The Quotable Krishnamurti
Robert Epstein, Editor
(Quest Books)
Krishnamurti was elected by the Theosophists as their leader when he was but six years old. He put up with that designation for another quarter-century, at which time he announced that a Savior he wasn't: he was simply Krishna ... and if the followers of Madam Blavatsky and Charles Leadbeater wanted to worship him, he would have none of it.

He went on to live a life as a mere sage, giving speeches to those who came to him (mostly in Madras, India and at his retreat in Ojai, California). His presentations were simple, free of cant ... if a little spacey. I recall hearing several that were broadcast over KPFA, and I remember being struck by the fact that I could access so little of their content the day after, although to this day I remember his hypnotic repetition of the words "the observer" and "the observed." Evidently the confusion of the two (I think this was his point) is that when we cease to make such a distinction, we will be on the beginning of the road to peace or whatever the hell it is that we think we are seeking.

What Epstein has done here is to collect six-hundred bits and pieces from his talks and writings, to join these fragments together under headings like "Nature," "Loneliness," "Progress," "Attention," "Joy," and "Dreams." So we have blank statements like, "Freedom is the only means to freedom;" or "The problem is the mind itself, and not the problems it breeds;" or, "No authority knows; and he who knows cannot tell."

My problem with this chopping-up process is that no matter how dreamy Krishnamurti's talks were, they did have a certain cohesion, a sort of wholifiying mist, if you will; and when we take disjointed dibs and dabs as collected here, they turn occlusive if not too paradoxical for words.

For instance, under "Understanding" we find "There is no intellectual understanding; either we understand, or we don't." It makes sense, sorta, but being cut off from the dynamic of what Krishna is trying to get across, it turns baffling rather than revelatory. "The unknowable doesn't invite you, and you cannot invite it. It comes and goes as the wind, and you cannot capture it and store it away for your benefit, for your use," may make sense to some, but to me it is that old thing of taking something as spacious as "the unknowable" and trying to pin it wriggling on the wall. It just doesn't work.

"Every acquisition is a form of boredom, weariness," makes sense as a sort of Space Station topology. "To live happily is to live without hope. The man of hope is not a happy man, he knows despair" makes sense, in a hopeless kind of way ... but it doesn't give us much to build a dream on, and turns the author into a cynic rather that an guru.

Where Krishnamurti is most successful, at least within the constraints of this book, is his giving us a touch of himself (as well as his vision) with concrete examples.

    In a small house, a woman with a clear voice was singing; it brought tears to your eyes, not from nostalgic remembrance, but from the sheer beauty of the sound. You sat under a tree, and the earth and the heavens entered your being.

--- Lolita Lark
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