Krishnamurti — Total Freedom, a review

In this article, I will discuss about Krishnamurti’s philosophy and offer you some of his best quotes, since it is influenced by my own opinion, my mental model, you should (always) be skeptical about what you read, as Krishnamurti says so well and repeat it over and over again “Truth is a pathless land” !

First, for the people who don’t know him, let’s paste a Wikipedia description:

Jiddu Krishnamurti (/ˈdʒɪduːkrɪʃnəˈmɜːrti/; 11 May 1895–17 February 1986) was an Indian philosopher, speaker and writer. In his early life he was groomed to be the new World Teacher but later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the Theosophy organization behind it. His interests included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasised that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social.

Jiddu Krishnamurti seems really an outlier in the philosophical world, challenging the most fundamental foundations of our thinking and even of thinking itself.

“To what extent can a person control his own actions?” A person does not control his own actions if he has not understood environment. Then he is only acting under the compulsion, the influence, of environment; such an action is not action at all, but is merely reaction or self-protectiveness

Total freedom — page 61

So the question arises: Is the mind mechanical? That is, in your mind, are your thoughts, your feelings, your reactions, your responsibilities, your relationships, your ways, your opinions, and so on, merely mechanical; that is, responding according to conditioning, according to environmental influence? If that is the totality of the mind, then we live in a tremendous, inescapable prison

page 297

What he says makes me think about the current hot debate about whether human behavior is deterministic or not, whether free will is a thing or not.
Unfortunately, “free will” isn’t a scientific reality. It is likely to be a myth inherited from Christian theology.
I like Yuval Noah Harari opinion on this matter

So he state that we could have more or less “free will” if we understand our environment, no understanding would means being slave to the inherited biological instinct.
I think it is similar to the Buddhist and Stoic “Self-Awareness”.

It is an interesting point of view but this question of free will can’t really be answered until we understand fully how the brain works from a neuroscience perspective.

Understanding might be the solution to life

Let us discuss this. Can we as individuals put an end in ourselves to the causes of war? One of the causes is obviously belief, the division of ourselves as Hindus, Christians, communists or capitalists .

page 189

It is only when we understand the self — not according to Shankara, Buddha, or Christ, but as it actually is in each one of us in relation to people, to ideas, and to things — that there is the cessation of pain.

page 205

Again, understanding (the environment) might be the solution to life

The so-called educated people in the world, who have been to college, to university, have good jobs, fit into a place and stay there and advance there, have their own troubles, their own adversities. One may pass some exam and get a job, or one may have been educated technologically. But psychologically, one doesn’t know anything about oneself. One is unhappy, miserable because one can’t get this or that. One quarrels with one’s husband or wife. And they are all very educated people who read books but disregard the whole field of life. And uneducated people do the same.

page 240

Society tells you to study well (pass exams, memorize, not learning), get a good job, earn a lot of money, get married, have children, buy a big house, expensive cars, etc. (I skip some obvious ones because I don’t want to offend anyone)

But what happens in the end ?

You die.
And what have you done of your life ? Follow what society told you to do.

Truth is a pathless land

And it is stupid: just to go to the office, to earn money, to take responsibility, to struggle, compete, worry, to despair, to have anxieties, immense sorrows, and then die. We say that is not good enough. We may put it more philosophically, in more extravagant or romantic language, but we see it is stupid and we want something more. Then we say: “How are we to cross this river to the other shore?” We ask, “Who will take us across?” When we ask that question, there is the priest, the guru, the man who knows, and he says, “Follow me” — and then we are done, because he is exactly like us, because he still functions within the field of thought. He has created the gods, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna

page 308

There is gurus everywhere trying to offer you solution, systems to solve your problems: Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Instagram influencers … But it never works.
The only solution can only be found by investigating yourself.

