When does a situation become a problem? || Acharya Prashant, on J. Krishnamurti (2017)

Acharya Prashant
12 min readJun 17, 2024


“It is the incapacity to understand a challenge that brings about a problem.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Acharya Prashant: “It is the incapacity to understand a challenge that brings about a problem”, this is what Krishnamurti says. And habituated we are of concluding, we are very habituated to conclude; we immediately take this sentence as a call for action. As if he is urging us, pushing us, immediately to do something. That’s what you too did. You said, “So this statement is saying, you first develop that capacity.” You go ahead and develop a capacity.

No, that is not what Krishnamurti is principally saying.

We all face problems, and whenever we face problems, to every problem, we are fond of attributing a reason. Right? To every problem, we attribute a reason. What are the kinds of reasons, we associate normally with our problems?

Listener: The other person is not understanding.

AP: The other person is not understanding.

Your medical reports just came and it shows that your heart is not in good shape. Problem.

Now what reason do you associate with it?

I am in a horrid schedule, tied to it, and it is my schedule, that is the cause of this problem.

You are working somewhere and there the appraisal reports are not quite fine, that scares you. Problem.

What reason do you attach to it?

This place is not for me. I am cut out for this place. I am for some other job. And the Boss doesn’t really understand me. And the environment is not conducive to my productivity. Right?

You are facing tensions in the family. Problem.

What all reasons come up?

They don’t understand me. Oh well I tried, but I can’t go overboard with trying, I have my own human limits. What else do they want me to do? I have already sacrificed enough. Doesn’t a fellow have his own individuality? Why should I conform to their patterns and expectations? Right?

So do you see, what is happening? There is nobody who is not beset with challenges. Challenges that are called problems, by us. And there is nobody, who doesn’t claim that he has been able to diagnose his problem. We all claim to be experts who understand their problems. Very haughtily we have become self-appointed specialists and consultants.

Alright, there is this problem. But who is the one person who understands the anatomy of the problem?

L: “I”

AP: “I”. So, we are both, the sufferer and the doctor. Who is suffering because of the problem? I. And we have also appointed ourselves as the “healers” of the problem. We say, my problem, who else will heal it? I am in the best position to know it, to take care of it.

That is the myth that Krishnamurti is busting. He is saying, “If there is a problem, then all the reasons that you ascribe to it, are false.” Because, had you really known the reason, there would have been no problem at the very first place.

So, if there is a problem, then the real problem is, that you don’t ‘know’ the problem. Had you really known the problem, the problem would have very quickly faded away. The problem exists, not because there is an external situation. An external situation antagonistic to your interests, an external situation hostile to your well being. No, not at all. The problem exists, because you just do not know what’s going on. This inability to know, what’s going on, is called a problem .

I repeat. A problem is not an unfavorable external situation. A problem is just the inability to know the happening. Are we one on this? Or is it too difficult to be one on this!

A problem is a life situation, just like any other situation. It becomes scary and overbearing just because we do not know what the situation is. Are you getting it?

Let me give you an example. You are driving on a hilly road, you are in a strange area. You are in a strange area! The road might be fine, the vehicle might be fine. But the area is strange. You are not familiar with it. And suddenly you have a memory lapse. For a few minutes, you totally forget where you are coming from, and to which place are you going. Right?

Everything outside is still the same. The road is fine, the vehicle is fine, the day is fine; but now do you do not know what’s going on. You find yourself on the wheel pressing the accelerator, and you are at your wit’s ends figuring out, what’s going on? Which place am I going?

Now, do you have a problem at hand? Of course you have! What is the reason? Does the reason lie in anything outside of you? And don’t you see that, any perfectly normal life situation can become a problem, if? You lose sense of it.

The same thing can happen to you, as you are sitting here, right now. What if your mind gonks off right now, BOOM. Gone. Some short circuit in some neural connection. That can happen, happens. BOOM! You don’t remember anything.

Your power to analyze, your power to recall, your ability to be present, all has just disappeared, let’s say just for a few minutes. Now, what happens to this situation? This situation, that appears nice to you right now, even pleasant and peaceful, becomes horrible. The same situation becomes horrible because now you can make no sense of it.

