Thursday, November 18, 2010

UNDERSTANDING J.KRISHNAMURTI

UNDERSTANDING J.KRISHNAMURTI

By Vaibhav Narula
[Shri Vaibhav Narula (all of 22 years) is one of our very young and very brilliant Members.  He has a rare depth of understanding and equally rare felicity of expressing what he understands about JK’s teaching (if it can be called so).  The ancient Indian Non-dualism comes naturally to him as a relaxation while he pursues his Post-Grad studies in Management.  I am grateful to him for his contribution as the Post for November, 2010 at our Blog – ramesam]


There are varying perceptions on J. Krishnamurti by different people.  Some believe that he was an advaitin while some others insist that he was a Buddhist. There are also other ways people try to categorize him.  But are these the correct way to see Krishnamurti?  Probably not.  The reason is that such an attempt puts Krishnamurti in a place where he does not want to be.  It leads to a wrong understanding of his standpoint.  

 Krishnamurti is not a philosopher.  Say, for instance, someone asks him about the cause of suffering. Contrary to any explanation that a philosopher may offer, Krishnamurti would insist that you first inquire into the motivation behind your asking the question. He does not provide readymade answers but reflects on the question itself.  Or Take another example. If someone asks him what is consciousness his reply would be what we can understand to be contents of consciousness, different states of mind. This is neither advaitic nor materialistic but simply a psychological analysis. Thus I feel that Krishnamurti does not make an attempt to solve intellectual questions but tries to look what is behind them and make the other person aware of that. Thus he said, 'Don't make a problem of anything'.

I do not mean to say that Krishnamurti was a psychologist proper or specialized in the study of psychology, but by using a psychology spectrum, one can clear many faulty interpretations of Krishnamurti that are prevalent about him today.  It helps to clear him of the metaphysical theories that we have imposed on him and which he never endorses. This is reflected in a conversation he had with Walpola Rahula on having an insight into truth. The learned Buddhist scholar asked him whether he believed that truth pre-existed for us to be receptive to it and also because it could not be something that was brought into existence. This is a purely a metaphysical question and can lead someone to infer other related metaphysical theories out of it.  But Krishnamurti’s reply is significant. He said that the word ‘Truth’ has no meaning till one does not ‘realize’ it for oneself. Closely analyzed, this is a psychological answer to a metaphysical question.  Krishnamurti meant here that till the mind imposes its own patterns on what the truth is or what truth can be, such speculation shall be purely fruitless, for the mind has to be completely empty to receive the truth, so to say.

When he talks about the sort of 'ultimate' experience, he almost sounds like an advaitin or a buddhist to many. For example:  (Paraphrasing his words from his Talks)

--  Only action remains, no actor (subject) and a thing being acted upon (object).  That is the true meditation when meditator is merged with what is meditated upon and only meditation remains - a 24/7 affair.

--  Action germinates with the first thought taking place and  time emerges with the thought process.  Thought is time - this is psychological time which gives rise to 'hope.'  Time by watch cannot be denied, in fact necessary, otherwise all the scientific and technological progress is not possible.

--  A man with the final understanding hurts no one and is hurt by none.  He is totally fearless.  That brings a true order.  That is the true religious mind.

The problem is when we typecast him into a specific category, we ignore the 'fact' that he teaches not a philosophy (nothing derogatory intended) but the psychology behind the philosophy.  I am not saying he is in contradiction with the advaitic teachings though at many times he seems to be so, but to take the other plank that he is an advaitin in spirit is something not warranted by his attitude.  Like take the instance of the true meditation where no meditator is left. The self here for Krishnamurti is the totality of all ideas, memories etc.etc. In meditation where all the contents of consciousness are perceived, a perception of the mind but not by the mind, not one fragment of the mind observing the other fragment, but the totality of it being an object of passive awareness or  ‘choiceless awareness’, as he calls it. From this, it is easy to see that the remnant is only a sort of pure knowledge and not the knower.  But does the known dissolve too? Does Krishnamurti ever indicate that in such an experience, the world, the effect of maya dissolves into the pure self? Does he ever indicate that the unreal world is sublated?  I am afraid not. One may posit that such a framework is required for making sense of Krishnamurti. I would say it is not so because he works against such a framework.

