Krishnamurti quote

I discovered Krishnamurti when I was 14 years old and away from home for the first time, at theater camp.  The older I get, the more radical, amazing, and wise his philosophy and belief seems to me. I find this quote to be very provocative, as someone who sometimes finds comfort in identity labels:

When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent.  Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion,  to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.

(J.Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known)

Please forgive Krishnamurti for the gendered language – it is likely as much a problem with translation as it is of anything else.  But what about the meaning of this quote? What do you think?

For myself, I know I love Judaism and identify as Jewish. But I also seek a Judaism which sees the universal connections with other people, other religions.  Is this possible in other religions? I can’t help but identify as American, if for no other reason than I want a passport to travel internationally.  And there are times when I actively identify as queer, as not straight, or as a woman – and this is probably the time when I am “being violent” in the way Krishnamurti talks about here.  Because those are the times when  I actively want to push aside whole parts of the world, usually because I feel pushed aside myself.


~ by realsupergirl on June 19, 2008.

6 Responses to “Krishnamurti quote”

  1. This is a very thought-provoking quote. Thanks for sharing it here. However, my need for belonging is dissatisfied with his statement. Is it possible to label myself as queer, be a part of the queer community (or any other group), without setting myself apart from everyone else? Is it so absolute?

  2. Well, that is the question, isn’t it? ‘Cause I too have a need for belonging, often on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, as opposed to more useful things like common values, beliefs, and interests. But Krishnamurti is right, really – it is this very urge – to retreat to our ethnic, national, religious, etc communities that is at the heart of all the violence in the world.

  3. While it is an interesting and compelling concept, I think Kaphine touches on its glaring weakness: identifying or labeling oneself does not have to be an exclusionary process. Once can be both an “American” as well as an “Oregonian” as well as a “citizen of the world”. As long as the self-identification is not exclusive, I do not see the risk of inherent violence referred to by Krishnamurti.

    How we view and, more importantly, *use* these self-identified labels is more important. If one uses them as a pretense to reinforce an existing preconception or stereotype in a divisive manner, then I think Krishnamurti’s point is very salient. However, if one views these labels as a way to mentally include oneself in the groups or communities around us, that seems to me to be a positive and anti-violent process.

    Exclusivity vs. inclusivity. Exclusive = violent. Inclusive = peaceful.

  4. GrigorPDX, a very thoughtful response, and I agree. The answer is, as it always is, the middle ground and balance.

    On a slightly unrelated note, I once wrote a fan email to the folk singer Brenda Kahn, and for some unfathomable reason I decided to ask her for advice about something that was going on in my life. She wrote back, but like a month later, and by the time she wrote me I had forgotten what I asked. Her response was to “stay on the middle path” – which I realized, is pretty good advice no matter what the question is.

  5. I find this discussion very interesting. Especially Grigor’s response. In fact, I am writing a paper on Krishnamurti, and that is how I found this page.

    I wonder about the purpose distinguishing ourselves. I am multi ethnic. That is how I am described. But what purpose does that serve? Does that somehow oblige privilege? Does it provide context to my history? Is my existence somehow defined by a movement, judgment, or circumstance? Not,quite. I am the sum of all of my actions and lack of actions. The only reason I would create any distinction among others is to separate myself from others. The reality is, that I am whatever people believe I am. This was very difficult for me to acknowledge, until I simply let go of the value I placed on the judgments of others.

    We are all just sneeches. Some of us have stars, while others don’t. The conflict comes when we look for our differences to establish rank, and entitlement. And that seems to only exist when we establish who, and what we are…. Just a thought.

  6. 2pac,
    Love the Dr. Seuss reference!

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