What Is Right Action?
11th Public Talk 30th June, 1934
So the question which every thoughtful person puts to himself is how can he awaken this creative thinking; because when there is this creative thinking, which is infinite movement, then there can be no idea of a limitation, a conflict.
Now this movement of creative thinking does not seek in its expression a result, an achievement; its results and expressions are not its culmination. It has no culmination or goal, for it is eternally in movement. Most minds are seeking a culmination, a goal, an achievement, and are moulding themselves upon the idea of success, and such thought, such thinking is continually limiting itself. Whereas if there is no idea of achievement but only the continual movement of thought as understanding, as intelligence, then that movement of thought is creative. That is, creative thinking ceases when mind is crippled by adjustment through influence, or when it functions with the background of a tradition which it has not understood, or from a fixed point, like an animal tied to a post. So long as this limitation, adjustment exists, there cannot be creative thinking, intelligence, which alone is freedom.
This creative movement of thought never seeks a result or comes to a culmination, because result or culmination is always the outcome of alternate cessation and movement, whereas if there is no search for a result, but only continual movement of thought, then that is creative thinking. Again, creative thinking is free of division which creates conflict between thought, emotion and action. And division exists only when there is the search for a goal, when there is adjustment and the complacency of certainty.
Action is this movement which is itself thought and emotion, as I explained. This action is the relationship between the individual and society. It is conduct, work, co-operation, which we call fulfillment. That is, when mind is functioning without seeking a culmination, a goal, and therefore thinking creatively, that thinking is action, which is the relationship between the individual and society. Now if this movement of thought is clear, simple, direct, spontaneous, profound, then there is no conflict in the individual against society, for action then is the very expression of this living, creative movement.
So to me there is no art of thinking, there is only creative thinking. There is no technique of thinking, but only spontaneous creative functioning of intelligence, which is the harmony of reason, emotion and action, not divided or divorced from each other.
Now this thinking and feeling, without a search for a reward, a result, is true experiment, isn't it? In real experiencing, real experimenting, there cannot be the search for result, because this experimenting is the movement of creative thought. To experiment, mind must be continually freeing itself from the environment with which it conflicts in its movement, the environment which we call the past. There can be no creative thinking if mind is hindered by the search for a reward, by the pursuit of a goal.
When the mind and heart are seeking a result or a gain, thereby complacency and stagnation, there must be practice, an overcoming, a discipline, out of which comes conflict. Most people think that by practicing a certain idea, they will release creative thinking. Now, practice, if you come to observe it, ponder over it, is nothing but the result of duality. And an action born of this duality must perpetuate that distinction between mind and heart, and such action becomes merely the expression of a calculated, logical, self-protective conclusion. If there is this practice of self discipline, or this continual domination or influence by circumstances, then practice is merely an alteration, a change towards an end; it is merely action within the confines of the limited thought which you call self-consciousness. So practice does not bring about creative thinking.
To think creatively is to bring about harmony between mind, emotion and action. That is, if you are convinced of an action, without the search of a reward at the end, then that action, being the result of intelligence, releases all hindrances that have been placed on the mind through the lack of understanding.
I am afraid you are not getting this. When I put forward a new idea for the first time, and you are not accustomed to it, naturally you find it very difficult to understand; but if you will think over it, you will see its significance.
Where the mind and heart are held by fear, by lack of understanding, by compulsion, such a mind, though it can think within the confines, within the limitations of that fear, is not really thinking, and its action must ever throw up new barriers. Therefore its capacity to think is ever being limited. But if the mind frees itself through the understanding of circumstances, and therefore acts, then that very action is creative thinking.
Question: Will you please give an example of the practical exercise of constant awareness and choice in everyday life.
Krishnamurti: Would you ask that question if there were a poisonous snake in your room? Then you wouldn't ask, "How am I to keep awake? How am I to be intensely aware?" You ask that question only when you are not sure that there is a poisonous snake in your room. Either you are wholly unconscious of it, or you want to play with that snake, you want to enjoy its pain and its delights.
Please follow this. There cannot be awareness, that alertness of mind and emotion, so long as mind is still caught up in both pain and pleasure. That is, when an experience gives you pain and at the same time gives you pleasure, you do nothing about it. You act only when the pain is greater than the pleasure, but if the pleasure is greater, you do nothing at all about it, because there is no acute conflict. It is only when pain overbalances pleasure, is more acute than pleasure, that you demand an action.
