“THINK AND YE SHALL FIND” A Further Critical Look At The Teaching of J. KRISHNAMURTI Dawn Horse Press – Think and Ye Shall Find – J. Krishnamurti and Bubba Free John


By Sandy Bonder and Tony Montano

Krishnamurti tells people to think, and they start believing immediately. – Bubba Free John

 

The last issue of The Dawn Horse (No. 5) included a short article by Bubba Free John, “On the Teaching of ]. Krishnamurti.” Essentially, this was Bubba’s brief and characteristically exaggerated response to the often repeated suggestion that what he teaches is the same thing Krishnamurti teaches. His remarks there were probably not -entirely comprehensible to someone who is either unfamiliar with Bubba’s own work or personally attached to Krishnamurti s work. The article was not fundamentally a criicism of Krishnamurti himself or the content of some of his best statements, but rather of his teaching as a whole and as a living event. It was principally a criticism of how others tend to understand and use Krishnamurti’s statements and considerations.

In any case, the article prompted a flurry of responses and reactions, some of them quite shrill and vehement. Of the several letters we have received, we have printed a single representative below, one which voices the major arguments that have been brought forward. Following that is our own response, with lengthy quotes from Bubba’s recent talks and writings, which we hope will clarify matters generally as well as address the specific objections raised in the letter. We hope to show, among other things, that Bubba’s apparently severe appraisal in the first article was not an ill-conceived string of epithets, but a humorous, strongly worded but nonetheless accurate picture of J. Krishnamurti’s teaching work.

 

To the Editors (August 9, 1975):

Re: “On the Teaching of J. Krishnamurti” by Bubba Free John in issue No. 5 of The Dawn Horse. It always distresses me when one great teacher attempts to belittle the intent of another, as is the case I think in this article. (On the other hand, it must be said that Krishnamurti has never had one good thing to say about “gurus” either individually or collectively.) It always puzzles me why “egoless men” engage in intra-fraternity snubbing. Why aren’t they rejoicing together in their common effort to elucidate the Dharma?

I do not think it increases the stature of Bubba Free John or enhances his own teaching to refer to Krishnamurti’s teaching as “adolescent philosophizing” that attracts “the most mediocre and sophomoric inclinations in men” by “method and trickery.” The depth of Krishnamurti’s teaching has been respectfully acknowledged world over by men the caliber of Aldous Huxley, Rollo May, and Alan Watts.

Also, Bubba’s article contains many inaccuracies or misstatements of facts concerning Krishnamurti’s teachings. Krishnamurti never advocated pursuing “the quiet mind” or any kind of “meditative state” as Bubba suggests. Bubba states, “It relies on a form of attention that is methodical or deliberate and certainly oriented toward a specific goal.” Krishnamurti takes great pains so that people will not so misinterpret his teaching on “choiceless awareness.” And I’m sure that Krishnamurti himself would vehemently deny that his way “pursues a change of state as a specific exercise.”

Is it accurate to characterize Krishnamurti’s teaching as a “mind dharma”? Do the following statements of Krishnamurti (from his book Freedom from the Known) suggest this, and in fact could they not have been made by Bubba himself?

 

I can observe myself only in relationship because all of life is relationship.

‘Understanding is not an intellectual process.

A man who does not know what passion is will never know love because love can come into being only when there is total self-abandonment.

Control in any form, like suppression, produces only conflict.

It is not discipline first and then freedom; freedom is at the very beginning, not at the end.

… a living mind is a mind that has no center and therefore no space and time. Such a mind is limitless and that is the only truth, that is the only reality.

Greg Treleaven Ojai, California

 

Dawn Horse Press Response

One of the most common notions in the current “spiritual” scene is the idea that, “because we’re all one,” there should be no conflict between different teachings, no mutual criticism, and no controversy whatsoever. This idea is mere sentiment. It reflects no genuine understanding of what real “oneness” or non-separation is about, and only provides people with a way to become vague, and insulated from the real spiritual process. Thus, when we are confronted by a critical stand-off between different teachers, we interpret it as personal “snubbing” and one-upsmanship and try to mediate some kind of reconciliation, rather than allowing the force of these criticisms to undermine our own false notions, prejudices, and assumptions.

