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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

What Is Right Action?

Rosario and Mendoza, Argentina
Public Talks 27th and 28th July, 25th and 27th August, 1935

Friends, when one hears something new, one is apt to brush it aside without thought; and as I come from India, people are inclined to imagine that I bring to them an oriental mysticism which is of no value in daily life. Please listen to this talk without prejudice, and do not brush it aside by calling me a mystic, an anarchist, a communist, or by any other name. If you will kindly listen without prejudice but critically, you will see that what I have to say has a fundamental value. It is most difficult to be truly critical, because one is so accustomed to examine ideas and experiences through the veil of opposition and prejudice, that one perverts the clarity of understanding. If you are Christians, as most of you are, you are bound to examine what I say through the particular bias that your religion has given you. Or if you happen to belong to some political party, you will naturally consider what I am going to say, through the bias of that particular party. We cannot solve human problems through any bias, whether of a system, party or religion.

Everywhere in the world there is constant suffering which seems to have no end. There is the exploitation of one class by another. We see imperialism with all its stupidities, with its wars, and the cruelties of vested interest, whether in ideas, beliefs or power. Then there is the problem of death and the search for happiness and certainty in another world. One of the fundamental reasons why you belong to a religion or to a religious sect is that it promises you a safe abode in the hereafter.

We see all this, those of us who are actively, intelligently interested in life; and desirous of a fundamental change, we think that there ought to be a mass movement. Now to create a truly collective movement, there must be the awakening of the individual. I am concerned with that awakening. If each individual awakens in himself that true intelligence, then he will bring about collective welfare, without exploitation and cruelty. As long as the intelligent fulfilment of the individual is hindered, there must be chaos, sorrow and cruelty. If you are driven to co-operate through fear, there can never be individual fulfilment. So I am not concerned with creating a new organi- zation or party, or offering a new substitution, but with awakening that intelligence which alone can solve the many human miseries and sorrows.

Now most of us are not individuals, but merely the expression of a collective system of traditions, fears and ideals. There can be true individuality only when each one, through conflict and suffering, discerns the deep significance of the environment in which he is held. If you are merely the expression of the collective, you are no longer an individual; but if you understand the whole significance of the collective consciousness which now dominates the world, then you will begin to awaken that intelligence which becomes the true expression and fulfilment of the individual.

We are now but the expression, the result of past and present environment. We are the result of compulsion and imposition, moulded into a particular pattern, the pattern of tradition, of certain values and beliefs, of fear and authority. For convenience we will divide this mouId that is holding us, as the inner and the outer, the religious and the economic, but in reality such a division does not exist.

Religion is but an organized system of belief, based on fear and on the desire for security. Where there is self-interest, the desire for security, there must be fear; and through religion you seek what is called immortality, a security in the hereafter, and those who assure and promise you that immortality become your guides, your teachers and authorities. So out of your own desire for egotistic continuance. you create exploiters.

When the mind seeks security through immortality, it must create authority, and that authority becomes the constant cause of fear and of oppression. So to guide and to hold you, there are ideals. beliefs, dogmas and creeds, out of which is born what is called religion. To minister to your illusory needs, brought about through fear, there are priests, who become your exploiters. So you have religions with their vested interest, fear, oppression and exploitation, holding man and thwarting the true, intelligent awakening and fulfilment of the individual. Religions also separate man from man. In that mould each individual is held consciously or unconsciously, subtly or crudely.

Outwardly we have created a system of individual security based on exploitation. Through acquisitiveness and the system of family, we have created the distinction of classes, cultivated the disease of nationalism, imperialism, and that great stupidity, war.

You have this mould, this environment of which almost all of us are unconscious, for it is part of us; it is the very expression of our desires, fears and hopes. While you conform consciously or thoughtlessly to this system, you are not individuals. True individuality can come into being only when you begin to question this mould of tradition, values, ideals. You can understand its true significance only when you are in conflict, not otherwise. With your whole being you must turn upon the environment, which then creates conflict, suffering, and from that there comes the clarity of understanding.

