discover anything you must look; and to look, your look must be
silent. Sir, if you look at your husband, your wife, or child, if
you have any ideas about that child, or about the image of your wife
or your husband, then you are not silently looking; your mind is
cluttered up with all these things, and therefore you cannot look.
So, to look, your mind must be silent, and the very urgency of
looking makes the mind silent. Not that you first have a silent
mind and then look, but rather the very necessity of looking at the
world's problem and therefore at your problem -- that very urgency
of looking makes the mind quiet, silent"
I discovered J. Krishnamurti’s
writings in the late 1960s. In addition to the incredible clarity
with which he wrote and spoke, I especially appreciated his rich,
vivid descriptions of nature which appear throughout the three-volume
Commentaries on Living and Krishnamurti’s Notebook.
Krishnamurti’s biographer and
long-time friend, Mary Lutyens, noted about Krishnamurti:
of his ever-constant characteristics was his feeling for natural
beauty. He would stand and watch a sky or a mountain or a tree or
shadows on water for half an hour or more at a time, utterly still,
utterly lost in looking.
had my first opportunity to see Krishnamurti in person around 1973. I
was living in Santa Cruz, California, when I learned he would be
speaking at the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco, a two-hour drive
away. About six months previously, after reading a book on the Bates
method of eyesight improvement, I had abandoned wearing prescription
glasses for nearsightedness and a slight degree of astigmatism. At
the time, I couldn’t pass the California driver’s test without my
glasses, and I had worn glasses since I was around eight or nine
years old. I was then twenty-four.
As I recall I had a front or
second-row balcony seat the night Krishnamurti appeared at the
Masonic Auditorium. When he first came out on the stage to take his
seat, he was just a gray blur to me from the balcony. From my seat, I
couldn’t make out any features on the person who had just come out
on stage. I reluctantly reached for my glasses in my coat pocket. I
hadn’t worn glasses in over six month, but I had brought them along
in case I needed them to fully experience my first opportunity to see
Krishnamurti in person. With mixed feelings of appreciation and
disappointment, I viewed him clearly through my prescription glasses.
I could see him sharp and crisply, but I needed these
crutches-for-the-eyes to do it.
Within a short while, I began to
get a headache. I am not prone to headaches and can recall having had
a total of six or so headaches in my entire life. Speculating on why
I now had a headache, I attributed it to the unaccustomed strain of
looking with the locked-in focus necessitated by the use of my
prescription glasses. I removed my glasses, leaned forward and rested
my closed eyes in my open palms. After a little while, Krishnamurti’s
words mirrored some of my own deeply held thoughts and feelings. I
felt a strong resonance with what he was saying. Without really
thinking about it, I took my palms down from my now opened eyes and
looked out toward the man who spoke so directly to me. I could see
him quite clearly as I continued to listen with rapt attention.
I suddenly realized that I didn’t have my glasses on,
and my ability to see his features started to slip immediately as I
returned to my previous state of fuzzy, sans-glasses seeing. This
experience enabled me to realize that my eyes truly were not
irreparably damaged but that some kind of conditioned habit of use
was keeping me from seeing clearly. I would go on to completely
abandon wearing glasses, take Bates natural vision classes, and
explore dietary modifications that would eventually enable me to pass
the California driver’s test without glasses on several different
occasions when renewing my driver’s license over the next
I later learned that Krishnamurti was
introduced to the Bates method by his friend Aldous Huxley, author of
many books including the The Art of Seeing. Huxley’s wife,
Laura, told me over the phone that when Krishnamurti got together
with Aldous one time, Krishnamurti was very favorably impressed with
Aldous’s improvement in health and asked him what he had been doing
differently. Aldous reportedly then told Krishnamurti about the Bates
method and how much they had helped him. Apparently, Krishnamurti
practiced Bates exercises daily for the rest of his life.
Krishnamurti retained excellent vision, and never required glasses
throughout his ninety years of life. He also reportedly walked
regularly, was a lifelong vegetarian, did two hours of yoga every
day, and regularly practiced pranayama breathing exercises.
