I. Introduction. Jiddu Krishnamurti was one of the most remarkable and interesting thinkers of the 20th century. Born in 1895 into a pious Brahmin family, proclaimed as a young man by the leaders of the Theosophical Society as the awaited World Teacher, made head of the international elite organization known as the Order of the Star, in 1929 he completely dumbfounded his followers in one of the most singular talks ever given in the history of religion. “I have now decided to disband the Order,” he concluded. “You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages, new decorations for those cages. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.” The details of Krishnamurti’s life are most completely given in the biographical volumes by Lutyens. The quote is found in Krishnamurti: Years of Awakening, p. 297.
The 3-volume series by Lutyens gives the most complete details. A briefer biography is in Lutyens’ Krishnamurti: His Life and Death.
What I have found to be of special interest in Krishnamurti’s works, which in print constitute thousands of pages. See The Complete Writings of J. Krishnamurti. The projected completed edition of all of his writings and recordings will be 78 volumes. For ease of consultation, the CD-ROM may be referred to. In this paper, references not found in book publications refer to the CD-ROM source.
In examining his writings, one finds three distinct phases, which I will attempt to characterize here. The first is what I call the iconoclastic phase, roughly 1933 to 1941, followed by a constructive phase, beginning in 1944, and a final phase, first expressed in1956, in which he introduced the notion of a radically new sort of religion as the basis of a global culture. I will preface that discussion with a brief outline of Krishnamurti’s approach to inquiry and, within the discussions of the first two phases, I will lay out his views concerning the meanings of the term ‘religion,’ its origin in human existence, and the psychological and social effects it has on our existence. Following the discussion of the third phase, I will give a critical discussion of several major points in his views.
II. Krishnamurti’s Approach to Inquiry. Krishnamurti, or K as many students refer to him, while appearing to the casual reader as possibly a proposer of a new belief system or dogma, is instead radically different in his whole teaching and approach. As he once put it: “Use the speaker as a mirror in which you see yourself actually, without distortion, and after seeing yourself very clearly,... then you can break that mirror.” (Talk, Madras, 11 December 1976, par. 6) In an unobstructed commitment to discovering truth about religion or any other matter, the recurrent theme of inquiry is to question. For K, truth is discovered in the awakening of intelligent comprehension of ‘what is,’the understanding of the actual unfolding field of consciousness in its moment to moment flow, “Truth is the understanding of what is from moment to moment without the burden or the residue of the past moment.” (Commentaries on Living, First Series, p. 19)
“Realising that thought is divisive, that thought is fragmentary, that thought is born of knowledge which is the past, and so you are always looking at your wife, at your neighbour with the eyes of the past.” (Second Public Dialogue, Madras, 9 January 1979, par. 154)
“You think according to your capacity, to your energy, your experience and knowledge; another thinks differently according to his experience and conditioning. We are all caught in this network of thought. This is a fact, indisputable and actual.” (The Network of Thought, Chapter 1, 1st Public Talk, p. 7)
“...intelligence highly awakened is intuition, which is the only true guide in life.” (Education and the Significance of Life, p. 11) For an in-depth discussion of this, see H. Rodrigues’ excellent study, Krishnamurti’s Insight: An Examination of His Teachings on the Nature of Mind and Religion, p. 45.
“That word intuition, which has been used so much, may be most dangerous, it may be our hidden desire. It may be our deeply rooted motive of which we are not aware. It may be the prompting of our tendency, our own idiosyncrasy, our own particular accumulation of knowledge.” (Last Talks at Saanen, 1985, p. 150)
However, although conceptualizing reason has serious limitations, K does not simply reject it as having no role in intelligent inquiry. “That is, if one exercises the capacity of thought, reason, reason can invent so many things, logically explain so much. And if you don’t exercise reason then you exercise what is called intuition, which is equally dangerous.” (Talk 4, Santa Monica, California, 24 March 1974)
“To find this stillness, reason must transcend itself. Mere intellectuality which has no significance, has nothing to do with reality and a man who is merely logical, reasonable, who uses intellect very carefully, can never find that which is. A man who is integrated has a different kind of reasoning process, which is intelligence; yet even his intelligence, his reasoning must transcend itself.” (Talk 7, Madras, 30 November 1947)
“And meditation, which is part of the enquiry into what is religion, that enquiry is the ending of knowledge.” (Talk 6, Bombay, 8 February 1981, par. 17)
See Goleman, Varieties of Meditative Experience, for a good discussion of K’s approach and its relation to other views on meditation.
See Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, or Garfield, The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.
