I would like to open up something for discussion that has been increasingly on my mind ever since I began to work with the Krishnamurti Forum five years ago. I will try to put it this way: what does it take for a group of people who are passionately concerned with fundamental questions of life not to fall apart, but rather to stick together in full freedom and because of their own perception of the necessity and urgency of these concerns? What does it take for a big enough, stable enough circle of people to come into being that plays its part in the support of concrete projects, like the preservation and dissemination of the teachings or Brockwood Park School, out of a feeling for the importance of those projects?
Looked at from the outside, such a group already exists. All the same, the attraction of Krishnamurti's teachings, which draws people together, seems to find its counterpart in equally powerful centrifugal tendencies. Some say that itís normal after Krishnamurti's death for the group to break up: nothing can be done about it. Others maintain that each one is alone with the teachings and they stay away from every kind of community on principle. Yet others participate for a time, then turn away when their expectations are not met or they become discouraged.
But are these appropriate responses to the reality of life? Isn't living, in principle, living together? Doesn't it constantly demand understanding and the ability and willingness to co-operate? And isn't it clearly visible, throughout the world and at every level of society, how little of it there is and what its lack gives rise to?
It is therefore clear that we cannot run away from the difficulty of living and working together. We are all familiar with the detailed descriptions of this difficulty from the talks and writings of Krishnamurti. We have heard from him that we are the problem, that is, human consciousness, which is common to us all. Because a sense of the whole has moved us, we have sought out others who are similarly moved. What prevents us from sticking to a purpose, which is actually a common purpose; what thrusts us apart again and again?
Considering together four points that, for me, have crystallized over the past two or three years could perhaps shed light on this issue:
- What are the teachings?
- What does it mean to "live the teachings"?
- What does it mean to "learn together"?
- What is true co-operation?
For me, the clarification of these points is not only the precondition for our coming together, but also, probably, an ongoing task if we are to stay together. In the hope of kick-starting this process of clarification, I would like as far as I can to share my experience and my current view of things.
What are the teachings?
During the course of my five-year engagement in the Forum, I was necessarily confronted with many perspectives on the teachings. What's more, I went into the topic in many conversations in a vast variety of ways. I often tried to convince people. Nowadays, I find many of these exchanges futile and counterproductive. Strong opinions and preconceived ideas impede a clear vision of what Krishnamurti was trying to show us in his talks, writings and conversations.
In consequence, the teachings are for me not a philosophy, not a system of thought and not an ideology. They do not contain any thoughts and perspectives that can be weighed up or from which one can choose what one thinks is useful while discarding what doesn't suit one's own world-view. It seems to me also irrelevant whether they are something "new" or whether others have said the same thing before. Nor do I share the view that the teachings are invalid because Krishnamurti didn't "succeed in changing anyone" or that, since he is dead, one should switch to another "realised master" if one wishes to "go further".
As far as I understand it, Krishnamurti describes, on the one hand, a reality fraught with conflict and sorrow brought about by human consciousness, and this is manifested both in the world and in consciousness itself, and he calls upon this consciousness in each individual to test out, with undistorted observation, the truth of his descriptions. On the other hand, he points to the open question of whether there is a state of consciousness beyond all self-centredness in which life or existence can be experienced as it is in complete wholeness, an experience which, in his depiction, brings with it its own sense of responsibility and its own care for life and for others.
In this connection, the really important question seems to be: Does what Krishnamurti is pointing to have vital significance, an existential importance, for us? Is it clear to us that we must first sound the breadth and depth of it all with our whole being before we come to any kind of judgment? In my opinion, we need just such intensity and openness. if we want to explore the following questions.
What does it mean to "live the teachings"?
Krishnamurti often states that living the teachings is what it 's all about. It is also a phrase often used by those who concern themselves with him. If one listens carefully or asks about it, very different opinions emerge which, for me, indicates that in this essential question no real and therefore no common clarity exists. Since I cannot claim this for myself either, I ask that what I am saying now be read as my personal view of things.
From my own experience, I know how much the approach to this question is affected by motives, belief systems, unconscious moral principles and psychological limitations. I have witnessed in myself a number of forms and consequences of the conditioned approach; I often found myself standing in front of a bookshelf looking for the one sentence that would explain everything. Statements turned into dogmas and poisoned conversations with friends. And again and again my reading put me under constant pressure to alter something fundamental in my life, or there were sudden fears about doing something wrong or missing the right path.
In overcoming this limitation in understanding, I was helped by an insight formed even before I knew about Krishnamurti: that outward circumstances do not hold the key when it comes to inner turmoil; that the attempt to change the outer doesn't work, but that it is a matter of understanding what's going on inside. This led to an inner arrest and a surrender to what was going on. Whenever necessary and possible, I try to give space for this process of living things through, although it is often unpleasant, painful and confusing and pushes me to the limit of my capacities. Apparently, however, there is no way round it.
This unimpeded experiencing was for a long time blocked by the idea that somehow in me, in my behaviour or my circumstances, a sign of change had to show itself - a feeling, I often discover, that many others share. I don't know how the dissolution of this mechanism came about, but it was one of the most important insights of my life to see that active change is not only not pre-requisite, but actually prevents real change. Suddenly it was simple to "understand" Krishnamurti. There was nothing to do but give oneself up to the "polishing process" of life; there was nothing to do but look and perceive and to hand oneself over to the workings of perception. That sounds easier than it is, for in the end it has dire consequences. One can no longer avoid, run away, embellish or justify; no explanations count, no recognition comes,there is no progress. All one can see is one's deeper and deeper not-knowing, incapacity and meaninglessness. In addition, one is increasingly alone and thrown back on one's own resources.