You look at yourself, you look at people around, and you can’t identify anybody. You don’t know who you are. You don’t know what the world is like. And there is a strange fellow, in white and green (referring to himself), sitting in front of you, sermonizing you. And you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know what’s going on!

Do you see, how terribly shaky you can feel? You keep imagining all the time, kindly imagine it a little more. Can you step into that person’s shoes? The one who is caught in a situation like this.

Can you imagine how horrid it would be? You don’t even recall your own name! You look at the other fellow and you say, “what is this chap doing here? What is this sound from somewhere? What’s going on? Why am I here? And who am I, first of all?” This is what is called life problem. Everything is fine and normal, just as everything else is in existence, but you have lost your wits. Sounds humiliating, right? All problems are just, THIS. You do not know what’s going on. No idea of what is happening. Or let us say, only ideas about what is happening. No relation with reality.

That is what any problem is, without exception, any problem. Had you known what is happening, problem is gone. The problem disappears, the moment it is diagnosed correctly. Once I said, when the disease is unreal, the diagnosis is the cure. All you need is the diagnosis. You do not know what is happening.

That’s what Krishnamurti is saying. So, he is not asking you to — try to understand. What he is doing is, attacking your belief, ‘that you know’. That’s what his intention is. Kindly, get out from your self-created heavens of intelligence. You do not know what is happening. You only think you know. And within that thought, there is conflict. In fact conflict is there, only in thoughts.

So, if you face conflicts in your life, here is a little tool, that might help you. Only thoughts fight with each other, collide with each other and are in strife. Have you ever seen, facts fight with each other? Do facts ever fail to reconcile? Please?

If you are sitting to his left, then he has to be present to your right. Two facts, A is sitting to the left of B. And second fact, B is sitting to the right of A. Do you see any disagreement between these two facts?

Facts will never fail to add up, facts are honestly square. There is never any tussle between facts, never, never, never. You would never find contradictions there. Never. But when you are imagining, then you are seldom aware of the fact that ‘you are imagining’. The fact is that ‘you are imagining’. Instead, imaginations become the fact. And these are two very different things.

You see, I am sitting here and imagining, let me say, “Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.” Now what is the fact? There is only one fact here, only one. And the fact is — I am imagining. Instead, the figments of imagination become the facts. And what are the figments? The Duck and the Mouse. Now they have become the facts. They are not. They are imaginations.

Are we one on this?

When you are imagining then there is only one fact. In the world, there can be fragmented facts, which is possible. A is to the left of B, is one little piece of fact. B is to the right of A, is another little piece of fact.

What do you mean by a fact? A fact is something impersonal. A fact is something that won’t change with your mood. A fact is something that doesn’t come out of your prejudice. The limitation associated with a fact is that it takes the objective world, as the reality. That is why the Truth is above facts. But facts, at least redeem you from imaginations. The only flaw that remains still associated with facts is that they pertain only to the objective world. And that is alright. There is certain honesty about it. You are stating what you are seeing . So, that is why I am so fond of facts.

Only by looking honestly at the objective world, this world, can we know the essence, the basis of this world. What else otherwise is available to us? If you won’t use this world, what else will you use? Is there anything else given to you? Your hands, they can only hold the material. Your eyes, they can only look at the material. Your ears, they can only hear material sounds. And your mind, it can only think of the material. So, when we have to proceed only with the material, then it is very important, to be honest with the facts.

That honesty has been organized as Science. Science is nothing but an organized and intelligent study of facts. The facts of the material world. That is what science is. That is why Science is so beautiful. That is why the Scientist, if he pays, just a little attention to be centered, is so close to being truly spiritual. Because he will not entertain himself with fancies. And he has a dislike for intellectual dishonesty. If he does not know anything, he just won’t say that. He works on proofs. And solid proofs. If there is only one percent probability of something turning out to be false, he would write that as a disclaimer.

When he would propose a theory, he would also state what would belie that theory. He would say, that if such and such proofs can be presented, then my theory would stand falsified. Such is the honesty of the Scientist, “That you know given my situations, given my experiments, and given the breadth of my intellectual space, this is what I am proposing right now, it is tentative. It is tentative. If you can come up with something better, in all humility, I stand to retreat. Are you getting it?

