Question: Are yogic exercises helpful in any way to human beings?
Jiddu Krishnamurti: I think one must go into this question fairly deeply. Apparently in Europe, as well as in India, there is this idea that by doing yogic exercises, practising virtue, being good, participating in social work, reading sacred books, following a teacher – that by doing something of this kind, you are going to achieve salvation or enlightenment. I am afraid you are not. On the contrary, you are going to be caught in the things you are practising, and therefore you will always be held a prisoner and your vision will be everlastingly limited.
Yogic exercises are all right, probably, for the body. Any kind of exercise – walking, jumping, climbing mountains, swimming, or whatever you do – is on the same level. But to suppose that certain exercises will lead you to salvation, to understanding, to God, truth, wisdom – this I think is sheer nonsense, even though all the yogis in India say otherwise. If once you see that anything that you practise, that you accept, that you develop, always has behind it the element of greed – wanting to get something, wanting to reach something, wanting to break a record – , then you will leave it alone. A mind that is merely concerned with the `how’, with doing yogic exercises, this or that, will only develop a sense of achievement through time, and such a mind can never comprehend that which is timeless.
After all, you practise yogic exercises in the hope of reaching something, gaining something; you hope to achieve happiness, bliss, or whatever is offered. Do you think bliss is so easily realized? Do you think it is something to be gained by doing certain exercises, or developing concentration? Must not the mind be altogether free of this self-centred activity? Surely a man who practises yoga in order to reach enlightenment, is concerned about himself, about his own growth; he is full of his own importance. So it is a tremendous art – an art which can be approached only through self-knowledge, not through any practice – to understand this whole process of self-centred activity in the name of God, in the name of truth, in the name of peace, or whatever it be – to understand and be free of it.
Now, to be free does not demand time, and I think this is our difficulty. We say “I am envious, and to get rid of envy I must control, I must suppress, I must sacrifice, I must do penance, I must practise yoga”, and all the rest of it – all of which indicates the continuance of self-centred activity, only transferred to a different level. If one sees this, if one really understands it, then one no longer thinks in terms of getting rid of envy in a certain period of time. Then the problem is, can one get rid of envy immediately? It is like a hungry man – he does not want a promise of food tomorrow, he wants to be fed now, and in that sense he is free of time. But we are indolent, and what we want is a method to lead us to something which will ultimately give us pleasure.
Hamburg, Germany 4th Public Talk 14th September 1956