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1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Ojai, California
9th Public Talk 28th June, 1934

This morning I want to deal with the idea of values. Our whole life is merely a movement from value to value, but I think there is a way, if I may use that word with consideration and delicacy, whereby the mind can be freed from the sense of valuation. We are accustomed to values and their continual change. What we call the essential soon becomes the unessential, and in the process of this continual change of values lies conflict. As long as we do not understand the fundamental in the change of values, and the cause of that change, we shall ever be caught up in the wheel of conflicting values.

I want to deal with the root idea of values, whether it is fundamental, whether mind which is intelligence, can always act spontaneously, naturally, without imparting values to environment. Now wherever there is dissatisfaction with environment, with circumstances, that discontent must lead to the desire for change, for reform. What you call reform is merely the creation of new sets of values and the destruction of the old. In other words, when you talk of reform, you really mean mere substitution. Instead of living in the old tradition with established values, you want, with the change of circumstances, to create new sets of values; that is, where there is this sense of valuation, there must be the idea of time, and therefore continual change of values.

In times of stagnation, in times of settled comfort, that which is but the gradual transformation of values we call the struggle between the old generation and the new. That is, in times of peace and quietness, there takes place a gradual change of values, mostly unconscious, and this change, this gradual change, we term the struggle between the old and the young. In times of upheaval, in times of great conflict, violent and ruthless changes in values take place, which we call revolution. The swift change of values, which we call revolution, is violent, ruthless. The slow, gradual change of values is the continual battle that takes place between the settled, comfortable, stagnating mind and the circumstances that are forcing that stagnating mind into new conditions so that it has to create a new set of values.

So then, these circumstances change slowly or rapidly, and the creation of new values is merely the result of adjustments to ever changing environment. Therefore values are merely the pattern of conformity. Why should you have values at all? Please don't say: "What will happen to us if we do not have values?" I haven't come to that, I haven't said that yet. So please follow this. Why should you have values? What is this whole idea of searching for values but a conflict between the new and the old, the ancient and the modern? Aren't values merely a mould, established by yourself or by society, to which mind, in its laziness, in its lack of perception desires to conform? Mind seeks a certainty, a conclusion, and in that search it acts; or it has trained itself to develop a background, and from that background it functions; or it has a belief, and from that belief it begins to colour its activities. Mind demands values so that it will not be at a loss, so that it will always have a guide to follow, to imitate. Hence values become merely the moulds in which the mind stagnates, and even the purpose of education seems to be to compel mind and heart to accept new conformities.

So all reforms in religion, in moral standards, in social life and political organizations are merely the dictates of desire for adjustment to ever changing environment. That is what you call reform. Environments are constantly changing; circumstances are continually in movement, and reforms are made only because of the need for adjustment between the mind and the environment, not because the mind pierces through the environment, and therefore understands it. These new values are glorified as being fundamental, original and true. To me they are nothing else but subtle forms of coercion and conformity, subtle forms of modification; and these new values help, futilely, to bring about a scrappy reformation, a deceitful transformation of cloaks which we call change.

So through this ever increasing conflict, divisions and sects are created. Each mind creates a new set of values according to its own reactions to the environment, and then begins the division of peoples; there come into being class distinctions and fierce antagonisms between creeds, between doctrines. And out of the immensity of this conflict, experts come into activity and call themselves reformers in religion and healers of social and economic ills. Being experts, so blinded are they by their own expertism, that they merely increase division and struggle. These are the religious reformers, social reformers, and economic and political reformers, all experts in their own limitations, and all dividing our life and human functioning into compartments and conflict.

Now to me life cannot be divided that way at all. You can't think you are going to change your soul and yet be a nationalist; you can't be class conscious and yet talk about brotherhood, or create tariff walls around your own particular country and talk about the unity of life. If you observe, this is what you are doing all the time. You may have plenty of money, well established conditions about you, and be possessive, nationalistic and class conscious, and yet divide that separative consciousness from your spiritual consciousness in which you try to be brotherly, follow ethics, morality and try to realize God. In other words, you have divided life into various compartments and each compartment has its own special values, and you thereby only create further conflict.

