Up to this point in Visionaries, the pulse of the universe has been demonstrated by the body-workers F.M.Alexander (1869-1955) and Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984). This re-educational work manifested as most unexpected and spiritual guidance through opening up different ways of using the mind inside the body indirectly, based on the fundamental that body and mind are one continuum. With their insights, they have reached into me and many of their devotees, way below the tip of the iceberg of the conscious mind, leading me to realizations of the true self, revealing my true nature, and so on to new ways of being in daily life.
Most overtly spiritual trainings for adults advocate new beginnings, wiping the slate clean, replacing and relinquishing, purifying and burning away existing negative karma or sin, and so becoming entirely transformed. This radical perfectionism implies that what we are and have become throughout our lives up to the point of transformation, is not acceptable, is flawed, soiled. Indeed, that we have made far too many mistakes to repair and that there is nothing worth salvaging.
We are urged to give things up, to change our views, to let go of everything and everyone so that we can become something or someone new, and that this can be brought about only through hard discipline and control, in addition to taking a long time. In fact, to make this possible we must dedicate our lives to undoing all that has been done so far in order for us to find an ultimate freedom from all sufferings and eternal joy. But, what if we are already divine emanations of purity, and our links to the gods are in tact? And what if in fact we are gods with unique diamonds inside us that have become submerged under the world’s sufferings and delusions? To use a worldly analogy, perhaps we can be stripped down, oiled, cleaned and polished, and so perform like new instead of being discarded and replaced by a new model.
What if our “imperfect” voices are needed in the world, and we have simply given in to the hordes of enviers and critics, becoming increasingly passive in the world, inert, fixing ourselves into our separate virtual worlds, never to glimpse reality again? That the various masks that we create and wear on appropriate social-professional occasions, can no longer be removed. In other words, our status – gender, relationship, education, profession, reputation, class -, indeed all the badges that mark us out from others in some way, making us members of a group, has become embedded as our false reality.
Both Alexander and Feldenkrais worked to empower anyone, regardless of status, to take control of their true being, by peeling back the layers of conditioning and mind-shaping from external sources, kicking the habits and breaking up the patterns, until we no longer interfere with the natural perfection we are endowed with as neonates and infants. Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), Indian philosopher, mystic and thinker, reaches into us in a similar way, passionately encouraging us to sing with our own voices instead of imitating those of others, to believe in ourselves instead of the mediocre who have been promoted to the ranks of indoctrinators, so-called leaders, and to step away from groups, even from the family, to find true freedom.
Krishnamurti offered no body-work to walk out of our minds towards, and no meditational focus to lose ourselves in. He above all insisted that we must know ourselves intimately and unconditionally accept exactly who we are at this moment, not deluding ourselves with ‘we used to be,’ or who ‘we might be if only….. .’
Krishnamurti made it very clear at the outset of his work in the public eye, that he wanted to avoid all status, all badges, and refused the guidance of all leaders be it religious, scholarly, political, or sovereign. He lived his life moving around India and English Speaking nations, casteless, nationality-less, religion-less and philosophy-less, lodging with friends or staying in cheap hotels, carrying all his possessions in one small suitcase. He willingly spoke to groups of people who followed him devoutly as a philosopher, as spiritual leaders have always done, and gave advice to politicians and religious/spiritual leaders only when consulted. But always he made it completely clear that he was not a leader.
The world expected him to be a ‘World Teacher,’ but he denied that he was a teacher of any kind, and disbanded all organizations that supported this idea. Instead, he reasoned with individual psyches, encouraging them to initiate an immediate and self-initiated revolution inside which could never be brought about from external sources, and especially not from the influence of spiritual, religious or political leaders. He refused to accept any promises of inner revolution ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week,’ insisting that time rendered them dead, inert.
Most of the organizations he associated with still exist and are strictly non-profit making, including several independent schools based on his revolutionary view of education. Despite his death almost 30 years ago, his supporters continue to transcribe the thousands of talks he gave, group and individual discussions he participated in, and writings, into a variety of media formats and languages. But he insisted that everything he said and wrote belonged to the world and not to him personally, and so there were to be no copyrights or publishers contracts, and no financial gains.
