The Book of Life: Daily Meditations with Krishnamurti

J. Krishnamurti, Harper, San Francisco

With each generation’s discovery of something old, the old becomes the new. Isn’t that the case with wisdom? Wisdom is not always clean-cut and simple. Nor is every passage in The Book of Life: Daily Meditations with Krishnamurti. What it does is clearly and decisively question the reader’s every thought, not allowing any assumptions or passive learning.

There is really just one book truly worth reading and that is the book of each of our lives—the book through which all other books come into being. The Book of Life makes readers “students of life.”

It is quite amazing that this Indian-born writer and speaker, Jiddu Krishnamurti (born May 11, 1985 died February 17, 1986), was described as being a dim-witted boy with a vacant expression. Krishnamurti spoke passionately and eloquently on philosophical and spiritual matters, the mind, human relationships, meditation, and the need for revolution in the thinking process of human beings to bring a positive change in society. A true revolution of transformation comes from within, from individual thinking, and not from external factors. He is not the only speaker to suggest that.

I first heard Krishnamurti in Bombay, just three years before he died. A huge crowd of us, mostly young and some old, sat in the dirt of the maidan (an open space used for games, lectures, fairs, demonstrations) surrounding the old tree under which he sat. Amidst the teeming cacophony of the Bombay evening bustle was this timeless oasis of silence surrounding a frail, lone, old man with a passionate voice. I do not remember all that he said now though I watch it on YouTube these days, in fact, the same talks. But there is a clear memory of how it felt—listening to profound wisdom as old as mankind and as contemporary as our modern times. The Book of Life is the heart of the teachings of Krishnamurti.

The book is divided in 12 chapters for each month of the year. Each chapter has passages on four themes ranging from listening, learning, desire, passion, marriage, intelligence, conditioning, dependence, violence, fear, attachment, happiness, grief, hurt, sorrow, to the mind and religion. In all, there are 48 themes. It all begins with listening.

January 1: Have you ever sat very silently, not with your attention fixed on anything, not making an effort to concentrate, but with your mind very quiet, really still?

January 2: How do you listen? Do you listen with your projections, through your projections, through your ambitions, desires, fears, anxieties, through hearing only what you want to hear, only what will be satisfactory, what will gratify, what will give comfort, what will for the moment alleviate your suffering? If you listen through the screen of your desires, then you obviously listen to your own voice; you are listening to your own desires….Listening has importance only when one is not projecting one’s own desires through which one listens. Can one put aside all these screens through which we listen, and really listen?”

Throughout the book and the talks on-line, the speaker as he referred to himself in the later years, Krishnamurti repeatedly implores the listener (his audience) to question everything, assume nothing, and not passively accept faith-based knowledge which is another form of conditioning.

From the yogic perspective Krishnamurti was a jnana yogi (one who practices the path of wisdom). This is the art of living life with a highly developed awareness/mindfulness. The essence of awareness is quiet, patient, objective listening without the filter of conditioned programming of the mind.

Once the reader becomes familiar with Krishnamurti’s writing, the author’s words and voice may echo in Eckhart Tolle’s work. Many other modern day speakers have been influenced by Krishnamurti. Readers can make their own direct connection.

Now my children are of the age that I was when sitting in the hot, dusty maidan with the sun setting over this man. They too hear his words and listen effortlessly.

I want to tell you something, perhaps the way to find out what is reality—not the way as a system, but how to set about it. And if you can find this for yourself, there will not be one speaker, there will be all of us talking, all of us expressing that reality in our lives where we are….Truth cannot be accumulated. What is accumulated is always being destroyed; it withers away. Truth can never wither because it can only be found from moment to moment in every thought, in every relationship, in every word, in every gesture, in a smile, in tears. And if you and I can find that and live it–the very living is the finding of it—then we shall not become propagandists; we shall be creative human beings—not perfect human beings, but creative human beings, which is vastly different. And that, I think, is why I am talking, perhaps that is why you are listening here….There is only one problem, there is no answer; for in the understanding of the problem lies its dissolution.

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