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1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Auckland, New Zealand
1st Vasanta School Gardens Talk 30th March, 1934

Friends, it seems rather a pity that on a fair morning like this we should talk about the various oppressions and cruelty that we every day support, and the various exploitations that are taking place consciously or unconsciously about us; and yet we smile through them all and try to endure them, leading a rather hideous and ugly life, trying to manage somehow to support the daily ills and the misfortunes that confront each one.

Now if you consider what is taking place, you will see that though there is this oppression, this cruelty, this extraordinary exploitation by individuals of others, yet we continually are seeking satisfaction. Either you as individuals are satisfied in tolerating all these things, or you are going to change them, you are going to alter them. Occasionally, in moments of immediate contact, there is an intense burning desire to change, to uproot, and live decently, humanly, completely, and when that immediate contact is taken away with the sufferings of life, we fall back to satisfaction. So if you are merely satisfied, that is, contented with things as they are in the world, then there is nothing more to be said; and I mean that. If you are really satisfied, happy, contented to go on as you are, with things crumbling, when there is so much corruption, exploitation and cruelty, real horrors taking place in the world, if you are really satisfied with it, I am afraid my talk will be utterly futile. But if you want to alter it, and if you think that, as human beings, we ought to have a different state, different condition, different environment, not only for the select few, but for the whole of humanity, then let us consider the problem together; not that I want to dogmatize or to push you in one direction or another, influencing you to act in a particular fashion, but rather through considering together we shall come to a natural conclusion from which we must necessarily and naturally act. So there are two things open to each individual, either to do patchwork, to reform, or bring about a complete orientation of thought, a complete change.

What I call patchwork is this continual alteration in the existing system of thought, but keeping the foundation as it is intact. That is patchwork, isn't it? To keep things fundamentally as they are and alter the superficial difficulties, change about the transient afflictions, but not tackle the fundamental things. Now such work and such thought based upon this idea I call patchwork or reform. It is like improving the slums of the city. Not that it is bad to improve the slums of the city; but that there should be slums, that there should be people who are exploiting, that there should be this distinction of class division, is the problem, not how much improvement you can make. Until we recognize that, and as long as there is not a radical, fundamental change, merely dealing with symptoms is not going to do anything.

So I want this morning to show that so long as thought, and therefore action, is based on this idea of self-aggrandizement, or self-growth, or continually limited self-consciousness, there must be problems arising from this limited consciousness. That is, whether you make any social changes or social reform, so long as the system of thought is based on possessiveness, security, proprietary rights and so on, there must be problems which can be dealt with only symptomatically, not radically. That is, sirs, suppose there is a reform in possessions; you still think it is perfectly right that you should own your little patch of ground, that everybody else should have patches of ground. That is, you want to cling to your particular possessions and let others have their own possessions; whereas, to me the very idea of possessiveness must lead to conflict with your neighbour, must lead to distinctions as nationalities, class consciousness, snobbery; and if you are reforming how much you shall possess or how much you shall not possess, then you are dealing only symptomatically, not radically. It is like going to a doctor who deals with the symptoms and not with the cause.

Let me take another example. To deal with the symptoms is to consider that you can stick to your particular religion and I can stick to mine, and let us be tolerant. Now, as I explained the other night, to me, the whole process of the foundation of a religion comes through the adherence to a particular belief or dogma. You say you are a religious person, a Christian, because you have certain beliefs, certain ideals, certain dogmas, and you say to yourself that there will be a perfect world when all the people believe as you do, or all the people in the world come to your particular form of thought; and we are trying to patch up, to reform with that attitude towards religions. To me, real reform, real change, real radical change of thought, lies not in the patchwork of reforming religions but in seeing the absurdity of religions. So long as you have beliefs, there must be divisions. So long as you are engaged in a particular form of thought, naturally you are separate from me, and there is no human contact. Then, only prejudices meet, not real human understanding.

So as long as you merely want to reform, that is, to bring about changes in the existing systems of thought, of culture, of possessiveness, though you may momentarily alleviate the suffering, solve the innumerable problems that arise, you are but postponing, putting away for the moment the fundamental question, which is whether a society or a culture shall be based on self-aggrandizement, possessiveness and exploitation.

