By Suma Varughese
For J. Krishnamurti, meditation did not mean religious or scriptural practices, but reaching within one’s ‘self’ and opening up to the universe all around
“As you walked on the beach the waves were enormous and they were breaking with magnificent curve and force. You walked against the wind, and suddenly you felt there was nothing between you and the sky and this openness was heaven. To be so completely open, vulnerable—to the hills, to the sea, and to man—is the very essence of meditation.”
If ever there was a glimpse into how an enlightened mind perceives, surely it is this. And surely there can be no better description of the meditative mind than this? The question is, how do you get there? How can you eliminate all that comes between you and the open experience of life?
For Jiddu Krishnamurti, the answer is not to close one’s eyes and watch the breath. This radical thinker and philosopher renounced all received wisdom on the subject including all religions, all paths, all spiritual teachers, and all scriptures. Everything except the individual and his mind. He said: “I don’t need any religious, philosophical, psychological books; one can go into oneself at tremendous depth and find out everything.”
This ‘going into oneself’, in Krishnamurti’s book, is the heart of the matter. The seeker is to engage with his mind ruthlessly, observing his thoughts, feelings, reactions, following its movement, staying with its distractions, its subterfuges and escape tactics. As patiently as a hunter tracks its prey, the seeker tracks his mind, until it leads him to its lair, the source of the thought. He says: “Meditation is one of the greatest acts of life—perhaps the greatest and one cannot possibly learn it from anybody… when you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy, if you are aware of all that in yourself… that is part of meditation.”
This kind of observation has to be unselective, all-inclusive. Krishnamurti called it choiceless awareness. No matter what showed up in your mind, you surveyed it unflinchingly. You did not try and erase it, run away from it or create its opposite. Krishnamurti explains: “I am greedy… that’s ‘what is’. The opposite is not.”
He adds: “We are seeing the fact, the ‘what is’, which is suffering… I suffer and the mind is doing everything it can to run away from it… So don’t escape from sorrow. Live with it… What takes place? Watch. The mind is very clear, sharp. It is faced with the fact. The very suffering transformed into passion is enormous. From that arises a mind that can never be hurt. Full stop. That is the secret.”
Krishnamurti arrived at his approach through his personal experience on the death of his beloved brother, Nitya. He was then the anointed World Teacher of the Theosophical Society, chosen at the tender age of 13. News of his brother’s death reached him when he was onboard a ship from the US, returning to India for the jubilee celebrations of the Theosophical Society at their headquarters in Adyar, Chennai.
This is how he describes the experience of confronting and coming to terms with his bereavement: “An old dream is dead and a new one is being born, as a flower that pushes through the solid earth… A new strength born of suffering is pulsating in the veins and a new sympathy and understanding is being born out of the past suffering.”
It was a decisive moment for him. It gave him the courage to renounce the adulation of the society and to follow his chosen path.
His speech, when he dissolved the Order of the Star of which he was the head, is a lasting statement of his position: “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it… by any religion, by any road… no organization can lead man to spirituality. If an organization be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness… I have only one purpose, to make man free, for that alone will give him the unconditioned realization of the self.”
For his followers, watching themselves is a way of life. Rajesh Dalal, one of the trustees of the Krishnamurti Foundation, describes his present situation thus: “That urge for transformation has lost its compulsion. I’m at ease with who I am, and I am carefully watching any tendency for complacency that may creep in.”
The process of choiceless awareness eventually releases our conditioning and allows the mind to naturally settle into the moment. Meditation happens spontaneously. For Krishnamurti, arriving at the still mind through meditation was not satisfactory. One must arrive at meditation by stilling the mind.
He says: “Meditation implies awareness; awareness of the earth, the beauty of the earth, the dead leaf, the dying daylight, to be aware of the beauty of the wind among the leaves, to be aware of your thoughts, your feelings. That means to be aware without choice—just to be aware…
“And when you are so aware, then there is attention. When you so profoundly attend, there is no centre as the ‘me’ to attend.
“And where there is attention there is silence… That silence has never been touched by thought. It is only that mind that is utterly free from all the travails of life, it is only such a mind that can find the supreme.”
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