Homage to J. Krishnamurti
from the self
…is the true function
~ J. Krishnamurti…
Seated on the back seat of the car, I was scrutinising the landscape. Although we were driving through one of these English narrow roads, squeezed between two tall hedges, the place was nevertheless growing in familiarity. Twenty-two years! Twenty-two years that I hadn’t been here! Now the landscape and the roads were known by me, my heart was throbbing and I was seized by an unavoidable emotion. We passed in front of the school’s gate, another hundred meters, and there it was, on the right. It said on a sign: “Krishnamurti Centre”. We parked and came out of the car. No building was yet in view, I was standing and felt overwhelmed by something warm and familiar, as if all the trees, and the pebbles under my feet, and the trembling leaves, and the few sounds around, and the presence – Oh yes, the presence! – were all presented to me like one big sensation, one big knowing and remembering of something I have dearly loved. I was shaken with tears. I lived and worked here for more than four years. A big part of my personal identity still belongs to this place, even decades later, and my apprehension of the spiritual journey comes from these years spent in the aura of Krishnamurti’s teaching.
We moved forward and saw the building, sitting like a nest among the apple trees, blending with the landscape in a very touching way. I was watching everything, everywhere, awake, noticing the few changes, but above all feeling the pregnancy of nature all around. We went down a few steps and stood in the entrance. A plaque had been erected on the wall: “The Krishnamurti Centre, 1986”. Memories flooded again. It was the year of my first trip to India, I had been thrown into the arms of ancient Varanasi, where for a timeless moment, the sky of consciousness had opened wide on me. There, a friend had presented me with a copy of the magazine ‘Indian Newsweek’. One particular article drew my attention, it opened with these words: “Jiddu Krishnamurti, the religious philosopher and teacher, died of cancer yesterday at his residence at the Krishnamurti Foundation in Ojai, Calif. He was 90 years old.” There was a picture that was presented as the last one of Krishnamurti, with his hair loose in the wind of Adyar Beach, in Madras. Two years later, I was accepted as one of the staff members in Brockwood Park – Krishnamurti’s school in Hampshire, England, only a hundred yards away from where we stood – working as a cook in the Centre. Just as we opened the door, I looked at my two friends and my eyes told them something like: Let me now show you this most beautiful place, where I once worked and was steeped in this man’s unique teaching.
Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in 1895 in Madanapalle, a small town of Andhra Pradesh, in south India. When he was only only thirteen, playing on the grounds of the Theosophical Society in Madras, where his father worked, the high ranked theosophist C. W. Leadbeater noticed the beauty of his aura and foresaw that the young boy would one day become the ‘World Teacher’, the new messiah that all the members of the Society were expecting. He was sent to England to be educated and was, for the years to come, enrolled and prepared to fulfil his followers’ expectations. A new organisation, the ‘Order of the Star of the East’, was created with Krishnamurti at his head. Under the wing of the Theosophical Society, accompanied by his beloved younger brother Nitya, he began travelling the world, delivering sermons. When he was 28, Krishnamurti underwent an ‘intense spiritual experience’ that lasted for three days, in Ojai, the place in California where he would later have his home. It was a turning point in his life. After the death of his brother three years later, he became tired and in disbelief of the ways of the Theosophical Society. In 1929, he gathered the three thousand members of the ‘Order of the Star’ in Holland and announced the dissolution of all organisations set around him, pronouncing these famous words: “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organised; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.” For the next 60 years, Krishnamurti travelled the world over, giving talks, meeting with countless people, describing to all his first hand discovery, a way of living that is whole, totally fresh, untouched by conditioning, and infused with sacredness.
