Krishnamurti and "religion"

Concerning the philosophy of Krishnamurti, reviewed from one Bahá’í’s point of view: Any “path” must be a conceived thing, because it directs one toward something by directing them away from something else. These two points must be held in the mind for a person to distingush what is one from the other.

However, while moral teachings are an excellent guide to what behaviors will help clarity, they do not grant experience. No religion is the end it teaches. I believe this is what Krishnamurti was getting at when he said, “Truth cannot be approached by religion”. Such an approach would be like saying that by reading the Íqán a hundred times you will comprehend Bahá’u’lláh’s station. Instead, it is not “religion” that gets you there, but US, our lives, our experiences and interactions with the present. These interactions are guided by religion, but religion does not yield the substance of the interaction itself. If we try to substitute one for the other, this is when “religion” is born in the mind.

The point here is that purity and awareness are far more valuable to the seeker than knowledge or devotion. The Valley of Search, the Íqán, Gems of the Divine Mysteries, all repeatedly – over and over – stress the importance of clearing away obscuring dust from the heart: all attachments, all love and hate, all knowledge and understanding. At one point in the Íqán, Bahá’u’lláh reports a divine saying that one must know at least 20 sciences to understand the mystery of the Miráj; at which point He says that not only will this knowledge not help the seeker, but if he happened to possess it, that more than anything else would be the cause of his never understanding the Miráj!

The individual must purge all knowledge from his heart – “religion” being a form of this knowledge – and not accumulate it. Knowledge must be relegated to its role of helping us function in life, and taken off its pedestal of determining how we look at life itself. You could say that religion is a functional thing, not an endpoint; it can help us, morally, to “unaccumulate”, but can cause the very harm it seeks to undo if we “accumulate” its own teachings.

Which is, fundamentally, the exact message of Krishnamurti. When he talks about “religion”, he means the entity created in people’s minds after they come in contact with new teachings. The mind, seeking something, finds accents of that something in a new Message; and so the mind fills itself with this message, its dogma, its forms, its beliefs – until the mind is so full it can barely hold another thought. And in that state, it will have so far removed itself from the purpose of the Message as to be tragic.

Interestingly, Bahá’ís understand this instinctively when they talk about Christians, or Muslims, or Jews. But they often miss the point when talking about their own beliefs. Haven’t you heard people say, “A true Christian would leave his church and become a Bahá’í”? Well, a true Bahá’í would leave his ideas and become a human being.

For the Writings themselves, while advocating study for the purpose of advancing this world, reiterate ad nauseum that a deep, fundamental purity is the only hope mankind has of perceiving the faint glimmerings of Spirit that reflect in the heart of every created thing. From lack of this vision, men treat each other worse than animals, and fail to understand their common brotherhood. The failure to achieve world peace is not due to lack of means, or plans, or hopes – but is intrinsically a spiritual problem caused by “religion” (not religion). That is, because each person has his “religion” and clings to it like a God, even two Bahá’ís may be seen to argue with one another – despite the fact that conflict and contention are so sternly and categorically forbidden by their Faith!!!

When there is a clear perception of reality, there is no need for beliefs about reality. The soul who sees clearly, whose vision is freed from impediment, has no need of religion. Instead, he applies his deeds and decisions to the Law, and is thus informed of Truth. He is religious by his movement, his spirit, his breath. There is no more conflict between what he is, and what he thinks he should be. He serves men because it is a joyous thing to serve – not because he must. Here religious means “free, real, human”, and religion: an education toward this state. But “religion” is a belief that the map is the territory, the teachings are the reality, the practice is the experience, and so on.

As a physicist recognizes the purpose of natural law, he will cease to contend with those laws, and start working with them; so too religion aims at establishing that kind of spirituality in which what is spiritual is the only way to live. Because indeed, if Bahá’u’lláh speaks truly, that is the “real world”, and the fiction we afflict ourselves with is due to a long-running denial of that world. In a sense, you could say religion is like a band-aid, or a cure, specifically tailored to a very ill patient. Should a patient revere the cure, or deplore his illness? But a wise patient will use the cure until he is well, and then be rid of it.

At that point – when “religion” has been stripped away as the last impediment – what is seen goes beyond description. This is the stage at which people act spontaneously for the Good because it is their highest love. What is it that stands between people and such a perception? It is their beliefs about reality, as opposed to true reality. To put it coyly, true religion is that “unknowledge” which makes direct knowing possible; it undoes the self, that man may discover his being. But if misapplied, it too quickly enmires its adherents until they go to war for the sake of perserving their beliefs about ending war.

Does this make the point any clearer? The “religion” Krishnamurti saw as clinging to the souls of men is the “religion” they have piled on top of who they truly are, and which they use as a defense against knowing what they are: good or evil, mediocre or excellent. But the real intent of it all is freedom – true, genuine freedom – and this does not happen just because a person binds themselves to a different set of beliefs or ideas.

To have this true religion, one must do everything that Krishnamurti asks of us, which is the same as what Bahá’u’lláh, and the Buddha, and everyone else back to the Oracle at Delphi: Know thyself. “He who hath known himself hath known God.” Since knowing one’s self is the most painful, most difficult process possible, it all begins with purifying the eye, the ear, the heart, and the mind. The practices of the Bahá’í Faith are designed to this end, and God will assist us if we use them accordingly; but since humans are allowed to be human, encrustation is always possible – and this is what Krishnamurti deplored so much in the world around him: He saw human beings shrinking from reality in preference to a set of beliefs, and he wanted to free them from that. It isn’t what you believe that matters, it’s what you are and do! Isn’t this same message echoed by Bahá’u’lláh? “Amongst the people is he who seateth himself amid the sandals by the door whilst coveting in his heart the seat of honour. Say: What manner of man art thou, O vain and heedless one, who wouldst appear as other than thou art?”

So I think you will find that the philosophy of Krishnamurti is about understanding who and what you are, and that this knowledge alone will connect you to God and life. But until such understanding has taken place, “religion” – in the form of ideas and dutiful practices – will remain your greatest barrier to Truth.