Jiddu Krishamurti: Silence, the Still Mind, Meditation

Krishnamurti young

The following are by J. Krishnamurti on the subject of silence/stillness:

What lies beyond can be found only if the mind is still. There may be something or there may be nothing at all. So the only thing that is important is for the mind to be still.

What lies beyond can be found only if the mind is still…the only thing that is important is for the mind to be still.

Again, if you are concerned with what lies beyond, then you are not looking at what the state of actual stillness is. If stillness to you is only a door to that which lies beyond, then you are not concerned with that door, whereas what is important is the very door itself, the very stillness itself.

Therefore you cannot ask what lies beyond. The only thing that is important is for the mind to be still. Then what takes place? That is all we are concerned with, not with what lies beyond silence.

Eight Conversations


When you realize that there is no method, no system, no mantra, no teacher, nothing in the world that is going to help you to be quiet, when you realize the truth that it is only the quiet mind that sees, then the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet.

…it is only the quiet mind that sees…

It is like seeing danger and avoiding it. In the same way, seeing that the mind must be completely quiet, it is quiet.

Now, the quality of silence matters. A very small mind can be very quiet, it has its little space in which to be quiet; that little space, with its little quietness, is the deadest thing – you know what it is.

In that silence there is no observer at all.

But a mind that has limitless space and that quietness, that stillness, has no center as the ‘me’, the observer, is quite different. In that silence there is no observer at all. That quality of silence has vast space, it is without border and intensely active; the activity of that silence is entirely different from the activity which is self-centered.

If the mind has gone that far (and really it is not that far, it is always there if you know how to look), then perhaps that which man has sought throughout the centuries – God, truth, the immeasurable, the nameless, the timeless – is there.

…it is always there if you know how to look…

Without your invitation, it is there.

The Flight of the Eagle


There is no other fact but silence which has not been invited, induced, sought after, but which is the natural outcome of observation and of understanding oneself and the world about one. In this there has been no motive which has brought silence. If there is any shadow or suspicion of a motive, then that silence is directed and deliberate, so it is not silence at all.

If there is any shadow or suspicion of a motive, then that silence is directed and deliberate, so it is not silence at all.

If you can honestly say that that silence is free, then what actually takes place in that silence is our only concern. What is the quality and the texture of that silence? Is it superficial, passing, measurable? Are you aware of it after it is over, or during the silence? If you are aware that you have been silent, then it is only a memory, and therefore dead. If you are aware of the silence while it is happening, then is it silence?

Eight Conversations


If you have followed this inquiry into what is meditation, and have understood the whole process of thinking, you will find that the mind is completely still. In that total stillness of the mind, there is no watcher, no observer, and therefore no experiencer at all; there is no entity who is gathering experience, which is the activity of a self-centred mind.

In that total stillness of the mind, there is no watcher, no observer, and therefore no experiencer at all; there is no entity who is gathering experience, which is the activity of a self-centred mind.

Don’t say, “That is samadhi”, which is all nonsense, because you have only read of it in some book and have not discovered it for yourself. There is a vast difference between the word and the thing. The word is not the thing; the word door is not the door.

So, to meditate is to purge the mind of its self-centered activity. And if you have come this far in meditation, you will find there is silence, a total emptiness.

The mind is uncontaminated by society; it is no longer subject to any influence, to the pressure of any desire. It is completely alone, and being alone, untouched, it is innocent.

So, to meditate is to purge the mind of its self-centered activity…you will find there is silence, a total emptiness…The mind is uncontaminated by society;

Therefore there is a possibility for that which is timeless, eternal, to come into being. This whole process is meditation.

J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life


Disciplines, renunciations, detachments, rituals, the practice of virtue, all these, however noble, are the process of thought, and thought can only work toward an end, toward an achievement, which is ever the known.

Achievement is security, the self-protective certainty of the known. To seek security in that which is nameless is to deny it. The security that may be found is only in the projection of the past, of the known.