As we were strolling inside the Centre, the beauty and simplicity of the place made a strong impression. It had been designed by Keith Critchlow, an architect specialised in sacred buildings. Everything here carried meaning and thoughtful organisation. The Centre is a place for retreats, set to provide a quiet environment for the guests who come here to study Krishnamurti’s teaching. In the library, we checked randomly some of the books aligned on the shelves. Deeply evocative titles like ‘The First and Last Freedom’, ‘Freedom from the Known’, ‘The Ending of Time’, ‘The Impossible Question’, ‘The Future is Now’. K, or Krishnaji, as he was affectionately called, had set his Teachings outside all religious traditions or spiritual paths, refusing the Indian concept of guru. He spoke in an austere, investigative way, punctuating his speech with some affectionate or eager “Please kindly pay attention.”, “Are you doing this?“, or “…but you do not have it yet, do not run away with the smell of a perfume.” He warned again and again: “Truth must be discovered, but there is no formula for its discovery. What is formulated is not true. You must set out on the uncharted sea, and the uncharted sea is yourself. You must set out to discover yourself.” The books indicated another strong inclination of his. This is his love for scientific investigation and dialogues. Over the years, he spoke with a number of famous scientists, like the renowned physicist David Bohm, the author and biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who developed the new concept of ‘morphic resonance’, and Jonas Salk, who discovered and developed one of the first successful polio vaccines, but also the professor of philosophy Dr. Allan W. Anderson, Pupul Jayakar, who was an Indian cultural activist and writer, and the psychiatrist Dr Shainberg.
“Suppose you had never read a book, religious or psychological, and you had to find the meaning, the significance of life. How would you set about it? Suppose there were no Masters, no religious organizations, no Buddha, no Christ, and you had to begin from the beginning. How would you set about it?“
(‘The Book of Life’, September 16th)
“We generally start with the farthest—the supreme principle, the greatest ideal, and get lost in some hazy dream of imaginative thought. But when you start very near, with the nearest, which is you, then the whole world is open.”
(‘The Whole Movement of Life is Learning’, Ch. 19)
We decided to go in the ‘quiet room’, the room that Krishnamurti wanted to be the very heart of the centre: “It should be like a fountain filling the whole place. That room should be the central flame; it is like a furnace that heats the whole place.” We spent there a timeless moment, and were lead to this placeless place, this true self that K described in countless ways, pushing us to look, observe, see for ourselves, that beyond the intricacies of our deeply ingrained conditioning lies something indescribable, a freedom, a happiness that is beyond self-improvement. Patiently, thoroughly, tirelessly, he showed us the importance of being choicelessly aware in order to bring down our person’s defences. “The self must cease through awareness of its own limitation, the falseness of its own existence.” The silence deepened.
“Please do observe this in yourself, otherwise there is no value at all in what you are hearing. What you hear, the explanation, is like the noise of a roaring stream, it has no value at all, but if you listen, not to the speaker, but use the speaker as a mirror in which you are looking, then you will relate what is being said to yourself, and it may have tremendous value.”
(Saanen, 4th Public Talk – 16th July 1967)
So we listened to ourselves…
“We seek happiness through things, through relationship, through thoughts, ideas. So things, relationship, and ideas become all-important and not happiness. When we seek happiness through something, then the thing becomes of greater value than happiness itself.”
(‘The Book of Life’, July 5th, 1994)
“It is extremely difficult to be aware of dullness, to be aware of greed, to be aware of ill-will, ambition, and so on. The very fact of being aware of ‘what is’ is truth. It is truth that liberates, not your striving to be free. Thus, reality is not far, but we place it far away because we try to use it as a means of self-continuity. It is here, now, in the immediate. The eternal or the timeless is now and the now cannot be understood by a man who is caught in the net of time. To free thought from time demands action, but the mind is lazy, it is slothful, and therefore ever creates other hindrances. It is only possible by right meditation, which means complete action, not a continuous action, and complete action can only be understood when the mind comprehends the process of continuity, which is memory – not the factual but the psychological memory. As long as memory functions, the mind cannot understand ‘what is’. But one’s mind, one’s whole being, becomes extraordinarily creative, passively alert, when one understands the significance of ending, because in ending there is renewal, while in continuity there is death, there is decay.“
(‘The First and Last Freedom’, p.265)
“The first step is the last step. The first step is to perceive, perceive what you are thinking, perceive your ambition, perceive your anxiety, your loneliness, your despair, this extraordinary sense of sorrow, perceive it, without any condemnation, justification, without wishing it to be different. Just to perceive it, as it is. When you perceive it as it is, then there is a totally different kind of action taking place, and that action is the final action. Right? That is, when you perceive something as being false or as being true, that perception is the final action, which is the final step. … And when you have perceived, you leave it, forget it, because the next minute you have to perceive anew, which is again the final step.”