How can there be individual fulfilment if you are unconscious of this machine, this mould that is holding you, shaping you, guiding you? How can there be completeness, bliss, when these unquestioned values are continually thwarting, perverting your full comprehension? When you as individuals become fully conscious of this prison and are free from it, only then can there be true fulfilment. Intelligence alone can solve human misery and sorrow.

Question: Is it possible to live without some kind of prejudice? Are you yourself not prejudiced against religious and spiritual organizations?

Krishnamurti: I do not think I am prejudiced against religious or spiritual organizations. I have belonged to them, and I have seen their utter stupidity and their ways of exploitation. There is no illusion with regard to them, and so there is no prejudice.

Now that leads us to a further point, which is, Can man live without any illusion? In a world where there is so much suffering, so much mental and emotional anguish, where there is such ruthless cruelty and exploitation, can one live without some means of escape from this horror? Where there is a desire to escape, there must be the creation of illusion in which one takes shelter. If in your work, in your life, there is no fulfilment, then there must be an escape into some romantic idea or into an illusion. So where there is conflict between yourself and life, there must be prejudice and illusion which offer you an escape. It may be an escape through religion, through mere activity, or through sensation.

If you deeply understand the hindrances that cause conflict between yourself and life, and thus are free from them, then the mind does not need illusions. Your concern is with finding out for yourself whether you are escaping from life, not with judging me or another. Escape destroys the intelligent functioning of the mind. Illusion, prejudice, ceases when through conflict the mind frees itself from all the subtle escapes it has established in search of self-defence.

Question: Most of the discussions around your ideas are being provoked by your frequent use of the word "exploitation". Can you tell us exactly what you mean by exploitation?

Krishnamurti: Where there is fear, which is the result of seeking security, there must be exploitation. Now to free the mind of fear is one of the most difficult things to do. People say so very readily that they are not afraid; but if they really want to find out whether they are free from fear, they have to test themselves in action. They have to understand the whole structure of tradition and values and in separating themselves from these they will create conflict, and in that conflict they will discover whether they are free. Now most of us are acting in conformity with certain established values. We do not know their true significance. If you want to discover the consistency of your being, step out of that rut and you will then discern the many subtle fears that enslave your mind. When the mind liberates itself from fear, then there will not be exploitation, cruelty and sorrow.

Question: What advice can you give to those of us who are eager to understand your teachings?

Krishnamurti: If you begin to live and so understand life, then you cannot help grasping the significance of what I am teaching. Don't you see, sirs, if you follow anybody, it does not matter who it is, you are creating further compulsion, further limitation, and so destroying intelligence, true fulfilment. Truth is of no person. If in action the mind frees itself from the limitation of fear and so of authority. compulsion, then there is the understanding of that which is truth.

Question: You say that ideals are a barrier to the understanding of life. How is this possible? Surely a man without ideals is little more than a savage. Krishnamurti: Let us not consider who is and who is not a savage, for in this world that is difficult to determine. (Laughter) Rather let us consider whether ideals are necessary for plenitude and rich understanding. I say that ideals, beliefs, fundamentally prevent man from living fully.

Ideals seem necessary when life is chaotic, sorrow-laden and cruel. Caught in this turmoil you cling to ideals as a way of escape, as a necessity for crossing the sea of confusion. and so they are false and deceptive. When you do not understand the present suffering and agony, you escape into an ideal. When you do not love your neighbour, you talk about the ideal of brotherhood. In the same way, when you talk about the ideal of peace, then you are not truly discerning the cause that creates separation, war, with all its brutalities and stupidities. Our minds are so crippled, so burdened with ideals, that we cannot see clearly the actual. So free the mind from your ideals, which are but frustrated hopes; then only will it be capable of discerning the present with all its significance. Instead of escaping, act in the present. That action uncovers beauty which no ideal can reveal.

