These days I am into one Mehta’s book on Krishnamurthy. The more I read him ( KM ) the more elusive he seems. His logic and rationale is unbeatable but what he eventually expects of human soul is almost a utopia. Wonder how the Vedantic scholar in you looks at Krishnamurthy. Since you have read Krishnamurthy extensively I would be interested to know where you converge with him and where you diverge from his approach?
J Krishnamurthy essentially says Truth is pathless land i.e. there is no way (teacher, method, books etc) that would lead someone to Truth. Vedanta says emphatically that one cannot come upon Truth on his own. So there are two contradicting positions. However they concur on one point that there is Truth.
This aspect is extremely pertinent to this quest and if one explores deeply, one will realise that there are no straight forward answers. Therefore one needs to devote considerable, time and energy, to gain clarity about this issue. One has to explore the issue from various standpoints and appreciate validity and limitation of every position. All this has to be done with a sole intention to grow in understanding, that will bring auspiciousness in our lives, and not to sharpen our intellectual acumen. However, in this discussion only essential aspects are covered. There are many more relevant nuances, I possibly cannot go into, in a single letter.
Vedanta is essentially set of words that facilitate you to perceive Truth. (pramana) It cannot directly point it out, as Truth does not lend itself to any description, or to inference, like empirical things in the world. And also Truth is self evident but still , as though, remains covered. Nevertheless Vedanta knows this very clearly and knows limitation of language; logic etc when it comes to communicating Truth but still, as though, manages to do so.
There are two aspects involved in this communication: student and teacher. And for this communication to fruitfully happen, both of them have to qualified. (adhikari shisya , aapt acharya ). Qualified student has a mature mind, which is, open (shraddha) and simple (sattavic). Qualified teacher should have these qualities: (a) clarity about Truth and (b) as much clarity when it comes to communicating the Truth.(shrotriya & brahmnishtha) There are many examples when someone has had the the former and not the later. However such persons are NOT appropriate teachers. They may emphatically say that there is Truth but they need to say it in such a way, that when a qualified student listens, he SHOULD be able to understand it. Therefore, somebody who has come upon Truth need not necessarily know how to communicate his vision. That is to use words that would help other person also perceive it. This is paradox and like many other paradoxes in nature, defies simple logic.
How does something that is free from attributes lend itself to communication? This is something extremely subtle. It would be suffice to say that communication just points out what it is NOT.(neti neti) J Krishnamurthy also, at few places, says this but he is unable to say with the requisite precision, needed to make negation, effective. He does say not adequately explain: what is THAT which IT is NOT. And therefore one who listens is left with doubts and his words remain elusive. He further goes on to say that negation has to done on your own. If someone makes efforts, on his/her own, he/she become the negator. But the Truth bears itself, ONLY when the negator is negated. Therefore a source other than the negator is necessary for this.
J Krishnamurthy goes a step further and says that there is no way to communicate it. For this, though he forwards few arguments, but it is primarily a statement per se, that is, it is so. The only way to be able to see the fallacy of his statement is to hear Vedanta from an appropriate teacher by being an appropriate student. And if that student , sees and understands, the fact of what teacher is saying, when it comes to Truth, then any bodies claim, be it venerable Buddha or J Krishnamurthy, that Truth cannot be communicated, loses its veracity.
So, if one is serious about this issue and genuinely wants to find the Sacred, he needs to take the onus on himself, to be an appropriate student and find an appropriate teacher. He has to understand that his efforts have to be directed in this direction and NOT towards finding Truth, on his/her own. This also is a fine distinction. Efforts are directed to gain a mature mind. Vedanta is very clear that through effort Truth cannot be gained. Here it concurs with J Krishnamurthy, but then goes on to say that efforts can be made to gain the requisite eligibility. Because it ONLY in an eligible mind Truth can dawn. J Krisnamurthy never gives any validity to effort and therefore his words remain an enigma to majority who listens him as majority is not eligible. One should be humble, without self condemnation, to accept this fact that there is a need to grow and gain the necessary eligibility.