“...to find out what is true in the false is the origin of discontent – not only in what the speaker is saying, but in everything, in what every politician says, in what your gurus, your books, your party leaders say; to see what is false and also to see the truth in the false, and to see the truth as true. This can only come about when the mind is in that state of negation and therefore has the capacity to discern, to look, to observe, to see.” (Talk 7, New Delhi, 11 November 1964, par. 9)
Fundamental to all genuine inquiry for K is the necessity of setting aside all previous beliefs and commitments. “When there is perception of the fact that inquiry is possible only when there is freedom from obstinacy, or from attachment to a belief, then that very perception liberates the mind.” (Talk 2, Rajghat, 18 December 1955)
“Belief is a danger which must be totally avoided if one is to see the truth of what is.” (The Only Revolution, p. 166)
“A religious mind is not caught in any experience, in any belief, in any concept, which are all the activities of the intellect, which is the thought and thought is memory. I hope you see all this. So we live in the past and the past meets the present, modifies itself and goes on, but it is still rooted in the past.” (Talk 2, Bombay, 27 January 1979)
“And therefore, when you are investigating – doesn’t matter into what, in the field of science, economics and so on – the mind must be free, not be tethered to any particular concept, belief, but free to look, to enquire, to question.” (Talk 4, Bombay, 27 January 1974)
In sum, for K belief acts as a block to discovery and can only deliver a distorted view, and thus genuine inquiry must set belief aside if it is to discover the truth about anything. “To find out what is true religion requires, not a mere one-day effort or one-day search and forgetfulness the next day, but constant questioning, a disturbing inquiry, so that you begin to discard everything.” (Talk 2, Hamburg, 6 September 1956, par. 27)
“We should have a rational doubt, scepticism, because doubt cleanses the mind, it freshens the mind, it breaks down the old habits, the old conclusions, the arcane concepts.” (Talk 3, Bombay, 30 January 1982)
Also: “... to enquire very deeply into the nature of religion there must be total freedom, freedom from all orthodoxy, tradition, rituals, faith, symbols. That requires, not courage, that requires a deep sense of doubt, doubt of everything that man has put together through thought what he calls religion.” (Talk 2, New York, 28 March 1982, par. 24)
“To doubt requires sensitivity. If you doubt everything, (laughs) then it becomes rather stupid. But to doubt with a light hand, with a quick mind, with subtlety, then that doubt brings about clarity, energy.” (Talk 6, Ojai, California, 16 May 1982)
III. K’s view of actual or organized religion. We may get a better understanding of K’s iconoclastic phase by first describing what the term religion meant for him. His central view is that religion, as it actually is, has three major components. It is 1) primarily an organized set of beliefs about the ultimate meaning of existence and conduct of life, which is 2) expressed and communicated through various traditions such as ritual and ceremonies, and 3) often involves some sort of personal religious experience. “I mean by religion, organized belief, creed, dogma and authority. That is one form of religion. Then there is the religion of ceremonies, which is but sensation and pageantry. Then there is the religion of personal experience. The first forces the individual to conform to a certain pattern for his own good through fear, through faith, dogma and creed. The second impresses divinity on the worshipper through show and pageantry. With the third, personal experience, we shall deal presently.” (Talk 2, Montevideo, 26 June 1935, par. 22)
“So if you look to a priest for your guidance as a teacher, I say he is your destroyer or exploiter. Please, I have nothing against Christian priests or Hindu priests – to me they are all the same. I say they are unessential to humanity. And please do not accept what I am saying as final authority to you, a dogmatic statement. Look at it, consider it yourself. If you accept what I am saying, I will also become your priest; therefore I will become your exploiter.” (Talk 1, Auckland, 30 March 1934)
K observes that the origin of actual religion is primarily psychological, lying in the fundamental problem central to human experience: the occurrence of crises of sorrow “To be in self-contradiction is to live in conflict and sorrow. The self, in its very structure, is contradictory; it is made up of many entities with different masks, each in opposition to the other. The whole fabric of the self is the result of contradictory interests and values, of many varying desires at different levels of its being; and these desires all beget their own opposites. ... This contradiction within us breeds illusion and pain, and to escape from it we resort to all manner of self-deceptions which only increase our conflict and misery. When the inner contradiction becomes unbearable, consciously or unconsciously we try to escape through death, through insanity; or we give ourselves over to an idea, to a group, to a country, to some activity that will completely absorb our being; or we turn to organized religion, with its dogmas and rituals.” (Commentaries on Living, First Series, p. 106)
“There is in each one of you, in one form or another, a desire for continuance, a search for spiritual security which you call immortality. He who offers or promises this security, this egotistic continuance, this selfish immortality, becomes your authority, to be worshipped, to be prayed to, to be followed. Thus you slowly give yourself over to that authority, and so fear is cunningly and subtly cultivated. To lead you to that promised immortality, a system, called religion, becomes a vital necessity. To maintain this artificial structure, beliefs, ideals, dogmas and creeds are required. And to interpret, to administer and to uphold this self-created prison of man, you must have priests. Thus priests throughout the world become exploiters. In search of your individual security, which you call immortality you begin to create many illusions and ideals, which become the means of gross or subtle exploitation. To assure you and to interpret the craving for your own security in the hereafter and in the present, there must be mediators, messengers, who, through your fear, become your exploiters. So it is you yourselves who are fundamentally the creators of exploiters, whether economic or spiritual.” (Talk 1, Buenos Aires, 12 July 1935, par. 10)
“So also with your ideals, your gods, your religions: they are the creation of the desire for escape into comfort. You yourself have made the world into a prison, a prison of suffering and conflict; and because the world is such a prison, you create an ideal god, an ideal freedom, an ideal truth.” (Talk 4, Alpino , 6 July 1933, par. 22)
“For most of us, religion is obviously a series of dogmas, traditions, what the Upanishads, or the Gita, or the Bible have said; or it is made up of the experiences, visions, hopes, ideas which have sprung from our conditioned minds, from our minds which have been shaped according to the Hindu, the Christian or the Communist pattern. We start with a particular conditioning and have experiences based on it.” (Talk 1, New Delhi, 10 October 1956, par. 20)
K also observes that organized religion does produce a number of positive effects. Primarily there is the psychological solace that comes to the individual believer. “So you, as individuals, establish various religions which act as your security. No teacher has established these organized, exploiting religions. You yourselves, out of your insecurity, out of your confusion, out of your lack of comprehension, have created religions as your guides.” (Talk 1, Adyar, 29 December 1933, par. 33)
“We give significance, meaning, to a life that has no meaning, the way we live, and the significance, the meaning is what we call religion.” (Talk 3, Rajghat, 30 November 1969, par. 6)
“Religion as the experience of some authority may bind a few people together but it will breed inevitably antagonism; the experience of another is not true, however great the experiencer may be.” (Talk, Colombo, 28 December 1949, par. 6)
“Every organized religion has unfortunately cultivated, for purposes of civilization, the feeling of guilt. ... So, religion, organized belief, has carefully maintained, cultivated this sense that you must toe the line, that you must not sin, that you must not commit ugly things.” (Talk 7, Ojai, California, 6 August 1949, par. 25)
“Without religion there is no culture, for religion is the unifying factor...” (Talk 1, San Francisco, 10 March 1973, par. 7) Note: although he states this within the context of calling for a new sort of religion and culture (discussed below), it would seem that he accepts this as a principle for all cultures.
While most philosophers of religion would accept much of what K has observed so far, K insists that a true understanding of organized religion demands a complete accounting of all its effects, especially its negative ones. In this we find K’s devastating criticism. Those negative effects, as he sees it, are both psychological and social.
