One must read this essay real carefully with a quiet questioning mind. Goodness can flower only in freedom. It cannot bloom in the soil of persuasion in any form, or under compulsion, nor is it the outcome of reward. It does not reveal itself when there is any kind of imitation or conformity, and it cannot exist when there is fear. Goodness shows itself in behaviour, and this behaviour is based on sensitivity. Goodness is always expressed in action. The whole movement of thought is not goodness. Thought, which is very complex, must be understood; the very understanding of it awakens thought to its own limitation.
Goodness has no opposite. Most of us consider goodness to be the opposite of the bad or evil and so, throughout history, in any culture, goodness has been considered the other face of that which is brutal. Humanity has always struggled against evil in order to be good; but goodness can never come into being if there is any form of violence or struggle. Goodness shows itself in behaviour and action and in relationship. Generally, our daily behaviour is based either on following certain patterns, which are mechanical and therefore superficial, or on very carefully thought-out motives based on reward or punishment. So our behaviour, consciously or unconsciously, is calculated. This is not good behaviour. When one realizes this, not merely intellectually or by putting words together, then good behaviour comes out of negating what it is not.
Good behaviour is in essence the absence of the self, the “me”. It shows itself in politeness, in consideration for others, in yielding without losing integrity. Behaviour is extraordinarily important; it is not a casual affair to be slurred over, or a plaything of a sophisticated mind. It comes out of the depth of your being and is part of your daily existence.
Goodness shows itself in action. To act correctly is one of the most difficult things to do. It is very complex and must be examined very closely without impatience or jumping to any conclusion. In our daily lives, action is a continuous movement from the past broken up occasionally with a new set of conclusions. These conclusions then become the past, so one acts according to preconceived ideas or ideals. One is acting always either from accumulated knowledge, which is the past, or for a future ideal, a utopia. We accept such action as normal. Is it? We question it after it has taken place or before doing it, but this questioning is based on previous conclusions or expectations of future reward or punishment-‘If I do this, I will get that’.
We are now questioning the whole accepted idea of action. Action takes place after we have accumulated knowledge or experience; or we act and learn, pleasantly or unpleasantly, from that action, and this learning again becomes the accumulation of knowledge. So both actions are based on knowledge; they are not different. Knowledge is always the past and so our actions are always mechanical.
Is there an action that is not mechanical, that is non-repetitive, non-routine and so without regret? This is really important for us to understand, for where there is freedom and the flowering of goodness, action can never be mechanical. Writing is mechanical; learning a language, driving a car is mechanical; acquiring any kind of technical knowledge and acting according to that is mechanical. In this mechanical activity there may be a break, and in that break a new conclusion may be formed, but that again becomes mechanical. One must bear in mind constantly that freedom is essential for the beauty of goodness. There is a non-mechanical action, but you have to discover it. You cannot be told about it; you cannot be instructed in it; you cannot learn from examples, for then it becomes imitation and conformity. Then you have lost freedom completely and there is no goodness