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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

What Is Right Action?

Montevideo, Uruguay
3rd Public Talk 28th June, 1935

Friends, many questions have been sent to me regarding the present social conditions, alcoholism. prostitution, civilization, and so on. I have been asked also, why I do not join certain societies and political parties in order to help the world.

In reply to all these many questions, I feel that if we can really grasp the fundamental principle underlying our human struggle, then we shall understand these problems and truly solve them. We must understand the fundamental causes of struggle and suffering and then our action will inevitably bring a complete change. Our whole interest should be turned, not towards solving any one particular problem, not towards any particular end or definite objective, but towards understanding life as an integrated whole. To do this, limitations that have been placed on the mind, crippling thought and action, must be discerned and dissolved. If thought is really free from the innumerable impediments we have imposed upon it in our search for security, then we will meet life as a whole, and in this lies great bliss.

Now, the mind creates and becomes a slave to authority, and hence action is being constantly impeded, crippled, which is the cause of suffering. If you observe your own thought, you will see how it is caught between the past and the present. Thought is continually paralleling, guiding itself by the past, and adjusting itself to the future; thus action becomes incomplete in the present, which creates in our minds the idea of non-fulfillment, out of which comes the fear of death, the consideration of the hereafter, and the many limitations born of incompleteness. If the mind can completely understand the significance of the present, then action becomes fulfillment without creating further conflict and suffering, which is but the result of limited action, of impediments placed on thought through fear.

To release thought in order that action may flow without creating for itself limitations and barriers, mind must be free from this continual imposition of the past, and also free from the future pattern which is but an escape from the present. Please, this is not as complicated as it sounds. Watch your own mind functioning and you will see that it guides itself by the past, or it is adjusting itself to a future ideal or pattern, so the significance of the present is completely covered over. In this way, action is creating its own limitation, instead of liberating thought and emotion; action is being constantly influenced by the past and the future.

The past is tradition, those values which we have accepted and the significance of which we have not deeply understood. Then there are moral values against which you are constantly measuring your action. If you deeply examine these values, you will discern that they are based on self-protection and security, and merely adjusting action to such values is not fulfillment, nor is it moral. Again, observe yourself and you will see how memory is ever placing a limitation on your thought and so on action. This memory is really a self-protective adjustment to life, which is often called self-discipline. Such discipline is nothing but a defensive system against sorrow, a cunning protection and guard against experience, life itself. So the past, which is tradition, values, habits, memories, is conditioning thought, and thus action is incomplete.

The future is nothing but an escape from actuality, through an ideal to which we try to adjust the present, the immediate action. These ideals are merely safeguards, hopes, illusions born of incompleteness and frustration. So the future is placing a hindrance in the way of action and fulfillment. Thought, which should be in constant movement, is attaching itself either to the past or the future, and out of this comes that limited consciousness, the "I", which is but incompleteness.

Now to understand reality, the deep significance of the movement of life, which is the eternal, thought must be free from this attachment to and influence of the past and the future; mind must be completely naked, without any escape or support, without the power of creating illusion. In that clarity, in that simplicity, there is born, as the flower, truth, the ecstasy of life.

Question: Intellectually I understand what you say, but how am I to put it into action?

Krishnamurti: I doubt, if I may say so, that you really understand what I am saying, even intellectually; for when you talk of understanding intellectually, you mean that you theoretically grasp an idea, but not its deep significance, which can be caught only in action. Most of us want to avoid action, because that necessarily creates circum- stances and conditions which bring about conflict; and thought, being cunning, avoids disturbance, suffering. So it says to itself, "I understand intellectually, but how am I to put it into action?" You never ask how to put an idea into action if that idea is of real significance to you. The man who says, "Tell me how to act", does not wish to think deeply about the matter but merely desires to be told what to do, which creates the pernicious system of authority, following and sectarianism.

I am afraid the majority of you, after hearing these talks, will say, "You have given us nothing practical." Your mind is accustomed to systematized thought and unconscious action, and you are willing to follow any new system which will give you further security. If you take one idea which I put forward and really go into it deeply through action, then you will discover the ever renewing quality of complete action, and from this alone comes the true ecstasy of life.

Question: Do you believe in the existence of the soul? Does this continue to live infinitely after the death of the body?

Krishnamurti: Most people believe in the existence of the soul in some form or other. Now you will not understand what I am going to say if, in defence, you merely oppose it, or quote some authority for your belief which is cultivated through tradition and fear; nor can this belief be called intuition when it is only a vague hope.

