1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
Auckland New Zealand
1st Public Talk 28th March, 1934
Friends, I think each one is caught up in either a religious problem or a social struggle or an economic conflict. Each one is suffering through the lack of the understanding of these various problems, and we try to solve each one of these problems by itself; that is, if you have a religious problem, you think you are going to solve it by brushing away the economic or the social problem and centring entirely on the religious problem, or you have an economic problem and you think that you are going to solve that economic problem by wholly confining yourself to that one particular conflict. Whereas, I say you cannot solve these problems by themselves; you cannot solve the religious problem by itself, nor the economic nor the social problem, unless you see the interrelationship between the religious, the social and the economic problems.
What we call problems are merely symptoms, which increase and multiply because we do not tackle the whole life as one, but divide it as economic, social or religious problems. If you look at all the various solutions that are offered for the various ailments, you will see that they deal with the problems apart, in watertight compartments, and do not take the religious, social and economic problems comprehensively as a whole. Now it is my intention to show that so long as we deal with these problems apart, separately, we but increase the misunderstanding, and therefore the conflict, and thereby the suffering and the pain; whereas, until we deal with the social problem and the religious and economic problems as a comprehensive whole, not as divided, but rather see the delicate and the subtle connection between what we call religious, social or economic problems - until you see this real connection, this intimate and subtle connection between these three, whatever problem you may have, you are not going to solve it. You will but increase the struggle. Though we may think we have solved one problem, that problem again arises in a different form, so we go on through life solving problem after problem, struggle after struggle, without fully comprehending the full significance of our living.
So then, to understand the intimate connection between what we call religious, social and economic problems, there must be a complete reorientation of thought - that is, each individual must no longer be a cog, a machine, either in the social or the religious structure. Look and you will see that most human beings are slaves, merely cogs in this machine. They are not really human beings, but merely react to a set environment and therefore there is no true individual action, individual thought; and to find out that intimate relationship between all our actions, religious, political or social, you as an individual must think, not as a group, not as a collective body; and that is one of the most difficult things to do, for individuals to step out of the social structure, or the religious, and examine it critically, to find out what is false and what true in that structure. And then you will see that you are no longer concerned with a symptom, but are trying to find out the cause of the problem itself, and not merely deal with the symptoms.
Perhaps some of you will say at the end of my talk that I have given you nothing positive, nothing on which you can definitely work, a system which you can follow. I have no system. I think systems are pernicious things, because they may for the moment alleviate the problems, but if you merely follow a system you are a slave to it. You merely substitute a new system for the old, which does not bring about comprehension. What brings about comprehension is not to search for a new system, but to discover for yourselves, as individuals, not as a collective machine but as individuals, what is false and what is true in the existing system, not to substitute a new system for the old.
Now, to be able to criticize, to be able to question, is the first essential requirement for any thinking man, so that he will begin to discover what is false and what is true in the existing system, and therefore out of that thought there is action, and not mere acceptance. So during this talk, if you would understand what I am going to say, there must be criticism. Criticism is essential. Questioning is right, but we have been trained not to question, not to criticize, we have been carefully trained to oppose. For instance, if I am going to say anything which you are going to dislike - as I shall, I hope - you will naturally begin to oppose it, because opposition is easier than to find out if what I am saying has any value. If you discover what I am saying has value, then there is action, and hence you will have to alter your whole attitude towards life. Therefore, as we are not prepared to do that, we have made a clever technique of opposition. That is, if anything I am saying you do not like, you bring up all your deep-rooted prejudices and obstruct, and if I say anything which may hurt you, or which may emotionally upset you, you take shelter behind these prejudices, these traditions, this background; and from that background you react, and that reaction you call criticism. To me it is not criticism. It is merely clever opposition, which has no value.
Now, if you are all Christians - and presumably you are all Christians - perhaps I am going to say something which you may not understand, and instead of trying to find out what I want to convey, you will immediately take shelter behind the traditions, behind the deep-rooted prejudices and authorities of the established order, and from that fortress, on the defensive, attack. To me that is not criticism; that is a clever way of not acting, of avoiding full, complete action.
