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1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Ojai, California
2nd Public Talk 17th June, 1934

You may remember that yesterday I was talking about the birth of conflict, and how the mind seeks a solution for it. I want to deal this morning with the whole idea of conflict and disharmony, and show the utter futility of mind trying to seek a solution for conflict, because the mere search for the solution will not do away with the conflict itself. When you seek a solution, a means of dissolving the conflict, you merely try to superimpose, or substitute in its place, a new set of ideas, a new set of theories, or you try to run away from conflict altogether. When people desire a solution for their conflict, that is what they seek.

If you observe, you will see that when there is conflict, you are at once seeking a solution for it. You want to find a way out of that conflict, and you generally do find a way out; but you have not solved the conflict, you have merely shifted it by substituting a new environment, a new condition, which will in turn produce further conflict. So let us look into this whole idea of conflict, from where it arises, and what we can do with it.

Now, conflict is the result of environment, isn't it? To put it differently, what is environment? When are you conscious of environment? Only when there is conflict and a resistance to that environment. So, if you observe, if you look into your lives, you will see that conflict is continually twisting, perverting, shaping your lives; and intelligence, which is the perfect harmony of mind and heart, has no part in your lives at all. That is, environment is continually shaping, moulding your lives to action, and naturally out of that continual twisting, moulding, shaping, perversion, conflict is born. So where there is this constant process of conflict there cannot be intelligence. And yet we think that by continually going through conflict we shall arrive at that intelligence, that fullness, and that plenitude of ecstasy. But by the accumulation of conflict we cannot find out how to live intelligently; you can find out how to live intelligently only when you understand the environment which is creating conflict, and mere substitution, that is, the introduction of new conditions, is not going to solve the conflict. And yet if you observe you will see that when there is conflict, mind is seeking a substitution. We either say, "It is heredity, economic conditions, past environment", or we assert our belief in karma, reincarnation, evolution; so we are trying to give excuses for the present conflict in which the mind is caught, and are not trying to find out what is the cause of conflict itself, which is to inquire into the significance of environment.

Conflict then can exist only between environment - environment being economic and social conditions, political domination, neighbours - between that environment, and the result of environment which is the "I". Conflict can exist only so long as there is reaction to that environment which produces the "I", the self. The majority of people are unconscious of this conflict - the conflict between one's self, which is but the result of the environment, and the environment itself; very few are conscious of this continuous battle. One becomes conscious of that conflict, that disharmony, that struggle between the false creation of the environment, which is the "I", and the environment itself, only through suffering. Isn't that so? It is only through acuteness of suffering, acuteness of pain, acuteness of disharmony, that you become conscious of the conflict.

What happens when you become conscious of the conflict? What happens when in that intensity of suffering you become fully conscious of the battle, the struggle which is going on? Most people want an immediate relief, an immediate answer. They want to shelter themselves from that suffering, and therefore they find various means of escape, which I mentioned yesterday, such as religions, excitements, inanities, and the many mysterious avenues of escape which we have created through our desire to protect ourselves from this struggle. Suffering makes one conscious of this conflict, and yet suffering will not lead man to that fullness, to that richness, that plenitude, that ecstasy of life, because after all, suffering can only awaken the mind to great intensity. And when the mind is acute, then it begins to question.he environment, the conditions, and in that questioning, intelligence is functioning; and it is only intelligence that will lead man to the fullness of life and to the discovery of the significance of sorrow. Intelligence begins to function in the moment of acuteness of suffering, when mind and heart are no longer escaping, escaping through the various avenues which you have so cleverly made, which are so apparently reasonable, factual, real. If you observe carefully, without prejudice, you will see that so long as there is an escape you are not solving, you are not coming face to face with conflict, and therefore your suffering is merely the accumulation of ignorance. That is, when one ceases to escape, through the well-known channels, then in that acuteness of suffering, intelligence begins to function.

Please, I do not want to give you examples and similes, because I want you to think it out, and if I give examples I do all the thinking and you merely listen. Whereas if you begin to think about what I am saying, you will see, you will observe for yourself how mind, being accustomed to so many substitutions, authorities, escapes, never comes to that point of acuteness of suffering which demands that intelligence must function. And it is only when intelligence is fully functioning that there can be the utter dissolution of the cause of conflict.

Whenever there is the lack of understanding of environment there must be conflict. Environment gives birth to conflict, and so long as we do not understand environment, conditions, surroundings, and are merely seeking substitutions for these conditions, we are evading one conflict and meeting another. But if in that acuteness of suffering which brings forth in its fullness a conflict, if in that state we begin to question environment, then we shall understand the true worth of environment, and intelligence then functions naturally. Hitherto mind has identified itself with conflict, with environment, with evasions, and therefore with suffering; that is, you say, "I suffer." Whereas, in that state of acuteness of suffering, in that intensity of suffering in which there is no longer escape, mind itself becomes intelligence.

To put it again differently, so long as we are seeking solutions, so long as we are seeking substitutions, authorities for the cause and the alleviation of conflict, there must be identification of the mind with the particular. Whereas if the mind is in that state of intense suffering in which all the avenues of escape are blocked, then intelligence will be awakened, will function naturally and spontaneously.

