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1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Buenos Aires, Argentina
4th Public Talk 22nd July, 1935

Friends, I have not come to Argentina to convert you to any particular creed or to urge you to join any particular society: but in understanding, through action, what I am going to say, you will realize that happiness which is born of intelligence, of fulfilment. If each one of you can live supremely, in deep fulfilment, then the world as a whole will be the richer, the happier; but the difficulty is to live profoundly. To live profoundly, you have to discover for yourself your own uniqueness, for in that alone is there fulfilment. It is only through our true fulfilment that we shall solve the innumerable social and economic problems. To rely on environment or on a religion to guide us is to create a dangerous hindrance to fulfilment.

During this brief talk before answering the questions, I want to speak of individuality and true fulfilment, and see whether existing social, moral and religious conditions are a true help or a dangerous impediment. Before examining whether the conditions are dangerous or beneficial, we must understand what is individuality, what is the uniqueness of the individual, and in what manner he can fulfil.

Now I am going to put very succinctly what to me is individuality. I am not going to use psychological phrases or a complicated jargon. I shall use ordinary words with their ordinary meaning.

Individuality is the accumulated and conditioned memories of both the past and the present. That is, each individual is nothing but a series of conditioned memories, which impede complete and intelligent adjustment to the living, moving present. These memories give to each one the quality of separateness, and this is what you call the uniqueness of individuality.

Now, what are these memories based on, what are the conditioning causes that limit consciousness? If you examine you will see that these memories spring from defensive reactions against life, against suffering, against pain. Having cultivated these self-protective reactions, and calling them by high and pleasant-sounding names such as morality, virtues, ideals, the mind lives within this enclosure of safety, within this limited consciousness of self-created security. These memories, through the impact of experience, increase in their strength and resistance and thus create division from the living reality, till there is utter incompleteness; this causes fear with its many illusions, the fear of death and of the hereafter. To put it differently, each one has the desire to be certain, secure, and with that desire approaches life, with that intention seeks experience. Thus one does not understand experience, life itself, completely. Whatever action is born of the desire for security must create incompleteness. Being incomplete, one is always guided by memories, which again further increase the emptiness, the isolation of our being. So this continued action of incompleteness prevents fulfilment, which is the full expression of life without the hindrance of conditioned memories, egotism. That is, when you approach life with all the memories; based on security and the desire for safety, then whatever action proceeds from that must create an emptiness, an incompleteness; so there is no fulfilment, no comprehension. The significance of individuality is that the mind, through itself alone, through its own conditioned separateness, through deep comprehension of its own self-created limitation, must dissolve the impediments and barriers which create limited consciousness.

Please. you will have to think over this very deeply and not merely accept or reject it. The mind, being conditioned by memory based on security, by so-called virtues, self-protective moralities, is impeded in its fulfilment. Having understood this, we can find out whether society, morality, religion, help the individual to liberate himself and wholly fulfil.

Either the existing society, with morality and religion, is fundamentally true and so help the individual to fulfil; or, if it is true, that we must completely revolutionize our thought and action. So the change depends on individual thought and action. You have to inquire whether your religions, moralities, are true. I say they are not; because society is based on acquisitiveness, moral values on self-protective security, and religion, which is organized belief, fundamentally on fear, though we try to cover this up by calling it love of God, love of truth. If there is to be true fulfilment, there cannot be this sense of possessiveness or acquisitiveness, nor these moral values based on defensive, egoistic security, nor these religions, with their promises of immortality which is but another form of selfishness and fear.

So you, the individual, will have to awaken to the prison in which you are held; and by becoming conscious, aware, you will begin to discover what is stupidity and what is intelligence. It is through your own intelligence that there can be fulfilment, not through acceptance of authority. So what is of importance is the individual, for only through his own intelligence is there fulfilment, the ecstasy of life. This does not mean that I am preaching individualism. Quite the contrary; it is the individualistic system of religious faith and belief, of moral values and acquisitive conduct, that is hindering true fulfilment. So you who are listening, you have to understand, you have to break away from this prison through your own intelligent discernment; and this demands continual alertness of mind. There cannot be the following of another, nor can there be the acceptance of authority, for in this there is fear; and fear destroys all discernment.