What "living the teachings" means for me today is to meet life as it is and to really want to understand it, which means no evasion, and to give up all support and guidance and every form of goal: no system of beliefs or values, no ideals, no principles, no hope, no positive feedback from friends and, finally, no Krishnamurti and no other spiritual eminence. It is a radical self-abandonment that embraces the danger of being "shattered " (Meeting Life, pg.75), having nothing and, possibly, also finding nothing.
What does it mean to "learn together"?
This I find even more difficult than understanding myself: the exchange with other people about such questions.
To all appearances, "learning together " is, at first sight, nothing other than "living the teachings together": getting together for a conversation or tackling a task together is a further opportunity to experience and learn about oneself. The interesting difference from one's "normal" environment is that, in this situation, people with the same intention meet. And yet, simple understanding seems so difficult, even if one knows a lot about communication and human interaction, which indicates to me that with this question we must break new ground. We should, therefore, be aware of the difficulties and know that we have far to go.
To break new ground means to me that there are no ready explanations, forms or methods to fall back on. We are free to experiment with how we approach mutual exploration of what we are and what life is. This would also help us to become aware of the psychology of groups, e.g. problems of hierarchy and authority, group norms and group pressure. It could also help us to look at communication barriers,such as the limitations of language, our differing associations or body language as the expression of unconscious feelings; similarly, we can try anything that helps to obviate conflict and pressure and to create a relaxed, yet serious, atmosphere. We should, however, not forget that these are only aids to start the process and that they conceal within them the danger of distracting us from our own direct experience.
As things stand,the real challenge for me of learning together is to have the capacity to listen fully and the readiness to walk together with another. One could also call it a lack of self-interest in the conversation. At this level, this is a relatively new experience for me and, as I can see for myself, is constantly in danger of getting lost in inner and outer turmoil. It is the depth of one's feeling for the importance of the common endeavour that seems to direct one's attention to this danger without the compulsion to do anything about it.
What is true co-operation?
The putting-into-practice of our co-operation has been for some time an important touchstone for me for the "daily life application" of our understanding. I don't mean that working together has to be free of conflict or that it is possible with everyone. What seems to me important is clarity, which can keep personal self-interest and tendencies out of the investigation of real issues, a capacity that develops in us less through control and reflection, and more through the ending of our self-centred striving.
"What does it mean to co-operate - not the word but the spirit of it? How can you co-operate with the universe if you are concerned with yourself, your problems, your ambitions?" ((Letters to the Schools, Vol.I, 1st December 1979) I came upon this quotation in the spring of this year. In many ways, it opened up new vistas. Is true co-operation, like learning together, something that must be transacted between two or more people? Or, is it basically an inner disposition that, like true love, cannot be consciously brought about? As for "co-operation with the universe" - isn't it a reminder of the ultimate meaning of the three other questions?
I hope I have been able to convey my thoughts regarding the prerequisites for a community of seriously and intensively probing people who, unconstrained and of their own free will, stay in touch with each other, a community in which sympathetic participation, support and help for practical projects come about through the understanding of the overall scheme of life. Even after more than fifty years of Krishnamurti's public work,and fifteen years after his death, we are still at the very beginning of all this.
Eight months after sending out my original German letter and reading this English translation of it, it seems necessary to add two points for better understanding:
Why was this letter written?
Since 1996 my wife and I have been involved in the practical work of the German committee. Over the years various incidents and observations led to the impression that the work of Committees and Foundations in its present form bears less and less fruit. I think one of the major reasons for this decline is that there is hardly anyone conveying in public a sense of living the teachings, or at least trying to do so with full intensity and honesty. The reasons for this are probably many, but the crux of the problem might be a view shared by many Committee members and trustees, that the teachings alone have to be the centre of attention. After the demise of it's first "representative" all this has led to a heavy loss in the vital quality of the teachings and to the danger that they "wither away in books and videos". And people new to the teachings often conclude from the lack of "living examples" that the teachings may be interesting but cannot be "translated into practice" - an impression often strengthened by their experiences in groups and gatherings.
My view today
Re-reading the letter eight months later, I am surprised that there are no major points I would want to change. But there are various aspects I would emphasize differently as I see their importance more clearly now. Two of them I regard as crucial for our deeper understanding as well as for our feeling of togetherness. The two issues are, to use K's own words, "you are the world" and the earnest quest for the "ground of being". While the first shakes our sense of being anything special or separate, the second one pushes us to the very limits of the capacity of our physical mind. Unless we do not face the deep and radical consequences of these two issues it seems almost impossible to touch a realm where "wholeness of life", "togetherness", "relationship " and "co-operation" are more than words, ideas and agreements.
In the past months I was happy to receive, in the vast majority, encouraging responses to this letter. Quite a few people who had stepped back from the Forum's activities saw a new reason in coming together. And there are some to whom the "dying of the me" or the "ending of thought" seem to be real issues that are changing them deeply. The many contacts with people in the last months give rise to the hope that the activities of the Forum could become something like a centre of gravity, strong enough to overcome the ordinary "centrifugal tendencies". But for this to really happen it seems that, at least for a few people,a new relationship with life and existence has to unfold,a relationship in which every part and every movement that are normally perceived as ours, are handed over to where they actually belong.