One may have read the distinction he makes between knowledge and learning.  Learning for him does not have a starting point in an experience or a conclusion, for that does not lead to correct inquiry. Learning for him is total vulnerability of mind. Only an 'energetic' mind not holding on to any conclusions, symbols or experiences can learn.  Acquisition of knowledge is not what he is interested in, for that is mechanical like the function of a computer - it acquires but it can't learn. That is the reason I insist that there should be a suspension of judgment in regarding Krishnamurti either as an advaitin or a non-advaitin, buddhist or non-buddhist. The basic theme of Krishnamurti’s ‘teachings’ is that in seeing the false as the false there is the cessation of it and that is the ending of sorrow.


The awareness that Krishnamurti talks about is an awareness of the false. The error, he says, is in taking the self to be an independent something from the mind. Insight in the 'ways of the self’ brings about an effect that liberates the mind from its conditioning by which it binds itself to itself. Mind, according to Krishnamurti yearns for continuity. It is something similar to what Dr Eric Berne calls stimulus or sensation hunger. The world is in a flux but the mind superimposes a pattern of permanency on these sensations.  It accumulates and stores experiences to affect its continuity. This whole system requires a centre to work with and the self or the ego is that centre, built by the mind and for the mind. It is through the self that the mind seeks to affect its continuity, fulfill its hunger for sensation.  Even the urge to end sensation is another ‘sensation’, a trick played by the mind.

Through memory the mind tries to relive sensations which are a part of its obsession for continuity. The experiences stored in a section of the mind, now become impressions. Out of these impressions mind forms images (I am making only a notional distinction here, the passive elements being impressions and the active ones being images). On the basis of these images, man interacts with the outside world. They become interpreters of human experiences. But since these images which are born out of memory and are thus static cannot be honest interpreters of human experiences which are always changing and essentially in a state of flux. Our experiences are in this way always fresh but our response to them is limited and conditioned by the past. These images come midway between us and the world. To eliminate them is to be vulnerable to our experiences. Obviously eliminating here does not mean that memory should end completely.  If so one would never be able to find his way home.  Rather it means the ending of psychological memory which stores our predetermined responses to the world. To be without them is to live with freshness unknown to our limited mind.

But how do we get rid of this sort of limited and conditioned mind? The answer is by seeing that the mind is conditioned. It is to be passively aware of the complete functioning of the mind, not any particular part of the mind but mind in its entirety, the totality of consciousness. Such awareness is not born out of any practice because the desire to possess such awareness would lead to continuity of the mind in the garb of another ego state.   This is the true “insight.”

Taking the example of “listening”, Krishnamurti explains how total attention is involved in “insight.”  If instead of just letting the sensation of ‘listening to’ be, if one identifies oneself with the object of sensation through a thought, ‘self’ engenders itself and will be the cause of all subsequent suffering.  The following conversation is quite illustrative of what it implies.

Krishanmurti:  “How do you listen?  Are you listening as a person who has read a great deal about that and this, and so comparing? Are you listening to the idea, to the words, and the implication of those words, or are you listening without any sense of verbal comprehension, which you have gone through quickly, and you say, Yes, I see the absolute truth of that?

“If so, then it is finished.  It is like seeing something tremendously dangerous, it is over, you do not touch it.  I wonder if you see that.

“So when one listens, am I listening to identify myself with that fact about which he is talking, or is there no identification at all, and therefore I am capable of listening with a totally different ear?  Am I hearing just with my ears, or am I hearing with total attention? Or is my mind wandering off and saying, “Oh, my goodness, this is rather boring, and what is he/she talking about?” – and so I am off.  But can I attend so completely that there is only the act of listening and nothing else, no identification, no saying, “Yes, that’s a good idea, that’s a bad idea, that’s true, that’s false,” which are all processes of identification?  Can I listen without any of those movements?  When I do so listen, then what?  The truth that thought is the essence of the self, and the self creates all this misery is finished.  So can we listen so completely that there is the absence of the self? Can I see, observe something without the self – that sky, a beautiful sky – and all the rest of that? So the ending of thought, which is the ending, or cutting the very root, of the self – a bad simile, but take it – when there is such active, non-identifying attention, then does the self exist?  So active listening implies listening to the senses… You can’t stop the senses, then you would be paralyzed.  But the moment I say, ‘That’s a marvelous thing, I must have more of that,’ the whole identification begins.”

