1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
1st Public Talk 16th June, 1934
It is my purpose during these talks not so much to give a system of thought, as to awaken thought, and to do that I am going to make certain statements, naturally not dogmatic, which I hope you will consider, and as you consider them, there will arise many questions; if you will kindly put these to me, I will try to answer them, and thus we can discuss further what I have to say.
I wonder why most of you come here? Presumably you are seeking something. And what are you seeking? You cannot answer that question, naturally, because your search varies, the object of your search varies; the object of your search is constantly changing, so you do not definitely know what you seek, what you want. But you have established unfortunately a habit of going from one supposed spiritual teacher to another supposed spiritual teacher, of joining various organizations, societies, and of following systems; in other words, trying to find out what gives you greater and greater satisfaction, excitement.
This process of going from one school of thought to another, from one system of thought to another, from one teacher to another, you call the search for truth. In other words, you are going from one idea to another idea, from one system of thought to another, accumulating, hoping to understand life, trying to fathom its significance, its struggles, each time declaring that you have found something.
Now, I hope you won't say at the end of my talks that you have found something, because the moment you have found something you are already lost; it is an anchor to which mind clings, and therefore that eternal movement, this true search of which I am going to speak, ceases. And most minds are looking for a definite aim, with this definite desire to find, and when once there is established this desire, you will find something. But it won't be something living, it will be a dead thing that you will find, and therefore you will put that away to turn to another; and this process of continually choosing, continually discarding, you call acquiring wisdom, experience, or truth. Probably most of you have come here with this attitude, consciously or unconsciously, so your thought is expended merely on the search for schemes and confirmations, on the desire to join a movement or form groups, without the clarity of the fundamental or trying to understand what these fundamental things of life mean. So as I said, I am not putting forward an ideal to be imitated, a goal to be found, but my purpose is rather to awaken that thought by which the mind can liberate itself from these things which we have established, which we have taken for granted as being true.
Now, each one tries to immortalize the product of environment; that thing which is the result of the environment we try to make eternal. That is, the various fears, hopes, longings, prejudices, likes, personal views which we glorify as our temperament - these are, after all, the result, the product of environment; and the bundle of these memories, which is the result of environment, the product of the reactions to environment, this bundle becomes that consciousness which we call the "I". Is that not so? The whole struggle is between the result of environment with which mind identifies itself and becomes the "I", between that, and environment. After all, the "I", the consciousness with which the mind identifies itself is the result of environment. The struggle takes place between that "I" and the constantly changing environment.
You are continually seeking immortality for this "I". In other words, falsehood tries to become the real, the eternal. When you understand the significance of the environment, there is no reaction and therefore there is no conflict between the reaction, that is, between what we call the "I" and the creator of the reaction which is the environment. So this seeking for immortality, this craving to be certain, to be lasting, is called the process of evolution, the process of acquiring truth or God or the understanding of life. And anyone who helps you towards this, who helps you to immortalize reaction which we call the "I", you make of him your redeemer, your saviour, your master, your teacher, and you follow his system. You follow him with thought, or without thought; with thought when you think that you are following him with intelligence because he is going to lead you to immortality, to the realization of that ecstasy. That is, you want another to immortalize for you that reaction which is the outcome of environment, which is in itself inherently false. Out of the desire to immortalize that which is false you create religions, sociological systems and divisions, political methods, economic panaceas, and moral standards. So gradually in this process of developing systems to make the individual immortal, lasting, secure, the individual is completely lost, and he comes into conflict with the creations of his own search, with the creations which are born out of his longing to be secure and which he calls immortality.
After all, why should religions exist? Religions as divisions of thought have grown, have been glorified and nourished by sets of beliefs because there is this desire that you shall realize, that you shall attain, that there shall be immortality.
And again, moral standards are merely the creations of society, so that the individual may be held within its bondage. To me, morality cannot be standardized. There cannot be at the same time morality and standards. There can only be intelligence, which is not, which cannot be standardized. But we shall go into that in my later talks.
So this continual search in which each one of us is caught up, the search for happiness, for truth, for reality, for health - this continual desire is cultivated by each one of us in order that we may be secure, permanent. And out of that search for permanency, there must be conflict, conflict between the result of environment, that is the "I", and the environment itself.
Now if you come to think of it, what is the "I"? When you talk about "I", "mine", my house, my enjoyment, my wife, my child, my love, my temperament, what is that? It is nothing but the result of environment, and there is a conflict between that result, the "I", and the environment itself. Conflict can only and must inevitably exist between the false and the false, not between truth and the false. Isn't that so? There cannot be conflict between what is true and what is false. But there can be conflict and there must be conflict between two false things, between the degrees of falseness, between the opposites.
So do not think this struggle between the self and the environment, which you call the true struggle, is true. Isn't there a struggle taking place in each one of you between yourself and your environment, your surroundings, your husband, your wife, your child, your neighbour, your society, your political organizations? Is there not a constant battle going on? You consider that battle necessary in order to help you to realize happiness, truth, immortality, or ecstasy. To put it differently: What you consider to be the truth is but self-consciousness, the "I", which is all the time trying to become immortal, and the environment which I say is the continual movement of the false. This movement of the false becomes your ever changing environment, which is called progress, evolution. So to me, happiness, or truth, or God, cannot be found as the outcome of the result of environment, the "I", the continually changing conditions.
