I love to read J. Krishnamurti, the “anti-guru.” He was totally radical in his propositions, but at the same time filled with love. His philosophy is the most exquisite kind of common sense, and he practices it as Socratic educare, rather than as dogma to be preached. Do I love to read him so much because my mother took me along to so many yoga retreats (I hated them, the fawning-at-the-guru, the endless rules, the shaktipat line, the gender divisions, the petty hierarchies. But I loved the chants and the feasts. Oh, and the saris, of course. Which I guess puts me pretty squarely in the realm of the sensate once again.)? When on our Christmas Day trip to Jackson Heights I bought another Krishnamurti book (_On Self-Knowledge_) I was very interested to read the following passage, which reminds me of Wittgenstein. Like LW, JK asks us to observe the motions of language in our consciousness and notice how simply observing can transform consciousness:
Why do we name a feeling? Why do we term a reaction as anger, as jealousy, as arrogance, as hate, and so on? Do you term it in order to understand it, or as a means of recognizing it, or to communicate it? is the feeling independent of the term, or do you understand it through the term? If you understand the feeling through the term, through the word, then the term becomes important and not the feeling. Is it possible not to name the feeling? If it is, then what happens to the feeling? By terming, you entangle the feeling within the frame of reference, and so the living is caught in the net of time, which only strengthens memory, the ‘me’. What happens to a feeling, to a response if you do not give it a name, a term to it? does it not come to an end, does it not wither away? Please experiment with this and discover for yourself.
I think I will try this. Next time I notice that I feel, say, poetic envy, I will first try to re-name “envy” something else, like “burnishing” or “lasagne.” And I will notice how the feeling changes. Then I will erase, dissociate, all terms from the feeling. Perhaps then I will only notice bodily signals — a tightening of the abdomen or a slight furrow of the brow — but much less laden with the baggage of the original term. I might even be able to free the living from the net of time.
I looked around on the Web to see if I could find anything concrete connecting Krishnamurti and Wittgenstein. Had JK read LW? He surely must have, but I couldn’t find any proof of it. Any Krishnamurti buffs out there? All I could find was a little forum response which went in the very interesting direction of Kristeva and Irigaray, and a list of the favorite books of the late Rajneesh. Also extremely amusing was the list of answers to the riddle of why the chicken crossed the road, but perhaps a little off-topic.
I was a little sad to read Krishnamurti’s following take on decoration, though, which either undercuts my convictions about it or indicts me as one of those who is destroying the world with my superficial notions:
Every day, more and more, we are decorating the outer. The cinema stars, and you who copy them, are keeping beautiful outwardly, but if you have nothing inside, the outward decoration, the ornamentation, is not beauty. Sirs, don’t you know that inward state of being, that inward tranquillity in which there is love, kindliness, generosity, mercy? That state of being, obviously, is the very essence of beauty, and without that, merely to decorate oneself is to emphasize the sensate values, the values of the senses, and to cultivate the values of the sense, as we are doing now, must inevitably lead to conflict, to war, to destruction.
The decoration of the outer is the very nature of our present civilization, which is based on industrialization — it would be absurd to destroy industries. But merely to cultivate the outer without understanding the inner must inevitably create those values which lead men to destroy each other, and that is exactly what is taking place in the world. beauty is regarded as an ornament to be bought and sold, to be painted, and so on. Surely, that is not beauty. Beauty is a state of being, and that state of being comes with inward richness….
The seeker after truth is the seeker after beauty — they are not distinct. Beauty is not merely outward ornamentation but that richness that comes through the freedom of inward understanding, the realization of ‘what is’.
–J. Krishnamurti, from _On Self-Knowledge_ (from a talk given in 1948)
Is he right?
*Is* “the decoration of the outer” the very nature of our civilization? If it were wouldn’t we create spaces for humans to dwell that were based on grace and intrigue and loveliness rather than mere efficiency? Wouldn’t our buildings, for example, look more like India’s? Wouldn’t clothing be variously-textured and colorful expressions of imagination rather than rows of identical beige khakis?
Isn’t it true that *not* to cultivate the values of sense allows those who would profit by exploiting our basic needs for clothing and shelter (and food too) to create the most hideous possible spaces and items with which we are forced on a daily basis to be intimate with?
I can’t quibble with his notion of inner beauty and tranquillity, even if the post-structuralists might. But surely ornamentation doesn’t PRECLUDE such inner beauty and tranquillity.
And just might it be possible that he is perpetuating a kind of mild misogyny?
Is my essentialist connection of the impulse to decorate with (at least my own) femininity a kind of misogyny too?
What can I do with my own guilt and confusion but put it into poems? (It’s funny, I remember asking Carla Harryman a couple of decades ago whether she kept a journal. She said, no, she’d stopped, because why would anyone want to read about her angst? I really like to read about people’s angst. Pessoa’s _Book of Disquiet_, anyone? It’s all, like anything else, in the rendering.)
From my book _Lip_ (1988) [the obsessions don’t change]:
a: confusion is artifice. wipe off that paint.
b: I did and saw bland shapes (I ached to be beheld)
The curious may also take a look at my translations of two poems by George Herbert: jordan iii and jordan iv.