Most people wait for the increase of pain before they act, and during this waiting period, they want to know how to be aware. No one can tell them. They are waiting for the increase of pain before they act, that is, they wait for pain through its compulsion to force them to act, and in that compulsion there is no intelligence. It is merely environment which forces them to act in a particular way, not intelligence. Therefore when a mind is caught up in this stagnation, in this lack of tenseness, there will naturally be more pain, more conflict.
By the look of things political, war may break out again. It may break out in two years, in five years, in ten years. An intelligent man can see this and intelligently act. But the man who is stagnating, who is waiting for pain to force him to action, looks to greater chaos, greater suffering to give him impetus to act, and hence his intelligence is not functioning. There is awareness only when the mind and heart are taut, are in great tenseness.
For example, when you see that possessiveness must lead to incompleteness, when you see that insufficiency, lack of richness, shallowness must ever produce dependence, when you recognize that, what happens to your mind and heart? The immediate craving is to fill that shallowness; but apart from that, when you see the futility of continual accumulation, you begin to be aware how your mind is functioning. You see that in mere accumulation there cannot be creative thinking; and yet mind is pursuing accumulation. Therefore in becoming aware of that, you create a conflict, and that very conflict will dissolve the cause of accumulation.
Question: In what way could a statesman who understood what you are saying, give it expression in public affairs? Or is it not more likely that he would retire from politics when he understood their false bases and objectives?
Krishnamurti: If he understood what I am saying, he would not separate politics from life in its completeness; and I don't see why he should retire. After all, politics now are merely instruments of exploitation; but if he considered life as a whole, not politics only - and by politics he means only his country, his people, and the exploitation of others - and regarded human problems not as national but as world problems, not as American, Hindu or German problems, then, if he understood what I am talking about, he would be a true human being, not a politician And to me, that is the most important thing, to be a human being, not an exploiter, or merely an expert in one particular line. I tried to explain that yesterday in my talk. I think that is where the mischief lies. The politician deals with politics only; the moralist with morals, the so-called spiritual teacher with the spirit, each thinking that he is the expert, and excluding all others. Our whole structure of society is based on that, and so these leaders of the various departments create greater havoc and greater misery. Whereas if we as human beings saw the intimate connection between all these, between politics, religion, the economic and social life, if we saw the connection, then we would not think and act separatively, individualistically.
In India, for example, there are millions starving. The Hindu who is a nationalist says, "Let us first become intensely national; then we shall be able to solve this problem of starvation." Whereas to me, the way to solve the problem of starvation is not to become nationalistic, but the contrary; starvation is a world problem, and this process of isolation but further increases starvation. So if the politician deals with the problems of human life merely as a politician, then such a man creates greater havoc, greater mischief, greater misery; but if he considers the whole of life without differentiation between races, nationalities, and classes, then he is truly a human being, though he may be a politician.
Question: You have said that with two or three others who understand, you could change the world. Many believe that they themselves understand, and that there are others likewise, such as artists and men of science, and yet the world is not changed. Please speak of the way in which you would change the world. Are you not now changing the world, perhaps slowly and subtly, but nevertheless definitely, through your speaking, your living, and the influence you will undoubtedly have on human thought in the years to come? Is this the change you had in mind, or was it something immediately affecting the political, economic and racial structure?
Krishnamurti: I am afraid I have never thought of the immediacy of action and its effect. To have a lasting, true result, there must be behind action, great observation, thought, and intelligence, and very few people are willing to think creatively, or be free from influence and bias. If you begin to think individually, you will then be able to co-operate intelligently; and as long as there is no intelligence there cannot be co-operation, but only compulsion and hence chaos.
Question: To what extent can a person control his own actions? If we are, at any one time, the sum of our previous experience, and there is no spiritual self, is it possible for a person to act in any other way than that which is determined by his original inheritance, the sum of his past training, and the stimuli which play upon him at the time? If so, what causes the changes in the physical processes, and how?
Krishnamurti: "To what extent can a person control his own actions?" A person does not control his own actions if he has not understood environment. Then he is only acting under the compulsion, the influence of environment; such an action is not action at all, but is merely reaction or self-protectiveness. But when a person begins to understand environment, sees its full significance and worth, then he is master of his own actions, then he is intelligent; and therefore no matter what the condition he will function intelligently.
"If we are, at any one time, the sum of our previous experience, and there is no spiritual self, is it possible for a person to act in any other way than that which is determined by his original inheritance, the sum of his past training, and the stimuli which play upon him at the time?"
