“Our chief concern is the transformation, the radical change, of the human mind....Unless that radical revolution, that psychological change, comes about, there will be no end to conflict, no end to suffering and all the violence that is going on throughout the world....This change cannot possibly be brought about without knowing oneself, self-knowledge....Unless one understands one’s self, the self of every day--what it thinks, what it does, its devotions, its deceptions, its ambitions, all its self-centered activities, its identification with something noble or ignoble, the state or some ideal--one is still within the field of the ‘me.’” ---Jiddu Krishnamurti
Yesterday I was reading bits and pieces of a book called God In All Worlds: An Anthology of Contemporary Spiritual Writing. I was trying to inspire myself to think more deeply about my belief in some form of higher power. Well, I wound up reading aloud into the tape recorder a quote by Krishnamurti. The quote begins: “Questioner: There are many concepts of God in the world today. What is your thought concerning God? Krishnamurti: First of all, we must find out what we mean by a concept. What do we mean by the process of thinking?....” And suddenly, I was caught up in his perspective. What is thought? After all I suffer from schizophrenia which is classified as a thought disorder and I’ve never really considered what a thought is. I promptly went to my collection of books and found a book called Total Freedom: The Essential Krishnamurti . A while ago, I think before I got sick, I picked up this book and read through parts of it, even writing in the margins, as I sometimes do. Browsing through the pages it was obvious that I had spent some time with this book, but that I had forgotten most of it.
Krishnamurti (1895-1986) was an Indian philosopher and writer who developed a substantial following. He believed that the root of human suffering lay in thoughts. The radical transformation he often talks about (that he certainly went through when a young man) turns on self study and understanding. And so he studied himself and discovered that all thought was divisive and created conflict within him. Eventually he came to this conclusion: “The chaos in the world, the misery, the starvation, the poverty, the brutality, the violence, the mess that is going on, the madness that is going on, is created by thought.” (p.273)
It is true we are conditioned by our families and friends, by the culture we live in. It is also true that we condition ourselves with our own likes and dislikes. We are taught or teach ourselves to think in a certain way depending on our environment and there are invariably others who think the opposite way. There is conflict and the potential for more conflict. We maneuver our way around it and through it. The mind seeks security through its thoughts, but, as Krishnamurti writes, “Security is an illusion.” Security is an illusion and you have to wade through danger to get to the Truth.
Krishnamurti did not believe in Jesus or Buddha or any religious figure; he believed in Reality or Truth. For him, that was the higher power. But he saw that the very process of thinking got in the way of experiencing Truth. He saw that many people mistook words and language for Truth or focused on the messenger of Truth (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, etc...) instead of the Truth itself. But what is Truth? What is Reality? How do we distinguish day after day and night after night between what is real and what is false? I think it’s safe to say that everyone gets lost through mistaken impressions and misinformation, but most of us hold to the same basic reality. We all know that fire is hot and water is wet; we know that children grow up into adults; we know the difference between “yes” and “no”. In fact, we know so many things that if we stop to name everything we know we would lose count of it. But in that vast sea of known things I think we, perhaps out of a kind of necessity, start taking too many things for granted. We take language for granted.
How many of us can remember back to when we were children learning our native tongue? What were we taught first? Our names and the names of our family members. Language and identity became deeply intertwined. I’ve heard of the “terrible twos” when children learn how to how to say “NO!” Then language became about will and will power. But ultimately language is about naming things and thus dividing things up. This thing is not the same as that thing, just as I am not the same as you. And yet is that the Truth? We forget when we name things that everything in our world, perhaps in the universe, is made up of the same stuff. Certainly there are all kinds of variations, but the basic components are what they are. This is true for life experience. My life is not so different from your life. I have experienced sadness and happiness and everything in between; so have you. And yet we are quick to notice differences instead of similarities. And language serves to foster this divisiveness. We are human beings and we live on this one planet and yet we divide ourselves into separate nations with separate types of language and separate religions or philosophies. And those very distinctions lead to one of the most terrible human activities: war. If we worked as one unit, there would be no poverty, no starvation, no war, even disease would be greatly reduced or restricted.
Instead we choose through our language and actions to divide and conquer rather than unify and share. I remember when I was in high school I had a knapsack to hold my books and on it I wrote down a quote from a song by Crosby, Stills and Nash: “If you smile at me I will understand because that is something everybody, everywhere does in the same language.” That is a truism, a genuine smile can open the way to a real communion in a way that words cannot. I can say “Hello, it is very nice to meet you” but if I don’t smile when I say it much of the meaning of the greeting is lost. I’d take a smile over a word any day. A smile is from the heart and is intuitive. A smile is inclusive and not divisive. A smile welcomes instead of instructs.