(‘Krishnamurti in India’ – 1970-71, p.50)
“Meditation is this attention in which there is an awareness, without choice, of the movement of all things, the cawing of the crows, the electric saw ripping through the wood, the trembling of leaves, the noisy stream, a boy calling, the feelings, the motives, the thoughts chasing each other and going deeper, the awareness of total consciousness. And in this attention, time as yesterday pursuing into the space of tomorrow and the twisting and turning of consciousness has become quiet and still. In this stillness there is an immeasurable, not comparable movement; a movement that has no being, that’s the essence of bliss and death and life. A movement that cannot be followed for it leaves no path and because it is still, motionless; it is the essence of all motion.”
(‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’, August 23rd 1961 – Gstaad, Switzerland)
“The sadness of life is this –
the emptiness that we try to fill
with every conceivable trick of the mind.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“Without experiencing the essence there is no beauty. Beauty is not merely in the outward things or in inward thoughts, feelings and ideas; there is beauty beyond this thought and feeling. It’s this essence that is beauty. But this beauty has no opposite.”
(‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’ – June 24th, 1961 – Ojai, California)
“The mind is the real cause of our problems, the mind that is working mechanically night and day, consciously and unconsciously. The mind is a most superficial thing and we have spent generations, we spend our whole lives, cultivating the mind, making it more and more clever, more and more subtle, more and more cunning, more and more dishonest and crooked, all of which is apparent in every activity of our life. The very nature of our mind is to be dishonest, crooked, incapable of facing facts, and that is the thing which creates problems; that is the thing which is the problem itself.”
(‘The First and Last Freedom’, Ch.21)
“To deny is to be alone; alone from all influence, tradition and from need, with its dependence and attachment. To be alone is to deny the conditioning, the background. The frame in which consciousness exists and has its being is its conditioning; to be choicelessly aware of this conditioning and the total denial of it is to be alone. This aloneness is not isolation, loneliness, self- enclosing occupation. Aloneness is not withdrawal from life; on the contrary it is the total freedom from conflict and sorrow, from fear and death. This aloneness is the mutation of consciousness; complete transformation of what has been. This aloneness is emptiness, it is not the positive state of being, nor the not being. It is emptiness; in this fire of emptiness the mind is made young, fresh and innocent. It is innocency alone that can receive the timeless, the new which is ever destroying itself. Destruction is creation. Without love, there is no destruction.”
(‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’, September 19th 1961 – Paris)
“You cannot possibly invite the other. All that you can do is to keep the room in order, which is to be virtuous for itself, not for what it will bring. To be sane, rational, orderly. Then perhaps, if you are lucky, the window will open and the breeze will come in. Or it may not. It depends on the state of your mind. And that state of mind can be understood only by yourself, by watching it and never trying to shape it, never taking sides, never opposing, never agreeing, never justifying, never condemning, never judging – which means watching it without any choice. And out of this choiceless awareness perhaps the door will open and you will know what that dimension is in which there is no conflict and no time.”
