What Is Right Action?
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
4th Public Talk 10th May, 1935
Now why are you seeking the ultimate certainty, that reality which you hope will give you happiness, explain the cruelty and the suffering of man? What is the cause of your search? Fundamentally, the reason for this search - the human reason, not some intellectual reason - is that, as there is so much suffering in you and about you, you want to escape from the present to some idealistic utopia of the future, to an intellectual system of thought, or to an authority of faith and assurance. A man who is profoundly in love is not in search of love or happiness; but the man who is not in love, who is not happy, who is suffering, seeks the opposite of that in which he is caught. Finding yourself in misery, in great emptiness, despair, you begin to seek a way out, an escape. This escape is called the search for reality, truth, or by whatever name you like to give to it.
Most people who say they are seeking happiness, are really trying to escape, trying to run away from the conflict, the misery, the nothingness in which they are caught. Being uncertain of love, of thought, one's whole search is directed towards certainties and satisfactions; for love and thought are constantly seeking certainties to which they can anchor themselves. These are called realities, happiness and inquiries after immortality. You want to be assured that there is something enduring, something more than this confusion and misery.
If you really consider - and please don't merely listen intellectually to what I am saying - if you really consider your own search and examine it, then you will see that you are trying to escape from this confusion and misery to what you imagine to be a reality, a happiness. You want a drug, a dope which will satisfy you, which will put you peacefully to sleep. The only actuality, the only reality that we can fully comprehend, is this confusion, this misery, this conflict, and to escape from this is but to create illusion. If you escape from actuality, you can only go to illusions, to hopes, to longings, which have no reality. So the way out of actuality must inevitably lead to illusion, though this illusion may have assumed a reality through time and tradition.
Now please don't say, "Is there nothing beyond confusion, nothing beyond misery?" I want to explain how our minds act, what our reactions are; and in properly and thoroughly understanding this, we can then proceed with care to something which can be understood only through actuality, not through illusions. Please let me repeat that the search for happiness, truth or reality is born out of the desire to escape from the prison of suffering, and is therefore fundamentally false; and unless you discern this clearly, understand it fully, what I say further on in my talk will not be completely understood. So I will go into it thoroughly.
When we suffer through the loss of someone we love, or there is in our lives the emptiness of unfulfillment or the despair of utter uncertainty, we begin to create the opposite and pursue that image, hoping that it will lead us to peace, fulfillment, completeness. So we are drawn, consciously or unconsciously, subtly or grossly, further and further away from actuality, from the suffering of the present.
Suppose that you have lost someone by death. You suffer and you begin to ask about the hereafter, whether it is a fact or not. Then you begin to investigate the theory of reincarnation. What is it that you are really doing? You are trying to get away from suffering. So explanations and so-called facts merely act as drugs to dull the acuteness of suffering. Where there is the desire to escape there must be the creation of illusion. As we do suffer constantly, we have created innumerable illusions, and our present search for reality is nothing but the search for a greater and more magnificent illusion.
If you understand this completely, then you will perceive the utter futility of the search for happiness, for certainty, for truth, or whatever you may call it. You will no longer be concerned with the measuring of the immeasurable. Once and for all, the mind must rid itself of this desire to escape, and only then is it prepared to discover the fundamental cause of suffering; for suffering is the main reality with which each one of us is acquainted.
Now to understand fundamentally the cause of suffering, the mind must be free from ideals, because ideals are nothing but forms of escape from actuality. When the mind becomes aware of itself, it will perceive that it is merely imitating patterns, following objectives, beliefs, ideals, which it has established for itself as a means of running away from confusion. Mind thus superimposes those beliefs and ideals on confusion and suffering. In other words, ideals are merely illusions which give you hope and encouragement to avoid the present. In case you don't completely understand this, I will take an example.
There is the ideal of brotherhood and of brotherly love, Now what is happening in actuality? There are wars. nationalities, divisions of classes, of man against man, exploitations, the grouping of men into religions which separate them by dogmas. In actuality, that is what is happening. So what is the good of your ideal? You will say, "We are going to work up to that ideal eventually." But of what value is that in the present? Why do you want ideals when you know definitely that there cannot be brotherhood so long as there are the distinctions created by religion, acquisitiveness and exploitation in which you are living? Your ideals are only sentimental soporifics for people who do not want to act in the present. Whereas, if you had no ideals at all, but saw the actuality of confusion and cruelty, without being blinded by hopes that have become ideals, then in solving these problems there would naturally be brotherhood, there would be true unity between all men. So ideals really give you the opportunity not to face the present corruption and exploitation, in which you are taking part.
Most minds are pursuing the authority of beliefs and ideals, because they do not want to comprehend the present; and that is one of the main reasons why they never find out and therefore dissipate for themselves the cause of suffering.
Now we have built up through many centuries an environment of such illusions as authority, imitativeness, beliefs, ideals, which give us the opportunity of subtle escape. People suffer within that prison of limitation and they try to find solutions for their suffering within it, within the illusions they have built around themselves. But there are others who truly discern the illusory nature of this structure, and because they suffer much more intensely and intelligently and are not willing to escape into the future, in that very acuteness of suffering they discover the true freedom from suffering itself.