One may scream ‘how is it possible?’ But then the question again presupposes the activity of the mind to continue and the question proceeds from a laxity in inquiring about our motivation and being unaware of the hidden desire to hold on to some experience. There is no “how” in this but whether --  whether the mind can free itself from such a vicious process that leads to sorrow?

Inquiry into such a question is essential to Krishnamurti’s method of no method. This is the Paradox in Krishnamurti.  Again it would be beneficial to resist the urge to speculate about the metaphysics of such an ‘awareness’, for there is no such discussion that Krishnamurti indulges in, not because of a lack of interest but because he thinks that such a mindset is an impediment to a critical inquiry into the fundamental questions of life.  However, at the end of the day the result is a 'transformation of mind' (not a transformation brought about by the mind or brought about by something outside the mind) that lives from 'moment to moment'.

5 comments:

ramesam said...

Acharya Dr. K. Sadananda says:

"In the case of JK philosophy, we have a case of mind observing the mind itself and for the mind to be unconditioned, it is possible only with nitya anitya vastu viveka which can be done only when the mind is pure. For that only yoga becomes important - particularly karma yoga. All his analysis will lead to only tvam padaartha vichaara. That is only half the story - what is required also is tat padaratha vichaara and then the equation of identity of tat tvam Asi using bhaaga tyaaga lakshaNa - which is the whole essence of advaita vedanta. To write all this requires elaborate analysis which I presented some in tat tvam asi series. I am also planning to write a summary of Naiskarmya siddi text of Sureswara based on Swami Paramarthanandaji's discourses."

phani krishna said...

I also feel that Jiddu Krishna Murthi'Teachings are quite differentfrom the Advaita and Ajata philosophies.

He always gives importance to "what is". He points out that we are observing 'what is' with our images and hence actually we are not observing "what is". He gives importance to observe without prejudice,without conclusions
and judgements.

He always emphasizes that any sort of effort breeds conflict.

But almost all non-dualist gives importance to effort.

He never said that this world is dream like Non-dualists.

Anonymous said...

The new age spiritual gurus invoke a sense of awe and emotion similar to a celebrity. There is usually nothing fresh coming out of the gurus, most of whom spend all their lives quoting the ancient scriptures and stories. It makes you wonder if they have discovered anything of their own. JK was a fresh mind. He didn't want anything to do with what had been already said. Many things he says is similar to what Krishna says in the Gita. Ultimately truth is truth. For me JK is one step ahead of all recent teachers, because although there is no method, there is clarity. And there is no scope for sentimentality. He compels the listener to be serious and understand the urgency of change. That change means elimination of the 'me' / 'self' / 'ego'. He says there is no progress until the 'me' exists, and when the 'me' is gone, the change is instantaneous. Any spiritual growth experienced by a follower is a trick of the mind - the me, because liberation implies no me, and hence no growth (no continuation of the previous state of mind centered around 'me').

Shriram said...

Actually according to Jiddu is "The Self" or "ego" is the cause of suffering. His method is totally different he simply makes us aware of the whole process of self or ego. This does give a stillness to the mind. So is Krishnamurti a Buddhist in saying this ?. He is simply interested in giving the method he is not giving any philosophy.

RAVISHANKAR said...

K was also at pains to relieve the contradictions brought about by what he called the teachings. What was behind his teachings? Nothing. Either we regard him as a conventional teacher and impose conventional interpretation to the form of teaching - contents being contents, they are unique.
Ultimately, you have to forego the notion and contents of K's teachings in order to realize K's teachings - which is essentially a deadlock. All interpretations of K's teachings are useless because, K's essence as he said himself was a "wayless way", or a "mindless mind" or a "pathless land" and also that interpretation can be done only by a laden, non-creative mind mesmerized by its intellectual capacity.
Mr Narula has shown he has understood K's teachings very well.
Apart from that nothing matters.