Psychologically, K sees all religions as fundamentally generative of illusion. Though they do provide solace, that solace is based on belief in something that is not actually seen as true, and therefore is fundamentally an escape. “So you are constantly seeking escape, and these attempts at escape you dignify with various spiritual names, with grand-sounding words; these escapes satisfy you temporarily, that is, until the next storm of suffering comes and blows away your shelter.” (Talk 1, Adyar, 29 December 1933, par. 27)
“Our whole social and intellectual structure is based on the idea of gain, of achievement; and when mind and heart are held by the idea of gain, there cannot be true living, there cannot be the free flow of life. Isn’t that so? If you are constantly looking to the future, to an achievement, to a gain, to a hope, how can you live completely in the present? How can you act intelligently as a human being? How can you think or feel in the fullness of the present when you are always keeping your eye on the distant future? Through our religion, through our education, we are made as nothing, and being conscious of that nothingness, we want to gain, to succeed. So we constantly pursue teachers, gurus, systems. “ (Ibid., par. 29)
“Religion, the etymological meaning of that word is not very clear, but it’s generally accepted, religion to be that which is going on in the world, the Christian religion, the Muslim, the Islamic, the Hindu, the Buddhist and so on, with their temples and mosques and churches or cathedrals and all the rituals that go on inside them, and all the things that are in the temples, in the churches, in the mosques, and follow, having certain faiths, belief, and the repetition of certain phrases, doing puja, rituals and so on, the whole structure of superstition – that generally is what is understood to be religion.” (Talk 1, Madras, 31 December 1983, par. 2)
Further, the individual member of a religion is pressed into a condition of psychological bondage. “If I can awaken him [man] to his own strength, to his own understanding, to his own responsibility, to his own action, then I destroy class distinction. Then I do not keep him in the nursery to be exploited as a child by one who is supposed to know more. That is the whole attitude of religions, that you can never find out what truth is – only one or two people find out – therefore let me, as a mediator, help you; therefore I become your exploiter. That is the whole process of religion. It is a clever means of exploiting, being ruthless to keep the people in subjection, as the capitalist class does in exactly the same way – one class by spiritual means, one class by mundane.” (Talk 1, Auckland, 28 March 1934, par. 12)
“So the so-called religions give the pattern of conformity to the mind that is seeking security born of fear, in search of comfort; and where there is the search for comfort, there is no understanding. Our religions throughout the world, in their desire to give comfort, in their desire to lead you to a particular pattern, to mould you, give you various patterns, moulds, securities, through what they call faith.” (Ibid., par. 23)
“Two thousands years of propaganda of the Christians, and fifteen or sixteen hundred years of propaganda of the Muslims, and two or three thousand years or more of the Hindus and the Buddhists. We are slaves to this propaganda called religion, called nations, and so on.” (Talk 1, Ojai, California, 19 May 1984, par. 11)
With this, organized religion produces a state that is essentially imitative, based on performing actions according to formulas that have little or no meaning (as in rituals) and engaged in activities that are based on rules rather than a creative response to life.
“Religion is merely mumbling words, going to the temple, or practicing a discipline – which is all repetitive, copying, imitative, habit forming. And what happens to your mind and to your heart when you are merely imitative? Naturally, they wither, do they not? ... Therefore, emotionally, inwardly, there is no creation, there is no creative response – only dullness, emptiness.” (Talk 5, Bombay, 15 February 1948, par. 8)
“As you ruthlessly seek economic security, out of which is born a morality suited for that purpose, so you have created religions all over the world which promise you immortality through their closed and peculiar disciplines and moralities. As long as this closed morality exists, there must be wars and exploitation, there cannot be the real love of man. This morality, this discipline, is really based on egotism and the ruthless search for individual security.” (Talk 3, Rio de Janeiro, 4 May 1935, par. 10)
“In the pursuit of gain you lose sight of the present. In your pursuit of gain, in your reliance on the past, you don’t fully understand the immediate experience. That experience leaves a scar, a memory which is the incompleteness of that experience, and out of that increasing incompleteness grows the consciousness of the “I”, the ego. Your divisions of the ego are but the superficial refinement of selfishness in its search for gain. Intrinsically, in that incompleteness of experience, in that memory, the ego has its roots. However much it may grow, expand, it will always retain the centre of selfishness.” (Talk 1, Adyar, 29 December 1933, par. 47)
The deepest crux of these negative effects on the individual may be summed up as a profound loss of freedom. By accepting a belief that one does not oneself actually see as true, the mind is thereby prevented from discovering truth as it actually is. “If you discern the falseness of organized belief, that through any particular belief you cannot understand reality, nor through any authority whatsoever can intelligence be awakened, then you as individuals, not as an organized group, will free yourselves from this destructive imposition.” (Talk 2, Montevideo, 26 June 1935, par. 23)
“Religions, with their beliefs, dogmas and creeds, have become tremendous barriers between human beings, dividing man against man, limiting him and destroying his intelligence.” (Talk 1, Montevideo, 21 June 1935, par. 14)
“... there must be conflict so long as there is an ideal, and that so long as the mind is concerned with the future, with what should be, it is not concerned with what is. It is fairly obvious that one cannot have a divided mind, part of the mind thinking of non-violence and the other part occupied with violence. Therefore you see that so long as there is any kind of ideal in the mind there must be a state of contradiction.” (Talk 2, Poona, 10 September 1958, par. 10)
“The outer world is but an expression of our own inner state; as we are inwardly broken up and torn by burning desires, so is the world about us; as there is incessant turmoil within us so is there endless conflict in the world; as there is no inward tranquillity the world has become a battlefield.” (Talk 10, Ojai, California, 29 July 1945, par. 3)