Look, listen to all this, listen to all the noise that is going on in the world. Don’t take sides, don’t jump to any conclusions, but just listen. Don’t say one noise is better than another noise; they are all noises, so just listen first. And listen also to your own noise, your chattering, your wishes — ‘I want to be this and I don’t want to be that’ — and find out what it means to listen. Find out, don’t be told. Discuss it with me and find out what it means first. Find out what it means to think, why you think, what is the background of your thinking. Watch yourself, but don’t become self-centered in that watching. Be tremendously concerned, in watching, about further enlargement of yourself

page 244

Thoughts didn’t solve human problems

thought which the Greeks imposed upon the West, with their political philosophy, with their mathematics, and so on. Thought has not found an answer and it never will. So we must go then into the whole structure of thought and the content that it has created as consciousness. We must observe the operation of thought in relationship, in our daily life. That observation implies having an insight as to whether it is a fact that the observer is different from the observed, for if there is a difference there must inevitably be conflict, just as there is between two ideologies. Ideologies are the inventions of thought, conditioned by the culture in which they have developed

page 285

Thoughts didn’t solve life

Attachment gives a certain occupation to the mind; you constantly think about something. The brain and the mind say, “I must be occupied with something” — with my god, with my sex, with my drink; “I must be occupied” — with the kitchen, or with some social order, or commune, or whatever it is. Out of this demand for occupation there is attachment, holding on to something. Why must the mind be so occupied? What would happen if it were not so occupied? Would it go astray? Would it disintegrate? Would it feel utterly naked, empty

page 295

Today tech companies build software that try to maximize addiction (Facebook, Instagram …) a great video on this subject here.
The mind need constant occupation, dopamine

As long as there is a center, the “me” or the idea of the “me,” with all its attachments, that very center creates a space around itself. Where there is a center, there must be a border. The border may be extended, but it is still limited by the space that the center has created. Meditation means to come upon that space in which there is no center; therefore, no direction; therefore, no time. Without meditation and the coming upon that thing which is not able to be experienced, which is not to be put into words, which has no time, which has no continuity, life has very little meaning. You may have a lot of money, or no money; you may be attached to your property, to your wife, to your friend, or you may worship your particular little god, which thought has invented, but as long as you live there, there will be suffering, pain, anxiety, and violence. And that has no meaning in itself, obviously. Only when you come upon this space — not invent it, not project it, not bring it about through any system — then only does life have an extraordinary sense of beauty and meaning.

page 318

Emptiness is the solution ?

There is knowledge of the present only when there is a complete understanding of what the structure and the nature of the past is — and ending it.

page 320

related to this quote:

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. It is only in that state that one learns and observes. And for this, a great deal of awareness is required, actual awareness of what is going on inside yourself, without correcting it or telling it what it should or should not be, because the moment you correct it you have established another authority, a censor.

This makes me think of this Zen proverb:

A well known professor went to visit a Zen master. As the master gracefully served tea, the professor described his ideas of Zen. The master remained quiet as the professor spoke,continuing to pour.
When the tea reached the brim of the cup, the Zen master kept pouring. The tea overflowed, spilling onto the tray, the table, and the carpet, until the professor could no longer stand it.
“Stop!” he said.“Can’t you see the cup is full?”
“This is you,” said the master, positing to the cup. “How can I show you Zen, until you first empty your cup?”

Listening is a rare skill, listening to someone without chatting in your head, having your cup EMPTY.
This is closely related to Krishnamurti discussion about the “observer”:

The observer is the observed

Can one look at what is without a prejudice, without prejudgment? Can you look at what is without the observer, who is the past? Say you are envious of people, how do you look at that envy? Are you looking at it as an observer who is different from envy? You look at it as though you are separate from envy, but the fact is that you are envy. You are not the observer who is different; the observer himself is that. So the observer is the observed. Please, this is really very important to understand. When you have grasped the truth that the observer is the observed, then that which is observed undergoes radical change. What prevents a radical change of what is is the interference of the observer, who is the past. To understand this removes all conflict.

page 321

Is it possible to listen without being affected by any mental bias ?

And this is the whole basis of meditation: control thought. But he doesn’t ask who the controller is. The controller is still thought

page 321

By controller he means the observer


In the end, Krishnamurti is highly critical of our past tentative to improve life, reduce suffering through religions, through philosophies which works with thoughts.

Overall Krishnamurti says that religions try to give an escape to the inevitable fact that we will all die someday, through reincarnation, heaven …

Krishnamurti reminds you how artificial is our society, everything is based on creation from thoughts: Jesus, Krishna, all religions, Communism, Capitalism, money, law, ethics …

The key points of his philosophy are:

  • Understanding (the environment) might be a solution to life
  • Truth is a pathless land
  • Thoughts didn’t solve life
  • The observer is the observed



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