Let met start this by saying that as I’ve had more experience meditating, I have gained in respect for Jiddu Krishnamurti, because he describes the experience so well. However, it’s not thanks to Krishnamurti that I did start meditating, nor is he any help in doing so. And that is precisely the limit to his teachings: he was not a meditation teacher.
Someone recently, privately, mailed me about how he respected Krishnamurti’s anti-teacher sentiment. That is: he was personally always annoyed at people who told other people what to do and think. Krishnamurti was very pure in that respect.
Granted. He did not get involved in the world enough to make that kind of mistake. And yes, that is a criticism on my part. It takes involvement to really help people, and yes – that means running the risk of overdoing it. But overdoing it is better than not caring at all.
However I say that all in the context of my end of the 20th century, beginning 21st century life.
Let’s look at Krishnamurti in HIS context and I think you’ll agree that he did just what was needed to become as popular as he did. In other words: consciously or unconsciously he knew just what needed to be taught to make him as big a teacher as he became.
First off: the Theosophical Society gave him world-wide prominence by declaring him to be the coming world teacher. Not quite the arrived world teacher, but that nuance was probably lost on most of the audience.
Then, just when a maximum amount of people was converted, and the rest were sniggering at the situation, he disbanded the Order of the Star. Gaining him in respect from those who had been sniggering, and not loosing much of the awe of those who had been devoted to him.
It was a masterful PR stroke.
And of course he went on to really become a world teacher in the literal sense of the word: teaching till his death all over the world.
As was recently convincingly shown, he didn’t stop selling ‘At the Feet of the Master‘ till he no longer needed it. The only incentive that makes sense to do it like that is financial, because the teachings in that booklet are implicitly contrary to the teachings he was giving at the time. Don’t get me wrong: I’d probably do the same thing. However, the fact has been ignored because people bought into his ‘I don’t remember if I wrote it’ bull.
Let’s go back to the 1930s in our mind, shall we. It was a time of financial crisis. Deep poverty all over the world, rich people losing fortunes. Authority tumbling left and right. The first world war was still in people’s minds, and the second was coming. Nietzsche was popular, because his enigmatic nihilism struck a core.
It was a time for spirituality, but for spirituality in a shape that no longer took organisation all that seriously any more. Organisations as the basis of all that was healthy was a 19th century concept. People no longer bought it as much, though the full collapse of ‘isms’ would have to wait till the 1980s.
Krishnamurti was perhaps ahead of his time in this sense. But he did, of course, end up getting his teachings organised. Sure, the Krishnamurti foundations aren’t as closely knitted together as the Theosophical Society was (and is), but they’re still organisations. There’s no escaping having organisations. In that sense he turned out to be simply wrong.
My main criticism of Krishnamurti is that while he asked great questions, and made many insightful comments, ultimately he was not enough of a teacher.
But could he have become more of a meditation teacher without losing his popularity? I don’t think so. The great popular meditation teachers started in the 1960s. Anyone teaching meditation before that didn’t become popular. Was that Krishnamurti’s motive? Probably not consciously. I do think however he was very much in touch with what people were open to and worked within that framework. Sure: he taught what he felt needed to be taught. I do think he was honest in that sense. However, there’s no telling what he would have taught if he’d have lived right now.
Meditation doesn’t just happen, it needs to be practiced. And once you’re onto actually practicing it, sure THEN it makes sense to go beyond what has been taught. But most people do need that basic instruction into the nitty gritty of meditation. By just sitting, and having a book or a teacher to walk you through what happens IN meditation.
But people weren’t ready for that in Krishnamurti’s formative years. While he meditated all his life, he didn’t seriously teach it at all. Sure, in some of his conversations with students in his schools the subject came up. What he taught would probably be called ‘mindfulness meditation‘ these days. But since we’re not supposed to compare anything Krishnamurti did to anybody else, few people will say so.
Perhaps my main issue with Krishnamurti is his lack of commitment. Does that make any sense?