As mentioned earlier, Alexander and Feldenkrais committed themselves to body re-education, unconsciously touching the unconscious mind deeply, almost wordlessly, inadvertently, while Krishnamurti openly committed himself to courageously living the messages he delivered to the populace. There was no structure, no technique, no system, simply a mask-less man in constant revolution. He used his body as Buddhas and wandering Holy men have done traditionally to live out his ideals, but he found a way to do it without retreating from the world, from societies, and going to live in a cave for dozens of years. He ensured that his life could never be imitated by disciples or communities of the chosen few, because he found a way to live out his true nature, developing that part of him through re-education of the mind without any teachers or doctrines, and increasingly beyond all conditioning. Some called him the next Buddha, Maitreya; others, the modern Messiah.
The story behind his life started when he was 14. His extraordinary being first came to the notice of a prominent Theosophical teacher, Charles Webster Leadbeater, known as a clairvoyant, who on first meeting Krishnamurti said, he ‘was amazed by the most wonderful aura he had ever seen, without a particle of selfishness in it.’ In retrospect, 75 years later, he described young Krishnamurti as a vessel with a large hole in it, so that whatever was put into it, went through, leaving nothing behind. In other words, an empty vessel, the final ambition of most spiritual aspirants. However, Krishnamurti had neither undergone spiritual training, nor received any teachings or initiations. He was chosen to be the World Teacher by this organization, which set about preparing him.
Then, at the age of 27, he had a life-altering experience in USA. He himself later described this first as an awakening, and then as longer bouts of this experience appeared, as the process, which occurred frequently throughout the rest of his life until he died. He described these events in more detail in various ways: the benediction, the immensity, the sacredness, the vastness, but most often as, the otherness or the other. It all started with an acute pain in his neck, which worsened over the next few days, and seemed to witnesses like a loss of consciousness, though he himself assured everyone that he had never been more aware of his surroundings in all his life. He claimed that he experienced a mystical union during this time, writing in his notebook after such an acute episode the next morning.
…woke up early with that strong feeling of otherness, of another world that is beyond all thought…there is a heightening of sensitivity. Sensitivity, not only to beauty but also to other things. The blade of grass was astonishingly green; that one blade of grass contained the whole spectrum of colour; it was intense, dazzling and such a small thing, so easy to destroy…. (1)
Krishnamurti wrote extensively about being ‘an individual,’ of setting humans free from society, from their various confining communities and religions, from their conditioning, and from their own minds. It seems that his outbreaks of ‘otherness’ represented his first steps towards becoming a liberated individual himself. It was after the process started, or that he became aware of it, that he made a decision to refuse his ‘Coming’ as the World Teacher. He said the following in 1929:
“I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path….This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, not to establish new theories and new philosophies.” (2)
These selfless ‘insights’ are offered, whether we accept them or not, in much the same way as those of Feldenkrais and Alexander, as well as the original teachings of the world’s great spiritual leaders, who were also reluctant to become ‘teachers,’ or ‘leaders.’ Krishnamurti makes is abundantly clear that there is no compulsion, persuasion, to take him seriously because essentially it is up to each of us to find truth for ourselves, and that there are definitely no universal paths leading there. ‘Insights’ are dynamically different to theories or philosophies because there is no element of indoctrination, or attempts to separate groups away from other groups. Krishnamurti did dedicate his entire life to ‘setting man free’ exactly as he promised, with all of his energy.
As he approached old age and became weak, his associates were forced to understand that there would be no successor, and all the insights he had been privileged to share would die with him. He emphasized that he was merely a conduit for universal teachings and that the people he addressed and had contact with throughout his life could approach that energy and gain some understanding, but only “if they live the teachings.” He likened his life to Thomas Edison’s, the inventor of electricity and its derivatives, implying that he did the work and now people only needed to flick the switch.
Of course, in this series, it is impossible to go into all the aspects of what he refused to call ‘his teachings.’ preferring to use the phrase, ‘the teachings,’ so as a teacher myself, having pledged to impart skills and information to others, I would like to discuss Krishnamurti’s revolutionary notion of teaching and teachers. As mentioned, we can observe this trend in the work of Alexander and Feldenkrais also, ie. the idea that we must essentially teach ourselves, and that self-education is our only choice for real change. It is also a seminal notion of one of the world’s greatest teachers, the Buddha. The system of teachings he created has at its core the understanding that all humans are unique ‘individuals,’ and consequently no one person can learn what another does in the same way. Understanding this deeply, he presented what was to be ‘learned,’ his insights, in as broad a way as possible so that there would be something for everyone. Other renowned spiritual ‘leaders’ or gurus did the same using parables or meta-stories to bring about real changes at a deep unconscious level.
