Krishnamurti and A Course in Miracles

I remember years ago picking up a copy of Krishnamurti’s slim but powerful book Freedom from the Known. Krishnamurti is a complicated figure, as likely to arouse conflict as anything else, but I think beyond the level of opinion, his articulation of the human condition in relation to what might loosely be its spiritual search is clear and helpful. It is natural to ask what, if any, relationship can be found between Krishnamurti and A Course in Miracles.

In Freedom from the Known, Krishnamurti neatly frames the dilemma.

Truth has no path, and that is the beauty of truth, it is living. A dead thing has a path to it because it is static, but when you see that truth is something living, moving, which has no resting place, which is in no temple, mosque or church, which no religion, no teacher, no philosopher, nobody can lead you to – then you will also see that this living thing is actually what you are – your anger, your brutality, your violence, your despair, the agony and sorrow you live in. In the understanding of all this is the truth, and you can understand it only if you know how to look at those things in your life. An you cannot look through an ideology, through a screen of words, through hopes and fears (15).

As soon as we say that is the truth – whether we are pointing to the Catholic Church, to Islam or to A Course in Miracles – then we are no longer talking about truth. We can accept that intellectually, of course – most of us are quite sophisticated about these things now – but that is different than understanding it at the level of mind, where change is actually possible, and where it must happen, if it is to happen at all.

On the one hand, I think Krishnamurti would have been quite dismissive of A Course in Miracles. It is a clearly Christian text and relies entirely on Christian ideas, images and symbols. To the extent that it aims to undo all of this – and I believe it does – it still does it in the first place.

Krishnamurti urged his followers to a sort of radical attention. This is not so dissimilar to what quantum physicist and philosopher David Bohm taught in his work on dialogue and creativity. We need to make contact with thought outside the lens of the self: our judgments, our opinions, our feelings and all of that. We have to pay attention to the movement of both the observer and the observed.

Lee Nichol has written clearly and helpfully that this sort of engagement – the radical undoing that facilitates contact with Truth, with Reality – can only happen when one has done considerable work on themselves.

Bohm claims that the ramifications of the ego process – both individual and collective – are at the root of human fragmentation and suffering. At the heart of his dialogue proposal was the prospect that awareness of the movement of ego, willingly engaged in by a number of people simultaneously, might quicken insights into the ego process that could take much longer if approached only on an individual basis.

In other words, we have to work on who we are – we have to make contact with our own ego experience before we can begin to make contact with the Truth that it obscures.

This is very much in the wheelhouse of what Jesus teaches in A Course in Miracles. Indeed, one could say that what A Course in Miracles is about is simply making contact all of those ideas and opinions and idols that obstruct our capacity to see and know the Truth. The Truth is given. When we see this, the need for learning is over.

Love is not learned. Its meaning lies within itself. And learning ends when you have recognized all it is not. That is the interference; that is what needs to be undone. Love is not learned because there never was a time in which you knew it not (T-18.IX.12:1-5).

This is what Krishnamurti refers to when he talks about the need to go beyond the level of teachers and ideology and words.

There is no guide, no teacher, no authority. There is only you – your relationship with others and with the world – there is nothing else . . . when we look at what is taking place in the world we begin to understand that there is no inner and outer process; there is only one unitary process, it is a whole, total movement, the inner movement expressing itself as the outer and the outer reacting again on the inner (Freedom from the Known 15, 16).

One of the charges sometimes laid against A Course in Miracles is that it is too dense and metaphysical and encourages an ultimately unhelpful intellectual approach. Certainly I have been guilty of this in my own practice. And yet, reading Krishnamurti often feels even more risky in this regard. He is clear what is needed – attention, freedom, courage and so forth – but somewhat less clear in what to do when we can’t seem to bring that about. In many ways, he was an incredibly disciplined teacher in refusing to allow his teaching to be codified or reduced to a system.

I don’t doubt a lot of human beings are okay with that. But others – and I am one – needed a better map. The Truth might be a pathless land, as Krishnamurti observed when dissolving the Order of the Star, but some of us need to pretend there is a path in order to figure out – sooner or later – that here is no path.

I don’t think Krishnamurti is especially helpful in that regard. I speak for myself of course. While I find his writing deeply inspiring and clear, I often fumble in their application. It was not so different from reading a lot of Christian mystics, from Saint John of the Cross to Thomas Merton. One felt such longing to be where they were and believed that such a longing could be satisfied and yet . . .