We do not live in facts. We live in our opinions about facts. These are two very different things, mind you. She is sitting close to you, that is a fact. She is probably your best buddy, because she is sitting close to you, and that is? That is my own personal coating upon the fact.

That is my own personal inference; you can call it a judgement. You just don’t say, “She is sitting close to her.” We say that, with our own personal touches, “Oh, they are much more than the touches!”

Whenever you come across a problem, first thing, you do not know the problem. Do not begin by saying that, this is the problem and now I am going to solve it. When you come across a problem, first of all, drop all your pretentions about your understanding.

Oh, there is a problem. Then I do not know anything. Then you must stand with a clear mind, “I do not know anything. So, I have to start from an absolute Zero.” I cannot start by saying, Ah, I already know the problem, now let’s attack it. That’s a surest way to mis-attack. That is the surest way to mis-identify the culprit. Any problem, just say, “Ah! Something has gone wrong, but I am not going to assert that I know what has gone wrong.”

I will repeat.

Now, there is a problem. Well, something is amiss somewhere. But I won’t claim, what is amiss, where.

L: How will I diagnose what is wrong?

AP: By observation. When you do not know, what has gone wrong, what do you do?

You observe. You observe. When you claim that you know what has gone wrong, what do you do?

You remain smug, “I know, what’s the need to observe, what’s the need to learn?” I already know. And that’s such a sloppy conclusion. Is it not?

Ah, so there is a problem. My heart reports, are all in red. Sure, I is something that deserves attention. You look at it, look at it. And you just don’t jump to a conclusion, saying, “Ah! It is because I have not been jogging rightly. It’s got something to do with my jogging habits” Come on! You seriously think that with the kind of the family environment you have, you will manage to have a healthy heart? Don’t you see that this is pointing at the entire spectrum of your relationships? Don’t you see that?

But you won’t see that if you have quick inferences. You have a heart problem — Don’t you see it’s got something to do with your work life? You have a heart problem. Don’t you see it’s got something to do with the way you exhaust yourself out through the week? And why do you exhaust yourself out? Out of charity?

Don’t you see, that you are living in a deep sense of incompleteness, that is compelling you to earn more and more.

Now, that’s dangerous. So very dangerous. To look at a medical report and come to a spiritual problem. Well unfortunately, for most of us, whenever you look at any problem, and you will want to come to the genesis of it, you will need to come to the genesis of creation itself, which is God. Because there is no other source of anything. God is the source of your deepest delights and God is also the source of your most intractable problems. There is no other source.

If you are facing any problem, you will have to trace it back to God.

That is why Krishnamurti is saying, “Don’t pretend that you know.” Because to know, even the smallest problem, you will have to know God. Krishnamurti is actually, in his own mischievous ways, trapping you. He is saying, come on, know the problem. Come on, you still don’t know it. Yeah, proceed, proceed. Know it fully. You haven’t known it, if you had known it, you know it only partially. Knowing has to be full- know it fully. Partial knowing is no knowing at all. Come on! Take a few steps more, deeper and deeper into the problem, come on. Move, move, move. And at the end of the problem, lies the mother problem. Mother problem is God himself.

Krishnamurti is leading you there. What will stop you in between? Conclusions. A false belief that you know the problem. He will keep reminding you, “You do not know, you do not know. Look deeper into it. More deeply, more deeply, more deeply, more deeply.” There is only one real depth possible, and that possibility is called God or the Heart. That’s where, our old man is leading us. Do you get this?

To the mind, not immersed in existence, there are only problems. Otherwise there is no problem. Is it not obvious? To whom is the problem? A problem is only when, there is a contradictory desire. You want something, and what you get in your hands is opposite of that. Then you call it a problem, right? You want to go somewhere, and you find the road closed. You call it a problem. “The road is closed, you don’t go.” Is there a problem anymore? Come on, is there a problem anymore?

L: No

AP: There is that beautiful Zen clip about the monk. He was going east and there was strong wind towards the West. How does he respond? He starts walking towards the West. (Smiles)

Where is the problem?