Krishnamurti and the Pathless Land

One hundred twenty-one years ago today, the Indian speaker and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) was born.  He was only 11 when he met a leader of the Theosophical Society who tried to groom him as the next “World Teacher,” their concept of a super-guru from tomorrowland based loosely on Maitreya, the so-called future Buddha.

In 1929, Krishnamurti, then 34, rebelled against the World Teacher gig, disbanded the organization created to support him (Order of the Star in the East), gave all the donated money back, and headed into the endless further.

He became like a roving iconoclast, unaffiliated with any religion, espousing no specific philosophy, rejecting methods and techniques.  He offered a kind of un-teaching.  He wrote books, traveled the world speaking to audiences large and small, punching holes in many a cherished notion.

On the day he dissolved the Order, Krishnamurti said,

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 . . .”

Krishnamurti was the ultimate skeptic.  He felt that if one wasn’t questioning, one wasn’t thinking.  But in a public talk given in 1949, he cautioned,

Skepticism is not cynicism or denial; it is the state of mind that does not agree quickly, that does not accept or take things for granted.  A mind that accepts is seeking, not enlightenment or wisdom, but refuge.”  *

We should not be looking for sanctuaries or safe harbors, but rather keep our minds set upon enlightenment.  Of course, Krishnamurti, being Krishnamurti, the ultimate questioner, might ask, as he did in another talk, “To be enlightened about what? Please let us be rational.” **

– – – – – – – – – –

* Sayings of J. Krishnamurti, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Susunaga Weeraperuma, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1996

** Public talk, Saanen, 1980

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Throwback Thursday: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Light

Today, an edited repost of a piece from 2014:

The concept of Buddha-nature is fundamental dharma and there are a number of sutras discuss its universality, yet none of them actually use the term, “Buddha-nature.”

00bThe Surangama Sutra, for instance, expounds the principle of Buddha-nature in terms of “pure” or “luminous” mind.

The Buddha said, Ananda and all of you should understand . . . that human beings, since time without beginning, have been subject to continuous sufferings because they do not know the basically bright and pure mind.”

The Buddha explains that living beings have lost sight of their light, their original brightness, even though it shines within them all day long, and because they cannot see it, they make the mistake of “entering the various destinies,” which means to transmigrate through illusory realms of existence.

The point is how to make people recognize their Buddha-nature. How much can you ‘see’ of the Buddha-nature inside of you?

The sutra is a teaching for the Buddha’s cousin, Ananda; it is his sutra. The title, Surangama, means “indestructible.” Because the light is always shining within whether we see it or not, we can say that in one sense the light is indestructible or unyielding. When we awaken to our Buddha-nature, and do not lose sight of it, others can see the brightness shining through, and then this teaching becomes our own indestructible sutra.

When the Buddha gave to his disciples the famous admonition to “be a lamp unto yourself,” he was telling them not to seek the light outside of their own lives, to always look within.

In This Light in Oneself, Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote,

One has to be a light to oneself; this light is the law. There is no other law. All the other laws are made by thought and so are fragmentary and contradictory. To be a light to oneself is not to follow the light of another, however reasonable, logical, historical, and however convincing.

You cannot be a light to yourself if you are in the dark shadows of authority, of dogma, of conclusion. Morality is not put together by thought; it is not the outcome of environmental pressure, it is not of yesterday, of tradition.

Freedom is to be a light to oneself; then it not an abstraction, a thing conjured up by thought.”

So, no matter what, don’t lose sight of your light.

 

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Awareness

Not long ago, I saw this great video of Dick Van Dyke dancing up a storm at the age of 89.  I was impressed and when I noticed the other night that he was going to be on the Tavis Smiley show, I tuned in. He’s currently promoting a new book, Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.

WoI2During the interview, Van Dyke mentioned Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity. Evidently, he learned a great deal from it.

After the program, I got out my copy of the book. I hadn’t looked through it for quite a while. Watts’ theme in this work is that the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are essentially the same thing. It is the desire to be secure that produces insecurity.

Here’s a passage from the first page I turned to,

We do not need action – yet. We need more light.

Light, here, means awareness – to be aware of life, of experience as it is this moment, without any ideas or judgments about it. In other words, you have to see and feel what you are experiencing as it is, and not as it is named. This very simple ‘opening of the eyes’ brings about the most extraordinary transformation of understanding and living, and shows that many of our most baffling problems are pure illusion. This may sound like an over-simplification because most people imagine themselves to be fully enough aware of the present already, but we shall see that this is far from true.”

At the end of the paragraph, a footnote: “The word ‘awareness’ is used in the sense given to it by J. Krishnamurti, whose writings discuss this theme with extraordinary perception.”

Someone asked Krishnamurti once what he meant by awareness. His long response began with these words, “I wonder if we really are aware of anger, sadness, happiness? Or are we aware of these things only when they are all over?”

