J. Krishnamurti: Classic, but you could do better

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J KrishnamurtiJ. Krishnamurti spent nearly sixty years travelling the world as a spiritual teacher who rejected the very value of such authorities. With over 60 books, 300 video recordings, 400 audio recordings, and four foundations dedicated to preserving his work, his place as one of the great spiritual figures seems certain. In no way do I claim an exhaustive study of his works; in fact, I’ve only read two of his books, his prose poems, and listened to a couple of audio recordings. Frankly, he’s just not that interesting to me. I read The First and Last Freedom in the early-1990s and finished The Awakening of Intelligence on a friend’s recommendation.

Here is J. Krishnamurti in the 1930s speaking about his realization to Rom Landau in the book God is My Adventure:

Rom Landau: How did you come to that state of unity with everything?
Krishnamurti: People have asked me about that before, and I always feel that they expect to hear the dramatic account of some sudden miracle through which I suddenly became one with the universe. Of course nothing of the sort happened. My inner awareness was always there; though it took me time to feel it more and more clearly; and equally it took time to find words that would at all describe it.
It was not a sudden flash, but a slow yet constant clarification of something that was always there. It did not grow, as people often think. Nothing can grow in us that is of spiritual importance. It has to be there in all its fullness, and then the only thing that happens is that we become more and more aware of it. It is our intellectual reaction and nothing else that needs time to become more articulate, more definite.

From what I gather, this process of clarification went on for many years. From at least 1922, when he recorded this experience:

There was a man mending the road; that man was myself; the pickaxe he held was myself; the very stone which he was breaking up was a part of me; the tender blade of grass was my very being, and the tree beside the man was myself. I almost could feel and think like the roadmender, and I could feel the wind passing through the tree, and the little ant on the blade of grass I could feel. The buds, the dust, and the very noise were a part of me. Just then there was a car passing by at some distance; I was the driver, the engine, and the tyres; as the car went further away from me, I was going away from myself. I was in everything, or rather everything was in me, inanimate and animate, the mountains, the worm, and all breathing things.

And through the early 1960s, when he wrote in Krishnamurti’s Notebook:

Why should all this [mystical experiences] happen to us [referring to himself]? No explanation is good enough, though one can invent a dozen. But certain things are fairly clear. 1. One must be wholly ”indifferent” to it coming and going. 2. There must be no desire to continue the experience or to store it away in memory. 3. There must be a certain physical sensitivity, a certain indifference to comfort. 4. There must be self-critical humorous approach. But even if one had all these, by chance, not through deliberate cultivation and humility, even then, they are not enough. Something totally different is necessary or nothing is necessary. It must come and you can never go after it, do what you will. You can also add love to the list but it is beyond love. One thing is certain, the brain can never comprehend it nor can it contain it. Blessed is he to whom it is given. And you can add also a still, quiet brain.

From J. Krishnamurti’s vast body of work, I’ll attempt to summarize his approach to helping others which was generally a process of questioning. Here is a line of questioning from The Awakening of Intelligence. Originally several pages in length, I extracted the key points in his argument:

Can thought which is the past, which is memory, which is a thousand yesterdays, can all that past, all that conditioning come totally to an end? — so that there is silence, there is space, there is a sense of extraordinary dimension.

How is that thought, which must function with great energy and vitality, to be at the same time completely motionless? … Can the two operate together, can they move together — not coalesce, not join together — but move together? They can only move together if thought does not separate itself as the observer and the observed.
That very division is created by thought, which is the result of the past — I see the truth of this. Now my question is: does thought see this, or does some other factor see it? Or is the new factor intelligence and not thought? Now what is the relationship between thought and intelligence?
Does thought see the truth of conflict, of division and all the rest of it, or is it the quality of mind that sees the fact and is completely quiet with the fact? … It is that stillness that is intelligence. Intelligence is not thought. Intelligence is this silence and is therefore totally impersonal.
So the question arises: how is the mind, your mind, which is endlessly chattering, endlessly bourgeois — caught in a trap, struggling, seeking, following a guru and using discipline — how is that mind to be completely still?
Harmony is stillness. There is harmony between the body, the heart and the mind, complete harmony, not discord. That means the body must not be imposed upon, not disciplined by the mind. … Whereas the body has its own intelligence when it is sensitive, alive and not spoilt; it has its own intelligence. … And also one must have a heart — not excitement, not sentiment, not emotion, not enthusiasm, but that sense of fulness, of depth, quality, vigour, that can only be when there is love. And one must have a mind that has immense space.
Now how is the mind to come upon this? … You see the truth of it, that you must have complete harmony in yourself, in the mind, the heart and the body.
Now, who sees this truth? Who sees the truth that there must be this complete harmony? … Do you see it as an idea, as a theory, as something you ‘should have’? If you do, then it is all the function of thought. Then you will say: tell me what kind of system I must practice to get this…. But when you see the truth of this — the truth, not what ‘should be’ — when you see that is the fact, then it is intelligence that sees it. Therefore it is intelligence that will function and bring about this state.
Thought is of time, intelligence is not of time. …It is only when the mind is completely still – and it can be still, you don’t have to practice or control, it can be completely still — then there is harmony, there is vast space and silence.