Question: What do you mean exactly by "incomplete action"? Can you give us examples of such action?

Krishnamurti: Each one of us is brought up with a certain background. That background is but memory. These memories are continually impeding the completeness of action. That is, if you have been brought up in a certain tradition, that memory prevents the complete understanding of experience or of action; it grows and becomes an increasing limitation, hindrance, separating itself from the movement of life. Where there is incompleteness of action, there is no fulfilment, which engenders fear. From this there arises the search for security in the hereafter. Completeness of action is the continual movement or the flow of life, reality, without the limitation of self protective memory.

Question: Occasionally, some wealthy individual who loses his money commits suicide. Since wealth does not seem to confer lasting happiness, what must one do in order to be really happy? Krishnamurti: The people who accumulate wealth depend for their happiness on the power which money gives. When that power is removed, they come face to face with their own utter emptiness. As long as one is looking for power, either through money or through virtue, there must be emptiness, and for that emptiness there is no remedy, because power in itself is an illusion, born of egotistic limitation, fear. Understanding can come only in discerning the falseness of power itself, and this demands a constant alertness of mind, not a renunciation after accumulation. If there is that sense of acquisitiveness which destroys love, charity, then there is an emptiness, a shallowness, a frustration of life. In that there is no fulfilment.

Question: Some of your followers say that you are the New Messiah. I should like to know whether you are an impostor, living on the reputation established for you by others, or whether you really have the interest of humanity at heart and are capable of making a constructive contribution to human thought.

Krishnamurti: I don't think it matters very much what others say or do not say concerning me. If you are merely followers, you cannot know the rich plenitude of life. What matters is that you, without being imposed upon by authority, by opinion, discover for yourself whether what I say has any deep significance. Some, by merely saying that it has, help to create the empty cage of opinion which limits the thoughtless; and others can easily create an opposite opinion by declaring that what I say is false, impractical, and so catch the unconscious in a net of words.

The questioner asks whether I am living on the reputation established for me by others. Please be assured that I am not. This idea of living on the past is destructive of intelligence. Most people, after achieving a certain height, rest on their laurels and thus slowly decay; and as they have that fatal habit, they try to draw me into their own illusion.

To me, living is completeness of action, which is its own beauty, and which neither seeks rewards nor avoids suffering. To find out the truth of what I say, you, as an individual, will have to experiment and discover for yourself, and not rely on opinion.

Whether I am an impostor or not is for me to find out, not for you to judge. How can you judge whether I am an impostor or not? You can measure only by a standard, and all standards are limiting. To judge another is fundamentally wrong. I know, without any fear, illusion or self-deception, that what I am saying and living is born of life. Not through the desire to judge but only through conflict can you awaken intelligence. It is only in the state of conflict and suffering that you can understand what is true. But when you begin to suffer, you must keep intensely aware, otherwise you will create an escape into an illusion. Now the vicious circle of suffering and escape will continue until you begin to realize the futility of escape. Only then will there be intelligence, which alone can solve the many human problems.

Question: You say that all those who belong to a religion or who hold a belief are enslaved by fear. Is one free of fear by the mere fact of belonging to no religion? Are you yourself, who belong to no religion, really free of fear, or are you preaching a theory?

Krishnamurti: I am not preaching mere theory. I am talking out of the fullness of understanding. Not belonging to any religion certainly does not indicate that one is free from fear. Fear is so subtle. so swift, so cunning, that it hides itself in many places. To trace fear down the lane of its own retreat there must be the intense and burning desire to uncover fear, which means that you must be willing to lose completely all self-interest. But you want to be secure, both here and in the hereafter. So, desiring security you cultivate fear; and being afraid, you try to escape through the illusion of religion, ideals, sensation and activity. As long as there is fear, which is born of self-protective desires, mind will be caught in the net of many illusions. A man who really desires to discover the root of fear and so liberate himself from it, must become aware of the motive and purpose of his action. This awareness, if it is intense, will destroy the cause of fear.

