J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986), one of the great spiritual teachers of the twentieth century, conducted lengthy dialogues with  curious Buddhists in the 1970s. Participants included renowned Sri Lankan scholar and monk Walpola Rahula and physicist David Bohm. The following is an excerpt from Can Humanity Change? an edited record of the conversations, which took place in London.

Why in spite of [your teaching] for forty years has not a single human being become different? The gentleman asks why it is that though I have talked for forty years more or less of the same thing in different words and expressing it differently, there has not been one human being who is different. Why? Will you answer it, sir? Either what is being said is false and therefore has no position in the world; it is false and has no validity, and therefore you do not pay attention; your own reason, your own intelligence, your own affection, your own good sense says, “What rubbish you are talking!”; or, you hear what is being said, but it means nothing to you, because the other is much more important.

Why should truth be so impotent? Because truth has no action. Truth is weak. Truth is not utilitarian, truth cannot be organized. It is like the wind: You cannot catch it, you cannot take hold of it in your fist and say, “I have caught it.” Therefore it is tremendously vulnerable, impotent like the blade of grass on the roadside—you can kill it, you can destroy it. But we want it as a thing to be used for a better structure of society. And I am afraid you cannot use it, you cannot—it is like love, love is never potent. It is there for you, take it or leave it.

So, sirs, the problem is not that we have spoken for forty years. But the problem is: How is a human being, who has listened for forty years with a dry heart, without a tear in his eyes, who sees all this and does not do a thing, whose heart is broken up, whose heart is empty, whose mind is full of words and theories, and full of himself—how is he to make his heart love again? That is the real question.

From Can Humanity Change? J. Krishna-murti in Dialogue with Buddhists, edited by David Skitt, © 2003 by Krishnamurti Foundation Trust. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston,www.shambhala.com.

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