J. Krishnamurti’s Radical Freedom

Aug 18, 2020 | Building on others

Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash

Or, sufficient unto each moment is the truth thereof.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian sage, rejected his home’s spiritual traditions while pointing to the same truths from his own angle. He promoted a radical view of freedom, rejecting moral and intellectual authority, subordinating even knowledge to immediate, open awareness.

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Krishnamurti points to and works from two core non-dual principles:

  • Truth is What Is, right now. It is everything present in this moment. Truth is current reality — never a fragment of What Is, but the totality.
  • am that truth. This means I am not only the person I take myself to be.

Truth has no path, and that is the beauty of truth, it is living…. this living thing is what you actually are — your anger, your brutality, your violence, your despair, the agony and sorrow you live in.(216)*

The negative emphasis helps illustrate current reality’s comprehensiveness. Truth includes every misunderstanding, misconception and wilful misrepresentation of itself. Do I see this is not a contradiction? Can I live with this tension?

Truth also includes, within me, an image of myself. Therapists would probably call this image, formed unknowingly in childhood, my persona. And although truth contains this construct, the image prevents me from seeing truth, including my true self.

Each of us has an image of what we think we are or what we should be, and that image, that picture, entirely prevents us from seeing ourselves as we actually are. (347)

Krishnamurti emphasises the present moment by highlighting the living nature of truth.Understanding means seeing the truth. I might typically view knowledge as accumulated understanding, but Krishnamurti doesn’t. His point? Understanding does not accumulate. This is the first sense of meaning for my subtitle — sufficient unto each moment is the truth thereof. Yesterday’s understanding quickly becomes outdated, as useless as following authority or letting someone else do my thinking.

To understand ourselves needs no authority either of yesterday or of a thousand years because we are living things, always moving, flowing, never resting. (284)

To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigour and passion. (287)

The focus is on understanding myself. But my self-image from childhood interferes. The image is static. Even if it was accurate when it formed, truth and I, as living things, have changed immensely. So now, the image, the ‘false I’ is well out of date.

A further issue: the self construct, which is really a tiny sliver of reality, sees itself as independent of everything else. The image is a little eddy of frozen misunderstanding in the flow of life. This eddy sees itself as What Should Be.

…conflict will inevitably arise so long as there is a division between ‘what should be’ and ‘what is’, and any conflict is a dissipation of energy. (907)

Yet What Is includes every image of What Should Be. What Should Be is not really on the outside as a viable alternative. There is only What Is. This is as true for projected judgements of external events and other persons as it is for the self-image. Comparison in any form is therefore mistaken and brings conflict.

This feels quite tricky. I am the unbounded flow of life, but I believe myself (despite myself) to be a child-crafted, one-sided image of separate perfection. My self-image, a false slice of truth, is in continual conflict with reality. Which do you think wins?

Is there any way out? Well, that’s what you, I and countless seekers have been asking!

Freedom sits within reach, and it lies in the full lived understanding of the two points at the opening of this article. True understanding of these goes hand-in-hand with full surrender to the flow of life and the dissolution of the false I. In personal experience, this bestows freedom and joy.

To discover that nothing is permanent is of tremendous importance for only then is the mind free, then you can look, and in that there is great joy. (1080)

This deepest understanding relieves me of the need to protect my person. I needn’t worry about my person’s future. I can bear uncertainty. This liberates me from fear, the greatest impediment to freedom.

The movement from certainty to uncertainty is what I call fear. (611)

… the central issue [which] is to learn to live with fear. (682)

I am new in each moment. Then I also die in each moment.

You cannot live without dying. You cannot live if you do not die psychologically every minute. This is not an intellectual paradox. To live completely, wholly, every day as if it were a new loveliness, there must be dying to everything of yesterday… (1100)

So, Krishnamurti points me to the same understanding as the great spiritual traditions: freedom and peace lie in surrender.

Am I willing to die, perpetually? Can I see and play with, but also laugh at the apparent fragmentation of reality into Is and Should Be? When my soul — not my intellect — answers, ‘Yes,’ the false I melts into the stream I truly am — What Is.

But… the soul is free and cannot be coaxed by the false I, the self-image. What I can and must do is pursue self-understanding for its own sake, not to bring a desired result.

It depends on the state of your mind. And that state of mind can be understood only by yourself, by watching it and never trying to shape it, never taking sides, never opposing, never agreeing, never justifying, never condemning, never judging — which means watching it without any choice. And out of this choiceless awareness perhaps the door will open and you will know what that dimension is in which there is no conflict and no time. (483)

Krishnamurti stresses that no one’s tutelage, including his own, can guide me to this state. The ‘self’ of self-understanding makes it, by necessity, a personal journey. Freedom is both the destination and the path. True understanding of this article’s opening two points implies freedom is also the eternal source from which all paths launch.

Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

In many ways, the paragraph above is the natural ending to this article. But a piece in me — and I suspect in you — says, ‘Huh?’

This doubting piece wonders what happens after surrender, when one truly dies to each moment and watches from choiceless awareness. This mind-itch of mine pictures an inert lump of flesh, unmoving, or a weak human husk blowing in the wind or pushed around by others. It can’t see passionate, engaged life in this mystical ‘free’ person.

This confused piece of me misses the point: the person — the body and mind — continues operating in the world according to long-standing preferences, capabilities and other conditioning. The person makes any decision based on who they are in that moment and what the rest of reality is in that moment.

Remember though, the person is part of reality, and reality continues to unfold. Each moment has its truth, and the person is a part of that truth. But the truth no longer contains a sense of separateness within the person, or a childish expectation that the moment should be different, based on their preferences.

Sufficient unto each moment is the truth thereof. Reality does not need a separate driver (or worrier). It and the person within it carry on fine without the false I.

I remind the doubting, confused piece of me this is so, whenever it fears surrender — freedom.

* All citations are Kindle locations in J. Krishnamurti’s Freedom from the Known. Ebury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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