The air feels heavier than usual. Something started moving. The cool southwind blows over the long, dry grass. The parrots feel it, nervously they sing from the trees, fly up only to settle on the next tree. It has been dry for over two years but today the sky is grey and cloudy. Everything turns silent, then the maid appears around the corner and says: „It is raining“. The sound of the raindrops interrupts her as nature’s tension dissolves in wet air and puddles.
I had thought that a Vipassana course would be the perfect closing for my second India trip. Ending five months of contemplation in the monastery with ten days of intensive meditation. But the weather meant otherwise. This year Chennai was hit by one cyclone after the other, another one is devastating the city as I am writing these lines. The Vipassana centre is flooded and the organisers have no other option but cancellation of the course.
In contrast, it has been dry the last two years in Hyderabad, only a few hundred kilometres further north east. I was visiting my friend Subbu as I received the message of cancellation from the Dhama Sota centre.
I was really looking forward to the course. What to do with the remaining time? But thanks to Google an alternative was quickly found, the Krishnamurti Centre in Hyderabad. A call sufficed to organize myself a room on the beautiful campus in Naimisam, thirty kilometers away from the city centre.
I had only known a little about Kirshnamurti. He was mentioned in workshop about Sri Aurobindo and I read about him on my Wikipedia research about the Theosopic Society. Jiddu Krisnamurti truly has a remarkable biography. In his early adolescence he was chosen by members of the society as a vessel for the Maitreya, the Saviour of the World and was raised to be a Messiah. His disciples formed the Order of the Star and expected, that nothing else but a new world order would be created by him. But he resigned from his position as Messiah in front of three thousand members of the society in Varanasi.
Afterwards he started developing his own Philosophy, rejecting organized religion and gurus, handing the responsibility of spiritual development to the individual. According to him there is no recipe for liberation – „Truth is a Pathless Land“. Self observation and -understanding replaces rites and traditional mediation and ancient yoga practises. The dissolution of the Ego (he calls it the self), the liberation happens automatically once its nature is understood.
His psychology is closely related to Buddhism even though he doesn’t seem to have a Buddhist education. (In a talk round, he mixes up „Samskara“ and „Samsara“ without being really familiar with either term.) Often his works read like a modern interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings. According to him the ego is made up by sensation, desire and memory.
Right in the moment we save a good experience in our memory and thereby ending experiencing the desire to repeat the experience is born. A pleasurable sensation is connected with a piece of memory, a word or an image.
And memory, connected to pleasure, is the reason we are no longer satisfied with reality, the present. We want to revive the happiness of the past, creating the thinking ego that instantaneously starts planning happiness in the future. So the present is narrowed down, it is reduced to a medium to obtain an idealised future. All experience is furthermore interpreted by the standards of this constructed idea. But thinking is always relying on the past, the symbols, feelings and sensation it utilizes are made up of past experience. This way desire builds up the ego.
Once established, the ego starts separating us from reality, it divides us into experiencer and the experienced, controller and the controlled, judge and the judged. It creates disorder in our mind, division and friction. As the present never accords to its standards it seeks to change it. This builds up the chatterbox in our head, that judges us and our environment according to an imagined standard. Ideas overshadow reality and openess is no longer possible.
But with the dissociation fear and hate enter our life. Fear of death. Fear of Loosing. Fear of Loneliness. Fear of the unknown, of everything that no longer fits the ideal and endangers the imagined future. So by craving for pleasure the ego gives birth to fear and hate by connecting symbols in our head with sensation. And desire harbours suffering.
According to Krishnamurti thought is only counter-productive when applied to ourself and our standards, it is indispensable to solve technical problems. But when we reduce ourselves to the symbols we use to deal with the exterior world, when we use thought upon ourselves we are creating problems.
One remedy the ego invents against the arising fear is identification. Be it with a football team, a nation, a brand, an idea, a spouse or a child or whatever object, everything is used to mask the weakness, pettiness and narrowness of one’s proper existence.
But identification doesn’t solve the problem, it just masks it and the suffering continues in the background. And it creates new problems. Parents that identify to strongly with their child objectify it, they reduce it to a thing of their own wishes and desires. The same can happen in every kind of relationship. Identification with ideas divides into good and bad, it gives birth to hate and destruction, it doesn’t matter if it is communism, Islamism, Veganism or Buddhism. The ego judges reality according to the „big idea“, it becomes a means to realizes an end that has been constructed from the past and is set in the future.
Thus the ego is our conflict between the things that are and the things that should be, as long as it exists happiness is not possible. And from your own experience you can tell, that the ego, the chatterbox is always absent in the beautiful moments of life. We don’t judge, categorize in these moments.
And how to get out of this trap? Understanding! Passive self observation gives rise to insight into the inner workings of the ego and having understood it it just disappears. Krishnamurti does not supply any techniques and disavows organized religion. Blindly following a path will just dull the mind and the way to enlightenment degenerates into another object of identification. Important is, to have an open, receptive mind that observes, understands and questions itself. But you have to develop that capability on your own.
Krisnamurti is definitely right with many of his observations, though I don’ agree with all of his conclusions. For him, liberation always happens in a revolution, in the instant the ego is understood. But it will reduce as the inner conflict between the „things that are“ and the „things that should be“ becomes smaller. So all techniques that improve self acceptance are beneficial and it is quite reasonable to rely on the experience of other people as long as identification is avoided.
In the week I spent at the centre I have probably progressed more than I would have on a Goenka Vipassana. Vipassana mediation has the same goal and a very similar theory but thanks to Krishnamurti I have understood meditation much better.
Krishnamurti’s books are freely available on the internet. I can highly recommended „This light is in oneself“ about meditation. I have also read Commentaries on Living and The First and the Last Freedom, in the first he describes the meetings he had with different of people and characterizes there inner conflicts very concisely. The latter is a short introduction to his philosphy. Both a more than worthy reading.