I received this question about J Krishnamurti whom I regard as one of the pre-eminent spiritual figures of the last century even if I don't agree with him on everything. His philosophy seemingly had no room for God but I would argue that he had a specific role to play which consisted of purifying the spiritual field of much past error and false ways of thinking about both God and spirituality. Moreover, his idea of the sacred can be construed as a way of describing the essence of God that is free of any ideological trappings or religious sentiment.
Q. Could you comment on the following quote by Krishnamurti? ‘”When you call yourself an Indian or a Christian or a Muslim or a European you are being violent because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. A man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any religion, any political party or any country.”
It did make me consider that perhaps we should attempt to transcend labels completely in the way that he is advocating here. After all Jesus was not a Christian and I am finding that there are fewer labels that are any more divisive than the label 'Christian.' I often wonder if it has ever been that any two human beings on the planet have ever totally agreed on a shared definition of what that means?! Inevitably, there must be some very subjective elements to the definition of anything and leap of faith to cover the distance between the islands of two conscious human souls attempting to share a perception of a thing.
A. What Krishnamurti is saying here is that if you identify yourself too much with a particular background you are creating division between yourself and the rest of humanity, and division leads to conflict. However I think he is mistaking patriotism for nationalism. Also, context is important. He grew up at a time when there was great division in India between Hindu and Muslim, often ending in violence as at the partition after independence between India and Pakistan. This was also when the English tended to look down on other nationalities, and most people thought themselves superior to other groups. It's not like that now so his point is less true even if it is the case that, from the highest standpoint, oneness is the underlying reality.
His basic point is that you should identify yourself with the inner spiritual reality not any external thing, and that I think is true. This can be taken too far and become unbalanced but it is surely the case that to define oneself is to limit oneself. But still, that doesn't mean that all externals are equally true and equally false. Some are truer than others. And we do, after all, all have an outer form as well as an inner being. The former must be in the right place and not usurp the place of the latter, but that doesn't mean it should be denied or rejected.
Q. Surely Krishnamurti is either right or wrong. If he's right then the correct view is to transcend a self-label of Christianity and focus on the cohesive value of focusing on values and behaviours but not labels. But if he is wrong we need to self-label as Christian and encourage others to do so also even though this will inevitably seriously ruffle the worlds feathers! A self-label of Christian is almost universally despised, feared or rejected in anger by modern people. Krishnamurti’s quote on the other hand is something I have showed to people and they have immediately seen a truth in it. Religion being necessarily perceived as divisive and like something that is very dangerous and to be handled with extreme care or ideally not at all. And to be fair to secular people the reality of human history has given us ample reason to now view religious ideologies with a great deal of suspicion. People are too frightened to see that the divisive aspect of religion is only one side of it and there is great truth there as well.
A. Actually it is possible for Krishnamurti to be both right and wrong and I think he is. It depends on how you look at things. Firstly, everybody who believes anything self-identifies as something. It's impossible not to. You could say that Krishnamurti was a Krishnamurti-ite, and, as a matter of fact, his followers do often rather act like that. His view reflects his rootless background. He was born a Hindu but taken up by the Theosophists as a youth and then raised in their system which he reacted to by rejecting wholesale. Theosophy had certainly taken on a lot of nonsense at the time he rejected it even if its fundamentals remain interesting. He then travelled all over the world but had no fixed home so you can see that his philosophy is partly reflected in his life. This doesn't make it wrong, and you could say the life was the result of the philosophy, but you could also see an influence the other way. Anyway, it can sometimes be a little one-sided I think. A necessary corrective to the other point of view that says you have to be a Hindu, Christian or whatever but it is assuming that the Hindu, Christian or whatever is attached to his beliefs and cannot see that they are only tools enabling you to get a grasp on reality. That is very definitely the case for many people but it need not be the case. For instance, I do not identify as a Christian in the conventional sense but I think the teachings of Christ are the highest teachings and contain more of truth than any other. I try to follow them. But I cannot identify with the external body of Christianity as it is today. Maybe I could have done so in the Middle Ages but not now.
It's a question of changing perspective and each side needs the other to be whole. Each is incomplete without the other. We need each approach as a corrective to the extreme of the other which is why I say it is possible for K to be both right and wrong. It all depends on how you hold your view. If you are a Christian which is more important, your Christianity as a religion or your church or your love of God? Do you see the difference? It's a matter of inner and outer. Are you attached to the outer as a form or do you see it as an opening to the inner which is always the main thing. That said, some outer approaches certainly do better reflect the reality of the inner, and are more able to guide one and attune one to it. A rose is a truer reflection of beauty than a dandelion even though both are beautiful flowers.
So I would say Krishnamurti is right but can be taken to extremes and then he becomes wrong. Always spirituality is concerned with inner attitude and the state of the heart rather than mental conceptualising. A doctrinaire Christian who nevertheless genuinely loves God is much closer to him than a philosopher who sees that identifying with a system keeps you bound but has no real love or humility in his heart.
I see Krishnamurti as someone who performed a valuable service in the 20th century when we had gone too far to one side of the matter. But now when we have lost nearly all sense of religion there is a risk of going too far to the other side so he is not so useful in this sense even if ultimately he is right. The Masters I spoke to were not, as far as I could see, Christians or Buddhists but then they knew truth directly. They did not need any help to see it. On this Earth the vast majority of us do need help and if it is not one thing it will be another. A universalist form of Christianity seems pretty good to me. I mean by this an approach that sees the uniqueness of Christ but can also accept that other religions are valid approaches to God too if their inner essence is adhered to rather than their outer form.
Religion is only divisive if people make it so. At the same time, Christ did say he came to sort out the sheep from the goats and you have to divide, or be able to discriminate, between truth and falsehood. Not everything is equally true or equally good, and sometimes you have to call a spade a spade and condemn what is wrong or misguided or downright bad. One of the great recent successes of the devil is to persuade people that judgment is wrong in the name of a spurious unity or fairness. Spirituality requires the most rigid discrimination if it is to accord to what is real.