Krishnamurti's descriptions

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Krishnamurti's descriptions illustrate the clarity of an awakened mind.
A small sample from Commentaries on Living (series 2):

They were chanting in the temple. It was a clean temple of carved stone, massive and indestructible. There were over thirty priests, naked to the waist; their pronunciation of the Sanskrit was precise and distinct, and they knew the meaning of the chant. The depth and sound of the words made those walls and pillars almost tremble, and instinctively the group that was there became silent. The creation, the beginning of the world was being chanted, and how man was brought forth. The people had closed their eyes, and the chant was producing a pleasant disturbance: nostalgic remembrances of their childhood, thoughts of the progress they had made since those youthful days, the strange effect of Sanskrit words, delight in hearing the chant again. Some were repeating the chant to themselves, and their lips were moving. The atmosphere was getting charged with strong emotions, but the priests went on with the chant and the gods remained silent.

It had stopped raining; the roads were clean, and the dust had been washed from the trees. The earth was refreshed, and the frogs were loud in the pond; they were big, and their throats were swollen with pleasure. The grass was sparkling with tiny drops of water, and there was peace in the land after the heavy downpour. The cattle were soaking wet, but during the rain they never took shelter, and now they were contentedly grazing. Some boys were playing in the little stream that the rain had made by the road side; they were naked, and it was good to see their shining bodies and their bright eyes. They were having the time of their life, and how happy they were! Nothing else mattered, and they smiled out of joy as one said something to them, though they didn't understand a word. The sun was coming out and the shadows were deep.

On the red earth in front of the house there were quantities of trumpet-like flowers with golden hearts. They had large, mauve petals and a delicate scent. They would be swept away during the day, but in the darkness of night they covered the red earth. The creeper was strong with serrated leaves which glistened in the morning sun. Some children carelessly trod on the flowers, and a man getting hurriedly into his car never even looked at them. A passer-by picked one, smelt it, and carried it away, to be dropped presently. A woman who must have been a servant came out of the house, picked a flower, and put it in her hair. How beautiful those flowers were, and how quickly they were withering in the sun!

It was a small pond, but very beautiful. Grass covered its banks, and a few steps went down to it. There was a small, white temple at one end, and all around it were tall, slender palms. The temple was well built and well cared for; it was spotlessly clean, and at that hour, when the sun was well behind the palm grove, there was no one there, not even the priest, who treated the temple and its contents with great veneration. This small, decorative temple gave to the pond an atmosphere of peace; the place was so still, and even the birds were silent. The slight breeze that stirred the palms was dying down, and a few clouds floated across the sky, radiant with the evening sun. A snake was swimming across the pond, in and out among the lotus leaves. The water was very clear, and there were pink and violet lotuses. Their delicate scent clung close to the water and to the green banks. There was not a thing stirring now, and the enchantment of the place seemed to fill the earth. But the beauty of those flowers! They were very still, and one or two were beginning to close for the night, shutting out the darkness. The snake had crossed the pond, come up the bank, and was passing close by; its eyes were like bright, black beads, and its forked tongue was playing before it like a small flame, making a path for the snake to follow.

The cow was in labour, and the two or three people who regularly attended to her milking, feeding and cleaning were with her now. She was watching them, and if one went away for any reason, she would gently call. At this critical time she wanted all her friends about her; they had come and she was content, but she was labouring heavily. The little calf was born and it was a beauty, a heifer. The mother got up and went round and round her new baby, nudging her gently from time to time; she was so joyous that she would push us aside. She kept this up for a long time till she finally got tired. We held the baby to suckle, but the mother was too excited. At last she calmed down, and then she wouldn't let us go. One of the ladies sat on the ground, and the new mother lay down and put her head in her lap. She had suddenly lost interest in her calf, and her friends were more to her now. It had been very cold, but at last the sun was coming up behind the hills, and it was getting warmer.

The little drum was beating out a gay rhythm and presently it was joined by a reed instrument; together they filled the air. The drum dominated, but it followed the reed. The latter would stop, but the little drum would go on sharp and clear, until it was again joined by the song of the reed. The dawn was still faraway and the birds were quiet but the music filled the silence. There was a wedding going on in the little village. During the previous evening there had been much gaiety; the songs and laughter had gone on late into the night, and now the parties were being awakened by music. presently the naked branches began to show against the pale sky; the stars were disappearing one by one, and the music had come to an end. There were the shouts and calling of children, and noisy quarrelling around the only water tap in the village. The sun was still below the horizon, but the day had begun.

