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1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
2nd Public Talk 17th April, 1935

Friends, in this brief introductory talk, before answering some of the questions that have been put to me, I want to express some ideas which should be thought over with critical intelligence. I do not want to go into details, but when you think over what I say and carry it out in action, you will see its practical importance in this world of cruel and terrifying chaos.

The first thing we have to understand is that as long as there is a distinction between the individual and the group there must be conflict, there must be exploitation, there must be suffering. The conflict in the world is really between the individual who is seeking fulfillment, and the group. In the expression of his unique force as an individual, he must inevitably come into conflict with the many, and this conflict only increases the division between the two. The mere superficial imposition of the one upon the other or the extermination of the one by the other, cannot rid the world of exploitation and repressive cruelties.

So long as we do not understand the true relationship between the individual and the group, and his true function among the many, there will be a continual warfare. To me, this distinction between the individual and the group is artificial and untrue, though it has assumed a reality. So long as we do not truly understand how the consciousness of the group has come into being and what is the individual and his function, there must be a continual friction.

Before answering the questions this evening, I want to try to explain what I mean by the individual. The group consciousness is but the expansion of that of the individual, so let us concern ourselves with the thought and action of the individual. Though what I say may appear new to you, please examine it without prejudice.

The individual is the result of the past, expressing himself through the present environment; the past being the inherited, the incomplete, and the present, that which is created by incompleteness. The past is nothing but incompleted thought, emotion and action; that is, thought, emotion or action conditioned and limited by ignorance.

To put it differently, if a person has developed a certain background through traditions, through economic environment, through heredity, through religious training, and is trying to express himself through the limitation of that background, naturally then his actions, thoughts and feelings must be limited, conditioned. That is, his mind is perverted, twisted by his past, and with that limitation he is trying to meet life and understand its experiences. So ignorance is the accumulation of the results of action through the many hindrances whose significance the individual has not wholly understood. These hindrances have been built up by the mind for its self-protection.

Each one is constantly seeking and creating security for himself, and therefore his whole reaction to life is one of continual self-defence. As long as the mind and heart are seeking measures to protect themselves through defensive ideals and values, there must be ignorance, which prevents the mind from acting fully, completely, and so it develops its own particularity which we call individuality, and which must inevitably come into conflict with the many other individualities. This is the fundamental cause of suffering.

Now, to me, the true significance of individuality consists in freeing the mind from this past, from this ignorance with its limiting environment. In this process of liberation, there is born true intelligence, which alone will free man from suffering, from cruelties and exploitation.

So when the mind is free from the habit and the tradition of seeking and creating values for its self-protection, through accumulation, which is ignorance, and meets life completely, utterly naked, free, then only is there the lasting discernment of that which is true.

Question: Is it possible to live without exploitation, individual and commercial?

Krishnamurti: Most of us are carried away by the mere sensation of possession. We desire to acquire, and therefore we begin to accumulate more and more, thinking that through accumulation we shall find happiness, security. As long as there is accumulative and acquisitive desire, there must be exploitation; and we can be free from that exploitation only when we begin to awaken intelligence through the destruction of self-protective values. But if we try merely to discover what our needs are and limit ourselves to those needs, then our life will become small, shallow and petty. Whereas, if we lived intelligently, without self-protective accumulations, then there would be no exploitation, with its many cruelties. To try to solve this problem by problem by merely controlling man's economic conditions or by mere renunciation, seems to me a wrong approach to this complicated problem. It is only through the voluntary and intelligent understanding of the futility and ignorance of self-protectiveness, that there can come the freedom from exploitation.

To awaken intelligence is to discover, through doubt and questioning, the true significance of the values which we have acquired, of the traditions, whether religious, social, or economic, which we have inherited or have consciously built up. In such questioning, if it is real and vital, there is the intelligent discovery of needs. This intelligence is the assurance of happiness.

Question: Should we break our swords and turn them into plough shares, even though our country is attacked by an enemy? Is it not our moral duty to defend our country?

Krishnamurti: To me war is fundamentally wrong, either defensive or aggressive. The system of acquisitiveness on which this whole civilization is based must naturally create class, racial, and national distinctions, leading inevitably to war, which you may call offensive or defensive according to the dictates of commercial leaders and politicians. As long as this exploiting economic system exists, there must be war; and the individual who is faced with the problem of whether he shall fight or not, will decide according to his acquisitiveness, which he sometimes calls patriotism, ideals, and so on. Or, understanding that this whole system must inevitably lead to war, he, as an individual, will begin to free himself intelligently from this system. And this alone is to me the true solution.