For this reason, the mind must be entirely and deeply silent; but this silence cannot be purchased through sacrifice, sublimation, or suppression. This silence comes when the mind is no longer seeking, no longer caught in the process of becoming. This silence is not cumulative, it may not be built up through practice.

This silence comes when the mind is no longer seeking, no longer caught in the process of becoming. This silence is not cumulative, it may not be built up through practice.

This silence must be as unknown to the mind as the timeless, for if the mind experiences the silence, then there is the experiencer who is the result of past experiences, who is cognizant of a past silence, and what is experienced by the experiencer is merely a self-projected repetition. The mind can never experience the new, and so the mind must be utterly still.

The mind can never experience the new, and so the mind must be utterly still.

The mind can be still only when it is not experiencing, that is, when it is not terming or naming, recording or storing up in memory. This naming and recording is a constant process of the different layers of consciousness, not merely of the upper mind. But, when the superficial mind is quiet, the deeper mind can offer up its intimations. When the whole consciousness is silent and tranquil, free from all becoming – which is spontaneity – then only does the immeasurable come into being.

Commentaries on Living, Series I


That silence which is not the silence of the ending of noise is only a small beginning. It is like going through a small hole to an enormous, wide, expansive ocean, to an immeasurable, timeless state. But this you cannot understand verbally unless you have understood the whole structure of consciousness and the meaning of pleasure, sorrow and despair, and the brain cells themselves have become quiet. Then perhaps you may come upon that mystery which nobody can reveal to you and nothing can destroy.

…the brain cells themselves have become quiet. Then perhaps you may come upon that mystery which nobody can reveal to you and nothing can destroy.

Freedom from the Known


Is silence to be cultivated, carefully nurtured and strengthened? And who is the cultivator? Is he different from the totality of your being? Is there silence, a still mind, when one desire dominates all others, or when it sets up resistance against them? Is there silence when the mind is disciplined, shaped, controlled? Does not all this imply a censor, a so-called higher self who controls judges, chooses?

Is there silence when the mind is disciplined, shaped, controlled? Does not all this imply a censor, a so-called higher self who controls judges, chooses?

And is there such an entity? If there is, is he not the product of thought? Thought dividing itself as the high and the low, the permanent and the impermanent, is still the outcome of the past, of tradition, of time. In this division lies its own security.

Thought or desire now seeks safety in silence, and so it asks for a method or a system which offers what it wants. In place of worldly things it now craves the pleasure of silence, so it breeds conflict between what is and what should be. There is no silence where there is conflict, repression, resistance.

Q: Should one not seek silence?

K: There can be no silence as long as there is a seeker. There is the silence of a still mind only when there is no seeker, when there is no desire.

Q: Should one not seek silence?

K: There can be no silence as long as there is a seeker. There is the silence of a still mind only when there is no seeker, when there is no desire. Without replying, put this question to yourself: Can the whole of your being be silent? Can the totality of the mind, the conscious as well as the unconscious, be still?

Commentaries On Living Series II Chapter 50 


The mind is silent only with the abundance of energy, when there is that attention in which all contradiction, the pulling of desire in different directions, has ceased. The struggle of desire to be silent does not make for silence. Silence is not to be bought through any form of compulsion; it is not the reward of suppression or even sublimation.

The struggle of desire to be silent does not make for silence. Silence is not to be bought through any form of compulsion; it is not the reward of suppression or even sublimation.

But the mind that is not silent is never free; and it is only to the silent mind that the heavens are opened. The bliss which the mind seeks is not found through its seeking, nor does it lie in faith. Only the silent mind can receive that blessing which is not of church or belief.

But the mind that is not silent is never free; and it is only to the silent mind that the heavens are opened. The bliss which the mind seeks is not found through its seeking, nor does it lie in faith. Only the silent mind can receive that blessing which is not of church or belief.

For the mind to be silent, all its contradictory corners must come together and be fused in the flame of understanding. The silent mind is not a reflective mind. To reflect, there must be the watcher and the watched, the experiencer heavy with the past.

The silent mind is not a reflective mind. To reflect, there must be the watcher and the watched, the experiencer heavy with the past.

