Krishnamurti As I Knew Him

Krishnamurti As I Knew Him

Rector, Rajghat Education Centre, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi 221001, India

( The following article was first published in the May 1997 issue of The Theosophist. Written by Prof. P. Krishna, rector of the Rajghat Education Center in Varanasi, it is based on a talk he gave in November 1996 at Adyar Lodge, Madras, India. )

I realize, I have taken on a difficult task. Normally we describe a person by lineage, family, accomplishments, education, and so on. But all these are irrelevant in describing Krishnamurti, who was a jivamukta, a liberated soul.

A dialog between Arjuna and Krishna in the Gita is apposite. Arjuna asks Krishna about the liberated man. How does such a person live, how does he act, how does he eat and sleep? Krishna’s reply in sum is:  Outwardly, he is the same as everybody else, he eats and sleeps and lives like them. And yet he is totally different, because he does not do any of these things for the same reason as the ordinary man. There is a dimensional difference in his consciousness. And that is important, not his accomplishments, education, erudition, or all the lectures he may give and so on. Even without those things, his importance would be no less. How does one communicate that? One senses it in his presence, but it is not possible to put it in words. What one can put into words are only the outer actions, the words that one heard, the thoughts that one had, and so on, one cannot convey the state of mind or consciousness from which those words emanated. It is something that one senses between the lines.

In fact, I did not know Krishnaji well. I never worked closely with him or lived or travelled with him. I was only a rather active, ardent student of his teachings, who took every opportunity to have dialogues with him, to listen to his talks, and put questions as were in my mind.

My first encounter with his teachings was in 1955 when I was seventeen. During a summer vacation, while going through one of my father’s cupboards, I came across a small booklet, `Talks to Students’. I had not heard about Krishnamurti nor did I know anything about hi,. Because it was titled `Talks to Students’ I began reading it. It addressed all those questions which arose in my adolescent mind, and which my teachers never discussed. He was talking with students about whether respect is the same thing as fear: `Why do you get up from your sear when the teacher enters the class?’ He was asking girls `Why do you put the `tika’ (red dot) on your forehead?’, not in a derogatory sense nor finding fault, but earnestly, `Do you know why you do all these things?’ What is the significance? Have you ever questioned yourself? Why are you afraid of examinations? We do not talk about these things as part of education. So it fascinated me greatly and I read more of his books. Then I went to my father asking about Krishnamurti, and he told me the story of how he grew up in the Theosophical Society, how he was `discovered’, and so on.

I was quite taken with The First and Last Freedom. It created a certain image or picture in my mind of someone like a Buddhist saint, calm and imperturbable. So when I first met him I was taken aback and a bit shocked, because he was not at all like the image I had in my mind.

In the winter of 1958, he was staying in Delhi with Mr. Shiva Rao, a family friend. I was studying for my Master’s degree in Physics at Delhi University, and was keenly interested in meeting the author of the books I had read. So Mr. Shiva Rao invited me to lunch with him. Before lunch, when I was introduced to Krishnaji, he asked me, `What are you doing?’, and I said, `I am learning physics at the University’. And he said, `Why are you studying Physics?’ I found it a bit odd, because we all study at the university, and I said, `Well, in order to get a job, make a living, and settle down in life’. And he called to Shiva Rao, `Look at this young boy, nineteen years of age, and he is already worried about settling down and getting married and making a living!’ I felt small, I felt he was finding fault with me. So I said, `What is wrong with doing that, Sir?’, and he said, `Do anything you like: beg, borrow or steal, but don’t worry about the future, about how you are going to make a living.’ I was appalled! I asked, `Steal?’, and he answered, `No, Sir, not steal. I mean do anything, but do it with passion, because you like to do it, not because you like to do it, not because you want to make a living’. He added, `This is the trouble with our education. The whole purpose of it is just to make a living and get a job. We have turned education into such a small, horrid affair!’ That was like him, not trying to please or impress people. He was spontaneous, with no pretense, and full of passion.