These are essentially two points in which Vedanta differs from J Krishnamurthy: (a) that words can communicate but have used appropriate and precise way (b) there is role of effort but its place has be understood in the grand scheme.
Thanks a lot for your very erudite reply. The contrast etched by you between Vedanta and Krishnamurthy is very apt. And it broadly agrees to my stray thoughts on Krishnamurthy. However my disagreement with KM is somewhat more fundamental. I do not agree with his totally existentialist approach that negates even a speculation on transcendence. The purpose of Life as an end in itself is too depressing a notion. If that be the case one might as well be a Charvak. Having said that I do believe that if one were to set aside KM’s negation on transcendence then his Approach to “daily living “ is indeed path breaking. His arguments on moment to moment living, on daily dying, on fear and the rest of it are indeed infallible somewhat like the arguments in Gita. Therefore to my mind the message of Gita and KM’s teachings are excellent treatise on daily living. However beyond that as an instrument to transcendence I have problems with both. KM denies transcendence and Gita’s whole argument is based on the postulate of Soul ( Atman). What is Gita to someone who denies this postulate on Soul ? Gita eulogies the qualities of Soul without providing any praman of its existence. And I stumble upon the same block trying to understand whatever little I know of Vedanta. The philosophy and logic of Vedanta is extremely subtle and grounded in a very fine language to the extent that as you said in your letter “Vedanta is essentially set of words that facilitate you to perceive Truth”. But this whole magnificent edifice of Vedanta rests on the foundation of an unquestionable belief in an entity called “Brahma”. A firm and unyielding belief in Brahma is a prerequisite to practicing Vedanta ( Here I must confess that my knowledge on Vedanta is extremely rudimentary and please correct me if I am getting the basics wrong ). What does someone like me do if he has no belief in such a concept as an all pervading Brahma? Perhaps now you are getting as to how I am caught between existentialism of KM on one hand and theology based on the concepts of Soul, Brahma on the other hand. The existentialism agrees with my life’s basic scientific position but disagrees with my central instinct that Life cannot be a mindless prank having no purpose other than Life itself. On the other hand in the light of lack of a direct experience/praman I cannot bring myself to believe in any concept such as Brahma ,Soul etc regarding Truth.
My disagreement with KM is somewhat more fundamental. I do not agree with his totally existentialist approach that negates even a speculation on transcendence. The purpose of Life as an end in itself is too depressing a notion. If that be the case one might as well be a Charvak
There is difference between J Krishnamurti’s position of no other purpose of life besides living itself and that of various positions of existentialist philosophers and charvak, who say things on similar lines. If one examines J Krishnamurti’s writings there it appears he had a vision and a Knowledge of existence of some “other” dimension that would transcend what we normally perceive or infer with our basic human faculties, useful in mundane transactions. His life seems be fulfilled in the back drop of this understanding. He felt no other purpose, as this was a culmination of every possible human pursuit. The charvaks/ existentialist do not talk of anything of this dimension and more so refuse to even entertain a possibility of anything could be of that order. As per them what we experience is end in itself and therefore we have make the best out of it.
However J Krishnamurti would never talk about this dimension explicitly. One reason which appears after going through his teachings is that he would not talk of “this” as words can lead to false concepts regarding nature of this other dimension and therefore be a hindrance to its understanding. Moreover, he even refused to make finding this “transcendental entity” goal of life. As this would imply effort and therefore would be against the basic tenets of his philosophy, which was to negate role of effort to come upon truth.
I do believe that if one were to set aside KM’s negation on transcendence then his Approach to “daily living “ is indeed path breaking. His arguments on moment to moment living, on daily dying, on fear and the rest of it are indeed infallible somewhat like the arguments in Gita. Therefore to my mind the message of Gita and KM’s teachings are excellent treatise on daily living.
I too find Bhagwat Gita to be an outstanding compendium to form the basis for daily living. Human psychology is dealt with deftness and the solutions are not just on the plane of psychology but on an appreciation of a Higher Truth, as that is where real solution to human problems lies. However the Bhagwat Gita is misunderstood, much more often, than clearly understood. It has to be heard by someone who has a firm grounding in Upanishads because Gita is essentially derived from Vedic Wisdom.