In the silent mind there is no centre from which to become, to be, or to think. All desire is contradiction, for every centre of desire is opposed to another centre. The silence of the total mind is meditation.

Commentaries On Living, Series III, Chapter 51

The silence of the total mind is meditation.


When you watch attentively, with diligence, there is nothing to learn; there is only that vast space, silence and emptiness, which is all-consuming energy.

Krishnamurti to Himself

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Krishnamurti: how am I to be free, free to live happily?

 

krishnamurti

The following is written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from BULLETIN 6, 1970

…the centre says to itself: how am I to be free, free to live happily, completely, openly, and act without sorrow or remorse? But it is still the centre asking the question. The centre is the past. The centre is the ‘me’ with its selfish activities which knows action only in terms of reward and punishment, achievement or failure, and its motives, causes and effects. It is caught in this chain and the chain is the centre and the prison.

There is another action which comes when there is a space without a centre, a dimension in which there is no cause and effect. From this, living is action. Here, having no centre, whatever is done is free, joyous, without pain or pleasure. This space and freedom is not a result of effort and achievement, but when the centre ends the other is.

But we will ask how can the centre end, what am I to do to end it, what disciplines, what sacrifices, what great efforts am I to make? None. Only see without choice the activities of the centre, not as an observer, not as an outsider looking inward, but just observe without the censor. Then you may say: I cannot do it, I am always looking with the eyes of the past. Be aware, then, of looking with the eyes of the past, and remain with that. Don’t try to do anything about it; be simple and know that whatever you try to do will only strengthen the centre and is a response of your own desire to escape.

So there is no escape, no effort and no despair. Then you can see the full meaning of the centre and the immense danger of it, and that is enough.

Krishnamurti: the ending of sorrow is love

Continuing the series of Krishnamurti posts this week, the following is written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from BULLETIN 4, 1969:

Desire and pleasure end in sorrow; and love has no sorrow.

What has sorrow is thought – thought which gives continuity to pleasure. Thought nourishes pleasure, giving strength to it. Thought is everlastingly seeking pleasure, and so inviting pain.

The virtue which thought cultivates is the way of pleasure and in it there is effort and achievement.

The flowering of goodness is not in the soil of thought but in freedom from sorrow.

The ending of sorrow is love.

Krishnamurti: to be aware of inattention is to be attentive.

Continuing the series of Krishnamurti posts this week, the following is written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from BULLETIN 4, 1969:

The physical organism has its own intelligence, which is made dull through habits of pleasure. These habits destroy the sensitivity of the organism, and this lack of sensitivity makes the mind dull.

Such a mind may be alert in a narrow and limited direction and yet be insensitive. The depth of such a mind is measurable and is caught by images and illusions. Its very superficiality is its only brightness.

A light and intelligent organism is necessary for meditation. The interrelationship between the meditative mind and its organism is a constant adjustment in sensitivity; for meditation needs freedom.

Freedom is its own discipline. In freedom alone can there be attention. To be aware of inattention is to be attentive.

Complete attention is love. It alone can see, and the seeing is the doing.

Krishnamurti: Out of Silence Look and Listen

sunset evening enlightenment

Continuing the series of Krishnamurti posts this week, the following is written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from BULLETIN 4, 1969:

Out of silence look and listen. Silence is not the ending of noise; the incessant clamour of the mind and heart does not end in silence; it is not a product, a result of desire, nor is it put together by will.

The whole of consciousness is a restless, noisy movement within the borders of its own making. Within this border silence or stillness is but the momentary ending of the chatter; it is the silence touched by time. Time is memory and to it silence is short or long; it can measure. Give to it space and continuity, and then it becomes another toy.

But this is not silence. Everything put together by thought is within the area of noise, and thought in no way can make itself still. It can build an image of silence and conform to it, worshipping it, as it does with so many other images it has made, but its formula of silence is the very negation of it; its symbols are the very denial of reality.

Thought itself must be still for silence to be. Silence is always now, as thought is not. Thought, always being old, cannot possibly enter into that silence which is always new. The new becomes the old when thought touches it.