Question: I believe that I have no attachments whatsoever, and still I don't feel myself free. That is this painful feeling of being imprisoned, and what am I to do about it?

Krishnamurti: One seeks detachment rather than the understanding of the cause of suffering. Now, when one suffers through possessiveness, one tries to develop the opposite, which is detachment. in other words, one becomes detached in order not to be hurt, and this opposite, one calls virtue. If one really discovered what is the cause of suffering, then in understanding it deeply, with one's whole being, the mind would be free to live fully and completely, and not fall into another prison, the prison of the opposite.

Question: Are you also against such organizations as railways, etc?

Krishnamurti: I have been referring to those organizations which we have created through self-protective fears. Now, most organizations in the world are based on exploitation, but I was referring especially to the organizations of religious belief throughout the world.

I maintain that these religious, sectarian organizations are real impediments to man. Those of you who belong to religious organizations, please don't be on the defensive when I say this, but try to find out if it is so or not. If you discover it is not so, then it is right to have them. But before saying that religious organizations are necessary, you must really impartially examine them. How are you going to examine them. To examine anything objectively, your mind must be completely impersonal. That means you must doubt every belief, every ideal that you have held so far or that these organizations offer. Through that questioning there comes a distinct conflict; and only when there is conflict can you begin to understand the right significance of organized beliefs. If you merely examine them intellectually, you will never understand their true significance. That is why most religions forbid their followers to doubt. Doubt has become a religious fetter, an impediment. You have, through your own fear, developed certain beliefs, ideals, illusions to which you have become enslaved, and it is only through your own suffering that you will understand their true significance.

Question: There are people who on the one hand exploit thousands of human beings. and on the other donate millions of dollars to religious institutions, Why? (Laughter)

Krishnamurti: You laugh at this question, but you, also, are involved in it. We exploit, we amass wealth, and then we become philanthropists. Perhaps some of you have not the ruthless cleverness to amass wealth, but you do the same thing in another way, in pursuing virtue.

So what is behind this false charity of the philanthropist, and this false eagerness to accumulate virtue? The philanthropist, through fear, through many defensive reactions, wants to repay a little to the victim whom he has exploited. (Laughter) And you honour him, you say how wonderful he is. That is not charity. It is merely egotism.

And why do you pursue virtue and try to store it up? It is a defensive protection. It is a safeguard against suffering. Your virtue, if you really examine it, is based on the egotistic idea of warding off suffering. This self-protection is not virtue. By knowing what you are and not escaping from it, through so-called virtue, you will discover the beauty, the richness of life.

The philanthropist, through his desire for security, entrenches himself in the power that possessions give; and the man who pursues virtue builds about himself walls of protection against the movement of life. The virtuous man and the philanthropist are alike. Both are afraid of life. They are not in love with life.

Question: We are happy with our beliefs and traditions based on the doctrines of Jesus; whereas in your country, India, there are millions who are far from being happy. All that you are telling us, the Christ taught two thousand years ago. What is the use of your preaching to us instead of to your own countrymen?

Krishnamurti: Thought does not belong to any nation or to any race. (Applause) Reality is not conditioned by religious or racial distinctions; and because the questioner has divided the world into Christian and Hindu, into India and Argentina, he has helped to create misery and suffering in the world. (Applause) When I talk in India about nationalism, they say to me, "Go to England and tell the people there that nationalism is stupid, because England is preventing us from living." (Laughter) And when I come here, you tell me, "Go somewhere else and leave us with our own belief and religion. Do not disturb us." (Laughter)

If our own beliefs and traditions satisfy you, then you will not listen to what I say because your traditions and your beliefs are shelters under which you take cover in time of trouble. You don't want to face life, therefore you say, "I am satisfied; don't disturb me." If you would really understand truth, if you would know love, you must be free from beliefs and organized religions. There can not be "our religion" and " the religion of another", your beliefs and doctrines as against another's. The world will be happy when there need be no preacher, when each individual is really fulfilling; and as he is not, I feel I can help him in his fulfilment.

If you feel that I am disturbing, creating sorrow, then you will naturally remain in the religion to which you belong, with its exploitations and illusions; but life will not leave you alone. In that lies the beauty of life. However much you have protected and enclosed yourself within certainties, securities and beliefs, the wave of life breaks down all your structure. But the man who has no support, no security, shall know the bliss of life.

