November 8th, 2015
Jiddu Krishnamurti (b.1895 – 1986) was a philosopher, author and public speaker. He traveled the world and held seminars and discussions regarding his teachings, presiding over groups large and small. I’m still getting a sense of his teachings as a coherent body, but as of this writing I think I can summarize at least some of his worldview and major concerns as follows: a) to realize peace and to attain freedom from suffering for him/herself and for the world, a human being must focus first on improving his or her internal psychological processes; b) an important aspect of this is to observe with total freedom: to examine the self and the world outside the self as free from emotion, bias, and prejudice as possible; c) this kind of observation can help one realize the inseparability of self and World, which itself is a necessary realization for human betterment and advancement; d) all of this, and Krishnamurti’s other teachings, occur outside of established creeds, religions or spiritualities.
Another way to summarize his philosophy, in his own words: Truth can only be found “through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.” And that observation, in its most unbiased form, is Freedom: “Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence.” Krishnamurti wrote very little, believing the kinds of insights he promoted could best come to humankind through the immediacy of discussion, but in 1980 his biographer asked him to summarize some of the main tenets of his thinking; both of the quotes above come from this summary, called “The Core of the Teaching”.
I stumbled across Krishnamurti’s teachings in the last few months, and have been working through audio transcriptions of the “Brockwood Park Seminars”, a series of six seminars given in 1979 and which attempted to systematically wrestle with the question: “What is one to do with the increasing violence in the world?”. By all accounts these seminars summarize Krishnamurti’s teachings fairly well, which is why I chose them as a primer. They are available in the audio section of the online repository of his teachings, found here. Each seminar’s about an hour and twenty minutes.
Now I don’t know who the Brockwood attendees were, and I don’t know the context of these talks (who funded them, how much did it cost to go, were they open to the general public, what is the relationship between the speaker and Brockwood, etc.). But what I do know is that I’ve found the seminars I’ve heard so far to be very compelling opportunities to sit in on charged, unfolding dialectic between a rigorous and passionate thinker and his active, sometimes contentious, sometimes stubborn audience. People during these seminars question Krishnamurti openly (as they should), struggle with concepts, go on tangents, exasperate the speaker. Sometimes this says something about Krishnamurti’s method — he’s going into this with what feels like a clear step-by-step progression that he’s trying to impose on his audience — and sometimes this says something about the difficult and at times revolutionary (intellectually, spiritually) content of his material. Sometimes this just suggests that any attempt to discover, rattle and then modify one’s core assumptions, in a live setting, with other intelligent humans, is going to be fraught, full of false starts, relapses, collapses, etc.
Listening to these seminars has convinced me that a live participatory forum is maybe one of the most invigorating means to not just convey philosophical teachings but enact actual thought and spirit-change. Which is perhaps why you find it repeatedly (though not often enough, to my tastes) in the literature, from Plato to Hume to Wittgenstein. The back-and-forth, the slow building of concepts, the interplay, the suggestion of thought being born right there, of being arrived at, not pre-codified and merely set down as law, stimulates the mind to better accept challenging notions. (Read More . . .)