As seriously as Krishnamurti looked at
many things in life, he remained a man who appreciated humor:
you have humor? Does humor exist in your lives, to laugh, not at
somebody, not at some joke, stupid joke, but to have laughter in
your eyes, in your mind, in your mouth, laughter. That is necessary.
If you don't know how to laugh at yourself, you will never be able
to laugh at all.
you are capable of laughter, real laughter, you don't know what
sorrow is, you don't know what it is to be really serious. If you
don't know how to smile, not merely with your lips, but with your
whole being -- with your eyes, with your mind and heart -- then you
don't know what it is to be simple and to take delight in the common
things of life.
the 1970s a friend, who was a parent of a student attending the Oak
Grove School which was founded by Krishnamurti in Ojai, California,
was mixing up a large bucket of paint at a Parents' Volunteer day.
Krishnamurti passing by, stopped for a moment and enthusiastically
commented, “That's a nice pot of soup you have there.” My friend
reportedly nodded his head affirmatively in playful agreement.
the late seventies I helped park cars at the Krishnamurti talks in
the Oak Grove in Ojai, California. In directing drivers to their
respective parking spaces, I developed my own combination of Tai Chi,
Mime and Paris traffic patrolman to the enjoyment of many of the talk
attendees. On the last day of the talks, as Krishnamurti was being
driven away from the talks by Mary Zimbalist, to my delight, as they
passed me we made eye contact and, Krishnamurti mimed his own
animated version of my traffic directing hand signals.
In his decades of speaking with people
all over the world, Krishnamurti talked about seeing and perception
extensively. How many times did he invite audience members to look
with him at the mountains with their dappled light and to look at a
tree or one’s wife or boyfriend clearly, as they really are,
without allowing an image or a flood of ideas to interfere with
how you see things. Do you see them with your eyes, with your mind?
Obviously, you see things with your eyes, but you see with the mind
much more quickly than with the eye. You see the world much more
quickly than the eye can perceive. You see with memory, with
knowledge, and when you so see things, that is with the mind, you
are seeing what has been, not what actually is.
find it very challenging to look at anything, whether it is my wife,
or a tree or a rock, without the image-making process coming into
play. Krishnamurti often suggests that to observe a tree or a rock is
relatively easy compared to clearly observing your wife or boy
friend. However I recently came upon a quote by Krishnamurti that
acknowledges the inherent difficulty of clearly observing anything.
observe is one of the most, difficult things. To observe a tree, for
example, is very difficult, and that is because you have ideas,
images, about that tree, and these ideas -- botanical knowledge --
prevent you from looking at that tree. To observe your wife or your
husband is even more difficult, again because you have an image
about your wife and she has an image about you, and the relationship
is between those two images.
aspect of perception that Krishnamurti talks about extensively, that
I did not bring up in the earlier version of this booklet, is the
importance of not recording
when perceiving wholly. Krishnamurti again and again asserts that a
mind that is directly perceiving wholly is not registering
my question is: is it possible -- please listen -- is it possible not
to register? You understand? Because if I keep on registering all
the time, the brain is always conditioning itself. I wonder if you
understand this! If I am always acting within the field of knowledge
- what I have learnt, what my experiences are and I am always acting
within that limited area, the conditioning becomes stronger and
stronger and stronger, which is what is happening with all of us.