Out of this silence, look and talk.

The true anonymity is out of this silence and there is no other humility. The vain are always vain, though they put on the garment of humility, which makes them harsh and brittle.

But out of this silence the word ‘love’ has a wholly different meaning. This silence is not out there but it is where the noise of the total observer is not.

Krishnamurti: stillness can in no way be manufactured by thought

Continuing the series of Krishnamurti posts this week, the following is written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from BULLETIN 4, 1969:

Innocence alone can be passionate. The innocent have no sorrow, no suffering, though they have had a thousand experiences.

It is not the experiences that corrupt the mind but what they leave behind, the residue, the scars, the memories. These accumulate, pile up one on top of the other, and then sorrow begins.

This sorrow is time. Where time is, innocency is not. Passion is not born of sorrow. Sorrow is experience, the experience of everyday life, the life of agony and fleeting pleasures, fears and certainties. You cannot escape from experiences, but they need not take root in the soil of the mind. These roots give rise to problems, conflicts and constant struggle. There is no way out of this but to die each day to every yesterday.

The clear mind alone can be passionate. Without passion you cannot see the breeze among the leaves or the sunlight on the water. Without passion there is no love.

Seeing is the doing. The interval between seeing and doing is the waste of energy.

Love can only be when thought is still. This stillness can in no way be manufactured by thought. Thought can only put together images, formulas, ideas, but this stillness can never be touched by thought.

Thought is always old, but love is not.

Krishnamurti: Meditation

Continuing the series of Krishnamurti posts this week, the following is written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from BULLETIN 4, 1969:

Meditation is a movement in and of the unknown.

You are not there, only the movement.

You are too petty or too great for this movement. It has nothing behind it or in front of it. It is that energy which thought-matter cannot touch.

Thought is perversion for it is the product of yesterday; it is caught in the toils of centuries and so it is confused, unclear.

Do what you will, the known cannot reach out for the unknown.

Meditation is the dying to the known.

Krishnamurti: have no shelter outwardly or inwardly

rose red enlightenment

Over the next few days I’ll be sharing a series of posts written by J. Krishnamurti. I hope you enjoy them, but also I hope you will take the time to slow down, read them carefully, ponder and see the simple profundity they indicate. Best wishes to you ❤

The following is written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from BULLETIN 4, 1969

Death is only for those who have, and for those who have a resting place. Life is a movement in relationship and attachment; the denial of this movement is death.

Have no shelter outwardly or inwardly; have a room, or a house, or a family, but don’t let it become a hiding place, an escape from yourself.

The safe harbour which your mind has made in cultivating virtue, in the superstition of belief, in cunning capacity or in activity, will inevitably bring death.

You can’t escape from death if you belong to this world, to the society of which you are. The man who died next door or a thousand miles away is you. He has been preparing for years with great care to die, like you. Like you he called living a strife, a misery, or a jolly good show. But death is always there watching, waiting.

But the one who dies each day is beyond death.

To die is to love.

The beauty of love is not in past remembrances or in the images of tomorrow. Love has no past and no future; what has, is memory, which is not love. Love with its passion is just beyond the range of society, which is you.

Die, and it is there.

Do real gurus use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, have websites and advertise?

mike myers true guru

There is a notion going around some spiritual circles that ‘real gurus’ don’t advertise: they don’t have websites; they don’t go on Facebook or Twitter; and they definitely don’t have a blog. Of course, many genuinely awakened people don’t do any of these things – but the same could be said the the un-awakened too. ‘Real gurus’, apparently, sit around all day wearing nothing but a loin cloth, always speak in profound dolcit tones, and have a nice long wispy beard. Gotta have the beard.

Let me ask you, is life so limited? Is it really such a transgression to want to share something you’ve found? Listening to some people it does seem that way. I make no qualms about the fact that I do advertise, that there is a desire to reach out to others to share this wonderful discovery that I call Freedom. It’s not as if I try to hide it! And many people who have found ‘my teachings’ have benefitted from my sharing – not that I take any personal credit for any of this.

