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1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Ojai, California
12th Public Talk 1st July, 1934

I think most people have lost the art of listening. They come with their particular problems, and think that by listening to my talk their problems will be solved. I am afraid this will not happen; but if you know how to listen, then you will begin to understand the whole, and your mind will not be entangled by the particular.

So, if I may suggest it, don't try to seek from this talk a solution for your particular problem, or an alleviation of your suffering. I can help you, or rather you will help yourself only if you think anew, creatively. Regard life, not as several isolated problems, but comprehensively, as a whole, with a mind that is not suffocated by the search for solutions. If you will listen without the burden of problems, and take a comprehensive outlook, then you will see that your particular problem has a different significance; and although it may not be solved at once, you will begin to see the true cause of it. In thinking anew, in relearning how to think, there will come the dissolution of the problems and conflicts with which one's mind and heart are burdened, and from which arise all disharmony, pain and suffering.

Now, each one, more or less, is consumed by desires whose objects vary according to environment, temperament and inheritance. According to your particular condition, to your particular education and upbringing, religious, social, and economic, you have established certain objectives whose attainment you are ceaselessly pursuing, and this pursuit has become paramount in your lives.

Once you have established these objectives, there naturally arise the specialists who act as your guides towards the attainment of your desires. Hence the perfection of technique, specialization, becomes the means to gain your end; and in order to gain this end, which you have established through your religious, economic, and social conditioning, you must have specialists. So your action loses its significance, its value, because you are concerned with the attainment of an objective, not with the fulfillment of intelligence which is action; you are concerned with the arrival, not with that which is fulfillment itself. Living becomes merely the means to an end, and life a school in which you learn to attain an end. Action therefore becomes but a medium through which you can come to that objective which you have established through your various environments and conditions. So life becomes a school of great conflict and struggle, never a thing of fulfillment, of richness, of completeness.

Then you begin to ask, what is the end, the purpose of living. This is what most people ask; this is what is in the minds of most people here. Why are we living? What is the end? What is the goal? What is the purpose? You are concerned with the purpose, with the end, rather than with living in the present; whereas a man who fulfills never inquires into the end because fulfilment itself is sufficient. But as you do not know how to fulfil, how to live completely, richly, sufficiently, you begin to inquire into the purpose, the goal, the end, because you think you can then meet life, knowing the end - at least you think you can know the end - then, knowing the end, you hope to use experience as a means towards that end; hence life becomes a medium, a measure, a value to come to that attainment.

Consciously or unconsciously, surreptitiously or openly, one begins to inquire into the purpose of life, and each one receives an answer from the so-called specialists. The artist, if you ask him what is the purpose of life, will tell you that it is self-expression through painting, sculpture, music, or poetry; the economist, if you ask him, will tell you that it is work, production, co-operation, living together, functioning as a group, as society; and if you ask the religionist he will tell you the purpose of life is to seek and to realize God, to live according to the laws laid down by teachers, prophets, saviours, and that by living according to their laws and edicts you may realize that truth which is God. Each specialist gives you his answer about the purpose of life, and according to your temperament, fancies and imagination you begin to establish these purposes, these ends, as your ideals.

Such ideals and ends have become merely a haven of refuge because you use them to guide and protect yourself in this turmoil. So you begin to use these ideals to measure your experiences, to inquire into the conditions of your environment. You begin, without the desire to understand or to fulfil, merely to inquire into the purpose of environment; and in discovering that purpose, according to your conditioning, your preconceptions, you merely avoid the conflict of living without understanding. So mind has divided life into ideals, purposes, culminations, attainments, ends; and turmoil, conflict, disturbance, disharmony; and you, yourself, the self-consciousness. That is, mind has separated life into these three divisions. You are caught up in turmoil and so through this turmoil, this conflict, this disturbance which is but sorrow, you work towards an end, a purpose. You wade through, plough through this turmoil to the goal, to the end, to the haven of refuge, to the attainment of the ideal; and these ideals, ends, refuges have been designed by economic, religious and spiritual experts.

