Indian-born philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti claimed allegiance to no nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy, stressing that only change in the individual can bring about change in society. Groomed by the Theosophical Society to be a “world teacher,” he became an iconoclastic figure when, in 1929, at the age of thirty-four, he denounced the concept of spiritual leaders and publicly dissolved the Order of the Star, which had been established to support his work. For the rest of his life, he traveled the world giving public talks — often delivered with an intense, sometimes disputatious manner — on the workings of the human mind and the psychological structures that breed violence and sorrow. In 1984 Krishnamurti was awarded the United Nations Peace Medal and addressed the UN General Assembly on the subject of peace and awareness. He died in Ojai, California, in 1986, at the age of ninety. The following is excerpted from The First and Last Freedom, by Jiddu Krishnamurti. Copyright © 1954 by Krishnamurti Writings, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with HarperOne, an imprint of Harper-Collins Publishers.

 

War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday life, is it not? War is merely an outward expression of our inward state, an enlargement of our daily action. It is more spectacular, more bloody, more destructive, but it is the collective result of our individual activities. . . .

Obviously what causes war is the desire for power, position, prestige, money; also the disease called nationalism, the worship of a flag; and the disease of organized religion, the worship of a dogma. All these are the causes of war. If you as an individual belong to any of the organized religions, if you are greedy for power, if you are envious, you are bound to produce a society which will result in destruction. So it depends upon you and not on the leaders — not on so-called statesmen and all the rest of them. It depends upon you and me, but we do not seem to realize that. If once we really felt the responsibility of our own actions, how quickly we could bring to an end all these wars, this appalling misery! But, you see, we are indifferent. We have three meals a day, we have our jobs, we have our bank accounts, big or little, and we say, “For God’s sake, don’t disturb us. Leave us alone.” The higher up we are, the more we want security, permanency, tranquillity, the more we want to be left alone. . . . We do not want to face the fact that you and I are responsible for wars. You and I may talk about peace, have conferences, sit around a table and discuss, but inwardly, psychologically, we want power, position; we are motivated by greed. We are nationalistic; we are bound by beliefs, by dogmas, for which we are willing to die and destroy each other. Do you think such men, you and I, can have peace in the world? . . .

To put an end to outward war, you must begin to put an end to war in yourself. Some of you will nod your heads and say, “I agree,” and go outside and do exactly the same as you have been doing for the last ten or twenty years. Your agreement is merely verbal and has no significance, for the world’s miseries and wars are not going to be stopped by your casual assent. They will be stopped only when you realize the danger, when you realize your responsibility, when you do not leave it to somebody else. If you realize the suffering, if you see the urgency of immediate action and do not postpone, then you will transform yourself; peace will come only when you yourself are peaceful, when you yourself are at peace with your neighbor.