1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
1st Public Talk 21st June, 1935
Friends, there is a distinct art of listening, especially to those ideas to which, perhaps, you are not quite accustomed. So I would beg of you to listen without prejudice to what I am going to say, which does not mean that you must have a negative mind. Some of you here may think that you possess already a definite mode of life and therefore it is not very important to listen carefully; and to those who have come out of curiosity, there is very little to be said.
To listen properly, there must be neither opposition nor antagonism. Most people have a certain background of tradition, prejudice, hope and fear which they put forward as a defence; and this, which is but opposition, they call criticism. If, for instance, you are a Christian or you belong to some other religion or to some political party, you will try, with your particular prejudices, to oppose what I am going to say. This is not true criticism. But there is an active form of criticism which demands a clear and an open mind - being conscious of one's prejudices, one's limitations, and at the same time trying to find out the intrinsic value of what the speaker has to say. So, putting aside the background of tradition and habit of thought in which mind constantly dwells, pursue critically, without accepting what I am going to say.
What I have to say is fundamentally simple, and not very philosophical, metaphysical or complicated. As I happen to come from India, people are apt to think that what I say is metaphysical and impractical, and so often brush aside the ideas which I try to put forward. Now to understand the present chaos with all its miseries, conflicts and difficulties, real criticism is required; not acceptance, but an active form of critical examination. If you merely accept a new set of ideas or a new system of thought, you are only substituting the new in place of the old, and so do not fundamentally understand the cause of suffering and the many problems that confront each one of you.
My intention is not to put forward a new theory or a new system of thought, or a new practice of discipline, but to awaken that understanding of the present; for in understanding the existing chaos and suffering in which man is caught, he will know for himself how to live completely, intelligently and divinely. In your suffering, you are apt to turn to the established authority or create a new one, which will not in any way help you to understand and free yourself from the cause of suffering. But if you truly understood the significance of the present, then you would not turn to any authority whatsoever, but being intelligent, actively conscious, you would be able to adjust yourself constantly to the movement of life.
So, if each one can understand the present, then he will discover for himself how to live intelligently and supremely. That is, by discovering and eradicating the cause of existing chaos, of human suffering, of spiritual and economic exploitation, each one will truly fulfil.
In his search for security and comfort, man has consciously or unconsciously separated life into two divisions: we might call these divisions, for the moment, the material and the spiritual. The material - the economic or the social world - is based entirely on acquisitiveness, which has developed, naturally, class distinctions. That is, each one in his individual search for his own security, his own comfort, has created an economic and social system of ruthless exploitation. Out of this is born the disease of nationalism, with all its absurdities and cruelties, which must engender wars and the divisions of people. The means of acquiring wealth, the machine, in the hands of the few, has led to immense suffering; and to maintain this vested interest, separate political parties have been formed which disregard man entirely, using him only to further their own power and importance. In fact, this system is based wholly on individual and family security, which must inevitably create ruthless exploitation, the distinction of classes, nationalism and wars. In this complicated tradition of false values which he has so sedulously built up through the centuries, the individual is caught. Briefly, without going into many details which you can think out for yourself, this system of thought and habit is influencing, dominating, coercing the individual to conform to this civilization of acquisition.
Then, in the world of the spiritual there is also acquisitiveness, only in a different form. Perhaps to some of you this may appear strange, while you may be familiar with the ordinary material form of acquisitiveness. As this may be new to you, please listen advisedly and carefully.
In the world of the spiritual, the search for security is expressed through the desire for immortality. In each one there is the desire to remain permanent, eternal. This is what all religions promise, an immortality in the hereafter, which is but a subtle form of egotistic security. Now, anyone that promises this selfish continuance, which you call immortality, consciously or unconsciously become your authority. Look at the various religions in the world and you will see that out of your own desire for security, for salvation, for continuance, you have created a subtle and cruel authority to which you have become utterly enslaved, which is constantly crippling your thought, your love.
Now, to interpret this authority, you must have mediators whom you call priests, who become in fact your exploiters. (Applause) Perhaps you applaud rather too quickly - because you are the creators of these exploiters. (Laughter, applause) Some of you may not consciously create these spiritual authorities, but subtly, unknowingly, you are creating other kinds of exploiters. You may not go to a priest, but this does not mean that you are not exploiting or exploited.
Where there is the desire for security, certainty, there must be authority, and you give yourself over entirely to those people who promise to guide you, to help you to realize that security. So religions have become throughout the world the receptacle of vested interest, and of organized, closed belief. (Applause) Sirs, may I suggest something? Please don't bother to applaud, as it is a waste of time.
As religions promise immortality, so they have created ideals, which have become merely a means of escape from the present. After all, what are all your ideals? They but offer a subtle means of flight from actuality. Let me take an example which perhaps will make this clear.
You profess the ideal of brotherly love, and that is the ideal with which the majority of you have been brought up. But what is taking place in actuality? There is the distinction of classes, of religions with their beliefs, dogmas and divisions, and of nationalism with its exploitation and wars. So what is the good of your ideals? Ideals but become drugs which prevent you from thinking clearly and understanding fully the present.