If you would understand what I am going to say, I would request you to be really critical, not to be clever in your opposition. To be critical demands a great deal of intelligence. Criticism is not scepticism, or acceptance; that would be equally stupid. If you merely said, "Well, I am sceptical about what you say", that would be as stupid as to merely accept. Whereas, true criticism consists not in giving values, but in trying to find out the true values. Is it not so? If you give values to things, if the mind gives values, then you are not finding out the intrinsic merit of the thing, and most of our minds are trained to give values. Take money, for example. Abstractly, money has no value. It has the value we give to it. That is, if you want power which money gives, then you use money to get power, so you are giving a value to something which has inherently no value; so likewise if you are going to find out and understand what I am going to say, you must have this capacity of criticism, which is really easy if you want to find out, if you want to discover, not if you say, "Well, I don't want to be attacked. I am on the defensive. I have everything I want, I am perfectly satisfied." Then such an attitude is pretty hopeless. Then you are here merely out of curiosity - and the majority probably are - and what I shall say will have no significance, and therefore you will say it is negative, nothing constructive, nothing positive.
So please bear this in mind, that we are going to discover this evening, consider together, what are the false things and the true in the existing social and religious conditions; and to do that please do not bring in continually your prejudices, whether Christian, or of some other sect, but rather have this intelligent, critical attitude, not only with regard to what I am going to say, but with regard to everything in life, which means the cessation of seeking new systems, not the search for a new system which, when found, will again be perverted, corrupted. In the discovery of the false and the true in the social, the religious and the economic systems - the false and the true which we have created for ourselves - in the discovery of that, we shall keep our minds and hearts from creating false environments in which the mind is likely to be caught again.
Most of you are seeking a new system of thought, a new system of economics, a new system of religious philosophy. Why are you seeking a new system? You say, "I am dissatisfied with the old", that is, if you are seeking. Now I say, don't seek a new system, but rather examine the very system in which you are held, and then you will see that no system of any kind will bring about the creative intelligence which is essential for the understanding of truth or God or whatever name you like to give to it. That means that by the following of no system are you going to discover that eternal reality; but you are going to find it only when you, as individuals, begin to understand the very system that you have built up through the centuries, and in that system discover what is true and what is false.
So please bear that in mind - that I am not giving a new system of philosophy. I think these systems are cages for the mind to be caught up in. They do not help man, they are merely hindrances. These systems are a means of exploitation. Whereas, if you as individuals begin to question, you will see that in that questioning you create conflict, and out of the conflict you will understand - not in the mere acceptance of a new system which is merely another soporific which puts you to sleep and turns you into another machine.
So let us find out the false and the true in the existing systems - the systems of religion and sociology. To find out what is false and true, we must see what the religions are based on. Now, I am talking of religion as the crystallized form of thought which has become the community's highest ideal. I hope you are following all this. That is, religions as they are, not as you would like them to be. As they are, what are they based on? What is their foundation? When you see, when you examine and really critically think about it - not bring up your hopes and prejudices, but when you really think about it - you will see that they are based on comfort, giving you comfort when you are suffering. That is, the human mind is continually seeking security, a position of certainty, either in a belief or an ideal, or in a concept, and so you are con- tinually seeking a certainty, security, in which the mind takes shelter as comfort. Now what happens when you are continually seeking security, safety, certainty? Naturally that creates fear, and when there is fear there must be conformity. Please, I have not the time to go into details. I will do that in my various talks, but in this talk I want to put it all concisely, and if you are interested you can think it over, and then we can discuss it in question and answer meetings.
So the so-called religions give the pattern of conformity to the mind that is seeking security born of fear, in search of comfort; and where there is the search for comfort, there is no understanding. Our religions throughout the world, in their desire to give comfort, in their desire to lead you to a particular pattern, to mould you, give you various patterns, moulds, securities, through what they call faith. That is one of the things they demand - faith. Please do not misunderstand. Do not jump ahead of me. They demand faith, and you accept faith because it gives you a shelter from the conflict of daily existence, from the continual struggle, worries, pains and sorrows. So out of that faith, which must be a dogmatic faith, churches are born, and out of that are established ideas, beliefs.
Now to me - and please bear this in mind, I want you to criticize, not accept - to me all beliefs, all ideals are a hindrance because they prevent you from understanding the present. You say beliefs, ideals, faith, are necessary as a lighthouse which will direct you through the turmoil of life. That is, you are more interested in beliefs, in tradition, in ideals and faith, than in comprehending the turmoil itself. To understand the turmoil you cannot have a belief, prejudice; you must look at it completely, hold it with a fresh mind, with a mind uninfected, not with a mind which is biased with a particular prejudice which we call an ideal. So where there is a search for comfort, security, there must be a pattern, a mould, in which we take shelter, and therefore we begin to preconceive what God must be, and what truth must be.