The daily pattern of life was repeating itself around the only water tap in the village; the water was running slowly, and a group of women were awaiting their turn. Three of them were noisily and bitterly quarrelling; they were completely absorbed in their anger and paid not the slightest attention to anyone else, nor was anyone paying attention to them. It must have been a ritual. Like all rituals, it was stimulating, and these women were enjoying the stimulation. An old woman helped a young one to lift a big, brightly polished brass pot onto her head. She had a little pad of cloth to bear the weight of the pot, which she held lightly with one hand. Her walk was superb, and she had great dignity. A little girl came quietly, slipped her pot under the tap, and carried it away without saying a word. Other women came and went, but the quarrel went on, and it seemed as though it would never end. Suddenly the three stopped filled their vessels with water, and went away as though nothing had happened. By now the sun was getting strong, and smoke was rising above the thatched roofs of the village. The day's first meal was being cooked. How suddenly peaceful it was! Except for the crows, almost everything was quiet. Once the vociferous quarrel was over, one could hear the roar of the sea beyond the houses, the gardens and the palm groves.

It began to rain gently enough, but suddenly it was as though the heavens had opened and there was a deluge. In the street the water was almost knee-deep, and it was well over the pavement. There was not a flutter among the leaves, and they too were silent in their surprise. A car passed by and then stalled, water having gotten into its essential parts. People were wading across the street, soaked to the skin, but they were enjoying this down-pour. The garden beds were being washed out and the lawn was covered with several inches of brown water. A dark blue bird with fawn-coloured wings was trying to take shelter among the thick leaves, but it got wetter and wetter and shook itself so often. The downpour lasted for some time, and then stopped as suddenly as it had begun. All things were washed clean.

The evening light was on the water, and the dark trees were against the setting sun. A crowded bus went by, followed by a big car with smart people in it. A child passed rolling a hoop. A woman with a heavy load stopped to adjust it, then continued on her weary way. A boy on a bicycle saluted someone, and was intent on getting home. Several women walked by, and a man stopped, lit a cigarette, threw the match in the water, looked around, and went on. No one seemed to notice the colours on the water and the dark trees against the sky. A girl came along carrying a baby, talking and pointing to the darkening waters to amuse and distract it. Lights were appearing in the houses, and the evening star was beginning to sail the heavens.

It was a calm evening, but many white sails were on the lake. In the far distance a snowcovered peak hung as though suspended from the skies. The evening breeze from the north-east was not yet blowing, but there were ripples on the water towards the north and more boats were putting out. The water was very blue and the skies were very clear. It was a wide lake, but on sunny days the towns could be seen on the other side. In this little bay, secluded and forgotten, it was very peaceful; there were no tourists, and the steamboat that went round the lake never came here. Nearby was a village of fishermen; and as the weather promised to be clear, there would be small boats, with lanterns, fishing late into the night. In the enchantment of evening they were preparing their nets and their boats. The valleys were in deep shadow, but the mountains still held the sun.

The road in front of the house went down to the sea, weaving its way past many small shops, great flats, garages, temples, and a dusty, neglected garden. When it reached the sea, the road be- came a big thoroughfare, with taxis, rattling buses, and all the noise of a modem city. Leading off this thoroughfare there was a peaceful, sheltered avenue overhung with huge rain-trees, but in the morning and evening it was busy with cars on their way to a smart club, with its golf course and lovely gardens. As I walked along this avenue there were various types of beggars lying on the pavement; they were not noisy, and did not even stretch out their hands to the passer-by. A girl about ten years old was lying with her head on a tin can, resting with wide open eyes; she was dirty, with matted hair, but she smiled as I smiled at her. Further along, a little girl, hardly three, came forward with outstretched hand and an enchanting smile. The mother was watching from behind a nearby tree. I took the outstretched hand and we walked together for a few paces, returning her to her mother. As I had no coin, I returned with one the next day, but the little girl would not take it, she wanted to play; so we played, and the coin was given to the mother. Whenever I walked along that avenue the little girl was always there, with a shy smile and bright eyes.