Right? And so one asks: is it possible not to register
psychologically? You understand my question? This is a very, very
serious question. Is there a part of the brain which is capable of
not registering? You understand? If a human being is always
operating within the field of the known, which is his conditioning,
then the very activity of that produces greater volume of
resistance. So we are asking a most
question, not an idiosyncratic question, or a neurotic question: is
it possible for a brain not to register at all? Is there a part, or
is there a quality of the brain that understands the need of not
then there is the art of learning, accumulating knowledge which means
registering all the things that are necessary for skillful action,
and non- registering any psychological responses, any psychological
reactions so that the brain is employing itself where function,
skill are necessary through knowledge and the brain is free not to
register. Right? I wonder if you understand this. This is very
arduous, this, to be so totally aware so that you only register what
is necessary and not, absolutely not, register anything which is not
Mark Lee, former Krishnamurti
Foundation of America Executive Director, who had a long standing
friendship with Krishnamurti, shared a very interesting story with me
about Krishnamurti and seeing. Back in the late 1960’s, when Mark
was teaching at Rishi Valley School in India, Krishnamurti was
talking with the teachers there. Krishnamurti indicated that he
wanted the teachers to pay more attention to how the students walked,
how they talked, how they looked, and how they listened. Apparently,
Krishnamurti went into each aspect with the teachers and, when he got
to seeing, he mentioned the Aborigines in Australia. Krishnamurti
explained that it was his understanding that, when the Aborigines
were in the Outback, their senses were very, very sharp and they were
aware of everything -- in front of them, beside them, and he
reportedly asserted, “I swear,
they can even see behind them!” Krishnamurti then asked,
“How can we help our students here
at Rishi Valley to see with that kind of awareness?” Mark
said that he went away from the meeting feeling hard pressed to
address Krishnamurti’s simple but daunting challenge.
eventually came up with an idea that was implemented for a while at
Rishi Valley School. Every school day morning, some class time was
allotted for the students to explore expanding their range of
perception with their arms extended horizontally out to their sides.
The students and teachers would extend their fingers back out of
their range of vision while looking straight ahead and notice when
their fingers first came into view. Initially, the students had to
bring their fingers well forward of 180 degrees before they could
perceive them while looking straight ahead. After a little practice,
however, they grew much more adept at noticing their extended fingers
from a wider field of vision.
Mark took this information back to
Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti listened attentively to Mark’s
description of the vision activity he had been doing with the
students, and then he reportedly exclaimed,
is great! Now, if we can just get the students to see in this way all
the time, and not just for fifteen minutes in the morning!”
In another story Mark related from the
late sixties, it seems Krishnamurti suggested to a group of five to
ten Rishi Valley students:
you go into a room -- just for fun -- look straight ahead. Don’t
look around at anything, but be aware of everything in the room; see
the shapes, the colors, the people, and the furniture, everything,
without looking at it. Don’t move your eyes.
Later, some students reported to Mark
that they had tried out Krishnamurti’s suggestion, and they felt
they had noticed new things in their familiar classroom and been more
visually aware than they had been previously.
Speaking at Brockwood Park,
England, one time, Krishnamurti pointed out that, if the teacher sees
the student looking out the window, the student is generally
admonished by the teacher not to look out the window, but to pay
attention to the mathematics or whatever subject is at hand in the
classroom. But, Krishnamurti asked, "Can’t
the student attend to both the bird outside and the mathematics
An Oak Grove School teacher recently
told me that he has had high school students who can do this kind of
multitasking quite well, and who also seem to delight in drawing
questions from their teachers by appearing to be unaware of what is
going on in the classroom.
Mary Zimbalist related to me, in
an interview she gave me at her home in Ojai, that one day while
driving by the Pacific Ocean near Malibu, she had tried to explain to
Krishnamurti what it was like swimming in the Pacific, for, as she
said, “I used to swim in
the ocean.” She spoke of describing to him the
bracing coldness of the water, the force of the waves and currents,
the sensory intensity of the experience. She reported that
Krishnamurti listened attentively to her, and when she had finished
describing what her ocean swimming, had been like for her, he
exclaimed, “That’s the
kind of seeing that I’m talking about!”
weeks later, he gave a public talk in the Oak Grove in Ojai on seeing
with all the senses. Mary told me that she did not know if her
description of ocean swimming had influenced Krishnamurti to talk
about that particular topic. She also told me that Krishnamurti had
said to many people, at Brockwood Park, England on numerous
occasions, “Look widely as the
Buddha looked.” By this “look
widely as the Buddha looked” statement she understood
Krishnamurti to be advocating the wide -- angled kind of looking that
is suggested by the calm, wide -- eyed gaze on the face of the Buddha
in many statues. She said she wasn’t sure she remembered the exact
words, but “look widely as the
Buddha looked” was pretty close.
back to Krishnamurti’s previous statement:
“That’s the kind of seeing I’m talking about!”