Question: What is that memory, created by incomplete action in the present, from which you say we must liberate ourselves?

Krishnamurti: In the brief introduction to this talk, I tried to explain how memories as self-defences are crippling our thought and action. Let me take an example.

If you have been brought up as a Christian, with certain beliefs, you approach life, experience, with that limited mentality. Naturally those prejudices and limitations prevent you from understanding ex- perience fully. So there is incompleteness in your thought and action. Now this barrier which creates incompleteness is what I call memory. These memories act as a self-defensive warning, as a guide against life to help you avoid suffering. So most of our memories are self protective reactions against intelligence, against life. When a mind is free from all these self-protective reactions, memories, then there is the full movement of life, of reality.

Or take another example: suppose you have been brought up in a certain social class, with all its snobbishness, restrictions and traditions. With that hindrance, with that burden, you cannot understand or live the fullness of life. So these self-protective memories are the real cause of suffering; and if you would be free from suffering, there cannot be these self-protective values by which you seek to guide yourself.

If you will think over this, if your mind is aware of its own creations, then you will discern how you have established for yourself guides, values, which are but memories, as a protection against the incessant movement of life. A man that is enslaved to self-protective memories cannot understand life, nor be in love with life. His action towards life is the action of self-defence. His mind is so enclosed that the swift movements of life cannot enter it. He searches out eternity, immortality, away from life, the eternal, the immortal, and so he lives in a continual series of illusions. To such a man, whose consciousness is bound by memories, there can never be the eternal becoming of life.

Question: Is there no danger in seeking divinity or immortality? Cannot this become a limitation?

Krishnamurti: It is a cruel limitation if you seek it, for your search is merely an escape from life; but if you do not escape from life, if through action you deeply understand its conflicts. agonies and suffering, then the mind frees itself from its own limitations and there is immortality. Life itself is immortal. You are trying to find immortality. you do not let it happen. A man who is trying to fall in love shall never know love. This is what is happening to all those people who are seeking immortality. for to them immortality is a security, an egotistic continuance. If the mind is free of the search for security, which is very subtle, then there is the bliss of that life which is immortal. Question: Why do you disregard the sexual problem?

Krishnamurti: I do not; but if you would understand this question, do not try to solve it separately, away from the rest of the human problems. They are all one.

Sex becomes a problem when there is frustration. When work, which should be the true expression of our being, becomes merely mechanical, stupid and useless, then there is frustration; when our emotional lives, which should be rich and complete, are thwarted through fear, then there is frustration; when the mind, which should be alert, pliable, limitless, is weighted down by tradition, self-protective memories, ideals, beliefs, then there is frustration. So sex becomes an over-emphasized and unnatural problem. Where there is fulfilment, there are no problems. When you are in love, vulnerably, sex is not a problem. For the man to whom sex is mere sensation, it becomes an urgent problem, eating away his mind and heart. You will be free from this problem only when, through action, the mind frees itself from all self-imposed limitations, illusions and fears.

There are questions dealing with reincarnation, with death and with life hereafter, with spiritualism, mediumship, and with various other matters, which it would be impossible to answer, as my time is limited. But if you are interested, you can read some of the things I have already said. You seek explanations, but explanations are as dust to a man who is hungry. It is only action that awakens the mind, so that it begins to discern. Where there is discernment. explanations have no value.

Take this question, for example: "What is your conception of God?" If you are merely satisfied by an explanation, then it shows the poverty of your being; and I fear most people are thus satisfied. Your religions are based on explanations, on revelations, on the experiences of other people. So what is the use of my giving you another explanation, or giving you another belief to add to your museum of dead beliefs? If you deeply thought over this whole idea of seeking God, then you would see that you are subtly, cunningly escaping from the conflict of life. If you understand life, if you grasp the deep significance of living, then life itself is God, not some super-intelligence away from your life. But this demands great penetration of thought, not seeking satisfaction or explanation. In the very understanding of conflict and suffering, when all security and support have become useless, when you are face to face with life without any hindrances, there is God.

1934, 1935, What Is Right Action?

Buenos Aires, Argentina
4th Public Talk 22nd July, 1935

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


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