There is a natural desire to want to share what I have found. I don’t think this has to be the way it is for everyone, but it does seem to be the way it is over here in this body-mind called Tom. It doesn’t mean I’m not sharing something genuine. It doesn’t mean my realisation is only half-baked. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’m only in it for the money. If one day the desire to share this teaching stopped, and who knows, it might one day, then that would be fine too. For now, I’ll just keep on going. Why? Because that’s what’s happening.

Ramana Maharshi

ramana maharshi

Let’s look at a good example where the myth of not advertising comes from – the example of Ramana Maharshi. Now, many of you know that I have a deep resonance with his teachings and that a sense of devotion towards him spontaneously arose in me quite unexpectedly towards the end of my seeking journey. So I mean no offense at all when I use him as an example. Ramana Maharshi primarily taught in silence and wasn’t obviously/outwardly trying to share any teaching to the masses in an evangelical kind of way. Ramana didn’t travel around the world or even around India – he never really left the mountain of Arunachala once he got there as a teenager, and when he wasn’t being silent, he sometimes talked about the power of silence. Here is an example:

‘Silence of a realised being is most powerful. He sends out waves of spiritual influence which draw many people towards him. Yet he may sit in a cave and maintain complete silence. He never needs to go out among the public. If necessary he can use others as his instrument.’

Here is another example, again from Ramana Maharshi:

‘Contact with an enlightened sage is good. They will work through silence. By speaking their power is reduced. Silence is most powerful. Speech is always less powerful than silence…’

So there we have it. One of the most revered enlightened sages of modern times has said it clear as day. We can therefore deduce that if you’re on Facebook, you’re definitely not realised…right? Well not quite. Let’s take a look.

Shankara

Shankara shankaracharya

If we take the example of Shankara, a giant of Vedic spirituality and considered to be the founder of Advaita Vedanta, we have a very different character outwardly. Shankara fervently travelled the length and breadth of 8th century India preaching and debating those who disagreed with him, setting up schools all across the subcontinent and advertising how his teachings were better and superior to those around him.

Interestingly Ramana Maharshi clearly considered Shankara to be somebody who was fully awakened or self-realised, and yet Shankara clearly went out ‘among the public’. Ramana translated several of Shankara’s works from Sanskrit into Tamil for the benefit of his devotees who were unable to read Sanskrit and described how Shankara’s teachings could lead to liberation. In Ramana’s translation of Shankara’s vivekachudamai, Ramana says of Shankara ‘Sri Sankara, guru of the world (jagathguru), shines as the form of Lord Shiva‘. A worthy complement indeed.

And yet this was a person who certainly did not just stay quiet or stay silent, and he definitely did go out into the public, contrary to the quotes from Ramana Maharshi above. What can we make of this apparent contradiction?

Nisargadatta Maharaj and his lineage

nisargadatta_maharaj

Lets take another example – that of Nisargadatta Maharaj, another revered sage from the 20th centuty. Whilst he did travel widely prior to his awakening, and a small amount afterwards too, he taught mainly from a room in a noisy street in Bombay. As far as I’m aware he didn’t really advertise much himself, but like Ramana, he permitted books about his teachings to be written and sold. So in this way, Nisargadatta would fit the model of a guru who did not solicit disciples and did not, overtly at least, go out to spread the word in public.

However, interestingly, Nisargadatta’s guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, travelled extensively around the state of Maharastra teaching those who came to him, sharing his teachings ‘out in the world’. He actively travelled around this part of India sharing his teahings with anyone who resonated with or who would listen to what he was saying.

In Nisargadatta’s lineage, they also teach using texts from Shankara. In verse 38 of Shankara’s Vivekachudamani it is written:

It is the very nature of the great souls to move of their own accord towards removing other’s troubles’

And in verse 37:

They themselves have crossed the dreadful ocean of the world. Without any selfish motive they help others to cross.

