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Objectivity, in any form, is the only obstacle to Truth.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon

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It really is a remarkable thing that some of the clearest expressions of modern day non-duality have come from simple Indian men who lived simple lives in society. Atmananda Krishna Menon, married and a father of three children, a police inspector, was one such man. He became, along with Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, an essential pillar of the non-dual understanding in India, giving voice to a new approach called the Direct Path, and becoming a guiding light for many seekers of truth in the West. 

Krishna Menon was born in 1883 in Kerala. He grew up in a well educated Brahmin family — some of his relatives were poets or scholars — and had a happy childhood. He was endowed with a good and curious mind, that allowed him to find pathways towards understanding that are clear, simple and effective. Krishna Menon had the highest respect for the function of a true guru. His encounter with his teacher was simple and eloquent. Walking by the roadside, he met in 1919 a swami and sannyasin from Calcutta named Yogananda. It was a short, transforming and unforgettable meeting that lasted only one night but touched him to his very soul. “This paralyzed my ego.” did he say. He realised his true self in just a few years and began teaching. His impeccable logic and clarity drew many a student around him. 

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The Truth goes into you undressed,
not through language at all
.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon

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One notable contribution of Krishna Menon is to have equated the simple ‘I’ that we use everyday when referring to ourself, with pure awareness itself. This had the advantage of refining and dis-objectifying the understanding of consciousness by sending it back to its intimate and subjective reality. “Don’t be satisfied with only reducing objects into Consciousness. Don’t stop there. Reduce them further into the ‘I’-principle.” All the excerpts used in this page are from ‘Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda’, a collection of Krishna Menon’s teachings taken and organised by Nitya Tripta. I borrow them from the website ‘Stillness Speaks’ that offers wonderful resources for self exploration.

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Really spiritual experience is only one. Its tests are changelessness and self-luminosity. The only experience that stands these two tests is the real ‘I’-principle or pure awareness. All the rest disappear in time, and so are unreal.” (Note 1216)

First of all, see that the body, senses and mind are your objects and that you are always the changeless subject, distinct and separate from the objects. The objects are present only when they are perceived. But I exist, always changeless, whether perceptions occur or not, extending through and beyond all states. Thus you see that you are never the body, senses or mind. Make this thought as deep and intense as possible, until you are doubly sure that the wrong identification will never recur.” (Note 21)

Pure consciousness and deep peace are your real nature. Having understood this in the right manner, you can well give up the use of the words ‘Consciousness’ and ‘Happiness’ and invariably use ‘I’ to denote the Reality.” (Note 21)

By reducing objects into Consciousness or happiness, you come only to the brink of experience. Reduce them further into the ‘I’-principle; and then ‘it’, the object, and ‘you’, the subject, both merge into experience itself. Thus, when you find that what you see is only yourself, the ‘seeing’ and ‘objects’ become mere empty words.” (Note 22)

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Atmananda Krishna Menon

The ‘I-Principle’ is the only Experience that one can have.”
~ Atmananda Tattwa Samhita

 

Krishna Menon was one of the rare teachers of his time to have been in the West, and to occasionally use the English language in his teaching. Some of his Western students and admirers included John Levy, who wrote “The Nature of Man According to Vedanta”, Ananda Wood, who wrote extensively on his teaching, and the American mythologist Joseph Campbell. Jean Klein was also an admirer of his teaching and being, and so were his students and lineage, including Francis Lucille or Rupert Spira.

In spite of his stern and formal appearance, Krishna Menon is reported to have been a kind and loving man, deeply present to his feelings, and expressing them unreservedly. He loved to occasionally play chess with some of his students. Krishna Menon spoke of the ego or separate self in clear, unequivocal terms, qualifying it of being a “spurious entity which does not exist and can never exist.” In this regard, he made a beautiful and very unusual comment about the nature and function of all flattery…

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The ego is a spurious entity which does not exist and can never exist. It does not stand the slightest scrutiny. What is the difference between the ego and the other things which you have accepted to be illusions? Such things have at least a momentary appearance, in the mental level. But the ego has not even that. It is never experienced by anybody at any time. You stray away from knowledge, down to the object known; and that is the ego.” (Note 1268)

