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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

What Is Right Action?

New York City
2nd Public Talk 13th March, 1935

Friends, before answering some of the questions that have been sent to me, I should like to say that what I have been saying and what I am going to say is not a new intellectual toy, not a new set of theories over which we can wrangle for mere mental stimulation; nor is it meant to give a new sensation to an already jaded emotion. The true significance and depth of its meaning is to be discovered only when you experiment with it; otherwise it will have no value in a world where there is constant conflict.

To make an experiment, one has to begin with oneself. After all, you cannot begin experimenting with somebody else. You won't know either the result or the significance of that experiment if you do not test it out for yourself.

So instead of considering your neighbour, you should begin to find out how to experiment truly with yourself. To help the world one must begin with oneself. If one can truly experiment with oneself so that there is a continual adjustment, not the adjustment to a stereotyped self-discipline, not the blind following of a pattern, not the ceaseless practice of an idea, then such an experiment in living will bring about a significant change in action, in conduct, in one's whole being.

I would suggest that instead of considering superficially the ideas that I put forward, you experiment with them to see whether they have any practical value in your daily life.

Most of us are nurtured in certain prejudices, traditions, and fears, forced by environment to follow and to obey, and through that background we think and act. This background has become an unconscious part of us, and from this unconscious centre we start thinking, feeling and acting. All our actions, springing from that limitation of the mind and heart, naturally become more and more limited, more and more narrow, more and more conditioned. Thus the unconscious being, those habitual thoughts and feelings which we haven't questioned or understood, is continually perverting, interfering with and darkening the conscious actions. If we do not understand and so become free from that background with which we have grown up, naturally those preju- dices, those fears will be continually interfering with and conditioning the conscious. Consciousness is action, is discernment. So our action is continually being limited, being conditioned through fear, through tradition. Instead of liberating us, freeing us, action but increases our conflict, our problems, and so living becomes but a series of conflicts, a series of struggles.

To escape from these struggles, we have created certain illusions, as releases, which have become realities to us. That is, we have innumerable problems and conflicts, and in order to escape from them we have established certain regular, acknowledged releases. These releases are organized religion, acquisitiveness, establishing and following a tradition, and the many escapes through sensation.

If you are aware of your actions, you will notice that this is what is happening to most of you, that you are functioning through an established background of tradition, or of fear, and therefore increasing your conflict, your struggles. Instead of freeing yourselves, through action, you establish various releases or escapes, and these become so real, so demanding, that the mind finds it immensely difficult to free itself from them.

To free yourselves from the cause of increasingly limited action, that is, from the unconscious, is not to dig into the past, but to become aware in action in the present. Instead of looking to see if you are slaves to tradition, to fear, to prejudice, become fully aware in your action, and in that flame of awareness the cause of limitation, such as fear, will reveal itself. That is, if you are fully awakened, fully aware in an action which demands your complete being, then you will perceive that all these hidden, unconscious perversions spring forth and prevent your acting fully, completely. Then is the time to deal with them, and if the flame of awareness is intense, that flame consumes these limiting causes.

Instead of following a pattern, a well-laid line of action, which, again, is bound to cripple thought and emotion, if one can be fully aware in the moment of action, and this can only be when thought and feeling are intense, then the hidden and unexplored depths of one's consciousness reveal themselves; whereas if you merely examine the unconscious through self-analysis, you will find that your actions become more and more restricted, more and more superficial, therefore losing their significance, their depth, and so life becomes shallow and empty. If you begin to be aware, to deal with a question integrally, as a whole, completely, then you will see how into your mind will creep all the various conditioning, defensive thoughts, inherited or acquired. Then you will discover - if you really experiment with it - that the mind and heart are not in conflict, do not contradict each other, but are the very fountain, the source of that which you are seeking, that creative ecstasy, truth.

Instead of seeking peace, happiness, or trying to find out what truth or immortality is, or if there is a God, if, in the flame of awareness, the mind and heart can free themselves from fear, prejudice, perversions, conditioning causes, then that consciousness is the real ecstasy of life, of truth.

Question: What should one do to get rid of loneliness and fear?

Krishnamurti: First let us discover what we now do, and then we can inquire what we should do. If we are lonely, what do we do? We try to escape from loneliness through companionship, through work, amusement, worship, prayer, all the well known and cunningly well established escapes. Why do we do that? We think that we can cover up loneliness by these escapes, through these releases. Can we ever cover up a thing that is inherently diseased? We may momentarily cover up loneliness, but it continues all the time.

So, where there is escape, there must be the continuance of loneliness. For loneliness there is no substitution. If we can understand this with all our being, completely, if we can understand that there is no possibility of escape from loneliness, from fear, then what happens? Most of you will not be able to answer, because you have never completely faced the problem. You don't know what would happen if all the avenues of escape had been completely blocked up and there were not the least possibility of escape.