Thus you are, at one end, wading through conditions and environment, and creating conflict while trying to realize ideals, purposes and attainments which have become refuges and shelters at the other. The very inquiry into the purpose of life indicates the lack of intelligence in the present; and the man who is fully active - not lost in activities, as most Americans are, but fully active, intelligently, emotionally, fully alive - has fulfilled himself. Therefore the inquiry into an end is futile, because there is no such thing as an end and a beginning; there is but the continual movement of creative thinking, and what you call problems are the results of your ploughing through this turmoil towards a culmination. That is, you are concerned with how to overcome this turmoil, how to adjust yourselves to environment in order to arrive at an end. With that your whole life is concerned, not with yourself and the goal. You are not concerned with that, you are concerned with the turmoil, how to go through it, how to dominate it, how to overcome it, and therefore how to evade it. You want to arrive at that perfect evasion which you call ideals, at that perfect refuge which you call the purpose of life, which is but an escape from the present turmoil.

Naturally, when you seek to overcome, to dominate, to evade, and to arrive at that ultimate goal, there arises the search for systems and their leaders, guides, teachers, and experts; to me all these are exploiters. The systems, the methods, and their teachers, and all the complications of their rivalries, enticements, promises and deceits, create divisions in life known as sects and cults.

That is what is happening. When you are seeking an attainment, a result, an overcoming of the turmoil, and not considering the "you", the "I" consciousness, and the end which you are ceaselessly and consciously, or unconsciously, pursuing, naturally you must create exploiters, either of the past or the present; and you are caught up in their pettinesses, their jealousies, their disciplines, their disharmonies and their divisions. So the mere desire to go through this turmoil ever creates further problems, for there is no consideration of the actor or the manner of his action, but merely the consideration of the scene of turmoil as a means to get to an end.

Now to me, the turmoil, the end, and the "you" are the same; there is no division. This division is artificial, and it is created by the desire to gain, by the pursuit of acquisitive accumulation, which is born of insufficiency.

In becoming conscious of emptiness, of shallowness, one begins to realize the utter insufficiency of one's own thinking and feeling, and so in one's thought there arises the idea of accumulation, and from that is born this division between "you", the self-consciousness, and the end. To me, as I said, there can be no such distinction, because the moment you fulfil there can no longer be the actor and the act, but only that creative movement of thought which does not seek a result, and so there is a continual living, which is immortality.

But you have divided life. Let us consider what this "I", this actor, this observer, this centre of conflict is. It is but a long, continuous scroll of memory. I have discussed memory very carefully in my previous talks, and I cannot go into details now. If you are interested, you will read what I have said. This "I" is a scroll of memory in which there are accentuations. These accentuations or depressions we call complexes, and from these we act. That is, mind, being conscious of insufficiency, pursues a gain and therefore creates a distinction, a division. Such a mind cannot understand environment, and as it cannot understand it, it must rely on the accumulation of memory for guidance; for memory is but a series of accumulations which act as a guide towards an end. That is the purpose of memory. Memory is the lack of comprehension; that lack of comprehension is your background, and from that proceeds your action.

This memory is acting as a guide towards an end, and that end, being pre-established, is merely a self-protective refuge which you call ideals, attainment, truth, God or perfection. The beginning and the end, the "you" and the goal, are the results of this self-protective mind.

I have explained how a self-protective mind comes into being; it comes into being as the result of the consciousness or awareness of emptiness, of void. Therefore it begins to think in terms of achievement, acquisition, and from that it begins to function, dividing life and restricting its actions. So the end and the "you" are the result of this self-protective mind; and turmoil, conflict and disharmony are but the process of self-protection, and are born out of this self-protection, spiritual and economic.

Spiritually and economically you are seeking security, because you rely on accumulation for your richness, for your comprehension, for your fullness, for your fulfillment. And so the cunning, in the spiritual as well as in the economic world, exploit you, for both seek power by glorifying self-protection. So each mind is making a tremendous effort to protect itself, and the end, the means, and the"you" are nothing else but the process of self-protection. What happens when there is this process of self-protection? There must be conflict with circumstances, which we call society; there is the "you" trying to protect itself against the collective, the group, the society.