In meditation, we try to be aware or mindful of the present moment. The most crucial moments, though, are the heated moments, the moments of anxiety, depression, or confusion. Often, we are most aware of ourselves in those moments. Or perhaps it is when these moments have passed.  Then, there is a possibility for regrets. Some regrets might have a basis for foundation but others may stem from ideas and judgments we have made about ourselves.

No judgments. Before action, more light.

 

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Don’t Lose Sight of Your Light

Buddha-nature is a fundamental dharma and a number of sutras discuss its universality, yet none of them actually use the term, “Buddha-nature.”

The Surangama Sutra, for instance, expounds the principle of Buddha-nature in terms of “pure” mind and uses the metaphor of light.

The Buddha said, Ananda and all of you should know . . . that living beings, since the time without beginning, have been subject continuously to birth and death because they do not know the permanent True Mind whose substance is, by nature, pure and bright.”

Later, the Buddha explains that living beings have lost sight of the light, the original brightness, even though it shines within them all day long, and because they remain unaware of it, they make the mistake of “entering the various destinies.”

The Surangama’s essential point is how to make people recognize their Buddha-nature. How much can you see of the Buddha-nature inside of you?

The sutra is a teaching for the Buddha’s cousin, Ananda; it is his sutra. The title, “Surangama,” means “indestructible.” Because the light is always shining within us, whether we see it or not, it is, in a sense, indestructible or unyielding. When we are able to see our Buddha-nature, and not lose sight of it, the “light” becomes the basis for the way we live and act out our life, and then this becomes our own indestructible sutra.

Not only is the purpose of meditation to cultivate a peaceful mind and rest our minds in the now, it is also a tool to help open our eyes to our Buddha-nature.  When the Buddha said to his disciples “be a lamp unto yourself,” he was telling them not to seek the light outside of their own lives, look within. In This Light in Oneself, Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote,

One has to be a light to oneself; this light is the law. There is no other law. All the other laws are made by thought and so are fragmentary and contradictory. To be a light to oneself is not to follow the light of another, however reasonable, logical, historical, and however convincing.

You cannot be a light to yourself if you are in the dark shadows of authority, of dogma, of conclusion. Morality is not put together by thought; it is not the outcome of environmental pressure, it is not of yesterday, of tradition.

Freedom is to be a light to oneself; then it not an abstraction, a thing conjured up by thought.”

So, don’t lose sight of your light.

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Happy Mind

Everyone wants happiness. There is no question that it is a paramount quest in life.

The Journal of Positive Psychology just published a new study by Paulina Pchelin and Ryan T. Howel, “The hidden cost of value-seeking: People do not accurately forecast the economic benefits of experiential purchases.” Long title, huh? The conclusion they reached is this: “In spite of the experiential advantage, people consume material items in the pursuit of happiness.”

In other words, although most people know that an afternoon spent in a park is a more enjoyable experience, they will still head for the mall. I don’t know how much money it costs to conduct studies like this, but any of us could have told them that for free. It seems they did not accurately forecast the economic downside of their experiential study.

Anyway, we all know the old adage “money can’t buy you happiness.” But there are plenty of folks who either ignore it or don’t believe it’s true. Perhaps the problem is that people are confused about what constitutes happiness and how to go about getting it.

In another recent study, Stanford researcher Jennifer Aaaker says, “Although the desire for personal happiness may be clear, the path to achieving it is indefinite. One reason for this hazy route to happiness is that although people often think they know what leads to happiness, their predictions about what will make them happy are often inaccurate.”

What’s more, she suggests that searching for happiness can lead to less happiness.

The Tao Te Ching says that “sages do not contend.”  The word “contend,” in addition to the sense of contentiousness, means to “go after” or “push for.”  So, a sage or a buddha does not go after happiness and they are happy, or maybe they don’t even look at life in terms of happiness, it is satisfying enough to just be.

Well, we all know this, right?  And yet, we often find ourselves grasping after some sort of self-gratification or pleasure, and then feeling disappointed when it isn’t all we hoped for.  Buddhism defines happiness as achieving a state that is free of suffering. Buddha said that suffering comes from wanting things. He said the greatest suffering comes from not getting what you want, and that the second greatest suffering comes when you get what you want.

The solution, then, seems rather simple: stop chasing after happiness. In The Book of Life, Jiddu Krishnamurti is quoted as saying,

The moment you are conscious that you are happy, it is not happiness, is it? So you cannot go after happiness. The moment you are conscious that you are humble, you are not humble. So happiness is not a thing to be pursued; it comes. But if you seek it, it will evade you.”

To stop chasing after happiness is easier said than done, for happiness takes on many forms, and many of the myriad ways in which we search for it are so subtle that we are not aware of what we are doing, or we can be so busy seeking whatever is happiness means to us, that we fail to see that it is all around.

This is one reason why meditation is such a valuable tool, because it helps us see the happiness present in the now.  As Nagarjuna said in his Commentary of Bodhicitta,

A happy mind is tranquil. A tranquil mind is not confused. To be unperplexed is to understand the truth. By understanding truth, one obtains freedom from suffering.”

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