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If you see the Buddha, Kill Him – an old Zen koan

April 20, 2009

in Spiritual Growth

Perhaps that’s how I can best explain my ultimate rejection of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s teachings. I’ve studied his work, learned a lot from it, and have since moved on. I’m saying this because yesterday someone approached me on facebook because I had written negatively about Jiddu Krishnamurti. She sent me some video’s that I thought, honestly, to be very superficial. So here are a few things I think Jiddu Krishnamurti was spot on about:

  • Conditioning: a lot of what we believe, we do, we think, we feel is determined by what we’ve learned, by our biology, by the history of the human race. In other words: we’re not nearly as independent as we think ourselves to be.
  • Letting go of that conditioning is a large part of the spiritual journey, and without facing up to all that past that’s wrapped up in our present, we can never hope to do much spiritual growing.
  • Relationships especially have a tendency to be hampered by the past. If someone changes, there is a lot of chance that the people around that person will not allow it – and will hinder that person from growing more. Instead they will want them to go back to how they were. They may not consciously decide that, but their actions, thoughts and words will in many cases resist the change. And that makes it harder for that change to become permanent.
  • Fear plays a large part in our lives and only facing up to it is any help. This doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks. It does mean letting the mind look beyond the emotion.
  • And ultimately impersonal, unconditioned love is the only viable source of freedom, happiness or true change.

This is perhaps also the right moment to mention that I’ve made a page with Krishnamurti Essentials: the most important of his books. As usual, some of the proceeds go to yours truly, so buying something off that page is a way of supporting my work.

To get back to the Zen Koan – I don’t think anybody has a right to talk down on Jiddu Krishnamurti, untill they have honestly tried to understand his teachings. It’s a bit like being disrespectful to the Buddha before having met him.

{ 11 comments }

David Melik April 20, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I am unsure you explained the koan. I think the way I finally interpreted it is if you see Buddha make sure he is in Nirvana or can get back there so you can be an excellent bodhisattva.

Katinka Hesselink - All Considering April 21, 2009 at 12:19 am

I did not explain the koan – I used the koan to explain my attitude towards Krishnamurti.

But I do think the koan is more about the person who sees the Buddha than about the Buddha. It could be interpreted as: kill your image of the Buddha (but you still first have to HAVE an idea of what the Buddha stands for to have such an image) – only then can you have true enlightenment. Or it could be about killing the idea of the Buddha that is OUTSIDE yourself, because true Buddha nature is INSIDE us.

Something like that. I do think though that the koan is not understood without realizing that one first has to see the Buddha, before one CAN kill him.

John.P.K February 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

Good. You have to kill your ego, so there will be no need to kill others

Aorist April 21, 2009 at 7:36 pm

I think the koan fits well.

i dont know what points you disagree on with Krishnamurti but disagreeing with him would certainly be something he would advocate. what good is it to blindly accept all one say’s as truth? the things we ourselves believe in especially should be scrutinised.

thanks for summarising those points.

DrDeb April 22, 2009 at 11:06 am

This is the first time I’ve visited your blog, and I will definitely be back. I think it takes courage to explore a new viewpoint, like Jiddu Krishnamurti’s viewpoint. And I think it takes courage to walk away from that viewpoint. Wishing you blessings on your courageous journey.

Bhaskar May 25, 2009 at 12:13 am

If you have moved on – there is no need to criticize him in public. It just poisons the well and puts doubt in minds of people who are beginners, and discourages them from treading the path. If your spiritual journey is over, the least you can do is preserve the sanctity of the path.

katinka - spiritual May 25, 2009 at 12:38 am

I think Krishnamurti wanted people to doubt – wasn’t that the essence of his message – to not take him or anyone else as the final word on anything?

And my spiritual path isn’t over, don’t know where you got that idea.

haridas March 13, 2010 at 10:11 am

Katinka, you have not told us anything about how you have “moved on”. Does it mean you’ve repudiated him; if so, in what respect (s)? Otherwise, your whole blog/site would be a waste. No offence meant!

Katinka - Spirituality March 15, 2010 at 4:01 am

Whether my blog is a waste has nothing to do with whether I reach conclusions or not. Since about 200 people are subscribed here, and I get to develop my thoughts, it’s not a waste whatever I think.

What I think is that there are limitations to his teachings. I don’t repudiate him. In many ways his teachings have shaped my world. However, I do think being attached to them does not work.

Stephen February 20, 2011 at 3:46 am

When a person crosses a river in a boat they don’t need to walk around in the new land with the boat on their head.

Teachings point us in a direction (perhaps a directionless direction or back to oneself) or are like a useful vehicle. The vehicle is useful but not the experience or the aim itself. Attachment to the vehicle is dogma. Becoming fixated on the finger pointing to the moon is to miss the moon.

At least, that’s what I think.

Ray December 25, 2011 at 7:58 am

Wisely said. You gotta give up your holding onto any kind of teaching. It’s even not necessary to ‘discuss’ a teaching at all.

Remember there’s no path to enlightenment. There’s literally no way at all. And you can’t do anything at all.
Set your foot on the spiritual journey and it might take decades to come to where you are right now in this moment.
Reality reveals itself in and of itself. It definitely won’t need any kind of manipulation or interpretation. It couldn’t care less.
Love & Namaste

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