Jiddu Krishnamurti as a man of his time

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?

11 thoughts on “Jiddu Krishnamurti as a man of his time”

  1. Hi Katinka,
    Touching base again with you on a different topic, I personally hold a similar view.
    Firstly, IMO you can guide a person to meditation. Paradoxically, it cannot be taught.
    Secondly, meditation is a process by which you attain self-realization. After realizing the ‘self’ – the ‘atman’, what next?

    After realizing the core within and shedding off the Freudian ego comes the more difficult part. The act of purifying the spirit and moving away from ‘samsara’ or worldly attachment.

    For an everyday average Joe, the first part of getting to ‘realize the self’ itself is unfathomable and can be daunting. After ‘realization’ there are indeed many souls which hit the power button and retrograde back to the pursuit of worldly gains with increased vigor! We see many saffron robed saintly figures with a lure for more money, sadly – enlightened nevertheless.

    REAL progress takes a very long time (over many lifetimes). Many of us miss seemingly simple paradoxes and oxymoron’s. Like when we say ‘sea level’ – when was the sea ever level?

    This is a sordid reality – one that every soul would go through and realize what is required at that point in time, over time.

    Much respect and warmth,

  2. There is nothing to practice, there is nothing to do.
    To practice means you are preparing for the future.
    There is no future.
    That is why the 1st step is so important, because there is no 2nd step.

    In Europe, being the result more or less, of the heritage “greco-roman” as greek and roman, we tend to say :
    “the Mediterranean-sea-level, as for Marenostrum-sea-level !”
    There is no explicit willingness to omit the cultural heritage of the celtic world, which is also European.
    (As Indo-European).
    What a nice observation !

  4. Hi Katinka

    I think you are way off on your statement that “he was not a meditation teacher”. While it may be true that he did not provide a “How To Meditate Roadmap”, everything he ever spoke and did was nothing but a teaching of meditation. He focused especially hard on those things/behaviors/beliefs that prevented meditation since when these end – Meditation Is.

    While it is true that he repeatedly claimed that he did not want to be anybody’s teacher or be an authority I don’t think that it is fair or accurate to represent this as a lack of caring or in some sense a popularity management move.

    On the contrary, it is estimated that he met more people on a regular basis than perhaps any other man in the world to individually lead each person to exactly the next step on the path to a meditative life. (Several books document many of these conversations). He did this ceaselessly for 60 years, almost to the last week of his life. Having met the man in person, I saw that he was a deeply compassionate person who cared deeply for the well being of every person he encountered even though he was impatient with people who wanted to be followers as he saw this as an abdication of responsibility.

    His message was very much to “Be a light unto yourself” which can only happen after you have dropped the need to be told what to do by somebody else.

    IMO His directives were very stern and he was not willing to bend on each person taking full responsibility for their awakening rather than be led there by another, however wise. However, everything he has said and this is laboriously documented as you can see it in his own words is available on several websites. This is good as it leaves little room for interpreters who decide to explain what he really said and did, which unfortunately was true for many other teachers.

    He has actually often been compared to the Buddha and has been a seminal influence on many including Aldous Huxley, Osho, Eckhardt Tolle, Deepak Chopra and many more.


  5. I think he was quite useful in his ideas and teachings (or lack thereof) of meditation. He wasn’t advocating people blindly turning an act into a ritual. We can meditate all day and accomplish nothing.

    He didn’t necessarily dislike meditation—he simply questioned it. He liked to define and communicate exactly what he was saying so talking about so his idea of meditation wasn’t blindly sitting in a position (because you were told so) but a productive act of inquiry and awareness.

    If you read or listen to him on meditation he always started by asking “What is meditation?” This makes sense. When someone starts talking about love or God, you might get two incredibly different ideas of what the word means and communication is lost. Krishnamurti wanted the listeners to know exactly what he meant and wanted the them to actively go into the ideas for themselves—or better yet, go into the ideas with him.

  6. Each one defines meditation in his way, some do it in a more eloquent way, more poetical, philosphical, and some other may go to the extent of attributing it into the ultimate healing instrument, but, who can tell you what it is….

    It is’nt a verb and so there’s no way of ‘doing’ it, ….and whatever will be said about will be only ‘said about’ …..

    To meditate is’nt the same thing as meditation….in the same way to beautify is’nt the same thing as ‘beauty’…
    Same difference as in doing and being.

    So what is meditation?
    An experience with/ of your state of being, your ‘intimacy?
    Offering a total presence , in a field of consciousness?
    Maybe it is a bit of all of these…yet what ‘is’ cannot be said ….what is said ‘is not’

    Krishnamurti has been a great orator, and never pretended to have invented anything.
    You can trace the very essence of his teachings in the fundamentals of the upanishads, the vedantas, buddhism.. perhaps in a different analytical form….and all this has no importance to what meditation is, except that it is a typical human bug, an attempt – for the mind to tolerate itself.
    By saying this i’m only provoking..

    And as far as meditation is concerned we could stick so many things to that word from a etymological point of view to a epistemological point of view….making it into another subject.
    Some of us tend to think of mentalisation, along with a cocktail of visualisation techniques as meditation….because behind all this there is a notion of wanting to get somewhere, to purify, to go higher and beyond….beyond what???

    While others think of meditation in terms of healing, spirituality, medicine….. and the list can can go endlessly.

    And Katinka, this has brought me here to you, and i think thats fun!
    You have created a fabulous space, very stimulating…while each day brings us its nuances light, and we keep growing into us!
    May you ‘ve a beautiful day!

  7. ajatavada: which admits of no second.
    There is no reality or absence of it, no seeking or gaining, no creation no destruction, no bondage or liberation, no aspirant seeking liberation and so on. This is the Supreme Truth.
    – Mandukya Upanishad, Gaudapada Karika II.32.

  8. Yes. I feel that he commits the problem of the Higher Self, despite denying it.


    Dmitry A.A.

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