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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

What Is Right Action?

Nichteroy, Brazil
Public Talk 28th May, 1935

Friends, most people throughout the world, it does not matter where they are, are discontented, disturbed by the existing conditions, and they are trying to find a lasting way out of this misery and chaos. Each expert offers his own particular form of solution, and, as it generally happens, he contradicts the other experts. So each specialist forms a group around his theory, and soon the purpose of helping humanity is forgotten, while discussions and wrangles take place between various parties and experts.

Not being an expert, I am not putting forward a new system or a new theory for the solution of the many problems; but what I should like to do is to awaken individual intelligence, so that each one, instead of becoming a slave to a system or to an expert, begins to act intelligently, for out of that alone can come a co-operative and constructive action. If each one of us is able under all circumstances to discern for himself what is true action, then there will not be exploitation, then each one will fulfil truly and live an harmonious and complete life.

Naturally, what I say will apply to those people who are discontented, who are in revolt, who are trying to find an intelligent way of action. This applies to those who are in sorrow and desire to free themselves from all exploitation.

Everyone is concerned with that awakening, through conflict and struggle between himself and the group, between himself and another individual. There is established authority, whether ancient or modern, which is continually urging, twisting the individual to function in one particular way. We have a whole system of thought, cultivated through the ages, to which each one of us has contributed, in whose ruthless movement each one, consciously or unconsciously, is caught up. So there is a collective and an individual consciousness, some times running parallel, often diametrically opposed. This opposition is the awakening of sorrow.

Our conflict, dissatisfaction and struggle is between that which is the established authority, and the individual; between that which is centuries old, tradition, and the eager desire on the part of the individual not to be suffocated by tradition, by authority, but to fulfil; for in fulfillment alone is there creative happiness.

In the world of action, which we call the material world, the economic world, the world of sociology, there is a system which prevents the true fulfillment of the individual. Even though each one thinks that he is acting individually in this present system, if you really examine it, you will see that he is but acting as a slave, as an automaton of the established order. That system has within it class distinction, based on acquisitive exploitation, leading to nationalism and wars; it has placed the means of accumulating wealth in the hands of the few. If the individual is at all able to express, to fulfil, he will be in constant revolt against this system; because, if you examine it, you will see that it is fundamentally unintelligent, cruel.

If the individual wants to understand this external system? he must first become aware of the prison in which he is held, the prison which he has created through his own aggressive acquisitiveness, and begin to break it down through his own individual suffering and intelligence.

Then there is an inner system, equally cruel and exploiting, which we call religion. I mean by religion the organized system of thought which holds the individual in the groove of a particular pattern. After all, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, are so many sets of beliefs, ideas, precepts, which have become seasoned in fear and tradition, which force the individual through faith and illusory hope to think and to act along one particular line, blindly and unintelligently, with the help of exploiting priests. Each religion throughout the world, with its vested interests, with its beliefs, dogmas and traditions, is separating man from man, as nationalism and classes are doing. it is utterly futile to hope that there will be one religion throughout the world, either Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Christianity, although it is the dream of the missionaries. But we can approach this whole idea of religion from a totally different point of view.

Please listen patiently and without prejudice to what I have to say, because religion, like politics, is a very touchy subject. If a person is religious, he usually becomes so dogmatic, so violent when one begins to question the whole structure of religion, that he is incapable of thinking clearly and straightly. So I would beg those of you who are listening to me, perhaps for the first time, to listen without any antagonism and with a desire to find out the significance of what I am saying.

If we can understand life and live here in this world with love, supremely and intelligently in the present, then religion becomes vain and useless. Because we have been constantly told by exploiters that we cannot do this ourselves, we have come to believe that we must have a system to follow. So without being helped to free himself, man is encouraged to follow a system and is held, through fear, a prisoner to authority which he hopes will guide him through the various conflicts and perplexities of life.

To get rid of the idea of religion merely, without deep understanding, will naturally lead to superficial activities, reaction and thought. If we are really able to live with profound intelligence, then we shall not create an escape from our miseries and struggles; which is what religion has become. That is, because we find life so difficult, with so many problems and apparently unending miseries, we want an escape; and religions offer a very convenient method of escape. Every Sunday people go to church to pray and to practise brotherly love, but the rest of the week they are engaged in ruthless exploitation and cruelty, each one seeking his own security. So people are living a hypocritical life: Sunday for God, and the rest of the week for self security. Thus we use religion as a convenient escape to which we resort in moments of difficulty and misery.

So, through this system which is called religion, with its beliefs and ideals, you have found an authorized escape from the incessant battle of the present. After all, ideals, which religions and religious bodies offer, are nothing but escapes from the present.

