Monday, April 15, 2013


"The truth is something living, moving ... this living thing is what you actually are -- your anger, your brutality, your violence, your despair, the agony and sorrow you live in... This is the truth, and you can understand it only if you know how to look at those things in your life. And you cannot look through an ideology, through a screen of words, through hopes and fears.... You cannot depend on anybody. There is no guide, no teacher, no authority. There is only you -- your relationship with others and with the world -- there is nothing else."
                                       - Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known
J. Krishnamurti

The story goes like this: Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in India in 1895, and he was "discovered" in adolescence by an international movement called Theosophy, which had about 30,000 followers. He was educated and groomed by the movement, indoctrinated with its beliefs and with the prophecy that he would become the next World Teacher--a messiah, the reincarnation of Christ, a Buddha. At a convention of Theosophy's religious offshoot called the Order of the Star, he stood up in front of 3,000 followers and said that truth cannot be reached by any path, through any system, or by following any authority. He dissolved the religion, distanced himself from the Theosophists, and moved to California.

For the rest of his life, Krishnamurti spoke publicly as an independent thinker, not as a religious leader, and he published books about the psychological and social pitfalls of our efforts to understand the human place in the cosmos.

I have respect for Krishnamurti because he had to give up a lot of power and take a lot of heat in order to do what he considered the right thing. That makes him far more credible in my mind than any spiritual teacher, guru, or religious leader who has benefited materially or socially from their role as an authority. I found Krishnamurti's book Freedom from the Known to be eye-opening and full of insight. Even more than Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, this book has stuck with me and shaped my understanding of religion and other social structures. It has inspired me to look carefully into my mind as I pursue a competitive career and participate in a "spiritual" practice.

Only recently, more than three years after I read that book, have I come to appreciate his question, "Can you be completely negative, completely quiet, neither thinking nor afraid, and yet be extraordinarily, passionately alive?"

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