New Delhi 1960
New Delhi 3rd Public Talk 21st February 1960
If I may, I would like to think aloud about the `what to do', not only in the present but also in the future, and to consider with you the whole significance of action. But before going into that, I think we must be very clear that I am not trying to persuade you to take any particular form of action, to do this or to do that; for all persuasion, which is propaganda, whether it be considered good or bad, is essentially destructive. So let us keep very clearly in mind that you and I are thinking out the problem together, and that we are not concerned with any particular form of action, either with what to do tomorrow, or with what to do today; but if we can understand the total implication of action, then perhaps we shall be able to work out the details.
Without understanding comprehensively the full significance of action, merely to be concerned with a particular form of action seems to me very destructive. Surely, if we are concerned only with the part and not with the whole, then all action is destructive action. But if we can understand action as a total thing, if we can feel our way into it and capture its significance, then that understanding of total action will bring about right action in the particular. It is like looking at a tree. The tree is not just the leaf, the branch, the flower, the fruit, the trunk, or the root. It is a total thing. To feel the beauty of a tree is to be aware of its wholeness - the extraordinary shape of it, the depth of its shadow, the flutter of its leaves in the wind. Unless we have the feeling of the whole tree, merely looking at a single leaf will mean very little. But if we have the feeling of the whole tree, then every leaf, every twig has meaning, and we are sensitive to it. After all, to be sensitive to the beauty of something is to perceive the totality of it. The mind that is thinking in terms of a part can never perceive the whole. In the whole the part is contained, but the part will never make up the whole, the total.
In the same way, let us see if we can rather diligently and with a sense of humility go into this whole question of what is action. Why does action create so much conflict? Why does action bring about a state of contradiction? And what is the totality of action? If we can sensitively and with hesitancy begin to understand the nature of total action, then perhaps we shall be able to come down to the particular.
But very few of us are sensitive - sensitive to the sunset, sensitive to a child in the street, sensitive to the beauty of a face, sensitive to an idea, to a noise, to everything in life. Surely, it is only a humble mind, a mind which does not deny or accept - it is only such a mind that is sensitive to the whole. The mind is not sensitive if it has no humility; and without humility there is no investigation, exploration, understanding. But humility is not a thing to be cultivated. Cultivated virtue is a horror, it is no longer a virtue. So, if we can, with that natural feeling of humility in which there is sensitivity, go into this whole question of action, then perhaps a great deal will be revealed of which we are now unaware.
You see, the difficulty with most of us is that we want a definition, a conclusion, an answer; we have an end in view. I think such an attitude prevents inquiry. And inquiry into action is necessary, surely, because all living is action. Action is not departmental, or partial; it is a total thing. Action is our relationship to everything: to people, to nature, to ideas, to things. Life cannot be without action. Even though you retire to a monastery, or become a sannyasi, or a hermit in the Himalayas, you are still in action, because you are still in relationship.
And action, surely, is not a matter of right and wrong. It is only when action is partial, not total, that there is right and wrong.
Sirs, don't accept or deny this. We are going into it.
So-called right action belongs to the respectability of society; and society is always in a state of corruption. What it considers good, is partial; and what it considers evil, is also partial.
I do not know if you have ever considered energy. All life is energy, is it not? Thinking, feeling, hunger, lust, ambition, the desire to fulfil with its shadow of frustration and sorrow - all this is the process of energy. There is energy from a centre, and energy which has no centre. What we call action is always in the form of energy expanding from a centre - the centre being a bundle of ideas, knowledge, experiences, memories, conclusions, definitions and patterns of action; the `I will' and `I will not'. For most of us, action is from that centre - which is one of our basic problems.
And why is it that, however active we are - planning, writing, probing, exploring, creating new ideas, bringing about new inventions - , the mind is in a state of constant deterioration? And if the mind is in a state of deterioration, then any action springing from that state is inevitably destructive. So, why is the mind always caught in this wave of deterioration?
I do not know if you have thought about this problem, or if you have examined your own mind. When you are very young, full of vitality, eagerness, innocence, there is a delight in everything; all the common things have meaning. But as you grow older your mind becomes dull, because it has been educated to accept life in terms of society and to adjust itself to that pattern. We all know this. Very few of us ever stop to look in silence at a tree, or at the evening sky. Our minds are chattering, deteriorating all the time. Why? Why is there no innocence - not the cultivated innocence of a clever mind that wants to be innocent, but that state of innocence in which there is no denial or acceptance, and in which the mind just sees what is? In this state of innocence there is moving, unbounded energy. But we grow old in the pattern of society, with its ambitions, frustrations, joys, sorrows; our minds become more and more dull, and when old age comes upon us, we are destroyed. Why?
Now, we are not asking why in order to find an answer; but live shall find the truth when we examine the problem. The problem is never apart from the answer; the problem is the answer. If I examine the problem, if I am sympathetic, sensitive to the problem, if I look into it, explore it, I begin to understand it; and the understanding of the problem is the dissolution of the problem. But when the mind seeks an answer, it moves away from the problem - which is what most of us do. Then the answer is merely an escape from the problem, and therefore the problem pursues us. So, when we ask why, it is merely to inquire into the problem, which is to study the mind in movement.