Krishnamurti realised that most of us have cut all ties with nature, living in artificial environments, using our bodies to earn a living and recover from it in our leisure time, to take care of our responsibilities, and to vent or to bury our dreams often by using substances to alter our conscious state. The hallmarks of formal education on the whole are similar characterless classrooms, huge blackboards or white boards, cheap furniture, in fact, a utilitarian environment in every way. Electric lighting, and artificial cooling/heating systems create a highly unhealthy environment to work in both for students and teachers. Students like workers usually have to force themselves to go to their classes, threatened by parents, fearful of not earning the credits they need, they often time-watch during the class, some unable to disengage themselves from their mobile phones, and when the end of class finally comes, their faces light up and they run off to meet their friends.
Another way of seeing these synthetic ways of being is that there is little or no integration in our lives: we put on our uniforms and masks to go to work or school, and we put on other uniforms and masks when we rest: the former demands high tension and is driven by massive stress loads, and the latter seems to have no tension at all, which might be called ‘oblivion’ in some cases, and the desire for the complete absence of stress or external demands. We dutifully go between states, behaving in appropriate ways to keep harmony, rarely able to follow our true nature or inclinations.
Perhaps very few people are able to enjoy their work or study in the same way as they enjoy their leisure time, and working and studying for the populace are inevitable to provide financial buffers so that leisure time can be enjoyed to the fullest. Alexander referred to this as ‘end-gaining’ and lack of ‘inhibition,’ while Feldenkrais saw it as a misplacement of attention, ie. on the improvement of properties or disposition instead of on the natural process of life, on what he/she does and how, while who does it becomes of ever decreasing importance. The modern developed world requires that the majority of us earn a living mostly by working for others, or to obtain qualifications to be able to work, for the majority of our time.
As with working, we mostly fail to integrate learning into our lives. We study hard for the most part to gain the credentials to enable us to acquire status, respect from others, and knowledge or expertise, which will lift us above others, make us superior. Krishnamurti realised that schools and universities and other formal places of learning were simply a holding measure for large societies, and that therefore, students were instructed what to think and how to imitate their teachers in order to contain them. He came to call the conflict or contradiction an individual experiences and eventually becomes immune to in our traditions of conventional education, ‘friction’ or ‘contradiction,’ and asserted that the root of this conflict was desire – the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.
Conflict is a state of division, of separation, a walk into a ‘corridor of duality.’ (3) It exists usually when there is comparison, not just between inert objects, but between people, between today and yesterday, between what has been and what is. Educators mistakenly hope that through comparison with others, students will evolve, will grow, will become more intelligent, more beautiful, etc. But this separation between the learner, other learners and the learned, greatly fragments reality. He said,
“To see what you actually are without any comparison gives you tremendous energy to look. When you can look at yourself without comparison you are beyond comparison….”(4)
He also viewed any kind of separation as violence, as discrimination, which is why he lived the way he did. He desperately sought ways of communicating non-violently in a kind and open way, of sharing himself with others without attachment or violence. Especially in the sphere of self-conscious learning, this separation probably comes from fear, which people in general are constantly trying to escape from-fear of failure, of being unintelligent, of making a fool of yourself through your ignorance, and a million other fears. But there is actually no escape from fear because we cannot separate ourselves from it, and once we accept that it is part of us and that there is nothing we can do about it, it disappears. It is, like most of the ‘things’ in our lives, merely a concept, a theory generated from words and thoughts.
Indeed, we habitually make images, concepts, ideas, and so rarely experience anything directly. If we experience fear directly, not at a distance, not looking on as a disembodied witness, we realise we are the fear and that it is no longer important. It is fear of the fear that breathes life into fear and prolongs and intensifies it. In a similar way, if we realise that what we are learning is part of us, not something separate, a commodity to be bought and negotiated with, that we have to acquire, then perhaps we can live without conflict or desire, or friction, and we will one day walk out into the light of reality and true happiness.
If we take on the theories of teachers, scholars and so on, and then try to see the world according to that so-called expert, how can we possibly understand ourselves in a concrete way? How can we possibly feel as Freud felt, or Anne Frank, or dead heroes of the Russian Revolution? In the same way, how can a student feel as his teacher does about the topic in hand? So, this constant searching outside your own mind for what you should feel or fear, means you are never present, right now and here, slap bang in the middle of the moment, your moment.