J Krishnamurti’s teaching have an exceptional ability to show the futility of thought and effort in trying to find meaning in various human endeavors. He remains constantly uncompromising and this brings a sense of alertness so essential in this pursuit. However, what he expects is a tall order and failing to meet his demands one either moves towards despondency or fools himself/herself by masquerading that he/she is living up to his words.
… as an instrument to transcendence I have problems with both. KM denies transcendence…
J Krishnamurtis’ basic thrust was in the statement that there can be no instrument that would lead to truth. His ability to say this with such certainty and conviction was both blessing and a curse depending on whom and how he receives his statements. If one can truly give up all forms of expectations and efforts then there is possibility of new opening. However as most are not able to do this his teachings becomes a trap, made up words and arguments, in which most of his ardent admirers’, inevitably fall, and fall for good.
… and Gita’s whole argument is based on the postulate of Soul ( Atman). What is Gita to someone who denies this postulate on Soul ?
Gita and Vedanta have their foundation on shradha and this has to be understood properly. As it is invariably interpreted as blind belief, which is: accepting something without any basis and more so, at no point it will lend to any basis. Shradha is not this. It has more to do with openness,that is,suspending disbelief. And thereby give allowance to an idea without rejecting it before giving it its due deliberation. As something might be grasped after a period of time and allowing oneself to provisionally accept an idea may be essential to it eventual veracity. However, if there is no shradha then one will not make any headway in Vedanta.
Gita eulogies the qualities of Soul without providing any praman of its existence.
Pramana ( instrument to gain knowledge) is a also very intrinsic to Vedanta. As Vedanta is primarily a pramana. Atma is self evident therefore there is no pramana for it. Pramana is required when something is not evident. Being self evident i.e. it shines on its own accord, it cannot be illumined by another source. Then howis Vedanta a pramana? Vedanta ONLY takes away the wrong notions that we naturally are wedded to about Atma and in doing so we miss its essential nature. All the eulogies are not to establish Atma but to take away all the wrong notions. And the fundamental wrong notion is of taking Atma (oneself) to be as good as the body or the psyche.
But this whole magnificent edifice of Vedanta rests on the foundation of an unquestionable belief in an entity called “Brahman”. A firm and unyielding belief in Brahman is a prerequisite to practicing Vedanta. What does someone like me do if he has no belief in such a concept as an all pervading Brahman?
in the light of lack of a direct experience/praman I cannot bring myself to believe in any concept such as Brahma ,Soul etc regarding Truth.
Because Brahman is all pervading therefore Vedanta says it’s so. It only says what’s a FACT, regardless of our inability of appreciate it. But knowing that we cannot appreciate it urges us to have shradha in it. And then by providing the requisite pramana necessary to appreciate it accurately, Brahman ceases to a concept for who appreciates it. Thereafter there is no need to retain the shradha, your starting capital.
Vedanta negates the wrong notion about Atma. It can do it ONLY because it is wrong and therefore negatable. And by doing it, Atma is perceived as what it is, i.e. Brahman. It was Brahman even before the correction took place. Therefore my shradha is about an existent fact just short of verification.
Shradha is essential because of my obstinate, present, orientation: that existence of entity is possible if only evident through by perception and logic. Vedanta will remain ineffective and elusive in pointing at something that is self evident and all pervading, because of this orientation. Therefore, a provisional acceptance is necessary, before its true nature dawns, to keep logic and perception, in their right slot.
The existentialism agrees with my life’s basic scientific position but disagrees with my central instinct that Life cannot be a mindless prank having no purpose other than Life itself.
Scientific approach to life and being able to enjoying an instinct that intimates that there must be more to life that what meets the eye(and therefore not in domain of modern day science) are not in contradiction. Just that there places have to be understood. Logic should be used where it’s necessary. Its domain is transactional reality. And transactional reality can bring happiness but never fulfillment. Real purpose of life can be to find that what underlies and is the basis of transactional reality. Here logic has a role, albeit, limited. Those who have found “that ground” live a fulfilled transactional life, and its dualities like sorrow and happiness, life and death, to them does not mean much.