Krishnamurti on Compassion

I thought it would be worthwhile to have a small, selective archive of Krishnamurti’s statements on the nature of compassion, seeing as this is a subtle topic that Krishnamurti approaches in sometimes familiar but often unexpected ways. (The passages are numbered in case anybody wishes to refer to them during a discussion on this or other threads)

To have compassion means to have passion for all things, not just between two people, but for all human beings, for all things of the earth, the animals, the trees, everything the earth contains. When we have such compassion we will not despoil the earth as we are doing now, and we will have no wars. (Saanen, 1974; from Total Freedom)

Love implies generosity, care, not to hurt another, not to make another feel guilty, to be generous, courteous, and behave in such a manner that your words and thoughts are born out of compassion. Of course you cannot be compassionate if you belong to organised religious institutions—large, powerful, traditional, dogmatic, that insist on faith. There must be freedom to love. (Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal)

There cannot be compassion if the activities of thought are anchored in any one particular ideology or faith, or attached to a symbol or to a person. There must be freedom to be compassionate. (Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal)

One needs a total harmony, that is, a harmony of the mind, the intellect, the capacity to reason logically, sanely; and of the heart, the capacity to have compassion, love, kindliness, consideration; and of the physical, with all its complexities.(Facing a World in Crisis: What Life Teaches Us in Challenging Times)

If you totally attend, with your ears, your eyes, your body, your nerves, with all your mind and your heart in the sense of affection, love, compassion, with that total attention, what takes place? (Can Humanity Change?: J. Krishnamurti in Dialogue with Buddhists)

Watching, in which there is attention, awareness, and a great sense of compassion, has its own intelligence. (Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal)

You cannot have insight if there is no love, compassion, intelligence. (Can Humanity Change?: J. Krishnamurti in Dialogue with Buddhists)

K: There is a tradition in India that one who is called the Maitreya Buddha took a vow that he would not become the ultimate Buddha until he had liberated other human beings too.
DB: Altogether?
K: Yes. You see, that tradition hasn’t changed anything. How can one? If one has that intelligence, that compassion, that love—which is not of a country, a person, an ideal, or a saviour—if one has the purity of that, can that be transmitted to another? (The Ending of Time)

That is why the Buddhists have projected the idea of the bodhisattva, who is the essence of all compassion and is waiting to save humanity. It sounds nice. It is a happy feeling that there is somebody doing this. But in actuality we won’t do anything that is not comfortable, satisfying, secure, both psychologically and physically. (The Ending of Time)

Why is it that we are incapable of loving? What does it mean to love your fellow man? Is it a commandment, or is it a simple fact that if I do not love you and you do not love me, there can only be hate, violence, and destruction?

What prevents us from seeing the very simple fact that this world is ours, that this earth is yours and mine to live upon, undivided by nationalities, by frontiers, to live upon happily, productively, with delight, with affection and compassion? (Talk 5, Bombay 1956)

A human being that has no love, no compassion is worse than an animal. (Question and Answer 2, Madras, 1981)

K: So, sir, when we talk about love, we must also talk about violence and killing. We kill, we have destroyed the earth, polluted the earth. We have wiped away species of animals and birds, we are killing baby seals, you’ve seen them on television?
A: Oh, I have.
K: How a human being can do such as thing…
A: It’s deeply shocking.
K: …for some woman to put on that fur. And he will go back and say, “I love my wife”…

That means, don’t kill under any circumstances, don’t kill an animal to eat. I have never eaten meat in my life, never. I don’t know what it tastes like. Not that I am proud or anything, but I couldn’t do it. And killing has become an industry, killing animals to feed human beings. You follow, sir? …. If I am serious, I will never kill. Love then has become compassion. Compassion means passion for all. (Dialogue 12, with Allan W. Anderson in San Diego, 1974)

