Debating J. Krishnamurti-II

Debating J. Krishnamurti-II
A response to comments

My essay ‘Silences of Jiddu Krishnamurti’ elicited diverse responses from readers; sent either to The India Forum (Debating J. Krishnamurti) or directly to me. Some individuals who wrote had or have associations with institutions connected with J Krishnamurti, while others have engaged with his ideas. It would be impossible to go into the details that would be needed for a consummate response, but I will express a few thoughts. None of these thoughts are complete nor will they go into the layers of discussion that each demand. 

Some letters came in defence of Krishnamurti. But Krishnamurti does not need defending. So, whom or what are we defending? Our truth as we perceive it through the questions and discussions Krishnamurti triggered? What about questioning that truth? The irony here is that Krishnamurti’s un-compromising demand for observation and questioning has become a sanctified shrine. But since the deity is ‘the act of questioning’ itself, we presume we are unchained and free. It is quite possible that I am entirely wrong, but can we sincerely grapple with the actual ideas and not find sanctuary in un-critical descriptions of Krishnamurti’s life and work? 

The philosophical centrality of my essay lies in the conundrum between detached observation of fear, anger, love and the lived experience. We have to be first willing to observe that the detached observation itself exists within a lived experience. 

To understand this a little better, let me place the following in a spectrum. At the most abstract level, all described emotions do not exist as differentiated entities because, at that end of the spectrum, we are presuming that there is no memory. I will call it a state of self-less feeling. At the other end lies the self-obsessed ‘I’, where every thought exists only because of its inter-connectivity with identity. When Krishnamurti speaks of un-conditioned love, compassion on one hand and fear or anger on the other, he is moving within this spectrum. What we need to explore very carefully is the role that context plays within this bandwidth. We cannot speak of the abstract as the ideal and work backwards from there, ignoring the various layers of impression that begin even before cognition. For an individual to imagine the possibility of dispassionate observation there are circumstantial and environmental contributors. Fear or anger have to be problematized within the socio-cultural. Every human being’s experience of fear is the same but all sources of fear are not the same. Only when we honestly accept this and struggle with it can there be real understanding that may lead to realizing the underbelly of human conditionality. So, when I say that there needs to be equity in understanding fear, I am demanding that we recognize and reflect upon this unequal reality. The socio-cultural context is at the very base of this questioning and we cannot treat it as just another superstructure. 

In some responses people have placed society-associated inquiries at a slightly lower step to the Krishnamurti-like seeking, which they believe transcends the limitations of this reality. This is deeply problematic. Unless we robustly engage with inter-external realities with all its insidious ways of functioning, the transcending is self-delusional. Ambedkar presents a transcending philosophy in a different register; one that begins from seeing the world from the depths of its ugliness. Working to create a world that is truly equal after having experienced the worst is not an ideology; it is liberation for all. This liberation was expressed in the form of a democratic document, which hoped to give every individual leisure to pause, observe and question, and hence indispensable to internal questioning. 

In the essay, I use faith in a distinct manner, not as ‘faith in’ anything. 

Faith is that experience we are all blessed (used in a non-religious sense!) with, within which the ‘self’ dissolvesI refuse to trap it within religion or consider it a staddle. Narayana Guru speaks from that sacred space. 

When I said that Krishnamurti did not reflect on his own conditionalities, it was not in the sense of wanting him to write a book about it. To me, it is abundantly clear that his ideas were not imbued with the realities of the marginalized. ‘He spoke for everyone’ is a superficial argument that sounds similar to what is said of the many ‘guru-s’. It is also assumed by some among the socio-culturally privileged that those who are deprived of social/economic/cultural respect do not have the time to ponder over these questions. This is a discriminative thought. The most profound understandings of life have come from those who have been pushed to the corner. Articulation is not necessarily a sign of wisdom. 

Am I looking through only a socio-political lens?  Am I interested in the questions of the outside; the structural?  But why am I interested in who we are? How we live? And investigate how systemic discrimination is ingrained? 

These are socio-political questions no doubt, but how can we not recognize that these questions dive within oneself, exploring how I create and perpetuate these identities. They are not different from asking that proverbial question “Who am I?”. But we cannot and should not choose the later over all the others. All these questions have to remain in active flux. I do not expect Krishnamurti to be a social activist but, in his overarching questioning, certain insights are conspicuously absent and hence some bridges between the abstract and the material need to be built. 

TM Krishna
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