[The ego] claims the form of doer, perceiver or enjoyer after the activity. The best way to kill [it] is to refuse to give it any of these forms. The ego will then be starved to death. Directing attention to your real nature is the only sure means of killing the ego.” (Note 957)

All flattery is directed to the Reality behind the ego. Even though you do not know it, you are that Reality. The false identification of the ego with the ‘I’-principle enables you to be pleased, and the ego wrongly claims for himself all praise.” (Note 1005)

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It is selfish to do, think or feel anything in the interests of the apparent ‘I’.”
~ Note 1079

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Krishna Menon published several books in Malayalam, including ‘Atma Darshan’ and ‘Atma Nirvriti’, which he translated into English. After his death was published the book ‘Atmananda Tattwa Samhita’, based on tape-recorded talks to some disciples. Krishna Menon refers to objects in a very positive and constructive way. For him, they can be used as pointers to our true nature. He stresses the fact that they exist only in relation to consciousness. He has a very Tantric approach of the nature of objects, commenting further that “the life principle is the ‘is’-ness in everything. […] Everything perceived is lit up by the Self, and is alive.”…

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All this world is my object, and I am the changeless subject. Each one of my objects serves only to point to me and to prove me. I need only make my stand there firmer and establish myself at the real centre, as the ultimate subject ‘I’.” (Note 20)

An object is there always pointing to the Consciousness of the perceiver, as ‘You, You, You, …’, meaning thereby: ‘I am here merely on account of you.’ But the moment you stand as Consciousness and turn back to the object, the object vanishes; in other words, the object commits suicide.” (Note 1402)

The all should merge in the ‘I’ and disappear, leaving the ‘I’ absolute. But if you begin to expand the ‘I’ into the ‘all’, you go wrong and still remain as the object. The objectivity must disappear completely.” (Note 1003)

All that you perceive is dead and inert; because in fact you do not see anything. The object, when you seem to perceive it, is dead as object; but is living in the higher sense, as Consciousness. That which exists can never be dead. Therefore, the material part, which is changing, alone is dead. The existence part of every object is life or Consciousness itself. This is not perceptible and is never dead.” (Note 417)

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Every object is a pointer to the Ultimate.”
~ Note 512 

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Krishna Menon is here extending the pointing nature of objects to activities through the body or the senses. “Consciousness first expresses itself inwardly. It is only afterwards that it expresses itself outwardly.” This emphasises how activity and perception, but also thought and feeling relate to the true ‘I’ and its knowing faculty and essence…

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The different spheres of an ordinary man’s experience are: doing, perceiving, thinking, feeling, and last of all knowing. The first four kinds of activities are always changing, and the last alone is changeless. Whenever you have an experience of any of the first four types, ask yourself the question: ‘To whom is it that the particular experience occurs?’ You will see without any difficulty that it is not to the ultimate ‘I’-principle, but only to one of its four mediums or instruments. Then why do you worry about them in the least? Know that you are the knower, always at your centre, and be at Peace. What more is needed?” (Note 358)

In all human activities, there is a fundamental difference between the words expressed and the actual activity. The words ‘I see him’, ‘I hear it’ etc. are quite in order. But in the activity proper, the first and the most important part ‘I’ is lamentably ignored and the activity or objectivity part alone emphasized. This is responsible for all bondage. The only means to liberation is to fill the omission you have so igno- rantly made.” (Note 570)

Examine any activity. There seem to be two ‘I’s, functioning simultaneously: the ego or apparent ‘I’ as the doer, and the ‘I’-principle or real ‘I’ as the knower. The former is ever-changing and the latter is never-changing. Therefore I am always the knower and never the doer. Thus there is no doer or subject, and there is only action without an actor.” (1187)

The real ‘I’-principle is present in all action. You believe that an actor or subject is indispensable for every action; therefore you conclude that the ‘I’-principle is acting. Really, the ‘I’-principle is not concerned with the acting at all. Thus you are no doer, enjoyer or perceiver, but only the knower.” (Note 1187)