In addition to these individual psychological effects, the negative social effects of organized religion are equally problematic. One is that it sets up an external authority as the basis for social interaction. “Religion with its beliefs, its disciplines, its enticements, its hopes, its punishments, forces you towards righteous behaviour, towards brotherliness, towards love. And since you are compelled, you either obey the external authority which it sets up, or – which amounts to the same thing – you begin to develop your own inner authority as a reaction against the outer, and follow that. Where there is belief, where there is a following of an ideal, there cannot be complete living.” (Talk 1, Adyar, 29 December 1933, par. 38)
“Our whole system of thought and action and living is based on individual aggrandizement and growth at the expense of others. That is a fact, is it not? And so long as that fact in the world exists there must be suffering, there must be exploitation, there must be the division of classes; and no forms of religion can bring about peace, because they are the very creation of human cravings, they are the means of exploitation.” (Talk 1, Auckland, 30 March 1934)
“You all want to be somebody in the state, either Sir Somebody or Lord, you know, and all the rest of it, which is based on possessiveness, possessions; and that has become moral, true, good, perfectly Christian, or perfectly Hindu. It is the same thing. Now we call that morality.” (Talk 1, Auckland, 28 March 1934, par. 17)
But for K the deepest negative social effects lie in what he refers to as their divisiveness. “To me religion is the false result of a false cause, the cause being conflict, and religion merely a means of escape from that conflict. So the more you develop and strengthen the sectarian divisions of religion, the less true brotherhood there will be; and the more you strengthen nationalism, the less will be the unity of man.” (Talk 6, Ojai, California, 23 June 1934, par. 14)
“We say religions unify. On the contrary. Look at the world split up into narrow little sects, fighting against each other to increase their membership, their wealth, their positions, their authorities, thinking they are the truth.” (Talk 6, Ojai, California, 23 June 1934, par. 28)
“We will have misery and tribulation so long as religion is organized to be part of the State, the hand maiden of the State. It helps to condone organized force as policy of the State; and so encourages oppression, ignorance and intolerance. How then can religion allied with the State fulfill its only true function, that of revealing and maintaining eternal value?” (Talk 4, Ojai, California, 17 June 1945, par. 3)
“... organized religions have nothing to do with the sayings of the great teachers. The teachers have said do not kill, love your neighbour, but religions of vested interest encourage and support the slaughter of humanity. (applause) By encouraging nationalism, supporting a special class, with all its organized belief, religion participates in the killing of man. Religions throughout the world not only exploit through fear, but also separate man from man. Such organized religions cannot in any way aid man in the realization of truth.” (Talk 4, Mexico City, 3 November 1935, par. 11)
“Probably one of the few religions in the world that has not shed blood is Buddhism and perhaps after it Hinduism...” (Talks and Dialogues, Sydney 1970, 5th Public Talk, par. 6)
“... there is starvation, there is war, religion has totally failed – it has no more meaning anymore, except to some old ladies and slightly demented people.” (Talk 1, New Delhi, 15 December 1966, par. 3)
And: “ Seeing this throughout the world – and it is your job while you are being educated to see this whole pattern – how will you bring about order? An inner revolution is necessary so as to bring about right relationship between human beings; every other form of revolution brings about more misery. The question is how to bring about right relationship between man and man – not through force, not with bayonets, not through organized religions, not through ideologies – for these have all failed. So how is that revolution, that right relationship to take place?” (Talk Students, Rishi Valley, 30 October 1967)
IV. Krishnamurti’s view of real or true religion. Although he continues almost to his last talks with observations about the negative effects of traditional religion, and though he certainly indicates many of his unique constructive insights right from his earliest talks, K’s elaboration of a more positive idea of religion, using the terms ‘real religion,’ ‘true religion,’ or ‘the religious mind,’ are articulated in a gradual unfoldment beginning in 1944. “Religion is above all names, creeds, doctrines. It is the way of the realization of the supreme, and virtue is not of any country, race or of any specialized religion.” (Talk 3, Ojai, California, 28 May 1944) K’s earliest characterization of true religion as the ‘way of realization of the supreme’ is that it is simply the search for truth. “Religion is the search for truth, which is of no country, which is of no organized belief, which does not lie in any temple, church, or mosque.” (Talk, Bombay, 13 March 1948, par. 27)
“Religion, surely, is allowing truth to come into being, whatever that truth is...”
“Religion is the understanding of the thinker and the thought, which means the understanding of action in relationship. The understanding of action in conduct is religion, not the worship of some idea, however gratifying, however traditional, whoever has said it. Religion is understanding the beauty, the depth, the extensive significance of action in relationship.” (Talk 3, Rajahmundry, 4 December 1949, par. 4, 5)
“Religion is the understanding of the thinker; for what the thinker is, that he creates. Without understanding the process of the thinker and the thought, merely to be caught in a dogma is surely not the uncovering of the beauty of life, of existence, of truth.” (Ibid., par. 3)
In developing this theme of self-understanding, K’s insights disclose three major aspects of true religion. The first centers around the process of the mind’s engaging in a kind of disillusionment, in which it realizes what he calls the denial of the inventions of the mind. “It is a total denial of everything which the mind has invented for its own security.” (Talk 7, Bombay, 13 January 1960, par. 29)
“Religion is not the acceptance of some dogma, tradition, or so-called sacred book. Religion is the inquiry to find the unknown.” (Talk 1, Madanapalle, 12 February 1956, par. 19)
“That complete aloneness, in which there is no fear, has its own extraordinary beauty; it is a state of love, because it is not the aloneness of reaction; it is a total negation, which is not the opposite of the positive. And I think it is only in that state of creation that the mind is truly religious.” (Talk 7, Bombay, 13 January 1960, par. 29)
The second, more positive, aspect of the truly religious mind K describes as the ‘pursuit of the sacred.’ “I am using that word ‘religion’, as the urge, the intense pursuit of that which is sacred, if there is anything sacred.” (Talk 4, Ojai, California, 15 April 1973, par. 2)
Several published journals give glimpses of K’s personal experiences: Krishnamurti’s Notebook, Krishnamurti’s Journal, and Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal.