There is great talk about compassion, isn’t there, in the Buddhist literature. Be compassionate, don’t kill, don’t hurt. What place has love in compassion? To love a man or a woman, or a dog, or a piece of stone, a stray cat, to love something, the clouds, the trees, or nature, anything, to love the house put together by architects, a beautiful thing, the bricks. To love it, which is non-identifying with the house, the bricks. The dying while living—is that love?—in which there is no attachment…. So then what place has love? Loving a woman, a man—not identifying, please, with the sensations of sex with a woman or with a man, and yet to love that person. When there is that love, that love is not the woman whom I love, it is global love…. What place has that quality with compassion? Or is compassion the same as love? … Do you, without identifying with your senses and so on, love a woman or a man, or a child, or the sky or a stone, or a stray dog? Without identifying? They all suffer—the woman suffers, the man suffers, a stray dog has a terrible life, chased and kicked. And when there is no identification, do you love that dog, or do you have compassion for that dog?

Is compassion an idea—I must have compassion for the suffering, for the poor, for the demented? … As a human being, do I love somebody—the dog, the chimney, the clouds, that beautiful sky (without identifying)? Not as a theory, but as a fact. I don’t want to delude myself with theories or ideas, I want to know if I love that man or woman or child or dog or house without saying, “It is my dog, my wife, my son, my house, my bricks…. When there is no identification, is there indifference, callousness, brutality—you just say, “I don’t identify,” and put your nose in the air? … and therefore my relationship to the dog, the wife, the husband, the girl, or whatever, becomes very superficial and casual? (Can Humanity Change?: J. Krishnamurti in Dialogue with Buddhists)

Can love be compassion, not only “I love you, you love me”? Love is not yours or mine, it is love, right? I may be married, have children, sex, and all the rest of it. In all that there may be tenderness, generosity, politeness, kindliness, yielding, tolerating. But all that is not love. Compassion and love are not separate, they are one. And can one live like that? Can one have this in one’s life? Not in occasional moments, when you are sitting by yourself on a sofa or walking in the woods and there is a flash, a scent, a perfume that seems for a second to transform your whole existence. Can we live our daily life with that perfume? (Facing a World in Crisis: What Life Teaches Us in Challenging Times)

To have that sense of compassion, passion, love, for everybody, you must understand, and know yourself—you who are in sorrow, self-centered activity, lonely, miserable, frightened—you are all that. (Facing a World in Crisis: What Life Teaches Us in Challenging Times)

Surely, love is a flame without smoke. The smoke is that with which we are familiar – the smoke of jealousy, of anger, of dependence, of calling it personal or impersonal, the smoke of attachment…. Only when the smoke is not shall we know that which is the flame…. So, it is clear that love is possible only without the smoke; and as we are acquainted with the smoke, let us go into it completely, understand it fully, so as to be free of it. Then only shall we know that flame which is neither personal nor impersonal and which has no name. (Talk 4, Paris, 1950)

Compassion is related to intelligence; there is no intelligence without compassion. And compassion can only be when there is love which is completely free from all remembrances, personal jealousies, and so on…. You cannot be compassionate if you are attached to any particular experience or any particular ideal…. For instance, there are those people who go out to various poverty-ridden countries and work, work, work. And they call that compassion. But they are attached, or tied to a particular form of religious belief, and therefore their action is merely pity or sympathy. It is not compassion. (The Ending of Time)

Compassion is not “I am compassionate.” Compassion is there, is something that is not “me compassionate.” (The Ending of Time)

The mother loves the baby and the baby loves the mother and that is a necessity. Right? Is that so? … The animals love their babies. The lowest form of life, manifestation of life, loves its young. And this is a movement from the animal to the man. And is that love? I am not saying it is not, or it is. Or is it the instinct from the animal carried on through the human … the animal brings up its cubs up to a certain age and then forgets about them. Right? They have gone from the nest. With a human there is tremendous care till they are three, four, five, nursing them, looking after them, cleaning them, cuddling them, holding them, that is if you love that baby, which most people don’t - it becomes a plaything. Or they have not the occasion, not the time. After that they send them off to school, to a boarding school and so on, so on, gradually push them away. Right? And we are asking, we are asking, I am not saying it is, or it is not, is that love? I know the mothers will say, ‘How can you say such a thing!’ I mean we are questioning, we are enquiring, we are not saying yes, or no…. So we are asking, when a mother, when the parents love their baby, is it just for a short period, or right through life? (Discussion 2, Saanen, 1979)