In fact, such critical work has always been an integral part of the elaboration of the Dharma of Truth among men. Such apparent conflict is necessary to serve the awakening of real understanding in men. In the great esoteric traditions many communications, both secular and spiritual, have always been criticized from a fresh point of view. This is not a form of conventional warfare. It is not the expression of childish animosities and jealousies. Rather it is the expression of the continual refreshment of the way of Truth. The Dharma is always a purifying influence, and part of its manifestation through any human Guru is the criticism of whatever other communications are influential in that time and place. Anyone who reads the history of human spirituality must realize that this is so. Look at the public work of Jesus and Gautama, of the Zen Patriarchs, of other Siddhas like Shankara, Milarepa, Kabir, Tukaram, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi. Such mutual criticism is not a game directed toward harming or upsetting people, but it may be interpreted as such by those who are not sensitive to its real usefulness. All distress at apparent conflict between spiritual teachers only reflects the desire to escape or suppress the dilemma, suffering, and conflict at the core of life, rather than to understand it. Those who do understand are capable of very dramatic disagreements in human terms, and this does not in anyway impair or conflict with their conscious and radical non-separation from all beings. “Dharma combat” between truly “egoless men” is no less a form of their rejoicing than a shared cup of tea, or an embrace.

Bubba’s article on Krishnamurti’s teaching was itself a response to many communications we have received, even from those entering The Dawn Horse Communion, which assume a basic equation between the two teachings. It was neither a personal attack, nor a hasty putdown pulled out of the air. Bubba felt it necessary to clarify the differences between his work and Krishnamurti’s because people do not seem to recognize that they involve utterly different assumptions and forms of instruction and practice. Mr. Treleaven himself points to perhaps the basic difference in his parenthesis about Krishnamurti’s dismissal of the Guru tradition. That is the aspect of his influence that demands the most decisive criticism, because it ultimately undermines the entire spiritual process among men. On the basis of this distinction alone, it must be seen that there is no equation to be made between Krishnamurti’s teaching and that of Bubba Free John. As Bubba said in his article, that should be obvious to anyone who has read and to some degree understood his written works. Satsang, the relationship to the real Guru, one who is alive as very Reality, is the principle, the means, and even the ultimate realization of the way of understanding. But in Krishnamurti’s work, Satsang is denied, the Guru is denied, and Reality or Truth is thus reduced to a passive function, dependent for its manifestation upon the mechanisms of the human mind (or their breakdown).

Some of the letters we have received have argued that in fact Krishnamurti’s discourses, books, and contacts with others cannot in fact be considered a teaching, because he claims no authority for himself and consistently refuses to allow people (at least in public conversations) to relate to him as a guru or teacher. Furthermore, he denounces all other forms of authoritative teaching that men have engaged in, both past and present, as useless, misleading, and mutually destructive. Because he says all this, people assume Krishnamurti is somehow not a teacher, and that they certainly are not his followers. But all that is a lot of semantics. Obviously he is a teacher! He represents precisely the type of human activity and posture that we call “teacher,” “teaching,” and “authority.” He invites people to come to his discourses, he writes or supervises the editing of his books, he has a large following, schools, foundations, etc., all dedicated to the promulgation of his particular point of view. There is something specific that he represents, that he communicates more or less repetitively, and people are expected to relate to it as a verbal communication. What Krishnamurti is saying, then, with his condemnation of the teacher-disciple game, is something entirely different from what it appears to be on the surface, and what so many people accept it to be. Bubba Free John recently commented on all this in a taped discussion:

All he is saying, really, is that if you are going to somebody for the sake of illumination, there is a right way and wrong way to do it. Otherwise he would never say anything. He would keep himself in a closet! He is suggesting the right way is not to consider someone as an authority, like the Pope, and believe because it is dogma and must be believed, but to consider it. He wants his listeners to consider his argument for themselves. Not simply to consider him a source of Truth, but to consider what he is saying. Well, true enough! That is a very simple statement. What’s the big deal? I don’t really know of any spiritual teacher who asks people to do anything different. I don’t even know of fakes who ask people to do anything different. What he means is that you should have a proper and intelligent relationship to what he says, and that is all.

However, Krishnamurti communicates his opinions in such a way that, for ordinary people, they seem to imply judgments of a negative variety on all kinds of teachings, teachers, spiritual processes, etc., prior to any kind of comprehension of what they are up to. It is a sort of blanket rejection. That kind of opinion is clearly contained throughout his writing, so the people who simply accept his statements assume that any Guru, or any spiritual process other than purely considering some mental argument in yourself, is completely unnecessary.

In fact, it is to the verbal arguments, the verbal teachings, the sayings and philosophy of individuals past and present that Krishnamurti directs himself critically. He does not direct himself to the spiritual process, fundamentally. When he is talking about following an authority, he is talking about an academic authority, a philosopher who has a verbal communication for you to consider or believe.