This division, this reliance on experts, is nothing else but the laziness of the mind, so that it need not think, but merely conform. Conformity, which is but the creation and destruction of values, is environment to which mind is constantly adjusting itself, and so mind becomes increasingly bound and enslaved. But conformity must exist so long as mind is bound by environment. So long as mind has not understood the significance of environment, circumstances, conditions, there must be conformity. Tradition is but the mould for the mind, and a mind that imagines itself free from tradition merely creates its own mould. A man who says, "I am free of tradition", has probably another mould of his own to which he is a slave.

So freedom is not in going from an old mould into a new one, from an old stupidity into a new stupidity, or from restraint of tradition to the license of mindlessness, of lack of mind. And yet you will observe that those people who talk a great deal about freedom, liberation, are doing that; that is, they have put away their old tradition and have now a pattern of their own to which they conform, and naturally this conformity is but mindlessness, the absence of intelligence. What you call tradition is merely outer environment with its values, and what you call freedom from tradition is but enslavement to some inner environment and its values. One is imposed, and the other self-created; isn't it? That is, circumstances, environment, conditions, are imposing certain values and making you conform to those values, or you develop your own values to which you are again conforming. In both cases there is merely adjustment, not comprehension of environ- ment. From this there arises, naturally, the question whether mind can ever discover lasting values, so that there will not be this constant change, this constant conflict created by values which one has established for oneself, or which have been imposed on one externally.

What is it that we call changing values? To me these changing values are but cultivated fears. There must be the change of values so long as there are essentials and unessentials, so long as there are opposites, and the whole idea and the great worship of success, in which we include gain and loss and achievement - as long as these exist and the mind is pursuing these as its aim, its goal, there must be the changing of values, and therefore conflict.

Now what is it that creates the changing of values? Mind which is also heart, is befogged and clouded by memory, and is ever undergoing a change, modifying or altering itself, is depending ever on the movement of circumstances, the lack of understanding of which creates memory. That is, as long as mind is clouded by memory, which is the outcome of adjustment to environment, and not the understanding of environment, that memory must come between intelligence and environment, and therefore there cannot be the full comprehension of environment.

This memory, which you call mind, is giving and imparting values, isn't it? That is the whole function of memory, which you call mind. That is, mind, instead of being itself intelligence which is direct perception, mind clouded by memory is giving values as true and false, essential and unessential, according to its cunning, according to its calculating fears and its search for security. Isn't that so? That is the whole function of memory, which you call the mind, but which is not mind at all. To the majority of people, except perhaps here and there to one rare, happy person, mind is merely a machine, a storehouse of memory which is continually giving values to the things it meets, to experiences. And the imparting of values depends on its subtle calculations, cunning and deceitfulness, based on fear and the search for security.

Though there is no such thing as fundamental security - it is obvious, the moment you begin to think, observe awhile, that there is no such thing as security - memory seeks security after security, certainty after certainty, essential after essential, achievement after achievement. As the mind is constantly seeking security, the moment it has that security, it regards as unessential what it has left behind. Again, it is only imparting values, and thus in this process of movement from goal to goal, from essential to essential, in the process of this constant movement, its values are changing, always coloured by its own security and anxiety for its perpetuation.

So mind-heart, or memory, is caught up in the struggle of changing values, and this battle is called progress, the evolutionary path of choice leading to truth. That is, mind, seeking security and reaching its goal, is not satisfied with it, therefore again moves on and again begins to give new values to all things in its path. This process of movement you call growth, the evolutionary path of choice between the essential and the unessentials.

This growth is to me nothing else but memory conforming and adjusting itself to its own creation which is the environment; and fundamentally there is no difference between that memory and the environment. Naturally, action is always the result of calculation when it is born of this conformity and adjustment. Isn't it? When mind is clouded over by memory, which is but the result of the lack of understanding of environment, such a mind, befogged by memory, must in its action seek an escape, a culmination, a motive, and therefore that action is never free, it is always limited, and is always creating further bondages, further conflict. So this vicious circle of memory, burdened by its conflict, becomes the creator of values. Values are environment, and mind and heart become its slaves.

I wonder if you have understood all this. No, I see someone shaking his head. Let me put the same idea differently and perhaps make it clear, if I can.

