I did not know J Krishnamurti personally and had only one occasion to see and hear him, but this talk is very vivid in my memory. In October 1982, while posted in Bihar, I had gone to Delhi to attend an official meeting and a friend took me to a talk by J Krishnamurti. We entered the hall where the event was organized and took our seats. After some time, a frail old man, immaculately dressed in kurta pyjama and jacket, and neatly combed all-white hair, entered the hall and took his seat. In spite of his age (I was told he was over eighty-five), he sat totally erect. He had a fair complexion, a sharp nose and a very handsome face. He gazed at his audience, and when he looked towards where I sat, I felt he was looking directly at me. I felt a great sense of affection towards him, as I would when looking at somebody very dear to me. There was nobody to introduce him or what he was going to talk about. Looking towards his audience, he started speaking.
I can never forget his opening words, as they made an everlasting impression on me, which I carry even now and will do forever, as it changed my life. He started like this:
This is not a lecture, but rather a conversation between two people, between you and the speaker, not on a particular subject, instructing and shaping your thought or opinions. We are two friends sitting in a park on a bench, talking over together our problems, friends who are concerned deeply with what is going on in the world, with the confusion, the chaos that exists throughout the world. I wonder if you have a friend with whom you talk, to whom you expose your own feelings, your concepts, your ideas, disillusionment, and so on. We are going to talk over together in that manner – exploring, enquiring, without any bias, in great friendship, which means with great affection, respecting each other, without having some kind of hidden thought, hidden motives.
Then he went on to talk about the reasons and causes of confusion in our life. After this talk, I got thinking, and I recalled that I had first heard of Krishnamurti in 1970, when I was a graduate student at the University of Waterloo in Canada, from a Professor K Ariaratnam, a professor of civil engineering, who had recently attended a talk by Krishnamurti near Los Angeles.
Later, reading Krishnamurti's conversations with Professor Allan Anderson, along with hearing Krishnamurti in person in New Delhi in 1982, really got me interested in what he was talking about and what he was telling his audiences all over the world. I had always thought that getting into the Indian Administrative Service was the high-water mark in my life and that I needed no other support system, until I heard Krishnamurti in 1982. Even after this, I continued my life in self-doubt for eighteen years, till the year 2000.
It was in January 2000 that I got a chance to visit Rajghat, Varanasi, with a relative of mine, who was at one time a student of Rajghat Besant School. We moved around the Rajghat campus and visited the room where Krishnamurti used to stay whenever he visited Rajghat. I noticed that there was no statue or memorial or place to worship Krishnamurti anywhere on the Rajghat campus, nor were there any prayers conducted for him. This seemed a little odd to my mind, which was conditioned in Hindu traditions.
It was this visit to Rajghat that really got me interested in Krishnamurti's teachings and I started reading the books. It was revealing to find an absolutely clear analysis of profound human problems and also to find Krishnamurti's explanation about why the only way to solve them was by ourselves. Till now I, like many others, had been looking for solutions to my problems outside, little realizing that one had to look inside oneself. I had also read some books on Buddhism, and on one human emotion, anger, the Buddha says: 'Slay anger and you will be happy. With anger slain, one weeps no more.' We know that an angry man is an ugly man with peace and happiness miles away. Despite all the comforts we may have, we cannot sleep; despite our wealth, we are poor. Filled with anger, one hurts others by acts of body and speech. Many of us tend to get angry over the slightest issue or irritant. If someone has hurt us or our near and dear ones, or if someone has caused us material loss, or has not behaved well with us, we get furious, and do things only a mad person does. It is true that not all of us react in anger and make a counter-attack. The more sensible among us would like to pass off such cases as not our problem but that of the person causing it. But the problem remains how to slay anger. I found Krishnamurti's description of anger scientific and realistic: he tells us to be aware of anger and examine the cause of it, rather than condemn it or run away from it and blame others for it. If one could just observe it without judging or measuring it, then one could be free of it.
My introduction to spirituality had been through my mother, who was deeply religious without very strictly following the Hindu rituals. Every evening, after the household work was done, when the stars began appearing, she would light an earthen lamp and place it in front of the tulsi plant. One day when I sat beside her and asked why she lit the lamp, she said: 'When at night someone lights thousands of stars for me, I light a lamp to Him.' I sat with her silently, looking at the sky, and as the evening darkened and more and more stars appeared, I tried harder to see the lighter of a thousand stars. Years later I wondered: 'Is religion our relationship with the infinite, the entire world without, the stars and the grass, and the dweller within, and is that dweller God, nothing or I?' Many times in my life I have stood dumb before the austere beauty of man's relationship with the ultimate silence of nothingness. But will I, like my mother, ever know the lighter of a thousand stars?