Please, if you experiment with this, you will see that I am not giving you theories, but something with which you can work, something which is practical. You have so many environments, which have been imposed on you by society, by religion, by economic conditions, by social distinctions, by exploitation and political oppressions. The "I" has been created by that imposition, by that compulsion; there is the "I" in you which is fighting the environment and hence there is conflict. It is no use creating a new environment, because the same thing will still exist. But if in that conflict there is conscious sorrow and suffering - and there is always suffering in all conflict, only man wants to run away from that struggle and he therefore seeks substitutes - if in that acuteness of suffering you stop searching for substitutes and really face the facts, you will see that mind, which is the summation of intelligence, begins to discover the true worth of environment, and then you will realize that mind is free of conflict. In the very acuteness of suffering lies its own dissolution. So therein is the understanding of the cause of conflict.

Also, one should bear in mind that what we call accumulation of sorrows does not lead to intensity, nor does the multiplication of suffering lead to its own dissolution; for acuteness of mind in suffering comes only when the mind has ceased to escape. And no conflict will awaken that suffering, that acuteness of suffering, when the mind is trying to escape, for in escape there is no intelligence.

To put it briefly again, before I answer the questions that have been given to me: First of all everyone is caught up in suffering and conflict, but most people are unconscious of that conflict; they are merely seeking substitutions, solutions and escapes. Whereas if they cease seeking escapes and begin to question the environment which causes that conflict, then mind becomes acute, alive, intelligent. In that intensity mind becomes intelligence and therefore sees the full worth and significance of the environment which creates conflict.

Please, I am sure half of you don't understand this, but it doesn't matter. What you can do, if you will, is to think this over, really think it over, and see if what I am saying is not true. But to think over it is not to intellectualize it, that is, to sit down and make it vanish away through the intellect. To find out if what I am saying is true, you have to put it into action, and to put it into action you must question the environment. That is, if you are in conflict, naturally you must question the environment, but most minds have become so perverted that they are not aware that they are seeking solutions, escapes through their marvellous theories. They reason perfectly, but their reasoning is based on the search for escape, of which they are wholly unconscious.

So if there is conflict, and if you want to find out the cause of that conflict, naturally the mind must discover it through acuteness of thought and therefore the questioning of all that which environment places about you - your family, your neighbours, your religions, your political authorities; and by questioning there will be action against the environment. There is the family, the neighbour and the state, and by questioning their significance you will see that intelligence is spontaneous, not to be acquired, not to be cultivated. You have sown the seed of awareness and that produces the flower of intelligence.

Question: You say that the "I" is the product of environment. Do you mean that a perfect environment could be created which would not develop the "I" consciousness? If so, the perfect freedom of which you speak is a matter of creating the right environment. Is this correct?

Voices from audience: "No."

Krishnamurti: Wait a minute. Can there ever be right environment, perfect environment? There cannot. Those people who answered"no" haven't thought it out fully, so let us reason together, go into it fully.

What is environment? Environment is created, this whole human structure has been created, by human fears, longings, hopes, desires, attainments. Now, you cannot make a perfect environment because each man is creating, according to his fancies and desires, new sets of conditions; but having an intelligent mind, you can pierce through all these false environments and therefore be free of that "I" consciousness. Please, the "I" consciousness, the sense of "mine", is the result of environment; isn't it? I don't think we need discuss it because it is pretty obvious.

If the state gave you your house and everything you required, there would be no need of "my" house - there might be some other sense of "mine", but we are discussing the particular. As that has not been the case with you, there is the sense of"mine', possessiveness. That is the result of environment, that "I" is but the false reaction to environment. Whereas if the mind begins to question the environment itself, there is no longer a reaction to environment. Therefore we are not concerned with the possibility of there ever being a perfect environment.

After all, what is perfect environment? Each man will tell you what to him is a perfect environment. The artist will say one thing, the financier another, the cinema actress another; each man asks for a perfect environment which satisfies him, in other words, which does not create conflict in him. Therefore there cannot be a perfect environment. But if there is intelligence, then environment has no value, no significance, because intelligence is then freed from circumstance, it is functioning fully.

The question is not whether we can create a perfect environment, but rather how to awaken that intelligence which shall be free of environment, imperfect or perfect. I say you can awaken that intelligence by questioning the full value of any environment in which your mind is caught up. Then you will see that you are free of any particular environment, because then you are functioning intelligently, not being twisted, perverted, shaped by environment.

Question: Surely you cannot mean what your words seem to convey. When I see vice rampant in the world, I feel an intense desire to fight against that vice and against all the suffering it creates in the lives of my fellow human beings. This means great conflict, for when I try to help I am often viciously opposed. How then can you say that there is no conflict between the false and the true?

