What Is Right Action?
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
5th Public Talk 18th May, 1935
Now we are concerned with living. and living implies, not only bread, shelter, clothes and work, but also love and thought. We cannot understand the full significance of living if we deal separately and singly with the problem of work, of love or of thought. As they are interrelated and inseparable, they must be understood comprehensively, as a whole. It is only the people who are comfortably settled in life, who are following the traditional pattern or system, that try to separate work from living, and they hope to overcome the conflict which arises from this division by considering each problem exclusively.
There are many so-called spiritual people who consider work, occupation, as something materialistic and merely to be tolerated. They are concerned only with truth and God. And there are others who concern themselves solely with reorganizing society for the welfare of the whole. If we want to understand action, which is living, we have to take it as a whole, not divide it into watertight compartments, as most people do. living is the harmonious action of thought, emotion and work; and when these are in contradiction with each other, then there is suffering, conflict, disharmony. We are seeking - aren't we? - to live harmoniously, to live completely in our actions, to fulfil. To do so there must be the highest intelligence, which is to be without fear, exploitation, without seeking reward. From this there arises the renewing freedom of action. Each one is fundamentally seeking, trying to live in this action; but in seeking to discover that harmonious movement of living, he is very often led astray by some unimportant question, such as what system he should follow, whether there are Masters, whether there is truth, God.
Why don't we live this intelligent, harmonious action? If we accomplish this, then life becomes simple, supremely purposeful and creative. So why don't we who are seeking this harmonious living - at least there are many who constantly assert that they are seeking - realize it? One of the main reasons is that we consider the many problems of life separately and exclusively, as I have tried to explain. From this division there arises false thinking, which creates exploitation in work and the complications and confusion which inhibit love. These can be understood and solved only by right thinking.
To find out what right thinking is, let us discover first what is false in our thought. If we can know for ourselves that which is false in our thinking, then we shall know naturally, without imposition, what is the true. Through the mass of false ideas, through the screen of many illusions, there cannot be the perception of the true. So we have to concern ourselves with trying to discover what is false.
Now, our thought is based on habit, the habit of centuries to which it has become accustomed. It is following a pattern, a system; it is shaping itself after an ideal which it has established as a means of escape from the present conflict. As long as thought is following a system, a habit. or merely conforming to an established tradition, an ideal, there must be false thinking. You follow a system or mould yourself after a pattern because there is fear, the fear of right and wrong which has been established according to the tradition of a system. If thought is merely functioning in the groove of a pattern without understanding the significance of environment, there must be conscious or unconscious fear, and such thought must inevitably lead to confusion, to illusion and false action
The traditional habit of thought with regard to work is the pursuit of individual economic security, safety and comfort. So we have developed a system throughout the world in which exploitation has become righteous and acquisitiveness is honoured. Out of this there naturally arise the conflict of classes, nationalism and wars.
The very foundation of our love is possessiveness, out of which arise jealousy and the complexities and problems of sex.
Now, to try to solve any one of these problems exclusively, not as a part of the whole, is to create and perpetuate conflict and suffering, from which arise further illusions and false thinking.
So long as thought is seeking and following a pattern, conforming to an environment which it has not understood and merely acting from habit, there must be conflict and disharmony. So the first thing, if you really want to understand the beauty of living and its richness, is to become aware of the environment, both of the past and of the present, to which the mind has become attached; and in understanding the illusions which it has created for its own protection, there comes naturally, without the mind having to search after it, that spontaneous, intelligent action which is the highest consummation of life.
All this applies to those who desire to understand and to live supremely, but not to those who merely seek comfort, nor to those who are satisfied with explanations, for explanations are so much dust in the eyes. So if you would find such a life, there must be the purification of the mind through doubt, and that means the deep understanding of traditions and ideals, the dissipation of the many illusions which the mind has created in the search for its own protection. Thus when there is true discernment there is the ecstasy of the immeasurable, which cannot be imagined or preconceived, but only experienced.
Question: Can we not be guided in our daily life by the wise advice given to us by the voices and spirits of the dead?
Krishnamurti: Some of you, I see, are impatient with this question; you may think that it is stupid to seek advice from the spirits. To make this question applicable to others as well, let us simplify it. Some of you may not go to seances, may not indulge in automatic writing, but you do not mind seeking Masters, who perhaps may live in a far-off country, and accepting their messages through their messengers. Fundamentally, what is the difference? None whatever. Both are seeking guidance from others. Some try to get into touch with those who are dead, through mediums, automatic writing, and other childish means; and there are others who seek guidance from those whom they call Masters, through their representatives, which is equally childish. So please do not condemn those who go to mediums and attend seances, when you yourselves diligently seek messages and systems given by those whom you call the representatives of Masters. There are others who depend upon priests and ceremonies, traditions and conventionalities for their guidance. They are all in the same category.
