1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
Buenos Aires, Argentina
1st Public Talk 12th July, 1935
Friends, most of us are aware of the many forms of conflict, of sorrow and of exploitation that exist about us. We see men exploiting their fellow men, men exploiting women and women exploiting men; we see the division of classes, nationalities, wars and other great cruelties. Each one must have asked himself what shall be his individual action in all this chaotic and stupid condition. One is either entirely unconscious of all this or, being conscious, must often have had the thought not to add or submit to the impositions and cruelties in the world.
In the hope of finding a way out of this suffering, most of you come to listen to these talks. You will be disappointed if you are merely seeking a new system of action or a new method to overcome suffering. I am not going to give a new system or a pattern after which to mould yourselves, for that would in no way solve the many difficulties and sorrows. The mere adjustment to a plan, without deep thought and understanding, will only lead to greater confusion and emptiness. But if you are able to discern for yourselves how to act truly, then your own intelligence will always guide you under all circumstances. If you look to an expert, you become merely one of the many cogs in the machinery of his system of thought. Besides. among the experts and specialists themselves there is much contradiction and dissension. Each expert or specialist forms a party around his system of thought, and then these parties become the cause of further confusion and exploitation.
Now, as I said. I am not offering a new mould into which you can fit yourself; but if you are able to discover and understand profoundly the cause of suffering, then you will find for yourself the true method of action which cannot be systematized. For life is in continual movement, and a mind that is incapable of adjustment must inevitably suffer.
To understand and to discern the deep significance of life, you must come to it with a pliable and an eager mind. The mind must be critical and aware. The opposition of cultivated prejudices and of the traditional background of defensive reactions becomes a great impediment to clear understanding. That is, if you are Christians, you have been brought up in a certain tradition, with prejudices, hopes and ideals, and through that background, through those prejudices, you look at life with its ever changing expressions. Often this is thought to be the critical understanding of life, but it is only the creation of further defensive opposition.
If I may suggest it, during this evening try to put away your prejudices, try to forget that you are a Christian, a Communist, a Socialist, an Anarchist, or a Capitalist; and examine what I am going to say. Do not merely dismiss what I say as being communistic, anarchistic, or as nothing new. To understand life, with which, after all, we are concerned, we must not confuse theory with actuality; theories and ideals are merely expressions of hopes, longings, which offer an escape from actuality. If we can face actuality and discern its true value, then we shall find out what is of lasting significance and what is utterly vain and destructive.
So I am not going to discuss any theory. Theories are utterly useless. If we can discern the significance of actuality, through questioning, we shall begin to awaken that intelligence which shall be a constant, active and directing principle in life.
Now we have certain established values, religious and economic, according to which we are guiding our life. We have to inquire whether these values are crippling, perverting our thought and action. in deeply understanding what we have created about us, which has become our prison, we shall not fall into another set of false values and illusions. This does not mean that you must accept my values, or accept my interpretation, or belong to any particular group that you may think I represent. I do not belong to any society, to any religion, or to any organization or party.
Man is almost suffocated in the prison of false values, of which he is unconscious. Through deep questioning and suffering he becomes aware of that which he has built about himself, and not through mere acceptance of what another says; if he merely accepted, he would fall into another prison, into another cage. If you individually and intelligently inquired into the system to which each one has contributed, then, through the understanding born of suffering, you would know for yourself the true manner of action.
What are these values, seasoned in tradition and illusion, based on? If you discern deeply, you will see that these values and ideals are based on fear, which is the outcome of individual search for security. in search of this security, we have divided life as material and spiritual, economic and religious. Now such an artificial division is entirely false, for life is an integrated whole. We have created this artificial distinction; and in understanding the cause of this separation between the spiritual and material, we shall know the integrated action of life as a whole. So let us first understand this structure which we call religion.
There is in each one of you, in one form or another, a desire for continuance, a search for spiritual security which you call immortality. He who offers or promises this security, this egotistic continuance, this selfish immortality, becomes your authority, to be worshipped. to be prayed to, to be followed. Thus you slowly give yourself over to that authority, and so fear is cunningly and subtly cultivated. To lead you to that promised immortality, a system, called religion, becomes a vital necessity. To maintain this artificial structure, beliefs, ideals, dogmas and creeds are required. And to interpret, to administer and to uphold this self-created prison of man, you must have priests. Thus priests throughout the world become exploiters. in search of your individual security, which you call immortality you begin to create many illusions and ideals, which become the means of gross or subtle exploitation. To assure you and to interpret the craving for your own security in the hereafter and in the present, there must be mediators, messengers, who, through your fear, become your exploiters. So it is you yourselves who are fundamentally the creators of exploiters, whether economic or spiritual. To understand this religious structure which has become a means of exploiting man throughout the world, you must understand your own desire and the ways of its subtle and cunning action.
Religion, which is an organized form of stupidity, has become your destroyer. it has become an instrument of power, of vested interest, of exploitation. You as individuals must awaken to this structure or opposition to intelligence, which is the result of your own fears, desires, cravings and secret pursuits.
