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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

What Is Right Action?

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
1st Public Talk 13th April, 1935

Friends, as there have been so many misconceptions and misunderstandings; in the newspapers and magazines concerning me, I think it would be best if I made a statement to clarify the position. People generally desire to be saved by another, or by some miracle, or by philosophical ideas; and I am afraid that many come here with this desire, hoping that by merely listening to me they will find an immediate solution to their many problems. Neither the solution to their problems nor their so-called salvation can come through any person or any system of philosophy. The understanding of truth or of life lies through one's own discernment, through one's own perseverance and clarity of thought. Because most of us are too lazy to think for ourselves, we blindly accept and follow persons or cling to ideas which become our means of escape in times of conflict and suffering.

First of all, I want to explain that I do not belong to any society. I am not a Theosophist nor a Theosophical missionary, nor have I come here to convert you to any particular form of belief. I do not think it is possible to follow anyone, or to adhere to a certain belief, and at the same time have the capacity for clear thought. That is why most parties, societies, sects, religious bodies, become means of exploitation.

Nor do I bring an oriental philosophy, urging you to accept it. When I speak in India I am told there that what I say is a western philosophy, and when I come to the western countries, they tell me that I bring an oriental mysticism which is impractical and useless in the world of action. But if you really come to think of it, thought has no nationality, nor is it limited by any country, climate or people. So please do not consider that what I am going to say is the result of some peculiar racial prejudice, idiosyncrasy, or personal peculiarity. What I have to say is actual, actual in the sense that it can be applied to the present life of man; it is not a theory based on some beliefs and hopes, but it is practicable and applicable to man.

Now the full significance of what I am going to say can be understood only through experimenting and so through action. Most of us like to discuss philosophical questions in which our daily actions have no part; whereas, that of which I speak is not a philosophy or a system of thought, and its deep significance can be understood only through experiment, through action.

What I say is not a theory. an intellectual belief to be merely discussed, to be argued over; it demands a great deal of thought; and only in action, not by intellectual disputation, can you find out whether it be true and practical. It is not a system to be memorized, nor is it a set of conclusions which can be learnt and automatically carried out. It must be understood critically. Now criticism is different from opposition. If you are really critical, you will not merely oppose, but you will try to find out whether what I say has any intrinsic merit in itself. This demands clarity of thinking on your part, so that you can pierce through the illusion of words, not allowing your prejudices, either religious or economic, to prevent you from thinking fundamentally. That is, you have to think from the very beginning, simply and directly. All of us have been brought up with many prejudices and preconceptions, we have been nurtured in festering traditions and limited by environment, and so our thought is continually perverted and twisted, thus preventing the simplicity of action.

Take, for example, the question of war. You know, so many discuss the rightness and the wrongness of war. Surely there cannot be two ways of looking at that question. War, defensive or offensive, is fundamentally wrong. Now to think from the very beginning with regard to that question, mind must be entirely free of the disease of nationalism. We are prevented from thinking fundamentally, directly, simply, because of the prejudices which have been exploited through ages under the guise of patriotism, with its absurdities.

So we have created through the centuries many habits, traditions, prejudices, which prevent the individual from thinking completely, fundamentally. about vital human questions.

Now to understand the many problems of life, with its varieties of suffering, we must discover for ourselves the fundamental motives and causes, with their results and effects. Unless we are fully conscious of our actions, their cause and effect, we shall exploit and be exploited, we shall become slaves to systems and our actions will be merely mechanical and automatic. Until we can consciously free our actions from their limiting effect, through the understanding of the significance of their cause, unless we consciously free ourselves from the old forms of thought which we have built about us, we shall not be able to penetrate the innumerable illusions which we have created around us and in which we are entrammelled.

Each one has to ask himself what he is seeking, or whether he is merely being driven by circumstances and conditions, and is therefore irresponsible, thoughtless. Those of you who are really discontented, critical, must have asked yourselves what it is that each individual is seeking. Are you seeking comfort, security, or the understanding of life? Many will say that they are seeking truth; but if they were to analyze their longing, their search, it would be seen that they are really looking for comfort, security, an escape from conflict and suffering.

Now if you are seeking comfort, security, it must be based on acquisition and so on exploitation and cruelty. If you say you are seeking truth, you will become a prisoner to illusion, for truth can not be run after, searched out; it must happen. That is, its ecstasy is to be known only when the mind is utterly stripped of all the illusions which it has created in the search for its own security and comfort. Then only is there the dawning of that which is truth.

To put it differently, we have to ask ourselves on what are our life, thought and action based. If we can answer this completely, truthfully, then we can find out for ourselves who is the creator of illusions, of these supposed realities to which we have become prisoners.

If you really think about it, you will see that your whole life is based on the pursuit of individual security, safety and comfort. In this search for security, naturally there is born fear. When you are seeking comfort, when the mind is trying to evade struggle, conflict, sorrow, it must create various avenues of escape, and these avenues of escape become our illusions. So fear, which is the outcome of individual search for security, is the breeder of illusions. This drives you from one religious sect to another, from one philosophy to another, from one teacher to another, to seek that security, that comfort. This you call the search for truth, for happiness.

Now, there is no security, no comfort, but only clarity of thought which brings about the understanding of the fundamental cause of suffering, which alone will liberate man. In this liberation lies the blessedness of the present. I say that there is an eternal reality which can be discovered only when the mind is free from all illusion. So beware of the person who offers you comfort, for in this there must be exploitation; he creates a snare in which you are caught like a fish in a net.

In the search for comfort, security, life has come to be divided into the religious or the spiritual, and the economic or the material. Material security is sought through possessions which give power and through that power you hope to realize happiness. To attain this material security, power, there must be exploitation, the exploitation of your neighbour through a system deliberately set up and which has become hideous in its many cruelties. This search for individual security, in which is included one's own family as well, has created class distinctions, racial hatreds, nationalism, ending eventually in wars. And curiously, if you consider it, religion which should denounce war, helps its furtherance. The priests, who are supposed to be the educators of the people, encourage all the inanities that nationalism creates and which blind people in moments of national hatred. And you create the system, based on individual security and comfort, which you call religion. You have created the religious organizations which are merely crystallized forms of thought and which assure personal immortality.

I will go into this question of immortality in one of my later talks.

So through the search for individual security, through the demand for individual continuance, you have created a religion that exploits you through priestcraft, through ceremonies, through so-called ideals. The system which you call religion and which has been created through your own demand for security has become so powerful, so realistic, that very few free themselves from its weight of crushing tradition and authority. The very beginning of true criticism lies in questioning the values that religion has set about us.

Now in this frame each one is held; and as long as one is a slave to unexplored, unquestioned environment and values, both past and present, they must pervert the completeness of action. This perversion is the cause of conflict between the individual who is seeking security, and the many; between the individual and the continual movement of experience. As individually we have created this system of exploitation and crushing limitation, we have individually and consciously to break it down by understanding the foundation of this structure and not by merely creating new sets of values, which will only be another series of escapes. Thus we shall begin to penetrate into the true significance of the living.

I maintain that there is a reality, give it what name you will, which can be understood and lived only when the mind and heart have penetrated into the illusions and are free from their false values. Then only is there the eternal.