Lunch with him used to go on long with conversation in between. Once I asked him, `Sir, I have read that when you were in the Theosophical Society, people sat in a closed room and had sessions in order to talk with dead spirits, and these were occult phenomena. Was that all hallucination’ He replied, `No, those things exist, but it is another form of power. It has nothing to do with goodness. Therefore I am not interested in it.’ Then he added, `Of course, the mind has infinite powers of hallucination’. Later on I wondered, what did he mean? And I felt he was trying to convey that occult phenomena, telepathy, ESP, and other powers, do exist, but if one is not interested in power — money, or muscle, or position or status — why want to cultivate occult power?

He said his memories of early childhood were completely wiped out. Whatever experiences he had since 1922 had obliterated those memories from his brain. He said he did not remember Adyar, although he had lived there. He said, `I cannot recall my brother Nitya’s face. I can barely recall Amma’s face’ (meaning Mrs. Besant). Then he added, mysteriously to me, `Of course, I can recall it, Sir, if I want to.’ I am still not able to make head or tail of that.

I used to put many questions to him at the end of his talks. Once after one of those question sessions I went to greet him (and he would hold my hands very affectionately) and he said: `Too many questions, my boy, too many questions’. The love, the affection one felt in his presence is difficult to describe.

From 1959 onwards, after doing my Master’s degree, I was at Banaras Hindu University as a Research Scholar in Physics, and he came to Banaras and gave talks in Rajghat. I would go on my bicycle about eight or ten miles from the city to attend his lectures whenever I could. In one of his lectures he said: `A disciplined mind is a lazy mind.’ To me a disciplined person active, regular, attending to all his work. So when I asked him what he meant, `If it is not lazy, why does it need to discipline itself? If you have to get up at six o’clock in the morning and if you are no lazy, you get up! Discipline is not required for that. But if you are lazy, you need a lot of discipline. So the man who is trying to discipline himself is lazy.’

In those few words, he explained the duality of the opposites. When a person tries to cultivate courage it means he is afraid. Trying to be nonviolent, implies on is violent. Whenever we try to pursue anything, its opposite is present. Instead of pursuing the opposite, one should concern oneself with ending the laziness. Laziness has a cause, maybe the person does not eat or sleep or exercise properly, or his body is aching and he does not have adequate energy. Instead of correcting that, if one seeks to cultivate discipline, it amounts to perpetuating laziness, and a tussle goes on between the two.

When Krishnaji talked to young students, he would talk to them at their simple level. With David Bohm, he would talk at the level of David Bohm. In every case, he was equally full of enthusiasm, irrespective of whom he was talking to. He did not assess people in terms of position or achievements as we do. I always found him alert, sensitive, watchful, aware. There was no trace of laziness in him. There was an overflowing affection for everybody, but that did not mean that he would compromise on truth or avoid it if bitter.

In the 1960’s, after a talk when I went and stood near him, a gentleman from the audience came, full of praise, saying, `Lovely talk, Sir, lovely talk; what a marvellous talk!’ After he had gone Krishnaji looked at me and said, `It is an insult.’ To me that meant: Here he was at pains to expound the truths about life, and instead of exploring that, this person only says what a beautiful talk. He would take as an insult what we would normally take as a great compliment.

I wanted to photograph him, and I carried a camera the whole day. But in those he would not allow any photographs to be taken. Nor would he allow any one to take notes of his lectures. He did not want his lectures to be reduced to a form of knowledge. He wanted them to be an experience of seeing together whatever he was talking about. So he would repeatedly stress that he was not giving a lecture: `This is not something that I am trying to pass on to you — some information that you don’t have. We are looking at life, together like two friends.’ Although he was talking to the whole gathering, he would emphasize that it was essentially a one-to-one talk between two friends, and that he we should use his statements like a mirror held before ourselves, to look at our own lives, and verify if what he was saying was true or not, not blindly accept it.