(‘Freedom from the Known’, Ch.3)
The time came for us to have lunch, meet with old friends, share with guests around the table, and have tea while admiring the beautiful courtyard next to the dining hall. There was a fountain there, with letters carved all around that said: “We are the world and the world is us”. We had arranged to meet in the school at 4pm, where a student would show us around. What a wonderful day! We decided to go for a walk, as it was a splendid afternoon. We strolled along the meadow beyond the south lawn of the school. The old creamy building was in sight, originally a seventeenth century manor, with its red brick tower by its side. What a magnificent view from here, with the aged symbolic cedar tree standing with such pure lines of perfection. The whole thing was teeming with peace and beauty. We arrived in front of a small squeaky gate, opened it, and entered paradise. This place, called ‘the grove’, was planted with rhododendron bushes, trees, among them a few tall sequoias. The ground was covered with rhododendrons’ petals. It was a place we barely dared to walk on. It was a place for meditation and a sense of sacredness radiated all around us. Krishnamurti loved this place. Nature had always been for him something he had the highest veneration for, as it is attested in many of his writings. His exquisite descriptions of nature, that you can find in some of his books, are a testimony to his looking at the world in a way that is always new and fresh, uncontaminated by thoughts, by the past. They are an exemple of a non-dual apprehension of life, of nature, and of the thousands happenings.
“A single parrot was perched on a dead branch of a nearby tree; it wasn’t preening itself, and it sat very still, but its eyes were moving and alert. It was of a delicate green, with a brilliant red beak and a long tail of paler green. You wanted to touch it, to feel the colour of it; but if you moved, it would fly away. Though it was completely still, a frozen green light, you could feel it was intensely alive, and it seemed to give life to the dead branch on which it sat. It was so astonishingly beautiful, it took your breath away; you hardly dared take your eyes off it, lest in a flash it be gone. You had seen parrots by the dozen, moving in their crazy flight, sitting along the wires, or scattered over the red fields of young, green corn. But this single bird seemed to be the focus of all life, of all beauty and perfection. There was nothing but this vivid spot of green on a dark branch against the blue sky.”
(‘Commentaries on Living, Series III’- Ch.24)
“The earth was the colour of the sky; the hills, the green, ripening rice fields, the trees and the dry, sandy riverbed were the colour of the sky; every rock on the hills, the big boulders, were the clouds and they were the rocks. Heaven was the earth and the earth heaven; the setting sun had transformed everything. The sky was blazing fire, bursting in every streak of cloud, in every stone, in every blade of grass, in every grain of sand. The sky was ablaze with green, purple, violet, indigo, with the fury of flame. Over that hill it was a vast sweep of purple and gold; over the southern hills a burning delicate green and fading blues; to the east there was a counter sunset as splendid in cardinal red and burnt ochre, magenta and fading violet. The counter sunset was exploding in splendour as in the west; a few clouds had gathered themselves around the setting sun and they were pure, smokeless fire which would never die. The vastness of this fire and its intensity penetrated everything and entered the earth. The earth was the heavens and the heavens the earth.”
(Krishnamurti’s Notebook, November 17th)
Again the time came to see yet another beloved place: the school. Krishnamurti had understood very early the importance of creating places where students could, in his words, “flower in goodness”. He founded five schools in India, among them ‘Rishi Valley School’ in 1926 and ‘Rajghat Besant School’ in 1934 in Varanasi, ‘Oak Grove School’ in Ojai California and ‘Brockwood Park’ in England, founded in 1969. As soon as we entered, I was again filled with emotions. What contrast with the Centre! This was the home for about seventy students coming from twenty-five different nationalities, all aged from 14 to 19 years old. The energy was palpable. This was a place for learning and freedom. A young student from Australia welcomed us. With her guidance, we visited the wonderful kitchen, the sitting room, some of the classrooms, the library, the art barn, the music studio, the big organic vegetable garden. Krishnamurti wanted the children to grow in an environment of leisure, where students and staff members alike could live and learn together. He wanted to educate the whole human being and provide a place devoid of society’s hindrances and pressures that limit the growth of the child. Every student here owns his or her own personal cursus and timetable. Numbers per class are kept small, and students are encouraged to reflect on themselves and the world with beautifully designed courses like ‘Inquiry Time’, ‘Human Ecology’, ‘Arts & Crafts’, ‘Humanities’ plus any other topics that the staff has knowledge about. Creativity is encouraged as much as academic excellence. Care for nature and the environment is put forward. Proper care of the body and physical exercices are given high importance too. Students who want to pursue their studies at university are given the proper courses and pass the A-level exams. Above all, children get to know and pursue what they really love to do, have a passion or skill for, and are given the means to pursue it, for example through projects.