Krishnamurti: I said yesterday that there can be struggle only between two false things, conflict between the environment and the result of environment which is the "I". Now between these two lie innumerable avenues of escape which the "I" has created, which we call vice, goodness, morality, moral standards, fears, and all the many opposites; and the struggle can exist only between the two, between the false creation of the environment which is the "I", and the environment itself. But there cannot be struggle between truth and that which is false. Surely that is obvious, isn't it? You may be viciously opposed because the other man is ignorant. It doesn't mean you mustn't fight - but don't assume the righteousness of fighting. Please, you know there is a natural way of doing things, a spontaneous, sweet way of doing things, without this aggressive, vicious righteousness.

First of all, in order to fight, you must know what you are fighting, so there must be understanding of the fundamental, not of the divisions between the false things. Now we are so conscious, we are so fully conscious of the divisions between the false things, between the result and the environment, that we fight them, and therefore we want to reform, we want to change, we want to alter, without fundamentally changing the whole structure of human life. That is, we still want to preserve the "I" consciousness which is the false reaction to environment; we want to preserve that and yet want to alter the world. In other words, you want to have your own bank account, your own possessions, you want to preserve the sense of "mine", and yet you want to alter the world so that there shall not be this idea of "mine", and"yours".

So what one has to do is to find out if one is dealing with the fundamental, or merely with the superficial. And to me the superficial will exist so long as you are merely concerned with the alteration of environment so as to alleviate conflict. That is, you still want to cling to the "I" consciousness as "mine", but yet desire to alter the circumstances so that they will not create conflict in that "I". I call that superficial thought, and from that there naturally is superficial action. Whereas if you think fundamentally, that is, question the very result of the environment which is the "I", and therefore question the environment itself, then you are acting fundamentally, and therefore lastingly. And in that there is an ecstasy, in that there is a joy of which now you do not know because you are afraid to act fundamentally.

Question: In your talk yesterday you spoke of environment as the movement of the false. Do you include in environment all the creations of nature, including human forms?

Krishnamurti: Doesn't environment continually change? Doesn't it? For most people it doesn't change because change implies continual adjustment, therefore continual awareness of mind, and most people are concerned with the static condition of the environment. Yet environment is moving because it is beyond your control, and it is false so long as you do not understand its significance.

"Does environment include human forms?" Why set them apart from nature? We are not concerned so much with nature, because we have almost brought nature under control, but we have not understood the environment created by human beings. Look at the relationship between peoples, between two human beings, and all the conditions which human beings have created that we have not understood, even though we have largely understood and conquered nature through science.

So we are not concerned with the stability, with the continuance of an environment which we understand, because the moment we understand it there is no conflict. That is, we are seeking security, emotional and mental, and we are happy so long as that security is assured and therefore we never question environment, and hence the constant movement of environment is a false thing which is creating disturbance in each one. As long as there is conflict, it indicates that we have not understood the conditions placed about us; and that movement of environment remains false so long as we do not inquire into its significance, and we can only discover it in that state of acute consciousness of suffering.

Question: It is perfectly clear to me that the "I" consciousness is the result of environment, but do you not see that the "I" did not originate for the first time in this life? From what you say it is obvious that the "I" consciousness, being the result of environment, must have begun in the distant past and will continue in the future.

Krishnamurti: I know this is a question to catch me about reincarnation. But that doesn't matter. Now let's look into it.

First of all you will admit, if you think about it, that the "I" is the result of environment. Now to me it doesn't matter whether it is the past environment or present environment. After all, environment is of the past also. You have done something which you haven't understood, you did something yesterday which you haven't understood, and that pursues you till you understand it. You cannot solve that past environment till you are fully conscious in the present. So it doesn't matter whether the mind is crippled by past or present conditions, What matters is that you shall understand the environment and this will liberate the mind from conflict.

Some people believe that the "I" has had a birth in the distant past and will continue in the future. It is irrelevant to me, it has no significance at all. I will show you why. If the "I" is the result of the environment, if the "I" is but the essence of conflict, then the mind must be concerned, not with that continuance of conflict, but with freedom from that conflict. So it does not matter whether it is the past environment which is crippling the mind, or the present which is perverting it, or whether the "I" has had a birth in the distant past. What matters is that in that state of suffering, in that consciousness, that conscious acuteness of suffering, there is the dissolution of the "I".

This brings in the idea of karma. You know what it means, that you have a burden in the present, the burden of the past in the present. That is, you bring with you the environment of the past into the present, and because of that burden, you control the future, you shape the future. If you come to think of it, it must be so, that if your mind is perverted by the past, naturally the future must also be twisted, because if you have not understood the environment of yesterday it must be continued today; and therefore, as you don't understand today, naturally you will not understand tomorrow either. That is, if you have not seen the full significance of an environment or of an action, this perverts your judgment of today's environment, of today's action born of environment, which will again pervert you tomorrow. So one is caught up in this vicious circle, and hence the idea of continual rebirth, rebirth of memory, or rebirth of the mind continued by environment.

But I say mind can be free of the past, of past environment, past hindrances, and therefore you can be free of the future, because then you are living dynamically in the present, intensely, supremely. In the present is eternity, and to understand that, mind must be free of the burden of the past; and to free the mind of the past there must be an intense questioning of the present, not the considering of how the "I" will continue in the future.

1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Ojai, California
2nd Public Talk 17th June, 1934

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

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