Naturally, he set no value on agreement or disagreement as such, because that has no meaning. He said, `I may agree with you or both of us may be agreeing on something or we may disagree, and still not know what is truth. Seeing truth has value — not agreeing or disagreeing, or carrying opinions for or against.’

During a dialog in Brockwood in 1977, with Prof. David Bohm, Asit Chandmal, and others, I remember starting it with a question which we had already discussed among ourselves: `Sir, you say that one is not able to see “What is” clearly, in an undistorted way, because of the conditioning and coloration of the mind produced by the self. But because we are not able to see the truth, “What is”, because of this coloration, this self continues. When will this vicious circle end?’ He went into it, and we talked about it. Every time we asked him a question, he looked at it afresh, without bringing definitions or conclusions from previous inquiries. There was a quality of enquiry, never holding on the past, because it is important to see the truth through cognition rather than as memory. So he went into my question, `I am not sure if the self must be completely absent for insight to occur, or if insight can be so great that it wipes away the self. This is not a process in which you first get rid of the coloration, and then you have the insight, or that insight comes first and then the ego is washed away. It is simultaneous.’

When I asked him, `Sir, were you once part of the field and did you step out of it or were you always out of the field?’, he said: `I question it too.’ He also question why in the case of this little boy Krishnamurti, brought up in the Theosophical society, who could not pass any examinations being rather dull by normal standards, he mind did not get conditioned like that of everybody else. Why is it that he kept that openness to perceive something new? When you pick up a young boy and bring him up to be the Dalai Lama, he becomes the Dalai Lama. So it would normal for him to have become a great Theosophist, the head of the Theosophical Society. How did he come upon something totally new? Why do all the other children get conditioned, and find it difficult to come out of that conditioning, whereas this child learned from every experience?

In 1925, when he was 30, while on a ship bound for India, he heard of his brother’s death and was overcome by great sorrow. But when he landed in India he was completely peaceful. Later he wrote to a friend about this saying, “As long as there is consciousness of oneself, there is death, loneliness and sorrow. I went through this when Nitya died and I understood what lay behind sorrow, the cause of it. I have cheated death.” It seems that he was saying that the death of his brother came in the form of personal sorrow: and that it could have trapped him into a state of self-pity, and so on, as it would have with most of us; instead he saw through the personal sorrow, understood the significance of death and attachment, and freed himself of it. What is the quality of a consciousness or mind which goes through experience and instead of collecting a complex, prejudice, or new conditioning, sees the truth and frees itself?

A man once told Krishnaji that he was very lucky to have been brought up in the Theosophical Society with teachers like CWL and Mrs. Besant, and he said: `Yes, I was very fortunate to have teachers like them.’ Then the man said, `We are not so lucky, we are going through ordinary institutions. How can we come upon truth?’ And he responded: `Sir, I was lucky because whatever they told me went into one ear and out of the other.’ He was not being disparaging. He only meant that they did not condition his mind into what they were teaching. His whole teaching is that one must come upon the truth by oneself, and not accept it from a teacher, because then it becomes just words, and is not in `seeing.’

The last time he visited India, in 1985, I was having lunch with him at Rajghat and as often happened he asked questions that nobody ever asked: `Sir, has the brahmin disappeared from this country?’ I said: `It depends on what you mean by brahmin, Sir. One fourth of the population here thing of themselves as brahmins.’ And he said, `No, not by birth — that is so childish. You know what a brahmin is?’ I said, `What do you mean by a brahmin?’ He replied with a story.

When Alexander invaded India and fought with Porus, he won. When he entered the state, he saw excellent administration, the whole of the land was tidy, clean and well maintained, people were living happily. So he asked Porus, Who was responsible for your administration?’ Porus replied: `There was a brahmin prime minister, who was responsible for all this administration.’ Alexander said, `I would like to talk to him.’ Porus answered, `He resigned because we lost the war, and has gone to his village.’ Alexander responded, `Call him, nevertheless.’ So they sent a messenger who came back the next day with the response, `Tell the king I am no longer in his service. A brahmin does not go to anyone, therefore I am sorry that I cannot come.’ As this was narrated, Alexander said, `All right, I will go to his village.’

