For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Monday, 23 February 2015

The River Of Words (4): Krishnamurti

I must have been around twenty years old when I discovered Krishnamurti and experienced one of those literary-spiritual shocks which are so transformative and life-changing. Here was a sensible, practical, calming and soul-nourishing philosophy that seemed to give a solution to all those religious, political, social and family issues I was struggling with at the time — though Krishnamurti himself would have rejected any notion of promoting a 'philosophy', just as he disowned any role as all-knowing sage or disciple-seeking guru. His teaching — gentle, simple, loving and humane — was centred on unity, wholeness and self-reliance. It helped you free yourself from the constricting bonds of ideology and received opinion, from the tyranny of both mind and body. Based on Eastern thought, his ideas were truly revolutionary in the West — but this was a peaceful revolution, a revolution of one's complete comprehension of and attitude to the world and how one lives in it. It is difficult to quote adequately from Krishnamurti without quoting whole pieces, as he is not given to attention-grabbing soundbites and hollow aphorisms (good, I say). However, in The Second Penguin Krishnamurti Reader he talks a lot about meditation, and these extracts are taken from the first few pages:

Meditation is not an escape from the world; it is not an isolating, self-enclosing activity, but rather the comprehension of the world and its ways. The world has little to offer apart from food, clothes and shelter, and pleasure with its great sorrows.

Meditation is wandering away from this world; one has to be a total outsider. Then the world has a meaning, and the beauty of the heavens and the earth is constant. Then love is not pleasure. From this all action begins that is not the outcome of tension, contradiction, the search for self-fulfilment or the conceit of power.

What is important in meditation is the quality of the mind and the heart. It is not what you achieve, or what you say you attain, but rather the quality of a mind that is innocent and vulnerable. Through negation there is the positive state. Merely to gather, or to live in, experience, denies the purity of meditation. Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end. The mind can never be made innocent through experience. It is the negation of experience that brings about that positive state of innocency which cannot be cultivated by thought. Thought is never innocent. Meditation is the ending of thought, not by the meditator, for the meditator is the meditation. If there is no meditation, then you are like a bind man in a world of great beauty, light and colour.

Wander by the seashore and let this meditative quality come upon you. If it does, don't pursue it. What you pursue will be the memory of what it was — and what was is the death of what is. Or when you wander among the hills, let everything tell you the beauty and the pain of life, so that you awaken to your own sorrow and to the ending of it. Meditation is the root, the plant, the flower and the fruit. It is words that divide the fruit, the flower, the plant and the root. In this separation action does not bring about goodness: virtue is the total perception.

Despite all the Oshos and Tolles and Kabat-Zinns, and the many other enlightened, spiritual, self-help facilitators of the world, I always come back to Krishnamurti in the end; for me, he said it the first and the best, the most humbly and the most beautifully. There is so much contained in the above few paragraphs; they alone could form the basis of a meditation which might last a hundred years.

Meditation is the root, the plant, the flower and the fruit. It is words that divide the fruit, the flower, the plant and the root. In this separation action does not bring about goodness: virtue is the total perception . . .

10 comments:

donna baker said...

That was beautiful. I don't know much about Krishna other than his name. I have tried to meditate and can only last about two minutes. Maybe I'll give it another try.

George said...

I always keep Krishnamurti's books within easy reach, and I go back to them frequently. One can turn to almost any page at random and find something that truly engages the mind and offers a different perspective on things. Apart from his unassailable wisdom, the traits of Krishnamurti that appeal to me most are humility, peacefulness, calmness, detachment, and deep inner stability. At one point, during one of his speeches, Krishnamurti said something that I find rather profound, though it doesn't sound profound at first. Specifically, he said: "Do you want to know what my secret is? I don't mind what happens." He wasn't being cynical or nihilistic; nor was he reflecting a lack of compassion or empathy. He was simply reminding us that we must always engage in radical acceptance of reality, even as we try to remain constructive in the example of our own lives. The opposite approach — i.e., resistance to reality — is not only a major cause of suffering, but also renders us powerless to be a constructive force for change.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, Donna. Maybe Krishnamurti would say you were trying too hard :)

The Solitary Walker said...

'I don't mind what happens.' Yes, seemingly unfocused, passive and uninvolved at first, if said by anyone else — but here, from Krishnamurti's lips, this trite sentence gains a whole new significance. Behind these deceptively simple words lies 'a radical acceptance of reality', as you aptly put it. It does not mean passivity at all — rather the opposite. (A bit like David Brazier's New Buddhism is active and engaged, perhaps?) Truly a revolution in perceiving reality.

Thanks for this, George.

am said...

"What is important in meditation is the quality of the mind and the heart. It is not what you achieve, or what you say you attain, but rather the quality of a mind that is innocent and vulnerable."

"Or when you wander among the hills, let everything tell you the beauty and the pain of life, so that you awaken to your own sorrow and to the ending of it."

When I was in my second year of college at UC Irvine in 1968, Krishnamurti gave three lectures at Claremont College that November. A friend of mine went with a friend of his to hear Krishnamurti. My friend's enthusiasm about Krishnamurti's way of thinking convinced me to buy a paperback copy of The Impossible Question. The connection was made, and I carried that little book with me everywhere for years until the book fell apart. You've inspired me to order a new/used copy. Thank you!

Vagabonde said...

Reading your posts is like going back in time. In your last post your talked about Jack Kerouac and “On the Road” – I did not hitchhiked when young because my father would have forbid me to, but, at the same time, my parents let me go alone to England when I was 13 ½ years old … to a family though, but we did not know anything about them – just name and address.
Then Krishnamurti – I bought his books back in the early 70s. One was called “Think on These Things” and the other was “Krishnamurti’s Notebook.” They were both by my bed (still are actually) and I would read some pages very often, and take his words down on my own notebook such as “Religions, with their beliefs, dogmas and creeds, have become tremendous barriers between human beings, dividing man against man, limiting him and destroying his intelligence.” He is very quotable as you show in your post.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this personal memory, Amanda (Am). It's good when friends/people pass on their enthusiasms. I never met Krishnamurti myself, but I once knew someone whose mother knew him.

I love the way he never adopted the guru/wise man role. ('Don't follow leaders, watch the parkin' meters'! BTW, I've now listened to 'Shadows in the Night', which was quite a revelation. A lot of feeling in his voice, but controlled — in a good way. Gives new life to a lot of those songs. Another example of Dylan reinterpreting American musical history.)

The Solitary Walker said...

'Religions, with their beliefs, dogmas and creeds, have become tremendous barriers between human beings, dividing man against man, limiting him and destroying his intelligence.'

So, so relevant in today's troubled times, Vagabonde. It cannot be said often enough. Unfortunately, when religious belief — particularly if that belief is fundamentalist, literal-based, intolerant and uncompromising — is identified with a whole cultural and/or ethnic group, it can be toxic.

I like the way Krishnamurti recognises here that religion can 'limit' mankind. One day we all might at last be able to bust through these limitations (caused essentially by fear and a desire for a false security) and go 'beyond' religion — or rather the organised, sectarian, narrowly-defined religion as we generally know it.

dritanje said...

It is lovely to read Krishnamurti's words again so thank you for giving this experience. As Vagabonde says, your recent posts have been like going back in time, for they have taken me swiftly back, no dawdling or meandering or side-tracking, just whoosh, there I am again, having hitch-hiked there (the first time) spring by the Dreisam, scents of lilac as I walk to work, The Eagles, The Moody Blues, George Harrison, books on Buddhism, Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Hesse's Siddartha and The Journey to the East, and discovering ...

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this, Morelle. Oh yes — those books and that music take me back too...