What Is Right Action?
2nd Public Talk 26th June, 1935
I think it would be rather vain and absurd if you merely dismissed what I say as being communistic or anarchistic, or by saying that it is nothing new. To find out whether it is of any significant value, and to test whether it has any essential quality of truth, one must experiment with it and not merely dismiss it. To find out the quality of any idea that I put forward, you must carry it into action, with deliberate and conscious thought. Only then can you know the renewing quality of action in daily life - for we are concerned most with that intelligent action which shall reveal the richness, the fullness of life. To discover for ourselves the manner of this action, there must not be mere rejection or blind acceptance of the ideas which I have been trying to explain, but there must be true and conscious experiment. Then you will know the ever renewing quality of action.
To live supremely, intelligently, we must find out for ourselves what are the hindrances or the prejudices that impede the free flow of reality. In understanding the significance of their cause and their existence, we shall voluntarily, without any compulsion, abandon them. Then only can there be the movement of reality.
There is, amongst other hindrances, one that does incalculable damage to the mind. Before I explain what that impediment is, please do not jump to conclusions or think in terms of opposites. To understand its deep significance, mind must be very pliable and not merely conclusive, as this prevents the continuous penetration of reality.
One of the greatest hindrances to the flow of reality, is authority. It is one of the most destructive barriers which we have created in our desire for self-protection and security. For convenience, let us divide authority into the inner and the outer. The outer authority is environment, tradition, habit, the closed morality of religion, the authority of experts, and the authority of vested interests. There is this outward environment which is continually impressing and forcing itself upon the individual, conditioning and perverting him. As long as we do not understand this limiting pressure of environment with its corroding influence, compelling us to act according to a particular pattern which is often considered as voluntary action, as long as we do not discern its true significance, there must be a continual conflict and suffering, thus ever increasing the limitation of action.
By reacting to this outward compulsion, we begin to develop an inner authority, an inner law based on fear, on the self-protective memory of security and comfort, according to which we are continually adjusting and paralleling our conduct, and which in its own subtle way controls and limits thought and action and thus creates its own conflict and suffering.
So we have the compulsion from without, and from within, which has been developed through our own desire for security, certainty, and which is continually perverting and twisting discernment.
If the mind would understand reality, it must become wholly unburdened, fresh and uninfluenced. That is, you must become fully conscious, fully aware of the subtle influence of vested interests on the one hand, which I have explained as environmental, and on the other of that inward compulsion based on acquisitive and self-protective fear and memory. When you begin to be aware, when you begin to perceive that influence or authority in any form, gross or subtle. must pervert thought, then the mind, in freeing itself from its limitations, is capable of true discernment. For the action of authority, based fundamentally on self-protective desire, must ever increase stupidity and its illusions, destroying creative action, till gradually the individual is nothing but automatic reactions. When the individual consciously understands the deep significance of authority, when the mind is completely naked, creatively empty, then there is bliss.
Many questions have been put to me, and I have chosen some which I think are representative. If your particular question is not chosen, please listen to the questions which I shall answer, and I think you will see that I am answering your question also.
Question: You gave us the impression in your first talk that you were destroying the old values and clearing the way. In the following talks, are you going to build anew, giving us the essence of your teaching?
Krishnamurti: Now, I cannot destroy values which have been created by each individual, and which have become the means of exploitation either by society or by religion. You, by your own effort, by your own understanding of the true significance of existing values, can begin to destroy those that are essentially false. If I merely destroy the old and establish a new set of values, you are none the freer, you will only become prisoners to the new. There is no fundamental difference, only a change of prisons. So please understand the purpose of these talks. Truth cannot be handed to you. You, through your own creative understanding, have to discover for yourself the true in the false. If I merely built a new system or structure of thought, it would become another kind of authority and prison, whereas if you, through your own discernment, begin to discover what is true, you are then releasing that creative energy of intelligence which is truth. Truth is unique; it is not many-sided; it is complete. Each one must come to it without any compulsion, without following anyone, without any adjustment to a system or pattern. You have to battle against the false values that man has created through centuries, which are now being imposed on him ruthlessly, those values which you as individuals have established for yourselves in the desire for self-protection and security.