An activity is a deviation from the normal state. When I say I walk, I mean it as an activity opposed to my normal state of non-walking. Walking is only something which comes and goes, while I am by nature non-walking or changeless. You admit you have not changed by merely walking. Walking refers to my nature which is non-walking. Thus every activity shows I am not that.” (Note 572)

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Consciousness is always your centre, in all your activities.”
~ Note 127

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These last excerpts exploring the presence of the self in all activity naturally leads one to explore the nature of knowledge and knowing, whose understanding is crucial to Krishna Menon’s teaching. His use of the term ‘knowing’ is very specific. For him, knowing is the fundamental essence of our being. “Knowledge of Self is knowledge as Self.”…

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No perception ever stops half way, but always ends in knowledge. At the point of knowing, there is neither perception nor the object perceived. Therefore, you know only knowledge. You say you know a thing because you have seen it many times. It is true, in one sense. Because, every time, you have been brought into direct contact with knowledge and not with the object. Therefore, it only proves that you know pure knowledge. From that position, you can never be a witness. You witness only yourself. Knowing is not a verbal noun.” (Note 384)

Everything other than knowledge is name or form. The moment you know them they become knowledge itself. So you do not really know anything other than knowledge. Thus the world is not. Then where is bondage?” (Note 411)

[Why is the knower not the doer or the enjoyer?]
Because you never cease to be the knower. Doership and enjoyership come and go. Knowing takes place in a different plane.” (Note 140)

Take knowing as a function for the time being; and examine it along with the other four functions of doing, perceiving, thinking and feeling. We find that of all these, knowing is comparatively the most natural and effortless function. For the performance of the other four functions, different conditions and degrees of effort are essential. The natural effortlessness of knowing, and the fact that it is always present, clearly prove it to be really the nature of the self; because this knowingness does not come and go like the other functions and does not part with the ‘I’-principle, even for a moment. The ‘I’-principle has always to be the knower; and since the same principle cannot be engaged in more than one function simultaneously, it stands as the Knower alone.” (Note 82)

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Photo by Balaji SrinivasanPixabay

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‘To know’, in the real sense, is ‘to be’.”
~ Note 1282

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Krishna Menon defines here the meaning of the Indian term ‘Advaita’ or non-duality, emphasising the fact that duality is only imagined. So non-duality is in fact the simple description of our truest and most intimate experience of reality. “The ultimate Truth established by Advaita, is the only thing that is. Everything else is only an appearance on it.” The actualising of this understanding is our spiritual sadhana and has to be realised and firmly established in all circumstances. Krishna Menon said that a profession within the police or the military offers an ideal foundation for this sadhana, because such a profession offers the maximum obstacles and temptations…

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‘Advaita’ is the most significant term to denote the ultimate Truth. The ignorant man knows only the world, and everything beyond it is unknown to him. In this sense, Truth is unknown. Still, he strives to attain that Truth. The world as known is the impediment to the attainment of Truth. Therefore the method adopted for this purpose is the scrupulous rejection of everything known. At last, the principle which rejected everything else remains over as incapable of being rejected, and without a second. Looking from the known world, that principle can only be characterized as the ‘not-known’, in the negative. It is unknown, and not unknowable. If it is considered positive, it becomes known and then the knower comes in and duality is set up. Therefore, the most significant term to denote the characteristic of Truth is Advaita (Non-duality). The ultimate knower can never be known.” (Note 1227)

When you see a thing, your seeing and the form seen become one and stand as Knowledge. Then only is the experience complete, and then you cannot even say that you saw. You stand as Seeing itself, or Knowledge. The object seen is also seeing. Thus the seen and the seeing become one in you, the Knowledge. Therefore, the experience of seeing a thing is pure Advaita. The seeing appears to be split up into the seeing and the seen. But this is impossible, and therefore duality is never actually experienced.” (Note 233)

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The life principle is the ‘is’-ness in everything. 
From this point of view, there is no such thing as dead matter. 
Everything perceived is lit up by the Self, and is alive
.”
~ Note 412

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Krishna Menon correlates happiness with the very nature of ourself, which is peace itself. This peace is experienced in deep sleep, when “the mind is dead.” In Note 322, he says: “When that state of happiness continues without being disturbed by unhappiness, it is called deep Peace.”…

