"Questions - Answers"
J. Krishnamurti


Question: What place has criticism in relationship? What is the difference between destructive and constructive criticism?

Krishnamurti: First of all, why do we criticize? Is it in order to understand? Or is it merely a nagging process? If I criticize you, do I understand you? Does understanding come through judgement? If I want to comprehend, if I want to understand not superficially but deeply the whole significance of my relationship to you, do I begin to criticize you? Or am I aware of this relationship between you and me, silently observing it - not projecting my opinions, criticisms, judgements, identifications or condemnations, but silently observing what is happening? And if I do not criticize, what happens? One is apt to go to sleep, is one not? Which does not mean that we do not go to sleep if we are nagging. Perhaps that becomes a habit and we put ourselves to sleep through habit. Is there a deeper, wider understanding of relationship, through criticism? It doesn't matter whether criticism is constructive or destructive - that is irrelevant, surely. Therefore the question is: "What is the necessary state of mind and heart that will understand relationship?" What is the process of understanding? How do we understand something? How do you understand your child, if you are interested in your child? You observe, don't you? You watch him at play, you study him in his different moods; you don't project your opinion on to him. You don't say he should be this or that. You are alertly watchful, aren't you?, actively aware. Then, perhaps, you begin to understand the child. If you are constantly criticizing, constantly injecting your own particular personality, your idiosyncrasies, your opinions, deciding the way he should or should not be, and all the rest of it, obviously you create a barrier in that relationship. Unfortunately most of us criticize in order to shape, in order to interfere; it gives us a certain amount of pleasure, a certain gratification, to shape something - the relationship with a husband, child or whoever it may be. You feel a sense of power in it, you are the boss, and in that there is a tremendous gratification. Surely through all that process there is no understanding of relationship. There is mere imposition, the desire to mould another to the particular pattern of your idiosyncrasy, your desire, your wish. All these prevent, do they not?, the understanding of relationship.

Then there is self-criticism. To be critical of oneself, to criticize, condemn, or justify oneself - does that bring understanding of oneself? When I begin to criticize myself, do I not limit the process of understanding, of exploring? Does introspection, a form of self-criticism, unfold the self? What makes the unfoldment of the self possible? To be constantly analytical, fearful, critical - surely that does not help to unfold. What brings about the unfoldment of the self so that you begin to understand it is the constant awareness of it without any condemnation, without any identification. There must be a certain spontaneity; you cannot be constantly analysing it, disciplining it, shaping it. This spontaneity is essential to understanding. If I merely limit, control, condemn, then I put a stop to the movement of thought and feeling, do I not? It is in the movement of thought and feeling that I discover - not in mere control. When one discovers, then it is important to find out how to act about it. If I act according to an idea, according to a standard, according to an ideal, then I force the self into a particular pattern. In that there is no understanding, there is no transcending. If I can watch the self without any condemnation, without any identification, then it is possible to go beyond it. That is why this whole process of approximating oneself to an ideal is so utterly wrong. Ideals are homemade gods and to conform to a self-projected image is surely not a release.

Thus there can be understanding only when the mind is silently aware, observing - which is arduous, because we take delight in being active, in being restless, critical, in condemning, justifying. That is our whole structure of being; and, through the screen of ideas, prejudices, points of view, experiences, memories, we try to understand. Is it possible to be free of all these screens and so understand directly? Surely we do that when the problem is very intense; we do not go through all these methods - we approach it directly. The understanding of relationship comes only when this process of self-criticism is understood and the mind is quiet. If you are listening to me and are trying to follow, with not too great an effort, what I wish to convey, then there is a possibility of our understanding each other. But if you are all the time criticizing, throwing up your opinions, what you have learned from books, what somebody else has told you and so on and so on, then you and I are not related, because this screen is between us. If we are both trying to find out the issues of the problem, which lie in the problem itself, if both of us are eager to go to the bottom of it, find the truth of it, discover what it is - then we are related. Then your mind is both alert and passive, watching to see what is true in this. Therefore your mind must be extraordinarily swift, not anchored to any idea or ideal, to any judgement, to any opinion that you have consolidated through your particular experiences. Understanding comes, surely, when there is the swift pliability of a mind which is passively aware. Then it is capable of reception, then it is sensitive. A mind is not sensitive when it is crowded with ideas, prejudices, opinions, either for or against.

To understand relationship, there must be a passive awareness - which does not destroy relationship. On the contrary, it makes relationship much more vital, much more significant. Then there is in that relationship a possibility of real affection; there is a warmth, a sense of nearness, which is not mere sentiment or sensation. If we can so approach or be in that relationship to everything, then our problems will be easily solved - the problems of property, the problems of possession, because we are that which we possess. The man who possesses money is the money. The man who identifies himself with property is the property or the house or the furniture. Similarly with ideas or with people; when there is possessiveness, there is no relationship. Most of us possess because we have nothing else if we do not possess. We are empty shells if we do not possess, if we do not fill our life with furniture, with music, with knowledge, with this or that. And that shell makes a lot of noise and that noise we call living; and with that we are satisfied. When there is a disruption, a breaking away of that, then there is sorrow, because then you suddenly discover yourself as you are - an empty shell, without much meaning. To be aware of the whole content of relationship is action, and from that action there is a possibility of true relationship, a possibility of discovering its great depth, its great significance and of knowing what love is.