So you, as individuals, have to find out what you intend to do, whether you shall belong to a society, to a system of thought, based on this self-aggrandizement, with all its nuances, with its delicate subtleties; or whether you, as individuals, see that so long as that state exists there must be wars, there must be cruelties, there must be exploitation, and therefore you, as individuals, are prepared to change completely and not merely deal symptomatically. As individuals, we are confronted with this problem, with this question, whether we will deal symptomatically, do patchwork, or bring about a complete change of thought, not based on possessiveness and self-importance. Now such an attitude will necessarily bring about by degrees a new society, a new state, a new consciousness, in which there cannot be exploitation, there cannot be this incessant struggle to exist, to merely exist. And you will only deal with this question if you are really considering, if you are concerned, if you are really suffering, not merely sitting down intellectually discussing, theoretically observing. So it is for you to decide by reason, and therefore by action, whether as individuals you will, by your own understanding, bring about a humanity in which there is real understanding, or continue with this ceaseless struggle.

I have been given some questions, and I will answer these. This is what I intend to do every day.

Question: Some of my friends have remarked that although they find your sayings intensely interesting, they prefer service rather than too much thinking about questions of truth. What are your observations on this point?

Krishnamurti: Sir, what do you mean by service? Everybody wants to help. That is the cry of those people who think they are serving the world. They are always talking about helping the world, especially those people who belong to sects. It is their particular form of disease, because they think that by doing something, it does not matter what, they are going to help, by serving people they will help. Who is to say what is service? A man that belongs to the army, prepared to kill the barbarian that enters his country, says he is serving the country. The man that kills, the butcher, says he is serving the community. The exploiter who has the means of production in his hands, monopolized, says he is serving the community. The man who exploits beliefs, the priest, says he is serving the country, community. Who is to decide?

Or shall we look at it quite differently. Do you think a flower, a rose, is ever considering that it is serving humanity, that it is helping the world by its existence because it is beautiful? On the contrary, because it is beautiful, supremely lovely, unconscious of its own magnificence, it is truly helping. Not like a man who goes about shouting that he is serving the world. That is, each one wants to use his means, or his ideas, to exploit the world, not to set the world free. Personally, if you will not misunderstand me, that is not my point of view at all. I do not want to help the world, as you would call it. I cannot help, it naturally happens. That is service. I do not desire to make others come to my particular form of belief or ask them to come into my particular cage of thought, because I hold that to have a belief is a limitation.

To really serve, one must be supremely free from the limited consciousness we call the "I", the ego, self-centred consciousness; and so long as that exists, you are not really serving the world. Unless you really think, you cannot find out if you are truly helping the world. So let us not first consider whether we are helping the world, but rather find out if we have the capacity to think and to feel. To really think, mind must not be tethered to a belief. That is very simple is it not? To think really profoundly, frankly, completely, your mind cannot be held by prejudice or a certain belief, or by fear, or by preconceived ideas. To think, the mind must start anew, afresh, and not with a background of tradition. After all, tradition is only valuable when it helps you to think, not when it overpowers you by its weight.

Let me put this thing differently. We all want to help. When you see suffering in the world there is an intense desire to help; but to truly help people you have to go to the fundamental cause of things. You have to discover the cause of suffering, and you can only do that if there is profound thinking. And this thinking is not mere intellectual delight, but it can only take place, this thinking, in action.

Question: It is asserted here that only one or two people in the world can hope to grasp the importance of your message. Therefore the secondary teaching of modern Theosophy is necessary as a substitute for the salvation of the world. What have you to say?

Krishnamurti: Sir, first of all you must find out what I have to say before you can say it is impossible. This is what I want to say. Our whole system of thought and action and living is based on individual aggrandizement and growth at the expense of others. That is a fact, is it not? And so long as that fact in the world exists there must be suffering, there must be exploitation, there must be the division of classes; and no forms of religion can bring about peace, because they are the very creation of human cravings, they are the means of exploitation. That living reality, which I say exists - call it God, truth, or whatever name you like - that supreme intelligence which I say exists, which I say I have realized, is to be found only through freedom from the hindrances which you have created through the search for security and comfort, the security of religions and that artificial security of possessiveness.

