Is J. Krishnamurti Unintelligible?

J. Krishnamurti is known to have delivered lectures over the span of more than four decades.

There are two main objections raised against him if he is considered as a philosopher.

  1. He is very difficult to understand, if not impossible.

Both of the charges leveled, upto a great extent, are fair.

But these arise out of lack of understanding.

Most importantly, this is true not only of Krishnamurti, as a philosopher but perhaps, of all philosophers unless they change their position radically.

Let me clarify.

J.Krishnamurti is unintelligible as a philosopher mainly because he uses words in ordinary sense and also in a very special sense intended by him without distinguishing between the two.

Religious mind, Love, Education, Time, Death, Freedom, Ideals, Reforms, Desirelessness, are spoken by him in these two senses. Let us call these senses (A) and (B). The former is as employed in ordinary parlance. He is totally dissatisfied with the existing state of affairs and, hence, always describes the same negatively.

e.g. Ideals are a curse as these are escapes from what is.

Most of us have no love in our hearts.

The reformer can never create a new culture

Social reform is merely ‘the decorating of the prison walls’

In all of these cases, the words, viz, ideals, our hearts , reformer and social reform are used in the ordinary sense or what I call sense (A) and the message which is passed is contrary to our ordinary beliefs. Ideals are said to be curses and our hearts having no love; the hope in Reformers’ strivings to bring out change gets crushed and social reforms are labelled as decorations!

Here, his ideas loose the force of conviction and, no wonder, his philosophy appears to be difficult, if not impossible.

The difficulty gets compounded by the fact that the same words are used in his own sense(B) . He says,

“The Happy man is regarded as the truly religious man and his very living is nothing but social work!”

( J.Krishnamurti- Think on these things- (ed.) D. Rajagopal- KFI- 2007- ISBN- 978- 81- 87326- 84–7 p.262)

Social reforms are not to be sought directly but transformation has an indirect impact is the core of his teaching.

So, what kind of changes are envisaged by him?

in his words, “ As a pebble thrown into a calm lake creates an ever-widening circle, so the action of energy in the direction of what is true creates the waves of a new culture. Then energy is limitless, immeasurable, and that energy is God.”

Thus, the same words used ordinarily bear a distinct sense, at times,in his works. Here, the concepts of energy, culture and God are different from their ordinary use. So, his ideas seem to be difficult.

To illustrate, let me say,

The effortless life is ideal for him.

Love arising spontaneously for everything that exists is intended by him.

With transformation, the reformer introduces a fresh living with Insight, Sensitivity and Creativity….and leads life from moment to moment …Each word in the sentence, here, is a technical term.

Coming to the second charge, is it repetitive?

Yes, granting that it is difficult to grasp and is vital for living, the same content needs to be conveyed again and again. The repetition does not dilute its rigor but finds new receptors and sometimes, the same old receptors apprehending what was not apprehended earlier.

So, Krishnamurti may be difficult initially and repetitive finally but interesting forever.

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Dept of Philosophy @ University of Mumbai

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Sharmila Virkar

Sharmila Virkar

Dept of Philosophy @ University of Mumbai

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