“So this morning I would like, if I may, to go into this question of whether there is something really sacred, something immeasurable, which cannot be fathomed by the mind.” (Talk 6, Ojai, California, 21 August 1955, par. 2)
“But that which is truly sacred is beyond the measure of time, it is not to be found within the field of the known.” (Ibid., par. 13)
“Then is there something sacred, not invented by thought? There is nothing sacred in the temples, in the mosques, in the churches. They are all the inventions of thought. So, when you discard all that, is there something sacred, that is nameless, timeless, something that is the outcome of great beauty and total order which begins in our daily life.” (Talk 4, New Delhi, 7 November 1982, par.26)
“When there is silence, there is immense, timeless space; then only is there a possibility of coming upon that which is the eternal, sacred.” (The Wholeness of Life, p. 145)
“That which is mysterious, not in the sense of the mystery that thought has created, that great sense of mystery which scientists are also enquiring into that mystery, that mysterious thing is sacred. It has no symbol, no word. You cannot experience it, because if you experience there is still the experiencer who is the centre, who is the ‘me’ that will experience, therefore still division.” (Talk 7, Saanen, 27 July 1975, par. 32)
“So where there is this emptiness and space there is vast energy. And that energy is sacred.” (Talk 4, Brockwood Park, 6 September 1981, par. 28)
“Is there anything sacred, holy? Obviously the things that thought has put together in the religious sense – investing sacredness in images, in ideas – are not sacred at all. That which is sacred has no division, not one a Christian, another a Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and all the rest of the divisions. That which thought has put together is of time, is fragmentary, is not whole, therefore it is not holy...” (The Wholeness of Life, p. 197)
“And when it is capable of saying, ‘I really know nothing’, that state of complete emptiness which is complete disassociation with the world, and all the world which has made the ‘me’. I wonder if... are you following all this? Then that nothingness is the most sacred thing.” (Discussion 7, Saanen, 7 August 1973, par. 119)
“And when you have compassion then there is truth, that which is truth is the most sacred thing.” (Talk 6, Madras, 26 December 1976, par. 28) “But the beauty about which I am talking offers no stimulation whatsoever. It is a beauty not to be found in any picture, in any symbol, in any word, in any music. That beauty is sacredness, it is the essence of a religious mind, of a mind that is clear in its self-knowing.” (Talk 10, Saanen, 1 August 1965, par. 16)
“... this order, with its virtue and peace, can only come about when you come directly into contact with disorder in your daily life. Then out of that blossoms goodness and then there will be no seeking any more. For that which is, is sacred.” (The Awakening of Intelligence, p. 216-7)
“So the experience of ‘it’ is not possible, but it is there when the mind has gone through this whole business of existence with clarity, in which there is no fear and the understanding of that enormous thing called death and suffering. And out of that comes great compassion.” (Talk 7, Saanen, 27 July 1975, par. 32)
Here it is important to point out that K seems to have moved through two phases regarding the language that he used to speak of the ‘sacred:’ one that we might loosely call ‘theistic,’ in which he uses the term ‘God;’ the other, a ‘non-theistic’ or ‘atheistic’ phase, in which that term was no longer used and even explicitly rejected. In so describing these phases, we must be clear that neither is to be understood, as the terms are usually taken philosophically, as belief positions; for K rejected all beliefs, including both theistic and atheistic, as irrelevant and even impediments to understanding. “If we are brought up in the belief of God, or in opposition to that, thought is influenced, a habit is formed, from generation to generation. Both belief and non-belief in God prevent the understanding of God.” (Talk 7, Ojai, California, 7 July 1940, par. 15)
In the ‘theistic’ phase, very early in his speaking career, although he asserts it nowhere else later, K stated clearly that he had actually realized God. “Please – and I am not saying this with any conceit – I have found a way; not a method that you can practise, a system that becomes a cage, a prison. I have realized truth, God, or whatever name you like to give it.” (Talk Oslo, 5 September 1933, par. 15)
“God, Truth, or whatever you may choose to call reality, cannot be described. That which can be described is not the real.” (Talk 7, Ojai, California, 7 July 1940)
“Memory is the residue of incomplete experiences; therefore, truth, or God, or what you will, is the unknown and it cannot be formulated.” (Talk 4, Bangalore, 25 July 1948, par. 16)
“When you do something with your whole being, in which there is no sense of frustration or fear, no limitation, in this state of action you are yourself, irrespective of any outward condition. I say, if you can come to that state, when you are yourself in action, then you will find out the ecstasy of reality, God.” (Talk 1, Ommen, 4 August 1938, par. 13)
Further, its indescribability not withstanding, in various passages K refers to ‘God’ in ways that indicate that he understood that term as denoting a number of characteristics. One of these is his clear rejection of God as being personal. “Now reality or truth or God, or whatever name you like to give to it, is not egotistic, personal consciousness.” (Talk 3, Buenos Aires, 19 July 1935)
“The capacity to see the whole is Reality, is God, is everything in the Universe.” (Talk 1, Bombay, 26 November 1958, par. 23)
“The mind that is not seeking a culmination, a goal, an end, shall discover truth. Then divinity is not an externalized, unfulfilled desire, but that intelligence which is itself God, which is beauty, truth, completeness.” (Talk 7, Ojai, California, 24 June 1934)
“It is also important to find out what your relationship is to that Creative Reality, God, or what you will – names are of no importance.” (Talk 1, Poona, 24 January 1953, par. 19)
“... that which may be called reality, God, truth, or what you will, is a state of constant renewal, a state of creativeness.” (Talk 2, Brussels, 17 June 1956, par. 2)
“Life itself is action, endless action that has no beginning and no end. It is something that is everlastingly in movement, and it is the universe, God, bliss, reality.” (Talk 2, Bombay, 30 November 1958, par. 10)
“Now to me there is reality; there is an eternal living reality – call it God, immortality, eternity, or what you will.” (Talk 2, Stresa, 2 July 1933) Finally, in describing what might be called overall qualities of God, he equates it with peace, beauty, love. “And that creation is truth, God, or what you will – it has no meaning then. Then that explosion, that creation, is peace; you do not have to seek peace. That creation is beauty. That creation is love.” (Talk 7, Bombay, 3 March 1965)
“So, it seems to me that the function of education is to bring about a release of energy in the pursuit of goodness, truth, or God, which in turn makes the individual a true human being and therefore the right kind of citizen.” (This Matter of Culture, p. 187)
“When there is no illusion ‘what is’ is god or any other name that can be used. So god, or whatever name you give it, is when you are not. When you are, it is not. When you are not, love is. When you are, love is not.” (The Urgency of Change, p. 18)
But K’s theistic language was abandoned in his teachings around 1970-71. Thereafter we find no further use of the term ‘God’ other than as an illusion, very much in the manner of Feuerbach, that is created by the mind in its search for security and permanence. “In belief of God, there is great security, but that God, you have invented it. So you are seeking security in an illusion which you think is real and that gives you a great sense of security; that means you are neurotic in a belief which is your own invention.” (Talk 3, Bangalore, 12 January 1974, par. 31)
“K: When there is absolute silent, total silence, therefore no movement of any kind, when it is completely quiet, there is a totally different kind of explosion which is......