The formal talks ends at that point and a question and answer session begins. I am left puzzled. Something must change, yet there is nothing for me to do. Change will occur when I see the truth of my situation:

So what is important is not to learn but to see and to listen. Listen to the birds, listen to your wife’s voice, however irritating, beautiful or ugly, listen to it and listen to your own voice however beautiful, ugly, or impatient it may be. Then out of this listening you will find that all separation between the observer and the observed comes to an end. Therefore no conflict exists and you observe so carefully that the very observation is discipline; you don’t have to impose discipline. And that is the beauty, Sirs (if you only realise it), that is the beauty of seeing. If you can see, you have nothing else to do, because in that seeing there is all discipline, all virtue, which is attention. And in that seeing there is all beauty, and with beauty there is love. Then when there is love you have nothing more to do. Then where you are, you have heaven; then all seeking comes to an end.

He returns to this theme again and again, “Do what you will, as long as there is a division between the observer and the observed, there must be conflict.” As for what to do about this, his advice is a cliffhanger:

This is really not at all difficult once you say, “I must find out a way of living that is totally different, a way of life in which there is no conflict.” If that is your real, your insistent, passionate demand — as is your demand for pleasure — to live a life inwardly and outwardly in which there is not conflict whatsoever — then you will see the possibility of it. … Then if you see that, not verbally or intellectually — because that is not seeing — but when you actually realise that there is not division between the observer and the observed, between the thinker and the thought, then you see, then you observe actually “what is.”

In other words, you’ll know it when you get there. The guru says we must listen “totally and completely” and we immediate ask “how?” The guru then says “Just do it!” because any method is more mind talk.

I do not find J. Krishnamurti’s ideas groundbreaking nor do I find his style inspiring. Though I read again and again, how he radiated truth and intensity, that does not appear to me in his writings or recordings. Apparently, he had numerous mystical experiences throughout his life and, though he lived a materially comfortable and well-funded life, seemed intent on being of service to others. For that and the obvious value many find in his material, I give him two stars — interesting and possibly of value to you.

See Stripping the Gurus for a caustic criticism of J. Krishnamurti.

Read what Douglas Harding had to say about Krishnamurti: Ramana Maharshi and J. Krishnamurti

J. Krishnamurti Online – The online repository of the authentic teachings of J. Krishnamurti.

Here is a YouTube video of the earliest video documentary of J. Krishnamurti:

14 thoughts on “J. Krishnamurti: Classic, but you could do better”

  1. Hello Mr.Shawn only recently I noticed this website and its ‘Ratings of Spiritual Teachers’-making it sound just just like any other mundane ratings. Anyway you are doing it and am not making any issue about it only that, please may I make a humble request, that you watch two short ( one about 10 minutes and the other about 20 minutes) You-Tube talks (actually replies to questions)-which he, J.K., gave.These two were chosen randomly out of hundreds. The two are : (1) ‘How can we know if mystical and spiritual experiences are illusions unless we know reality?’ and
    (2) ‘Does God Exist?’ Enjoy the ‘Flight of the Eagle’! Thank You.

    1. I have studied Krishnamurti for 37 years and it has taken many of those years to understand only some of what he talked about. Ironically, when I first came across a quote of his, I immediately knew that what he was saying rang true. But truth is not easy. Personally, I began to understand more when his videos became available. He can be a difficult read, especially in conversation with men like David Bohm. But I am still drawn to his “simple” truths.

      1. Something resonated with me the first time I read K. I think that was when I became a seeker. I was in Seekers Books in Toronto in 1993, and I picked up Meeting Life. I read a passage and thought “wow”. In the end I guess one really has to stop seeking in order to find.

  2. I don’t know how you are rating these teachers and where the names are coming from? But i personally know like 10 teachers that aren’t even a 1 star. Is it only certain types of teachers?

      1. Thank you, Shawn, you have a very interesting point of view and your website has a lot of good material on it. Nils

  3. It is also highly likely that Richard Rose studied Krishnamurti extensively, especially in lieu of Rose’s connection to the Theosophical Society, who groomed Krishnamurti in his youth.

    1. I agree with you Bill. When a person has studied K extensively, their words have a ring of truth. When I read Richard Rose, the reason I gave him some attention was because he had experienced or perceived some of the timeless truths that K spoke of.

  4. I’ve read a fair amount of Krishnamurti during my life and I was able to see one of his last public lectures at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in 1985. I have also visited his retreat center in Ojai, CA. I have studied with a number of other spiritual teachers and like all human beings, they have great attributes and some flaws. Krishnamurti is a giant among them because, to my mind, he was the first teacher to tell us that “truth is a pathless land” – that all groups of any kind, secular or spiritual, will influence your experience. He wanted us to analyze the way we lived and see how these influences contributed to unhappiness, personal strife, social unrest, violence, and war. Krishnamurti repeated this message over, and over, and over again, for 60 years. Why? Because the rest of us just don’t get it.

    1. I totally agree with you, Who Am I. I have studied him for many years, visited his retreats, and done inquiry with other serious students. He is not easy to grasp, but that does not exclude him from being a man with an extremely important message. I have found him easier to understand when he is in conversation with David Bohm because Bohm expands the compact nature of K’s teaching.

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