On the hot rock in the burning sun the village women were spreading the paddy that had been kept in the storehouse. They had carried large bundles of it to the flat, sloping rock, and the two oxen that were tied to the tree would presently tread on the paddy to release the grain. The valley was far from any town, and the huge tamarind trees gave deep shadows. Through the valley a dusty road made its way to the village and beyond. Cattle and innumerable goats covered the hillsides. The rice fields were deep in water, and the white rice birds flew with lazy wings from one field to another; they seemed without fear, but they were shy and would not let one get near them. The mango trees were beginning to bloom, and the river made a cheerful noise with its clear running water. It was a pleasant land, and yet poverty hung over it like a plague. Voluntary poverty is one thing, but compulsory poverty is quite another. The villagers were poor and diseased, and although there was now a medical dispensary and food was distributed, the damage wrought by centuries of privation could not be wiped away in a few years. Starvation is not the problem of one community or of one country, but of the whole world.

A small duck was coming up the wide canal like a ship under sail, alone and full of quacking importance. The canal wound in and out through the town. There were no other ducks in sight, but this one made enough noise for many ducks. The few who heard him paid no attention, but that didn't matter to the duck. He wasn't frightened, but he felt himself to be a very prominent person on that canal; he owned it. Beyond the town the countryside was pleasant with green pastures and fat black and white cows. There were masses of clouds on the horizon and the skies seemed low, close to the earth, with that light which only this part of the world seems to have. The land was as flat as one's palm, and the road climbed only to pass over the bridges that crossed the high canals. It was a lovely evening; the sun was setting over the North Sea, and the clouds took on the colouring of the setting sun.

Great streaks of light, blue and rose, shot across the sky.

The banyans and the tamarinds dominated the small valley, which was green and alive after the rains. In the open the sun was strong and biting, but in the shade it was pleasantly cool. The shadows were deep, and the old trees were shapely against the blue sky. There was an astonishing number of birds in that valley, birds of many different kinds, and they would come to these trees and so quickly disappear in them. There would probably be no more rain for several months but now the countryside lay green and peaceful, the wells were full, and there was hope in the land. The corrupting towns were far beyond the hills, but the nearby villages were filthy and the people were starving. The government only promised, and the villagers seemed to care so little. There was beauty and gladness all about them, but they had no eyes for it nor for their own inward riches. Amidst so much loveliness the people were dull and empty.

It had been raining continuously for a week; the earth was soggy, and there were large puddles all along the path. The water level had risen in the wells, and the frogs were having a splendid time, croaking tirelessly all night long. The swollen river was endangering the bridge; but the rains were welcome, even though great damage was being done. Now, however, it was slowly clearing up; there were patches of blue sky just overhead, and the morning sun was scattering the clouds. It would be months before the leaves of the newly-washed trees would again be covered with fine, red dust. The blue of the sky was so intense that it made you stop and wonder. The air had been purified, and in one short week the earth had suddenly become green. In that morning light, peace lay upon the land.

A single parrot was perched on a dead branch of a nearby tree; it wasn't preening itself, and it sat very still, but its eyes were moving and alert. It was of a delicate green, with a brilliant red beak and a long tail of paler green. You wanted to touch it, to feel the colour of it; but if you moved, it would fly away. Though it was completely still, a frozen green light, you could feel it was intensely alive, and it seemed to give life to the dead branch on which it sat. It was so astonishingly beautiful, it took your breath away; you hardly dared take your eyes off it, lest in a flash it be gone. You had seen parrots by the dozen, moving in their crazy flight, sitting along the wires, or scattered over the red fields of young, green corn. But this single bird seemed to be the focus of all life, of all beauty and perfection. There was nothing but this vivid spot of green on a dark branch against the blue sky. There were no words, no thoughts in your mind; you weren't even conscious that you weren't thinking. The intensity of it brought tears to your eyes and made you blink - and the very blinking might frighten the bird away! But it remained there unmoving, so sleek, so slender, with every feather in place. Only a few minutes must have passed, but those few minutes covered the day, the year and all time; in those few minutes all life was, without an end or a beginning. It is not an experience to be stored up in memory, a dead thing to be kept alive by thought, which is also dying; it is totally alive, and so cannot be found among the dead.

