My first acquaintance with Krishnamurti's work was in 1959 when I read
his book, 'First and Last Freedom'. What particularly aroused my interest
was his deep insight into the question of the observer and the observed.
This question has long been close to the centre of my own work, as a
theoretical physicist, who was primarily interested in the meaning of the
quantum theory. In this theory, for the first time in the development of
physics, the notion that these two cannot be separated has been put forth as
necessary for the understanding of the fundamental laws of matter in
general. Because of this, as well as because the book contained many other
deep insights, I felt that it was urgent for me to talk with Krishnamurti
directly and personally as soon as possible.
And when I first met him on one
of his visits to London, I was struck by the great ease of communication
with him, which was made possible by the intense energy with which he
listened and by the freedom from self-protective reservations and barriers
with which he responded to what I had to say. As a person who works in
science I felt completely at home with this sort of response, because it was
in essence of the same quality as that which I had met in these contacts
with other scientists with whom there had been a very close meeting of
minds. And here, I think especially of Einstein who showed a similar
intensity and absence of barrier in a number of discussions that took place
between him and me. After this, I began to meet Krishnamurti regularly and
to discuss with him whenever he came to London.
We began an association which has since then become closer as I became
interested in the schools, which were set up through his initiative. In
these discussions, we went quite deeply into the many questions which
concerned me in my scientific work. We probed into the nature of space and
time, and of the universal, both with regard to external nature and with
regard to the mind. But then, we went on to consider the general disorder
and confusion that pervades the consciousness of mankind. It is here that I
encountered what I feel to be Krishnamurti's major discovery.
What he was
seriously proposing is that all this disorder, which is the root cause of
such widespread sorrow and misery, and which prevents human beings from
properly working together, has its root in the fact that we are ignorant of
the general nature of our own processes of thought. Or to put it differently
it may be said that we do not see what is actually happening, when we are
engaged in the activity of thinking. Through close attention to and
observation of this activity of thought, Krishnamurti feels that he directly
perceives that thought is a material process, which is going on inside of
the human being in the brain and nervous system as a whole.
Ordinarily, we tend to be aware mainly of the content of this thought
rather than how it actually takes place. One can illustrate this point by
considering what happens when one is reading a book. Usually, one is
attentive almost entirely to the meaning of what is being read. However, one
can also be aware of the book itself, of its constitution as made up out of
pages that can be turned, of the printed words and of the ink, of the fabric
of the paper, etc. Similarly, we may be aware of the actual structure and
function of the process of thought, and not merely its content.
How can such an awareness come about? Krishnamurti proposes that this
requires what he calls meditation. Now the word meditation has been given a
wide range of different and even contradictory meanings, many of them
involving rather superficial kinds of mysticism. Krishnamurti has in mind a
definite and clear notion when he uses this word. One can obtain a valuable
indication of this meaning by considering the derivation of the word. (The
roots of words, in conjunction with their present generally accepted
meanings often yield surprising insight into their deeper meanings.)
English word meditation is based on the Latin root "med" which is, "to
measure." The present meaning of the word is "to reflect," "to ponder" (i.e.
to weigh or measure), and "to give close attention." Similarly the Sanskrit
word for meditation, which is dhyana, is closely related to "dhyati,"
meaning "to reflect." So, at this rate, to meditate would be, "to ponder, to
reflect, while giving close attention to what is actually going on as one
This is perhaps what Krishnamurti means by the beginning of meditation.
That is to say, one gives close attention to all that is happening in
conjunction with the actual activity of thought, which is the underlying
source of the general disorder. One does this without choice, without
criticism, without acceptance or rejection of what is going on. And all of
this takes place along with reflections on the meaning of what one is
learning about the activity of thought. (It is perhaps rather like reading a
book in which the pages have been scrambled up, and being intensely aware of
this disorder, rather than just "trying to make sense" of the confused
content that arises when one just accepts the pages as they happen to come.)
Krishnamurti has observed that the very act of meditation will, in
itself, bring order to the activity of thought without the intervention of
will, choice, decision, or any other action of the "thinker." As such order
comes, the noise and chaos which are the usual background of our
consciousness die out, and the mind becomes generally silent. (Thought
arises only when needed for some genuinely valid purpose, and then stops,
until needed again.)
In this silence, Krishnamurti says that something new and creative
happens, something that cannot be conveyed in words, but that is of
extraordinary significance for the whole of life. So he does not attempt to
communicate this verbally, but rather, he asks those who are interested that
they explore the question of meditation directly for themselves, through
actual attention to the nature of thought.
Without attempting to probe into this deeper meaning of meditation, one
can however say that meditation, in Krishnamurti's sense of the word, can
bring order to our overall mental activity, and this may be a key factor in
bringing about an end to the sorrow, the misery, the chaos and confusion,
that have, over the ages, been the lot of mankind, and that are still
generally continuing without visible prospect of fundamental change, for the
Krishnamurti's work is permeated by what may be called the essence of
this scientific approach, when this is considered in its very highest and
purest form. Thus, he begins from a fact, this fact about the nature of our
thought processes. This fact is established through close attention,
involving careful listening to the process of consciousness, and observing
it assiduously. In this, one is constantly learning, and out of this
learning comes insight, into the overall or general nature of the process of
thought. This insight is then tested. First, one sees whether it holds
together in a rational order. And then one sees whether it leads to order
and coherence, on what flows out of it in life as a whole.
Krishnamurti constantly emphasizes that he is in no sense an authority.
He has made certain discoveries, and he is simply doing his best to make
these discoveries accessible to all those who are able to listen. His work
does not contain a body of doctrine, nor does he offer techniques or
methods, for obtaining a silent mind. He is not aiming to set up any new
system of religious belief. Rather, it is up to each human being to see if
he can discover for himself that to which Krishnamurti is calling attention,
and to go on from there to make new discoveries on his own.
It is clear then that an introduction, such as this, can at best show how
Krishnamurti's work has been seen by a particular person, a scientist, such
as myself. To see in full what Krishnamurti means, it is necessary, of
course, to go on and to read what he actually says, with that quality of
attention to the totality of one's responses, inward and outward, which we
have been discussing here.