On Action by J Krishnamurti

Without understanding comprehensively the full significance of action, merely to be concerned with a particular form of action seems to me very destructive. Surely, if we are concerned only with the part and not with the whole, then all action is destructive action. But if we can understand action as a total thing, if we can feel our way into it and capture its significance, then that understanding of total action will bring about right action in the particular.

Sacred Tree

It is like looking at a tree. The tree is not just the leaf, the branch, the flower, the fruit, the trunk, or the root. It is a total thing. To feel the beauty of a tree is to be aware of its wholeness – the extraordinary shape of it, the depth of its shadow, the flutter of its leaves in the wind. Unless we have the feeling of the whole tree, merely looking at a single leaf will mean very little. But if we have the feeling of the whole tree, then every leaf, every twig has meaning, and we are sensitive to it. After all, to be sensitive to the beauty of something is to perceive the totality of it.

The mind that is thinking in terms of a part can never perceive the whole. In the whole the part is contained, but the part will never make up the whole, the total. In the same way, let us see if we can rather diligently and with a sense of humility go into this whole question of what is action.

Why does action create so much conflict? Why does action bring about a state of contradiction? And what is the totality of action? If we can sensitively and with hesitancy begin to understand the nature of total action, then perhaps we shall be able to come down to the particular.

But very few of us are sensitive – sensitive to the sunset, sensitive to a child in the street, sensitive to the beauty of a face, sensitive to an idea, to a noise, to everything in life. Surely, it is only a humble mind, a mind which does not deny or accept – it is only such a mind that is sensitive to the whole.

The mind is not sensitive if it has no humility; and without humility there is no investigation, exploration, understanding. But humility is not a thing to be cultivated. Cultivated virtue is a horror, it is no longer a virtue. So, if we can, with that natural feeling of humility in which there is sensitivity, go into this whole question of action, then perhaps a great deal will be revealed of which we are now unaware.

You see, the difficulty with most of us is that we want a definition, a conclusion, an answer; we have an end in view. I think such an attitude prevents inquiry. And inquiry into action is necessary, surely, because all living is action. Action is not departmental, or partial; it is a total thing. Action is our relationship to everything: to people, to nature, to ideas, to things. Life cannot be without action.

Even though you retire to a monastery, or become a sannyasi, or a hermit in the Himalayas, you are still in action, because you are still in relationship. And action, surely, is not a matter of right and wrong. It is only when action is partial, not total, that there is right and wrong.

#Krishnamurti, The Collected Works, Vol. XI New Delhi 3rd Public Talk 21st February 1960

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