Now behind this question, whether one should seek advice and guidance from spirits, from Masters through their representatives, from saviours through their priests, is the desire to take shelter under the cover of authority. We are not concerned, for the moment, with the question of whether the Masters and the so-called spirits exist or not. Why do you search out guidance and advice, why do you desire direction? That is the problem. You give far greater value to the dead, to the hidden to the past than to the living and the present, because out of the dead, the hidden and the past, your mind can carve its own pleasant images, and live with these illusions completely satisfied; but the present and the living will not let you sleep with contentment. So to escape from this conflict, which is but to evade the present, you seek guidance, advice. A man who seeks guidance, a man who is creating idols to worship, will live in fear; he will be exploited and his intelligence slowly destroyed, as is being done all over the world. The desire to seek guidance from spirits and Masters through their representatives arises from the fear of sorrow.
Can anyone, no matter who, save you from sorrow? If you can be saved by another, then the problem of authority ceases. You have merely to search out the most convenient and suitable authority and worship it. But I say no one can save you from sorrow except you yourself, through your own understanding. It is only your own discernment of the cause of suffering, not the explanations of another, that can open the doors to the greatest bliss, to the ecstasy of understanding. So long as you are seeking advice and guidance, which are but a means of escape from conflict, so long as you do not discern for yourself the cause of suffering but merely get confused by explanations, none can save you from sorrow - no priest, no book, no theory, no system, no spirit, no Master. Because that reality, that freedom from sorrow is in yourself, and through yourself alone can you go to it.
Question: Have the teachings attributed to the Great Teachers Christ, Buddha, Hermes and others - any value for the attainment of the direct path to truth?
Krishnamurti: If you will not misunderstand, I would say that their teachings become valueless because the human mind, being so subtle, so cunning in its desire for self-protection, twists the teachings to suit its own purposes and creates systems and ideals as a means of escape, out of which grow petrified churches and exploiting priests. Religions throughout the world, through their systems and the trickery of their organized exploitation, seek to teach man to love, to think, to live sanely, intelligently; but how can a system create love or teach you to think selflessly? As you do not want to do this, as you are unwilling to live completely, integrally, with vulnerable mind and heart, you have created a system which has become your master, a system that is contrary to and destructive of thought and love. So it is utterly useless to multiply systems. If the mind frees itself from the illusion of its own self-protective demands and cravings, then there will be love, intelligence; then there will not be this division created by religions and beliefs; man will not be against man.
Question: If it is a fact that your future as a World Teacher was foretold, then is not predestination a fact in nature, and are we not therefore merely slaves of our appointed destiny?
Krishnamurti: If your action is conditioned by the past, by fear or by environment and is thus made incomplete, there must be tomorrow to complete that action. That is, if your thought is limited, hindered by tradition, by class consciousness or by fear, or by religious prejudice, then it cannot complete itself in action; therefore it creates its own destiny, its own limitation. That is, your own incomplete action brings forth its own limited future. Where there is incomplete action there is suffering, which creates its own bondage. True action is choiceless, but if action is hindered by the prejudice of choice, then all further actions must inevitably create greater and narrower limitations. So instead of merely inquiring whether there is predestination or not, begin to act completely. in perceiving the necessity for complete action you will discern in action itself the prejudices of centuries which begin to impede that action, curtailing its fulfillment. When there is the flow of action which is intelligence, then life is a continual becoming without the conflict of choice.
Question: What is human will power?
Krishnamurti: it is nothing but a reaction against resistance. The mind has created, through its desire for self-protection and comfort, many hindrances and barriers, thus bringing about its own incompleteness, its own sorrow. To free itself from this sorrow, the mind begins to battle against these self-created resistances and limitations. In this conflict there is born and developed will, with which the mind identifies itself, thus giving birth to the "I" consciousness. If these barriers did not exist, there would be continual fulfillment in action, not an overcoming of a conflict. You are trying to kill out, to conquer these self-imposed limitations, which only give birth to resistance which we call will. But if we understood why these barriers were created, then there would not be an overcoming, a conquering, which but creates further resistance. These barriers, these hindrances have come into being through the desire for self-protection, and hence there is a conflict between the movement of eternal life and that desire. From this conflict arise sorrow and the many carefully cultivated escapes. Where there is escape there must be illusion, there must be the erection of barriers.
Will is but another of the illusions which have been created in search of self-protection; and it is only when the mind liberates itself from its own centre of illusions and is creatively empty that there is discernment of that which is true. Discernment is not the result of will, as will springs from resistance. Will is the outcome of the conflict of choice, but discernment is choiceless.
Question: What is action?
Krishnamurti: Action is that unimpeded movement of intelligence, unhindered by fear, by compulsion, by the conflict of self-protective choice. Such pure action is the very expression of life itself. Now, this is not a philosophical answer to be treated merely as a theory, impracticable in daily life. We are concerned with action every moment of the day; and we shall know the ecstasy of this unimpeded action when the mind is renewing itself through fulfillment. We shall understand the full significance of action when thought is free and unhindered. That is, when you have pierced through the false illusions, false values, which you have created, which have become your environment. your burden, then there is the flow of reality, of life, which is action itself. You have individually to begin to discern the significance of acquisitiveness upon which our whole structure of thought and action is based. In disentangling yourself from it, there arises suffering only when there is no comprehension, only when there is compulsion. But to realize the ecstasy of this unimpeded action, thought must free itself from the moulds of ideals, awakening that unique uncertainty, the uncertainty of non-accumulation. When the mind is capable of discernment without the conflict of choice, then there is the ecstasy of action.