“We sat quietly and watched an osprey circle and swoop over the river. This is what I loved about being in India — the vibrancy, the unexpected, the chance encounters, the conversations that quickly moved from small talk into the question of life and death.”
~ (Excerpted from ‘The Shadow that Seeks the Sun’ – by Ray Brooks)
This quote is the essence of Ray Brooks’ book ‘The Shadow that Seeks the Sun’. Ray wrote the book that I would have loved to write, mixing the many small happenings, encounters, and dramas of Indian life, to the delving into the self, the contemplation of a new possibility of being. Intertwined with the description of everyday life in Rishikesh are nine conversations between Ray and Rudra, a newly met Anglo-Indian man. These chapters form the backbone of the book, where we delve deeper and deeper into the recognition of our inescapable reality, Rudra leading us into the patient recognition of our true being, relentlessly pointing: “See that what you are is not dependent on anything. See that this indescribable presence is shining as its own light.”
Ray Brooks is my newly invited guest on ‘The Dawn Within’. Born and raised in England, Ray discovered at an early age the Japanese art of shakuhachi flute playing and became an accomplished musician. Ray and his wife Dianne, co-writer of the book, now live on Vancouver Island in Canada, and continue to spend most of their winters in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya.
I have chosen here the excerpt where Ray recalls his one to one meeting with Krishnamurti in Ojai, California. I was touched by the simple, humble, yet probing nature of the inquiry that is described. I hope you will enjoy…
“So, Ray, here we are again. You can only find awareness. Tell me. What are you?”
A large brown and turquoise kingfisher landed on a rock in the water. Its huge beak looked too big for its body, its feathers impossibly vibrant in the morning sun. We watched the bird silently, waiting for it to dive.
“What I am — is all of this.”
The Ojai Valley runs along an east-west mountain range, twenty miles inland from the Pacific coastline. The area where Krishnamurti was staying was located at the east-end of the valley surrounded by lush green mountains, oak and pine forests, and acres of orange and avocado groves. The locals call Ojai ‘Shangri-la’, and I could see why. It was the most beautiful place I had ever been.
I arrived early — two hours early — and entered a large, well-kept garden behind an old nineteenth-century redwood house. The lovely property, named Arya Vihara or Noble Abode, was Krishnamurti’s former home and where our meeting would take place. He had lived in this house for a number of years but now, during his visits to Ojai, stayed in Pine Cottage, which was behind Arya Vihara. An inviting bench at the far end of the garden was perfectly placed in the shade. It had a good view of the property and the sun-dappled lawns surrounding it. As I sat down, I wondered whether Krishnamurti and other eminent scientists, philosophers, psychologists, and scholars had sat here. I read somewhere that Aldous Huxley had been to Arya Vihara. Huxley, who had been a good friend of Krishnamurti’s, claimed that listening to him speak was “like listening to a discourse of the Buddha — such authority, such intrinsic power.”
David Bohm, the theoretical quantum physicist, was another regular visitor. Bohm’s wife discovered Krishnamurti when she found his book ‘First and Last Freedom’ at the library. She told her husband that Krishnamurti appeared to be speaking about the same wholeness and implicate order (1) that he himself was exploring, although Krishnamurti wasn’t using science to describe it. David Bohm found the book “extremely interesting”. “What particularly aroused my interest was Krishnamurti’s deep insight into the question of the observer and the observed,” he wrote. When Bohm contacted him, Krishnamurti reportedly said, “Sir, I’ve been speaking about this for years and no one is listening.” That was the beginning of a thirty year friendship between Bohm and Krishnamurti. Bohm was able to legitimize Krishnamurti within the scientific world and beyond. He made the teachings accessible to those who would normally have shied away from what was seen as esoteric Indian mumbo jumbo. I wondered if any of the great thinkers who had visited this property understood what Krishnamurti was talking about and whether they had found unconditional freedom. If they hadn’t, what chance did I have? The discouraging thoughts brought on more nerves and forced me from the bench. I saw an opening in the trees and walked along the small path that led into an orange grove. The butterflies in my stomach would have felt right at home here. I could see why Krishnamurti picked this time of year to live in Ojai. The late afternoon light was glorious and the air was filled with the perfume of orange blossoms.
