Monday, November 05, 2007

K Post

For km, who wants to know more.

There are reasons other than pure laziness for having put off this post. What can I tell km about J. Krishnamurti that doesn’t land up sounding like the first line of Love Story?

The reason it is difficult to do this is because I’ve just been to Rishi Valley and seen most of the five-part talk that K had with my classmates in ’84. Memory - like hope - is a foul, deceitful thing; I had different memories of K until I saw those YouTube videos. I remembered the hair combed with careful vanity right across the head but had forgotten that his eyes had become rheumy with age. I didn’t remember that his hand shook so much; I had imagined them to be cool and steady. What can I say with certainty?

There’s a book cover with K walking near the old guest house, umbrella in hand. Did I ever see that, or do I remember it only because there’s a photograph to nudge me to believe it also as the evidence of my eyes? I don’t know. But I do know that there was RV before K and RV after K; a difference that was apparent even then, but more evident now, after the passage of two decades.
The first year that I was in Rishi Valley, everything was strange and new, everything was experienced with the same mix of eagerness and a total lack of surprise. December came – I think it was December, but I could be wrong – and Krishnamurti spent some weeks in Rishi Valley. He spoke expensively with the teachers; people came from all over the world to meet him; and he had three talks every year with the children.

We’d gather in the auditorium, happy to skip a class or two, and arrange ourselves on the mats laid out below the raised stage. He would arrive, escorted by his nephew, Narayan, and pause for a moment, do a namaste and get on to the stage. For every day of those three days, and the three years that I heard him speak, he would start in exactly the same way: he would look around at everyone and say, finally, “What shall we talk about today?”

It amazes me to recall now, that even very young children would say things like, “Pride” or “Competitiveness”. Did they really want to talk about these things? (K asks someone that, in the talks linked to above) Or did they imagine that’s what he wanted to talk about and they had better humour the founder of the school they were studying in? Even across the distance of these years, I remember that though there was no special reverence (of the kind devotees accord to their gurus, for instance) there was also no fear. The children chattered as they do, and fell silent, also as they’re capable of doing.

The first year, for at least two of the talks, no one spoke much; K did. I can’t remember anything of it at all, or of him or what he said or anything. The following year – the year in which all of us finally crowded on stage and made some kind of history – when he came and asked us what we wanted to talk about, I must have piped up. Because there I was, making my way up to the stage, and invited to sit right next to the man.

I’m afraid I can’t remember very much of what happened. There are three photographs at home, to mark the occasion. Someone always recorded the talks and he very kindly sent my parents those photographs. In one, I’m looking deeply serious, head bent. K has his hand on mine, urging me to think of something. In the second, I’m looking at him, still serious. In the last one, I have my trademark grin on my face, and K is smiling.

There was some talk about routines, which is as much as I can remember about a conversation from more than two decades ago. At one point during the conversation, he asked me to ‘look at the flowers’. I thought it was a general exhortation and continued to look at him, vowing the next time to spend time looking soulfully at flowers, creepers and the barks of trees. “Look at the flowers, my girl,” he urged me again and I woke up from my reverie, realising that he meant, look NOW.

Is it only now that I remember from that talk, that quality of listening with total attention, as if what you were saying was the most important thing in the world? Undoubtedly. What did I know then, of attention? He asked a question and I assumed he wanted an answer; I was the kind of person then, who was ready with an answer as soon as a question was asked – and worse – who always had a question to ask. It made me impatient when he said, as soon as he’d asked a question and I’d started to answer it, to hear him say, “Wait! Listen to what I’m saying. Did you understand the question? Really understand it?” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I understood it, and here’s my answer and isn’t that what you wanted, I used to think.

In that talk that was recorded, there was one section where he’s talking about classrooms and teachers. He said, as I remember from the talk, “If I was your teacher, and found you wanting to look at a lizard, I would say, ‘Let us both look at the lizard’ before we got back to what we were doing. His point was, that if you were distracted, forcing your mind back to something else would not take away the distraction; merely dilute the power you bring to what is considered more important.

At this point, or thereabouts, a classmate said, “Sir, you will make a very bad teacher!” there was utter silence for second. Then K broke out into a laugh and everyone else joined him with that immoderate laugh that signifies shock. How did the kid dare? But this was the point: neither then, nor later, were there any reprisals.

I wish I could say things were like that through my entire time in RV but they weren’t. the following year was K’s last in Rishi Valley. We didn’t know it then, but he must have; he was suffering from cancer and the talks he gave when we were in Class 9 were the last. He was visibly more tired. Just days before, one of our teachers had unexpectedly died. It was on all our minds. When he asked what we wanted to talk about, someone said, “Death.” “Is that what you really want to talk about?” he asked. He would have asked that anyway, but that year, no one took him up on it. Someone – someone very young – asked him to talk about himself. No one had ever asked him to get autobiographical before. There was patent disapproval from the teachers’ benches, but everyone else ignored it and the air was clamorous with demands for details of his life. He began, clearly reluctant. A few sentences later, he gave up. He said, “I’m sorry, I cannot do this. This is a waste of time.” We were back where we had begun, but half an hour had elapsed – nearly one class successfully wasted – and we didn’t really care. This was December ’85. A few months later, we were in class and one boy who, for some reason, wasn’t in class, passed by our window. In broad mime, he indicated that someone had ‘kicked the bucket’. Some minutes later, he brought a note in and there was a special assembly to announce that Krishnaji had died.

So there isn’t very much to tell, is there? It’s more difficult to separate influence from experience. We hardly saw him, but at least we did see him. We had three years in which he came and spoke to us; spoke to the teachers. That must have – has – made a difference. In the years since, people who go to Rishi Valley can’t differentiate it from any other boarding school because – and I appreciate the decision – the school doesn’t indoctrinate them in any way by subjecting them to compulsory talks or anything of the sort. If they come to K, they do it in the way that anyone else in the world does – though his books or talks, because no one else discusses these things seriously, without offering easy solutions.*
* And the famous quotation that illustrates this is the one he made at Sannen all those decades ago when he broke off with the Theosophical Society and refused to be their World Teacher:
I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organised; nor should any organisation be formed to lead or coerce people along
any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organise a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organise it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallised; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others.

The whole thing here.
Update: An ex-Principal, Balasundaram, has this to say about Krishnamurti.


??! said...

The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth.
That was one heck of a speech. And thought.

Space Bar said...

??!: Yes, no? But it's not as if that speech is entirely unproblematic; but it's powerful good stuff. And he was 28 or 29 when he made it...I feel deep envy.

equivocal said...

Listen, the one thing we really really want to see is one or more of the photographs of Little Space (Spacette? Cute Kiddie Space? Spacey?) with K. Please oblige.

Space Bar said...

Equivocal: Baby Space, I am happy to say, cannot appear on this blog; the photo is not available in any digital form. You will have to be happy with infering my presence on the edges of the frame in the video. One of the backs of those heads might be mine.

dipali said...

RV is till a special and magical place! Had gone there in 2004, hoping to get my son a seat in Class IX, but it didn't work out. Nonetheless, even that short visit was an enriching experience.

Space Bar said...

Dipali: But they don't take folks in Class 9! Glad you went, though...

dipali said...

They had said it was unlikely, but to come along all the same, just in case a vacancy came up! The said son is now in Class XII, DPS Noida.