Someone called from the house beyond the garden, and the dead branch was suddenly bare.

It was quite early; the sun wouldn't be up for an hour or so. The Southern Cross was very clear and strangely beautiful over the palm trees. Everything was very still; the trees were motionless and dark, and even the little creatures of the earth were silent. There was a purity and a blessing over the sleeping world.

The road led through a cluster of palms, past a large pond, and beyond, to where the houses began. Each house had a garden, some well-kept, and others neglected. There was a scent of jasmine in the air, and the dew made the perfume richer. There weren't any lights in the houses yet, and the stars were still clear, but there was an awakening in the eastern sky. A cyclist came along yawning, and went by without turning his head. Someone had started a car and was gently warming it up, and there was an impatient honk. Beyond these houses, the road went past a rice field and turned left, towards the sprawling town.

A path branched off the road and followed a water-way. The palm trees along its banks were reflected on the still, clear water, and a large white bird was already at work, trying to catch fish. There was still no one else on that path, but soon there would be many, for it was used by the local people as a short cut to the main road. Beyond the water-way there was a secluded house, with a large tree in a rather nice garden. The dawn had now fully come, and the morning star was barely visible over the tree; but the night still held back the day. A woman was sitting on a mat under the tree, tuning a stringed instrument which rested on her lap. presently she sang something in Sanskrit; it was deeply religious, and as the words filled the morning air, the whole atmosphere of the place seemed to change, becoming charged with a strange fullness and meaning. Then she began to sing a song that is sung only at that hour of the morning. It was enchanting. She was utterly unaware that anyone was listening to her, nor did she care if anyone did, for she was wholly absorbed in that song. She had a good, clear voice, and was thoroughly enjoying herself in a grave and serious manner. One could hardly hear the stringed instrument, but her voice came across the water clear and strong. The words and the sound filled one's whole being, and there was the joy of great purity.

Seated on a raised platform, he was playing a seven-stringed instrument to a small audience of people who were familiar with this type of classical music. They were sitting on the floor in front of him; while from a position behind him another instrument, with only four strings, was being played. He was a young man, but completely the master of the seven strings and of the complex music. He would improvise before each song; then would come the song, in which there would be more improvisation. You would never hear any song played twice in the same way. The words were retained, but within a certain frame there was great latitude, and the musician could improvise to his heart's content; and the more the variations and combinations the greater the musician. On the strings, words were not possible; but all who sat there knew the words, and they went into ecstasies over them. With nodding heads and gracefully gesturing hands, they kept perfect time, and there would be a gentle slap on the thigh at the end of the rhythm. The musician had closed his eyes and was completely absorbed in his creative freedom, and in the beauty of the sound; his mind and his fingers were in perfect coordination. And what fingers! Delicate and rapid, they seemed to have a life of their own. They would be still only at the end of the song in that particular frame, and then they would be quiet and reposed; but with incredible rapidity they would begin another song within a different frame. They almost mesmerized you with their grace and swiftness of movement. And those strings, what melodious sounds they gave! They were pressed by the fingers of the left hand to the proper tension, while the fingers of the right hand plucked them with masterly ease and control.

The moon was bright outside, and the dark shadows were motionless; through the window, the river was just visible, a flow of silver against the dark, silent trees on the other bank. A strange thing was going on in the space which is the mind. It had been watching the graceful movements of the fingers, listening to the sweet sounds, observing the nodding heads and the rhythmical hands of the silent people. Suddenly the watcher, the listener, disappeared; he had not been lulled into abeyance by the melodious strings, but was totally absent. There was only the vast space which is the mind. All the things of the earth and of man were in it, but they were at the extreme outer edges, dim and far off. Within the space where nothing was, there was a movement, and the movement was stillness. It was a deep, vast movement, without direction, without motive, which began from the outer edges, and with incredible strength was coming towards the centre - a centre that is everywhere within the stillness, within the motion which is space. This centre is total aloneness, uncontaminated, unknowable, a solitude which is not isolation, which has no end and no beginning. It is complete in itself, and not made; the outer edges are in it but not of it. It is there, but not within the scope of man's mind. It is the whole, the totality, but not approachable.

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Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 04 May 2023