Question: What are the characteristics of nationalism, which you call stupidity? Are all forms of nationalism bad, or only some? Isn't it wonderful that your country is striving to free itself from the yoke of England? Why are you not fighting for the independence of your country?

Krishnamurti: To love anything beautiful in a country is normal and natural, but when that love is used by exploiters in their own interest, it is called nationalism. Nationalism is fanned into imperialism, and then the stronger people divide and exploit the weaker, with the Bible in one hand and a bayonet in the other. The world is dominated by the spirit of cunning, ruthless exploitation, from which war must ensue. This spirit of nationalism is the greatest stupidity.

Every individual should be free to live fully. completely. As long as one tries to liberate one's own particular country and not man, there must be racial hatreds, the divisions of people and classes. The problems of man must be solved as a whole, not as confined to countries or people.

Question: What do you think of your enemies, the priests, and the vested interests which in Argentina have prevented the broadcasting of your lectures?

Krishnamurti: To regard anyone as an enemy is a great folly. Either one understands and so helps, or one does not understand and so hinders. The diffusion of that which is intelligent can only be hindered by stupidity. Each one of you has vested interests to which you are clinging, and which by continual thought and action you are increasing. If one attacks your particular vested interest, your immediate response is to be on the defensive and to retaliate. A man who has something to guard. something to protect, is ever in fear, and so acts most cruelly and thoughtlessly; but a man who has really nothing to lose, because he has accumulated nothing, has no fear; he lives completely, truly fulfilling.

Question: Has experience any value?

Krishnamurti: What happens when there is experience? It leaves a mark on the mind, which we call memory. With that scar, with that memory, we meet the next experience, and from that experience we gather further memory, increasing the scar. Each experience leaves its mark on the mind. Now these collective layers of memories are essentially based on the desire to protect yourself against suffering. That is, you come to experience already prepared, already protected by your past memories. You are not really living completely in that experience, but you are merely learning how to protect yourself against it, against life. Experience becomes valueless to a man who merely uses it as a means of further self-defence against life. But if you live in an experience wholly, integrally, without this desire for self-protection, then it does not destroy discernment; then it reveals the great heights and depths of life.

Now, to use experience as a means of advancing, that is, increasing the walls of self-protection, is generally called evolution. You think that through time this memory, this self-protective record, can reach truth or perfection or God. It cannot. True experience is the breaking down of those self-protective walls and freeing the mind, consciousness, from those scars that prevent discernment, fulfilment.

Question: What kind of action do you think would be most useful for the world?

Krishnamurti: An action that is born without fear, and therefore of intelligence, is inherently true. If your action is based on fear, on authority, then such action must create chaos and confusion. In freeing action of all fear, there is love. intelligence.

Question: Isn't the sexual problem a real slavery for man?

Krishnamurti: If we merely deal with this problem superficially, we cannot find a solution for it. Emotionally and mentally we are most of the time being frustrated by authority and fear. Our work, which should be the expression of our fulfilment, has become mechanical and weary. We are merely trained to fit into a system, and so there is frustration, emptiness. We are forced to take up a particular profession because of economic necessity, so we are thwarted in our true expression. Through fear we force ourselves to accept the many superstitions and illusions of religion. Our desires, thwarted and limited, try to express themselves through sex, which thus becomes a consuming problem. Because we try to solve it exclusively, apart from the rest of the human problems, we can find no solution for it. Because we have destroyed love through possessiveness, through mere sensation, sex has become a problem. Where there is love, without the sense of possessiveness or attachment, sex cannot become a problem. Question: Why are there oppressors and oppressed, rich and poor, good people and bad?

Krishnamurti: They exist because you allow them. The oppressor exists because you are willing to submit yourself to oppression, and because you also are eager to oppress another. You think that by becoming rich you will be happy, and so you create the poor. By your action you are creating the oppressor and the oppressed, the rich and the poor, and supporting those conditions which produce the so-called bad, the criminal. If you as individuals are tormented by all this hideous suffering in you and about you, then you will know how to act voluntarily, without fear, without seeking reward.