By our acquisitiveness we have built up through the many centuries this crushing system of exploitation which is destroying all our sensibilities, our love for one another. And when we ask, "Should we not fight for our country, is it not our moral duty?" there is something inherently wrong, something fundamentally cruel in the very question itself. To be free from this extreme stupidity - warman has to relearn to think from the very beginning. As long as humanity is divided by religion, by sects, by creeds, by classes, by nationalities, there must be war, there must be exploitation, there must be suffering. It is only when the mind begins to free itself from these limitations, only when the mind pours itself into the heart, that there is true intelligence, which alone is the lasting solution to the barbaric cruelties of this civilization.

Question: How can we best help humanity to understand and live your teachings?

Krishnamurti: It is very simple: by living them yourself. What is it that I am teaching? I am not giving you a new system, or a new set of beliefs; but I say, look to the cause that has created this exploitation, lack of love, fear, continual wars, hatred, class distinctions, division of man against man. The cause is, fundamentally the desire on the part of each one to protect himself through acquisitiveness, through power. We all desire to help the world, but we never begin with ourselves. We want to reform the world, but the fundamental change must first take place within ourselves. So, begin to free the mind and heart from this sense of possessiveness. This demands, not mere renunciation, but discernment, intelligence.

Question: What is your attitude towards the problem of sex, which plays such a dominant part in our daily life?

Krishnamurti: It has become a problem because there is no love. Isn't that so? When we really love, there is no problem, there is an adjustment, there is an understanding. It is only when we have lost the sense of true affection, that profound love in which there is no sense of possessiveness, that there arises the problem of sex. It is only when we have completely yielded ourselves to mere sensation, that there are many problems concerning sex. As the majority of people have lost the joy of creative thinking, naturally they turn to the mere sensation of sex, which becomes a problem eating their minds and hearts away. As long as you do not begin to question and understand the significance of environment, of the many values which you have built up about you in self-protection and which are crushing out fundamental, creative thinking, naturally you must resort to many forms of stimulation. From this arise innumerable problems for which there is no solution except the fundamental and intelligent understanding of life itself.

Please experiment with what I am saying. Begin to find out the true significance of religion, of habit, of tradition, of this whole system of morality that is continually forcing, urging you in a particular direction; begin to question its whole significance without prejudice. Then you will awaken that creative thought which dissolves the many problems, born of ignorance.

Question: Do you believe in reincarnation? Is it a fact? Can you give us proofs from your personal experience?

Krishnamurti: The idea of reincarnation is as old as the hills; the idea that man, through many rebirths, going through innumerable experiences, will come at last to perfection, to truth, to God. Now what is it that is reborn, what is it that continues? To me, that thing which is supposed to continue is nothing but a series of layers of memory, of certain qualities, certain incompleted actions which have been conditioned, hindered by fear born of self-protection. Now that incomplete consciousness is what we call the ego, the "I". As I explained at the beginning in my brief introductory talk, individuality is the accumulation of the results of various actions which have been impeded, hindered by certain inherited and acquired values, limitations. I hope I am not making it very complicated and philosophical, I will try to make it simple.

When you talk of the "I", you mean by that a name, a form, certain ideas, certain prejudices, certain class distinctions, qualities, religious prejudices, and so on, which have been developed through the desire for self-protection, security, comfort. So, to me, the "I", based on an illusion, has no reality. Therefore the question is not whether there is reincarnation, whether there is a possibility of future growth, but whether the mind and heart can free themselves from this limitation of the "I", the "mine".

You ask me whether I believe in reincarnation or not because you hope that through my assurance you can postpone understanding and action in the present, and that you will eventually come to realize the ecstasy of life or immortality. You want to know whether, being forced to live in a conditioned environment with limited opportunities, you will through this misery and conflict ever come to realize that ecstasy of life, immortality. As it is getting late I have to put it briefly, and I hope you will think it over.

Now I say there is immortality, to me it is a personal experience; but it can be realized only when the mind is not looking to a future in which it shall live more perfectly, more completely, more richly. Immortality is the infinite present. To understand the present with its full, rich significance, mind must free itself from the habit of self-protective acquisition; when it is utterly naked, then only is there immortality.

Question: In order that we may grasp truth, shall we work alone or collectively?

Krishnamurti: If I may suggest, leave the question of truth aside; rather let us consider whether it is intelligent to work for individual gain or for the collective. For centuries each one has sought his own security, and so he has been ruthless, aggressive, exploiting, thus creating confusion and chaos. Considering all this, you, the individual, will voluntarily begin to work for the welfare of the whole. In this voluntary act, the individual will never become mechanical, automatic, a mere instrument in the hands of the group; therefore, there can never be a conflict between the group and the individual. The question of individual creative expression as opposed to and in conflict with the group will disappear only when each one acts integrally in the fullness of understanding. This alone will bring about intelligent co-operation in which compulsion, either through fear or greed, has no place. Do not wait to be driven to act collectively, but begin to awaken that intelligence, stripping away all acquisitive stupidities. and then there will be the joy of collective work.

1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
2nd Public Talk 17th April, 1935

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

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