Illusion divides itself infinitely. The soul is a division, born of illusion. There is first the body, then there is the soul that occupies it, and finally there is God or reality: this is how you have divided life.

Now the limited consciousness of the "I", is the result of incomplete actions, and this limited consciousness is creating its own illusions and is caught in its own ignorance; and when the mind is free from its own ignorance and illusion, then there is reality, not "you" becoming that reality.

Please do not accept what I say, but begin to question and understand how your own belief has come into being. Then you will see how subtly the mind has divided life. You will begin to understand the significance of this division, which is a subtle form of egotistic desire for continuance. As long as this illusion, with all its subtleties, exists, there cannot be reality.

As this is one of the most controversial subjects and there exists so much prejudice with regard to it, one has to be very careful not to be swayed by opinion for or against the idea of the soul. In understanding reality, this question as to whether there is a soul or not, will be answered. To understand reality, mind must be utterly free from the limitation of fear. with its craving for egotistic continuance.

Question: What have you to say about the sexual problem?

Krishnamurti: Why has sex become a problem? It is a problem because we have lost that creative force which we call love. Because there is no love, sex becomes a problem. Love has become merely possession, and not that supremely intelligent adjustment to life. When we have lost that love and merely depend on sensation, then love and sex become a cruel problem. To understand this question deeply and to live greatly with love, mind must be free from the desire to possess. This requires great intelligence and discernment.

There are no immediate remedies for these vital problems. If you really want to solve them intelligently, you must alter the fundamental causes which create these problems. But if you merely deal with them superficially, then action springing from them, will create greater and more complicated problems. If you deeply understand the significance of possessiveness - in which there is cruelty, oppression, indifference - and the mind frees itself from that limitation, then life is not a problem, nor a school in which to learn; it is a life to be lived completely, in the fullness of love.

Question: Do you believe in free will, in determinism, or in inexorable karma?

Krishnamurti: We have the capacity to choose, and as long as this exists, however conditioned and however unjust, there must be limited freedom. Now our thought is conditioned by past experiences, memories; therefore it cannot be truly free. If you want to understand the eternal present, if you want to complete your action in the present, you must understand the cause of limitation, from which arises this division between consciousness and impeded consciousness. It is this limited consciousness, with its impeded action, that creates incompleteness, causing suffering. If action is not creating further limitations, then there is the continual movement of life.

Karma, or the limitation of action in the present, is created through impeded consciousness of values, ideals, hopes which each one has not wholly understood. Only through deep discernment of these hindrances, can the mind liberate itself from the limitation of action.

Question: I am enthusiastic about the united Christian front in a Christ-centric religion. I accept only the value which organizations have in themselves, and lay emphasis on the individual effort to find personal salvation. Do you believe that the united Christian front is feasible?

Krishnamurti: Each religion maintains that there is only one true religion, itself, and tries to bring within its fold, within its limitation, people who are suffering. Religions thus create divisions between man and man. The point is, Why do you want a religion of any kind, religion being an organized system of beliefs, dogmas and creeds? You cling to it because you hope that it will act as a guide, giving you comfort and solace in times of trouble. So organized religion becomes a shelter, an escape from the continual impact of experience and of life. Through your own desire for protection you create an artificial structure which you call religion, which is in essence a comforting dope against actuality.

If the mind discerns its own process of building up shelters and so avoiding life, then it will begin to disentangle itself from all unquestioned values which now limit it. When man truly realizes this, there will not be the spectacle of one religion competing with others for him, but he will be free from his own self-created illusions, and so awaken in himself that true intelligence which alone can destroy all the artificial distinctions and the many cruelties of intolerance.

Question: Your observations upon authority were greeted in some quarters as an attack upon the churches. Don't you think you should make it clear to your listeners that this word "attack" is misapplied? Should not your words be better understood and be regarded as a means of enlightenment? For do not attacks lead to conflict, and is not harmony your objective?

Krishnamurti: Should not traditions, beliefs, dogmas be questioned? Should not the social, moral values which we have built up for centuries be doubted and their significance discovered? By questioning deeply there will be individual conflict, which will awaken intelligence and not mere stupid revolt. This intelligence is true harmony. Harmony is not the blind acceptance of authority nor the easy satisfaction in unquestioned value.

Sir, what I am saying is very simple. We have now about us many values, traditions, ideals, which we accept unquestioningly; for when we begin to question, there must be action, and being afraid of the result of such action, we go on meekly accepting, subjugating, adjusting ourselves to these false values, which will remain false as long as we merely accept them and do not voluntarily discern their significance. But when we begin to question and try to understand their deep significance, conflict must inevitably arise.

