The Seer Who Walks Alone
J. Krishnamurti, the philosopher-sage, with a past of the nature of myth, died at the age of 91. Until his death, he remained young in mind, straight-backed with the majesty and beauty of an ancient Deodhar tree, wandering around the world, teaching and healing the minds of the vast numbers of young and old, the intellectual and the simple human beings who came to him overburdened with conflict and sorrow.
Born in Madanapalli, a small rural town in Andhra Pradesh, the eighth child of a Telugu Brahmin petty official, the signs of his mystical nature were evident in Krishnamurti from early childhood. His mother died when he was young. Though he was vague and uninterested in studies, often beaten at school, his father had noticed an unusual capacity in the child for silence, observation and attention. He describes the boy Krishnamurti standing for hours watching the clouds form in the sky, looking at plants or sitting cross-legged observing the behaviour of ants. Strangely enough, he was intensely interested in mechanical contrivances, in repairing watches or, in later years, working on car engines. Naryanyah, Krishnamurti’s father, was a Theosophist and after retirement sought employment at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar.
One day, when Krishnamurti was playing on the beach, he was noticed by C.W. Leadbeater, a clairvoyant and one of the top men in the theosophical hierarchy. Leadbeater was struck by the luminous aura of the child, whom he found to be pure and free of all selfishness. The esoteric masters of the Society had instructed their disciples to be on the watch; for a great Being was to manifest in the world.
Dr. Annie Besant took the child and his brother Nitya under her protection and guardians were appointed to prepare the body of Krishnamurti for the coming of the great Being.
As a boy, Krishnamurti had the supreme beauty of a forest fawn. The face was oval. The large, wide, open eyes gazed into the distance. There was gravity and dignity. As he grew up, vast hierarchical organisations were built around him and estates, lands and endowments were gifted to him for his work. Devotees from all over the world flocked to him.
Dr. Annie Besant tried to get admission for Krishnamurti to one of the prestigious colleges of Oxford. An apocryphal story relates the response of the head who said, “Annie, this college has no competence to educate Messiahs.” Adulated by vast numbers, arousing the cynical comments and derision of others for his role as the coming Messiah, he grew up as a sensitive, vulnerable young man, with little to say, adopting the old world manners and the understatements of the British, amongst whom he was brought up. Meanwhile the hierarchical structures were growing stronger, special disciples were being appointed around the world teacher, churches and rituals established.
The death of Nitya was Krishnamurti’s first contact with sorrow. It possibly triggered the awakening in him of that illumined intelligence that, while dormant, had sustained him through the years. He grew aware of the illusions and ambitions that made up his environment. He saw the pettiness of most of the so-called “great ones.” He saw that the structures and hierarchies that had been built in his name were seeking to imprison him.
Dr. Annie Besant, whom he loved and respected, was ageing. Many of those who surrounded her were influencing her to take actions that Krishnamurti considered morally wrong and destructive. Large endowments of land and money had created vested interests; conflicts were surfacing. At the time, Krishnamurti was undergoing powerful mystical experiences. Though he rarely speaks of that period, everything that he had been taught, or had come to accept, was being negated. A new Krishnamurti was emerging: still shy, reticent, but totally free, within himself, and free of all environmental influence.
In 1929, at a camp held in the 5,000 acre estate that had been gifted to him and was the centre of the organisations set up in his name, Krishnamurti said, “Truth is a pathless land. No organisation, no belief can lead to truth.” The thousands of devotees who had gathered to hear him were bewildered. “I have no disciples—gurus step down the truth—Truth is within yourself.”
In one clean sweep, he denied all hierarchies in the religious mind. “To find Truth man must be free.” The following year, Krishnamurti dissolved the Order of the Star, the main organisation built for the coming of the world teacher. He gave back to the donors the moneys and vast properties, including the 5000-acre estate in Holland.
In 1933, with the death of Dr. Annie Besant, his last links with the Theosophical Society snapped. Then free of all property and organisations, alone except for a few friends who later were to rally around him, he left the society, its hierarchical organisations, its rituals and beliefs.
During the years of World War II, he was stranded in Ojai, California. Much of the time he was alone, cultivating roses, milking cows. He was inwardly alive, listening, observing, probing, questioning the world within him and around him. In the silence of solitary walks, the teaching flowered.
Aldous Huxley, who lived close by, became a friend. Huxley, one of the most erudite minds of his times, talked; Krishnamurti listened. In turn, Huxley listened and learnt to be silent when Krishnamurti spoke of perception, of time and of awareness.
Huxley was to write the foreword to Krishnamurti’s book The First and Last Freedom. In 1961, just before his death, Aldous was to hear Krishnamurti speak at Gstaad in Switzerland. Writing to a friend he describes it as “amongst the most impressive things I have listened to—it was like listening to the discourse of the Buddha—such power, such intrinsic authority, such uncompromising refusal to allow the homme moyen sensuel any escape or surrogates, any gurus, saviours, führers, churches. “I show you sorrow and the ending of sorrow.”
