When I was on vacation on a small island in Maine, I came across a book called One Thousand Moons: Krishnamurti at Eighty-Five. It is a beautiful book of photographs, long out of print, of the great teacher at work and at rest in California, England, and India. I knew the name of J. Krishnamurti, but hadn’t ever read his books or tried to understand his thought. This changed a few days ago, as I began reading his books and biography. Now I’m immersed in his elegant, subtle and sometimes difficult teachings, which has had an impact on my own thoughts and writing. Here is a man who thinks like I do, or at least I complement myself by thinking so. Like the Buddha, when I read his words or listen to his talks, I say, “Yes! That’s it! That’s what I’ve been thinking all these years but haven’t been able to put into words.” Well, today I tried just that, and here’s what I came up with:
Really, there’s not that much to do.
We don’t like to be told this because most of us measure our worth in being busy, in having responsibilities. But where do these responsibilities come from? Where does this busy-ness come from? From society, we say. I’m forced to do these things, we say. But no. We have chosen these responsibilities, this busy-ness. We stay busy because if we were to cease our busy-ness we would be forced to confront the emptiness of our own selves. We find purpose in action. We try to lead meaningful, productive lives, contributing to the good of society with our labor and our political activities. We try to make the world a “better place.” In reality, we are acting a role. Millions of years of evolution, and we have come to this.
The world economic system that exists today gives us the illusion that we have more choices than ever. And that through this multitude of choices we can find ever-increasing happiness. But actually we are more constrained now than we have ever been. Because the deluge of choices and information that is presented to us now actually dims the true light of wisdom that is within us. We believe we need to listen to the experts to tell us what to do, where to go, what to eat, what to read and see, and how to believe. This is the trick of every organized religion. This is the trick of the priest and of Oprah: that someone knows better than us. That by aligning ourselves with a specific belief system, by following the advice of this or that guru, we can finally achieve lasting happiness. Buy have any of us ever found that to be true?
Look at religion. Are religious people happy people? Does following the edicts of this or that faith or this or that messiah make anyone truly happy? Or instead does it lead to the gaping divisions between human beings that we see today, and that have in fact been going on for centuries? Our distant ancestors may have killed each other over territory or food, but never over ideas like we are doing today. We human beings nowadays are killing each other over ideas in our minds that we attach to as truth but which have no basis in fact in the real world as it is. We say that if only society would change, then we could be happy. But society has been created by human beings. All that we are as humanity up to this point has been the creation of human beings. There are no other forces outside of our own selves that have done this to us. We are in this position because this is what we’ve created.
People say, if only there was peace in society or in my immediate surroundings, peace with my job, with my boss, with my parents, with my children, then I will have peace in my life. We want everyone else to change to make our own lives peaceful, but that will never be the real solution. We can never change the world, only our reaction and relationship to the world. Buddha understood this. We hold this notion that we are making slow and steady progress towards peace. Our political leaders say this. They have signed some agreement, this country has given up nuclear weapons manufacturing, some religious figure gives a sermon, prizes are given, scholarships and grant money distributed, students go to work overseas on their summer breaks, building hospitals and homes for the poor. Progress!
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with building homes for the poor. But these acts alone won’t create peace, won’t solve the crisis we are in. Only a revolution in our own consciousness, in the way we relate to one another, without beliefs, without dogma or political ideologies, only then can we perhaps find peace. Because within each of us, beyond thought and opinion, beyond notions of right or wrong there exists a reality that is not dependent upon individual wants and desires. It is mystical and subtle, not easy to grasp. It is truth, but it is ever-changing, ever-becoming. We discover it only in relationship to the world and to one another.
When two human beings, without ideas about each other, truly communicate with one another, and by communicate I don’t mean talk and nod “yes”, or shake their head “no”, or think of how they are going to respond before the other person is even done speaking, I mean communicating with their whole being and all their senses, meeting the other person as a brand-new being, as perhaps the first person on Earth, only then can we even begin to see our life for what it really is and begin to treat one another as human beings and not just as a means to our own individual ends or our own individual happiness.
Other people don’t exist to make us feel good. Please remember this. First we must let go of all we have learned (not forget it, mind you, no one is asking you to forget arithmetic or how to drive a car or how to cook noodles), but to keep our learning at a distance, to know it’s there but not to allow our learning to come between us and the other, to not allow our ideas about the other to color our interaction with them. This is very hard to do.
Before we even meet people, we’ve already made up our minds about them. Especially people we already know. We say, oh, that person is kind, that person is mean, that person is always insensitive or hurts me with their words. That person is needy, that person is selfish. As soon as we think these things, we negate any possibility of meeting the other in a place of true compassion and love. We create a legend about the other and so believe the legend we have created.
Attaching to beliefs as if they are truth is our downfall. So, the question is: how can we free ourselves from our beliefs so that we can meet the other in right relationship? I don’t have the answer. I’m just asking the question.
This is what I’m thinking about today.