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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

What Is Right Action?

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
3rd Public Talk 4th May, 1935

Friends, throughout the ages and in the present civilization also, one sees how the clever individual exploits the group, and the group in its turn exploits the individual. There is this constant interaction between the individual and the group as society, religions, the ideas of leaders and of dictators. There is also the exploitation of women by men in certain countries, and in others, women exploit men. There is a subtle or a gross form of exploitation taking place where there is vested interest whether in private property or in religion or in politics.

It is always difficult to penetrate through to the real significance beyond the words, and not be misled by them. By fully understanding the present significance of morality, we shall discover for ourselves the new morality and its details in action. Most people, after hearing me, say that I have only given them vague ideas which are not at all practical. But I am not here to give you a new set of rules or a new mode of action, which would be but another form of exploitation, another cage to imprison you. You would merely be leaving an old prison for a new one, which would be utterly futile. Whereas, if you begin to examine and discover the basis of the present code of conduct, of the whole structure of morality, then in the very process of discovery of the true cause of what we call morality, you will begin to discern the manner of true individual action, which will then be moral. This action of intelligence, freed from enticement or compulsion, is true morality.

Our present day morality is based on the protection of the individual; it is a closed system which acts as a covering to hold the individual within the group. The individual is treated like some vicious animal that must be kept in the cage of morality. We have become slaves to a group morality which each of us has helped to build up out of his own individual desire for security and comfort. Each one of us has contributed to this system of morality, which is based on acquisition and cunning self-protection. In the closed system of this so-called morality, we have created static religions with their static gods, dead images, petrified thoughts. This closed prison of morality has become so powerful, so compulsive, that most individuals live in fear of breaking away from it, and merely imitate the rules and conduct of the prison.

Now through this closed morality we cannot find truth, nor through mere escape from it. If we merely escape from this morality by the destruction of the old code without understanding, we shall but create another form of self-protection, another prison. As long as the mind is seeking safety, searching out ways and means of assuring its own security, it must inevitably create laws and systems for its own protection. This search for self-protection denies the understanding of reality. Reality can be discerned only when the mind is utterly naked, wholly denuded of this idea of self-protection.

So you have to become intensely aware of the cause of this prison, of this continual building up of securities, comforts and escapes, in which the mind is engaged. When you are fully aware of the cause, then the mind itself begins to discern the true manner of acting in the very moment of experience, and so morality becomes purely individual. It cannot be made a means of exploitation. Knowing the cause and being continually aware of it, the mind itself begins to break through the covering of this self-protective morality, which has become so crushing, so destructive of intelligence. In that awareness, which is the awakening of intelligence, the mind breaks through to the flow of reality, which cannot become a static religion, a means of exploitation. nor can it be petrified in a prayer book of the priests.

Question: Would mere economic and social revolution solve all human problems, or must this be preceded by an inner, spiritual revolution?

Krishnamurti: Revolution may come, and instead of a capitalistic system suppose you establish a communistic form of government; but do you think that mere external revolution will solve the many human problems? Under the present system you are forced to adjust yourself to a certain method of thought, of morality, of earning money. If a different system is established through revolution, there will be another form of compulsion, perhaps for the better; but how can mere compulsion ever bring about understanding? Are you satisfied to continue living un-intelligently in the present system, hoping and waiting for some miraculous external change to take place which will also alter your mind and heart? Surely there is only one way, which is to see that this present system is based on selfish exploitation in which each individual is ruthlessly seeking his own security, and so fighting to preserve his own distinctions and acquisitions. Understand- ing this, the intelligent man will not wait for a revolution to come, but will begin to alter fundamentally his action, his morality, and will begin to free his mind and heart of all acquisitiveness. Such a man is free of the burden of any system, and so can live intelligently in the present. If you really desire to find out the true way of action, try to live in the present, with the comprehension of the inevitable.

Question: I belong to no religion, but I am a member of two societies which give me knowledge and spiritual wisdom. If I give these up, how can I ever reach perfection?

Krishnamurti: If you understand the futility of all organized religious bodies, with their vested interests, with their exploitation, the utter stupidity of their beliefs based on authority, superstition and fear, if you truly grasp the significance of this, then you will not belong to any religious sect or society. Do you think that any society or any book can give you wisdom? Books and societies can give you information; but if you say that a society can give you wisdom, then you merely rely on it, and it becomes your exploiter. If wisdom could be acquired through a religious society or sect, we should all be wise, for we have had religions with us for thousands of years. But wisdom is not to be acquired in that manner. Wisdom is the understanding of the continual flow of life or reality, which is to be discerned only when the mind is open and vulnerable, that is, when the mind is no longer hindered through its own self-protective desires, reactions and illusions. No society, no religion, no priest, no leader is ever going to give you wisdom. It is only through our own suffering, from which we try to escape by joining religious bodies and by immersing ourselves in philosophical theories, it is only through being aware of the cause of suffering and in freedom from it that wisdom is born naturally and sweetly.