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[Desire] always points to Happiness; and it has been proved to you that when a desired object is gained, there is desirelessness for the time being. The mind comes to rest and Happiness dawns. So, strictly speaking, desire is directed to desirelessness; because it is that desirelessness which brings in Happiness.” (Note 166)

It has been proved already that one’s real nature is objectless happiness, and that one can experience it. It is experienced not through subject-object relationship as in the waking and dream states, but in identity as in deep sleep. In deep sleep, the mind is dead.” (Note 1396)

Man hunting for happiness is just like a beetle with a drop of butter on its head. Getting scent of the butter, the beetle hovers around, knocking about everywhere for the source of the scent, but is ignorant of the fact that the butter is on its own head. Likewise, man hunts for happiness because it is in himself and he is not able to see it there. But the urge which makes him hunt comes from that happiness itself.” (Note 148)

A deeper examination will show that the so called enjoyment of happiness is being one with it. Happiness is never enjoyed. To know that ‘I am Happiness’ is a spiritual experience. Spiritual experience is only one. It is Non-duality. Its real nature is pure Happiness itself, and you know it there in identity.” (Note 1396)

From the experience in deep sleep, we see that Happiness is self-luminous, or that Happiness lights itself up. This ‘lighting-ness’ of Happiness is what is called ‘Consciousness’. Both are intrinsic in the Self. This is how one knows Peace in deep sleep. This is knowledge in identity. Therefore, ‘Happiness can never be unintelligent.’” (Note 1360)

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Happiness is Advaita, and is natural to man.”
~ Note 1401

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Here, Krishna Menon describes the nature and function of the world, and shows that it cannot be truly improved independently of our knowing and being established in the Self. As he stresses in Note 1280, “The solution of the world [lies] in withdrawing into the real Self within one.”…

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This Consciousness seems to degenerate, by appearing to express itself through the mind and senses, as thoughts and perceptions. By accepting the medium of the mind and senses, the appearances – namely thoughts and perceptions – seem to be separate from the Self. This is how the world appears, though in essence it is nothing but the Self.” (Note 1280)

[Can anyone improve the World?]
No. Who will undertake the work? The individual. He is but a part of the world which has to be improved. From where does he get the ideal or the urge to improve the world? Of course from the inner Self, which is perfect. Before improving oneself and becoming perfect, any attempt to improve another is meaningless. Therefore, rise to that Self and make yourself perfect first. Then, to your surprise, you will find the world also perfect.” (Note 770)

The world is perfect. But it appears imperfect because you use fallacious instruments of sense organs and mind and a wrong perspective of subject-object relationship. Get rid of them first. Take hold of the changeless principle of awareness in you and then examine the world. Then you will find the world perfect and entirely different from what it appears now.” (Note 819)

Self-forgetfulness is the cause of the creation of the world, and self-remembrance or withdrawal to the Self is the destruction of the world.” (Note 569)

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The world as known is the impediment to the attainment of Truth.”
~ Note 1227

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Krishna Menon gives the name ‘higher reasoning’ to this enquiry within. This is one of the main and most effective means towards our true self. This is the tool that we have at hand “to dissolve the mind.”…

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‘Vicara’ is a relentless enquiry into the truth of the Self and the world, utilizing only higher reason and right discrimination. It is not thinking at all. […] Truth can never be made the object of thought, since it is in a different plane. Thus, thinking about the Truth is never possible. The expression only means knowing, over and over again, the Truth already known.” (Note 1361)

Every perception by itself is invariably governed and corrected by the relatively higher faculty called ‘buddhi’ (‘lower reason’). This buddhi is in its turn controlled and corrected by another faculty called higher reason (or vidya-vritti), which is well beyond the mind. This is Consciousness itself, appearing to be functioning. We are usually slow to accept the existence of this faculty, as it is usually con- founded with the lower reason itself, their workings being apparently similar.” (Note 111)

The mind is only an expanded form of the ego. Even in our daily life, there is something in us which stubbornly refuses to accept blindly all that the mind brings in. This is a clear expression of the higher reason in us.” (Note 330)

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Photo by Balaji SrinivasanPixabay