Throughout the decades of his talks all over the world, Krishnamurti
made numerous references to seeing with all the senses, with the
eyes, ears, the heart, with everything one has -- in fact, he
asserted that, if we really give everything to seeing/perceiving, the
‘self’ is not. Krishnamurti also indicated that, if we’re
seeing with just our eyes, then we’re not really seeing at
all your senses awaken and function together as a whole? Have you
ever tried it? Then
you will find when all your senses are active, not sexual senses
only, but all your senses, the seeing, the hearing, the touching, the
emotions, the thought, all your senses – because thought is a
material process. When all of your senses are at their highest
excellency, the self is not. It is only when there is partial, dull
operation of one or two senses, then the self builds up.
Krishnamurti questioned the value of
narrowed concentration. Attention, yes, but concentration, no.
there is concentration, which is a process of exclusion, there is a
resistance and, therefore, a contradiction. But when there is
attention, there is no contradiction, because an attentive mind can
concentrate without exclusion.
to look with attention means to look with your nerves, your body,
your ears, your eyes, your heart, everything that you have, and
therefore it means energy. And that energy is dissipated when you
have an image about the object. Then if you do this, you will find
out for yourself that a mind which is so completely attentive is an
empty mind. And from that emptiness and silence there is action even
with regard to the most ordinary thing.
cannot attend if you are not silent. You listen to those crows,
actually listen, give your attention - not resistance. Listen to
those crows and listen to the speaker simultaneously - not two
different things. And to pay complete attention to the crows and to
the speaker, and to watch your own mind, how it is working, you need
that attention which comes out of complete silence. Otherwise, you
are merely resisting the crows and trying to listen to the speaker;
so there is a division, there is a conflict; so there is a pushing
away, an exclusion - which is what most people do, which is
attention means listening, seeing, without any distortion, doesn't
it? Which means no opinion, no comparison, you follow, all that? No
disorder, so when the mind listens completely, attends at the moment
when you call me a fool, completely attends, there is no image,
there is no time or energy to create images because all your energy
is taken in complete attention.
can, however, take place when the eyes are open and one is surrounded
by objects of every kind. But then these objects have no importance
at all; one sees them but there is no process of recognition, which
means there is no experiencing.
also pointed out, as he did to the students at Rishi Valley, that we
can also see more with our eyes open by looking straight ahead
without moving our eyes around.
on the other hand, you can do nothing and meditate, in the bus or
when you are driving -- it is the most extraordinary thing, that you
can meditate while you are driving -- be careful, I mean this. The
body has its own intelligence, which thought has destroyed.
is observation? You observe through the eye, don't you? Now, can you
observe without moving the eye? Because, if you move the eye, the
whole operation of the thinking brain comes into being. I won't go
into this because you'll turn it into some kind of mystical,
nonsensical thing mysterious and you know all the rest of that. And,
in inquiring, can you observe without any movement of the eye?
Because the eye has an effect on the brain.
different kind of seeing that Krishnamurti is pointing to is not to
be confused with staring. It is not about narrowing down, holding,
which often accompanies a restricting and holding of the breath. It
is instead, an expanding, opening process that invites the other
In short, Krishnamurti’s writings
invite us to see broader, further, more wholly—with full attention,
with all the senses, and with an appreciation of nature that is both
renewing and life-affirming. Many children, it seems to me, are more
familiar with this kind of vision than most adults. It is as simple
and as challenging as taking in the full 180-degree visual range that
is potentially available to us all the time.
her forward to Krishnamurti's Notebook, the late Mary Lutyens
describes the book's contennts as, “the wellspring of
Krishnamurti's teachings.” The whole essence of his teaching is
here, arising from its natural source.” She continues, “the
trees, mountains, rivers, clouds, sunlight, birds and flowers that he
describes over and over again are forever 'new' because they are seen
each time with eyes that have never become accustomed to them; each
day they are a totally fresh perception for him, and so they become
the Notebook’s exquisite descriptions of nature is an intimate
portrait portrayal of Krishnamurti’s inner perceptions, including
Seeing as if from the back of the head is mentioned several times.
