Education and the Significance of Life (1978)
Krishnamurti was born on 11 May 1985, at Madanapalle, a small hill town between Madras and Bangalore. His father, Jiddu Narianiah, had married a cousin, Sanjeevamma, who bore him ten children, of whom Krishna was the eighth.
This Telugu-speaking, vegetarian Brahmin family were not badly off by Indian standards, Narianiah being an official in the Revenue Department of the British administration, rising before his retirement to the position of District Magistrate. Narianiah was a Theosophist and Sanjeevamma a worshipper of Sri Krishna, himself an eighth child after whom she called her own eighth child.
Sanjeevamma had a premonition that this eighth child was to be remarkable in some way and insisted, in spite of her husband’s protests, that it should be born in the puja room. A Brahmin writer has pointed out that this prayer room could normally only be entered after a ritual bath and the putting-on of clean clothes: ‘Birth, death and the menstrual cycle were the focus of ritual pollution … that a child should be born in this room was unthinkable.’ And yet it was so.
Unlike Sanjeevamma’s other confinements, it was an easy birth. The next morning the baby’s horoscope was cast by a well-known astrologer who assured Narianiah that his son was to be a very great man. For years it seemed unlikely that his prediction would be fulfilled. Whenever the astrologer saw Narianiah he would ask ‘What of the boy Krishna? … Wait. I have told you the truth; he will be someone very wonderful and great.’
At the age of two Krishna almost died of malaria. Thereafter, for several years, he suffered from bouts of malaria and severe nose bleeds which kept him away from school and closer to his mother than any of her other children. He loved to go with her to the temple. He was such a vague and dreamy child, and so bad at school work, which he hated that he appeared to his teachers to be mentally retarded. Nevertheless he was extremely observant, as he was to be all his life. He would stand for long stretches at a time, watching trees and clouds, or squat to gaze at flowers and insects. He also had a most generous nature, another characteristic which he retained throughout his life. He would often return from school without pencil, slate or books, having given them to some poorer child, and when beggars came to the house in the mornings to receive the customary gift of unboiled rice and his mother sent him out to distribute the food, he would return for more, having poured all the rice into the first man’s bag.
—Mary Lutyens, The Life and Death of Krishnamurti, Chennai: Krishnamurti Foundation India, 1990, pp. 3-4.
When there is total attention to yesterday’s psychological memory, than that memory comes to an end; the brain cells and the mind then are free.’ Krishnamurti here speaks of a total attention to yesterday’s psychological memory in order to end it. If it ends, then there is no projection of an image on that which is sought to be perceived. In the ending of the psychological memory of yesterday there comes into being naturally and effortlessly a state of / attention in which pure perception of what is becomes possible. It has to be remembered that in Krishnamurti’s Approach, total attention means non-verbalized observation; it is perception without naming. He says that in order to end the psychological memory of yesterday, one must totally attend to it. Now, yesterday’s psychological memory exists neither as an object nor as an event. It exists only as an image. It represents not what is, but what was. It is this image which causes all the projections of the mind; it is this which distracts from what is.
—Rohit Mehta, J. Krishnamurti and the Nameless Experience: A Comprehensive Discussion of J. Krishnamurti’s Approach to Life, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2002, pp. 328-329
In 1929, after years of questioning himself and the destiny imposed upon him, Krishnamurti disbanded the Order of the Star, the theosophical organization he was elected to be the head and chairman, turning away all followers.
Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular spiritual path.
From that time until his death in February 1986 at the age of ninety, he traveled around the world speaking as a private person, teaching and giving talks and having discussions. His aim was to set people psychologically free so that they might be in harmony with themselves, with nature and with others. K taught that humanity has created the environment in which we live and that nothing can ever put a stop to the violence and suffering that has been going on for thousands of years except a total transformation in the human psyche.
If a dozen people are transformed, it would change the world! Krishnamurti maintained that there is no path to this transformation, no method for achieving it, no gurus or spiritual authorities who can help.
He pointed to the need for an ever-deepening and acute awareness in which the limitations of the mind could drop away.
K always was a universal and cosmopolitan mind. Although born of Indian parentage, he stated repeatedly that he had no nationality and belonged to no particular culture of group. What he hoped his audience would learn, he was the living example for it, which is in my view the only way a guru can legitimize himself as a spiritual leader. Only what is brought over as ‘incarnated’ can be shared, not what is merely preached or lectured, as true as it may be.
Education has always been one of Krishnamurti’s chief concerns. If a young person could learn to see their conditioning of race, nationality, religion, dogma, tradition, opinion, etc., which inevitably leads to conflict, then he might become a fully intelligent human being able to live in a way that respects other beings and nature as a whole.
During his lifetime K established several schools in different parts of the world where young people and adults could come together and explore the possibility of right relationships in actual daily living. Krishnamurti said of his schools that they were places where students and teachers can flower inwardly and become unfragmented and whole humans. He wanted the schools to be real centers of understanding, of real comprehension of life.
Krishnamurti’s teaching had a strong impact upon my own philosophical thinking, and in fact, when I first encountered it in 1985, as a member of a Krishnamurti study circle in Switzerland,
Shortly before I left Switzerland for my journey to the United States in 1985, I met Raffaella Ida Sangiorgi, Princess of Liechtenstein, the wife of Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein, a long-term member of the group.
I was presented to her one afternoon, during a study session in the splendid villa of entrepreneur Friedrich Grohe in Morges at the Lake Geneva, where we met twice per month for our exchanges on K’s unique teaching. There was a spontaneous sympathy and even enchantment on both sides and we separated from the group soon and had some intimate discussions in another room where we were undisturbed.
I was highly intrigued by the fact that the Princess and her husband had known K for long years and hosted him often times in their premises. And instead of talking about him as a venerated saint and guru, she spoke about K affectionately, and told me little anecdotes about his life. For example, she told me that once she discovered that one of her precious diamonds had stopped to shine, and had become dull. And K suggested in his habitual simple style she should leave the diamond ring with him for a few days and then see the result. K put the ring and returned it after three days, she explained, and the diamond had become so brilliant and was glowing with such tremendous luminosity that it seemed to be a higher grade of stone than it actually was.
Yet the Princess, who spoke a very pure German, counted this little anecdote in rather factual terms and without the glare that others in the circle made up about the great sage. And after our little conversation we summarized our position. We wanted to imprint a rather practical or pragmatic stance upon the group, so as to become more effective in our studies of K’s teaching.