To my delight, the path eventually led to a large, white house, which I instantly recognized as Pine Cottage. I had seen a photograph of the cottage in one of my books. There didn’t seem to be anyone around so I walked toward the building. I knew what I was looking for, and there it was: the 100-year-old pepper tree that Krishnamurti had sat beneath as a young man, when he underwent what became known as “the process”. He had been unwell for several days, experiencing fever and severe pain in his head and neck. On the third day it was suggested that he rest in the shade of the young pepper tree in the garden, which he did. As the pain eased, Krishnamurti became acutely sensitive and, a few days later, wrote that he had an extraordinary experience while under the tree. “I was in everything, or rather everything was in me.” He went on to say, “Like the lake, I felt my physical body, with its mind and emotions, could be ruffled on the surface, but nay, nothing, could disturb the calmness of my soul.” (2) I went over to the tree and perched on the stonewall surrounding it. Krishnamurti reported that he could feel the vibrations of Lord Buddha under this very tree. All I could feel was my nervous stomach and the fear of being discovered on private property.
With fifteen minutes to go before the meeting, I made my way back to Arya Vihara and let myself in through the back door. The house was like a chapel, completely quiet. I sat on one of the wooden chairs near the door and listened to the loud tick-tock of the clock counting down the minutes. Something metallic dropped on a hard surface, breaking the silence. It sounded as if it came from the kitchen area. It was 4:57 p.m. and suddenly I questioned whether I was in the right place; I questioned the question I’d memorized; and I questioned why the hell I’d come thousands of miles from home to see an Indian guru who claims not to be a guru, who speaks out against following gurus.
At precisely one minute to five, a cheerful young man appeared and introduced himself as Michael. Later I discovered that Michael was Krishnamurti’s personal cook. I followed him down a short corridor to a small conservatory. I could see Krishnamurti through the glass doors. Dressed in grey slacks and a blue shirt, he stood to greet me. Michael opened the door and ushered me in. Two chairs faced each other with a table between them. Both chairs had a view of the garden. Krishnamurti was very welcoming and I thanked him for agreeing to meet with me. We each took a seat and looked out at the garden. The temptation to speak was strong, but I resisted and found the silence to be calming. In those few moments, my nervousness lifted and a deep sense of peace enfolded me. To my surprise, I found myself completely at home in his presence. I could have sat with him and looked out of the window for the whole meeting.
“What would you like to discuss today, sir?”
His words were gentle and I felt no pressure to respond. My question about unconditional freedom was gone. Nothing came — no embarrassment nor panic. I didn’t have a care in the world. There wasn’t a world. There was only the room and a very serene elderly Indian gentleman sitting opposite. It was a natural feeling of peace. After a few moments, I surprised myself by starting to recount my experience at the nightclub in London and how I had been unable to let it go. I told him I wanted to understand what had happened and why. He listened closely. Mid-story, he leaned across the table and put a hand firmly over my clasped fingers, imploring me to stop.
“Sir, don’t get caught up in experiences, no matter how marvelous they seem. Don’t go looking for experiences, which are no more than pleasure seeking and gratification. Experiences are time-bound, sir; what you are has nothing to do with time. Experiences, no matter how profound, will not bring you to truth.” He kept his hand on mine, but released the pressure.
“What is it that you are really seeking, sir?” His voice softened.
I wanted to say this, this right here, but I did not respond. I just met his gaze.
“What is it that you want most, sir? What is it each one of us wants in this restless world? Isn’t it some kind of peace, some kind of happiness, a refuge? You won’t find what you are looking for in experiences, sir.”
For all those months, I had given my attention to my experiences. Now he was saying that they were insignificant.
“Are you not searching for something permanent? Some lasting certainty — because, in you, is uncertainty?”
“And what is it that you call permanent? Do you want permanent pleasure, permanent gratification, something you can cling too, a permanent experience of happiness without sadness. Perhaps I’m putting this rather sharply, sir.” His grip tightened again. “Isn’t this what you want, sir?”
Our meeting lasted only twenty minutes, and he did not spare the rod. He stopped speaking and looked at me, perhaps to let his words sink in.