in the morning when the sun was not yet up and the dew on the grass,
still in bed, lying quietly, without any thought or movement, there
was a seeing, not the superficial seeing with the eyes but seeing
through the eyes from behind the head. The eyes and from behind the
head were only the instrument through which the immeasurable past was
seeing into the immeasurable space that had no time.
1977 or 1978, Alan Kishbaugh, a former Krishnamurti Foundation of
America Trustee, asked me to escort Krishnamurti from his car out to
the podium during that year’s Ojai Talks. As I recall, I was
instructed by Alan just to be there -- I needn’t run interference
for him -- just be there, available. People had spoken to me of how
Krishnamurti seemed to be able to look right through you. Others
mentioned that he looked at you ‘as
if nobody were home.’
This was intended to imply his selflessness, not that he was vacant
in any way.
think both of these statements were ineffective attempts to describe
a person who is seeing differently, who isn’t narrowing down and
concentrating with tunnel vision, nor looking at something and
allowing a train of free-association images to run though his mind.
This different kind of seeing that he commonly used had a different
quality than our conventional ways of habitually perceiving.
me, initially, interacting with this man I greatly admired was just
plain unnerving. I didn’t know how to act. Fortunately, within a
short while, I gave up trying to figure out how to act and was just
myself, whatever that meant at the time. We hardly said much more
than good morning to one another and smiled.
him -- I was twenty-six at the time -- I found myself sometimes
feeling jaded and pretentious, in contrast to his more open, direct,
and childlike freshness. That is, until he got on the stage. Then he
became a lion -- not ferocious but strong -- and somehow it wasn’t
inconsistent with the somewhat shy, unpretentious person I had walked
with before he took his seat on the stage, donned his lapel
microphone, and looked silently out at the audience and began
addressing everyone who had come to hear him speak.
while further exploring the Krishnamurti CD which can be accessed on
the Internet at www.jkrishnamurti.com,
I discovered that Krishnamurti gave a great deal of attention to the
flash of understanding.
understanding is not permanent, if it is only to be caught in a
flash, then what happens during the interval between flashes?”
has to understand the whole inward nature of experience. For most of
us, experience is a reaction; it is the response of our memory to a
challenge. That memory of things we have known may be very ancient or
very modern; it may be superficial or profound, and we experience
according to that background. This further experience is accumulated,
stored up, and so it strengthens the background.
when there is a flash of understanding, it is not the response of the
background. At that
the background is completely silent. If the background is not silent,
there is no understanding, for you are merely interpreting in terms
of the old whatever you hear or see. The flash of understanding is
not continuous, not permanent. Continuity or permanence belongs
entirely to the background of experience and knowledge which is
everlastingly responding to challenge.
comes only in a flash, and how does this flash take place? This flash
cannot take place in a mind that is lazy, distorted, traditional,
dull, stupid, nor in a mind that is seeking power, position,
prestige. This flash of understanding occurs only in a mind that is
very alert, and when there is no flash, the mind is still alert. Such
a mind is completely awake, aware. And to be totally, choice-lessly
aware, observing every movement of thought and feeling, seeing
everything that is going on -- this is far more important than to
await the flash of understanding.
In The Ending of Time Krishnamurti
discusses the flash extensively and summarizes at one point with Dr.
Bohm and others by stating:
question Dr Bohm put, posed, was: why do you say insight changes,
brings about a mutation in the brain cells. That was the question.
That question has been put after a series of discussions. And we
have come to a point when we say that flash, that light, has no
cause, and that light operates on that which has cause, which is the
darkness. Which is, that darkness exists as long as the self is
there, is the originator of that darkness, that light dispels the
very center of darkness. That's all. We have come to that point. And
therefore there is a mutation and so on and so on.