Question: Which has to be assured first, collective or individual well being?

Krishnamurti: We have to consider, not which of these shall come first, but what is the true fulfilment of man. I say you will know what this is when the mind is free from those limitations which it has placed about itself in its search for security. Following a system or imitating another does not lead to fulfilment.

What are the impediments? The desire to protect oneself, both here and in the hereafter. Where there is the desire to protect oneself, there must be fear which creates many illusions. One of the illusions is the authority or compulsion of an ideal, belief or tradition, the authority of self-protective memories against the movement of life. Fear creates many limitations. When the mind becomes aware of one of its limitations, then in freeing itself from that, the real creator of illusions and limitations is revealed to be those self-protective memories called the "I". The liberation from this limited consciousness is true fulfilment. The awakening of intelligence is the assurance of the well-being of the individual, and therefore of the whole.

Question: I have heard that you are against love. Are you?

Krishnamurti: If I were, it would be very stupid. Possessiveness destroys love, and against that I am. To help you to possess, you have laws which are called moral, and which the state and religion support. Love is hedged about by fear which destroys its beauty.

Question: Are we responsible for our actions?

Krishnamurti: The majority of people would prefer not to be responsible for their actions. After all, who is responsible if you are not? The chaos in the world is brought about by the irresponsible action of the individual; but it is through individual conscious action alone that the oppression, exploitation and suffering can be swept away. We do not desire to act deeply, for that would involve conflict and suffering for ourselves, and so we try to evade full responsibility. Those who are in sorrow must awaken to the fullness of their own action.

Question: Your ideas, although destructive, greatly appeal to me, and I accept them and have been practising them for some time. I have abandoned the ideas of religion, nationalism and possession; but I must frankly confess that I am tormented with doubt and feel that I may merely have exchanged one cage for another. Can you help me?

Krishnamurti: Anyone who tells you exactly what to do, and gives you a method to follow, seems to you to be positive. He is but helping you to imitate, to follow, and so he is really destructive to intelligence and brings about negation. If you have merely given up religion, nationalism and possession, without understanding their deep and intrinsic significance, then you will surely fall into another cage, because you hope to gain something in return. You are really looking for an exchange, and so there is no deep understanding which alone can destroy all cages and limitations. If you truly understood that religion, nationalism, possessiveness, with their full significance, are poisons in themselves, then there would be intelligence, which is ever free from all sense of reward.

Question: Are you the Founder of a new Universal Religion?

Krishnamurti: If by religion you mean new dogmas, creeds, another prison to hold man and create further fear in him, then certainly I am not. When you lose the sense of Godhood, the sense of beauty, then you become religious or join a religious sect. I desire to awaken that intelligence which alone can help man to fulfil, to live happily, without sorrow. But it depends on you whether there shall be mere followers and so destroyers, or whether there shall be love and human unity.

Question: Can you give us your idea of God and the immortality of the soul, or are these things merely stupidities invented by clever men in order to exploit millions of human beings?

Krishnamurti: Millions are exploited because they seek in the hereafter their own egotistic continuance, which they call immortality. They want security in the hereafter, and so they create the exploiter. You are used to the idea that the ego, the "I", is something that endures and lasts forever. The ego is nothing but a series of memories. What are you? A form, a name, with certain prejudices. qualities, hopes and fears. (Laughter) And through it all, through these limitations, there is a something which is not yours and mine, which is eternal. That is ever becoming, that is true. You cannot measure it by words or know it through explanations. That is to be realized through the liberating process of action. The mere inquiry into God, life, truth or whatever name you may give to it, indicates the desire to escape from the present, from the conflict of ignorance. Ignorance exists when the mind is but the storehouse of accumulative, self-protective memories, which is the "I" consciousness. This limited consciousness hinders the perception, the realization of that eternal becoming, the movement of life.