When I first listened to Jiddu Krishnamurti (K) in Bengaluru in 1974, a strange thing happened. As K’s talk progressed, the more intently I listened, the more I confronted myself, re-examining everything about myself. So began my unfinished journey into my own everyday life. K was an extraordinary philosopher for the ordinary person, and his life and work resonated with existential and spiritual insight. Little wonder that Aldous Huxley, after attending one of K’s lectures wrote “…the most impressive thing I have listened to. It was like listening to a discourse of the Buddha, such power, such intrinsic authority…”
Born in1895, in Madanapalle, K was ‘discovered’ when he was 14 by the Theosophical Society, which believed he was the ‘Messiah’, or what they referred to as Maitreya. Annie Besant, who took K under her care, actually set up a worldwide organisation for the coming of the ‘World Teacher’. K underwent an unconventional upbringing, steeped in esoteric teachings and spiritual grooming. However, this carefully articulated journey took a stunning turn in 1929 when K dissolved the Order of the Star of the East, an organisation dedicated to his leadership, declaring that “Truth is a pathless land”. In other words, he simply discarded the notion and possibility of him being ‘Vishwa Guru’.
This audacious act marked the beginning of K’s lifelong commitment to unfettered inquiry. His simplicity and unwavering focus on the individual’s capacity for self-discovery advocated a radical departure from the dogmas and traditions that often shackle the human mind. K implores us to question not only the external world but also the inner workings of our own minds. His philosophy centred on the liberation of consciousness from the bonds of conditioning, ideology, and authority. True freedom could only be achieved through self-awareness and self-understanding.
One of K’s significant contributions to philosophy is his exploration of the nature of thought. He dissected thought meticulously, highlighting its role in shaping our perception of reality, asserting that thought is a product of memory and conditioning, and hence, it can never fully grasp the depth and complexity of life. He encouraged individuals to observe their thought processes without judgement, to understand the limitations of thought, and to transcend the boundaries it creates.
K’s ideas on the nature of conflict and suffering are equally profound. He contended that conflict arises from the division of the self – the inner fragmentation of desires, fears, and ambitions. The pursuit of personal desires and the perpetuation of the self, lead to inevitable conflict, both within individuals and in the world at large. His prescription for resolving this conflict was a radical transformation of consciousness, one that transcends the self-centred ego and embraces a holistic, compassionate way of being.
In his best work, Freedom from the Known (Freedom), Krishnamurti encapsulates his philosophy with remarkable clarity and depth. Published in 1969, this book is a culmination of his decades of teaching and inquiry. In Freedom, K urges readers to embark on a journey to confront the unknown with open minds, unburdened by the baggage of preconceived notions. Its central theme is the notion of psychological freedom, realised only when we liberate ourselves from the constraints of our own conditioning. The book challenges us to examine our beliefs, fears, and attachments, and to question their validity, and the reader begins to understand that freedom is not a destination but a process of constant self-inquiry.
What sets K apart is his emphasis on direct experience, urging us to observe our own lives with a sense of curiosity and wonder, to uncover the root causes of our everyday dilemmas, and transcend them. K’s approach to spirituality is refreshingly unconventional. He rejects organised religion and dogma in favour of a spirituality rooted in ethical conduct.
In Freedom, K’s language is both poetic and precise. He uses metaphor and analogy to elucidate complex ideas, making them accessible to all readers. His writing style is imbued with a sense of urgency, as he implores us to awaken from our psychological slumber and discover the boundless potential of the human mind. K’s life and ideas represent a profound shift in human consciousness.
Read Freedom. It opens your mind. The essence of K’s life, his profound philosophy, and his life’s work dealt with seeking truth and wisdom, a testament to the extraordinary potential of the human spirit. In a world dominated by rituals and received wisdom, godmen and sorcerers, and the intolerance of organised religion, Jiddu Krishnamurti stands tall, a solitary beacon of light, reminding us of the infinite possibilities of the unburdened mind. In his last public talk, he said: “Creation is something that is most holy, that’s the most sacred thing in life, and if you have made a mess of your life, change it, change it today, not tomorrow.”
These words acquire a sense of urgency in this conflicted world of our own making.
(Published 11 November 2023, 21:24 IST)