-If I may add, he said, I would like to ask a question to set the ball rolling. It is not an idle question, and it has somewhat disturbed me since hearing you a few evenings ago. Among other things you said that competition and ambition were destructive urges which man must understand and so be free of, if he is to live in a peaceful society. But are not struggle and conflict part of the very nature of existence?
Society as at present constituted is based on ambition and conflict, and almost everyone accepts this fact as inevitable. The individual is conditioned to its inevitability; through education, through various forms of outward and inward compulsion, he is made to be competitive. If he is to fit into this society at all, he must accept the conditions it lays down, otherwise he has a pretty bad time. We seem to think that we have to fit into this society; but why should one?
-If we don't, we will just go under. I wonder if that would happen if we saw the whole significance of the problem? We might not live according to the usual pattern, but we would live creatively and happily, with a wholly different outlook.
Such a state cannot be brought about if we accept the present social pattern as inevitable.
But to get back to your point: do ambition, competition and conflict constitute a predestined and inevitable way of life? You evidently assume that they do. Now let us begin from there. Why do you take this competitive way of life to be the only process of existence?
-I am competitive, ambitious, like all those around me. It is a fact which often gives me pleasure, and sometimes pain, but I just accept it without struggle, because I don't know any other way of living; and even if I did, I suppose I would be afraid to try it.I have many responsibilities, and I would be gravely concerned about the future of my children if I broke away from the usual thoughts and habits of life.
You may be responsible for others, sir, but have you not also the responsibility to bring about
a peaceful world? There can be no peace, no enduring happiness for man as long as we
- the individual, the group and the nation - accept this competitive existence as inevitable.
Competitiveness, ambition, implies conflict within and without, does it not? An ambitious man is not a peaceful man, though he may talk of peace and brotherhood. The politician can never bring peace to the world, nor can those who belong to any organized belief, for they all have been conditioned to a world of leaders, saviours, guides and examples; and when you follow another you are seeking the fulfilment of your own ambition, whether in this world or in the world of ideation, the so-called spiritual world. Competitiveness, ambition implies conflict, does it not?
-I see that, but what is one to do? Being caught in this net of competition, how is one to get out of it? And even if one does get out of it, what assurance is there that there will be peace between man and man? Unless all of us see the truth of the matter at the same time, the perception of that truth by one or two will have no value whatever.
You want to know how to get out of this net of conflict, fulfilment, frustration. The very question implies that you want to be assured that your endeavour will not be in vain. You still want to succeed, only at a different level. You do not see that all ambition, all desire for success in any direction, creates conflict both within and without. The ''how'' is the way of ''how'' is the ladder to further success. But we are not now thinking in terms of success or failure, rather in terms of the elimination of conflict; and does it follow that without conflict, stagnation is inevitable? Surely, peace comes into being, not through safeguards, sanctions and guarantees, but it is there when you are not - you who are the agent of conflict with your ambitions and frustrations. Your other point, sir, that all must see the truth of this problem at the same time, is an obvious impossibility. But it is possible for you to see it; and when you do, that truth which you have seen and which brings freedom, will affect others. It must begin with you, for you are the world, as the other is. Ambition breeds mediocrity of mind and heart; ambition is superficial, for it is everlastingly seeking a result. The man who wants to be a saint, or a successful politician, or a big executive, is concerned with personal achievement. Whether identified with an idea, a nation, or a system, religious or economic, the urge to be successful strengthens the ego, the self, whose very structure is brittle, superficial and limited. All this is fairly obvious if one looks into it, is it not?
-It may be obvious to you, sir, but to most of us conflict gives a sense of existence, the feeling that we are alive. Without ambition and competition, our lives would be drab and useless.Ã¢
Since you are maintaining this competitive way of life, your children and your childrens children will bread further antagonism, envy and war; neither you nor they will have peace. Having been conditioned to this traditional pattern of existence, you are in turn educating your children to accept it; so the world goes on in this sorrowful way.
-We want to change, but... He was aware of his own futility and stopped talking.
From ''commentaries on living serie 2'' by Jiddu Krishnamurti