When I grew up I began to reflect on why, given all its achievements, humankind is anxious over the state of the world, over what might happen tomorrow? Why have humans become the greatest enemy of humans and of the earth? Why have we made nuclear bombs? Why are we lonely, insecure and unhappy? When the earth has such beautiful things to offer, why can't we listen, touch, smell and see, respond and create, celebrate in song, dance and poetry, like Tagore did? Why have we lost our ability to relate?
As if in response to my questions, Krishnamurti's books compelled me to have a dialogue with myself that challenged my very way of living and thinking. I saw very clearly the need for a deep psychological change. I saw how even the modern system of education, of which I was a product, was poison in disguise, corrupting human society to the core; and I saw how in order to establish a sane, compassionate society, we would need an altogether different home, school and university, founded on an understanding of our relationship with the world, and of our own minds mirrored in that relationship. Krishnamurti's teachings did provide an answer to many of my queries at the intellectual level, but how was one to have a quiet mind, which Krishnamurti had talked about?
Some of the statements he made during the course of his talks got me thinking further. Here are some that got me really stirred mentally:
We may be highly educated, but if we are without deep integration of thought and feeling, our lives are incomplete, contradictory and torn with many fears, and as long as education does not cultivate an integral outlook on life, it has very little significance.
A consistent thinker is a thoughtless person,because he conforms to a pattern, he repeatsphrases and thinks in a groove.
What Krishnamurti says about dying psychologically every minute is to look at the views, opinions, which we have held for years, and be willing to change them if we see that they are false. This means 'dying to' our prejudices, which we have accumulated and which are illusions. One cannot 'die to' truth because truth is 'what is'. It is not an idea or opinion.
On the question of authority, Krishnamurti says:
All authority of any kind, especially in the field of thought and understanding, is the most destructive, evil thing. Leaders destroy the followers and followers destroy the leaders. You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. Y ou have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary.
As a matter of fact, it was the feeling of wonder that gave birth to what we call subjects or disciplines. The starting point is wonder, which leads on to curiosity and inquiry. Our surroundings evoke questions as day moves into night and on to another day. Likewise, feelings arouse questions. Compassion, too, is the source of questioning. If we learn this art of questioning and keep our mind alive, we find that we do not accept opinions and beliefs blindly. A mind that listens to questions and thinks over them quietly is an inquiring mind. If our mind is stuffed with opinions and beliefs, it will be like a cramped room with no space, no windows open into the world.
We do notice that when we are far away from the crowds, alone and by ourselves, perhaps at night, certain very personal questions arise within the mind. Why did I get angry with 'X' today? Why do I generally get angry over small things? What are my worries? What are my fears? Little questions, big questions, some silly questions, some very serious questions. This is the time to have a dialogue with oneself and if we learn to go on questioning ourselves about what is happening inside us, we may discover many interesting things about the world within us, just as we have so much knowledge stashed inside our brain about the outside world.
In my dialogues with students and teachers at Rajghat, I have observed that one question leads to another: Why am I nervous today? Is it because I am afraid of facing new people? Why should that make me so nervous? All these come up in dialogue with students and teachers, and one finds out the deep-rooted courses and causes of such emotions.
After being in touch with Krishnamurti's teachings for eleven years now, I can see that Krishnamurti discussed the profound questions we face in life and sought answers without referring to any religious scriptures, but by looking into these and many more questions through enquiry, observation and self-knowledge. He spoke only from his own observations.
Krishnamurti said very clearly, time and again, that the only way a change or transformation in the consciousness could happen was by the direct perception of truth, by a mind that was free of conditioning and of its past (which is experience and knowledge), so that it could receive the immeasurable. Krishnamurti did not claim to be a guru or an authority. His aim, he said, was to hold a mirror in which individuals could see themselves revealed if they chose.
He questioned our identification with any group, religion or country and said that 'identification' puts an end to all creative understanding. Identification puts an end to love and to experiencing anew. Identification was surely possession, assertion ofownership—and ownership denies love. To own is to try to be secure and there couldnot be love where there was defensiveness.
Krishnamurti gave a new definition to words like a 'religious mind', 'time' and'love', different from what we normally mean and understand. Men like Krishnamurti are very rare, and I consider those people who got in close contact with him really fortunate. I am indeed blessed in interacting with those who really were close to J Krishnamurti and knew him.