Krishnamurti with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche was a Buddhist meditation master and a major figure in the dissemination of Buddhism to the West. He founded more than one hundred meditation centres throughout the world, including Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where Pema Chodron, Allen Gingberg and Ken Wilber were among his many students. He wished to present the path of meditation in secular terms, developing a programme called Shambhala Training.
This conversation with Krishnamurti was recorded in San Diego, California in 1972. In it, the pair ask: what is the quality of the mind that is no longer held in the matrix of experience? What is meditation and why should one meditate? They inquire into seeing without the ‘me’, and the possibility of a total observation without time and memory.
Krishnamurti: You know, sir, in all the religions, in the organised religions with their dogmas, beliefs and traditions and all the rest of it, personal experience has played a great part. The person has become extraordinarily important – not the teachings, not the reality, but the person. And most people seek personal experiences. And if it is a personal experience of a person then it has very little validity because that experience may be merely a projection of one’s own intentions, fears and hopes and all the rest of it. So personal experience has very little validity in religious matters. And yet man, human beings right throughout the world have emphasised the person. The person represents to them the tradition, the authority, the way of life. Through him they hope to attain or reach enlightenment or heaven or all the rest of it. Personal experience has really no value at all where truth is concerned. So to negate personal experience is to negate the me, because the me is the very essence of all experience, which is the past. And when the religious people go on missions or come over to this country from India and so on they are really doing propaganda, and propaganda has no value with regard to truth because then it becomes a lie.
So if one puts aside totally, completely, all experiences of men, of human beings and their systems, their practices, their rituals, their dogmas, their concepts – that is, if one can actually do it, not theoretically, but factually wipe it all out – then what is the quality of the mind that is no longer held in the matrix of experience? Because truth isn’t something you experience. Truth isn’t something towards which you gradually progress. It isn’t that through infinite days of practice, sacrifice, control, disciple, come to it. If you do then it is personal experience. And when there is that personal experience then there is the division between the me, the person, and the thing which you experience. Though you may try to identify yourself with that experience, with that thing, there is still this division. Seeing all this, how organised religions have really destroyed truth, giving human beings some absurd myth to make them behave – seeing all this and if one can put aside all this, what place has meditation in all this? What place a guide, a guru, a saviour, a priest?
Just now I noticed in the corridor somebody from India preaching transcendental meditation, and attend his class and you practise every day and you will have greater energy and ultimately reach some kind of transcendental experience. I think that it really is quite – I can’t put it too strongly – it is really a great calamity when such things happen to people when they come over from India or from China or Japan to teach people meditation. They are doing propaganda. And is meditation a thing that you practise daily? Which is, practice means conforming to a pattern, imitating, suppressing – you know what is implied in conformity. Can such conformity to any pattern, doesn’t matter what it is, can that ever lead to truth? Obviously not.
Then what is meditation? If practising a system, however absurd, however noble, practising a transcendental so-called meditation, if you see the falseness of it, actually see the falseness, not just theoretically, actually see that it has no meaning, then what is meditation? Then what is, first of all, the traditional meditation? Whether it’s the Christian meditation or the Hindu, Buddhist, Tibetan or Zen and, you know, the whole varieties of meditations and their schools – for me all that is not meditation at all. Then what is meditation? Perhaps we could discuss that, could we?
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche: Yes, I think so.
K: Why should one make meditation into a problem? We have got enough problems, human beings, both physically and psychologically – why add another problem about meditation? You follow what I mean? Why give a human being one extra problem when he has got a thousand problems? So is meditation a way of escaping from his problems, an avoiding what actually is, and therefore it is no meditation at all? Or is meditation the understanding of the problem of living – not avoiding it – of the daily living with all its problems? If that is not understood, if that is not put in order… – I mean, I can go and sit in a corner and follow somebody who will teach me transcendental or nonsensical meditation and it’ll have no meaning at all. Right, sir? So what is it to you to meditate? What does it mean?
I hope I haven’t made it too difficult for you to answer this question, because I deny all that. To me all that kind of meditation, of practice, of constantly repeating a word, as they do in India, as they do in Tibet, as they do all over the world – Ave Maria or some other word, repeat, repeat, repeat – it doesn’t mean nothing. You make the mind more absurd and grotesque than it is. So, if I may, together inquire into this question.