P: Which is God.
K: I refuse to use the word ‘God’ but this state is not an invention. It is not a thing put together by cunning thought because thought is completely without movement.” (Tradition and Revolution, p. 146; 9 February 1971; par. 48-9 on CD-ROM)
“The moment I say there is God, the thinking about it is within the field of thought. The man who has not thought at all, to him there is no God.” (Tradition and Revolution, p. 104; 21 January 1971; par. 26, 27 on CD-ROM)
“And where there is the ending of fear, there is no god. You understand? It is out of our fear, out of our desire, we invent the gods. When a man for him, in whom there is no fear, completely no fear, then he is totally a different human being and he needs no god.” (Talk 3, Madras, 1 January 1983, par. 25)
In his later talks and writings, drawing from the etymological origin of the term ‘religion’ as ‘binding back or together’ (though pointing out the uncertainties noted by scholars concerning that etymology), K focuses more on the third aspect of real religion as ‘gathering together all energy, at all levels, physical, moral, spiritual, at all levels, gathering all this energy which will bring about a great attention. And in that attention there is no frontier, and then from there move. To me that is the meaning of that word: the gathering of total energy to understand what thought cannot possibly capture.’ (Conversation 11 w. Allan Anderson, San Diego, 25 February 1974, par. 5); that is, living in and through intelligence. In this context, he makes it clear that although intelligence transcends the limits of conceptualizing reason, he also points out that reason has its appropriate place. “It really means to bring together all your energies to enquire, to look, to observe, to find out what is truth, if there is any reality beyond the reality of thought, if there is something timeless which is beyond all reason, though reason must be exercised.” (Talk 2, New York, 28 March 1982, par. 24)
“There must be complete freedom, and in that freedom there is a great, tremendous energy because there is an emptiness – not nothingness, emptiness. In that there is that which is beyond all time. This is meditation. This is religion.” (Talk 2, New York, 15 April 1984, par. 21)
“Without knowing all these secrets, hidden urges and compulsions, mere meditation leads to self-hypnosis. You can put yourself quietly to sleep through following a certain pattern, and that is what most of us are doing, not only in meditation but in daily life.” (Discussion 7, New Delhi, 22 January 1961, par. 9)
“Meditation is the understanding of the whole of life, both external and inward, the understanding of your daily life, your relationships, freeing yourself from fear, and questioning what is the self, the ‘me’.” (Talk 2, New York, 15 April 1984, par. 20)
See P. Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen, p. 48-9.
As for the origin of true religion, K sees the first or initiating move as arising through the intelligent observation of conflict in one’s actual conditioned state, the essential feature of what I’ve called the first major aspect of true religion. Uncompromising and penetrating observation of conflict and its roots in conditioning brings the dissolution of the domination by that conditioning and its resultant conflict. “So, the understanding of conflict in relationship is of primary importance and nothing else; because out of that conflict we create the world in which we live every day – the misery, the poverty, the ugliness of existence. Relationship is response to the movement of life. That is, life is a constant challenge, and when the response is inadequate, there is conflict; but to respond immediately, truly, adequately to the challenge, brings about a completeness. In that response which is adequate to the challenge there is the cessation of conflict, and therefore it is important to understand oneself, not in abstraction, but in actuality, in everyday existence.” (Talk 3, Rajahmundry, 4 December 1949, par. 7)
“... when you accept ‘what is’ – i.e. in accepting what you are – you are free. Then you begin to create. Then there is Reality, God or what you like to call it.” (Discussion 30, Madras, 30 December 1947, par. 29)
“God, or what you will, does not come into being through the process of time. It comes into being only when time, when memory, ceases. When you as memory are absent, when you as memory function not, when that activity as the ‘I’ ceases, then there is an ending. In that ending, there is renewal; and in that renewal there is reality.” (Talk 3, Bombay, 1 February 1948, par. 25)
“Therefore, to find out whether there is or there is not reality, God, or what you will, the thought process has to come to an end, which means that the thinker must cease.” (Talk 1, Bangalore, 4 July 1948, par. 24)
“And in that quietness you will know if there is God, reality, or if there isn’t: in that stillness, in that silence, you will know.” (Ibid., par. 33)
“... therefore, truth, or God, or what you will, is the unknown and it cannot be formulated.” (Talk 4, Bangalore, 25 July 1948, par. 16)
“Only the mind that is alone, incorrupt, innocent, though it may have thousands of years of experience – only such a mind is capable of perceiving that which is God, truth.” (Talk 3, Bombay, 23 February 1955, par. 28)
“Or, is religion the state of mind in which there is an experiencing which is not of memory, which is a state in which all conditioning by time has ceased?” (Talk 2, Bombay, 11 February 1953, par. 13)
“It is only when there is the complete cessation of ‘the me’, of ‘the I’, of the ego, which cannot come about through any effort, any will, through any conscious act, it is only when there is love, that there is a possibility of such a mind being religious.” (Ibid., par. 15)
“Awareness of all this, which is real meditation, has revealed that there is a central image put together by all the other images, and the central image, the observer, is the censor, the experiencer, the evaluator, the judge who wants to conquer or subjugate the other images or destroy them altogether. The other images are the result of judgements, opinions and conclusions by the observer, and the observer is the result of all the other images – therefore the observer is the observed.” (Freedom From the Known, p. 96) “Then you will find that there is an awareness that has become tremendously alive. It is not bound to any central issue or to any image – and from that intensity of awareness there is a different quality of attention and therefore the mind – because the mind is this awareness – has become extraordinarily sensitive and highly intelligent.” (Freedom From the Known, p. 97)
While many statements made by K assert that true religion consists in various features, I think that many of those features are better understood as the effects that arise in the mind that is following the pathless path of ‘true religion.’ One is what he calls an ‘inner revolution’ “I am talking about an inner revolution, a revolution within the mind itself, whether it be a Christian mind, a Hindu mind, or a Buddhist mind; for without this revolution, this freedom, surely there can be no deep understanding.” (Talk 1, Athens, 24 September 1956)
“It is this transformation of the individual that constitutes religion, not the mere acceptance of a dogma, a belief, which is not religion at all.” (Talk 2, Madanapalle, 19 February 1956, par. 5)
“Religion is love; ... You can love, be compassionate, only in the present, in the immediate.” (Talk 3, Colombo, 20 January 1957, par. 33)
