Jiddu Krishnamurti on love, death, god and more

T.S. NAGARAJAN writes: Mystics, saints, gurus and philosophers have been my subject of interest. I have seen some of them, met some, heard some, read some and, of course, I have photographed some.

It happens that despite my interest in their lives and teachings, I have remained largely uninfluenced by any of them.

I was especially attracted to J. Krishnamurti because of his fame as an orator, philosopher and as one of the most revolutionary thinkers of the 20th century. I read extensively about him and his books with much interest. His precept that no one needs a guru made meaning to me.

A master of words and a great performer, I found Krishnamurti and his lingo very impressive. He usually picked a subject and talked extempore, urging his audience to proceed with him “step by step, logically, rationally, sanely and intelligently”, until they were ready to “take off” with him. But at the end of it all, often it remained unclear how many took off and how many dropped down.

Years ago, in Delhi, I got an opportunity to see him, photograph him, attend a series of his lectures and write about my impressions for a magazine. That was the first and the last time I saw the famed Indian. Since then, to me, Krishnamurti has always remained an enigma.

For Churumuri visitors, I post here an abridged version of my report on the lectures

***

He sat upright on the dais and greeted the audience with folded hands, lowering his head to the extent his bald patch showed. He wore his silvery hair brushed to one side. As he started surveying the audience, I studied his face in slow movement. A fine face, with large eyes. He closed them for a few moments. His face now looked cast in bronze. Suddenly it took on life as J. Krishnamurti addressed the audience, giving every word, every syllable, its full value and stress.

He talked about many things and posed many questions. He answered some of them himself and left the others to be answered by his listeners. “It is your question, not mine. You are putting the question to yourself,” he kept warning his listeners. He made it clear that he was not playing the role of a guru. What was needed was “communication”. He described communication as “sharing together, not merely receiving”.

But from what followed, all that I could sense was a one-way traffic of ideas from the speaker to the listeners. Some of them kept looking at his face like infants.

“A confused mind. Whatever it does results in confusion…. If you change the social structure out of confusion, what you produce is chaos… Is it possible for the human mind to undergo a radical change… to bring about a psychological revolution, evenly?…. Do we understand each other?”

The speaker paused briefly, looked at the audience as though waiting for an answer. No one uttered a word.

He closed his eyes again and asked another question. “Is it possible for a conditioned mind to bring about a revolution?”

Most of us in the crowd looked away from the speaker. A young blonde was struggling amidst the squatters for a place to sit. She was obviously a late-comer.

“Madam, it is difficult to talk unless you sit down and do not disturb people.” the speaker told her pointedly. The crowd absorbed her at once.

Once again, he looked straight at his listeners, closed his eyes, and spoke. This time slowly and softly, with long intervals between words.

“Can the mind change through analysis? Please observe it yourself; don’t listen to the speaker casually. Share together.”

Silence.

“Oh, Lord! I don’t know. Are you following all this? It becomes extremely difficult if you treat this as an intellectual affair.”

Silence.

“We are fragmented human beings inwardly and outwardly. Pease observe this. You are not being taught by me.

“Who is the examiner? Who is the analyser? Is he not one of the fragments of all the fragments- a super fragment?

“Are you following all this? Please do share it,” he said touching his heart. He seemed to go off again into a state of intense concentration sitting there erect, eyes closed. “If both these, the analyser and the thing analysed, are the same, then conflict comes to an end.”

Someone asked in a faint voice: “Is the observer different from the thing he observes?”

The speaker continued with the lecture. He asked himself questions which concerned the mind, beliefs, conflicts, passion, love and sensitivity. He even talked about the moon (I don’t know why people go there”). Rarely did he say anything without posing it as a question.

Every succeeding question seemed to make the preceding one a little clearer, thereby creating a sense of shared understanding. Towards the end of the lecture bigger issues came up for analysis:

“Psychologically, is there a tomorrow?”

It was past seven. The speaker had crossed his 60-minute barrier. The early darkness of Delhi’s winter had driven away the twilight. The speaker pulled out his pocket-watch: “I don’t know what the time is. You might like to ask some questions.”

A young man stood up in a hurry. The speaker turned towards him and said:

“Wait, Sir. Whom are you asking the question?”

“You Sir,” the young man answered.

The question is important to you and so you want to share it with the speaker,” he said reminding the questioner of the “shared together” appeal he had made earlier.

“Sir, you are using the words you and your mind. Are they synonymous?” the young man asked.

JK: “Is that a question?” ( laughter )

“I think so,” answered the young man firmly.

JK: “Are you your mind? Aren’t you?  What you think, you are… a Buddhist, a communist. Or a Christian. Why do you separate yourself from what you are?”

The questioner sat down. I could not make out what he thought of himself or the speaker.

More people got up with questions, some clever and others not so clever. But the speaker had an answer to every question- or at least a counter question.

Now it was the turn of an old gentleman, probably in his seventies, who had a green muffler wrapped around his neck. I had seen him nod his head in agreement every time the speaker made a forceful point. He stood up and asked in a rather high pitched voice:

“Sir, do you believe that there is anything beyond man?”

The speaker raised his eyes towards the sky, and, with an enigmatic smile, answered:

“The speaker is saying: do not believe. And at the end of an hour and a quarter, the speaker is being asked: do you believe?”

More questions followed, some of which produced laughter. But before the din of the laughter had subsided, I saw the speaker get up to leave.

I attended two more lectures. The second fell into the same pattern as the first.

Exactly an hour later, the question-and-answer period began. The green- mufflered man asked his questions and got his answers. Again there was more laughter, less understanding.

On the day of the third lecture, I arrived a little early since a larger crowd was expected. The shamiana was full. Everything looked set with all the familiar faces in their places.

It was six. The lecture began. The speaker said that he was going to consider the question:

“What is death?”

But to start with he went into great detail trying to explain what love is.

“If you don’t know what love is, you don’t know what death is.”

“What is love Sir?” he asked looking towards a young man.

The young man sat silent.

“Please Sir, do answer it,” persisted the speaker. Some of the listeners nodded their heads.

“Don’t nod your heads, please… It does not matter if you don’t understand. It is up to you.” said the speaker. By the time he considered this question of love, what it is and how the correct understanding of its meaning was necessary to understand death, it was time to look at the watch.

“Have we time to go into the question of death now? We have fifteen minutes,” he told the audience.

“Yes, yes,” said some listeners. He waited for the noise to subside, straightened his back which was already straight, closed his eyes and asked himself aloud:

“What it means to die.”

“Simply put, coming to an end…which is the ending of things known, not unknown because you are not frightened of it. What you are frightened of is the ending of your memory, words, possessions, furniture…  When you end these, you will know what it means to die.”

The green-mufflered gentleman stood up and asked a question. He had moved away to the entrance.

“Kindly tell me categorically whether there is life hereafter…”

Many of us near the dais could not hear him fully. But the speaker came to our rescue. He repeated the question for the benefit of the audience.

“The gentleman wants to know if there is life after death,” he said and asked back:

“In general or in particular?”

There was a burst of laughter from the audience and even before the speaker had finished with his first questioner, more stood up to ask more questions. One man by my side asked:

“Do you believe in God?”

This led to a serious argument almost bordering on a quarrel between the two questioners. Each charged the other with encroachment.

The speaker remained unperturbed. When the noise abated, he announced”

I shall answer it next Sunday, 5 pm.” and left.

***

Note: I attended these three lectures in  Delhi,1971.  J. Krishnamurti was then 76. He died in 1986.