Alexander was taken to the village, where the brahmin was seated under a tree teaching two children. When Alexander was announced, the man looked up and said, `Is there something I can do for you?’ Alexander asked, `Are you the man who was the prime minister?’ and the answer came, `Yes’; Alexander then said, `you ran an excellent administration,’ and the man responded, `Thank you’. So Alexander asked him `Will you come with me? I will take you to Greece, give you a palace, make you the head of all our armies. Come with me!’ the man considered this, looked up at Alexander, and replied, `Sorry, I want teach these children.’ Krishnaji then said, `That’s a brahmin — somebody you can’t buy, somebody who doesn’t work for a reward. He did what was right for a brahmin to do: he ran as good an administration as he could. When he lost the war he took responsibility for the defeat and resigned, which is the right thing for the brahmins to do. When he was in the village, he did what he wanted to do, not in subservience to the king, or looking for some more rewarding job to do. That is the quality of the brahmin.’ After telling this story, Krishnaji asked me, `Now tell me, has the brahmin disappeared from this country?’ I said, `I don’t know, Sir, there may still be someone in the Himalayas, but I have not come across one.’

On another occasion he asked me, `Is there anything unique in this country anymore?’ and I said, `Maybe the family way of living, the affection with which people regard each other. But I can’t say it is unique, because it exists elsewhere too, although perhaps not in the same measure.’ He nodded and kept quiet. He would often leave one with a question like that. Next day when I met him he said, `Shall I tell you what is unique about this country? I have travelled all over the world, and I have watched. This is the only country left where the poor man still smiles.’ That is the kind of thing he noticed, not palaces, achievements, bridges, railway trains. He was watching the people, how they were living, and he saw that the poor man in India still smiles. The poor man in America or Europe feels wretched, deprived, but in India his spirit has not been destroyed inspite of the poverty. Then he added, `Although we are loosing that quality in our country, it is still there.’

These questions and comments become a source of tremendous learning if one dwells on them, takes them to heart. He never wanted us to accept what he said but to reflect on it, ponder for ourselves, and see if it was true or not. One has to do the work for oneself. In all his life he never allowed anybody to use him as a crutch: he wanted no disciples, no help, he sense of renunciation. He gave his talks just out of affection.

So how does one describe such a consciousness? Whatever one describes is so verbal, so inadequate, compared to what one wants to convey. It is not because he gave wonderful lectures; one can come across better speakers. One can even come across people who can explain his teachings more systematically. The ability to speak or lecture is trivial, although useful. It is what the consciousness is — the freedom, love and compassion in the consciousness that is precious. We are all fortunate to have had such a person amidst us. It does not matter whether we look upon him as a Theosophist or not, whether he left the Theosophical Society or not. Those are all trivial. A man like that does not belong to anybody, to the Krishnamurti foundation, or the Theosophical Society. He does not belong to India but to the world. Of-course, he was born in a particular family, brought up and educated in some school. That school could take credit for having produced such a person, but was he this way because of the school, or inspite of it?

Achyut Patwardhan told me once that the World Teacher was born in answer to the tears of the world. Therefore he belongs to humanity. Mrs. Besant had told Achyutji, `When you find that you disagree with something that Krishnamurti said, never discard it, or ignore it, keep it in your mind. He is a superior consciousness, and when that says something we must reflect on it, not reject it’. And this is what Achyutji said: `I never rejected anything that Krishnaji said, however wrong it may have seemed to me. I dwelt on it.’

What a great privilege for the Theosophical Society and for the Krishnamurti Foundation, and for all of us who had the opportunity to interact with Krishnaji, to look after such a person, to publish his books, to make his teachings available to the world, or just to be with him, to know him. In this twentieth century it is very rare to find a man like that. Once when he was asked by someone, `Where do you come from?’ he replied, `I come from the Valley of the Rishis’; and that is where he belongs, in the Valley of the Rishis.

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