Meditation Blog : May 2005 Archives
The Travel section of the New York Times recently highlighted Ojai, California, a town twenty miles inland from Santa Barbara, and the place where J. Krishnamurti made his home when in the United States. Among his stops in Ojai, the writer visits the Krishnamurti Library, but unfortunately refers to Krishmanurti in the article as:
...the guru who was labeled the ''vehicle for the reincarnation of Christ in the West and of Buddha in the East.''
I'm guessing that the writer took the "vehicle for the reincarnation..." phrase from the Krishnamurti Foundation of America's biograpical note on Krishnamurti. However, the phrase is misleading because it is taken out of context. The designation of Krishnamurti as a new Christ or Buddha was made by the Theosophical Society, a Victorian spiritual organization, which took custody of him as a child and prepared a worldwide religious organization for him, the Order of the Star. However, as the biography notes, at the age of thirty-four, Krishnamurti repudiated both the role and the organization:
...in 1929 after many years of questioning himself, he dissolved the Order, repudiated its claims and returned all the assets given to him for its purpose.
When disbanding the organization, Krishnamurti made his most well-known statement:
Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.
Krishnamurti went on speaking to people for the rest of his life, but never claimed the mantle of guru or teacher. In fact, he made a regular point of criticizing "gurus" as deceivers of themselves and others.
Upon his death in 1986, the New York Times obituary of Krishnamurti presented him more accurately. An excerpt:
Jiddu Krishnamurti, the religious philosopher and teacher, died of cancer yesterday at his residence at the Krishnamurti Foundation in Ojai, Calif. He was 90 years old.
Failing health last month forced Mr. Krishnamurti to cut short his final visit to India, where he gave his last public talk Jan. 3 in Madras, the place of his birth. His last appearances in New York were at a gathering at the United Nations in April 1985 and two talks before capacity audiences at Carnegie Hall in March 1982.
Mr. Krishnamurti continued to draw young listeners as well as elderly admirers who remembered the years when many revered him as virtually a new messiah, a notion he firmly renounced more than 55 years ago.
His teaching — he was distrustful of the word — was based on self-reliance and unflinching self-knowledge. People, he said, must understand themselves without delusions, a challenge that only they can meet and that they must meet to change society for the better.
Mr. Krishnamurti renounced all organized religions and ideologies in 1929, saying that religions with their prescribed teachings and worship services, retarded self-awareness. In that spirit, he carried his message to audiences in many countries.
Later in 1986, John Russell, the longtime respected art critic at the New York Times, favorably reviewed Pupul Jayakar's biography of Krishnamurti for the paper:
Alike in this country, and in his native India, Krishnamurti (1895-1986) was for generations the epitome of the unaligned spiritual teacher who founded no sect, never tried to collect disciples and successors, and regarded the craving to "belong" as a weakness, if not positively an aberration....
But the fundamental value of the book lies primarily in its day-to-day and often word-by-word record of what Krishnamurti said, year after year, both in public and in private, and how he dealt with people who went to him for straightforward answers on fundamental questions. When enjoined simply to "be tremendous — be awake," they were bemused. Late in life he said the idea of teacher and taught was basically wrong. "It is a matter of sharing, rather than of being taught," he went on to say. Fundamental questions had to be answered, but it was for each person to find the answer within himself.
It was not, therefore, by telling people what to think, but by telling people how to think that Krishnamurti impressed himself on people of every age, outlook and nationality as one of the last bright hopes of mankind.
The Catholic Church could have embraced worldwide ecumenism. Instead it is, in Pope Benedict XVI, reasserting its medieval claim to supremacy over all faiths....
At a time when humankind is facing unprecedented challenges, and the world is undergoing unparalleled change, upholding the primacy of any faith, even with a velvet glove, feeds global conflict....
Ratzinger has often been described as the power behind the throne, the purifier of the church’s doctrine. One can only deduce that in him the world is getting exactly what the instantly canonized John Paul wanted. This new pope decries “the dictatorship of relativism,” but exalts in the decrepitude of dogmatism....
It all boils down to one’s orientation to truth (including whether one even feels there is such a thing). Truth is a living movement that emerges with the unforced stillness of the mind. Truth therefore cannot and does not lie in any doctrine or dogma, and is indiscernible when people are anchored in texts rather than in the insight that comes from self-knowing.