Now, you cannot understand the true significance of values intellectually. You begin to discern it only when there is conflict, when there is suffering. But unless you are greatly aware, suffering will merely lead to the search for comfort. And the man who gives you comfort becomes your authority, and so you acquire other values which you again accept unquestioningly, thoughtlessly. In this vicious circle thought is held, and our suffering goes on day after day until we die, and so we come to hope that in the hereafter there will be happiness. Such an existence, with fear and bondage to authority, is a wasted life without fulfillment.

If you begin to discern for yourself the deep significance of values that have been established, then you will discover for yourself how to live intelligently, supremely. This action of intelligence is true harmony. So do not seek mere harmony, but awaken intelligence. Do not try to cover up the existing disharmony and chaos, but fully understand its cause, which is our egoistic desires, pursuits and ambitions.

Question: How can you talk about human suffering when you yourself have never experienced it?

Krishnamurti: We want to judge others. Instead of basing your understanding of what I say on whether I have suffered or not, become aware of your own suffering, and then see if what I say has any value. If it has not, then whether I have suffered or not has no significance whatsoever. When the mind discerns and frees itself from the cause of its own suffering, then a life without exploitation, a life of deep love, is possible. Question: Do you believe that there is some truth in spiritualistic phenomena, or are they only auto-suggestions?

Krishnamurti: Even after you have examined spiritualistic phenomena under very strict conditions - for there is so much charlatanism and deception about all this - of what value is it?

What lies behind this question? Most of us want to know because we desire to be guided, or because we want to get into touch with those whom we have lost, hoping thus to free ourselves from loneliness, or cover up our agony with explanations. So, with most of us, the desire behind this question is, "How can I escape from suffering?" You want to be guided through life in order to avoid suffering, in order not to come into conflict with actuality. Hence you abandon the authority of a church, a sect or an idea, and rely on this new spiritualistic authority. But authority still guides and dominates you as before. Your life, through control, through escape, becomes more and more shallow, more and more incomplete. Why give more authority, more understanding to the dead than to the living?

Where there is a desire to be guided, to seek security in authority, life must inevitably become a great sorrow and a great emptiness. The richness of life, the depth of understanding, the bliss of love can come only through the discernment of the false, of that which is illusory.

Question: Should we destroy desire?

Krishnamurti: We want to destroy desire because desire creates conflict and suffering. You cannot destroy desire; if you could, you would become but an empty shell. But let us discover what causes suffering, what prompts us to destroy our desire.

Desire is continually trying to fulfil, and in its fulfillment there is pain, suffering and joy. Thus mind becomes merely the storehouse of memories, to guide, to warn. In order that desire, in its fulfillment, may not create suffering, mind begins to limit and protect itself with values and impositions based on fear. Thus gradually desire becomes more and more limited, narrow, and out of this limitation comes suffering which urges us to conquer and destroy desire, or forces us to find a new objective for desire.

If we destroy desire, there is death; and if we merely change the objective of desire, find new ideals for desire, then it is only an escape from conflict, and so there can be no richness, no completeness. If there is no pursuit of limited, egoistic objectives or ideals, then desire is itself the continual movement of life.

Question: If, as you say, immortality exists, we assume that, without desiring it, we shall inevitably realize it in the natural course of experience, thus not creating exploiters. But if we desire it, then we shall make of those who offer us immortality our conscious or unconscious exploiters. Is this what you wish to convey?

Krishnamurti: I tried to explain how we create authority which necessitates exploitation. You create authorities in your desire for egotistic continuance, which you call immortality. If you crave for that limited consciousness, the "I", to continue, then he who gives you the promise of its endurance becomes your authority, which brings about the formation of a sect, and so on.

Now immortality is not egotistic continuance at all. The realization of that which is immeasurable can only be when the mind is no longer bound to its own limited consciousness, when it is no longer pursuing its own security. As long as the mind is seeking its own protection, comfort, creating its own particular limitation, there cannot be eternal becoming.

Question: Is man in any sense superior to woman?

Krishnamurti: The question is surely put by a woman! Intelligence is neither superior nor inferior; it is unique. So don't let us discuss who is superior or who is inferior, but rather discover how to awaken that divinity. You can do it only by constant awareness. Where there is fear there is the submission to the many stupidities and compulsions of religion, of society, or to your wife, your husband or your neighbour. But when the mind, in its own awareness and suffering, deeply penetrates into the illusion of security with its many false values, then there is intelligence, an eternal becoming.