Is it because it’s a long-established tradition that you must meditate and therefore we meditate? I mean, a Brahmin boy, when I was a small boy, I vaguely remember being a Brahmin you went through a certain ceremony. At that time you are told to sit quiet, close your eyes, meditate, think about – you know? – the whole thing was set going. So if we could together examine and share: what is meditation? What are the implications of it? Why should one meditate at all? If it is a problem – you follow what I mean? – if you make meditation into another problem then for God’s sake avoid it. You follow what I mean? Because human beings have a thousand problems, why add another one more to it? So could we together, sharing, go into this, seeing the traditional approach and seeing their absurdity? Because, you see, sir, unless man, a human being becomes a light to himself, nothing matters, because if you are depending on somebody then you are in a state of perpetual anxiety. So could we examine this, traditionally? First, why should one meditate?
CTR: Don’t you think in the living situation of a man that meditation happens as part of a live situation?
K: Sir, a human being has innumerable problems. Right? He must solve those first, mustn’t he? That is, he must bring order in the house, in the house in which he lives, which is the house, which is the me – my thoughts, my feelings, my anxieties, my guilt, my sorrow. I must bring order there. Without that order how can I proceed further?
CTR: Well the problem is that if you are trying to solve the problem, if you look for order then you are looking for – doesn’t it seem to be looking for further chaos?
K: No, I am not looking for order. I am inquiring that there is disorder…
CTR: That’s right, yes.
K: …and I want to know why there is disorder. I’m not wanting to find order. Then I’ll have all the gurus and all the gang come in. (Laughter) I don’t want order. I only want to find out why in one’s life there is such chaos and disorder. I must find… a human being must find out, not ask somebody to tell him why there is disorder.
CTR: Well you can’t find out intellectually.
K: Intellect is part of the whole structure; you can’t deny the intellect.
CTR: Well, but you can’t use intellect to solve the intellectual problem.
K: No, no, you can’t solve the problem at any level except totally.
CTR: Quite. Yes.
K: Now that is, sir, to solve the human problem of disorder, does that need meditation? In the ordinary sense of the accepted word meditation.
CTR: I wouldn’t say in the ordinary, conventional sense of meditation, but meditation in the extraordinary sense.
K: What do you mean by that, if I may ask?
CTR: Extraordinary sense of meditation is trying to find… to see the disorder as a part of the direction.
K: To see disorder.
CTR: To see disorder as order, if you’d like to call it.
K: No, no.
CTR: Or to see the disorder as order.
K: No. To see disorder.
CTR: Well if you see the disorder then it becomes order.
K: First I must see it.
CTR: But to see it clearly.
K: So that depends then how you observe disorder.
CTR: Not trying to solve it.
K: Of course not, because if you try to solve it you solve it according to a pattern set.
CTR: A set pattern.
K: Which is the outcome of your disorder.
CTR: That’s right.
K: Which is the opposite of disorder. So if you try to solve the disorder it is always according to a preconceived idea of order, whether it is the Christian order, Hindu order, whatever order, socialist order, communist order. Whereas if you observed entirely what is disorder then there is no duality in that.
CTR: Yes, I see what you mean.
K: Now how is one to observe this total disorder which human beings live? The disorder when you see a television – the commercials, the hectic violence, the absurdities – the human existence is a total disorder – killing, violence and at the same time talking about peace.
So we come to the question, how – no – what is observation of disorder? Do you see it from the me as separate and the thing which is disorder?
CTR: Well that’s already disorder.
K: Isn’t it? So do I look at disorder with the eyes of my prejudices, my opinions, my conclusions, my concepts, the propaganda of a thousand years – you follow? – which is the me? So do I look at disorder without the me? And is that possible? So that is meditation – you follow, sir? – not all the rubbish they talk about. To observe without division, to observe without the me who is the very essence of the past, the me that says I should, should not, I must, I must not; the me that says I must achieve, I must gain God, or whatever it is. So can there be an observation without the me?
You see, if that question is put to an orthodox meditator he will say it can’t because the me is there, so I must get rid of the me. So to get rid of the me I must practise. Which means I am emphasising the me. So through practice I hope to deny practice, through practice I hope to eradicate the result of that practice, which is still the me, so you’re caught in a vicious circle. So the traditional approach, as I see it – as one has observed it, not as I see it, but as one has observed it in the world – is to emphasise the me in a very subtle way but it is to strengthen the me – the me that is going to sit next to God – think of the absurdity of it – the me that’s going to experience nirvana or moksha or heaven, (laughs) enlightenment. I mean, it means nothing. So we see the orthodox approach is really holding man, human beings, in prison of the past, giving him importance in his personal experience. Reality isn’t a personal experience. You can’t personally experience the vastness of the sea. It is there for you to look. It isn’t your sea.
So if we can put that aside then the question arises: is it ever possible to see without the me? To observe this total disorder of the human beings, their lives, the way they live, is it possible to observe it without division? Because division implies conflict, like India and Pakistan, like China and America, like Russia, you know, all that. Division politically breeds chaos. Psychologically division breeds endless conflict inwardly, outwardly. Now to end this conflict is to observe without the me.
