Thursday, June 12, 2008

Influential authors - J Krishnamurti: Part 1

In the first of a series, I start with J Krishnamurti. You can look forward to many more such authors in this space in the days ahead!

A popular writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects is how he is described in Wikipedia. To me and without doubt to many other book lovers, his books continue to remain a source of deep wealth. His writings don’t read like other people who write in the same genre. They have something about them that is certainly quite hard to describe easily and consequentially difficult to capture with a limited vocabulary like mine.

In college, going through a difficult phase of time, I happened to notice one of his many works in the British Council and I thank my stars that I picked it up. It threw open a whole new way of looking at things and my perspective of life in general. To this day, I remember that evening when I took that book to the nearest chair to have a closer look!

Since then, reading him has always led me to question the prevalent ways of thinking and the societal stereotypes in a broader sense. His style is very different and one can realize it quite immediately.

This part is about his writings in ‘Commentaries on Living – From the notebooks of J Krishnamurti’, edited by D Rajagopal.

Some of the themes are recurrent in many of his works and one such theme is fear. Whenever, I fear anything, if I remember JK, my fear would appear pointless. Here, he takes an example…

“Fear is caused, not by the fact of being inwardly or outwardly alone, but by anticipation of the feeling of being alone. We are afraid not of the fact, but of the anticipated effect of the fact. The mind foresees and is afraid of what might be…there is no fear of the past; but fear is caused by the thought of what the effects of that past might be.”

Yes, more often than not, we feel fear by thinking about either some events of the past or by anticipation of the effects of an action or occurrence in the future, don’t we?

On Habit: “Habit is formed when there is pleasure and the demand for the continuation of the pleasure. Habit is based on pleasure and the memory of it…when the mind indulges in sensation, stimulated by thoughts and pictures, then surely the formation of habit is set going. Food is necessary but the demand for a particular taste in food is based on habit. Finding pleasure in certain thoughts and acts, subtle or crude, the mind insists on their continuance, thereby breeding habit. A repetitive act like brushing one’s teeth in the morning becomes a habit when attention is not given to it. Attention frees the mind from habit.”

The above holds true for all habits. What we think of as bad habits certainly form in this manner and if one realizes this, one can surely work towards getting rid of them?

On seeking God: “How can you seek that which you do not know? You know, or think you know, what God is, and you know according to your own experience which is based on your conditioning; so, having formulated what God is, you proceed to ‘discover’, that which your mind has projected. This is obviously not search; you are merely pursuing what you already know. Search ceases when you know, because knowing is a process of recognition, and to recognize is an action of the past, of the known.”

How often I think of this and wonder how simply he has managed to construct such an argument that is so very strong? People who say, they “seek” God, do they have an answer?

Related to the above, he goes on to write in another part of this book: “The unknown is not to be pursued or sought after. Is he serious, who pursues a projection of his own mind, even when that projection is called God?”

On conventional methods: “A mind that has been made silent is not a silent mind. It is a dead mind. Anything that has been brought to finality by force has to be conquered again and again; there’s no end to it.”

On resistance and conflict: “Have you ever tried listening to noise? Listening to it as you would listen to music... How do you look at a tree, at a beautiful garden, at the sun on the water, or at a leaf fluttering in the wind? Are you conscious when you look at something in that manner? Every form of resistance intensifies conflict, and conflict makes for insensitivity; and when the mind is insensitive, then beauty is an escape from ugliness. If beauty is merely an opposite, it is not beauty. Love is not the opposite of hate.”

To practice this, try listening to a dog barking (noise) “as you would listen to music”, when you are desperately trying to get some sleep. As JK says, don’t try to resist the sound. It will result in conflict. You’ll stop feeling irritated and you’ll doze off!

Together with the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, Krishnamurti was declared by Time magazine to be one of the five saints of the 20th century.

1 comment:

Tim Mulligan said...

I have read a few books by Krishnamurti and he has been a big influence. I enjoyed reading how you came upon K. and the great quotes.