In 1947-48, Krishnamurti was to come to India after an absence of nearly ten years. It was a time when the euphoria of freedom had been shattered by the violence and bloodshed of partition. Gandhiji’s murder had left his followers bewildered and rudderless.
Drawn by Krishnamurti’s supreme presence, the beauty, stillness and compassion of his being and his capacity to heal the mind and unburden sorrow, the young and the old, the man seeking God, the social worker and the politician came to him. In his public discourses, in his small discussion groups, in the individual interviews he gave, he negated all beliefs, all psychological and religious tradition, all gurus and crutches to reality. He probed into the human mind with the same extensive awareness, as he gives to everything he does, from talking to a child, to facing a mother whose son is dead.
Questioned on his role he says, “I am only acting as a mirror to your life, in which you can see your life as you are. Then you can throw away the mirror; the mirror is not important.”
He speaks of self-knowing as the beginning of all wisdom. “Read every word, every phrase, read every paragraph of your mind—and you cannot read if you are condemning or justifying or if you are not awake to the implications of every thought.” To the man in sorrow, with deep compassion he says: “The problem of sorrow ceases to exist not by transforming sorrow into happiness, greed into love, but in a transformation of the ground in which sorrow springs. The change or transformation is, therefore, not in quality but in nature, in dimension.”
From 1948, with the vision of the seer, Krishnamurti has been aware of the unprecedented crisis that faces humanity. Exploding populations, dramatic advances in the field of computers and electronics, genetic engineering, micro-technology, the threat to existing energy resources are generating tensions, changing environments and the tools and artefacts which man uses. The new methods of storing and communicating knowledge may ultimately make man’s mind obsolete, except for the few who create the technologies and nourish them.
While man discovers the mysteries of space and reaches for the stars, he also stands at the edge of an abyss of total annihilation. The extinction of life is at the very core of man’s anxiety.
Today, man is faced with a complexity of problems that he can neither face nor comprehend. Within himself he remains fearful, violent, brutal, insecure. The brain that holds these distortions is the same brain that controls the tools and levers of the new technologies.
Seeing the explosions of violence, war, assassinations, the spread of corruption and disintegration of ethical values, a growing callousness is on the increase. Sensing man’s growing isolation and despair, the threat to the sacred dimensions of life and a growing insensitivity to man’s communion with nature and the cosmos, with an urgency and passion Krishnamurti asks, “What is the future of man?” He sees more and more the functions of the human mind being taken over by the new machines and that man’s faculties, if unused, will slowly wither away. That is the inevitable law of nature. Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “Specialisation paralyses, ultra specialisation kills. Palaeontology is littered with such catastrophes.”
To Krishnamurti if man has to survive he has to break through the limitations of the human mind. He has no choice. The unused potentialities of the mind have to awaken.
Krishnamurti says, “Our seeing is very limited. Our eyes are accustomed to near things. We do not know how to look through and beyond fragmentary frontiers. But the eyes have to see beyond them, penetrating deeply and wisely without choosing, without shelter; they have to wander, beyond man-made frontiers.”
Man has to see, to listen, to ponder, to ask fundamental questions and to hold them in the mind so that their gravity permeates consciousness. The mind has to renew itself, generate new untapped resources of energy. This alone will enable man to view the world holistically and to hold and control knowledge and the technologies that threaten to overwhelm him.
Krishnamurti does not deny the wonder of science and technology. He is profoundly interested in the mechanical workings of the computer and the ever-receding limits to its functions. But seeing the inherent dangers in the present situation, he demands a mutation in the human mind so that the tool does not take over the inhuman role of master. For this, the “within” can no longer be ignored. This within is unexplored so far. The insight man lacks is the apprehension that he is the maker of problems and that the root of the problem-making machinery is his mind. It is in this area of perception that the ultimate freedom of man lies. It is from this freedom, this awareness of the within, that action can arise that can transform man and society.
Krishnamurti has held discussions into man’s problems and his travail with the great scientists of the world, men working at the frontiers of the scientific knowledge, psychiatrists, thinkers, religious heads, political leaders, students and children. With children in the many schools started to serve as a milieu for his teachings, his language becomes lucid, simple. He discusses with children their relationship to nature and to each other, fear, death, authority, competition, love, freedom. The child responds at first shyly, then with a spontaneous freedom. He explores with the child the most complex problems. He asks the child to watch thought, in the mind, as he would watch a lizard moving across a wall, to watch every movement, not letting a single movement escape. He tells the child that academic excellence is essential, but he also speaks to the child of the awakening of intelligence which arises out of observation, self-knowing and compassion. Can these two streams he fused? He questions. The child listens, questions, perhaps understands more directly than the many who come with minds burdened with knowledge.
There is a tendency today to see Krishnamurti’s teaching as a “soft” teaching of love and freedom. In reality, the teaching demands not only a life of correctness, a life free of self-centred activity, but the awakening of enormous energy, radiating and integral perception, which alone frees man from duality and the bondage of time. It demands muscle and tone and an extension of the horizons of the mind. It is a tough, relentless pursuit, in the ending of which is the arising of insight and the flowering of goodness and compassion.
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