Now to me, there is a living reality. There is something eternally becoming, fundamental, real, lasting, but it cannot be preconceived; it demands no belief, it demands a mind that is not tethered to an ideal as an animal is tied to a post, but on the contrary, demands a mind that is continually moving, experimenting, never staying. I say there is a living reality; call it God, truth, anything you like, which is of very little importance - and to understand that, there needs to be supreme intelligence, and therefore there cannot be any conformity, but rather the questioning of those things false and true in which the mind is caught up. And you will see that most people, most of you who are religiously inclined, are in search of truth, and that very search indicates that you are escaping from the conflict of the present, or you are dissatisfied with the present condition. Therefore you try to find out what is the real; that is, you leave the condition which creates conflict and run away and try to find out what God is, what truth is. Therefore that search is the denial of truth, because you are running away - there is escape, desire for comfort, security. Therefore, when religions are based as they are, on the giving of securities, there must be exploitation; and to me religions as they are exist on nothing but a series of exploitations. What we call the mediators between our present conflict and that supposed reality have become our exploiters, and they are priests, masters, teachers, saviours; because I say it is only through understanding the present conflict with all its significance, with all its delicate nuances - it is only thus that you can find out what is the real, and no one can lead you to it.
If both the inquirer and the teacher knew what truth is, then you could both go towards it; but the disciple cannot know what truth is. Therefore his inquiry after truth can only exist in the conflict, not away from conflict, and therefore, to me, any teacher who describes what truth is, what God is, is denying that very thing, that immeasurable thing which cannot be measured by words. The illusion of words cannot hold it, and the bridge of words cannot lead you to it. It is only when you, as an individual, begin to realize in the immense conflict, the cause and therefore the falseness of that conflict, that you will find out what is truth. In that there is everlasting happiness, intelligence; but not in this spurious thing called spirituality which is but a conformity, driven by authority through fear. I say there is something exquisitely real, infinite; but to discover it man must not be an imitative machine, and our religions are nothing but that. And besides, our religions throughout the world keep people apart. That is, you with your particular prejudices, calling yourselves Christians, and the Indians, with their particular beliefs, calling themselves Hindus, never meet. Your beliefs are keeping you apart. Your religions are keeping you apart. "But", you say, "if the Hindus could only become Christians, then we would have a unity", or the Hindus say, "Let them all become Hindus." Even then there is a division, because belief necessitates a division, a dis- tinction, and therefore exploitation and the continual struggle of distinctive classes.
We say religions unify. On the contrary. Look at the world split up into narrow little sects, fighting against each other to increase their membership, their wealth, their positions, their authorities, thinking they are the truth. There is only one truth, but you cannot go to it through any sect, through any religion. To discover what is true in religion, and what is false, you cannot be a machine; you cannot accept things as they are. You will if you are satisfied, and if you are satisfied you won't listen to me, and my talk will be useless. But if you are dissatisfied I will help you to question rightly, and out of the questioning you will find out what is truth, and in that discovery of what is true you will find out how to live richly, completely, ecstatically; not with this constant struggle, battling against everything for your own security, which you call virtue.
Again, this fear which is created through the search for security, this fear seeks shelter in society. Society is nothing else but the expression of the individual multiplied by the thousand. After all, society is not some mysterious thing. It is what you are. It is pressing, controlling, dominating, twisting. Society is the expression of the individual. This society offers security through tradition, which we call public opinion. That is, public opinion says that to possess, to possess property, is perfectly ethical, moral, and gives you distinction in this world, confers honours; you are a great person in this world. That is what, traditionally, is accepted. That is the opinion which you have created as individuals, because you are seeking that. You all want to be somebody in the state, either Sir Somebody or Lord, you know, and all the rest of it, which is based on possessiveness, possessions; and that has become moral, true, good, perfectly Christian, or perfectly Hindu. It is the same thing. Now we call that morality. We call morality adjusting yourself to a pattern. Please, I am not preaching the reverse of it. I am showing you the falseness of it, and if you want to find out you will act, not seek the opposite. That is, you consider possessions, whether your wife, your children, your property, you consider that perfectly moral. Now suppose another society came into being where possessions are evil, where this idea of possessiveness is ethically forbidden - driven into your mentality as possessiveness is now driven in by circumstances, by condition, by education, by opinion. Then morality loses all significance, morality then is merely a convenience. Not the right perception of things, but the clever adjusting to circumstances - that you call morality. Suppose that you want, as individuals, to be not possessive, look what you have to fight! The whole system of society is nothing but possessiveness. If you would understand it and not be driven by circumstances which are not called moral, then you, as individuals, must begin to break away from that system voluntarily, and not be driven like so many sheep to accept the morality of un-possessiveness.