Now why do we want ideals? It is because, as we cannot understand the present, the everyday existence with its cruelties, sorrows and ugliness, we want to steer ourselves across this life by some ideal. Hence ideals themselves become, fundamentally, an escape from the present. Our mind is caught up in creating many escapes from the present which alone is the eternal, Being imprisoned in those, mind must naturally be in constant battle with the present. So, instead of seeking new methods, new prisons, we ought to understand for ourselves how the mind is creating for itself these avenues of escape. Hence the question is: Are you satisfied to live in this prison of illusion, in this prison of make-believe with its stupidities and suffering? Or are you as individuals dissatisfied, in revolt? Are you willing to disentangle yourselves from this system, thus discovering for yourselves what is true? If you are merely satisfied to remain in the prison, then the only thing that will awaken you is sorrow; but when that sorrow comes, you seek an escape from it, and so you create yet another prison. So you go on from one suffering to another, only to enter into greater bondage. But if you realize the utter futility of escape of any kind, either of ideals or beliefs, then you will, with intense awareness, perceive the true significance of beliefs, traditions and ideals. In understanding their deep significance, the mind, free from all illusion is able to discern truth, the everlasting.

So instead of merely seeking new systems, new methods to replace the present mode of thought, of exploitation, of subtle escapes, take the actuality as it is, with all its exploitations, cruelties, bestialities, and understand the whole significance of this system; and this can be done only when there is great suffering. Out of this intense questioning and inquiry you will realize for yourself that consummation of all human existence which is intelligence. Without that realization life becomes shallow, empty, and suffering merely a constant recurrence without an end.

So if those who are suffering try to understand the full depth of the present, without any fear or any desire for escape, then without the need of priests and saviours, there is the realization of that which is the lasting, of that which cannot be measured by words.

Question: If the intelligence of most people is so limited that they cannot find truth for themselves, are not Masters and teachers necessary to show them the way?

Krishnamurti: If we merely consider that the unintelligent need the intelligent, we shall keep the unintelligent ever as unintelligent. If you think that a stupid man needs a guide, a Master, then you will create circumstances to hold him in stupidity. If the intelligent perceive the necessity to help the stupid, not towards any particular system or belief or dogma, but to be intelligent, then the unintelligent will not be exploited. But the question is not whether the stupid man needs Masters, saviours, but whether you need them. In truly questioning this need, you will discover that no one can save you, that no one can give you understanding; for understanding lies through your own discernment. Intelligence is not the gift of Masters and teachers, but it is of your own creative perception and action.

Question: Cannot man be liberated through science?

Krishnamurti: It may save man from many sorrows, but there is a great deal of suffering, misery and exploitation, even though science is far advanced. Each one knows the bestiality and ugliness of war, the result of vested interest and nationalism. in what way has science prevented this suffering, this disease? It is the heart of man that must be changed, but why wait for some future day when it is now in your power to bring about a sane and intelligent alteration?

Question: I should like to know if we need to pray, and how to pray.

Krishnamurti: Sir, isn't it the fundamental idea of prayer to seek aid and understanding beyond ourselves? If that is so, we are depending on something, which makes us weaker in our own intelligence.

Question: Is the soul a reality?

Krishnamurti: Again I would ask the audience to listen without prejudice, without bigotry, to this point. When you talk about the "soul", you mean a something between the material and the spiritual, between body and God. So you have divided life into matter, spirit, and God. Isn't that so? If I may say this, you who talk about "soul", know nothing about it, you are accepting it merely on authority, or it is based on some hope, on some unfulfilled longing. You have accepted on authority many fundamental ideas, as you have accepted "soul" to be a reality.

Please consider what I am going to say, without any prejudice either in favour of or against the idea of soul, and without any preconceived ideas, in order to discover what is true. The only actuality of which we are fully cognizant, with which we have to concern ourselves, is suffering; we are conscious of that constant unfulfillment, limitation, incompleteness which causes conflict and suffering. This consciousness of sorrow is the only actuality from which you can start, and it is only in understanding the cause of suffering and being intelligently free from it, that there comes the ecstasy of reality. When the mind has disentangled itself from all illusions and hopes, then there is the bliss of reality

Through all this conflict and misery, one feels that there must be a reality, a God, an infinite intelligence, or whatever one may call it. That feeling may be merely a reaction from this agony, and therefore unreal, and so its pursuit must lead to ever increasing illusions; or it may be the intrinsic desire to discover truth which cannot be measured or systematized. If we can discover what creates conflict and who is the creator of sorrow, then in uprooting the cause of this there can be the true felicity of man. This almost ceaseless battle, this seemingly unending sorrow, is created by that limited consciousness which we call the "I". We have created about ourselves many false values, false ideals, to which the mind has become a slave. There is a constant struggle taking place between these illusions and the present, and there must ever be conflict as long as these self-protective illusions exist. This conflict creates in our minds the idea of the particular, the "I". So from this limited consciousness arises division as the "I", the impermanent, and the "I", the permanent, the eternal. When the mind is wholly free from the self-protective illusions and false values which are the cause of limited consciousness and of its many stupidities, then each one shall realize for himself whether there is truth or not.

If I merely said there is a soul, I should but add another belief to your many beliefs. So of what value would it be? Whereas, the only actuality of which we are conscious is this struggle, this suffering, this exploitation to which we have become slaves; and in intelligently freeing ourselves, not escaping from it, we shall discern the lasting in the transient, the real in the illusion.