Even the concept of time creates fear: fear of the future, of the past, of an entirely delusional but tyrannical chronology. ‘Time’ is a process of the mind, which we have hung names on to to fix it, and which we either become afraid of or desire. In fact, the rickety structures of time and space are simply ideas which we put where we know we can always find and control them, outside us. We think that we cannot live without them, but they are simply another delusion to separate us away from the still silent constantly moving totality of reality.
The basis of the entire western educational structure is thinking and all the activities related to this mightiest of distractions from reality. It creates friction to separate us away from our truth, and kills everything, categorizing and classifying into time frames. Thought is a dead thing: once is has come about, it is finished, and yet we run courses in creative thinking, in logical thinking, and so on. According to this idea, it seems that Descartes, the principal philosopher of Existentialism, was a Master of creating such conflict – ‘we think therefore we are?’
Krishnamurti was certain that if we confront something immediately without the interval of ‘fictional’ time, which allows for the deadening of thought, there is no fear. It seems that we have become addicted to separations: we apply thought to menial actions, to future plans, to learning from mistakes, which causes us to never directly sense the full view. We hide ourselves behind a flickering screen of images and words and beliefs instead of being now and here in each moment; instead of being ‘me’ in ‘choiceless awareness’ or ‘alert passivity,’ as he called this natural state.
‘Living in the present is the instant perception of beauty and the great delight in it without seeking pleasure from it.’ (5)
In other words, we should stop relentlessly seeking and just consolidate the gifts we are already endowed with, revealing our diamond, our true nature. The intellectual mind is rarely still, and during its intense development as an incisive tool, has become acquisitive, ever-curious, determined to have unending pleasure and to at all costs avoid pain. But if we stay still, silence and beauty and love need no interpretation, no special conditions, for they are constructed from the same fabric as we and the natural world are.
Education has always prized itself on repetition as a means of learning. But how can we humans ever repeat something knowing that it can never be identical: enter the age of machines! If we can accept this without desire, without attachment to making it concrete, there will be no more pain or fear, just pure joy. If we look at something beautiful, a flower, a bird, a child, the natural reaction to it is polluted by thought! Why do we have to think about the beautiful, confiscating it behind the screen, chewing over the delight of it and manufacturing pleasure. Joy is a natural emotion or energy; human beings can never manufacture it.
It is clear that our mode of being in the modern developed world is literally driven by the dead thing thought and its associated subcategories – by beliefs, by images, by experience – all of which are out of time, and so we forget how to walk, how not to interfere, how to live with our true nature, how to be truly and immediately happy. The beautiful tool of the intellect was never meant to dominate all our human moments; it was meant to be just one implement in a huge box of extraordinary tools. Sadly, the other tools have rusted and no longer function.
One of those rusting tools is called Love. It is an essential in the process of educating, as it is when we cultivate the earth to produce beautiful flowers and vegetables. Because of the dividing screen of words, images and beliefs that keeps reality at bay for most of us, we have even turned Love into desire and lust, and a reason to manufacture pleasure. It has become a commodity which we expect value for money from, and it can quickly turn to hate if conditions are not met. Krishnamurti said with passion and in the light of his own life,
‘When desire and pleasure are not associated with love, then love is intense. It is, like beauty, something totally new every day……it has no today and no tomorrow.’ (6)
If we bring this natural kind of love into learning, then the commodity ‘knowledge’ loses its cardinal position, and instead we have a wonderful excuse to interact with others, to mix our unique energies together to create something stunning and original. We are each essentially energetic beings of awareness and sensitivity, so if we let our energy free by moving away the separating screen, stripping away all the props acquired to hold us together, we will come upon our true nature and be able to use our own voice. All this will be possible in a dimension beyond time and space, where there is no conflict, no friction, just the smooth glow of reality. In this state of being, there is no sense of otherness, only the eternity of love, ‘the real, the supreme, the immeasurable,’ the love of who we are in this very moment without tomorrow or yesterday, both lover and loved, without separation.