Now you are driven whether you like it or not, whether you think it is sane or not; you are driven by conditions, environment, which you have created, because you are still possessive, and now perhaps another system will come along and drive you to the opposite - to be non-possessive. Surely it is not morality; it is just sheepishness to be driven by environment to be possessive or non-possessive. Whereas, to me, true morality consists in understanding fully the absurdity of possessiveness and voluntarily fighting it; not being driven either way.
Now, if you look, this society is based on class-consciousness which is again the consciousness of security. As beliefs grow into religions, so possessions grow into the expression of nationality. As beliefs separate people, condition people, keep them apart, so possessiveness, expressing itself as class-consciousness and growing into nationality, keeps people apart. That is, all nationality is based on the exploitation of the majority by the few for their own benefit through the means of production. That nationality, through the instrument of patriotism, is a means of war. All nationalities, all sovereign governments, must prepare for war; it is their duty, and it is no good your being a pacifist and at the same time talking about patriotism. You cannot talk about brotherhood, and then talk about Christianity, because that denies it; no more here than in India, or in any other country. In India they can talk about Hinduism and say we are one, all humanity is one. Those are just words - hypocrisy.
So all nationalities are a means of war. When I was speaking in India, they said to me (at present the Hindus are going through that disease of nationalism), "Let us look after our own country first because there are so many starving people; then we can talk about human unity", which is the same thing you talk about here. "Let us protect ourselves and then we will talk about unity, brotherhood, and all the rest of it." Now, if India is really con- cerned with the problem of starvation, or if you are really concerned with the problem of unemployment, you cannot deal merely with New Zealand's unemployment problem; it is a human problem, not the problem of one particular group called New Zealand. You cannot solve the problem of starvation as an Indian problem, or a Chinese problem, or the problem of unemployment as an English, or German, or American, or Australasian problem, but you must deal with it as a whole; and you can only deal with it as a whole when you are not nationalistic, and you are not exploited through the means of patriotism. You are not patriotic every morning when you wake up. You are only patriotic when the papers say you must be, because you must conquer your neighbour. We are therefore the barbarians, not the one invading your country. The barbarian is the patriot. To him his country is more important than humanity, man; and I say you will not solve your problems, this economic and nationality problem, so long as you are a New Zealander. You will solve it only when you are a real human being, free from all nationalistic prejudices, when you are no longer possessive, and when your mind is not divided by beliefs. Then there can be real human unity, and then the problem of starvation, the problem of unemployment, the problem of war, will disappear, because you consider humanity as a whole and not some particular people who want to exploit other people.
So you see what is dividing men, what is destroying the real glory of living in which alone you can find that living reality, that immortality, that ecstasy; but to find it you must first of all be individuals. That means you must begin to understand, and therefore act, to discover what is false in the existing system, and thereby you will, as individuals, form a nucleus. You cannot alter the mass. What is the mass? Yourselves multiplied. We are waiting for the mass to act, hoping that by some miracle there will be a complete change overnight, because we do not think, we do not want to act. So long as this attitude of waiting exists, there will be greater and greater struggle, more and more suffering, lack of comprehension; life becomes a tragedy, a worthless thing. Whereas if you, as individuals, act voluntarily because you want to understand and discover, then you will become responsible, then you will not become a reformer, then there will be a complete change, not based on possessiveness, on distinctions, but on real humanity in which there is affection, there is thought, and therefore an ecstasy of living.
1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
Auckland New Zealand
1st Public Talk 28th March, 1934
Jiddu Krishnamurti. What Is Right Action? The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1934..1935.