Throughout Krishnamurti's Notebook
there are other numerous references to “flash” including:
deeply nature and tender everything has become and strangely all life
is in it; like a new leaf, utterly defenseless. There was, as one
woke up this morning early, a flash of ``seeing'', ``looking'', that
seems to be going on and on for ever. It started nowhere and went
nowhere but in that seeing all sight was included and all things. It
was a sight that went beyond the streams, the hills, the mountains,
past the earth and the horizon and the people. In this seeing, there
was penetrating light and incredible swiftness. The brain could not
follow it nor could the mind contain it. It was pure light and a
swiftness that knew no resistance.
in this paper, I stated that
Krishnamurti has left us some clues as to ways we can see and
perceive more wholly, be more aware. Let me now briefly review some
of those clues: He emphasized the importance of perceiving freshly,
with innocent eyes free from thought by keeping the eye balls “still,
but completely awake.”
Krishnamurti also emphasized looking
widely as the Buddha had and the Australian Aborigines, and he
encouraged us to learn to see in this broader way “all
of the time.”
Included in these clues, also, is the
necessity of seeing with all the senses together, not just the eyes
“and the rest gone to
sleep.”and he also pointed out that, in profound seeing,
there is a sense of seeing “with
one’s whole head as though from the back of the head with one’s
importance of keeping registering and recording to a minimum was also
brain became very quiet; quivering fully alive; every sense was
alert; the eyes were seeing the bee on the window, the spider, the
birds and the violet mountains in the distance. They were seeing but
the brain was not recording
One could feel the quivering brain, something tremendously alive,
vibrant and so not merely recording.
Krishnamurti put great emphasis on the importance of seeing that the
observer is the observed, the thinker is the thought, the experiencer
is the experienced. He asserted that the ability to truly see that
the observer is the observed, not just intellectualize it or take it
on as a belief -- to really see that the observer is the
observed -- is essential.
is no division between the world and you: you are the world.
without the word, which is without thought, is one of the strangest
phenomena. Then the perception is much more acute, not only with the
brain, but also with all the senses. Such perception is not the
fragmentary perception of the intellect nor the affair of the
emotions. It can be called a total perception, and it is part of
meditation. Perception without the perceiver in meditation is to
commune with the height and depth of the immense. This perception is
entirely different from seeing an object with an observer, because in
the perception of meditation there is no object and therefore no
there's an inward observation which is not the outward observation
turned inward. The brain and the eye which observe only partially do
not comprehend the total seeing. They must be alive completely but
still; they must cease to choose and judge but be passively aware.
Then the inward seeing is without the border of time-space. In this
flash a new perception is born.
Where do all these clues lead?
That is for each one of us to discover, for, as Krishnamurti once
pointed out, “The challenge is as
big as you make it.”
it that we are so caught up in our own network of problems, our own
desires, our own urges of pleasure and pain that we never look
around, never watch the moon? Watch it. Watch with all your eyes and
ears, your sense of smell -- watch. Look as though you are looking
for the first time. If you can do that, that tree, that bush, that
blade of grass you are seeing for the first time. Then you can see
your teacher, your mother and father, your brother and sister, for
the first time. There is an extraordinary feeling about that: the
wonder, the strangeness, the miracle of a fresh morning that has
never been before, never will be. Be really in com- munion with
nature, not verbally caught in description of it, but be a part of
it, be aware; feel that you belong to all that, be able to have
love for all that:to admire a deer, the lizard on the wall, that
broken branch lying on the ground. Look at the evening star, the new
moon, without the word, without merely saying how beautiful it is
and turning your back on it, attracted by something else, but watch
that single star and new, delicate moon as though for the first
time. If there is such a communion between you and nature, then you
can commune with man, with the boy sitting next to you, with your
educator, or with your parents. We have lost all sense of
relationship, in which there is not only a verbal statement of
affection and concern, but also this sense of communion which is not
verbal. It is a sense that we are all together, that we are all
human beings; we are all living on this extraordinary, beautiful