Well, to dismiss some Siddha as an authority is beside the point. As an authority, even a Siddha-Guru is not worth any more than an old pair of shoes, relative to the Truth. It is not as authorities that the Siddhas are the Guru in Truth. Just so, the Dharma of Truth is not to be valued because it is authoritative. It is valued by those who turn to it for the same reasons that Krishnamurti’s teaching is valued by those who turn to it. People who truly take on the form of spiritual life do so not because of the garbage in their minds, nor because it is spoken by an authority, nor because it is authoritative in its tone, but because they have considered the argument in their own terms.

What is Krishnamurti doing other than directing people’s attention toward various things of the mind, getting them to consider what he says in various ways, to assume a certain relationship to it, to abandon it or take hold of it? He is performing a conventional teaching role and, in that sense, has followers. He does not represent the great Guru-function of the Siddhas, or even of conventional spiritual masters, yogis, saints, and so forth. He does not have that function in any sense. He does not assume it and does not direct himself toward it. But people assume that he does. They make generalized assumptions about him as if he were talking about all of these things, whereas fundamentally he is directing himself toward things of the mind, toward philosophy, teachings, and so forth as things of the mind, and to following or not following as things of the mind.

This gets us into a second important area of distinction between Bubba Free John’s and Krishnamurti’s teachings: the specific prescriptions, instructions, or methods for spiritual practice or sadhana. Here again Krishnamurti and his defenders insist that he offers no method and asks people to pursue no goal, etc. Certainly Krishnamurti recommends no specific or obvious method in the sense of saying, “Do this and you will realize that.” He wants to avoid the kind of language that people conventionally get involved with in spiritual undertakings of this order, in which they are motivated to attain something specific. However, if you take his recorded teachings together, you can clearly find a cycle of argument or a pattern of consideration that is repeated. His emphasis is on specific attention to the movements of the mind in order to undo the limitation of thought. Clearly there is a distinction to he made between reciting a mantra in order to gain a certain state of mind, and the more sophisticated consideration Krishnamurti is speaking of. But that does not make it an altogether different sort of thing. He still offers his listeners a conventional and fundamentally methodical approach to life. It is just that his approach is not mystical. It has nothing to do with the subtle body, with subtle dimensions, with areas of conventional siddhi of a cosmic or mystical variety. Krishnamurti is speaking about a kind of realization that occurs in life, in the gross dimension, through consideration of the things of the mind.

The method that Krishnamurti recommends to his listeners is, as Bubba described it in his article, a process of examination and insight, a serious investigation of the functions of cognition and perception at the level of the mind. To be sure, Krishnamurti does not explicitly advocate pursuit of “the quiet mind,” attainment of a “meditative state,” or deliberate adoption of goal-oriented methodologies. The forms of motivation, seeking, and goal-orientation in his path are much more sophisticated than that. His verbal teaching seems paradoxical in this respect. It is not so easy to pin down. But if you examine how it is enacted as a living process among men, its fundamental character becomes obvious. It is for this reason, by the way, that criticism of dharmas must sometimes take on what seems to be a personal quality. No teaching occurs in a vacuum, an abstract, philosophical realm of truths. To criticize Krishnamurti’s teaching fully, it is necessary to enquire also as to how it is lived, not only by Krishnamurti but by his followers as well.

The whole process is epitomized by Krishnamurti’s favorite form of teaching: the sit-down lecture and question/answer session. Here he best serves to catalyze a process of self-examination in his listeners. Through this, he offers hope for the penetration of conventional “stupidity,’ the seeing of “what is,” and that is liberation. Naturally, when they respond to Krishnamurti’s communication, people try to see what they are doing-they look at their thoughts, feelings, and images, their reactivity. Krishnamurti talks about fundamental insight and liberation, but how is it brought about? Thus, Bubba asked, “What Siddhi does he represent among friends? What sadhana does he recommend?” No teacher can finally serve anyone’s real transformation by asking him to sit down and engage in consideration of a conceptual argument exclusively. Nor is it served by adoption of an investigation of one’s mental conflicts, etc., as an ongoing activity. Such a process is superficial – not in the sense of being flip and silly, but in the literal sense. Much as he disparages thought, Krishnamurti is fundamentally asking people to think! He does not require them to do anything at any level other than the mind. He tells them that real “seeing what is” cannot be sought or accomplished through any kind of effort. What else can he be asking of them, then, but to think it over – to consider his argument in themselves, and allow its merit to show in their own minds?