Religion, to most people, is nothing but a reaction against intelligence. You may not be religious, you may not believe in immortality, but you have secret desires prompting you to exploit, to be cruel, to dominate, which must inevitably create conditions forcing and stimulating man to seek comfort, security, in an illusion. Whether you are inclined to be religious or not, fear permeates human beings and their actions, and must create illusion of some kind: the religious illusion, or the illusion of power, or the intellectual conceit of ideals.
Throughout the world man is in search of this immortal security. Fear makes him seek comfort in an organized belief, which is called religion, with its creeds and dogmas, with its pageantry and superstition. These organized beliefs, religions, fundamentally separate man. And if you examine their ideals, their moralities, you will see that they are based on fear and egotism. From organized belief there follows vested interest, which subtly becomes the cruel authority for exploiting man through his fear.
So you see how man through his own fear, through self-created authority, through closed and egotistic morality, has allowed himself to be slavishly bound; he has lost the capacity to think and so to live creatively, happily. His action, born out of this suffocation and limitation, must ever be incomplete, ever destructive of intelligence.
The individual, through search for his own security, has created through many centuries a system based on acquisitiveness, fear and exploitation. To this system of his own making he has become an utter slave. The selfish conditioning of family, and its own security, has created an environment which forces the individual to become ruthless. Into the hands of the most cunning and the ruthless, the few, has come the machine, which affords the means of exploitation. Out of all this there is born the absurd division of classes, nationalities and wars. Every sovereign government, with its particular nationality, must inevitably create war, for its acts are based on vested interest.
Thus you have on the one side religion, and on the other material conditions, which are continually twisting, perverting man's thought and action.
Almost all people are unconscious both of the intelligence and of the stupidity about them. But how can each one realize what is stupidity and what is intelligence, if his thought and action are based on fear and authority? So individually we have to become aware, conscious of these limiting conditions.
Most of us are waiting for some miracle to take place which will bring order out of this chaos and suffering. Every one of us will have to become individually conscious, aware, in order to discover what is limiting and stupid. Out of this deep discernment there is born intelligence; but it is impossible to understand what this intelligence is if the mind is limited and stupid. To try intellectually to grasp the meaning of intelligence is utterly vain and arid. in discovering for ourselves and being free from the many stupidities and limitations, each one will realize a life of love and understanding.
Through fear we have created certain hindrances which are continually impeding the full movement of life. Take the stupidity of nationalism, with all its absurdities, cruelties and exploitations. What, as individuals, is your attitude, your action towards it? Do not say that it is not important, that you are not concerned with it, that you don't touch politics; if you examine it fundamentally, you will see that you are part of this machine of exploitation. You as an individual will have to become conscious of this stupidity and limitation.
Equally you have to become aware of the stupidity and limitation of authority in religion. When you once become conscious of it, then you will see the deep significance of the hold it has on you. How can you think clearly, feel fully, completely, when unquestioned authoritative values cripple the mind and the heart?
So we have many stupidities and limitations which are slowly destroying intelligence. such as ideals, beliefs, dogmas, nationalism and the possessive idea of family; and of these we are almost unconscious. And yet each one is trying to live fully, happily, trying to find out intelligently what is God, what is truth. But how can a limited mind, how can a mind that is enclosed by innumerable barriers, understand what is supremely intelligent, beautiful? To understand the supreme, mind must be free of the impediments and illusions created through fear and acquisitiveness.
How are you to become conscious, aware of these shelters and illusions? Only through conflict, through suffering; not by discussing intellectually, for that is dealing with this question but partially.
Let me explain what I mean by conflict. Suppose you begin to realize that organized belief, religion, is fundamentally separating man from man, preventing him from living fully, deeply, and by not yielding to its demands and stupidities, you begin to create vital conflict. Then you will find that your family, your friends and public opinion are against you, which will create great suffering in you. it is only when you suffer and do not try to escape from suffering, when you see that explanations are futile, when all escapes have been stopped, it is only then that you will begin to discern truly, fundamentally, deeply in your mind and heart what are the limitations that prevent the free flow of reality, of life. If you merely accept what I say and repeat after me that nationalism, beliefs, authorities are hindrances, then you will create only another authority and take transient and illusory shelter under it. If you as individuals truly understand this whole structure of fear and exploitation, then only can there be fulfillment, an everbecoming of life, immortality. But this demands intelligence, not knowledge; a deep understanding born of action, not of acceptance, not of following a particular person or pattern, nor of trying to adjust yourself to a system or to an authority.
If you would understand the beauty of life, with its deep movement and its happiness, then the mind and heart must become aware of those values and impediments that are preventing fulfillment in action. it is limitation, egotism, that prevents discernment, that causes suffering, and so there is no fulfillment.
1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?
Buenos Aires, Argentina
1st Public Talk 12th July, 1935
Jiddu Krishnamurti. What Is Right Action? The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1934..1935.