Of all the philosophers on my bookshelves, Jiddu Krishnamurti might be the hardest to implement. Born in India in 1895, he was initially groomed to be a “world teacher” in the Theosophical tradition, reared under British socialist Annie Besant, who in turn was trained under the cult’s founder, Helena Blavatsky. Though owing his oratory powerful style in this tradition, he eventually rejected Theosophy, along with every other system created man. Observation, not prejudgement, is a recurring theme in his talks, pointing to a path to understanding meaning — if meaning is even to be derived.
Following a transformative experience in Ojai in 1922 — some claim it to have been a possession or spiritual occurrence, others the result of an illness that he emerged from — Krishnamurti effectively mimicked the path Gotama had taken in achieving Buddhahood: reject all teachers for the wisdom of the experience. Yet even “self” is a debated topic in his many books and lectures over the next six decades until his death in Ojai in 1986. (I highly recommend visiting his center there, simply to gaze out into the beauty of the Ojai valley.)
Reading Krishnamurti, as mentioned, is no easy task. Many of his directives require a complete overhaul of how we view and live through reality. As demanding as he comes across on the page, he demanded much of his own mind. He openly discussed and debated with mystics, psychotherapists, and physicists in an attempt to encourage collaborative disciplines. All paths, he felt, describe one reality.
Krishnamurti’s books are sometimes best read as koans, insights for further thought and internal debate. No worthwhile achievement is easily won. The man taught us to grapple with the contradictions in nature as well as our own minds, the highest form of intelligence.
This stream is very, very limited. Its energy is also limited, whether the energy of the scientist or the poet, the painter or the writer. And there is still less energy with the politicians, and so on. That stream is limited energy. It is so. When one is no longer swimming in that stream and moves out of it, there is limitless energy.
From an interview Patricia Hunt-Perry, Ojai, 24 April 1984
You have a problem, a mathematical problem or a personal problem; you have gone into it, investigated, searched out, talked it over, and you can’t find an answer. Then what happens? You just leave it, don’t you? But it is very important to find out how you leave it. If you leave it out of despair, out of fear, out of some motive, then your mind is still occupied with the problem. But if you leave it alone because you have looked at it in every way possible, then you leave it completely alone, which means your mind is no longer occupied with it, afraid of it, wanting to find an answer or wanting to escape from it. Then, if you leave it alone, out of nothingness the answer is there.
From Public Talk 5, Saanen, 19 July 1966
May I suggest something? If you have half an hour or so to spare this afternoon, look at a tree or a flower, at your wife or husband. Look. Just look. Not as someone who has had innumerable insults, flatteries, hurts, pleasures, sex, but just look. Will you try it and see what happens?
From Public Discussion 3, Saanen, 5 August 1966
How is this little entity, this little corner one has cultivated, looked after, struggled with, which one has fought for against the vast flow and movement of life, how can one free it so that there is not this silly little thing called the ‘me’, the ‘mine’?
From Public Talk 10, Saanen, 31 July 1966
We are concerned to find out whether it is possible to find out the importance of this deep inward revolution. Time demands it; circumstances demand it; your own life demands it. The strange part of it is that there is no time. You can’t say, ‘I will eventually change; through time I will gather the energy to bring about this change.’ Time doesn’t give you energy; time takes away your energy: you grow old, you wither away. What gives you energy to pursue deeply is facing the fact, just to face the fact every day, whatever that fact is. And you will see, as you face it, out of that comes energy. Not the denial of the fact – that never gives you energy. You need tremendous energy because there are not only all the trivialities of life which one has to face and understand, but also to go beyond them. There is something else, much more significant, which demands all your attention, and that is to find out for yourself, not through words but actually, whether there is something beyond, beyond the measure of the mind, to actually find out for yourself if there is something called the immeasurable, something which is beyond death, beyond words, beyond thought.
From Public Talk 3, New Delhi, 28 January 1962
Human beings, you and I, must radically change because we are the society and the society is us. We are the community. To bring about a change in the social structure which is so ugly, we have to change because we are part of that structure and we have created that structure.
“When you listen attentively, in that attention there is no ‘you’ attending.
You are listening.
Not that you are listening, there is only the act of listening.
So where there is attention there is no centre which is the self, the ‘me’, the psyche.
That is meditation, to attend so completely and diligently there is nothing of negligence, then there is the beginning, the real depth of meditation.
For in that there is no measure, no time, no thought. And out of that, or in that, there is deep abiding silence. That means the brain is utterly quiet, not chattering.
The brain has its own rhythm, let it act out of itself, but not the self-imposing, thought imposing something on the brain.
The whole structure, the organism, and the mind are utterly quiet. I don’t know if it has ever happened to you.
It may happen occasionally when you are walking in a beautiful lane, in a wood of trees and birds and flowers, and the beauty of a sunset, or a morning dawn, then for a second or two you are quiet, breathless, watching the beauty of the world.
But that is external.
But when the brain is quiet, though it has its own activity, quiet in the sense thought is not functioning, so time and thought come to an end where there is deep attention. And then in that silence, which is not the man-made silence, silence has no cause, then in that silence, there is that which is nameless, which is beyond all time.
Such a mind is a religious mind.
And it is only such minds that can bring about a new culture, a new society.
And because that is eternal it has immense significance in life.”
Talk 2, New York, 1983
The unconscious and the conscious are the known. The unconscious is the part which the conscious does not know, but the whole content is the known. The whole content of consciousness is the known, in which is included your gods, your super-cosmic entities, and everything: knowledge, time, thought, racial instincts – all that is included, which is all the known. The known then says, ‘I must pay attention,’ but the known is the root of all consciousness, is the motive of all action. That is, the past, the known, is the motive, and that motive dictates your attention, and therefore that attention is not total. If this is clear, then the question is: how to inquire, how to pay attention without a motive. That is, to be negatively attentive. When we are attentive, it is a positive attention with a motive. But we know that the motive is the past, the whole content of the known, and that attention is partial and therefore not total. But to pay attention totally, there must be negation, that is, no motive.
From Public Discussion 2, New Delhi, 9 February 1962
The quality of aloneness is a state of the complete, awakened mind.
From Public Talk 9, Paris, 24 September 1961
We are not educating students holistically, both psychologically and outwardly – it is all in the world of technology, the world of specialisation, the world of achievement: ‘Get on, be a success.’ We neglect the psychological aspect of life.
From an Interview Robert Davies, Washington DC, 16 April 1985
Play with death
You can play with life but you cannot play with death – it is there and you are gone.
Not that there is a life hereafter – that becomes so unimportant. Besides, if you believe in life hereafter, you don’t really mean it at all.
If you meant it, you would, on the instant, change everything in your life, because you would believe in karma. You say you will pay for it: what you sow you will reap. You don’t believe any of that nonsense because if you really felt it, if you really were aware of that fact, you wouldn’t tolerate one minute the ugliness of your own mind and hearts, and the envies, cruelties and brutality.
You would change. You would mutate immediately. So your belief has no value at all.
From Public Talk 7, Madras (Chennai), 13 December 1961
If you didn’t know where you live, which is the past, how would you get to your house? You couldn’t. So the mind sees that certain memories are necessary to function. And to have relationship is to live without the past burdening it, coming in, interfering. Now, how to harmonise the two: the memory that you must have to get to your house, and thought, which is memory, not interfering in relationship. That means to live a life where there is complete harmony between the mind, the body and the psyche – the whole of that completely in rhythm.
From Students Discussion, Malibu, California, 14 April 1970