“Sir, when you say that you are seeking to understand your experiences, what is it that you mean? Before seeking something permanent, you must deeply understand the one who is seeking. It is absolutely necessary to understand the seeker first and foremost.”
He paused to emphasize the gravity of his question, not once taking his eyes off me.
“This cannot be stressed enough, sir. It is essential to understand the movement of the seeker, before trying to find out about what you are seeking. Is the seeker different from that which he seeks? Is the seeker any different from the object of his search? Is there a seeker at all? You have to investigate all of this, sir. You have to investigate whether the observer is separate from the observed. Are they different in any way? Don’t just take another’s word for it. You must find out for yourself. If they are not separate, what are the implications of that finding? What you are lies in the answer.”
I had read these words in his books, but hearing them face to face held a forceful urgency.
“Sir, if you know how to look, you will see that the ‘experiencer’ is never separate from the experience. To not see this is a life of sorrow.”
His hand still rested on mine in the middle of the table and he did not take his eyes off me, even when he stopped speaking. Once again, I did not respond. I could not respond.
“Sir, the real has no opposite. You don’t have to seek it. The only sure way to postpone the real is to continue to be a seeker of the real and to invest your happiness in some experience that you once had or want to have in the future. The real is what is ; it is the truth and that is the great beauty of it. The moment you seek it, the moment you try to grasp it, you begin to struggle, and the one who struggles can never understand the immensity of this.”
He stressed the word “immensity,” which seemed to have great meaning for him.
“Look at your own life, sir. Look at the way you are living. Is it not always on the border of sorrow? Are you not trying to escape that sorrow?”
Krishnamurti was right. There was a deep sorrow in me, cleverly disguised by a cluttered mind. At the heart of the sorrow was dissatisfaction — an unquenchable longing.
“Are you not always yearning, sir, always becoming? Becoming is time. Becoming is fear, sir. ‘I am this now. I will be that in the future.’ If you look, you will feel the pull of becoming. The pull of yearning, the pull of time.”
I knew what he meant, but could not feel the pull of time or a trace of yearning or becoming as I sat there.
“Are you not searching to gain a result, an ending, a place you can say ‘I have arrived?’ Sir, truth is not something to be gained. You don’t arrive at truth. It is not a result.”
He paused and held my gaze.
“Sir, you must put aside all of your ideas about these petty experiences. Experiences won’t bring transformation. Experiences are temporary. What you are is the real. To find the real, you must put aside all of your theories, ideologies, all your concepts about truth and freedom — and actually inquire whether you can be psychologically free from dependence. See if there is freedom from fear and anxiety and all your problems. Someone telling you there is such a freedom will do you no good. The key to the door is not someplace else, sir.”
He gently patted my hand and looked away for the first time during our meeting. He pulled out his pocket watch. “Sir, we must finish our meeting now as there is another waiting.”
As we stood, he reached out for my hand again and held it.
“Find out for yourself if there can be complete unconditional psychological freedom from all problems; something not of time. Start by seeing clearly that the observer is not separate from the observed. Seeing this will end the need for a guru or a savior. You have to look where thought cannot go. You have the flame — all else will follow.”
I walked out completely charged with energy. No one had ever spoken to the most hidden part of me. I felt immensely free and happier than I had ever felt in my life.
I went back into the garden and sat on the bench. Krishnamurti’s words resonated somewhere inside me. I stayed for a while, absorbing all that was said then walked through the orange grove, certain that I was experiencing what he had talked about. Certain that the observer and the observed were not separate. I was the natural state of being and it was extraordinary in comparison with the usual clutter of my mind. This had to be a taste of “something not of time.”
(1) ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’ – by David Bohm – (Routledge)
(2) ‘Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening’ – by Mary Lutyens – (KFA)
Text excerpted from Ray Brooks’ book ‘The Shadow that Seeks the Sun’
– ‘The Shadow that Seeks the Sun: Finding Joy, Love and Answers on the Sacred River Ganges’ – by Ray Brooks – (Watkins Publishing)
– ‘Blowing Zen: Finding an Authentic Life’ – by Ray Brooks – (Sentient Publications)
– Read from the blog A Day at Brockwood Park: Homage to J. Krishnamurti
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