Of J. Krishnamurthi and Living in the Now

Some weeks back Australians woke up to learn with horror and embarrassment, from an official investigation, how some 20% of the priests of a religion had been found guilty of sexual perversion. How could men, who have been fashioned by nature to have normal sex after puberty, be called upon to give up that natural activity, in the name of a certain idealistic religious principle? Is not that inviting perverted behaviour? Even among married, normal couples there are incoherent behaviors.

Out of J. Krishnamurthi’s “The First and Last Freedom” we can tentatively speculate about Y – who could be of either sex. He is living with a guilty conscience; everyone sees that he is happily married, yet he cannot understand his own infidelity and betrayal by having another lover. He keeps breaking his head about his double life – which submerges him into deeper doubt, erratic behaviour and unhappiness. But if he takes time and thinks back – and analyzes his whole life he may discover that since his late teens he has had affairs of the heart fairly often; he has declared his loyalty, openly or in secret, to so many of the opposite sex: and one of them happens to be his present spouse. And society and the law had stepped in, at his marriage, and insisted that he must be loyal and faithful to that other half; and that’s the views of others – the stuff Hume’s ‘ought’ is made of; he finds it difficult to bend to those social restrictions.

 

So even after marriage he still has his unfortunate propensity; this, on self-analysis, he finds paradoxical and stressful. Yet if he is aware of his emotional upheavals and sexual irrationality, that is, look at them with total detachment, without ever feeling guilty – he may understand his true nature; he will discover no paradox. He has been acting according to his true basic primitive self, which, of course, is anathema to social conventions. Now he understands the implications of his behaviour – with detachment — and he stands a greater chance to discover and appreciate his real nature and perhaps cure himself of his misconduct, without having to feel guilty or ashamed.

This kind of thinking goes for all our supposed paradoxical and embarrassing behaviours, as long as they are not deep-seated psychological complexes, which will need the help of a psychoanalyst or psychiatrist.

In short, it is as if consciousness, standing high above, stoops to peek as a passive spectator at the conflict — between reason and sentiment, raging within our bosom.

Betrayal of our past

And how does someone reach that stage of total detachment, so as to be aware of the workings of one’s own mind? Here J. Krishnamurthi proposes that our memory is all important and an impediment to our self-analysis; our past is just our memory. From it comes all our preconceived ideas, biases and our inability to see the present with detachment. Our mind, being mired in unpleasant previous sensations, reflexes and reactions makes use of those twisted experiences to assay and judge the present being inside our body. But if we can suspend that process temporarily, then we suspend our beliefs, our misconceptions, our hate, and our whole past life, while keeping our awareness unscathed.

Similarly, let’s forget about the future, which represents our ideals, and plans and are all virtual, non-existent wishes — the ‘ought’ stuff. By obliterating both the past and future for sometime what are we left with? The now – the “What is”? Left with our absolute awareness, we then contemplate ourselves and our problems, we are able to have a good perspective of our weaknesses; we can appreciate our difficulties better and tweak them apart. It is equivalent to standing alone with our true self, examining it with a new, fresh mind uncontaminated by all the prejudices of the past and thoughts of the future. And JK believes that that is the prerequisite to self understanding, to avoid the trap of paradoxes and confusion.

Our question

However, some of us may ask JK – how do we reach that state of self awareness if we are uneducated and illiterate; not exposed to all sorts of experiences, to precepts of other people could we reach that state of self detachment? Most probably not; for we depend on parents and teachers to elevate ourselves to that high pedestal.

JK’s contention is that we should not seek deliberate guidance from other teachers to understand life and its problems, for their views of the world and life cannot become ours. So perhaps JK is addressing himself to the literate, asking them to look at life with completely new eyes, new brain and mind. Forget about social rules, teachings and expectations for some time – and go on that self-discovery venture. Give ourselves a break; start life afresh and come to a new vision of our self, ready to forgive and forget. Suspend all our knowledge, our beliefs and fears – and we are left with what? Our pure awareness!

Of course, all that is a tall order, and JK himself recognizes that it is a difficult, hard and tortuous process, demanding intense energy and perpetual concentration. After all we cannot change our character or personality overnight – in fact it is not the aim, which is just to contemplate our mind in action, and how it reacts to our present dilemma or difficulty – without its past . And the prerequisite to that feat, according to JK, is that we must train ourselves to live in the now.

For JK, similarly the future lies in perfect dreams; why build our life or solve our present-day problems by anchoring ourselves on some undetermined and uncertain ideals of the future? Why do we want to live for something that will keep morphing and stay virtual, as if it is the truth that we must strive to reach – knowing quite well at the back of our mind that that truth is itself ill-defined.

Some of us existentialists may jump with joy, because JK is extolling their concept beautifully; be what you are. But JK is extolling something deeper still. It is a total venture into self-observation and understanding; hence decrying the importance of a master, of religion, of idealism and God.

A spiritual neural circuit?

Could JK’s contention have s anything to do with other social practices that promise us human some form of self-discovery, stability and happiness? Most of us like to pray, more so in congregation, where we feel closer to other human beings and God; why does it occur in praying only? Some others take to meditation, which is not an easy process; for to meditate is to direct one’s mind on the void or concentrating on a single abstract subject; a few concentrate on their own breathing process, a sort of inward gazing. Some practise ‘Tai Chi”- or retire to secluded, quiet places. All these practices seem to have a physiological aim in common: opening a neural circuit in our brain that would subserve self-consciousness and awareness.

All of us know that as long as we are indulging in one of these rituals – like praying — we feel good and nearer God; but unfortunately, as soon as we go back home this feeling wanes and disappears. We are back to square one – alone with our old complex self, because that special neural circuitry that was opened has closed down. To keep it open as continuously as possible one has to continue indulging in the rituals mentioned above. To most of us mortals that’s impossible, for most of the time we have to look for work and food for the sake of survival. But priests, religious individuals and other monks have the opportunity to reinforce those rituals everyday and almost perpetually – hence their ability to keep their sense of self-awareness alive continuously through rituals, and look on life differently. And they expect the majority of us people to emulate them. It is impossible for us common mortals to imitate them as our self-awareness circuitry is always somnolent.

But JK is asking us to go on living our daily normal routine life, and yet to keep our neural circuits of self-awareness open, at every dealing with other human beings we come across. The more it is opened, the more it gets strengthened and long-lasting and the more the individual tends to look inward. JK’s method is to eliminate gradually those archaic feelings and reflexes that clutter within, by trying to understand the inner mind. Man has to discover truth “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.”

By freeing himself from the artificial contents of this consciousness (beliefs, dogmas, religious and philosophical thoughts) he discovers compassion, love and his true self — the ‘what is’. And happiness.

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