In all of recorded human history, one common theme recurs—human beings trying to improve themselves. This in-built instinct to become better in search of happiness and peace has led to questions about our deep-rooted emotions of fear, aggression, violence, jealousy, and hatred, and mostly about suffering. The Buddha’s single-minded purpose was to end suffering and find a way out; and when he found it, he showed it to the thousands who thronged his sanghas.
Two thousand five hundred years later, J. Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986), sage and religious teacher, explored the human condition and the way out of the struggles and crises that each one of us face in our lives. No one spoke to more people about our human condition than he did. He travelled the globe speaking to large audiences, smaller groups and dialoguing with some of the most brilliant scientific and religious minds.
Krishnamurti did no advocate any method or provide any solutions. He was very clear that no outside help could set anyone free. Each one had to do it for himself. Writing the preface to The First and Last Freedom, one of Krishnamurti’s best-selling books for six decades, Aldous Huxley, well-known novelist and philosopher, said: “In this volume, the reader will find a clear contemporary statement of the fundamental human problem, together with an invitation to solve it in the only way in which it can be solved – for and by himself”.
How does one solve one’s own state of fear or violence? Can one become courageous in the face of fear? Or can one practice non-violence when one is violent? Krishnamurti showed the fallacy of ideals such as non-violence or that of practicing love when one feels hatred. All ideals, he pointed out, are unreal projections of a mind wanting to escape ‘what is’, which is the current actual state. For him, man’s quest for Truth should begin with the truth of one’s actual emotional state such as hatred, fear, or cruelty, and not with their opposites such as love, courage, or compassion. To aim for an ideal is what our society regards as self-improvement, or personality-development. He explained the reasons why humanity for centuries, caught up in achieving ideals for self-improvement, has never done so. The world today is a stark reminder that self-improvement has not worked. Krishnamurti showed that it is self-knowledge, and not self-improvement, brought about by choiceless awareness of one’s own inner states that holds the possibility of real change.
Responding to a question on the difference between introspection and awareness, Krishnamurti said: “Introspection, which is a form of self-improvement, of self-expansion, can never lead to truth, because it is always a process of self-enclosure; whereas awareness is a state in which truth can come into being, the truth of ‘what is’, the truth of daily existence. It is only when we understand the truth of daily existence can we go far”.
For those who are interested in exploring what Krishnamurti unraveled over six decades of talks, dialogues and writings, here are five “must-read” Krishnamurti books.
Think on These Things
Chosen by Parabola magazine as ‘one of hundred best spiritual books of the century’. An excellent introduction to Krishnamurti’s teaching for the young and the old
The Awakening of Intelligence
This comprehensive record of J. Krishnamurti’s teachings is a wide-ranging introduction to the insights of the great philosopher and religious teacher. Krishnamurti examines the role of the guru with Prof. Jacob Needleman; the traditional methods prescribed by Vedanta with Swami Ventakesananda; the problem of good and evil with Alain Naude; and the relationship between thought and intelligence with Dr. David Bohm.
The First and Last Freedom
Published in 1954 in response to demands all over the world for a comprehensive book on Krishnamurti’s teachings, this book falls into two parts: Krishnamurti’s reflections on life, and answers to questions put to him by audiences.
Commentaries on Living
During the 1930s and 1940s, Krishnamurti was intermittently keeping notes of his talks, his musings on nature and reflections on life, and discussions with individuals and groups. These are produced in three volumes and represent an entirely new genre of writing—a blend of lyrical descriptions of nature, philosophical reflections, and psychological insights, all informed by a deep religious sensibility and couched in lucid, absorbing prose.
The Ending of Time:
Has humanity taken a wrong turn which has brought about endless division, conflict, and destruction?’. This is one of the fundamental questions posed in this series of dialogues between Krishnamurti and Dr. David Bohm, eminent theoretical physicist. They debate profound existential questions such as insight, illusion, death, transcendence, self-realization, the temporal and the spiritual.
These books are available at www.kfionline.org or on Amazon.
By- Vivek Raju