It does not much matter what name you give to me; and it cannot matter very much to you what I am. What matters is whether you in your suffering are truly destroying the false values that enclose you, or creating further barriers that shall imprison man.
The questioner asks, "In the following talks, are you going to build anew, giving us the essence of your teaching?" Most of us are seeking explanations. Explanations are merely so much dust in the eyes. If you take even one of the ideas which I have put forward, and become aware of its full significance, you are then beginning to release creative intelligence. You will find fulfillment through your own action, and not through any particular system of thought.
Question: Do you believe that a man of low culture, oppressed, earning a miserable wage, with a wife and children to support, can save himself spiritually and economically without help and guidance?
Krishnamurti: Economically, man certainly cannot be individualistic which he has been through these many centuries, causing chaos, exploitation and misery. But spiritually, if I may use that much abused word, he must be a complete individual. That is, when he begins to discover for himself and discard the false values which he has established through his search for protection and security, he awakens in himself true intelligence. At present he is being driven ruthlessly in this false, individualistic system. When you begin voluntarily to question, to investigate and discard the false values which religions and society have established, you awaken that unique intelligence which is creative co-operation, and not compulsory, slavish adjustment. Without this intelligence you act merely like so many machines.
For the fundamental change which shall bring about collective co-operation there must be complete, true and individual freedom of thought; but it is one of the most difficult things to realize, for we have been trained through centuries to obey and to adjust ourselves to a standard. The desire to create authority and to follow it is subtly ingrained in us. When there is a problem, we seek help, which we too easily find. Thus gradually and almost unconsciously we establish authority, to which we give ourselves over completely, till there is no thought apart from the system, apart from the established tradition and ideas.
Now the questioner wants to know whether a man of low state, low education, can realize that spiritual and true intelligence, that uniqueness. He can if he begins vigorously to question and to discover the significance of established values, and thus release creative thought. Unfortunately, such people have very little time to themselves, they are overworked, they are exhausted at the end of the day. But you who are supposed to be educated, who have leisure, can see to it that these others have also the right environment in which to live and think, and are not ceaselessly imposed upon and exploited.
The deep quality of intelligence is not found through mere education; it is not the result of slavish obedience to authority, or of the imposition of social morality, but it happens through the diligent discovery of right values. When there is such unique intelligence, then there will not he exploitation, domination and the cruel pursuit of selfish success.
Question: How can we be certain that happiness will result from the destruction of scientific, religious, moral and psychological prejudices?
Krishnamurti: You want a guarantee from me that by giving up something you will get something else in return. (Laughter) We approach life with the mentality of a merchant, and do not see that prejudice is inherently false. We want, before we renounce what we possess, to be assured that we shall receive something in return. And this is true of the whole pursuit of virtue. But the mentality that renounces in order to attain something else can never find happiness; such a mentality can never understand the pure quality of truth, which is to be understood only for its own beauty, not as a recompense.
Now if you think seriously about it, you will see that our whole system of thought is based on this idea of recompense. After all, the cultured man acts without seeking a reward. This requires, not only the recognition of the falseness of reward, but the understanding, the discernment of intrinsic values. If you are a true artist or a man who really loves his work, then you are not seeking a reward. It is only the person who is not in love with life that is constantly seeking, in a gross or subtle manner, a recompense or reward, for his actions are born out of fear; and how can such a person understand the swiftness, the subtle quality of truth?
Question: Are you trying to free the individual, or awaken in him the desire for freedom?
Krishnamurti: If you are not suffering, if you are not in conflict, if there is no problem, no crisis in your life, then there is very little to be said. That is, if you are asleep, then the action of life must first awaken you. But what happens generally when you begin to suffer? You immediately seek a remedy that will ease your suffering. So gradually in your search for comfort, you again put yourself to sleep through your own effort; and what another can do is merely to point out how you are doing this. You put yourself to sleep by seeking comfort, which you call the search for God, for truth. When the mind is awakened through a shock, which you call suffering, that is the true moment to inquire into the cause of suffering, without seeking comfort. If you observe, you will see that when there is acute suffering, your thought is searching out a remedy, a comfort. And you do find a remedy, which dulls the mind and turns it away from the cause of suffering, thus creating an illusion.
