their eyes as they take the challenge is heartening. The children are listening. Does that help?