One of Ramana Maharshi’s favourite books is a Tamil  Advaita classic called Kaivalya Navaneeta, or the Cream of Liberation. In verses 34 and 35 this is written:

I have already told you that the sages, liberated while alive, appear to be active in many ways according to their parabdha*. My good boy, hear me further, the activities of the sage are solely for the uplift of the world. He does not stand to lose or gain anything. 

*Parabdha, refers to parabdha karma, which means the results of past actions that have not yet manifested. ie. the playing out of conditioning, or, if you want, destiny.

Samarth Ramdas

Dasbodh

Sri Samarth Ramdas is one of the leading figures in Nisargadatta’s lineage from the 17th century. His written text Dasbodh became one of the main texts, perhaps the main text in Nisargadatta’s lineage. There is a story of Samarth Ramdas meeting Guru Hargobind, the sixth of the ten Sikh gurus. It goes like this:

Samarth Ramdas questions Guru Hargobind about his expensive attire, comparing him to the more austere Guru Nanak: “Guru Nanak was a Tyagi sadhu – a saint who had renounced the world. You are wearing arms and keeping an army and horses. You allow yourself to be addressed as Sacha Patshah, the True King. What sort of a sadhu are you?”
Guru Hargobind replied, “Internally a hermit, and externally a prince. Arms mean protection to the poor and destruction of the tyrant. Baba Nanak had not renounced the world but had renounced Maya, i.e. ego”
Ramdas responded by stating: “This appeals to my mind”.

Guru Hargobind here was teaching Ramdas that what is important is not the outward appearance, but the inward state of mind. Some saints are renunciates, like Guru Nanak, others are more ‘worldly’, at least in outward appearance. This is just the way it is. There is no choice in the matter.

Ramdas subsequently went on to do many things out in the world, contrary to what Ramana says in his statement above. Ramdas started to go out and gather many people around him in order to counter the recent Islamic teachings that had spread into India and convince people of the superiority of the Vedic traditions. He built temples, schools and even statues to promote his cause. In fact much of Ramdas’s magnum opus, Dasbodh, is about living in and dealing with the real world. Ramdas was also quite political, actively opposing the caste system, promoting women’s rights in both spiritual and non-spiritual arenas, recruiting female disciples and also backing a Hindu king to overthrow a Muslim one.

In start contrast to Ramana’s silent power, Ramdas said that sages who sat in one place were lesser saints than the ones who engaged in the world. Also in stark contrast to Ramana, Ramdas said that when he died it would be his books, ie. his words, that would carry the teachings forwards and these words should be cherished.

What a contrast! Here we have a silent sage promoting silence, and an active politically-inclined one promoting activity! What can we make of this?

Other examples in brief

I could go on: King Janaka is often given as an example of an enlightened sage who is wealthy and of the world. Vidyaranya, who wrote Pancadasi, a staple text in the Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta tradition, was very active politically and was political advisor to several kings of the day. More recently Swami Vivekananda and Swami Chinmayananda both set up ‘missions’ to spread the word and both travelled and advertised widely in order to do this.

Conclusion

I hope to any discerning reader, even without citing all these examples, it should be obvious that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with advertising, having a website or even, god-forbid, ‘tweeting’. These activities don’t automatically mean you are an ‘unenlightened’ waste of space. What is important is the purity of motivation and genuineness of insight-realisation. We don’t have to just believe what Ramana or Ramdas said, but we can think and see the reality of it all for ourselves.

As Guru Hargobind said, it is not about renouncing the world, but renouncing the ego. By this I mean seeing through the illusion of believing yourself to be a separate doer entity that authors its thoughts and actions (ie. insight), and the removal of the compulsive habitual tendencies (vasanas) that stem from that false belief (ie. purification).

