I’d like to introduce a new writing series entitled The Teachers Speak. Here, we’ll explore what various well-known spiritual figures have said about an array of subjects, including God, enlightenment, the spiritual path and the different ways we all travel it.
I’ve written reports like this before, but the intention is to share them more regularly with more diverse material. In doing so, we can discuss the similarities and dissimilarities between what various spiritual figures say while exploring the philosophical and spiritual meaning of their words.
It seems appropriate for this first article to share guidance from Jiddu Krishnamurti, a respected spiritual teacher who encouraged liberation from the distractions, desires and habits of the mind.
As we’ll learn here, the mind will go to any extent to reinforce its existence (thus reinforcing our existence as humans who are separate from the All), but passive awareness of everything we think, feel and experience can keep us from being susceptible to the mind’s conditioning.
First, Krishnamurti tells us that the mind depends on sensations for survival.
“Sensations are of the mind, as sexual appetites are. The mind breeds the appetite, the passion, through remembrance, from which it derives gratifying sensations.
“The mind is composed of differing and conflicting interests or desires, with their exclusive sensations; and they clash when one or the other begins to predominate, thus creating a problem.
“Sensations are both pleasant and unpleasant, and the mind holds to the pleasant, thus becoming a slave to them. … The mind is the maker of problems and so we cannot resolve them.” (1)
When it’s allowed to, the surface mind constantly indulges in obsessions.
“It is not good my rebelling against what is, the actual. The recognition of what is does not lead to smug contentment and ease. When I yield to what is, there is not only the understanding of it, but there also comes a certain quietness to the surface mind.
“If the surface mind is not quiet, it indulges in obsessions, actual or imaginary; it gets caught up in some social reform or religious conclusion: the Master, the saviour, the ritual, and so on. It is only when the surface mind is quiet that the hidden can reveal itself. The hidden must be exposed; but this is not possible if the surface mind is burdened with obsessions, worries.” (2)
If we don’t resolve the conflict between our conscious and subconscious, we’ll be more susceptible to obsessions and further distraction.
“Since the surface mind is constantly in some kind of agitation, conflict is inevitable between the upper and the deeper levels of mind; and as long as this conflict is not resolved, obsessions increase.
“After all, obsessions are a means of escape from conflict. All escapes are similar, though it is obvious that some are socially more harmful.
“When one is aware of the total process of obsession or of any other problem, only then is there freedom from the problem. To be extensively aware, there must be no condemnation or justification of the problem; awareness must be choiceless.
“To be so aware demands wide patience and sensitivity; it requires eagerness and sustained attention so that the whole process of thinking can be observed and understood.” (3)
The ‘upper’ and ‘deeper’ minds are similar in that they’re both outcomes of the past.
“The upper and the deeper mind are not dissimilar; they are both made up of conclusions, memories, they are both the outcome of the past. They can supply an answer, a conclusion, but they are incapable of dissolving the problem.
“The problem is dissolved only when both the upper and the deeper mind are silent, when they are not projecting positive or negative conclusions. There is freedom from the problem only when the whole mind is utterly still, choicelessly aware of the problem; for only then the maker of the problem is not.” (4)
It seems from what Krishnamurti has said that only when the mind is still and we passively observe life can we bring an end to the conflicts on which the mind thrives.
It’ll be locked in patterns of craving and gratification if we don’t slow it down and become aware of the hold it has on most of us.
With this judgment-free observation and resulting inner change, we can free ourselves from habits and addictions; the biggest of which is our addiction to the pleasures of the external world.
A lot of spiritual seekers aren’t there yet, including me, but this is why we have teachers like Krishnamurti: to help show the way for those who are often lost but try their best.
In the quotes to come, you’ll see that Krishnamurti was certain that the only way to liberate ourselves is to calmly observe and subsequently depart the mind’s limitation.
In this passage, he tells us that thought usually clouds the experience of what is.
“The understanding of what is does not depend upon thought, for thought itself is an escape. To think about the problem is not to understand it. It is only when the mind is silent that the truth of what is unfolds.” (5)
Thought binds us to time, which binds us to the external world and all of its seemingly important qualities.
“Thought is binding; thought can only lead to the vast expanse of time, the field in which knowledge, action, virtue, have importance.” (6)
We discover the ‘new’ when thought is silent.
“Thought can only deny or assert, it cannot discover or search out the new. Thought cannot come upon the new; but when thought is silent, then there may be the new.” (7)
Since thought is a product of memory, it keeps us from bliss when we let it intervene.
“There cannot be the experiencing of the unknown until the mind ceases to experience. Thought is the expression of experience; thought is a response of memory; and as long as thinking intervenes, there can be no experiencing.” (8)
The mind can’t grasp or connect with the silence that induces bliss, and words can’t properly explain how it feels.
“If this silence were an illusion the mind would have had some relationship to it, it would either reject it or cling to it, reason it away or with subtle satisfaction identify itself with it; but since it has no relationship to this silence, the mind cannot accept or deny it.
“The mind can operate only with its own projections, with the things which are of itself; but it has no relationship with the things that are not of its own origin. The silence is not of the mind, and so the mind cannot cultivate or become identified with it. The content of this silence is not to be measured by words.” (9)
The mind is only passively aware, he tells us, during a true meditative experience. The mind can’t really be called an observer by then, because it has no point of reference with which to identify the label (or anything else).
“The mind was not functioning; it was alert and passive, and though cognizant of the breeze playing among the leaves, there was no movement of any kind within itself. There was no observer who measured and observed. There was only THAT, and THAT was aware of itself without measure. It had no beginning and no word.” (10)
In our final quote, he tells us that the mind, when controlled by others or given too much control over us, destroys love.
“It is the mind with its demands and fears, its attachments and denials, its determinations and urges, that destroys love.” (11)
As you can see, Krishnamurti’s solution to the spiritual crisis plaguing the world is to stop being ruled by the mind.
It isn’t that the mind is bad; it’s an incredibly sophisticated, complex instrument that helps us survive in this world through the power of instinct, but our personal problems and our general lack of enlightenment stem from succumbing to its every desire and giving it all of our power.
However awkward or boring meditation might seem to some, it gives us the opportunity to calm the mind and get into a space where it’s too subdued to condition us. With time and practice, we can exist in this state constantly and help others see that their susceptibility to the mind is one main cause of their unhappiness.
Beyond the mind exists true love, which is a power unlike any we have yet to witness, and this gives us more of a reason to transcend the mind’s conditioning and invite this power to express itself.
It awaits anyone who’s willing to calm the mind, and if we open up to it, we’ll quickly realize that the higher consciousness with which we replaced our habits and misguided desires is infinitely more rewarding.
(1) J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living. First Series. Bombay, etc.: B.I. Publications, 1972; c1974, 102.
(2) Ibid., 115-6.
(3) Loc. Cit.
(4) Ibid., 137.
(5) J. Krishnamurti,Commentaries on Living. Second Series. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1967; c1958, 41.
(6) Ibid., 167.
(7) J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living. First Series. Ibid., 44.
(8) Ibid., 32.
(9) Ibid., 58.
(10) J. Krishnamurti,Commentaries on Living. Second Series. Ibid., 242.
(11) Ibid., 223