“We mean by religion absolute freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from conflict, freedom from problems, freedom from sorrow so that a mind, a brain that is completely free, it’s only then there is that quality of love and compassion. Then that state alone can find out what is sacred.” (Talk 1, Madras, 31 December 1983, par. 15)
“Religion, after all, is the discovery of love, and love is something to be discovered from moment to moment. You must die to the love that you have known a second before, in order to ever know anew what love is.” (Talk 9, Bombay, 24 December 1958, par. 15)
“And the religious mind, the religious spirit, is not divorced from beauty.... Beauty implies the highest form of sensitivity – not for pictures, but the sensitivity of a mind that is alive, fresh. And therefore for that mind everything, even the most ugly thing, has its own beauty – this is not an idea.” (Talk 7, New Delhi, 13 November 1963, par. 25)
“Religion is an action which is complete, total, which covers the whole life not separated as the business life, sexual life, scientific life and the religious life.” (Talks and Dialogues, Saanen 1968, p. 101-2)
“Religion, in the deepest sense of that word, is the factor of creation.” (Talk 1, New Delhi, 24 November 1973, par. 17)
“Surely, religion is a way of life: a way of life that is whole, that is not fragmentary, in which there is no conflict whatsoever, which means there is no contradiction in oneself, contradiction of opposing desires, opposing ideas and demands, a total non-fragmentary life, a whole life, a total mind, a whole mind which doesn’t think one thing and do another, doesn’t say one thing and act contrary to what has been said.” (Talk 3, Rajghat, 30 November 1969, par. 10)
“And religion is the uncovering of that which is most holy, which has no name, which is the absolute truth, the origin of everything.” (Talk 4, Colombo, 16 November 1969, par. 10)
And: “So our concern then is, if you are at all serious, if you have observed the world and observed yourself, our concern then is, can the mind, which is so fragmented, which is so broken up, can that mind become whole, sane, non-contradictory and therefore a mind which is whole is a sane mind, a mind which is whole – that word implies holy h-o-l-y.” (Talk 1, Brockwood Park, 1 September 1973)
Such a truly religious mind of its very nature, in K’s view, has profound effects on its relationships with others. Indeed, he observed: ‘... without religion there is no culture. And because there is no religion in the world, there is no culture. Religion is the core of culture...’ (Talk 4, Madras, 15 December 1974, par. 5) That is, in the absence of the truly religious mind among most people, there is only a semblance of what one might call a true culture. A truly religious mind, particularly if realized in many individuals, would produce a radically new world. “It is only the man who has no other religion than the religion of ‘being’ – the state of being has no space, it has no corners in which the mind can become something at will produce a new world.” (Talk 2, Bombay, 10 February 1954)
“And observing what is going on in the world, a new culture must come into being, not European or American or the Asiatic culture but a world, global culture. And that culture can only come into being when there is totally a different kind of religion.” (Talk 1, San Francisco, 10 March 1973, par. 7)
“... the real function of religion is to transform man totally, so that he lives in complete harmony, which means complete order and therefore righteous behaviour. That is the total meaning of a religious mind.” (Talk 4, New Delhi, 2 December 1973, par. 1)
V. Krishnamurti’s View of a New Kind of Religion. The last phase of K’s development of his views on religion focus on what he calls a new kind of religion, which is first mentioned in 1956. “... if we are to bring about a totally new kind of religion, entirely different from what religion is now, if there is to be the total revolution of a truly religious person, then I think we must understand the tremendous significance of dependence and be free of it.” (Talk 5, Hamburg, 15 September 1956, par. 2)
“...as the world is degenerating, if there is no world religion – not Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam – world religion, it is only out of a religious mind, a global, religious mind that a new culture can come into being.” (Talk 6, Ojai, California, 17 May 1981, par. 29)
“One religion is not going to conquer the rest of the world. They want to – the Hindus want it, the Christians... (laughs) And the mechanical world, which is now being put together, is not going to bring about a new society, a new culture, only religion has always done it – not the present religion. So there needs to be a religion, of not faith, not belief, not rituals, not authority.” (Talk 4, Brockwood Park, 6 September 1981, par. 27)
Although, he gives little elaboration on how such a new global religion would come into existence, it is clear that what it consists in would be essentially what he considered to be true religion, such as I have outlined here. However, since this new religion could not be other than what arises in and from the absolute, unconditional freedom of individuals of awakened intelligence, it would be inconsistent for him to say any more than that it would bring about a new culture, a culture that is global, and one in which human beings would live in the aforementioned relationship of complete harmony.
VI. Critical Observations on Krishnamurti’s Critique. K’s views on religion invite a plethora of responses, both favorable and unfavorable. I will suggest what I see are the principal ones in regard to his negative assessment of organized religion, his view of true religion, and his view of a new religion for a global culture.
While K seems to be quite accurate about many of the negative effects of organized religion, one might also point out that these negative effects are not grounds for its complete rejection: the baby ought not to be thrown out with the wash. Rather, one could argue that these negatives are the grounds for reforming them so as to retain and enhance their good effects. Indeed, all religions have generated individual reformers inspired by the belief-structure to bring an evolutionary improvement for the good of all, such as Francis of Assisi, Luther, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.
To this, K points out that the overall problem with reform is that it is merely a ‘redecoration of the walls of the prison.’ “Then what shall the earnest man do? If he does not want to decorate the prison walls, remove a few bars, introduce a little more light, if he is not concerned with all that, and if he also sees the importance of bringing about a fundamental revolution, radical change in the relationship between man and man – the relationship which has created this appalling society in which there are immensely rich people, and those who have absolutely nothing, both inwardly and outwardly – then what is he to do?” (Talk 4, Bombay, 27 February 1955)
Similarly, one could object to K’s view of ‘true religion’ as unrealistic in that it is extremely difficult to live out, if indeed it is at all possible, particularly for ordinary human beings who are fundamentally creatures of conditioning, both in their biological inheritance, their psychological constitution, and in the patterns imposed from their experience and social environment. Even if K were able to live in the state of freedom as he describes it, he is an extremely rare case. That is, ‘true religion’ is not something accessible for most human beings.