Now, the reverse of that isn't true. That is, don't think that if you cease to protect yourself you will be lost. On the contrary, you will be lost if you are protecting yourself due to the insufficiency, due to shallowness of thought and affection. But if you merely cease to protect yourself because you think through that you are going to find truth, again it will be but another form of protection.

So, as we have built up through centuries, generation after generation, this wheel of self-protection, spiritual and economic, let us find out if spiritual or economic self-protection is real. Perhaps economically you may assert self-protection for awhile. The man who has money and many possessions, and who has secured comforts and pleasures for his body, is generally, if you will observe, most insufficient and unintelligent, and is groping after so-called spiritual protection.

Let us inquire however if there really is spiritual self-protection, because economically we see there is no security. The illusion of economic security is shown throughout the world by these depressions, crises, wars, calamities, and chaos. We recognize this, and so turn to spiritual security. But to me there is no security, there is no self-protection, and there never can be any. I say there is only wisdom, which is understanding, not protection. That is, security, self-protection, is the outcome of insufficiency, in which there is no intelligence, in which there is no creative thinking, in which there is constant battle between the"you" and society, and in which the cunning exploit you ruthlessly. As long as there is the pursuit of self-protection there must be conflict, and so there can be no understanding, no wisdom. And as long as this attitude exists, your search for spirituality, for truth, or for God is vain, useless, because it is merely the search for greater power, greater security.

It is only when the mind, which has taken shelter behind the walls of self-protection, frees itself from its own creations that there can be that exquisite reality. After all, these walls of self-protection are the creations of the mind which, conscious of its insufficiency, builds these walls of protection, and behind them takes shelter. One has built up these barriers unconsciously or consciously, and one's mind is so crippled, bound, held, that action brings greater conflict, further disturbances.

So the mere search for the solution of your problems is not going to free the mind from creating further problems. As long as this centre of self-protectiveness, born of insufficiency, exists, there must be disturbances, tremendous sorrow and pain; and you cannot free the mind of sorrow by disciplining it not to be insufficient. That is, you cannot discipline yourself, or be influenced by conditions and environment, in order not to be shallow. You say to yourself, "I am shallow; I recognize the fact, and how am I going to get rid of it?" I say, do not seek to get rid of it, which is merely a process of substitution, but become conscious, become aware of what is causing this insufficiency. You cannot compel it; you cannot force it; it cannot be influenced by an ideal, by a fear, by the pursuit of enjoyment and powers. You can find out the cause of insufficiency only through awareness. That is, by looking into environment and piercing into its significance there will be revealed the cunning subtleties of self-protection.

After all, self-protection is the result of insufficiency, and as the mind has been trained, caught up in its bondage for centuries, you cannot discipline it, you cannot overcome it. If you do, you lose the significance of the deceits and subtleties of thought and emotion behind which mind has taken shelter; and to discover these subtleties you must become conscious, aware.

Now to be aware is not to alter. Our mind is accustomed to alteration which is merely modification, adjustment, becoming disciplined to a condition; whereas if you are aware, you will discover the full significance of the environment. Therefore there is no modification, but entire freedom from that environment. Only when all these walls of protection are destroyed in the flame of awareness, in which there is no modification or alteration or adjustment, but complete understanding of the significance of environment with all its delicacies and subtleties - only through that understanding is there the eternal; because in that there is no "you" functioning as a self-protective focus. But as long as that self-protecting focus which you call the "I" exists, there must be confusion, there must be disturbance, disharmony and conflict. You cannot destroy these hindrances by disciplining yourself or by following a system or by imitating a pattern; you can understand them with all their complications only through the full awareness of mind and heart. Then there is an ecstasy, there is that living movement of truth, which is not an end, not a culmination, but an ever creative living, an ecstasy which cannot be described, because all description must destroy it. So long as you are not vulnerable to truth, there is no ecstasy, there is no immortality.

1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Ojai, California
12th Public Talk 1st July, 1934

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


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