We are together understanding the world and ourselves and our relationship to the world—not our responsibility, our relationship to the rest of humanity. You all may be well fed, well clothed, with a house or flat and a nice garden, or you may live in a slum, but there are millions of people who are starving, tribes that are being exterminated. And as long as we don’t feel all this but merely accept it as an idea, a conclusion, we are going to create a monstrous world, which we are already doing. We are that which is happening…. The actuality of that feeling of compassion can come only when there is the end of sorrow and when one actually, in one’s being, heart, mind, feels that one is the rest of the world and doesn’t belong to any sect, any group, any guru, any church, mosque, or temple. (Facing a World in Crisis: What Life Teaches Us in Challenging Times)

Is the human brain your brain, or is it the brain of mankind? This is really a very serious question. Is your brain an individual brain or the brain of humanity? When you say it is my brain, when you say it is my consciousness, is it so? Or is it the consciousness of mankind? Enquire into it. You suffer, you are uncertain, you are anxious, you are in agony, pain. That is what you are. You have belief, knowledge, character, and that is what you are. And that is exactly what your neighbour is. He is suffering, he goes through agony, sorrow, pain, trouble. So, is your consciousness separate from the rest of mankind? No, of course not. If you admit that, if you see the truth of that, then are you an individual? You may think you are an individual because you are dark, you are short, because peripheral activity makes you think you are an individual, but deeply, are you not the rest of mankind? When you realise that, the truth of that, you will never kill another, because you are killing yourself. Then out of that comes great compassion, love. (Mind without Measure)

To have a religious life means to have compassion, love; it means the ending of sorrow, to find right relationship with each other. (Mind without Measure)

We are seeing the fact, the ‘what is’, which is suffering. That is an absolute fact. I suffer and the mind is doing everything it can to run away from it. When it does not run away then it observes. Then the observer, if it observes very very closely, is the observed, and that very pain is transformed into passion, which is compassion. (from Mary Lutyens’ biography of K, The Years of Fulfilment)

If you remain without a single movement of thought, with that which you have called sorrow, there comes a transformation in that which you have called sorrow. That becomes passion. The root meaning of sorrow is passion. When you escape from it, you lose that quality which comes from sorrow, which is complete passion, which is totally different from lust and desire. When you have an insight into sorrow and remain with that thing completely, without a single movement of thought, out of that comes this strange flame of passion. And you must have passion, otherwise you can’t create anything. Out of passion comes compassion. Compassion means passion for all things, for all human beings. So there is an ending to sorrow, and only then you will begin to understand what it means to love. (Ojai, 1976; from Total Freedom)

When there is freedom from suffering there is compassion, not before…. The ending of sorrow is the beginning of compassion…. Compassion, which is love, can only come when you understand fully the depth of suffering and the ending of suffering…. Can suffering totally end so that there is complete and whole compassion? … Compassion… means passion for all, for all things. (Talk 2, Brockwood Park, 1975)

When there is an end to sorrow, then only there is love, then only there is compassion. (Mind without Measure)

K: Let us say that the Buddha said to me, ‘The ending of sorrow is the bliss of compassion’. I don’t examine this statement. I don’t translate this statement into my way of thinking. I don’t question it; I don’t analyse it; I don’t say, ‘What do you mean by it?’ I am only in a state of acute, total, attention of listening—nothing else—because that statement has enormous truth and there is tremendous content in that statement. (Brockwood Park, 1978; from Fire in the Mind: Dialogues with J. Krishnamurti, by Pupul Jayakar)