Why is it that the minds of most of us are constantly in a state of decay? Any fine machine that is well oiled and highly tuned functions with a minimum of friction and does not soon wear out. But where there is friction, where there is conflict, struggle, there is deterioration. Conflict is deterioration; and it is because most of us are in a state of contradiction, which is conflict, that we are always caught in a wave of deterioration. And is it possible to live without this conflict, this deterioration? If you say conflict is natural, human, and therefore inevitable, there is no problem; you accept conflict, and go on deteriorating. But the moment you question it, there is a problem into which you are beginning to inquire.
As we have seen, all life is action; living is action, thinking is action, and not-thinking is also action. And we also see that any action from a centre creates conflict. When the mind is tethered to a centre, naturally it is not free, it can move only within the limits of that centre.
Sirs, the function of these talks is not to enable you to gather new ideas - because I do not think new ideas ever fundamentally change man - , but to point out the importance of observing your own minds. If you are constantly aware of the way you are thinking, the way you are feeling, the manner of your whole being, whatever it is, then that very observation is enough. Do you know what I mean? If you see and understand something totally, there is no real problem. It is like studying a map. Once you know where all the roads are and the distance to a particular village or town, then getting there is a secondary problem. But it requires that you do look at the map, that you study it with close attention. In the same way we should regard what we are discussing; because mere intellectual acceptance or denial of what is being said does not alter the fact that, for most of us, action springs from a centre to which we are committed, and is therefore productive of everlasting contradiction, conflict.
I wonder if we have ever considered why most human beings want to belong to something, why they want to commit themselves to something, or be part of something? There is in most of us this compulsion to belong to an organization or group, to follow a particular philosophy or pattern of action. Have you ever examined this compulsion in yourself? Are you at all aware of why it exists, why you have the desire to commit yourself to something? For example, you all think of yourselves as Indians, and you are committed to that idea. Why? Or you say you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Moslem, a Communist or, something else. Why? Why this urge to be committed to something - to a philosophy, to a discipline, to a belief? Is it not based on the desire to be secure? Please do not deny or accept it; just look at it. Belonging to something, committing yourself to something gives you an activity in which you feel safe, secure, because others are also taking part in that activity; it makes you feel that you are not in a state of isolation. So that is part of the centre from which you are acting.
As we can see if we observe, all our activity springs from a centre. As I pointed out just now, one is acting from a centre in committing oneself to a group, to a cause, to a belief or ideology; and there is also the centre of action which is knowledge - knowledge as experience, knowledge of what has been and of what one thinks will be.
I wonder if you are following this, not just the words, but are you actually seeing that you have committed yourself to something, and that from that commitment all your action springs? That commitment invariably creates contradiction, conflict, because you are limiting energy. Life is relationship, and relationship is action. There is no human being who is isolated. If he is isolated, he is dead; he is paralysed within the fortress of his own ideas. As all relationship is action, and action is the movement of life, why is it necessary to have a centre from which to act? Do you follow, sirs, what I mean? I think it is important to understand this.
We generally act from an idea, do we not? Let us examine that a little bit. We act from an idea. First there is the idea, and then action in conformity with that idea; or rather, there is an effort to approximate action to the idea, or to bridge the gap between them - the idea being a reaction, a response from the background of experience, of knowledge, of tradition, and so on.
Now, we are asking ourselves, is it possible to act without an idea? Please, it sounds quite crazy - but I am not at all sure that the man acting with an idea is not crazy, because he creates conflict; and that which is in conflict brings about its own destruction. When you have an idea from which you are acting, there is a contradiction, because the idea is separate from action. Your mind is in a state of conflict; and a mind in conflict is in the process of deterioration. And yet most of us spend our whole life approximating action to an idea, which is called the ideal.
So, if you examine it closely, you will see that the ideal is a factor of deterioration - which none of you are willing to see, because you have been trained from childhood to accept an ideal. But merely to deny the ideal, is still within the field of the opposites, and that also is action arising from an idea.
I do not know if you are following this. Surely, a mind that is pursuing an ideal, however noble or ridiculous, is actually pursuing its own projection. Such a mind is in contradiction with itself; and a mind in contradiction with itself is fundamentally in a state of deterioration.
Now, can you look at this fact quite dispassionately? Can you perceive the truth that a self-contradictory mind, a mind caught up in conflict, is in a state of deterioration? That is obviously a fact, though you may translate or explain it in different ways. And can the mind, having been trained to accept and approximate itself to an ideal, which creates conflict, a contradiction, see that it is in a state of deterioration? Can you look at that fact and perceive the truth of it?
