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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

What Is Right Action?

Mexico City
3rd Public Talk 30th October, 1935

Friends, most people have accepted the idea that man is something more than the mere result of environment. I mean by environment, not only the social and religious background, but also the past. That man is something more than this is especially accepted by those who call themselves religious, spiritual people. The majority of you have accepted this idea. if you carefully examine it, on the authority of another; or it is dictated to you by your own hope or longing, which you call intuition. You have not discovered for yourselves whether you are something more than merely social entities. Seeing that life around you is stifling, sorrowful, you crave for happiness and submit yourselves to a particular mode of conduct which is based on self protection. You believe that man is more than mere matter because teachers have proclaimed it and many religions and sects have maintained it throughout the ages. But if you strip your mind of these authorities and illusions created through hope, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that there is no deep certainty within you concerning this matter.

Then there are those who say that man is nothing but the result of environment. They say that to change man, environment must be wholly controlled and man must be subjugated to it, so that there can be the certainty of his happiness.

There is the religious idea which conceives of lasting happiness only in the hereafter, which says that you can never find happiness here. From this there are developed beliefs, creeds, dogmas, saviours and Masters, to lead you to that lasting happiness. Thus we have innumerable escapes through which man is exploited.

So you have two diametrically opposed ideas concerning man, at least they seem to be, but fundamentally they are not. One maintains that man is mere clay to be conditioned by intelligent environment, and the other, that he can be truly intelligent only in the hereafter by conditioning himself through certain beliefs. Some maintain that man can be made intelligent through law, by controlling environment; and religions, through threat and fear, promise divine happiness in the hereafter if man conditions himself to certain beliefs and dogmas. If you examine both ideas, they have a common attitude towards man: one says that he must be controlled by the law of the state, and the other that he must be dominated through punishment and reward in the hereafter. The religious and the non-religious, though they hate each other, are fundamentally alike, for they both believe in conditioning and controlling man. This is what has happened and what is now taking place. In both there is this fundamental idea of dominating, compelling, forcing man to a certain pattern.

With this compulsion there can be no true fulfilment. There can be creative intelligence and happiness only when there is no compulsion, when you act voluntarily, without fear. To know creative action, without this continual, limiting compulsion, you must become conscious of the innumerable impositions that are placed upon you, and which you have created in search of your own egotistic security through society and religion. In voluntarily freeing yourself from these egotistic compulsions, there is fulfilment.

How can there be fulfilment if there is compulsion and so fear? Fear and compulsion will exist as long as action is based on egotistic expression. When your mind and heart free themselves from those values based on exploitation and religious egotism, then there can be true and intelligent fulfilment. It is only voluntary action that will ever keep society pure and man intelligent.

Question: If man is life and life is eternally perfect, why must man pass through experience and sorrow?

Krishnamurti: Again this is one of our religious prejudices, that life is eternally perfect. You know nothing about it. All that you know is that life is a continual struggle and pain, and occasionally there is a spark of happiness, beauty and love. The real question is, Must there be continual suffering and what significance has experience?

Sorrow is but the indication of a mind and heart held in limitation; the mere escape from sorrow and the search for a remedy does not liberate the mind, does not awaken it to intelligence. Experience becomes limitation and hindrance if the mind uses it as a means of further self-protection. We learn from experiences to protect ourselves, be more cunning, so as not to suffer. The avoidance of sorrow is called knowledge gained from experience. We learn from experiences to guard ourselves against the movement of life. So each experience leaves a self-defensive memory, and with that limitation we live through another perience, adding further walls of self-protection. Thus there is an ever increasing barrier and limitation, and when this comes into contact with the movement of life, there is suffering. When the mind voluntarily frees itself, through understanding, from these self-protective barriers, then there is the flow of reality

Question: What should be the ultimate goal of the individual?

Krishnamurti: There can never be a goal, a finality, because life is a continual becoming, and that becoming is immortality. But the desire of man is to have something definite and certain to which he can cling and by which he can guide himself. He is continually seeking this through many subtle forms, for be is afraid of being insecure. So he says, "There must be an ultimate objective or goal." There cannot be. You want an ideal to follow because life is so confusing, conflicting, sorrowful, and you say, "I must have something by which I can guide myself, so as not to suffer." If you examine it, this is only a deep desire to escape into an illusion. So your ideal, your goal, your perfection, is simply a means of escape from this turmoil and pain.

Question: Is the law of karma, or cause and effect, a fact in nature?

Krishnamurti: The Sanskrit word karma signifies action. You can act deeply, fully, only when the mind and heart are not held in limitation. Where there is fear, there must be the creation of illusion, limitation. This limitation creates incompleteness of action and causes suffering. From this suffering the mind seeks an escape through some illusion, ideal, belief, which only creates greater limitation in action and so further sorrow. In this vicious circle the mind is caught.

As long as action springs from fear, born of egotism, there must be incompleteness. All action born of a closed mind and heart must create conflict and suffering. As our minds are filled with many frustrations, caused through fear, it is necessary to awaken to those limitations, and the mind must voluntarily free itself from them, through action. Then there is completeness of action, fulfilment. Question: What is your opinion of spiritualism?

Krishnamurti: There are many things involved in this desire to know if there is life in the hereafter. Because we have lost someone whom we love greatly, in our sorrow we desire to find out if that person continues to live. But suppose you know that life continues in the hereafter, the question of sorrow is in no way solved. The emptiness, the void is still there, but the momentary happiness of some assurance cannot lastingly cover up our agony. This constant search for consolation makes our life more and more empty, shallow, worthless.

Also there is a desire to find what is called a guide, an authority. You want to be guided because you are afraid of life, and so you create exploiters, as in organized religions.

So in your search for comfort, consolation, you are destroying yourself, creating emptiness in your mind and heart. Where there is a desire to follow, there is an indication of fear and the creation of self-defences against intelligence, against life, reality.