Q: Then what would one’s responsibility be toward someone who is in sorrow?
K: The response to that human being is the response of compassion. That’s all. Nothing else…. What can you do actually? Somebody comes to you and says, “I am in deep sorrow.” Do you talk to them out of compassion, or from a conclusion…? …
Q: Does compassion affect the consciousness of man?
K: Yes. It affects the deep layers of consciousness. The “I” is the result of the world; the “you” is the result of the world. And to the man who sees this deeply, with a profound insight, there is no “you” or “I.” Therefore, that profound insight is compassion, which is intelligence. (Ojai, 1977; from Total Freedom)

When the self is not, the ‘other’ is, The ‘other’ is compassion, love and this enormous, boundless energy. (Madras, 1981; from Fire in the Mind: Dialogues with J. Krishnamurti, by Pupul Jayakar)

One has to negate totally all self-centred activity. Then only that which is love blossoms into compassion. (from Mary Lutyens’ biography of K, The Open Door)

It is only out of this emptiness that mutation comes, and from that alone can there be salvation for man. It is only when the mind has completely undergone this tremendous mutation out of time—not within the limits of society but completely outside society, and not by becoming a monk; that is too immature—when the mind has understood the whole fabric of society, which is yourself, that out of that understanding comes this extraordinary sense of aloneness. Then you are completely, indissolubly alone. And only then, in that state of complete aloneness, does that movement, which is the beginning and end of all things, come into being. That is religion and nothing else. In that state, there is love; there is compassion and infinite pity. (Bombay, 1964, from On Freedom)

When there is that space and emptiness and, therefore, immense energy— energy is passion, love and compassion and intelligence—then there is that truth which is most holy, most sacred, that which man has sought from time immemorial. (Washington, D.C., 1985; from Total Freedom)


Thank you, kind SIR (Scribe in Residence). :slight_smile:

I’ll read these at my leisure and respond if I have something useful to say.


This is beautiful! It warms my inclusioniste heart.

Running with it, to have compassion is to have passion for ALL without borders or exceptions: humans, animals, trees, stones, soil, sky, thoughts, emotions, illusions, delusions, self/other, division/unity, creation/destruction, intelligence/ignorance, awareness and trancelike daydreaming, kindness, rage, Democrats, Republicans, beauty/ugliness, truth/lies, good/evil. As soon as you leave anything out of ‘that which deserves my passion’ you have spoiled the all-inclusive beauty of it.

Spira defines love as the recognition of shared being. Taken to heart, all that is is love-worthy, non?

A passion for ignorance and evil sounds weird - the best I can get is a passion for understanding good/evil and ignorance, and compassion for those of us (sentient beings) that suffer from it.

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Krishnamurti talks about compassion as being passion for all the things of the earth. Not for the man-made “things” of our thinking.

Need I remind everyone (we discussed it on a recent thread) that for Krishnamurti there is a wide gulf separating the things of thought from the things of nature? (i.e. what he called - sometimes - the vast difference between ‘reality’ and ‘actuality’?).

If one takes into account the overall sweep of the statements above (about compassion), isn’t it clear that thought and thought-created objects (like the self, the ‘me’, illusion, delusion, etc) are direct hindrances to the state of compassion?

Compassion cannot co-exist with callousness, indifference, self-centredness or ‘evil’. These must cease for compassion to be.

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  1. Weird is my middle name, or at least should be.

  2. Having passion for violence, say, doesn’t mean practicing or condoning violence. Maybe something more like being alive to the reality of violence?

“The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower.” – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Replace ‘gears of a cycle transmission’ with whatever, nothing is off-limits.

If you’re right, he basically excluded all of ‘reality’ (his definition) from being deserving of com/passion!

Hi James,

After talking to someone, I will think about the situation at least for some time. Is it a hindrance? :slightly_smiling_face:
or Is it necessary?

I think, nobody will think like that but there is chance for self deception. :grinning:

It is certainly clear for Krishnamurti that compassion cannot be where there is egotism, and that compassion is not a passion for thought-made objects.

