Jiddu Krishnamurti (May 11, 1895 – February 17, 1986) was an Indian writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects. His subject matter included: psychological revolution, the nature of the mind, meditation, human relationships, and bringing about positive change in society. He constantly stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasized that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social.
Krishnamurti was born into a Telugu Brahmin family in what was then colonial India. In early adolescence, he had a chance encounter with prominent occultist and high-ranking theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater in the grounds of the Theosophical Society headquarters at Adyar in Madras (now Chennai). He was subsequently raised under the tutelage of Annie Besant and Leadbeater, leaders of the Society at the time, who believed him to be a “vehicle” for an expected World Teacher. As a young man, he disavowed this idea and dissolved the worldwide organization (the Order of the Star) established to support it. He claimed allegiance to no nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy, and spent the rest of his life traveling the world, speaking to large and small groups and individuals. He authored many books, among them The First and Last Freedom, The Only Revolution, and Krishnamurti’s Notebook. Many of his talks and discussions have been published. His last public talk was in Madras, India, in January 1986, a month before his death at his home in Ojai, California.
His supporters, working through non-profit foundations in India, Great Britain and the United States, oversee several independent schools based on his views on education. They continue to transcribe and distribute his thousands of talks, group and individual discussions, and writings by use of a variety of media formats and languages.
Krishnamurti constantly emphasized the right place of thought in daily life. But he also pointed out the dangers of thought when it becomes knowledge that acts as a calcified projection of the past. According to Krishnamurti, such action distorts our perception and full understanding of the world we live in, and more specifically, the relationships that define it. He saw knowledge as a necessary, but mechanical, function of the mind. The capacity of mind to record can present barriers, however. For example, hurtful words spoken in a relationship may become memories that influence actions. Thus knowledge can present a division in a relationship and may be destructive.
He posed the following question: “Can the brain–with all its reactions and its immediate responses to every challenge and demand–can the brain be very still?” His answer:
It is not a question of ending thought, but of whether the brain can be completely still? This stillness is not physical death. See what happens when the brain is completely still.”
The brain, trained as it is to record, provides safety and security, and “a sense of vitality.” The recording creates an image of oneself, of loved ones, firm, politicians, priests, and of the ideal. If these images are fixed, one “will always be getting hurt, always living in a pattern in which there is no freedom.” But if one is able to “listen to it completely without any reaction, then there is no centre which records.”
Fear and pleasure
Fear and pleasure were lifelong themes in his public talks. The following is an excerpt from his talk in San Diego in 1970:
“Fear is always in relation to something; it does not exist by itself. There is fear of what happened yesterday in relation to the possibility of its repetition tomorrow; there is always a fixed point from which relationship takes place. How does fear come into this? I had pain yesterday; there is the memory of it and I do not want it again tomorrow. Thinking about the pain of yesterday, thinking which involves the memory of yesterday’s pain, projects the fear of having pain again tomorrow. So it is thought that brings about fear. Thought breeds fear; thought also cultivates pleasure. To understand fear you must also understand pleasure–they are interrelated; without understanding one you cannot understand the other. This means that one cannot say ‘I must only have pleasure and no fear’; fear is the other side of the coin which is called pleasure.
Thinking with the images of yesterday’s pleasure, thought imagines that you may not have that pleasure tomorrow; so thought engenders fear. Thought tries to sustain pleasure and thereby nourishes fear.
Thought has separated itself as the analyzer and the thing to be analyzed; they are both parts of thought playing tricks upon itself. In doing all this it is refusing to examine the unconscious fears; it brings in time as a means of escaping fear and yet at the same time sustains fear.”
Krishnamurti used the term “meditation” to mean something entirely different from the practice of any system or method to control the mind, or to consciously achieve a specific goal or state. He dealt with the subject of meditation in numerous public talks and discussions:
“A mind that is in meditation is concerned only with meditation, not with the meditator. The meditator is the observer, the senser, the thinker, the experiencer, and when there is the experiencer, the thinker, then he is concerned with reaching out, gaining, achieving, experiencing. And that thing which is timeless cannot be experienced. There is no experience at all. There is only that which is not nameable.”
“… There are various powers… You call them siddhis, don’t you? Do you know that all these things are like candles in the sun? When there is no sun there is darkness, and then the candle and the light of the candle become very important. But when there is the sun, the light, the beauty, the clarity, then all these powers, these siddhis–developing various centres, chakras, kundalini, you know all that business–are like candlelight; they have no value at all. And when you have that light, you don’t want anything else.”
Krishnamurti saw meditation as a great art, “perhaps the greatest.” One must learn this art by practicing without technique—watching oneself: in daily activities (walking, eating), practices (speech, gossip), reactive emotions (hate, jealousy)—becoming aware of these things “without any choice.” Many forms of meditation have been invented to escape conflicts. These forms, according to Krishnamurti are “based on desire… the urge for achievement,” implying conflict, and a “struggle to arrive.” This striving, he saw as “within the limits of a conditioned mind, and in this there is no freedom.” True meditation is “the ending of thought,” leading to “a different dimension… beyond time.” Thought and feeling “dissipate energy.” Their repetition is mechanical, and, while necessary, do not permit one to enter the “immensity of life.” Meditation is the “emptying of the mind of the known.” It is not thought, nor prayer, nor “the self-effacing hypnotism of words, images, hopes and vanities” all of which must “come to an end, easily, without effort and choice, in the flame of awareness.