Surely, to understand what I am saying is not very difficult. The difficulty lies in putting what I am saying into action. Now, to put it into action does not need courage, but rather comprehension. Most of us are waiting for the world to change, rather than beginning to change ourselves. We are waiting for the world system to alter this attitude with regard to possessiveness, and are not trying to find out if we can, as individuals, be really free from possessiveness. To understand this, this freedom from pos- sessiveness, one must discover intelligently what are one's needs. You know, when you have found out what are your needs, then you are not possessive. Each man will know his needs, very clearly, very simply, if he intelligently approaches it; but there cannot be the discovery of what are his needs so long as mind is caught up in possessiveness, greed and exploitation. So when you discover what are your needs, you are not making a compromise with your needs and the world's conditions which are based on possessiveness. I hope I am explaining this.

What I want to say is that there cannot be human, vital relationships, or living joyously in the plenitude of life in the present - which to me is the only eternity - so long as mind and heart are crippled through fear; and to overcome that fear we have created innumerable hindrances, such as religions, beliefs, possessiveness, securities. Hence, as individuals, we continually give suffering, continually add to the struggle, to the chaos of the world. Surely that is very simple, really, if you come to think of it.

If you really want to find out what I am saying, please examine one of the ideas I put forward and carry it out in action; then you will see that it does become practical, not vague, theoretical, impossible to grasp. Then you don't want any secondary teaching.

You know, this idea that as people do not understand, therefore you must give them something they will understand, is really a clever way of exploitation. It is the attitude of the capitalist class. It is the attitude of the man that has many possessions. That is, he wants to feed the world, to guide the world, he wants to guide the other man; whereas, I desire to awaken the other man so that he will act for himself. If I can awaken him to his own strength, to his own understanding, to his own responsibility, to his own action, then I destroy class distinction. Then I do not keep him in the nursery to be exploited as a child by one who is supposed to know more. That is the whole attitude of religions, that you can never find out what truth is - only one or two people find out - therefore let me, as a mediator, help you; therefore I become your exploiter. That is the whole process of religion. It is a clever means of exploiting, being ruthless to keep the people in subjection, as the capitalist class does in exactly the same way - one class by spiritual means, one class by mundane. But if you look at it, both are ruthless exploitations. (Hear! Hear!) Sirs, please don't bother to say "hear, hear." What is important is to act, not intellectually agree with me. That has no value. Agreement can only take place in action. That means, when you say "hear, hear", that you have to stand out alone against society, against your neighbours, against your family, against everything that society for generations has built up. That demands great perception, not courage, not this heroic attitude towards life, but great and direct perception of what is true.

Now, to me, life is not meant to be a school. Life is not a thing from which you learn, it is meant to be lived - to be lived supremely, intelligently, divinely. Whereas, if you make it into a constant battle, struggle, continual effort, then life becomes hideous; and you have made it so because your whole thought is self-growth, self-expansion, self-aggrandizement, and as long as that exists, life becomes a hideous struggle.

So that is what I want to say. Surely that is very easily understood. Easily understood in a sense. One cannot grasp at once all its significance. One can see in what direction it lies, and to change one's attitude there must be great affliction, not contentment, great burning conflict which will force you to discover; and heaven knows, we have conflicts all day long, but we have trained our mind to be cunning, and so pass over these conflicts lightly, escape from them. Hence we may have conflict after conflict, problem after problem. Our mind has learnt to be cunning, and therefore to escape,

Question: Will you please explain in greater detail what you mean by your statement that "your teachers are your destroyers." How can a priest, provided he is honest in purpose, be a destroyer?

Krishnamurti: Sir, why do you want a priest; to keep you morally correct? Is that it? Or to lead you to truth? Or to act as your interpreter between God and yourself? Or merely to perform a rite, a ceremony of marriage or death, or of Sunday morning? Why do you want priests? When we find out why we need them, then we shall discover they are destroyers.