I don’t know about Spira, but if we take a western philosopher (one of the few) who talked about compassion - Schopenhauer - he argued that any act of genuine benevolence or compassion involves a momentary suspension of the principle of individuation that psychologically separates us from others.

So compassion arises when

the complete distinction between me and the other, upon precisely which my egotism rests, to a certain degree [is] suspended. (On the Basis of Morals)

So where there is ego, wilfulness, ill-will, malevolence, etc, compassion cannot arise.

What is the object then of this compassion? For Schopenhauer

All genuine virtue proceeds from the immediate intuitive knowledge of the metaphysical identity of all beings. (The World as Will and Representation, volume two)

So compassion is not a licence for evil, for egotism, for ill-will. It can neither arise in the subject when there is strong egotism, nor does it have as its object the egotism of the other, but rather its shared being.

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This is because ‘reality’ (in his definition, i.e. the content of thought) has no true actuality.

As we also said many times before, the idea “pheasant” in my mind, is not the same thing as the actual bird out there in my garden.

The one is “deserving” of compassion, the other doesn’t even exist except as an image in my memory.

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I think in K’s teaching, compassion is something that has nothing to do with me feeling sorry for something or even having empathy with. Likewise me having passion for whatever the case may be.

K seems to define compassion as some underlying state of affairs that is revealed once there is an actual seeing into the arbitrariness of the separate observer. So any consideration of what he means by compassion would have to include a look at his ‘you are the world’ proposal.

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Yes. I feel his “You are the world” teaching lays the groundwork for what he later says about compassion. Compassion - if it exists - must be a global perception, that includes an insight into the whole: into the whole consciousness of humanity (of which one is a representative).

If one feels separate (from the rest of humanity), then the word “compassion” has no real meaning.

I remember this book for the definitions/differences between classic and romantic understanding of reality - something about seeing the whole or the parts - I wish someone would quote that bit to me, to see how I feel about it now.

However, I’m not sure about what he’s trying to say here, nor whether it backs up your argument.

Mam, then such a person should pay attention to situation or opposite person in front, no matter whatever is happening. I think, this is one important aspect that I should ask myself.

It requires different levels of awareness.

Which most of us do.

The question then is, can compassion - in the sense we are using it - have any meaning to us at all?

And if not, why does K suggest (as he does below) that we can somehow approach these “out of the stream of conditioning” phenomena?

That would mean that 99.9999999998999999% (note the 8) of manifest reality, of what-is, is unworthy of our passion! Oi! Talk about throwing the baby away with the bath water!

(Look at me arguing for the sanctity of consensus reality! :wink: )

“A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic understanding sees it primarily in terms of immediate appearance.” – ZatAoMM

Am I mounting an argument? I feel like I’m just throwing some words/ideas out into the aether and seeing what the aether sends back.

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In Buddhism, as you probably know, there is the idea of the Bodhisattva (Krishnamurti mentions it a few times in the quotes above) - the person who has decided to awaken their intelligence for the sake of all human beings, or all sentient beings. Krishnamurti seems to have felt this belief worthy of consideration - not for its literal truth, but for the quality or attitude it communicates.

In Buddhist terminology one might say that Krishnamurti taught that we each of us have the responsibility of being “bodhisattvas” - that is, to awaken to our responsibility for, and connection to, the whole of humanity.

The recent 2 minute video put out by the Immeasurable Podcast team - of Krishnamurti talking - communicates this attitude very well:

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… because that statement has enormous truth

Truthfully, I can’t say that I feel ', ‘The ending of sorrow is the bliss of compassion’ has enormous truth to it for me, no matter who says it, K or the Buddha.

On the other hand, a statement like “You are the world” is a bit more plausible in terms of an entry point for inquiry. But perhaps his intention with these kind of un-worldly statements is to prod the observer to seeing the need to be quiet and just look in order to see if there is anything being missed?