Lecture, May 24, 2003, International Theosophical Centre, Besant Hall, Naarden, The Netherlands

Can there be Relationship without Conflict?

P. Krishna

Good morning friends,

Yesterday we said that the disorder that we see in society is a projection of the disorder that is there in our own consciousness. So the violence and the conflict, which we see in society around us is a projection of the violence and the conflict in my relationships. So I can understand the deeper causes of that by looking at it in my own life,within my own consciousness.What goes on out there is not very different from what goes on within me except in the scale of manifestation.So I want to discuss this morning whether it is possible to have relationship without conflict. It is not important to find the answer to this question through reading books because that will only form an opinion about whether it is possible, or it is not possible and we saw yesterday that an opinion is not the truth,it is only an idea.So, it is important to explore that question with an open mind in our own daily life and that is what I want to do this morning is this session.

I ask myself how conflict arises in my relationships and I also ask myself what I mean by relationship. I have a relationship with those flowers out there because when I look at them there is a response from within my consciousness. I have a relationship with the sky, with the mountains, with nature. Similarly I have a relationship with people. I have a relationship with books and ideas, because when I relate with them it creates a response from my consciousness. So I am using that word relationship in that sense.When we use the word relationship in that sense, then we can say that life is relationship. From the day we are born till the day we die we are in relationship with everything around us.Let me begin by inquiring if there is conflict in our relationship with nature? One finds that there is very little conflict in our relationship with nature.

It is much easier to relate with your garden or with your pet than it is to relate with your neighbour, because there is no ego in nature. But occasionally, when I want to do something, go for a picnic and the weather turns bad and it rains and I cannot go, then I do not like it. I do not like nature to interfere with my plans. And if I fall ill and I cannot go to work, then also I feel some sense of conflict. But it is relatively easy to accept this conflict, because we accept natural happenings as something not inimical to us.

Next,is there conflict in my relationship with things and with ideas? If I get attached to things, I find that I have the fear of losing them, so that fear produces conflict. And similarly, if I get attached to some ideas,a particular viewpoint, then I dislike people who have other ideas, I dislike books which mention other ideas and that produces conflict.I find it very agreeable to be in a community, which agrees with me, rather than with people who are disagreeable. So that creates a certain amount of conflict in relationship. And if I want to do something in life and somebody else comes and obstructs that, then I have conflict, and I feel violent because I want to remove him as he is coming in the way of my purpose.So I see how conflict arises in all my relationships. And I ask myself, how can there be relationship without conflict?

When one finds a situation like that where something seems impossible, then we must always ask ourselves if we are approaching that question wrongly. Am I approaching life wrongly? Am I approaching everything in life with a begging bowl, asking something for myself? You know, the beggar is very honest. He says, I need money. He puts his hat in front of him and he says, if you can spare money, please give me. And I ask myself, am I also like that beggar, carrying several invisible bowls with me and asking for something to be put in those bowls? There is one bowl, which says, give me pleasure. There is another, which says, give me appreciation. A third one says, give me money, a fourth one, which says, give me consolation. And whenever somebody puts something in that bowl, then I say,a friend. And when somebody takes something out of that bowl then I call him enemy. So I see that so long as I am approaching life with all these bowls, I am myself going to create friends as supporters and enemies as opponents. And that is how the enmity takes place between two groups, because such an attitude divides people into friends and enemies.

So as long as I approach life in this way, conflict is inevitable. I may control the manifestation of this conflict, I may see to it that it does not result in physical violence and war, I may control it, but it begins with this feeling of like and dislike which I live with.So if I really want to investigate whether there is a life in which there is no conflict, I must find out if it is possible not to live with a single bowl; not to approach anything with the intention of asking something for myself, which is freedom from desire.Do we know that state, even partially? In other words, I am asking, do I approach another human being always because I need something, I want something from him, or is there true friendship in my relationship with other people? A true friend does not come to us because he wants something. He just wants to share the joys and sorrows of life. In just sharing my life with another, there is no begging bowl. But if my relationship is based on mutual gratification, then it is not a relationship of friendship or of love.

So I ask myself, is it possible to approach everything like that? Can we relate with nature like that, respecting a tree and valuing our relationship with the tree, irrespective of whether it gives us fruits or not? Can we relate with rivers and mountains like that, without looking upon them as sources of electricity or material profit? When I go into nature, do I go like a friend, or do I go asking something for myself? And I find that sometimes I go like a friend and sometimes, when I am tense, I go there in order to relax.

In the same way, in our relationships, sometimes it is purely for sharing, but sometimes we cultivate that relationship to seek fulfilment for ourselves.

