Peace for the Soul

A common space for harmonic peacemakers

Robert Epstein

The Quotable Krishnamurti

(Wheaton, IL : Quest Books, 2011, 176pp.)


         There is the true story of the Westerner who goes to India and is asked to give a short talk at a conference. “How long?” he asks. “Not more than two hours” was the reply.  Thus J. Krishnamurti’s short talks were nearly all two hours in length. I used to attend them at Saanen in the Swiss mountains.  Usually one got the point that was to be made in the first 15 minutes, and then there was another hour and 45 minutes.  However, there was a small stream near the large tent where the talks were given, and I would listen to the water running and every so often focus back to see that the talk was still going on.


            What Krishnamurti did, but never said that that was what he was doing, was to lead a guided meditation to deeper levels of consciousness by highlighting all the obstacles on the different levels between day-to-day consciousness and whatever we want to call a deeper consciousness: freedom, reality, love, supreme energy, the Tao etc. If one was coming to listen to a structured lecture, one was disappointed for there was no structure as reading the unedited (or only slightly edited) talks which have been published by the Krishnamurti Foundation will show.


            Robert Epstein has gone to the other extreme and has presented Krishnamurti “oneliners” in alphabetical order of key words.  The result resembles the words of wisdom that one found in Chinese “Fortune cookies” usually attributed to Confucius but without footnotes to the Analects so one can never find the context for these words of wisdom. Unfortunately, Krishnamurti was not trained by New York Jewish stand-up comics who have perfected the “oneliners”, followed by silence and then a laugh.  He was trained by Charles W. Leadbeater who never used one word when two or three would make things longer.  Krishnamurti’s one “oneliner” used at the start of his career was “Truth is a pathless land”, and it was the only line quoted in nearly all the obituaries when he died.  The line did sum up his conviction that you can depend only on yourself, not on masters, nor secret doctrines, nor hidden libraries in Tibetan monasteries, nor on him either.


            The only thing that might be of value is at some deep level within the individual — a deeper consciousness— not a “higher consciousness” as this term might apply to something outside the individual.  Krishnamurti’s talks were “guided meditations” toward this deeper consciousness. They were not  practical guides on the steps to be taken nor did they do more than hint at what might be found at these deeper levels.  Basically he would outline difficulties; some difficulties were obvious; others were more subtle.  As in certain forms of psychoanalysis, if one becomes aware of a difficulty or a distortion, if one sees from where the distortion arose, the distortion is weakened and one can progress as an energy flow to a deeper level.  L. Ron Hubbard took the idea and turned it into the Scientology industry.


            As a guided meditation, Krishnamurti would start with what his listeners had in common, that is, a body with emotions, desires, needs.  Some of the ways in which a body influences us are obvious; others are less so.  In his personal life, Krishnamurti did yoga exercises as a way of being aware that one has a body and not just a wandering consciousness. Obviously, one could not explore all the ways in which the body works during the first 20 minutes of the talk.  The guided meditation only gave you some steps that you could use elsewhere and at other times.  Awareness of the impact of the body is an old issue, but as he says “No problem is ever old, but we approach it with the old formulation, which prevents our understanding it.”


            After looking at the body as such, the next step was to look at the impact of the body on the emotions, on desires to be secure, safe, certain, undisturbed.  There is the impact of the body on memory, on the sense of time, on habits, on acquisitiveness, on the desire for domination.  There is a constant interplay between the body and desires.  The body is an agent of conditioning which can breed deception, illusion, and contradictions.  Our bodies are our links to the past and “the past is like a shadow, making things dull and weary; in that shadow, the present loses its clarity, its freedom.”


            Once we have moved beyond the interaction of the body with emotions, drives and the formation of attitudes, we come to the most difficult of distortions: the working of the mind. As Krishnamurti is quoted saying, “Our only concern is with the question Can the mind free itself from its self-created bondage? ..An active mind is silent, aware, choiceless.”  The bulk of Krishnamurti’s talks deal with reminding us that the mind is usually not silent, not aware, and not choiceless.


            There are the interactions of the mind with the body creating a sense of time and thus memory — habits of the mind as well as habits of the body.  There is the functioning of the mind to create belief, authority, to make comparisons, to measure, to get caught in a routine. Thus it is on the different levels of the working of the mind that one needs to focus.  “If there is a radical transformation in the structure of an individual’s psyche, it will affect the whole consciousness of man.  Can one be aware of the wholeness of life if the mind is fragmented and stressing separation?  We all tend to find security in these fragments of humanity of which we are a part.  The fragmented mind with training can give way to awareness.  Out of awareness will come a realization of the wholeness of life.”


            Yet we cannot overcome the fragmented mind by an act of will.  “Can consciousness with its movement undergo a radical transformation, a transformation not brought about by will? Will is desire, desire for something and when there is desire there is a motive, which is again a distorting factor in observation.”


            At each step toward deeper awareness, Krishnamurti highlights the difficulties, how we are unaware of distortions, how wanting to do good, we create new distortions.  He does not give direct advice on how to go beyond the distortions. The hope is probably that by being more aware of the subtle types of distortions, we  will not fall into the traps.  Awareness may lead to a disintegration of the distortions.  Beyond the distortions, there may be something we might call “reality” or “the way things are “, but even that is not sure because if anyone has reached that stage, he has not come back to describe it.  Thus the one “oneliner” remains the key to the talks “Truth is a pathless land.”


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens








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