To put it differently, when the mind dwells in an accustomed groove of thought, then there is no conflict, then there is no suffering, no awakened interest in life. But when you have an experience of some kind that gives you a shock, which is called suffering and which awakens you from habit, then your immediate reaction is to seek another comfort to which thought can again become accustomed. The mind is searching constantly for certainties so that it shall be secure and not be disturbed, and hence life becomes full of fears and defensive reactions. But experience is continually destroying our certainties, and yet subtly we seek to create others. So life becomes a continual process of struggle and suffering, creation and destruction. But if the mind did not seek finalities, conclusions and securities, then it would find that there is constant adjustment, an understanding of the significance of the movement of life; and in that alone is there lasting reality, in that alone is there happiness.
Question: What do you mean by "religion"? I feel myself reunited to God through Christ. And through whom are you reunited to God?
Krishnamurti: I mean by religion, organized belief, creed, dogma and authority. That is one form of religion. Then there is the religion of ceremonies, which is but sensation and pageantry. Then there is the religion of personal experience. The first forces the individual to conform to a certain pattern for his own good through fear, through faith, dogma and creed. The second impresses divinity on the worshipper through show and pageantry. With the third, personal experience, we shall deal presently.
Now, organized religion must inevitably create divisions and conflict between men. You see this throughout the world. Hinduism, like Christianity, Buddhism and other organized religions, has its own peculiar beliefs and dogmas, which are almost impenetrable barriers between men, destroying their love. And what value, what significance have these religions, when they are fundamentally based on fear? If you discern the falseness of organized belief, that through any particular belief you cannot understand reality, nor through any authority whatsoever can intelligence be awakened, then you as individuals, not as an organized group, will free yourselves from this destructive imposition. This means that you must question from the very beginning the whole idea of belief; but this involves great suffering, for it is not a mere intellectual process. A man who only inquires intellectually into the question of belief shall find nothing but dust. If a man who is deeply suffering, questions this whole structure based on fear and authority, then he shall find those waters of life which shall quench his thirst.
Then there is that personal experience which is also called religious experience. It requires greater frankness, greater effort on our part to unravel the illusions that are connected with this. When there is so much confusion, misery and uncertainty, we want to find stabil- ity, peace and happiness. That is, instead of discerning the cause of this suffering, we want to run away from conflict to something that will give us contentment and constant hope. So with this craving we create and develop illusions that give us intense satisfaction, encouragement and happiness, whose sensation and thrill we generally call religious experience. If you really examine impersonally, without any prejudice, these so-called religious experiences, you will see that they are nothing but self-evolved compensations for suffering. So what people call religious experience is merely an escape into an illusion which they call a reality, in which they live, thinking that it is God, truth and so on. If you are suffering, instead of seeking happiness, the opposite, discern the fundamental cause of suffering, and begin to free yourself from that cause; then there is that reality which cannot be measured by words.
A mind that desires to understand truth must be free from these three illusions: from organized belief, with its authority and dogmas; from ceremonies, with their pageantry and sensation; and from those self-created illusions with their satisfactions and destructive happiness. When the mind is really without any prejudice, is not seeking a reward or cultivating a deity or hoping for immortality, then in that clear discernment there is the birth of reality.
Question: I am a priest, and I think I am fairly representative of the priesthood in general. I have had no revelation or mystic experience whatever; but what I preach from the pulpit I sincerely believe, because I have read it in sacred books. My words give consolation to those who listen to me. Should I give up helping them and leave my ministry because I have no such direct experience?
Krishnamurti: Sir, what is it that you call helping people? If you want to pacify them, drug them to sleep, then you must have revelation and authority. Because there is so much suffering, we think that by giving comfort to people we are helping them. This giving of comfort is nothing but putting them to sleep; thus the comforter becomes the exploiter.
Don't merely laugh at the question and pass it by, saying that it does not apply to you. What is it that you are seeking? If you are seeking comfort, then you will find comforters and be drugged into contentment. But what can anyone truly teach you? What another can help you to do is to discern for yourself whether you are escaping from actuality into an illusion. This means that the person who talks, who preaches, must himself be free from illusions. Then he will be able to help people even without reading sacred books. He will help the individual to keep awake, alive to the actualities of life, freed from all illusion. In discerning an illusion the mind frees itself from it, through deep understanding, and destroys the creator of illusion, which is that centre of limited consciousness, the "I", the ego.