And the same is true of our work, that sometimes I do something just for the joy of doing it and at other times I do it as a means to achieve something, to get something for myself. And when I do it just for the joy of it, I call it a hobby. And when I do it in order to get money, in order to get power and position and status and reputation, then I call it ambition. That is usually associated with our work.

We give tremendous importance to our work, and we regard hobbies as incidental, to be done in our spare time. We need to ask ourselves seriously, why cannot all work also be like a hobby, so that work is not separated from joy? At present we have set up society in such a way that we have separated work and joy. Most people work for five days a week in order to get their salary and then with that they enjoy themselves on the weekend. So the work in itself is not a joy; the joy is separated from the work. And we have accepted that as normal, natural in life, just as we have accepted the fact that I need to fulfil my desires through my relationships. We have a fear of being lonely, and to cope with that fear, we use relationships to cover up that loneliness. And we have a fear of the future, and therefore we collect property, we collect things and we are attached to them, in order to be secure in future.And we have a fear of being nobody, because we feel then nobody will look after us, nobody will care for us.That makes me aspire for position, for status, for power, so that I am somebody and people cannot ignore me.

That is the conditioning in which our mind is trapped. And so long as this goes on, conflict is inevitable. So I have to find out if it is possible not to relate out of fear.There is a very beautiful passage in ‘The Prophet', written by Kahlil Gilbran in the chapter on friendship. He says, ‘Let there be no purpose in friendship, save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks ought but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love, but a net that is cast forth and only the unprofitable is caught'! The Prophet is saying that you may think that what you catch in this net is profitable for you but that is an illusion. What you catch is not profitable. Because so long as I am approaching life in that way, I won't know what love is.Love is destroyed by the ego process. The ego process is the process of always seeking something for one's own benefit or profit. It exists because we think that it is profitable to live with the ego. But the Prophet is saying that it is not profitable for us to live that way.

So I have to discover if there is an energy, which is not egotistic, or am I always energised only by desire, by some profit,some gain, something I receive in return for it? So long as that motive is there, it is not a relationship of love. If you can answer the question why you love your wife, then you don't love her. But if you are really at a loss to answer that question and you say, I don't know why I love my wife, I just love her, then perhaps it is love. But if you say, I love her because she is beautiful, because she cooks good food, because she looks after my children, because she is always available for me when I am tired and sick, then you use her for your comfort.Not that there should not be give and take in relationships. I am not saying that. In all relationship naturally there is give and take. The question is whether the relationship is based on that. When it is based on that, then it is like a business relationship, a contract. And a relationship of love is not a contract.

So I want to watch myself in my approach to everything in life. If I am approaching everything egotistically, then conflict is inevitable. And that includes my relationship with myself, because as we said the other day, I am also the result of the past. A million years of biological past, which brings in the instincts inside me; thousands of years of cultural past, which brings in the cultural ideas within me. The psychological memories of experiences since childhood, which are also stored in my memory --- all that exists within the brain, in the memory. That is what I call the me. And I cannot wish it away. It is something that exists.So I must ask myself, what is my relationship with this thing sitting in my brain called the memory? I cannot change it, because it is the result of the past. Just as I cannot change my hand, in the same way I cannot change the memory in my brain.And my brain throws up a response from there. The question is : Am I a slave to that response? Do I have to identify with it, or can I watch it and be free of it?

Also I must ask if there is conflict in my relationship with myself? When I look at that, I find yes, there are some things I don't like about myself. I wish they were not there, and therefore I have a conflict between what I am and what I wish to be. So I must also ask, can I approach this entity, which I call the me, also like a friend? Not judging it, not suppressing it, not fighting it, not saying it should be this way, it should not be this way? Because otherwise, conflict is inevitable.

So the only way to eliminate conflict, both inwardly and outwardly, is to approach everything like a true friend. All those things have also come into existence in nature, the same way as I came into existence. They exist, they have a lifetime, and they come to an end.

Not only the living things like plants and animals and human beings, but also the non-living things like mountains and stars. They may have a longer life but they come into existence, they have a life and they die.

So is it that the mind makes this mistake of imagining that all the other things are there in order to fulfil me in some way? And therefore I don't look upon them simply as friends, as colleagues, as other fellow existing things, with whom I share this life? Maybe that is the illusion in the mind. From where does the importance I give to this particular brain arise? Is it not just one of the brains of humanity?