If you say a priest is necessary to keep our morality straight, surely then you are no longer moral, even though the priest may force you to be moral; for to me morality is not compulsion; it is a voluntary action. Morality is not born of fear, conditioned by circumstances. True morality is voluntary understanding and therefore action. Therefore to me a priest is unnecessary to uphold your integrity. Or if you say he is necessary to lead you to truth as a mediator, as an interpreter, then I say both you and the priest must know what truth is. To be led somewhere you must know where you are going, and the leader must also know where he is going; and if you know where truth is, you don't want a leader. Please, that is not cleverness. These are just facts.

But now what have we done? We have preconceived what truth is, as contrast, as an opposite from that which we are. We say truth is tranquil, truth is wise, unbounded. Because we are not that, therefore we have made that into an opposite, and we want someone to help us to get there. What does that mean? Someone to help you to run away from this conflict to something which you suppose must be truth. Therefore, the priest is helping you to run away from realities, from facts.

I was talking to a priest the other day, and he told me that he maintained his church because there was so much unemployment. He said, "You know, the unemployed people have no homes, no beauty, no life, no music, no light, no colour, nothing - horror, a hideous life; and if they come once a week to the church, at least there is beauty, there is some quietness, there is some perfume, and they go away pacified for the rest of the week, and come back again." Surely is that not the greatest form of exploitation? That is, this particular priest was trying to pacify them in their conflict, trying to quiet them, in other words dope them from trying to discover the real cause of unemployment.

Now, if you say priests are necessary to perform the rites, the ceremonies of Christianity, then let us inquire whether those rites and ceremonies are necessary. Are they necessary? As I don't attend them, I cannot answer. They have no value to me; but to you who attend them, are they valuable? In what way do you profit by them? You go to them on Sunday morning, feel very devotional, uplifted, whatever it is, and for the rest of the week you are either exploited or are exploiting. There is still cruelty, and all the rest of it. So where is the value, the necessity of the priest?

If you say it is a means of earning money, then we will put it in quite a different category altogether. If you treat it merely as a profession, as that of the law, the navy, the army, or any other profession, then it is quite a different thing, and most religions with their priests are that and nothing else but that - an old profession.

So if you look to a priest for your guidance as a teacher, I say he is your destroyer or exploiter. Please, I have nothing against Christian priests or Hindu priests - to me they are all the same. I say they are unessential to humanity. And please do not accept what I am saying as final authority to you, a dogmatic statement. Look at it, consider it yourself. If you accept what I am saying, I will also become your priest; therefore I will become your exploiter. Whereas, if you really consider the matter all around, not for a passing moment but completely, you will see that religions with all their sectarian teachers, are really keeping humanity apart. They are increasing the horrors of war, class distinctions, nationalities, and therefore all these things lead to war and greater exploitations in which there is no real affection, real love, real thoughtfulness.

Question: Is there a future life?

Krishnamurti: Are you really interested in it? I suppose you must be or you would not have put the question. Now, wait a minute. Why do you inquire if there is a future life; just for amusement or curiosity, or because you are afraid in the present, therefore you want to find out what is the future, or merely for information? Now, you know some of the modern scientists, some of the well-known scientists, are saying that there is a future life. They say that through mediums one can discover for oneself that there is life after death. All right, let us take it for granted there is. What if there is a future life? What have you done in discovering that there is a future life? You are not any happier, any more intelligent, any more human, thoughtful, affectionate. You are back where you were before. All you have learnt is another fact - that there is a life hereafter. It may be a consolation; but even then what? You say, "It gives me certainty that I shall live next life." Then what? Even though it gives you certainty that you are going to live, you have precisely the same problem, the same troubles, the same transient joys and pleasures although there is another life. Whereas, to me, though it may be a fact, it is of very little importance. Sir, immortality is not in the future, im- mortality or eternity, or whatever you like to call it, is now present; and the present you can only understand when the mind is free of time.