I suggest that you experiment with it. When you are lonely, be fully aware and you will see that your mind wants to run away, wants to escape. When the mind is aware that it is escaping and at the same time perceives the absurdity of escape, in that understanding loneliness truly disappears. Please, when you are confronted with a problem and there is no possibility of a way out, then the problem ceases, which does not mean an acceptance of it. Now, you are seeking a remedy for loneliness, a substitution, and therefore the problem is not the significance of loneliness but, what is the remedy for loneliness, what is the best way to escape from it or to cover it up. But when the mind is no longer seeking an escape, then loneliness or fear has a very different significance.

Now, you cannot accept my word for it: all you can say is that you do not know. You do not know whether loneliness and fear will disappear, but by experimenting you will understand the whole significance of loneliness. If we merely seek a remedy for loneliness or fear, we become very superficial, don't we? To the man who has everything he wants, or the man who wants everything, life becomes very shallow. In merely seeking remedies, life becomes meaningless, empty; whereas, if you are really confronted with a burning problem and there is no possible way of escape, then you will see that that problem does a miraculous thing to you. It is no longer merely a problem; it is intensely vital, it is to be examined, to be lived with, to be understood.

Question: Do you think one should compromise in everyday life?

Krishnamurti: Do you think there is a possibility of a compromise between war and peace? That is, if you really think that war, killing for any patriotic reason or for any other reason, is fundamentally wrong, do you think you could compromise with regard to creating or taking part in a war? In the same way, between acquisitiveness and non-acquisitiveness, do you think there can be any compromise?

There is compromise if at one moment you are acquisitive and the next moment you are non-acquisitive. If one is not acquisitive, if one is not really pursuing acquisitiveness, if one is not driven by it, then there is no compromise. But, when you are possessive and are being driven by circumstances, by ideas and ideals, to be non-acquisitive, then you begin to compromise, then you begin to search out the best and least harmful way to compromise.

If you are truly free from acquisitiveness, though you may live in this world of possessions, there is no compromise. You have to find out whether you are acquisitive. This is very simple. To do this, do not begin to analyze your actions, which only leads to the limitation of action, but be fully aware in the moment of action itself.

Time will not give you freedom from acquisitiveness. That is, you cannot learn non-acquisitiveness through postponement into a future; you can become free from acquisitiveness only in the present, and not eventually. You can only discern its significance now, instantly. But, as we do not want to discern this immediately, we say, deceiving ourselves, that we shall learn non-acquisitiveness later on, through the years to come. In the present only can we understand the stupidity of acquisitiveness, and not in the future. The freedom from acquisitiveness is not the result of slow evolutionary growth of the mind and heart.

A friend of mine became a priest some ten years ago. He said to me the other day that it had taken him ten years to see the foolishness of his act. I wondered whether it had; or was it that he was so carried away by his desires, by his emotions, by his fears, by traditions, that he was not able to think clearly then, and he began to think clearly only when he was disillusioned? What happened was that he was emotionally carried away and influenced by fear, by authority, by tradition. Had he been fully aware at the moment of his decision, he would not have taken ten years to discover the foolishness of that act.

The question is: Should there be compromise? Naturally there is compromise when you are acquisitive and at the same time do not want to be acquisitive. In that conflict of the opposites there must be compromise. There is no solution to that, and when life becomes a continual conflict between the opposites, then it is a meaningless and a stupid struggle. But if you truly discern the whole significance of acquisitiveness, then in that freedom there is richness, the enduring beauty of life.

Question: You say that memory is a barrier. Why?

Krishnamurti: Anything that we perceive directly, understand completely, leaves no scar on the mind. If you live in an experience wholly, although you may recall the incident, it will not produce those reactions which you use for your self-defense. If I have an experience whose significance I do not completely understand, then mind but becomes a centre of conflict and this conflict continues till I understand that experience wholly. As long as the mind is burdened with these conflicts, it is but a storehouse of defensive reactions, called memories, and with such protective memories we approach life, thus creating a barrier between life and ourselves, from which ensues all conflict, fear and suffering. This is what we are doing most of the time. Instead of being in that state of creative emptiness, mind becomes merely a storehouse of defensive memories. This bundle of defensive reactions we call the "I", that limited consciousness.

With that limited consciousness, which is but a series of self-protective, invulnerable layers of memories, you approach life and all its experiences. Experiences, instead of dissipating these many layers and so releasing the creative force of life, merely create and add further defensive memories, and so life becomes a continued conflict, confusion and suffering. Instead of being completely vulnerable to life, being completely empty - not in the negative sense of the word - being wholly without self-defense, mind has become a machine of warning, of guiding, to protect and defend itself. To me, such self-protective, defensive memories are fundamental barriers, for they prevent the complete fruition of life, which alone is truth.

Consider for yourself how your mind is not vulnerable. Complete vulnerability is wisdom. When you have an experience, observe what happens. All your prejudices, your memories, your defensive responses come forward and tell you how to act, how to conduct yourself. So already you have made up your mind how to deal with the new, the fresh.