If somebody gave us a computer as a gift, which was programmed to do accounts or something like that, we would use it when we wanted to do accounts and we would shut it down when we don't need it. And this brain is also a very complex computer and we received it as a gift at birth and it has been programmed. Partly programmed before my birth by the genetics and partly programmed by the experiences I have had since birth till now. Why do I become a slave to this computer? Why can't I treat it like that computer out there, this is also gifted to me at birth? If I could then, though it has a programme and it has a conditioning, I am free of it. But if I identify with this computer, I call that the me, then its desires, its objections, its likes and dislikes become my likes and dislikes, become my desires, and it becomes my purpose in life to fulfil them. Then, from there comes division, from there comes conflict.

So I have to understand my relationship with desire, because if I don't understand my relationship with desire, then I approach life as if everything exists for fulfilling my desires. And that is the essence of the egotistic approach. So I ask myself, what is my relationship with the desire that arises in my mind ? And I find that there are two categories of desires: those, which I call wishes, which don't produce any conflict, like: I wish to go and participate in a certain seminar; I wish to meet my friend; I wish to go for a walk; I wish to have some food. If that is not fulfilled, it does not create conflict. But when I insist on its fulfilment, and I say, it must be fulfilled, it becomes the mission of my life and I become like an addict. I get addicted to the fulfilment of my desire.We object to an addiction to alcohol and to drugs, but we don't object to all addictions. We all have the problem of addiction, because addiction is not only addiction to drugs and to alcohol. All addiction makes us dependent, so I must find out if it is possible to have no addiction whatsoever. That means no compulsive needs. Nothing that is essential, that must be there, without which I am miserable, I am not happy.

So I have to find out: is there happiness, which is not dependent on circumstances? Because much of our effort is towards changing circumstances so that we will be happy and we need to ask ourselves: does happiness really lie in the future? Or, will I not be happy in the future for the same reason I am not happy now, because today is the future of the last ten years !So if I say, happiness lies in the future, then that future will become the present and then there will be another future in which it will lie. So maybe it is an illusion to think that in the course of time I will become happy. I must find out if it is possible to be happy now, which means: why am I dissatisfied with the circumstances, with what I have and I don't have, now? Because if I am dissatisfied with what I have and I don't have now, then I will be dissatisfied with what I have and I don't have, ten years hence. And there will always be a situation in which there are some things I have, and some things I don't have.So, psychologically, we are all in the same state, whether we are rich or we are poor and happiness does not depend on how many things we have but how we view the things we don't have. That man is rich, who doesn't want anything anymore, and that man is poor, who is still seeking something more. And so long as I am seeking something for myself and I am approaching life in that way, conflict is inevitable. But wishes don't create conflict. It is when the ego gets attached to it, that they turn into desires, into addictions, and addictions produce conflict.

So this is a very existential enquiry, in which I have to find out if it is possible to live without a single desire. Only then can there be a life free from conflict.

Question: Can you tell us what is the key to living without desire? I can't plan not to have any wishes. If I wish I didn't have any wishes, that is another wish and it becomes a vicious circle.

PK : You can't decide to live without desire! Our decisions are very superficial things; they work in only a very superficial part of our life. I can decide which house to buy, which car to drive, which job to take, but I can't decide that from tomorrow, I will not worry. I can't decide to see beauty. I can't decide to love my neighbour. I can't even decide to be friends with somebody. So the greatest things in life are those you can't decide about. And yet those are possible in life. When you want them directly, it becomes desire. But if you understand this, that there is something, which I can't want directly because that becomes desire and desire creates conflict, then you want to learn about life. You look upon yourself as a phenomenon that needs to be understood. Like you see the planets revolving and you want to understand them --- you can't change them! If you can look at yourself that way, without criticising, without judging, without condemning, without wanting to change it, just watch it in order to understand it. If you want to understand a young child, you ought to watch that child, what he likes, how he sleeps, what are the difficulties he has; then I begin to understand the child. Can you relate with yourself like you relate with your child? Sometimes you give in to your child, sometimes you deny him; you say, no, you can't have this. Can you say that to yourself? Then you don't identify with your brain but you are also not fighting it. And from this watching and this learning comes wisdom, and from the wisdom comes change. But when we want the change without the wisdom, you are in a hurry, and that complicates life even more.

Our concern is only with understanding, with finding the truth, with coming upon wisdom. Leave change to take its own course.In other words, this enquiry itself must be done for the love of it and it must not be an ego- process. If this enquiry is done with a motive to achieve a result, it becomes desire; it becomes another ego process. And through an ego process, you cannot come to an ending of the ego. That is like saying: through violence, you cannot achieve peace -- real peace, not a temporary interlude between two wars!


Lecture IV - Is the Self an illusion?