17. MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, PART 4 (the dialogues)


The introduction and interview led to a series of weekend discussions in Malibu with Krishnamurti and a small group of 10-15 mostly younger people in the winter of 1968-69.  

I arrived, along with the others, at Mary Zimbalist's Malibu home shortly before 4 in the afternoon on a clear winter Saturday afternoon.  We were invited into the living room to sit on the floor around a low table, with an empty space between the fireplace opposite us.
Among those that were participating was a striking, tall, very thin man with a broad smile and who lived nearby along Malibu beach.  He turned out to be Peter Fonda who had just finished Easy Rider and chuckled that he had made the blockbuster on an outrageously tiny budget.  He was accompanied by a fellow who stood out among the rest of us more conventionally dressed by always wearing overalls to the discussions. 
There wasn't enough room to accommodate everyone on the floor near the table so those who preferred could sit behind and to the sides on couches and straight padded chairs.  The floors were paved with beautiful Italian floral tiles that enclosed electric heating elements that kept one warm while sitting on the floor.

It was a wonderfully ordered, luminous, and calming environment...

Before the dialogues began, Krishnamurti sat down on a cushion...between the low table and the fireplace.  He would be dressed casually in blue jeans and a pressed cotton shirt.  Though he was in his seventies, he was trim and agile, always sitting cross-legged, very erect, on the floor with us.

When Krishnamurti entered the room there was a prescient silence, an earnestness and seriousness, a passionate curiosity to explore.   

On cold mornings and afternoons, there was a fire in the fireplace crackling behind him.  Alain would set the prized Nagra tape recorder on the table and place the microphone in front of Krishnamurti to record each talk.  Eventually, many of us brought our own recorders and placed our microphones on the table.

One morning Krishnamurti came in surveying the gaggle of microphones...it looked as if he were sitting down to a press briefing, or an interrogation.  At first, he seemed annoyed, then seeing the absurdity of it all, gave an amused smile...then a little chuckle.  We all began laughing. 

Occasionally, Mary's Siamese cat would wander in and begin soulfully crooning to us from afar.  Sometimes her croons can be heard on recordings of the dialogues. 


We explored and questioned many things...among them were our conditioning, our relationships (not only with people but also our more subtle relationship to things and ideas): nationalism, conflict and violence (both outward and inward)...the Vietnam War was at its height...as well as education, meditation, intelligence, religion, creativity and so on.

I think the spirit of Krishnamurti's teaching could be put in the maxim: 'Know Thyself.'    And more to the point, 'Know Thy Relationship to Everyone and Everything Else,' because every relationship...to animals, nature, mountains, material things, food, automobiles, concepts, ideas and ideals as well as to people...is a mirror and a gate to oneself. 

Krishnamurti made the point that self-awareness is not introspection.   He viewed introspection as morbid and self-absorbed.  Introspection is narrowly focused and exclusive…to the point of being neurotic…whereas awareness is expansive and inclusive…joyful and uplifting.

He pointed out that this vigilant awareness is the essence of meditation. 

If you know yourself intimately, viscerally, not simply intellectually or analytically, in all of your relationships, you will know everyone else and everything else, for, as Krishnamurti said, 'You are the World.'  The society we live in is a reflection of each of us. 

One of the most engaging recurrent topics for me was the exploration of our habits and conditioning: how we act, feel, and think according to the conditioning we have received from our family, our education, our society, and our personal experience.  And how terribly limited we become through that conditioning and our habits.  Krishnamurti was a master investigating this and showing how, through that conditioning, we react unskillfully to situations, bringing pain and suffering to ourselves and others. 

The crux of much of Krishnamurti's teaching is what it means to realize that one does not know something, and what that quality of mind is that doesn't know.

Krishnamurti revealed that a mind that realizes it doesn't know is a quiet mind, a silent mind, a calm mind...an intelligent mind.  Such a mind can't rely on memory, which is the storing up of the past...i.e., thought...in order to understand the fact of the present.  Such a mind is open, curious, passionate.

Unfortunately, most of the time either we think we know, or we approach what we don't know with thought...which again is the limitation and partiality of the 'known.'

Krishnamurti once said: 'The day you teach the child the name of the bird, the child will never see that bird again.'

