Dear Donagh…, You often write about meditation, or you bring it in everywhere…. I've been reading a great book by Krishnamurti called “Commentaries on Living”, and I looked through a few other books of his too…. He doesn’t believe in meditation! He says it’s a technique, and he’s against all techniques. Nothing only understanding will help us, no techniques ever will…. Have you read him? What do you think? Séamus
Dear Séamus, So you discovered Krishnamurti (a friend of mine calls him Christy Murphy)! Yes, I've read many of his books – or rather the edited transcripts of his talks. I've also read the three volumes of that book you named – one of the few books he ever actually wrote; and he wrote it at the insistence of Aldous Huxley. These volumes are extraordinarily compelling, and beautifully written.
And yes, he was against all techniques – and not only techniques, but all organised religion, all repetition, all scriptures, all gurus and disciples…. If it was visible or shaped in any way, he was against it. He spent his life travelling the world giving lectures.
His antagonism to organisation had a lot to do, no doubt, with his own extraordinary life and his early struggle to be free of other people’s plans for him. He claimed never to have read the Vedas, a remarkable thing for an Indian spiritual teacher. So whatever he was, he was an original source. No one has ever been tempted to cast doubt on the depth of his realisation. One is free, though, to wonder about his efforts to communicate that realisation. I used to read him assiduously at one time, but I often wondered whether giving lectures to a crowd of listeners wasn’t itself a technique – a rather ineffective one, as anyone knows who has been through college. He always spoke about “investigating together,” but it must have been hard to hold a conversation with someone who conceded nothing. To refresh my memory I looked at a few of the books, and for the fun of it I also looked him up in YouTube. There he was in one of the clips “investigating together” with Chögyam Trungpa. Krishnamurti talked from start to finish, saying the same thing over again – denying the usefulness of meditation practices – while the other man sat in total silence! It made something very visible. (Of course we don’t know what was going on in Chögyam Trungpa’s mind at the time.)
It’s not exact to say simply that he disbelieved in meditation. He restricted the word ‘meditation’ to the egoless state, and he denied the usefulness of any means or methods of arriving at that state. In other words, all the “skilful means” that meditation teachers practise were useless in his view.
But the daily practise of meditation is not a technique! There’s nothing to do. Meditation is about doing nothing! The rest of the day we are doing lots of things: thinking, talking, working, day-dreaming, wishing, regretting…. All of these could be described as techniques. Even day-dreaming is a kind of technique: it’s the ego’s way of perpetuating itself by filling the cracks when there’s nothing happening. In ordinary awareness we are constantly adding something, usually something to do with the ego’s projects. But meditation means adding nothing. It’s the one thing that isn’t a technique. As soon as you begin to have some goal in meditation you are no longer meditating. In meditation you just breathe, adding nothing.
By deciding that you will sit down to meditate at the same time every day you are not making yourself an automaton. You are organising that portion of your day, that's all. But that is another bad word for Krishnamurti. I'd like to know what's wrong with organisation as such. The whole universe, from the microscopic to the cosmic level, shows organisation. Particles organise themselves around the nucleus of an atom, and planets around the sun. And everything in between shows some level of organisation, before ever there were human beings to interfere. There’s nothing wrong with sitting down at the same time every day and doing nothing for a while. If you can really stop doing things, something other than your ego’s projects may begin to dawn in your awareness. Reality may begin to get a look in, and then the source of reality, God. Thomas Merton wrote, “The true contemplative is not the one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but who remains empty because he knows that he can never expect or anticipate the word that will transform his darkness into light. He does not even anticipate a special kind of transformation. He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence, and when he is ‘answered,’ it is not so much by a word that bursts into his silence. It is by his silence itself suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, full of the voice of God.”
There's nothing wrong with doing the same thing over and over. Krishnamurti himself kept doing the same thing – talking – till he was 90 years old. And in his final talk, ten days before he died, he insisted that no one had ever understood him. May you live as long, Séamus!