The New Yorker magazine recently completed a compelling and wide-ranging three-part series on climate change called "The Climate of Man."
Parts One, Two, and Three are available online. The New Yorker web site also includes an interview with the writer of the series, Elizabeth Kolbert, which contains the following exchange:
One disturbing thing about your article is just how alarmed many seemingly sober-minded scientists are. What sort of a gap is there between expert and lay opinion on climate change?
That’s a good question. I think there is a surprisingly large — you might even say frighteningly large — gap between the scientific community and the lay community’s opinions on global warming. As you point out, I spoke to many very sober-minded, coolly analytical scientists who, in essence, warned of the end of the world as we know it. I think there are a few reasons why their message hasn’t really got out. One is that scientists tend, as a group, to interact more with each other than with the general public. Another is that there has been a very well-financed disinformation campaign designed to convince people that there is still scientific disagreement about the problem, when, as I mentioned before, there really is quite broad agreement. And third, the climate operates on its own timetable. It will take several decades for the warming that is already inevitable to be felt. People tend to focus on the here and now. The problem is that, once global warming is something that most people can feel in the course of their daily lives, it will be too late to prevent much larger, potentially catastrophic changes.
Update: The New Yorker no longer has this series archived onlined — probably for copyright reasons as Kolbert has expanded the articles into a book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe.
The last entry introduced David Bohm's ideas about thought. Bohm referred to thought as a physical, material process, which operates in a mechanical, conditioned fashion. Thought, as he terms it, is not simply mental verbalization, it is a network, "whose content is the total response of memory, including feelings, muscular reactions, and even physical sensations, that merge with and flow out of the whole response."
We can see what Bohm means by the notion of thought as a network, by observing our own experience. Thoughts are intimately bound up in feeling and physical response. For example, as I'm walking down the street I hear a song coming from a cafe. Memory recognizes this song, and with its associative qualities, gives rise to the thought of person X — let's say that the song was a favorite of X. Based on my past experience with X, their recalled memory-image summons strong feelings — neurochemicals instantly course through the body. There is a slight nausea in the pit of the stomach and the pulse has quickened. I fold my arms in a protective, defensive posture against the discomfort. An associative chain of memories of X continues on in the brain.
Let's return to Bohm's broader views and look at what he calls fragmentation, or division. We only have to read the daily headlines to see the consequences of fragmentation writ large. Such conflicts are pervasive on a smaller scale in our daily lives. Bohm sees fragmentation as rooted in thought, so let's examine the relationship of the two. Bohm writes:
Fragmentation is continually being sought out by the almost universal habit of taking the content of our thought for 'a description of the world as it is'. Or we could say that in this habit, our thought is regarded as in direct correspondence with objective reality. Since our thought is pervaded with differences and distinctions, it follows that such a habit leads us to look on these as real divisions, so that the world is then seen and experienced as actually broken up into fragments.... This confusion is of crucial significance, since it leads us to approach nature, society, and the individual in terms of more or less fixed and limited forms of thought, and thus, apparently, to keep on confirming the limitations of these forms of thought in experience. [Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p. 4.]
Bohm gives examples of such limited, fragmented approaches:
If one approaches a man with a fixed 'theory' about him as an 'enemy' against whom one must defend oneself, he will respond similarly, and thus one's 'theory' will apparently be confirmed by experience. Similarly, nature will respond in accordance with the theory in which it is approached. Thus, in ancient times, men thought plagues were inevitable, and this thought helped make them behave in such a way as to propagate the conditions responsible for their spread. With modern scientific forms of insights man's behavior is such that he ceases the unsanitary modes of life responsible for spreading plagues and thus they are no longer inevitable. [Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p. 8.]
When the U.S. president went to war in Iraq, he claimed to be certain that Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction." In the two years since the invasion, the U.S. military recovered no such weapons and has given up the search. Although we don't know the content and complexities of the U.S. president's thought process, we can probably conclude that he made the mistake of taking his thought to be "a description of the world as it is." By approaching Iraq from "more or less fixed and limited forms of thought," he kept on, "confirming the limitations of these forms of thought in experience."
We'll take another look at fragmentation in a subsequent entry, by referencing a recent New York Times Magazine article discussing the frontiers of stem-cell research.