I think this may been in part what caused Bohm to be frustrated near the end of his life with how his work on Dialogue was being received and practiced. Certainly, it is connected to Nichol’s observations. If you have only a vague sense of where you want to go but no earthly idea how to travel or what direction to face or who to turn to for guidance, then you’re going to foment more of the separation and fragmentation that you want to avoid.

This is where A Course in Miracles is especially helpful. It is a course! It is a year-long class that one can take at one’s own pace and return to as necessary. Its sense of order – a text, a workbook, and a manual for teachers – is precisely the sort of framework that can move one to that place where understanding and following Krishnamurti can actually bear fruit.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false (T-16.IV.6:1-2).

Thus, however much one disparages guides and authorities and teachers, one can also be grateful that some helpful ones exist. A Course in Miracles has proven a critical system in helping to clear my mind of the detritus that clouds truth. It is as we dissolve those clouds – according to a sacred rubric, guided by the Holy Spirit – that we begin to understand at last what Krishnamurti was getting at.

To be able to look at this seems to me to be all that is needed, because if we know how to look, then the whole thing becomes very clear, and to look needs no philosophy, no teacher. Nobody needs to tell you how to look. You just look (Freedom from the Known 16).

We must be true to ourselves. We must be honest. And we must be rigorous. If we need help, we need to ask for it. If one teacher does not work, then perhaps another will. Krishnamurti and A Course in Miracles can be a good fit. There are others. You know.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Eric March 30, 2013, 6:50 am

    Hi Sean,
    Interesting blog on Krishnamurti. I really like J. Krishanmurti and have quite a few of his books. In many ways I see a parallel between Jiddu and the course. But like you said, J. K. often calls organized religion nonsense, because it separates and labels people as this or that.

    In a way, the course says the same thing about organized religion, but then defines religion as experience.

    As you mentioned, J.K. says that Truth is a pathless land, and to a course reader, they may agree, but feel that they need a path nonetheless. The course says this also, when it says that this is a journey without distance, and we need no healing to be healed. It then ironically gives us well over a 1,000 pages with 365 lessons to help us with this journey without distance.

    I don’t know what J.K. would say about the course. Probably it is more nonsense, but I am not J.K. so for now, I need the course. I completly understand his POV though, but I still have to look at through my present POV too.

    One of the ideas that I really like about J.K. is the idea that for 1,000’s of years, nothing has really happened in humanity. He speaks of the need for a revolution in the mind, because we are the world. We cannot be separate from it. Without a change in the mind, there can be no change in the world. This echoes the course’s, “Seek Not to Change the World, But Instead Change Your Mind About the World.” When true cause changes, this brings about real change in effects.

    I find J.K. to be one of the best course teachers, even though he is not a course teacher 🙂 The reason being, is he doesn’t/didn’t get caught up in the theology/mythology of Heaven’s like this or like that, or this is why we’re here and this is what happened, and this is the diagram of the separation that some of the course teachers get caught up in.

    One thing I can definetly thank J.K. for, was getting me off of the continuous reading of course authors about the course when I first started studying it. I was reading so many authors and so many books about the course, and one day I was reading one of my J.K. books and in it there was a conversation between J.K. and an audience member on what Truth was.

    The audience member asked J.K. what truth was, and J.K. responded that maybe they should go into it together and see what they could find about this. The audience member kept interrupting J.K. by continually asking J.K. what truth was. Finally J.K. fed up, said, “Do you want Truth or do you want an explanation?”
    I realized this is what I had been doing by reading all of these books. I was looking for the easy explanation about what the course says, even though I had read the text about 6 times in my first 5 or 6 months. I decided then that I would study the course itself and not rely on others to tell me what the course says. I’m so glad that I did, because I have found such a deeper understanding of the course in doing so.

    My advice to other course students is to study the course itself. While it maybe helpful to read others materials about the course, one should try not to go into studying the course with conclusions of what they think the course says based off accepting and adopting 2nd hand explanations of what an author told them it says, because that is not real learning. It is taking a conclusion and then trying to match the course up to that conclusion. Get enough people to do that, and then it just becomes another organized religion.
    The thing about the course is it is not McSpirituality. It can’t be broken down into a few formulaic ideas as some teachers try to do. It is much more comprehensive and profound than that. Doing so, only gives a superficial idea of the course, that are sometimes pontificated as facts. Taking the time to study the course and meditate on passages can really bring such a richer experience to the student, rather than just accepting and adopting 2nd hand explanations.

    Eric

    • Sean Reagan April 5, 2013, 4:29 pm

      Thank you Eric. Your insights and sharing are so helpful . . . thank you.

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