I’ll leave you with a traditional description of an enlightened sage. It describes how a sage may be silent, but also may be active ‘like a python attacking its prey’! The point is that the unique conditioning of the purified body-mind of a ‘sage’ plays itself out in unique and often varied ways. Again we are quoting from Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, starting at verse 536 (apologies for the male chauvinist language assuming the sage is a ‘he’):

The enlightened sage (the knower of Brahman)…if people provide him with comforts and luxuries, he enjoys them and plays with them  like a child. He bears no outward mark of a holy man…He may wear costly clothing or none…He may seem like a madman or like a child, or sometimes like an unclean spirit…Sometimes he appears to be a fool, sometimes a wiseman…Sometimes he is calm and silent. Sometimes he draws people to him, as a python attacks its prey. Sometimes people honor him greatly, sometimes they insult him. Sometimes they ignore him…He acts, yet is not bound by his action. He reaps the fruit of past actions, yet is unaffected by them.

❤ ❤ ❤

 

Krishnamurti: meditation, Indian temples, Vedanta

154552

The following is an excerpt from ‘The Only Revolution’ by Jiddu Krishnamurti:

Meditation is not an escape from the world; it is not an isolating self-enclosing activity, but rather the comprehension of the world and its ways. The world has little to offer apart from food, clothes and shelter, and pleasure with its great sorrows.

Meditation is wandering away from this world; one has to be a total outsider. Then the world has a meaning, and the beauty of the heavens and the earth is constant. Then love is not pleasure. From this all action begins that is not the outcome of tension, contradiction, the search for self-fulfillment or the conceit of power.


The room overlooked a garden, and thirty or forty feet below was the wide, expansive river, sacred to some, but to others a beautiful stretch of water open to the skies and to the glory of the morning. You could always see the other bank with its village and spreading trees, and the newly planted winter wheat. From this room you could see the morning star, and the sun rising gently over the trees; and the river became the golden path for the sun.

At night the room was very dark and the wide window showed the whole southern sky, and into this room one night came – with a great deal of fluttering – a bird. Turning on the light and getting out of bed one saw it under the bed. It was an owl. It was about a foot-and-a-half high with extremely wide big eyes and a fearsome beak. We gazed at each other quite close, a few feet apart. It was frightened by the light and the closeness of a human being. We looked at each other without blinking for quite a while, and it never lost its height and its fierce dignity. You could see the cruel claws the light feathers and the wings tightly held against the body. One would have liked to touch it, stroke it, but it would not have allowed that. So presently the light was turned out and for some time there was quietness in the room. Soon there was a fluttering of the wings – you could feel the air against your face – and the owl had gone out of the window. It never came again.


It was a very old temple; they said it might be over three thousand years old, but you know how people exaggerate. It certainly was old; it had been a Buddhist temple and about seven centuries ago it became a Hindu temple and in place of the Buddha they had put a Hindu idol. It was very dark inside and it had a strange atmosphere. There were pillared halls, long corridors carved most beautifully, and there was the smell of bats and of incense.

The worshipers were straggling in, recently bathed, with folded hands, and they walked around these corridors, prostrating each time they passed the image, which was clothed in bright silks. A priest in the innermost shrine was chanting and it was nice to hear well-pronounced Sanskrit. He wasn’t in a hurry, and the words came out easily and gracefully from the depths of the temple. There were children there, old ladies, young men. The professional people had put away their European trousers and coats and put on dhotis, and with folded hands and bare shoulders they were, with great devotion, sitting or standing.

And there was a pool full of water – a sacred pool – with many steps leading down to it and pillars of carved rock around it. You came into the temple from the dusty road full of noise and bright, sharp sunshine, and in here it was very shady, dark and peaceful. There were no candles, no kneeling people about, but only those who made their pilgrimage around the shrine, silently moving their lips in some prayer.


A man came to see us that afternoon. He said he was a believer in Vedanta. He spoke English very well for he had been educated in one of the universities and had a bright, sharp intellect. He was a lawyer, earning a great deal of money, and his keen eyes looked at you speculatively, weighing, and somewhat anxious. He appeared to have read a great deal, including something of western theology. He was a middle-aged man, rather thin and tall, with the dignity of a lawyer who had won many cases.