Krishnamurti was exactly able to live in this way, and he inspired others to find their own template and versions of freedom. He did not allow himself to become attached to anything or anyone, so there was no friction in his life, nothing sticky to impede the flow of energy. Humans make limitations and obstacles for themselves on a daily basis, but if we let go and truly love each other while living without disturbing anyone else, we can jump over them, even kick them away, to find ‘the immeasurable.’ It is all around us and inside us if only we cease shattering it into a million pieces with our bullying intellect. The following story well illustrates the view the three visionaries of this series, Alexander, Feldenkrais and Krishnamurti, were able to lead people to in their divers ways, with their unique energies and templates, with no other subject matter than human life.
‘A young woman flees from war into a foreign country. She has no money and no way of earning any, so she sleeps in the market place on a doorstep, washing in the public fountain and begging for scraps from the tradespeople. Then a wealthy woman and her maid notice her as they buy vegetables and take her home with them. As she devours the food and drink they provide, they tell her that she can earn her keep there by posing as an artist’s model. She is shocked and asks if she must pose naked. The Madame of the household assures her that it is easy work that she herself once did, and that her husband is the artist in question and she can vouch that he is honourable. The girl agrees nervously and is taken on foot to her new accommodation on the mountainside in the artist’s studio.
The artist is a sculptor, his three-dimensional female pieces in all shapes and sizes, covered with dust sheets, decorate the studio. After a night’s restless sleep in this remote location, daybreak comes and the sculptor arrives to start work. He is gruff, businesslike, asking her to sit in the light from the window and remove all of her clothes. She is reluctant at first, but something makes her feel safe with the aged sculptor, his mop of white hair and large moustaches, his steady selfless eye.
They work together everyday in silence, she learning to maintain her position for long hours while he sketches and makes small clay models of her in various poses. Sometimes he is frustrated and destroys what he has drawn or modelled, but their relationship develops and he gradually begins to talk to her about his passion for the natural world and his love for human nature. They know nothing of each others’ pasts or future plans, and never gossip or make worldly talk.
Occasionally, they move locations out into the forest or higher up the mountain-side. He paints her in oil on a large canvas by a small mountain pool where she swims when resting, catching a young trout for him by hand. One day, she joyfully treads his new batch of clay for the life-size piece he will make of her, her coarse laughter contagious.
The work is going well, the beautiful image of her emerging each day from the wire and rag structure covered in brilliant white plaster of Paris, but for the finishing touches he needs to actually touch her. He must make sure finally he has all the curves in the right proportion. For the first time, he fingers her young flesh standing behind her, her wide shoulders, the back of her rib cage, the curve of her voluptuous calf, with his eyes closed with no single desire. He wants nothing from her except to touch the shapes Nature has endowed her nubile body with, and she, closing her eyes also, wants nothing from him. There is an intensity and a newness in this act; it is uninterrupted, timeless, two templates intersecting. Now he can finish the piece.
One day, the sculptor comes to work earlier than usual to find the model is stretched out on her bed naked, sleeping. He enters her room, which he has never done before, and sits delicately on the edge of her bed. She opens her eyes and looks up at him, he looking intensely into her eyes. Then, she slowly reaches her hands up towards his face, and closes her eyes to touch it lightly, tenderly. He sheds silent tears to be touched.
The sculptor’s wife’s relative has become sick so she must go to nurse her, and as the war is over, the young model needs to get her papers in order in the nearby city. Both women leave the sculptor alone simultaneously, parting affectionately and due to return soon. Back at his studio, with the help of workmen, the finished piece is carried out of the dark into the bright air. He watches it intently as it is carefully moved around, as it comes to life.
The bearers position it in front of the studio beside the most magnificent view of the mountain peaks and ancient forests, and he sits, unable to take his eyes off it against such a backcloth. He takes his knife to smooth a little plaster on an elbow, the curve of the pelvis, the nape of the neck, then finally he is satisfied. He backs away and sits at his table, looking down momentarily to cut a slice of bread. He lifts the crust and drizzles olive oil on it, taking a bite, still staring expressionlessly at his creation. He is neither pleased nor displeased with it, because he is not separate from it, or from the model. In the same way, he is not separate from all of the glories of Nature which surround him, and which are his seamless reality.
The crust of bread finished, he stands and walks calmly into the studio to bring his rifle. The sound of the shot rings out into the crystal air.‘
Next: Article 6: Krishnamurti Going Beyond
(1) Krishnamurti’s Notebook, 1976, Part 3
(2) J. Krishnamurti: The Open Door, biography of Krishnamurti, by Lutyens, M., 1988
(3)(4)(5)(6) Freedom From the Known, 1969, p140, p75, p175, p160