After all, to understand truth, God, the unknown, or whatever name you care to give to it, mind and heart must come unprepared, insecure. In the vitality of insecurity, there is the eternal.

In protecting yourselves, you have built up cunning securities, certainties, subtle memories, and it requires great intelligence to free yourselves from them. You cannot brush them aside or try to forget them. You can discover these barriers only, in the full awareness of action itself.

Your listening to me must also be an experience. If you are at all interested and alive to what I am saying, you will see that you are meeting it with all kinds of objections. You do not approach openly, with a desire to find out, to experiment. It is only when the mind and heart are pliable, alert, and are not slaves to theories, certainties, assurances, that you begin to discover the barriers of memories as self-protective, defensive reaction. These scars which we call memories continually come between the movement of life, which is eternal, and ourselves, causing conflict, suffering.

Question: How can I awaken intelligence?

Krishnamurti: Why do you want to awaken intelligence? Can you really awaken intelligence, or does the mind strip itself of the many stupidities and thus find itself to be intelligence? Please see the significance of the question. The questioner wants to know what he should do to awaken intelligence. He wants to know the method, the manner, the technique. When the mind desires to know how, it is really seeking a definite system, and then it becomes a slave to that system. Whereas, if you begin to discover for yourself what are stupidities, then the mind becomes exquisitely, delicately alert. It is in discovering and understanding what are the stupidities and in eschewing them that there is the awakening of true intelligence.

When you ask, how is one to awaken intelligence, you are really demanding rules and regulations, so that you can force your mind along a particular groove. This you would call a positive way of dealing with life, to tell you exactly what to do. It is really a negation of thought, making you a slave to a certain system. Whereas, if you truly were beginning to be aware of your environment, past and present, of your own thought, your own actions, then in discovering what is stupid, you would awaken true intelligence. Definitions of intelligence tend to enslave the mind and heart.

We can find out for ourselves what are stupidities. One need not give a whole list of them. We must discover for ourselves the true cause of stupidity. If we can do that, then we need not take an inventory of stupidities.

What is the cause of stupidity? All thought, emotion and action springing from the limited consciousness, the "I", gives rise to stupidity. So long as mind is merely a self-defensive, acquisitive entity, any action springing from that must lead to confusion and suffering. Question: What exactly do you mean by environment?

Krishnamurti: There is an outer environment, as the country, the place, the class and so on; then there is the inward environment of tradition, of ideas inherited and acquired. So we can divide environment as external and inward, but there is not really such a definite division, as the two are closely interwoven.

Take for example a person born in India. He is brought up in a certain religious system, with many beliefs, with caste prejudices, with social and economic advantages and disabilities, and so on. With this inherited background, he develops further conditioning of mind and heart. He not only has inherited from his parents, from his religion, from his country and from his race, a certain conditioning, but also he is adding to that his own reactions, his own memories, prejudices, based on his inherited background.

There is with him all the time the background of prejudices, inherited and acquired, thoughts, inherited and acquired, fears, desires, cravings, hopes, memories. All that constitutes environment. With that background, with that conditioned mind, he approaches life, he tries to understand this constant movement of life. That is, from a fixed point he attempts to meet life, that is eternally beckoning. Naturally then there must be conflict between that fixed point and that thing which is ever living, moving. Where there is conflict, there is the desire for release, escape; and religion becomes but one of the defensive reactions against intelligence. Religions, class consciousness, acquisitiveness, all these but become the avenues of escape, the shelters from the conflict which ensues between that fixed point of prejudice, memories, fears, the limited consciousness, the "I", and the movement of life.

There can be true understanding, real joy of living, only when there is complete unity, or when there is no longer the fixed point, that is, when mind and heart can follow freely and swiftly the wanderings of life, of truth. In that there is ecstasy. That is immortality.

As long as one has not discerned the true significance of environment, mind and heart are held to that fixed point of limited consciousness. From this there arises conflict and sorrow, the constant battle between that fixed point and the eternal movement of life. From this there is born a defensive reaction against life, against intelligence.

Life becomes a series of conflicts and releases; you have so com- pletely surrounded yourself with these illusions, with these escapes, that to you they have become realities from which you hope to have happiness and peace, but they can never give this. Through continual awareness, through penetration, through constant alertness of mind, questioning, doubting, the walls of that fixed point of consciousness, that centre with its illusions, must be worn down. Then only is there immortality.

To understand immortality, life, requires great intelligence, not some stupid mysticism. It requires ceaseless discernment, which can exist only when there is constant penetration, wearing away the walls of tradition, acquisitiveness, self-protective reactions. You may escape into some illusion which you call peace, immortality, God, but it will have no reality, for there will still be doubt, suffering. But what will free the mind and heart from sorrow, from illusions, is the full awareness of that eternal movement of life. This is to be discerned only when the mind is free from that centre, from that fixed centre of limited consciousness.