J. Krishnamurti & Eckhart Tolle: ‘The Power of Now’

Here we have Jiddu Krishnamurti talking about ‘the now’. Many of you will have heard of Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now’, but less people seem to be aware of how influenced by J. Krishnamurti Eckhart Tolle’s teachings are. In fact Eckhart Tolle has spoken about this several times, eg. Eckhart Tolle says in an interview:

I feel actually that the work I do is a coming together of the teaching “stream,” if you want to call it that, of [J.] Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi. They seem very, very dissimilar, but I feel that in my teaching the two merge into one. It is the heart of Ramana Maharshi, and Krishnamurti’s ability to see the false, as such and point out how it works. So Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi, I love them deeply. I feel completely at One with them. And it is a continuation of the teaching.

In another interview Eckhart Tolle writes:

Two spiritual teachers that I feel closely connected to, although I’ve never met them in person, are [J.] Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi. Their teachings seem very dissimilar at first. Krishnamurti taught mainly in negative terms just like the Buddha. By this I mean that he didn’t give you any inspiring words, ideas or concepts to believe in. He would tell you to investigate the workings of your own mind, in the same way that the Buddha taught us to investigate how suffering arises and by discovering the roots of suffering in our own minds arrive at a state of consciousness that he described as “the end of suffering.” Whereas Ramana Maharshi would often point to that which lies beyond the realm of thinking, a dimension of consciousness he called the self.

So here below is an excerpt from ‘The Only Revolution’ (Click here to download The Only Revolution by J Krishnamurti as a PDF file) by Jiddu Krishnamurti in which he writes about time and ‘the now’, with my comments interspersed in red italics:


Jiddu Krishnamurti:

Is there – apart from the clock – time at all? We accept so many things; obedience has been so instilled into us that acceptance seems natural. But is there time at all, apart from the many yesterdays? Is time a continuity as yesterday, today and tomorrow, and is there time without yesterday? What gives to the thousand yesterdays a continuity?

Tom: Krishnamurti, like Eckhart Tolle, often differentiates between ‘time by the clock’ (or chronological time) as opposed to psychological time (ie. how the mind perceives itself as existing in a continuity of time which starts from the past, which proceeds into the future). 

A cause brings its effect, and the effect in turn becomes the cause; there is no division between them, it is one movement. This movement we call time, and with this movement, in our eyes and in our hearts, we see everything. We see with the eyes of time, and translate the present in terms of the past; and this translation meets the tomorrow. This is the chain of time.

Tom: we can see that Krishnamurti is writing of how the mind sees through this lens or filter of time and interprets everything through this distorting lens.

Thought, caught in this process, asks the question: “What is time?” This very enquiry is of the machinery of time. So the enquiry has no meaning, for thought is time. The yesterday has produced thought and so thought divides space as yesterday, today and tomorrow. Or it says: “There is only the present”, forgetting that the present itself is the outcome of yesterday.

Our consciousness is made up of this chain of time, and within its borders we are asking: “What is time? And, if there is no time, what happens to yesterday?” Such questions are within the field of time, and there is no answer to a question put by thought about time.

Tom: Krishnamurti is stating that thought is a result of the past, ie. memories and concepts of things that were, and it is this thought that is asking the question. As this thought is itself the movement of psychological time, it cannot answer this question ‘what is time?’ and ‘what happens if there is no psychological time?’. 

Or is there no tomorrow and no yesterday, but only the now? This question is not put by thought. It is put when the structure and nature of time is seen but with the eyes of thought.

Is there actually tomorrow? Of course there is if I have to catch a train; but inwardly, is there the tomorrow of pain and pleasure, or of achievement? Or is there only the now, which is not related to yesterday?

Tom: Here we can see Krishnamurti expand upon the difference between ‘time by the clock’, which is purely a practical things, and ‘psychological time’, which implies striving and seeking pleasure and achievement for the ‘me’. Basically, ‘psychological time’ is referring to the movement of the ego or idea of a separate ‘me’ entity.

In the following paragraphs Krishnamurti will seemingly make a few ‘jumps’ without really explaining how he got there, but you will see he is pointing to an immediate and direct perception of ‘what is’, without the mediating distorting lens of psychological time or thought or memory, ie. without the ego (as I have defined it above), which Krishnamurti here calls ‘yesterday’. See if you can follow him:

Time has a stop only when thought has a stop. It is at the moment of stopping that the now is. This now is not an idea, it is an actual fact, but only when the whole mechanism of thought has come to an end. The feeling of now is entirely different from the word, which is of time.

So do not let us be caught in the words yesterday, today and tomorrow. The realization of the now exists only in freedom, and freedom is not the cultivation of thought.

Then the question arises: “What is the action of the now?” We only know action which is of time and memory and the interval between yesterday and the present. In this interval or space all the confusion and the conflict begin.

What we are really asking is: If there is no interval at all, what is action? The conscious mind might say: “I did something spontaneously”, but actually this is not so; there is no such thing as spontaneity because the mind is conditioned.

The actual is the only fact; the actual is the now, and, unable to meet it, thought builds images about it. The interval between the image and what is, is the misery which thought has created.

To see what is without yesterday, is the now. The now is the silence of yesterday.

Tom: Does Krishnamurti mean that we don’t remember what happened yesterday and that we do not plan for tomorrow? No, he is not referring to ‘time by the clock’, ie. practical affairs that involve chronological time. By ‘yesterday’ he is referring to psychological time, ie. the remembrance of past hurts and pleasures that make a mark on our psyche, and we then interpret the present moment in order to recreate past pleasures or avoid past hurts, and this is the distorting view of psychological time or egoic desire, which Krishnamurti also here calls ‘thought’.

When this is immediately seen clearly, we are no longer trying to get anywhere. Then we are with ‘what is‘. This immediate or direct seeing itself is not the effect or outcome of the egoic mind – we cannot ‘try to see’ this, as this would be more ego, more trying to get somewhere nice. No, simply when this is all seen, then we are with what is already – no, we are not even with what is – there is only what is. Simple, direct, transcendent-immanent, beyond words.

2 thoughts on “J. Krishnamurti & Eckhart Tolle: ‘The Power of Now’

  1. Nice article! I enjoyed ‘The Power of Now’ very much as part of my spiritual journey. It reminds me of a poem I recently came across:

    Yesterday is but a dream
    And tomorrow is only a vision
    But today well lived makes
    Every yesterday a dream of happiness and
    Every tomorrow a vision of hope

    (Kalidasa, Sanskrit dramatist poet)


    Liked by 1 person

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