I will try to put it again, differently. There is conflict, of which each one of you is conscious, between yourself and the environment, the conditions. Now, you say to yourself: "If I can conquer environment, overcome it, dominate it, I shall find out, I shall understand; so there is this continual battle going on between yourself and environment.
Now what is the "yourself"? It is but the result, the product of environment. So what are you doing? You are fighting one false thing with another false thing, and environment will be false so long as you do not understand it. Therefore the environment is producing that consciousness which you call the "I", which is continually trying to become immortal. And to make it immortal there must be many ways, there must be means, and therefore you have religions, systems, philosophies, all the nuisances and barriers that you have created. Hence there must be conflict between the result of environment and environment itself; and, as I said, there can be conflict only between the false and the false; never between truth and the false. Whereas, in your minds there is this firmly established idea that in this struggle between the result of environment, which is the "I", and the environment itself, lies power, wisdom, the path to eternity, to reality, truth, happiness.
Our vital concern should be with this environment, not with the conflict, not how to overcome it, not how to run away from it. By questioning the environment and trying to understand its significance, we shall find out its true worth. Isn't that so? Most of us are enmeshed, caught up in the process of trying to overcome, to run away from circumstances. environment; we are not trying to find out what it means, what is its cause, its significance, its value. When you see the significance of environment, it means drastic action, a tremendous upheaval in your life, a complete, revolutionary change of ideas, in which there is no authority, no imitation. But very few are willing to see the significance of environment, because it means change, a radical change, a revolutionary change, and very few people want that. So most people, vast numbers of people, are concerned with the evasion of environment; they cover it up, or try to find new substitutions by getting rid of Jesus Christ and setting up a new saviour; by seeking new teachers in place of the old, but they do not ever inquire whether they need a guide at all. This alone would help, this alone would give the true significance of that particular demand.
So where there is a search for substitution, there must be authority, the following of leadership, and hence the individual becomes but a cog in the social and religious machinery of life. If you look closely you will see that your search is nothing but a search for comfort and security and escape; not a search for understanding, not a search for truth, but rather a search for an evasion and therefore a search for the conquering of all obstacles; after all, all conquering is but substitution, and in substitution there is no understanding.
There are escapes through religions, with their edicts, moral standards, fears, authorities; and escapes through self-expression - what you call self-expression, what the vast majority of people call self-expression, is but the reaction against environment, is but the effort to express oneself through reaction against that environment - self-expression through art, through science, through various forms of action. Here I am not including the true, spontaneous expressions of beauty, of art, of science; they in themselves are complete. I am talking of the man who is seeking these things as a means of self-expression. A real artist does not talk about his self-expression, he is expressing that which he intensely feels; but there are so many spurious artists, like the spurious spiritual people, who are all the time seeking self-expression as a means of getting something, some satisfaction which they cannot find in the environment in which they live.
Through this search for security and permanency, we have established religions with all their inanities, divisions, exploitations, as means of escape; and these means of escape become so vital, so important, because, to tackle environment, that is, the conditions about us, demands tremendous action, voluntary, dynamic action, and very few are willing to take that action. On the contrary, you are willing to be forced to an action by environment, by circumstances; that is, if a man becomes highly moral and virtuous through depression, you say what a nice man he is, how he has changed. For that change you depend upon environment; and so long as there is the dependence on environment for righteous action, there must be means of escape, substitutions, call it religion or what you will. Whereas, for the true artist who is also truly spiritual there is spontaneous expression, which in itself is sufficient, complete, whole.
So what are you doing? What is happening to each one of you? What are you trying to do in your lives? You are seeking; and what are you seeking? There is a conflict between yourself and the constant movement of environment. You are seeking a means to overcome that environment, so as to perpetuate your own self which is but the result of that environment; or, because you have been thwarted so often by environment, which prevents you from self-expressing, as you call it, you seek a new means of self-expression through service to humanity, through economic adjustments, and all the rest of it.
Each one has to find out for what he is searching; if he is not searching, then there is satisfaction and decay. If there is conflict, there is the desire to overcome that conflict, to escape from that conflict, to dominate it. And as I have said, conflict can exist only between two false things, between that supposed reality which you call the "I", which to me is nothing else but the result of environment, and the environment itself. And hence if your mind is merely concerned with the overcoming of that struggle, then you are perpetuating falseness, and hence there is more conflict, more sorrow. But if you understand the significance of environment, that is, wealth, poverty, exploitation, oppression, nationalities, religions, and all the inanities of social life in modern existence, not trying to overcome them but seeing their significance, then there must be individual action, and complete revolution of ideas and thought. Then there is no longer a struggle, but rather light dispelling darkness. There is no conflict between light and darkness. There is no conflict between truth and that which is false. There is only conflict where there are opposites.
1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
1st Public Talk 16th June, 1934
Jiddu Krishnamurti. What Is Right Action? The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1934..1935.