He said: “I have heard you talk and what you are saying is pure Vedanta, brought up to date but of the ancient tradition.” We asked him what he meant by Vedanta. He replied: “Sir, we postulate that there is only Brahman who 5 creates the world and the illusion of it, and the Atman – which is in every human being – is of that Brahman. Man has to awaken from this everyday consciousness of plurality and the manifest world, much as he would awaken from a dream. Just as this dreamer creates the totality of his dream so the individual consciousness creates the totality of the manifest world and other people. You, sir, don’t say all this but surely you mean all this for you have been born and bred in this country and, though you have been abroad most of your life, you are part of this ancient tradition. India has produced you, whether you like it or not; you are the product of India and you have an Indian mind. Your gestures, your statue-like stillness when you talk, and your very looks are part of this ancient heritage. Your teaching is surely the continuation of what our ancients have taught since time immemorial.”

Let us brush aside whether the speaker is an Indian brought up in this tradition, conditioned in this culture, and whether he is the summation of this ancient teaching. First of all he is not an Indian, that is to say, he does not belong to this nation or to the community of Brahmins, though he was born in it. He denies the very tradition with which you invest him. He denies that his teaching is the continuity of the ancient teachings. He has not read any of the sacred books of India or of the West because they are unnecessary for a man who is aware of what is going on in the world – of the behaviour of human beings with their endless theories, with the accepted propaganda of two thousand or five thousand years which has become the tradition, the truth, the revelation.

To such a man who denies totally and completely the acceptance of the word, the symbol with its conditioning, to him truth is not a secondhand affair. If you had listened to him, sir, he has from the very beginning said that any acceptance of authority is the very denial of truth, and he has insisted that one must be outside all culture, tradition and social morality. If you had listened, then you would not say that he is an Indian or that he is continuing the ancient tradition in modern language. He totally denies the past, its teachers, its interpreters, its theories and its formulas.

Truth is never in the past. The truth of the past is the ashes of memory; memory is of time, and in the dead ashes of yesterday there is no truth. Truth is a living thing, not within the field of time.

So, having brushed all that aside, we can now take up the central issue of Brahman, which you postulate. Surely, sir, the very assertion is a theory invented by an imaginative mind – whether it be Shankara or the modern scholarly theologian. You can experience a theory and say that it is so, but that is like a man who has been brought up and conditioned in the Catholic world having visions of Christ. Obviously such visions are the projection of his own conditioning; and those who have been brought up in the tradition of Krishna have experiences and visions born of their culture. So experience does not prove a thing. To recognise the vision as Krishna or Christ is the outcome of conditioned knowledge; therefore it is not real at all but a fancy, a myth, strengthened through experience and utterly invalid. Why do you want a theory at all, and why do you postulate any belief? This constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear – fear of everyday life, fear of sorrow, fear of death and of the utter meaninglessness of life. Seeing all this you invent a theory and the more cunning and erudite the theory the more weight it has. And after two thousand or ten thousand years of propaganda that theory invariably and foolishly becomes “the truth”.

But if you do not postulate any dogma, then you are face to face with what actually is. The “what is”, is thought, pleasure, sorrow and the fear of death. When you understand the structure of your daily living – with its competition, greed, ambition and the search for power – then you will see not only the absurdity of theories, saviours and gurus, but you may find an ending to sorrow, an ending to the whole structure which thought has put together.

The penetration into and the understanding of this structure is meditation. Then you will see that the world is not an illusion but a terrible reality which man, in his relationship with his fellow man, has constructed. It is this which has to be understood and not your theories of Vedanta, with the rituals and all the paraphernalia of organized religion. 7

When man is free, without any motive of fear, of envy or of sorrow, then only is the mind naturally peaceful and still. Then it can see not only the truth in daily life from moment to moment but also go beyond all perception; and therefore there is the ending of the observer and the observed, and duality ceases.

But beyond all this, and not related to this struggle, this vanity and despair, there is – and this is not a theory – a stream that has no beginning and no end; a measureless movement that the mind can never capture.

When you hear this, sir, obviously you are going to make a theory of it, and if you like this new theory you will propagate it. But what you propagate is not the truth. The truth is only when you are free from the ache, anxiety and aggression which now fill your heart and mind. When you see all this and when you come upon that benediction called love, then you will know the truth of what is being said.