Religions, with their beliefs, dogmas and creeds, have become tremendous barriers between human beings, dividing man against man, limiting him and destroying his intelligence. Please understand what I mean by religion. I mean by religion organized thought and belief which have become receptacles of vested interest and in which authority is firmly rooted.
So, having created these two divisions in life, the material and the spiritual, we turn in moments of great crisis, great suffering and misery, to experts along these two lines. In moments of intense suffering, we seek comfort from these authorities and experts. And what happens when you look up to another? Gradually and unconsciously you create authority, you give yourself over to it entirely and become merely a part of that system of thought; and, as there are innumerable experts along these two lines, you become tools in their hands to fight other experts and their groups.
What is your answer to all this? On the one hand you can say that man is nothing but clay, matter to be moulded, and that he is but the result of environment, to be controlled and shaped. If this is so, then the whole question of his creative expression and fulfillment, his intelligent happiness and moral action, is of no great importance and of no special consequence. If you think fundamentally that man is nothing but clay to be fashioned by circumstances, then you must create circumstances, laws, authorities that will ruthlessly control, dominate individual expression and action. Or, if man is not mere clay to be conditioned, to be moulded into a particular shape, then there must be a complete revolution in your ideas and actions.
That is, sirs, there are only two possibilities: one of complete domination and control; and the other, the voluntary creation of right environment for the fulfillment of man. You must belong to one or the other of these; you cannot play with both. Either you consider man as merely a social entity, and therefore you ruthlessly shape and control his whole social and creative action; or, if he is not merely that, but something much more, then there must be a fundamental revolution in your thought and action.
If you voluntarily discern this, then your acquisitive action, your thought based on security, must undergo a complete change. If you consider that man has within himself the greatest capacity for intelligence, then you must remove the innumerable fears, punishments and rewards with which you guide and dominate him. But if you think that man is merely clay to be shaped, then you will increase all the fears and punishments which will dominate and coerce him
So you, as individuals, will have to discover for yourselves upon what your action is based, whether upon compulsion or upon voluntary understanding. We see so much exploitation, so much misery and suffering, and we don't seem to find a comprehensive answer. We are satisfied by one day's remedy. But if we can really, fundamentally understand this problem of compulsion, domination, then we shall find a true and lasting answer to the many aches and agonies of life. This means that as each one has been so twisted, perverted, limited by past and present environment he must now begin to question the true significance of the innumerable values to which he has become a slave. To do this there must be a continual awakened interest and alertness to free the mind from all pressure and influence, to make it clear, simple, so that there is direct discernment of what is true.
We have three kinds, if I may so divide it, of individual, egotistic expression. One is the search for immortality, the desire for selfish continuance, which prevents the complete understanding of the present, the only eternity. As long as the mind is pursuing its own egotistic continuance. thinking that this is immortality, there cannot be the flow of reality, that unique intelligence which is not yours or mine. To understand and realize this, mind must be free from that consciousness which has been created through many hindrances, through authority, through values based on acquisitive and self-protective fears. When the mind is free from its own egotistic limitation and impediments, when it is creatively empty, there is born that reality which is immeasurable, not to be discussed but to be experienced, lived.
Then there is that selfish acquisitiveness of things, that possessiveness, with all its subtle cruelties and exploitations, by which the mind seeks to establish its own security and comfort.
Finally. there is the pursuit of sensation.
Now if you desire to understand truth, mind must be free from these impediments and limitations. As individuals you must become conscious, fully conscious of your actions. You cannot give yourself over to authority, to experts, but you must be continually aware of your action and its cause; then the mind will discern the bondage, the hindrance in which thought is caught. So gradually the mind, which is now crippled, unconscious, becomes conscious and thereby discovers the limitations which it has created for itself in search of its own security. And when the mind is utterly naked, then there is that creative intelligence, that continual becoming.
Question: What is your truth?
Krishnamurti: There cannot be your truth and my truth. There is only truth, and you can understand its unique quality only when the mind is free of "yours" and "mine". The "you" and the "me" are only memories, based on self-protective and accumulative reaction against intelligence. When the mind is free from that sense of "mind", then there is life, there is truth.
There is only love, but when you imprison it within the walls of possessiveness, then it becomes "yours", and its beauty fast withers away.
Question: If you live in an eternal now, having annihilated the idea of time and broken the ties that bind you to the past, how can you speak about your past and about your previous experiences? Are not these memories ties?
Krishnamurti: If action is born out of a prejudice, a hindrance, then it creates further limitation and brings sorrow. But if it is the outcome of discernment, then action is ever renewing itself and is never limiting. This liberation of action does not mean that you cannot remember incidents, but those past incidents will no longer control action.
If one acts through the background of many prejudices, surely that action, being impeded, must inevitably create a further limitation of the mind. If one has a background of religious prejudices, action must create conflict in the present. But if one begins to question and thus understand the significance of values, traditions, ideals, past accumulations which make up the background, then the mind shall know the beauty of action without sorrow. Experiment with what I am saying and you will know. We have many prejudices, fears, accumulative values, which are continually thwarting fulfillment in action, and so there is an ever increasing incompleteness and the burden of tomorrow.
1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
1st Public Talk 21st June, 1935
Jiddu Krishnamurti. What Is Right Action? The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1934..1935.