“The right kind of education is concerned with individual freedom, which alone can bring true cooperation with the whole, with the many; but this freedom is not achieved through the pursuit of one’s own aggrandizement and success. Freedom comes with self-knowledge, when the mind goes above and beyond the hindrances it has created for itself through craving its own security.
It is the function of education to help each individual to discover all these psychological hindrances, and not merely impose upon him new patterns of conduct, new modes of thought. Such impositions will never awaken intelligence, creative understanding, but will only further condition the individual. Surely, this is what is happening throughout the world, and that is why our problems continue and multiply.
It is only when we begin to understand the deep significance of human life that there can be true education; but to understand, the mind must intelligently free itself from the desire for reward which breeds fear and conformity. If we regard our children as personal property, if to us they are the continuance of our petty selves and the fulfilment of our ambitions, then we shall build an environment, a social structure in which there is no love, but only the pursuit of self-centred advantages.”
(Education and the significance of life, Ch.5)
“A school, after all, is a place where the student is basically happy, not bullied, not frightened by examinations, not compelled to act according to a pattern, a system. It is a place where the art of learning is being taught. If the student is not happy he is incapable of learning this art.”
(The Whole Movement of Life is Learning, Ch.10)
Now slowly walking back to the parking, we reflected about this unique day spent in Brockwood Park and about what trust and vision were needed to embark in creating such places around the world. Although my two friends had no knowledge and preconceptions about the place, they have felt its unique presence, they have been deeply touched and impressed by it, to a point I had not envisaged. For me, it has been a day like you have in your life once every ten years. The place overwhelmed me with its beauty and energy. These hours spent here had been fresh, new. Even meeting again with some of my old friends had a quality of something that had no past. The necessity of seeing everything afresh, anew, without the distorting glasses of the past, is what Krishnamurti had stressed and hammered in countless talks and dialogues all his life. This day had given us yet another glimpse, or taste, of a way of living that is beyond all concepts, all ideas, all imitations, all limitations. This was a day infused with freedom and happiness.
“Our problem is not how to seek the unknowable, but to understand the accumulative processes of the mind, which is ever the known. That is an arduous task: that demands constant attention, a constant awareness in which there is no sense of distraction, of identification, of condemnation; it is being with what is. Then only can the mind be still. No amount of meditation, discipline, can make the mind still, in the real sense of the word. Only when the breezes stop does the lake become quiet. You cannot make the lake quiet. Our job is not to pursue the unknowable but to understand the confusion, the turmoil, the misery, in ourselves; and then that thing darkly comes into being, in which there is joy.”
(The First and Last Freedom, Ch.50)
Quotes and excerpts by J. krishnamurti (1895-1986)
Additional text and photos by Alain Joly
– You can also read the beautiful page on ‘The Culturium’: ‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’ by Paula Marvelly.
– ‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’ – by J. Krishnamurti – (Krishnamurti Publications of America, US)
– ‘Commentaries on Living, I, II & III’ – by J. Krishnamurti – (Quest Books,U.S.)
– ‘The First and Last Freedom’ – by J. krishnamurti – (Rider Book)
– ‘Freedom from the Known’ – by J. Krishnamurti – (Rider Books)
– ‘The Book of Life: Daily Meditations with Krishnamurti’ – by J. Krishnamurti – (HarperOne)
– ‘The Ending of Time: Where Philosophy and Physics Meet’ – by J. Krishnamurti & David Bohm – (HarperOne)
– Architect of the Krishnamurti Centre Professor Keith Critchlow takes us on a guided tour in this YouTube video on ‘Harmony, Eternal Truths, and the Krishnamurti Centre’
– Two films presenting the life at the School: ‘Intro to Brockwood Park School’, made in 2003 and ‘Brockwood Park: A Symphony’, in 1989.
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