Question: I desire many things from life which I do not have. Can you tell me how to get them?

Krishnamurti: Why do you want many things? We all must have clothes, food, shelter. But what is behind the desire for many things? We want things because we think that through possessions we shall be happy, that through acquisition we shall obtain power. Behind this question lies the desire for power. In the pursuit of power there is suffering and through suffering, there is the awakening of intelligence which reveals the utter futility of power. Then there is the understanding of needs. You may not want many physical things; perhaps you may see the absurdity of many possessions, but you may want spiritual power. Between this and the desire for many things there is no difference. They are alike; the one you call materialistic, and to the other you give a more refined name, spiritual, but in essence they are only ways of seeking your own security, and in that there can never be happiness or intelligence.

Question: You seem to deny the value of discipline and moral standards. Will not life be a chaos without discipline and morality?

Krishnamurti: As I said at the beginning of my talk this evening, we have turned morality and discipline into a shelter for our own protection, without any deep significance, without any reality. Are there not wars, ruthless exploitation, utter chaos in the world, in spite of your disciplines, your religions, your rigid frames of morality? So let us look into this structure of morality and discipline that we have built up and which has exploited us, which is destroying human intelligence. In the very examination of this closed structure of morality and discipline, with great care and without prejudice, you will begin to understand and develop that true morality which cannot be systematized, petrified.

The morality, the discipline that you have now is based on the individual's search for his own safety, security, through religion and economic exploitation. You may talk about love and brotherhood on Sundays, but on Mondays you exploit others in your various occupations. Religion, morality, discipline, merely act as a cover for hypocrisy. Such a morality, from my point of view, is immoral. As you ruthlessly seek economic security, out of which is born a morality suited for that purpose, so you have created religions all over the world which promise you immortality through their closed and peculiar disciplines and moralities. As long as this closed morality exists, there must be wars and exploitation, there cannot be the real love of man. This morality, this discipline, is really based on egotism and the ruthless search for individual security. When the mind frees itself from this centre of limited consciousness which is based on self-aggrandizement, then there comes the exquisite and delicate adjustment to life which does not demand rules and regulations, but which is consummately intelligent, expressing itself in the integrated action of true discernment.

Question: I do not care what happens after death, but I am afraid of dying. Must I fight this fear, and how can I overcome it?

Krishnamurti: By living in the present. Eternity is not in the future, it is ever in the present. There is no remedy or substitution for fear, except the understanding of the cause of fear itself. The mind is being continually limited by the memories of the past, and these memories are hindering the fulfillment of action in the present. So there is no completeness of action in the present, which creates fear of death.

This is not an intellectual feat, living in the present. It demands understanding of action and freeing the mind from illusion. The mind has the power to create illusion, and with that we are mostly occupied - creating illusions, escapes, covering over things we do not want to understand. The mind is creating illusions as a means of escape, and these illusions, with their power, prevent the completeness of action and the full comprehension of the present. Thus the old illusions are creating new and further hindrances, limitations. That is why we begin to think in terms of time as a means of understanding, growing. Understanding is ever in the present, not in the future. And the mind refuses to discern immediately because this involves an intelligent revolt against all that it has built up in its search for its own security

Question: I allow my imagination to wander fearlessly. Is this right?

Krishnamurti: Actually you may be afraid of many things. This imaginative flight is another escape from the problems of life. If it is an escape, it is utterly wasteful of mental energy. That energy can become creative and effective only when it has liberated itself from fears and illusions which tradition and self-protective desires have imposed upon it. Question: Are you preaching individualism?

Krishnamurti: I am afraid the questioner has not quite understood what I have said. I am not advocating individualism at all. Unfortunately, the vast majority have hardly an opportunity for individual expression; they may think they are acting voluntarily, freely; but sadly they are merely machines, functioning in a particular groove under the compulsion of circumstances and environment. So how can there be individual fulfillment, which is the highest form of intelligence? What we call individual expression, in the case of the vast majority of people, is nothing but a reaction in which there is very little intelligence.

But there is a different kind of individuality, that of uniqueness, which is the result of voluntary and comprehending action. That is, if one understands environment and acts with discerning intelligence, then there is true individuality. This uniqueness is not separative, for it is intelligence itself.

Intelligence is alone, unique. But if you merely act through the compulsion of circumstances, then, though you may think you are an individual, your actions are but reaction in which there is no true intelligence. Because the present individual is merely a reaction in which there can be no intelligence, there is chaos in the world, each individual seeking his own security and thoughtless fulfillment.

Intelligence is unique; it cannot be divided as yours and mine. It is only the absence of intelligence that can be separated into units as yours and mine, and this is the ugliness of distinction out of which is come exploitation, cruelty and sorrow.