“They were strict vegetarians, even shunning eggs, and throwing away any food that the ‘shadow of an Englishman had crossed.’ ” This is a quote from the Wikipedia entry for J. Krishnamurti, describing the man’s family. The son of an administrator for the British Raj, Jiddu Krishnamurti was my second introduction to Eastern Philosophy — really, the third. The first was Mr. Brockway at Grayslake High School in Illinois who presented The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts, to our Eastern Civilization class sophomore year. My gurus in that area would then be primarily and more accurately: Brockway, Watts, and then Krishnamurti. Friday, May 23, at San Diego State University, on the first floor of the library addition, an exhibit, “The Mind of Krishnamurti,” will close.
I became familiar with his books when I was living in Santa Barbara in the early ’70s, playing in a rock band, reading Carlos Castaneda and Herman Hesse. Krishnamurti lived nearby in Ojai (not far from the Boot and Saddle Country & Western Bar, where I was playing at the time), though I never had occasion to meet him.
Born May 12, 1895, as the long day waned on the British in India, he became, as a young adult, “...a popular writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects. His subject matter included (but was not limited to): the purpose of meditation, human relationships, and how to enact positive change in global society. At the age of 34, he publicly renounced the fame and messiah status he had gained from being proclaimed the new incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha by the Theosophical Society, and spent the rest of his life meeting people from all walks of life and holding public talks, mostly in South Asia, Europe, and the United States. At age 90 he addressed the United Nations on the subject of peace and awareness, and was awarded the 1984 UN Peace Medal.”
In 1973, while I was playing Buck Owens tunes in Oxnard, with a paperback copy of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley as well as Krishnamurti’s Notebooks in my guitar case, I already knew about theosophy and Madame Blavatsky and considered them crackpots, unlike myself. I was, after all, a sober (well, not technically) and considered seeker of spiritual truths, Magick in Theory and Practice, enlightenment beyond what the (inscrutable) Tibetan Book of the Dead had to offer, and good deals on lids of marijuana. I had pretty much closed the door on what I considered the most well-thought-out religion in history, Catholicism. I read the Tao Te Ching in about a day, employed the I Ching to plot my oddly unsellable science fiction stories, dabbled occasionally in a bit of tarot consulting with my girlfriend, and had memorized entire quotes from Gautama Buddha. “A man could be born a blind leper in a ring of fire and know only Nirvana.” And so it was I was glad J. Krishnamurti had disassociated himself from those theosophy nuts. Apparently they are still doing well right here in Point Loma and, for all I know, are far less nutty than myself.
Thirty-six years later, I was glad to find this story online, which I had read elsewhere in one of his books. Possibly The First and Last Freedom or The Mind of Krishnamurti, which actually is about him, not by him, though I am unsure. Wikipedia retrieves it for me.
“You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, ‘What did that man pick up?’ ‘He picked up a piece of the truth,’ said the devil. ‘That is a very bad business for you, then,’ said his friend. ‘Oh, not at all,’ the devil replied, ‘I am going to help him organize it.’ I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path.”
I may be able to either thank or blame Krishnamurti for much of my attitude, at this age, toward truth. It was after reading him, after all, when he made a complimentary reference to the works of Nietzsche, that I began reading that German philosopher and found myself inexplicably creeped out. On the other hand, it wasn’t long before I found Schopenhauer, another German (and cynic), whom I found myself nodding sagely along with as I read his depressive ramblings, eloquent as they were. In other words, it may be more or less thanks to J. Krishnamurti that I have become something like Pilate, who once asked, “What is truth?” and did not stay for an answer.
When the Indian-born reluctant guru closed out his (sort of) Order of the Star, he made a speech, from which this is an excerpt: “This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.”
“The Mind of Krishnamurti,” San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, 619-594-5200 or 619-594-4303.