Again, what I have said applies to this. That is, if he is merely acting from the burden of the past, whether it be his individual or racial inheritance, such action is merely the reaction of fear; but if he understands the subconscious, that is, his past accumulations, then he is free of the past, and therefore he is free of the compulsion of the environment.
After all, environment is of the present as well as of the past. One does not understand the present because of the clouding of the mind by the past; and to free the mind from the subconscious, the unconscious hindrances of the past, is not to roll memory back into the past, but to be fully conscious in the present. In that consciousness, in that full consciousness of the present, all the past hindrances come into activity, surge forward, and in that surging forward, if you are aware, you will see the full significance of the past, and therefore understand the present. "If so, what causes the changes in the physical processes, and how?" As far as I understand the questioner, he wants to know what produces this action, this action which is forced upon him by environment. He acts in a particular manner, compelled by environment, but if he understood environment intelligently, there would be no compulsion whatever; there would be understanding, which is action itself.
Question: I live in a world of chaos, politically, economically, and socially, bound by laws and conventions which restrict my freedom. When my desires conflict with these impositions, I must break the law and take the consequences, or repress my desires. Where then, in such a world, is there any escape from self-discipline?
Krishnamurti: I have spoken about this often, but I will try again to explain it. Self-discipline is merely an adjustment to environment, brought about through conflict. That is what I call self-discipline. You have established a pattern, an ideal, which acts as a compulsion, and you are forcing the mind to adjust itself to that environment, forcing it, modifying it, controlling it. What happens when you do that? You are really destroying creativeness; you are perverting, suppressing creative affection. But if you begin to understand environment, then there is no longer repression or mere adjustment to environment, which you call self-discipline.
How then can you understand environment? How can you understand its full worth, significance? What prevents you from seeing its significance? First of all, fear. Fear is the cause of the search for protection or security, security which is either physical, spiritual, religious or emotional. So long as there is that search there must be fear, which then creates a barrier between your mind and your environment, and thereby creates conflict; and that conflict you cannot dissolve as long as you are only concerned with adjustment, modification, and never with the discovery of the fundamental cause of fear.
So where there is this search for security, for a certainty, for a goal, preventing creative thinking, there must be adjustment, called self-discipline, which is but compulsion, the imitation of a pattern. Whereas when the mind sees that there is no such thing as security in the piling up of things or of knowledge, then mind is released from fear, and therefore mind is intelligence, and that which is intelligence does not discipline itself. There is self-discipline only where there is no intelligence. Where there is intelligence, there is understanding, free from influence, from control and domination.
Question: How is it possible to awaken thought in an organism wherein the mechanism requisite for the apprehension of abstract ideas is absent?
Krishnamurti: By the simple process of suffering; by the process of continual experience. But you see, we have taken such shelter behind false values that we have ceased to think at all, and then we ask, "What are we to do? How are we to awaken thought?" We have cultivated fears which have become glorified as virtues and ideals, behind which mind takes shelter, and all action proceeds from that shelter, from that mould. Therefore there is no thinking. You have conventions, and the adjusting of oneself to these conventions is called thought and action, which is not at all thought or action, because it is born of fear, and therefore cripples the mind.
How can you awaken thought? Circumstances, or the death of someone you love, or a catastrophe, or depression, force you into conflict. Circumstances, outer circumstances, force you to act, and in that compulsion there cannot be the awakening of thought, because you are acting through fear. And if you begin to see that you cannot wait for circumstances to force you to act, then you begin to observe the very circumstances themselves; then you begin to penetrate and understand the circumstances, the environment, You don't wait for depression to make you into a virtuous person, but you free your mind from possessiveness, from compulsion.
The acquisitive system is based on the idea that you can possess, and that it is legal to possess. Possession glorifies you. The more you have, the better, the nobler you are considered. You have created that system, and you have become a slave to that system. You can create another society, not based on acquisitiveness, and that society can compel you as individuals to conform to its conventions, just as this society compels you to conform to its acquisitiveness. What is the difference? None whatever. You as individuals are merely being forced by circumstances or law to act in a particular direction, and therefore there is no creative thinking at all; whereas if intelligence is beginning to function, then you are not a slave to either society, the acquisitive or the non-acquisitive. But to free the mind, there must be great intensity; there must be this continual alertness, observation, which itself creates conflict. This alertness itself produces a disturbance, and when there is that crisis, that intensity of conflict, then mind, if it is not escaping, begins to think anew, to think creatively, and that very thinking is eternity.