Krishnamurti – Local personality remembered 25 years after his death

Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in India in 1895 and died in the United States in 1986. He was a writer and speaker who addressed fundamental questions of human conflict, suffering, intelligence, perception, beauty and love. He spoke throughout his life in many parts of the world to large audiences as well as with numerous individuals, including writers, scientists, philosophers and educators. Asked to describe what lay at the heart of his work, he said:

"Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, nor through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection..."

Krishnamurti was concerned with all humanity and stated repeatedly that he held no nationality or belief and belonged to no particular group or culture. In the tent in Saanen, 1985. In the latter part of his life, he travelled mainly between the schools he had founded in India, the United Kingdom and the United States. He stressed that only a profound understanding can create a new generation that will live in peace. Much has been written about Krishnamurti, affectionately known as 'K'. And because of his well-known talks and regular visits to Saanenland, I interviewed someone locally for GstaadLife who for several years had a connection with him. Friedrich Grohe – an incredibly fit and agile 82-year-old who knows virtually every peak in the region due to his love of nature and hiking – met K in 1983 and became a trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundations, which are responsible for the schools K founded as well as for the archiving and publication of his work. Friedrich and K sometimes walked together in Saanenland when K came to give his annual talks by the Sarine.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1968Tess Larosse: What was it that first attracted you to what this man had to say?

Friedrich Grohe: A friend gave me a book by Krishnamurti. In the book K said something like, If you don’t like the existing schools, why don’t you start your own? So I went to his talks, and was amazed. One of the things that most struck me was when he said, "Love has no cause."

TL: Do you think coming from a German industrial family, and a firm such as Grohe, you needed something more 'philosophical' to connect to?

FG: I knew I didn’t want to spend my whole life in business, though it is fun to run a successful business. It made no sense to me to accumulate more and more money. What for? And I was interested to support a new kind of education.

TL: K traveled the world. Do you know how he first discovered Saanenland?

FG: Friends invited him. His first meetings were held in the Land- haus in Saanen in 1961. During this time he stayed at Chalet Tannegg in Gstaad, rented by the friends who’d invited him. The chalet was taken down a few years ago. When the Landhaus proved too small for the growing numbers who came to hear him, first a tent and later a big marquis was put up on land that is now the football pitch in Saanen. Aldous Huxley, the English writer and a close friend of K, attended the first meetings. Yehudi Menuhin attended a couple of years later, which I've heard was his introduction to Saanen.

TL: What did K particularly enjoy doing here?

FG: Besides meeting the many people who came to see him, not only in the tent but also in smaller groups and individually, he loved walking in the mountains. Here is an excerpt from one of his many books (Krishnamurti’s Notebook), where he describes the area around Saanen and Gstaad:

"Crossing the little wooden bridge and looking up the stream, there was the mountain, surprisingly delicate, aloof, with inviting strength; its snow was glistening in the eve- ning sun. It was beautiful, caught between the trees on either side of the stream and the fast-running waters. It was startlingly immense, soaring into the sky, suspended in the air. It wasn't only the mountain that was beautiful but the evening light, the hills, the meadows, the trees and the stream. Suddenly the whole land with its shadows and peace became intense, so alive and absorbing. It pushed its way through the brain as a flame burning away the insensitivity of thought."

TL: His talks here in Saanen were internationally famous. What kind of people attended them?

FG: All kinds, from all walks of life. Some stayed in posh hotels, others camped along the river. A few were hippies, and in the ’70s a certain guru sent his followers, who dressed in orange robes. No doubt this gave the wrong impression to many local people. K actively spoke out against gurus and their followers, accepting no such following himself.

TL: One of the six schools that Krishnamurti founded is in the beautiful English countryside – Brockwood Park School in Hampshire. What was his intention for the school?

FG: The seed of Brockwood Park was sown in Saanen when several educators approached Krishnamurti about starting a school in Europe. In addition to academic excellence, the intention is to bring about a quality of total integrity as human beings, so that there is a sense of harmony in oneself, in relationship and therefore potentially in the world at large.

TL: With all the craziness going on internationally at the moment, do you think the world is missing someone like Krishnamurti?

FG: Human beings with the quality of perception, understanding and compassion that K had are rare and of course always very much needed. That’s why, in my opinion, his insights are deeply relevant. They are in no way sectarian or confined to any political, economic, social or religious ideology. Instead, they ad- dress world problems and the human condition as a whole.

"The crisis is not economic, war, the bomb, the politicians, the scientists, but the crisis is within us, the crisis is within our consciousness. Until we understand very profoundly the nature of that consciousness, and question, delve deeply into it and find out for ourselves whether there can be total mutation in that consciousness, the world will go on creating more misery, more confusion, more horror. So our responsibility is not some kind of altruistic action, political or economic, but to comprehend the nature of our being – why we human beings, who have lived on this beautiful lovely earth, have become like this."

TL: But he was respected by some politicians and scientists?

FG: Yes, certainly. He was deeply concerned with the state of the world. Although he spoke against nationalism and every kind of political faction as among the causes of division and conflict, some world leaders, like Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi, had personal meetings with him, and he received a State reception in Sri Lanka. He was awarded a peace medal by the Pacem in Terris Society at the United Nations. He was also concerned with the potential effects of science on the future of humanity. He had many filmed dialogues with scientists and psychologists to go into the implications of what he was talking about. One such scientist was the leading theoretical physicist and philosopher David Bohm. He even conducted a seminar on creativity at the physics laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA. The thing is that K had a global outlook and statesmen and scientists who shared that outlook were naturally drawn to him and his teachings.

Krishnamurti and Friedrich Grohe 1984TL: K was viewed by many as a religious teacher. How do you think the Church viewed him?

FG: He emphasized the meaning and depth of religion beyond the confines of any dogma or organized system of belief, and therefore those who could see beyond or were not bound by tradition took an interest in his work. For example, there are filmed dialogues between Krishnamurti and the Jesuit priest Eugene Schallert, as well as with Buddhist monks and Hindu pundits. The Dalai Lama met with K and thought very highly of him. K viewed his teachings as a mirror in which we might see ourselves reflected as we actually are, both in our particularity and in our universal humanity.

TL: It’s now 25 years since his death. Are you planning anything special this summer?

FG: At 8.00pm on June 21st at Oeyetli (Oeyetliweg 30, 3792 Saanen), there will be an introduction to Krishnamurti in English, with a short video shown, questions and answers, and books, CDs and DVDs for sale. At 8.00pm on June 23rd, also at Oeyetli, there will be an introduction to K in German. Those who are interested can simply show up, or write to me at friedrichgrohe@kmailnull.ch. July 23rd-30th there will be a gathering of Parents with Children at Chalet Alpenblick in Gstaad. July 30th – August 13th there will be a two-week gathering in Mürren of adults interested in studying the work of Krishnamurti, which includes video showings, dialogues with other participants, and walks in the mountains. And August 13th-20th there will be a Mountain Programme for Young People (young adults, to age 35) in Bourg St-Pierre. For more information about these three latter events, please contact Gisèle Balleys at giseleballeys@hotmailnull.com.

Photos © Krishnamurti Foundations and Rita Zampese
Introduction based on Krishnamurti Foundation material and The Beauty of the Mountain – Memories of J. Krishnamurti by Friedrich Grohe (friedrichgrohe@kmail.ch)