Now I am afraid I have to be a little metaphysical, but I hope you do not mind. It is not really metaphysical. As long as the mind is a slave to time, there must be the fear of death, the fear and the hope of a future life, and a constant inquiry into that question. That is, where there is fear there is already a slow decay, a slow death though you may be living. The very inquiry into the future shows that you are already dying. To live completely, to live in that plenitude of the present, in the eternal now, mind must be free of time. Is that not so? Time, I am not using the word as we generally use it, for convenience, to catch a boat or tram, and the next appointment, and so on, I am using the word time as memory. If each morning you were born anew, afresh, not with all the memories of yesterday, with all the burdens, with all the encrustations of the past, then each day would be new, fresh, simple; and to be able to live in that, is to be free of time. That is, mind has become a storehouse of memory, afflicted by the past, burdened by the innumerable experiences which we have had.

Please, I hope you will think with me with regard to this, otherwise you will not quite understand it. So, with the burden of the past, the burden of innumerable memories, we confront, we meet every experience - a fresh experience, a fresh thought, a fresh environment, a fresh day; with the background of the past we meet the present. Is that not so? If you are a Christian, you have the background of a Christian mind, Christian dogmas, beliefs, tradition, and you try to meet life with those ideas. Or if you are a socialist, or any other person, you have certain prejudices, certain ideas, certain well-defined dogmas, and you meet life with that background, with those spectacles. Thus you are meeting the present continually with a background of the past, and therefore you do not understand the present. There is a continual process of misunderstanding, which creates memory; and therefore, there is the accumulation, the accentuation of this memory, and hence the desire to know if I shall live a next life. Whereas, if you were able to meet everything anew, with an uninfected mind, with a mind that is not burdened with possessiveness of the past, or with the memory of a future, then you will see that there is no such thing as death; that there is no fear. Then life is con- tinually becoming an ecstasy, not a fearful, horrible struggle; but that demands great alertness, awareness of thought, of mind and heart in the present.

I am afraid the questioner will be disappointed. He wants to know if there is or if there is not - a categorical reply, yes or no. I am afraid there cannot be a categorical reply. Beware of categorical replies, "yes" and "no." Is it not more important, really, to know how to live than to find out what happens when you die? It is only the dying already who want to know what happens after death - not the living. So let us inquire and find out if we can live richly, humanly, completely, divinely, instead of finding out what lies beyond. Then you will find out what lies beyond, when you know how to live supremely, intelligently. Then you will find out what is beyond. Then, that discovery is not a theoretical thing, it is a fact; then, you will discover that it has very little significance, because there is no such thing as "beyond." Life is one complete whole, without a beginning or an end. Then that ecstasy, that wisdom, brings about a completeness of living in the present.

Question: Will Britain become Fascist, and is it a progressive movement?

Krishnamurti: No movement based on possessiveness, keeping class distinctions, encouraging fear, can be a progressive or a true movement. I have read some Fascist books, and they talk about the divine right of possessiveness; keeping class distinctions, nationality, the limitations of frontiers. Surely that cannot be a human movement. Whereas, a true movement, which destroys these, which helps people to understand and think, that surely is a real movement, a spiritual movement, a human movement. You know these movements are encouraged or discouraged by individuals like yourselves. If they supply your demands, or possessiveness, guarantee your stronghold, your own investments, spiritual or mundane, you encourage them; and you discourage those which are trying to belittle, and help to destroy those that show the falseness of possessiveness. To me, there is no such thing as instinctive human possessiveness. All possessiveness is an artificial thing, created by an artificial, wrong society. Instinctively, human beings are not possessive. They have been trained by circumstances which they have created. So whether Fascism is a progressive movement or not is of little importance. What is of importance is whether you, as individuals, see that so long as in the world, with its governments, so long as in the world there exists this continual self-aggrandizement, subtly, consciously or unconsciously, this self-importance, spiritually or mundanely, there must be sorrow, there must be continual cries of pain, there must be wars, there must be exploitation, and there will be no real love. Therefore it is for you as individuals to think anew, to discover, to find out if your whole basis of thought and action is based on this limited self-consciousness.

1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Auckland, New Zealand
1st Vasanta School Gardens Talk 30th March, 1934

Jiddu Krishnamurti. What Is Right Action? The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1934..1935.

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