If you want really to help man because you yourself perceive the utter chaos and suffering that exists, you will not give him any drug that will put him to sleep, but will help him to discover for himself those causes which impede the birth of intelligence. It is difficult to teach truly without dominating, asserting; and both the teacher and the pupil must be free from the subtle influence of authority, for all authority perverts and destroys all understanding.
Question: Do you believe in God?
Krishnamurti: What is important is to find out why you seek God; for when you are happy or when you are in love, you do not seek love, happiness. Then you don't believe in love, you are love. It is only when there is no joy, no happiness, that you try to seek it. You are seeking God because you say to yourself, "I cannot understand this life, with its misery, injustice, with its exploitations and cruelties, with its changing love and its constant uncertainties. If I can understand the reality which is God, then all these things will pass away."
To a man in a prison, freedom can be only in imaginative flight. Your search for reality, for God, is but an escape from actuality. If you begin to free yourself from the cause of suffering, free the mind from the brutalities of personal ambition and success, from the craving for individual security, then there is truth, reality. Then you will not ask another if there is God. The search for God to the vast majority of people is but an escape from conflict, suffering. They call this escape religion, the search for eternity; but what they are really seeking is merely a drug to put them to sleep.
The fundamental cause of man's suffering is his egotism, expressing itself in many ways, essentially in his search for security through immortality, possessiveness and authority. When the mind is free from these causes which create conflict, then you will understand, without beliefs, that which is immeasurable, that which is reality. A mind weighed down with belief, with prejudice, a mind that is prepared, cannot discover the unknown. The mind must be wholly naked, without any support, without any longing or hope. Then there is reality, which cannot be measured by words.
So do not seek vainly for that which is, but discover the impediments, the hindrances that prevent the mind from perceiving truth. When the mind is creatively empty there is the immeasurable.
Question: What is immortality?
Krishnamurti: To understand immortality and its real significance, your mind must be free of all religious prejudice. That is, you have already an idea of what immortality must be, which is the outcome of intense desire to continue as a limited consciousness. All the religions throughout the world promise this egotistic immortality. If you would understand immortality, mind must be free of this craving for individual continuance.
Now, when you say that "I" must continue, what is this "I"? The "I" is nothing but the form, the name, certain qualities and memories, certain fears and prejudices, certain limited desires and unfulfilled actions. All these compose the "I", which becomes that limited consciousness, the ego. You desire that this limited consciousness shall continue. That is, when you ask if there is immortality, you are inquiring whether the "I" will continue, that "I" which is inherently a frustrated consciousness.
To put it differently, in truly creative moments of thought or of expression, there is no consciousness as the "I". It is only in moments of conflict, suffering, that the mind becomes conscious of its own limitation, which is called the "I; and we have become so accustomed to limitation that we crave for its continuance, thinking that this is immortality. Thus anyone who guarantees to you this immortality, becomes your authority. Grossly or subtly, that authority begins to exploit you through fear. So you who are seeking this selfish, illusory immortality, are creating exploiters with all their cruelties. But if you are really free of that limited consciousness with its illusions, hopes and fears, then there is the eternal movement, the continual becoming, not of the "I", but of life itself
Question: Don't you think that any movement or social upheaval that succeeds in educating the younger generation without any religious ideas or thought of the hereafter, is a positive step in human progress?
Krishnamurti: Religious ideas do not merely limit themselves to the hereafter. It is much more profound. The desire to be secure gives birth to the thought about the hereafter and to many other subtleties which create fear, and to be free from it needs great discernment. Only a mind that is insecure will understand truth; a mind that is not prepared, that is not conditioned by fear, shall be open to the unknown. So let us concern ourselves with limitations and their cause.
The question is this: Can we train children not to seek security? Now, to educate another, you must begin with yourself. Are you fundamentally free of this idea of security? Are you entirely vulnerable to life, without any self-protective wall? To discover this, begin to be aware, begin to question all the values that now enclose the mind. Then you will discover, through your own intelligent awakening, the true significance of security.