Surely, all conflict, at any level, in any form, is destructive, whether it be conflict between people, between desires, or between ideas. And it is of the utmost importance that the mind, which has grown into the habit of conflict, should see the truth of this; because the liberating factor is the perception of what is true, and not the practice of what is true. Perceiving the truth is one thing, and practising the truth is another. The practising of what is true will never liberate the mind from deterioration, because such a practice is a mechanical process in which action is approximating itself to an idea - which is the very cause of conflict. But if you perceive the truth that all conflict at any level is destructive, then quite a different process is taking place; then there is no centre from which you are acting according to an idea.
I do not know if we are meeting. I think it is very important for you and me to commune with each other about this matter, and understand it. Our education, our morality, our virtue, our seeking God, and all the rest of it, is based on effort, discipline, control, subjugation, which is a process of torturing oneself; and a mind that is tortured, distorted by discipline, corrupted by the effort to be or to become, cannot receive or understand that immense energy which is without effort, which has no beginning and no end.
So it is very important for each of us to perceive what is true. And what does it mean to perceive the truth of something? I wonder if you have ever seen anything without giving it a name? I wonder if you have ever watched a bird on the wing without saying that it is a parrot or a sparrow? I wonder if you have ever looked at a face without saying that it is your wife, or your friend, or your uncle? I wonder if you have ever observed yourself without attributing to yourself a quality, without saying, "I am an I.C.S., a big man", or, "I am a little man, and I must be something else"?
Surely, beauty, and the perception of beauty, is that state of mind in which there is a total absence or abnegation of the centre. When you see a beautiful mountain in all its majesty against the sky, for a moment the centre is driven away, and you are face to face with something tremendous, magnificent, which has no word. In that state there is a vast appreciation of what is beautiful. It is a state of perception in which all meaning, all virtue, everything is. The mind perceives totally, and that is liberation, that is the very essence of intelligence.
But the mind cannot perceive totally if there is either acceptance or denial, either condemnation or identification. Do listen to what I am saying, not merely verbally, but give your heart to it so that you are listening with your whole being; for only then will you understand the significance of perception in the sense in which I am using the word. The mind that has not committed itself to any pattern of behaviour, to any political party, to any country, to any tradition, but is totally outside of all these things - it is only such a mind that can perceive what is true. It is not a question of how an unperceiving mind can learn to perceive; there is no practice, no method, no system by which to awaken perception. All that the mind can say is, "I do not perceive", full stop. If you know you are unperceiving, then the question is, why? Not that you are trying to find an answer, but you are giving your full attention; that is all. You are giving your full attention, which means that your mind is alive, open to everything.
So you begin to see that your mind is conditioned to ideals, conditioned to think, to act, to feel from a centre. Living in this way does create a state of contradiction, conflict, and such a mind inevitably deteriorates. Now, if you see that to be a fact, then the fact itself is sufficient. You know, having an opinion about a fact is very different from understanding a fact. The mind that understands a fact has no opinion about it: it is so. But a mind that has an opinion about a fact, will never understand the fact.
Take what is happening in this country: starvation, appalling poverty, complete degradation, the utter lack of human dignity. All the politicians belonging to the various parties say they want to solve these problems, and each party has its own method, its own leaders who say, "We will solve these problems in our way". To them the system is much more important than the fact of starvation. They are committed to the system, and from that commitment they act. The party, the system being their centre of action, they are incapable of forgetting their ugly, corruptive ambitions and all the horrors which prevent the solution of the problem of starvation. If all of us get together and say, "Let us solve this problem", it can be solved. But we are nationalists, Europeans, Asiatics, Communists, capitalists, and so starvation goes on.
So, if we can look at the fact without the screen of what we are committed to, then the fact itself awakens the intelligence which will bring about right action. We cannot look at the fact with a mind that is committed to an ideal, and is therefore in conflict, in a state of corruption. To look at the fact, we must have no commitments, and then perception is intelligence; and intelligence will act in its own way, at the right time, with the right method.
So, we are concerned with action. When action is from a centre, energy is limited, and therefore in a state of contradiction. When action is without a centre, energy is limitless, unchanging, immortal; it is the movement of that reality which has no beginning and no end. What matters is to be aware of the centre without any choice, that is, simply to be aware of our commitments - our commitments to the political party, to knowledge, to experience, to desire - without any struggle, without any denial of what we are committed to. I assure you, just to be aware of the centre from which one is acting, has much more significance and is much more potent than the desire to get rid of or to modify it. You see, the mind which is not in a state of contradiction, is an innocent mind, because it does not have any sense of a centre. Surely, innocency is the quality of a mind in which the `me', the self, the accumulative factor is not; and only such a mind can receive that energy which has no beginning and no end, that extraordinary something, call it reality, God, or what you will - the name does not matter very much.
Our problem, then, is to understand how energy gets caught in a centre from which all action takes place, thereby creating contradiction and misery. The understanding of the problem is the resolution of the problem. And then you will find, as you go deeply into it, that there is action without an idea, an action which is born of perception; and the beauty of it is that it has no before or after; it is a timeless, immeasurable state.
February 21, 1960
New Delhi 1960
New Delhi 3rd Public Talk 21st February 1960
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