Under such circumstances, what can his listeners do but seek a change of state, even no-seeking itself? If the process is truly in their hands alone, how can it be anything but deliberate and goal-oriented? How can they help but be impressed with images of the “quiet mind” he speaks of, and how can they help but look for “choiceless awareness”?

The process initiated in relationship to a genuine Guru requires participation in an utterly different process. Bubba has also clarified this recently:

The process involved with the true Guru, the Siddha-Guru, is not this one of just considering the things of the mind. There is a conventional and minimal aspect of any spiritual process in which there is consideration of the things of the mind in this way – sitting down and considering what is said, considering it in yourself-but that is not fundamentally what the process is that is communicated in the company of the Guru. The kind of involvement that is required of a person in this process of Satsang is total life-involvement. The Guru demands your life! It is not a process in which people do things to the body and mind in order to attain various states. It is one wherein the totality of a person’s existence is brought into a functional condition that serves the crisis of consciousness by reflecting all this content in disarming ways, in situations in which the individual has no arms, no methods, no philosophy, no spiritual practice to distract him.

In other words, the Guru does not merely ask people to consider his argument (though that is certainly part of his teaching work). He also takes them “by the neck,” requires them to surrender every moment to him in the most practical, functional ways, and deals with them face to face over time. He demands their life-level participation in an ongoing process. And at the foundation of all these demands and disarming confrontations is the grace manifested in the true Guru: the Siddhi or Conscious Power of the Divine. This Siddhi is not some remarkable psychic capacity, or an authority-conferring form of subtle knowledge or energy. It is living, unspeakable, absolute

Truth. This is what the Guru brings to his devotees through his mere presence, and he is always “pressing it upon them with more and more intensity, always to the degree just beyond their preferred tolerance.” As long as they cleave to the Guru’s practical demands and maintain themselves in his presence and Community, the Divine Presence that he perfectly communicates will literally manifest in them as them, with the force of intelligence that precedes the conventional and lower mind. It involves, on the fundamental level of consciousness, a more and more inclusive comprehension of one’s whole life of strategic suffering, to the point of direct intuition of Truth, and ultimately perfect dissolution in that same absolute Consciousness. Secondarily, through the “yogic” aspect of the Guru-Siddhi, the way of understanding involves thorough transformation and harmonization of one’s life functions, gross, subtle, and causal. All this is initiated through the humorous agency of Grace, and is fulfilled through absolute responsibility in the devotee.

Lacking Divine Grace and living responsibility, a path like Krishnamurti’s amounts to an aesthetic cleaning out of the head. But even that is not always the case. In a recent essay, intended to elaborate on his original article, Bubba Free John appraised the effects of Krishnamurti’s teaching work on others:

DEVOTEE: J. Krishnamurti says, “No Guru is necessary.”

MAHARSHI: How did he know it? One can say so after realising, but not before.

– Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Krishnamurti’s talks contain many descriptions and considerations that seem possibly true of realization. Thus, the hearer may imagine that, if he comprehends or enjoys sympathy with these statements and considerations to some immediate and profound degree, he is in fact enjoying realization. Therefore, he imagines the Guru and the process of life-obliging sadhana are either false or unnecessary for him. And he leaves the lecture hall full of the ego of liberation, imagining God, Guru, Self, and sadhana to be anachronisms in his pure comprehension. His adolescent search for independence has been justified and fulfilled. But such a little thing has happened.

Krishnamurti convinces people that authorities, methods, effort, belief, goals, all such things are false and unnecessary. And so they imagine, on the basis of that conviction, that they are free of all of that. It is not so. In the case of realization such confessions may be true in one’s own case, but prior to that the individual is compulsively bound to the ritual limitation of existence. Therefore, in spite of their best conceptions, individuals always re-create authorities, methods, efforts, beliefs, goals, and all the rest. For this reason, those who are most convinced by Krishnamurti make him an authority; they make his teaching a method, an instrumental consolation, and all their comprehension becomes a source of righteousness with which they are preoccupied to the point of satisfying their felt need for immunity and no change. Such people have a dogma to undermine their own effort and to defend themselves against the processes that would truly undermine their suffering and ignorance. They are true believers and ardent seekers, even though they disavow every symbol in the mind.