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The function of the higher reason is to dissolve the mind, 
and then the higher reason stands transformed into Atma itself
.” 
~ Note 867

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Krishna Menon describes here the importance of love and its intrinsic non-dual nature. “Know yourself first. Then alone can you love anybody or anything truly and unreservedly.” (Note 360)…

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Love is the expression of the Self through the heart, and the heart is always wet. It takes you straight to the Self or Atma and drowns you in it. Language is dry and is the expression of the Self through the head or reason. It takes you only to the brink of Atma; and leaves you there, till the heart rises up to wet reason and ultimately to drown you in love.” (Note 401)

Knowing with your whole being is Love itself. In thought (which is knowing with the mind alone) you do not lose yourself. But in love you lose yourself. So love entails the sacrifice of the ego.” (Note 889)

If you correctly understand yourself to be beyond body, senses and mind, your love for another will also be for that self in him. Because there are no two selves, and love is its nature. […]  Genuine love absorbs everything into you, and then duality dies.” (Note 876)

In order to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ you have to stand as Atma itself. The disappearance of subject-object relationship is a natural corollary of the experience of love. So also of the experience of knowledge. […] In the experience of Happiness, the mind dies. There is neither enjoyer nor enjoyed in it. There is only Happiness. It is an egoless state; but this is usurped subsequently by the ego.” (Note 917)

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Man is incapable of loving anything other than that Consciousness, the Atma.”
~ Note 460

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Krishna Menon’s teaching is always practical for it really is only a list of pathways to go and abide in the only true experience there is, which is the Self. The directness of his teaching has given way to a new method of Inquiry called the Direct Path. This is indeed the shortest possible way between ourself and our Self, between the limited changing ‘I’ and the unchanging “‘I’-principle”…

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Appearance certainly is not Truth. Because Truth can never appear or be subject to time and space. What else then can it be that appears? Can it be appearance itself? No. Because appearance is appearance only on appearance. Hence appearance can never appear. Therefore appearance is not. It is only an illusion. Truth alone is.” (Note 1258)

Dispassion is not only possible, but is present in all your states. […] and there is no necessity to cultivate it. Even in the waking state, when you are thinking of one object, are you not dispassionate as far as the rest of the world is concerned?” (Note 32)

“‘I know I am’ is a single experience, recognized by all persons. It consists of two parts: ‘I know’ and ‘I am’. The ‘I am’ can never be an object of ‘I know’. Therefore both mean the same thing, and together are an experience in identity. These are the only two statements that require no proof.” (Note 654)

The poet Tennyson says: Pursue ‘knowledge, like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought’. It will take you a long way if you think deeply about what Tennyson meant by this statement. ‘Sinking star’ may mean this. Sinking implies relaxation. You have only to retreat and retreat into the ‘I’-principle, and rest there. Allow yourself therefore to be led on. Sink, sink, sink… Sink from the body, sink from the senses, and sink from the mind…” (Note 39)

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The ‘I’ has no activity whatsoever.” 
~ Note 712

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Krishna Menon died in 1959 in former Trivandrum. 

Ordinary death is only partial, being the death of the gross body alone. It is no more than a change and does not deserve the name of death. Real death is a shift of your centre from the ego to the witness.” (Note 820)

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Excerpts by Atmananda Krishna Menon
(From ‘Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda’, by Nitya Tripta)
(StillnessSpeaks [CC BY-SA 4.0])

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The website ‘Stillness Speaks’ offer resources (downloadable PDFs) about Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon…

Bibliography:
– ‘Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda: Volumes 1-2-3’ – Shri Atmananda (Krishna Menon) (Taken by Nitya Tripta) – (Non-duality Press)
– ‘Atma Darshan’ and ‘Atma Nirvriti’ – Translated by Shri Atmananda himself – (Advaita Publishers)
– ‘Atmananda tattwa samhita’ – (tape-recorded talks between Shri Atmananda and some disciples) (Advaita Publishers)
– ‘Some teachings from Shri Atmananda (Krishna Menon)’ – by Ananda Wood and Dennis Waite

Websites:
Atmananda Krishna Menon (Wikipedia) 
Advaita Vision (The Teaching of Shri Atmananda Krishna Menon) 

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