So you have to ask yourself whether you are seeking a solution for your suffering within the circle of illusion, within the environment of centuries, and thus creating further illusions and entrenching yourself more within that prison; or whether you are seeking to break through the many illusions that you have built about yourself through the centuries. For in the process of discernment, the cause of suffering is known and dissolved. It is only then, and not till then, that the mind is able to discern truth. The very search for reality is an illusion, because it is but an escape. When all escapes and illusions have been cleared away by understanding, then only can the mind perceive that which is enduring, the immeasurable.
Question: What do you think of charity and social philanthropy?
Krishnamurti: Social philanthropy is giving hack to the victim a little of what the philanthropist has ruthlessly got out of him. You first exploit him, make him work innumerable hours and all the rest of it, and amass a great deal of wealth by cunning, cheating, and then come around magnanimously and give a little to the poor victim. (Laughter) I don't know why you are laughing, because you are doing the same thing, only differently. You may not be cunning, clever, ruthless enough to amass wealth and become a philanthropist; but you are spiritually, idealistically amassing what you call knowledge, in order to protect yourself.
Charity is unconscious of itself; there is no accumulation first and then distribution. It is like the flower, natural, open, spontaneous.
Question: Should the Ten Commandments be destroyed?
Krishnamurti: Aren't they already destroyed? Do they exist now? Perhaps in the prayer book, petrified, to be worshipped as ideals, but in actuality they do not exist. For many centuries man has been guided through fear, forced, compelled to act according to certain standards; but the highest form of morality is to do a thing for its own sake, not for a motive or for a reward. Now, instead of being coerced to follow a pattern, we have to find out individually what is true morality. This is one of the most difficult things to do, to find out for oneself how to act truly; it demands intelligence, a continual adjustment, not the following of a law or a system, but an intense awareness, discernment in the moment of action itself. And this can be only when the mind is liberating itself, with understanding, from fear and compulsions. Question: Is there God?
Krishnamurti: I wonder what value it would have if I said yes or no. To deny or assert would not reveal the reality. One has to discover for oneself. Therefore you cannot accept or deny. If I said yes, what would happen? It would be another belief to be added to your museum of beliefs. If I said no, that also would belong to a museum, of another type. One way or the other, it is of no importance to you. If I said yes, I would become an authority, and you might perhaps mould your life on that pattern; if I said no, that would also lay down a pattern. You cannot approach this problem. whether there is God or not, with any prejudice either for or against. What you can do is, prepare the soil of the mind and see what happens. That is, let the mind free itself from all illusions, from all fears, prejudices and longings and be without any expectation whatsoever; then such a mind can discern whether there be God or not. One has a speculative mind, and for intellectual amusement one tries to solve this question; but such a mind cannot find a true answer. All that you can do is to break through the falseness, the illusions that you have created about yourselves. And this demands, not an inquiry into the existence of God, but the action of completeness, of your whole being, in the present.
Question: Are not priests necessary to lead the ignorant to righteousness?
Krishnamurti: Certainly not. But who are the ignorant? This question can be put only to each one of you and not to a vague mass called the ignorant. The mass is you. Do you need priests? Who is to say who are the ignorant? No one. So being ignorant, do you need a priest, and can a priest ever lead you out of that ignorance to righteousness? If you merely consider that an ignorant man, vaguely existing somewhere whom you don't know, needs a priest, then you perpetuate exploitation and all the tricks of religion. No one can lead you to righteousness except you yourself, through your own understanding, through your own suffering.
Question: Is it possible to reach perfection among the imperfect? Krishnamurti: Where else can you realize perfection, where else can you understand perfection, except among the imperfect? But this whole idea of gaining perfection is so fundamentally wrong. Please, you have to think about this carefully. When you talk of perfection, you mean gaining an end, a certainty, a power which can give you security, from which there can never arise conflict, sorrow. Perfection is not an end, an absolute, fixed point, but a continual becoming. When the mind is free from the opposites, then there is a continual movement, a continual flow of reality. Perfection is the action, the continual flow of reality. not an absolute objective to which you are progressing through innumerable experiences, memories, lessons, suffering. To understand this flow of life, mind must be free entirely from finalities. from certainties, which are but the outcome of the desire for self-protection.
If you consider what I have been saying this evening, you will discern the enclosure which we have created through the many centuries, in which we have become prisoners, thus destroying our creative intelligence. If the mind can begin to break down the walls of that prison, through comprehension. then there is action without sorrow, normal and true.
Question: Is not egotism the root of religious and economic exploitation?
Krishnamurti: Sir, that is obvious. it is egotism that has created the cages of religion; it is egotism that creates the exploitation of people. The questioner knows this, but what does he do about it? We know that there is ruthless exploitation by the clever and the cunning, that there is poverty amidst plenty. But has the questioner asked himself whether he is not also taking part in this cruel and stupid acquisitive battle? If he really felt the appalling cruelty of all this and acted intelligently, he would be as a flame, consuming the stupidities around him.