During the dialogues, Krishnamurti asked: 'Can the mind function out of silence and therefore efficiently?'  That word 'efficiently' seemed incongruous and irrelevant to the topic of silence.  But he clarified it: 'usually our minds are noisy and therefore inefficient.'  That made sense.

Then he added, if you ask the question, 'how can I have a quiet mind?'...or 'how can I make my mind quiet?' (questions that we habitually ask) then you're back at the same game...i.e., creating the same conflict and confusion.  So you don't ask those questions.  You simply observe that your mind is not quiet...stay with that...and see what happens...that's enough.

He continued, 'intelligence is to observe and understand our confusion', the noise that we make in our minds, and to observe how that comes about...through our desire for psychological pleasure (security, ambition and success, self-satisfying relationships, etc.)...through our avoidance of psychological pain (not knowing, being uncertain, feeling lonely or bored, etc.).

Intelligence is not attempting to solve a psychological problem through analysis or thought, or distracting ourselves from the fact we are confronted with...through amusements, through being endlessly busy and occupied, through ignoring or trying to avoid what is actually happening.

Krishnamurti said that doing just this...observing and understanding ourselves with alert attention and great energy so that our minds become quiet...is meditation, is intelligence.

When you give your full attention to something...as a cat stalking its prey...there is only the fact.  There is no space, no time, no separation between the observer and what is being observed.  Therefore, there is no room for psychological reaction to that fact...likes or dislikes...which takes time (perhaps only a split second) and that reaction comes from memory and previous experience.  That reaction is time.

A problem that kept coming up for me, and I think for many others, was, while Krishnamurti attempted to take us beyond thought, the very nature of a verbal dialogue is that one can easily get trapped in concepts and words.   It so quickly, so unwittingly, can become an intellectual game.

Also, as Krishnamurti approached the dialogue along the lines of Socrates...that is, by continually asking questions, it was easy to get trapped in words and give an automatic verbal response...the very opposite of the spirit of his teaching.   We feel almost obligated to do so. 

We are conditioned to respond immediately to a question...with words.  And the space and silence from which the question must be answered is too quickly lost.  When confronted with a question, the brain immediately goes into a conceptual 'search and answer' mode, and therefore becomes caught in thought.

Another problem was that while Krishnamurti emphasized that the dialogue would be destroyed if he, or anyone else, was taken to be an authority, the fact was that his charismatic presence and his occasional impatience, as well as his being positioned in the room as the center of our attention, created a sense that he indeed was the authority.  (I now understood the wisdom of King Arthur's round table.)

Krishnamurti could become impatient with our lack of comprehension as well as our superficial questions...our lack of urgency, energy, and passion as he put it.

He would flinch and contort his face, as if in pain, and in frustration, almost in a whine, exhort us with a low sigh: 'Oh, you don't see it.  It's so simple.   Don't ask how.  Just do it!'

And there we would sit in frozen silence with blank looks.

These problems were a continuing irony about his teaching.

During the dialogues, I would find myself passionately asking one question after another...perplexed...hardly taking a breath.

There was one moment that he gave me a way out of my conundrum.  One afternoon, while we were discussing violence within, he stopped me in the middle of my rushing thoughts and, pushing aside my comments and questions, pointed out the window to a brightly flowering plant in the garden, completely changing the subject, and said: 'Look at that...what do you see?  Can you look at it without the word?'

Immediately I began to answer.  Again he stopped me: 'No, not with words!'  I was embarrassed and confused, up against a wall.

With patient emphasis, looking out the window, he again asked, 'what do you see?'  'Look at the plants, the hills...can you look at them without the word?'

'Experiment...find out if you can do that.  First, do that.  That is fairly simple.  If you can do that, then see if you can look similarly at the violence within, at the reaction, at the feeling without the word...without separating yourself from it.  You are it.'

I understand now that that could have been my epiphany.  But instead, I was searching for the meaning of what he was saying...and searching with the only tool I knew I had...searching with my conditioned, perplexed mind, but failing to be in contact with the flowering plant that stood outside the window, or to be intimately in contact with the confusion within myself.

As the years passed, I did what many times he had suggested I do...let the question rest, simmer, percolate.  Perhaps when I was least expecting it, it would blossom.

And it did.

Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved.


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