Jiddu Krishnamurti 

Quotes on Virtue

Virtue is really the ordering of the mind; and our problem is how to bring about virtue without the cultivation of virtue, is it not? If I cultivate virtue, it ceases to be virtue; and yet without virtue there is no order. Virtue is really a disciplining of the mind without an end in view; it is like putting a room in order. Virtue is not an end in itself; it merely makes the mind clear, free, uncontaminated by society.

So the problem is, is it not, how can one’s mind, one’s whole being, be virtuous immediately, and not go through the process of becoming virtuous? Because the struggle to become virtuous only strengthens narrowness, the self-centred activity of the mind. I think that is fairly clear: that when I try to become virtuous, I am really emphasizing the activity of my own egotism, and therefore it is no longer virtue.

Virtue frees the mind, and the mind is not free as long as there is no virtue. But the so-called virtue on which most of us base our behaviour merely on social convenience; and society, being rooted in acquisitiveness, in competition, egotism, envy, cannot possibly understand the virtue of being and not becoming.

If we do not understand what it is to be virtuous, the mind will never be free to inquire, to find out what reality is. Virtue is essential as conduct, as behaviour; but behaviour which is based on compulsion, on conformity, fear, is no longer the action of a virtuous mind. So we must find out what it is to be virtuous, without the cultivation of virtue. I think the two things lead in entirely different directions. A man who cultivates virtue is all the time thinking about himself; he is everlastingly concerned about his own progress, his personal improvement, which is still the activity of ‘me’, the self, the ego; and this activity obviously has nothing whatever to do with virtue, which is a state of being and not becoming.

Now, how can a mind whose whole social and moral conditioning has been to cultivate virtue by using time as a means of becoming virtuous – how can such a mind free itself of that sense of becoming, and be in a state of virtue? I do not know if you have ever thought of the problem in this way. To understand it, I think we have to find out what it means to discipline the mind.

Most of us use discipline to achieve a result. Being angry, I say I must not be angry, so I discipline myself, control, suppress, dominate my anger, which means that I conform to an ideological pattern. That is what we are used to: a constant struggle to adjust what we are to what we think we should be. In order to become what we should be, we go through certain practices, we discipline ourselves day after day, month after month, year in and year out, hoping to arrive at a stage which we think is right. So in discipline there is involved, not only suppression, but also conformity, narrowing the mind down to a particular pattern. Please understand, sirs, that I am not condemning discipline. We are examining the whole process involved in conduct that is based on discipline.

Reality, truth, is not to be recognized. For truth to come, belief, knowledge, experiencing, virtue, pursuit of virtue – which is different from being virtuous – all this must go. The virtuous person who is conscious of pursuing virtue, can never find reality. He may be a very decent person; that is entirely different from the man of truth, from the man who understands. To the man of truth, truth has come into being. A virtuous man is a righteous man, and a righteous man can never understand what is truth; because virtue to him is the covering of the self, the strengthening of the self; because he is pursuing virtue. When he says ‘I must be without greed’, the state in which he is non-greedy and which he experiences, strengthens the self. That is why it is so important to be poor, not only in the things of the world, but also in belief and in knowledge. A rich man with worldly riches, or a man rich in knowledge and belief, will never know anything but darkness, and will be the centre of all mischief and misery. But if you and I, as individuals, can see this whole working of the self, then we shall know what love is. I assure you that is the only reformation which can possibly change the world. Love is not the self. Self cannot recognize love. You say ‘I love’, but then, in the very saying of it, in the very experiencing of it, love is not. But, when you know love, self is not. When there is love, self is not.

So why call yourselves by different names and separate yourselves? Whereas, if we really altered the environment to which we have become such slaves, then we should be really Gods in ourselves, not follow anybody. Personally, I do not belong to any sect, large or small.

I will put it this way. An ordinary individual now, as he is, is nothing else but the focal point of the environment, of society, of religion, of moral edicts and economic conditions - as the ordinary individual, he is that.

Because what we call individuals are nothing else but the result of false environment. This focal point of the present state of individuality is really false, isn't it?

I call that a true moral act when we perceive a thing completely and act, and not when forced by circumstances, or there is brought about a brotherhood forced by the sheer brutal necessity of life. That is, when business people, the capitalist, the financiers, begin to see that this distinction does not pay, that they cannot make more money, they cannot be in the same position, then they will bring about environment forcing the individual to become brotherly; as now you are forced by environment to be unbrotherly, to exploit, so you will also be forced to co-operate. Surely that is not brotherhood: that is merely an action brought about by convenience, without human intelligence and understanding.