Until there is realization, there is no realization. Krishnamurti may do a service if he leads a man to see that in fact he is committed to suffering and limitation. Then such a one may become available to the real process of sadhana and live it. But the usual man who stands on Krishnamurti’s arguments has only become enamored of one of the many idols or consoling solutions that distract men from the way of Divine Realization, the way of perfect Sacrifice or Radiant Bliss.

Krishnamurti’s apparently revolutionary statements and considerations may in some sense represent the wisdom of his own realization, but they do not become realization in others through mere hearing. Rather, they function as conventional, ego-supporting concepts for his hearers, and, as such, serve only to prevent the responsible and sacrificial process of their real transformation. How much wisdom is reflected in one’s speech if there is no accounting for the condition of the listener? Krishnamurti is willing to argue with any fool in a theatre, but he will not live with that fool and serve him until he becomes truly wise. If we separate his public work and influence out from the whole affair of spiritual life and realization, then its value as a philosophical criticism of certain conventions of personal and social life may be seen. But once it is assumed that listening to Krishnamurti and considering his words is itself a kind of spiritual or perfect activity, there is the beginning of the kind of little theatre in which the stupidity and separativeness of men is so clearly demonstrated.

People quickly realize that the philosophically quiet mind is of no consequence whatsoever at the point of terrible death. Nor, if they are sensitive, will they be consoled by such at the point of terrible life. Not that radical understanding, as described by Bubba Free John, provides some form of consolation in life or death, either. It is only what it is: radical, humorous, free comprehension of all events that arise in consciousness. Initiated, again, by Grace, and maintained as one’s own presence in the midst of all events and forms arising as life and world, such understanding is absolutely free of the strategic reaction, or non-reaction, to one’s own dilemma that Krishnamurti requires in all those who come to hear him out.*

It is easy to pick out a few quotes from Krishnamurti that make him sound as if he were talking about radical understanding. You can find pieces of anyone’s writing that correspond to almost anyone else’s teaching, and that correspond to great archetypal statements that all teachers have always made. This is not the point at all. What we want to get down to is what Krishnamurti’s communication represents for others; what kind of relationship they take to it, or are asked to take to it (which may be two different things); what it involves as a process for them, how it affects their lives-in other words, how it engages them on an ongoing basis from day to day. That is the point. All the comparisons by finding fragments that are parallel are completely beside the point.

This present article, along with Bubba Free John’s original essay in the last issue of The Dawn Horse, should clarify the distinction between the two teachings as living events. When Bubba describes Krishnamurti’s work as “adolescent philosophizing,” he is not throwing out petty and glib putdowns. On the contrary, he is referring precisely to the serious, heavy, “meaningful” discussions that Krishnamurti presents to people. All this is adolescent in the most specific, comprehensive, and critical sense of the term: It is an effort to assert and maintain a posture of freedom or independence in the midst of life, on the basis of mere mental conviction. That point of view, and the image of personal fulfillment it represents, are exactly “the most mediocre and sophomoric inclinations in men.” Such adolescent, separative striving is the very symbol of modern man, and in contemporary spirituality it is epitomized by the teachings of Krishnamurti. To try to become free of the suffering at the core of your life by arbitrarily investigating it in such a way that you do not seek but somehow spontaneously discover “choiceless awareness” is truly to be taken in by a form of “trickery.” There is no real transforming process, but only the consoling prospect of an extremely persuasive, honorable, and heroic undertaking. It is literally better to be “cooked alive,” as Bubba wrote, than to continue your life in such humorless immunity. What Krishnamurti means by “freedom” is not radical, absolutely non-separate humor, a perfect esoteric dissolution in the Divine, in which al’. Wisdom is shown. Rather, it is an exalted form of subjectivity-an apparently limitless mind, perhaps, but even that is not Truth. Truth is Absolute, Only God.

Thus, none of this communication from mind to mind is serious. However useful, annoying, right or wrong any criticism may be, it is not ultimately significant. It is better to be happy. But we cannot be really happy if we are not also intelligent. Bubba Free John recently expressed it very simply:

Rejoice in the Dharma in the community of your own practice. Rejoice in God in the company of all men of humor and love. As for the rest, be watchful, manly, and without illusions.

 

*lt is not possible, in such a brief article, to communicate the fullness of the nature and process of understanding in Satsang with the Guru. For a better appreciation, please consider Bubba Free John’s Teaching as a whole, to be found in his three major works (The Knee of Listening, The Method of the Siddk.zs and Garbage and the Goddess), his essays and talks in this and other issues of The Dawn Horse, and other publications of The Dawn Horse Communion.

 


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