In response, while it is clear that K’s religion of absolute freedom may be difficult to realize, particularly for those deeply attached to the conditioned state, that does not make his view false. If one could draw an analogy, a few centuries ago the view that humans can function politically in a democratic, rather than a monarchical, structure, was widely rejected. However, that did not falsify the claims of its proponents. Indeed, once made clear to large numbers of people, societies have moved steadily to a wider realization of that political form, notwithstanding the counter-forces that have arisen along the way. Similarly, the illuminating view proposed by K – and if one examines closely the teachings of other religious figures, such as Jesus and the Buddha, one can make the case that a vision of complete freedom was at their core – has attracted many listeners and led them into the religious process of meditative inquiry that K proposes. Although the realization of the fuller stages of intelligent living may be difficult to actualize, that does not mean they are inaccessible. K may be considered to have raised the bar of expectation concerning religious life.
A further objection may be raised in light of K’s own criticism of traditional religions. That is, he points out that these religions have totally failed to bring about a condition of right relationship of peace and harmony among all humans, even after thousands of years of their domination of people. But similarly, one can point out that there is also the widely observed fact that very few people, if any, even after many years of listening and studying K’s teachings, have come to the full realization of what he called ‘true religion.’ Even K, in his very last days, is reported to have expressed what seems to be the recognition that his primary concern of awakening mankind to live in full freedom had found no realization in even one other person. A few days before he died, he said: “You won’t find another body like this, or that supreme intelligence operating in a body for many hundred years. You won’t see it again. When he goes, it goes. There is no consciousness left behind of that consciousness, of that state. They’ll all pretend or try to imagine they can get into touch with that. Perhaps they will somewhat if they live the teachings. But nobody has done it. Nobody. And so that’s that.” (M. Lutyens, The Open Door, p. 149)
In response, one can point out the following. The first is that the time needed to prepare for the transformation K speaks of may be considerably long for most people. Second, even after K’s death there has been a growing interest in K’s teachings, both in the West and in the East. Recently reported by Mark Lee, Director of the Krishnamurti Foundation of America, is the rapidly growing interest in K’s teachings in China, including the publication in Chinese translation of 25 of his works. Also, new study groups in Muslim countries have been reported in the KFA Newsletter Muslim.
In this regard, while it is clear that for K the three major aspects of true religion (the thorough inquiry into the nature of the conditioned mind that brings an end to the domination of that conditioning and transforms the mind into a constant encounter with the sacred in the continuous state of meditation) occur simultaneously as facets of the same transformative insight, nevertheless many have found the process leading to that transformation lasts for many years. Indeed, K himself passed from being in his early years an uncritical participator in the methods and beliefs of the Theosophical Society’s leaders and ‘masters’, and only after a series of profoundly transformative experiences that occurred primarily in his 20’s did his unique teaching issue forth in full clarity, radically rejecting those methods and beliefs. We are led to conclude that although the transformation may indeed be a holistic, instantaneous event that issues in the life of ‘true religion,’ reaching that point may be quite lengthy for the average person, even one seriously studying K’s teachings.
Here, we observe that K’s idea of ‘true religion’ may be enlarged to include anyone seriously engaged in the ‘search for truth,’ as he described it early on, and thus recognize that it involves three primary stages of development corresponding to the three major aspects. That is, the first stage is a ‘negative’ one, centering on the inquiry into the nature of the conditioned mind, which often moves through a series of partial realizations/insights (e.g., the folly of nationalism, traditional religion, or ideological commitment). As this occurs, it is often accompanied (indeed, it is reported by many practitioners of traditional meditation methods) by partial illuminations/encounters with the sacred, a kind of temporary second stage. Finally, when the process of transformation is completed one enters the ‘third stage,’ which constitutes the full realization of K’s ‘true religion.’ Indeed, if understood in this way, we find a view agreeing in substance quite well with what some scholars of mysticism have called the ‘Way of Purgation,’ the ‘Way of Illumination,’ and the ‘Way of Union.” See F. Happold, Mysticism, A Study and an Anthology, p. 56; he follows the earlier views of E. Underhill, Mysticism, pp. 169-170. Although these authors are strongly Western in their approach, similar stages of development can be found in Oriental traditions.
Finally, one might object that K’s view on a new sort of religion, devoid of both doctrinal authority and traditions, as essential for a global culture, is both beyond achievability or even desirability for human beings. That is, it is not achievable due to the fact of the deeply entrenched presence of organized religions in the social fabric of mankind and the social and psychological factors that lead to their acceptance. For one, organized religions would, if seriously challenged by what K proposes, generate an energetic suppression of it. For another, the craving for security endemic to the human psyche makes ease of accepting what K calls the illusory promises of organized religion preferable to the difficult demands involved K’s ‘new sort of religion.’
In response, three points can be made. First, the current direction of human development makes inevitable serious conflict on various levels. One is increasing conflict among religious communities, as those societies compete for material and political advantage, and within those communities, particularly the suppression of religious views differing from those dominant in a particular society. Another is the increasing dissonance between religious traditions and the discoveries by science, a dissonance that is totally absent in what K proposes as a new sort of religion. Third, although it is possible that most of humanity will continue to choose the illusory comfort that comes with the bondage of traditional religions, one can also point out the attractiveness of K’s vision of absolute freedom. On one hand, the continuation of organized religions would perpetuate all their psychological and social negative effects. On the other, the arising of a religious mind, in K’s sense, on a global scale, with its widespread shift to living in and by intelligence, would seem to be the only valid basis for the solution of the serious problems, such as warfare, environmental degradation, oppression, etc., that emerge from the usual way of trying to satisfy the basic need for food, shelter, clothing, and physical security. That is, K’s proposal is a profound remedy for the ego-centered perspective that currently infects almost all individuals and all social structures. It also points to the liberation of the mind to its full potential for creative living.
Of course, whether that will come to pass remains to be seen. Particularly in light of K’s own somewhat prophetic assessment of the actual results of his 70 years of teaching quoted above, it may be many years, indeed centuries, before humankind as a whole may be able to reach the state of universal transformation. For some this may seem disheartening; for others, it may serve as encouragement to work earnestly for its realization in oneself, which K saw as the primary condition for its realization in everyone.Bibliography: Garfield, Jay L. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
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