CTR: I wouldn’t even say observe.
K: To observe what is.
CTR: Well, when you observe then you are judging, questioning.
K: No, no, that’s what I… When you observe you can observe through criticism, through evaluation.
CTR: But a total observation.
K: Yes, that’s partial.
CTR: That’s right.
K: But to observe totally, in that there is no evaluation at all.
CTR: There’s no observer either.
K: Therefore what is meditation then?
CTR: That is meditation.
K: That is meditation. (Laughter)
So in observing disorder, which is essentially meditation, in that observation there is order – not the order which the intellect creates. So meditation is not a personal search for personal experience. Right? Meditation is not the search for a transcendental experience which will give you great energy to become more mischievous. (Laughter) Meditation is not personal achievement, sitting next to God. Meditation then is a state of mind in which the me is absent, and therefore that very absence brings order. And that order must exist to go any further. You follow, sir, what I mean? Without that order things become silly. It’s like these people who go around dancing, chanting and repeating, ‘Krishna, Krishna,’ and all that silly stuff – that is not order. They are creating colossal disorder, as the Christians are creating great disorder, as the Hindus, as the Buddhists. As long as you are held within a pattern you must create disorder in the world. If you say, ‘Well, America must be a super power,’ you are going to create disorder.
So the next question, sir, from that arises, which is very… it is necessary to inquire: can the mind observe without time, without memory, which is the material of the mind? Memory and time is the material of the mind. Can it observe without those two elements: time and memory? Because if it observes with memory, the memory is the centre, the me – right? – and time is the me also. Time being the evolution of the brain cells as evolving, evolving, becoming, all the rest. So can the mind observe without memory and time? Which is only possible when the mind is completely still. And the traditional people recognise this so they say, ‘We must practise in order to be silent. So control your mind’ – you know, the tricks they play.
CTR: I don’t see any particular importance in making emphasis on the stillness of the mind particularly at all because if one is able to see the non-dualistic way of looking at situations then you have a further energy to flow out rather than trying to create a stillness.
K: You can only have further energy to flow, greater energy when the mind is quiet, obviously.
CTR: But to make an emphasis on the stillness is…
K: No, no. We said to observe disorder the me with its memories, with its structure of time must not be. Then in that quality there is a quietness of the mind which observes. That stillness is not an acquired, practised thing. It comes naturally when you have order.
You see, sir, after all, what one can do is to point out and help the person to go the door. It is for him to open the door. You can’t do any more than that. And this whole idea of wanting to help people, wanting to – you know? – you become a do-gooder, and a do-gooder is not a religious man at all. Basta.
Shall we go on with this?
CTR: I think so. There is a further thing that can be clarified is when you make emphasis on the absolute peace.
K: I said, sir, complete order is complete quietness of the mind. Quietness of the mind is the most active mind.
CTR: That’s what I want you to say.
K: It’s the most dynamic thing; it isn’t just a dead thing.
CTR: Well, people could misunderstand.
K: Because they are only used to practice which will help them to become… That is death. But a mind that has gone… inquired into all this this way becomes extraordinarily active and therefore quiet.
CTR: That’s what I mean, yes.
K: It’s like a great dynamo.
K: The greater the speed, the most vitality.
Of course, sir, man – I don’t know – is seeking more energy. He wants more energy, to go to the moon, to go and live under the sea – you follow? – he is striving to have more and more and more. And I think this search for more does lead to disorder. The consumer society is a disorderly society. You see, the other day I saw in some place a paper tissue, Kleenex, which was all beautifully decorated. You follow? (Laughs)
So our question is: does the observation of disorder bring order? That’s really a very important point because for us, for most people effort is demanded in bringing about order because human beings are used to effort – struggle, fight, suppress, force oneself. Now all that has led to disorder socially, outwardly and inwardly. Right? And the difficulty with human beings is that they have never observed. They have never observed a tree, a bird, without division. Since they have never observed totally a tree or a bird they can’t observe themselves totally, they can’t see the total disorder in which one lives. There is always an idea: partially there is somewhere in me there is order which is looking at disorder. You follow what I mean? So they invent the higher self which will put order, which will bring about order in disorder: God is in you and pray to that God, he will bring about this order. Always this effort. What we are saying is that where there is the me there must be disorder. And if I look at the world through the me – the world outside or the world inside – there is not only division which brings conflict; that division creates chaos in the world, disorder in the world. Now to observe all that totally, in which there is no division, this observation is meditation. For that you don’t have to practise. All that you have to do is to be aware what exactly is going on inside and outside – just to be aware.
Krishnamurti in San Diego, 15 February 1972