As long as mind does not understand environment, that environment must create memory, and the movement of memory is the changing of values. Memory must exist so long as the mind is seeking a culmination, a goal; and its action must ever be calculated, can never be spontaneous - by action I mean thought and emotion - and therefore that action must ever lead to greater and greater burdens, greater and greater limitation. The growth of this limitation, the extension of this prison, is called evolution, the path of choice towards truth. That is how mind functions for most people, and so the more it functions, the greater becomes the suffering, the greater the intensity of struggle. The mind creates ever new and greater barriers, and then seeks further escapes from that conflict.

So how is one to free the mind from giving values at all? When the mind imparts values, it can only impart them through the fog of memory, and therefore cannot understand the full significance of environment. If I examine or try to understand circumstances through the various deep-rooted prejudices - national, racial, social or religious prejudices - how can I understand environment? Yet that is what mind attempts, the mind which is befogged by memory.

Now intelligence imparts no values, which are but the measures, standards or calculations, born out of self-protectiveness. So how is there to be this intelligence, this mirror of truth, in which there are only absolute reflections and no perversions? After all, the intelligent man is the summation of intelligence; his is an absolute, direct perception without twists and perversions which result when memory functions.

What I am saying can only apply to those who are really in conflict, not to those who want to reform, who want to do patchwork. I have explained what I mean by reform, by patchwork - it is an adjustment to an environment, born out of the lack of understanding.

How is one to have this intelligence which destroys struggle and conflict and the ceaseless effort which wears out mind itself? You know, when you make an effort, you are as a piece of wood that is being whittled away continually until there is no wood left at all. So if there is this continual effort, this constant wear, mind ceases to be itself; and effort only exists so long as there is conformity or adjustment to environment. Whereas if there is immediate perception, immediate, spontaneous understanding of environment, there is no effort to adjust oneself. There is an immediate action.

So how is one to awaken this intelligence? Now, what happens in moments of great crisis? In that rich moment when memory is not escaping, in that acute, intense awareness of the circumstance, of the environment, there is the perception of what is true. You do this in moments of crisis. You are fully conscious of all circumstances, of the condition about you, and also you are aware that mind cannot escape. In that intensity which is not relative, in that intensity of acute crisis, intelligence is functioning and there is spontaneous understanding.

After all, what is it that we call a crisis, a sorrow? When the mind is lethargic, when it has gone to sleep, when it has conditioned itself in contentment, in stagnation, there comes an experience to awaken you, and that awakening, that shock, you call crisis, sorrow. Now if that crisis or conflict is really intense, then you will see in that state of acuteness of mind and heart, that there is an immediate perception. That intensity becomes relative only when memory comes in with its calculations, modifications, and clouds.

Please, I hope you will experiment with what I am saying. Each one has moments of crisis. They occur very often; if one is aware they occur every minute. Now in that crisis, in that conflict, observe, without the desire for a solution, without the desire for escape, without the desire to overcome it. Then you will see that mind has understood instantaneously the cause of conflict, and in understanding the cause, there is the dissolution of the cause. But we have so trained the mind to escape, to let memory cloud the mind, that it is very difficult to become intensely aware. Hence we seek means and ways of escape or of awakening that intelligence, which to me is again false. Intelligence functions spontaneously if the mind ceases to escape, ceases to seek solutions.

So when the mind is not imparting values, which is mere conformity, when there is spontaneous understanding of the prison, which is environment, then there is the action of intelligence, which is freedom.

As long as the mind, clouded by memory, imparts values, action must create further walls of prison; but in the spontaneous understanding of the walls of the prison, which is environment, in that understanding there is the action of intelligence, which is freedom; because that action, that intelligence, is not creating or imparting values. Values must exist - values which are circumstances and therefore bondage, conformity to environment - these values of conformity, of circumstances, must exist so long as there is fear, which is born of the search for security. And when the mind, which is intelligence, sees the full significance of environment and therefore understands environment, there is spontaneous action which is intelligence itself, and therefore that intelligence is not imparting values, but is completely understanding the circumstances in which it exists.

1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Ojai, California
9th Public Talk 28th June, 1934

Jiddu Krishnamurti. What Is Right Action? The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1934..1935.

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