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Truth is a Pathless Land

My interest in Krishnamurti began in 1986 when I learned of his death. The most quoted paragraph of this Indian philosopher was part of the news in the magazine: "Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.” If, as this columnist thinks, Krishnamurti’s assertion is right, why are there so many religious dogmas and political doctrines that want to take possession over the 'truth'?

My enthusiasm for the writings of this thinker was highest. I read his biography (two volumes by British writer Mary Lutyens), I bought a dozen of his books, I studied and dug deep down in five of them, and I browsed through the remaining. When I shared with someone my intellectual adventure, his criticism was scathing: "I could not care less for an author who needs those many volumes to present his thought". My friend shook me because it sounds indeed paradoxical to write so extensively about a journey that has no maps, directions or distances.

Did I lose my effort? In no way. Rereading the Indian writer, first, and following the teachings of the Buddha, afterwards, I left my confusion behind.  Krishnamurti's speeches (many of his books were transcripts of them), like the Buddha’s discourses, far from being speculations about theories, are invitations to the observation of the contents of the mind by those asking questions to the speaker; listeners, during the dialogues, can parallelize within themselves the introspection that the speaker is suggesting. Readers may do similarly as they go through the written texts. Self-observation, I noticed then, is something that we seldom practice.

What is the territory of Krishnamurti’s ‘truth’? "Man is an amphibian who lives simultaneously in two worlds: the given (matter, life and consciousness) and the home-made, the world of symbols (where we make use of a great variety of symbol-systems: linguistic, mathematical, pictorial, musical, ritualistic…). Without such symbol-systems we should have no art, no science, no law, no philosophy... In other words, we would be animals”, says Aldous Huxley in the foreword to a book by Krishnamurti. Unfortunately, adds the English writer, certain symbols in the domain of religion and politics, when we act in response to them, can carry humans to use the same forces that they have developed "as instruments for collective suicide and mass murder".

Thanks to the world of symbols, we understand a significant portion of the world of the given. However, while scientists already understand matter to a good extent and have glimpses of insight in the functioning of life, they are fully ignorant in the field of consciousness. The portion of the world of the given that scientists still cannot grasp is the ‘pathless land’ of the Indian Sage. It is there where some segments of the world of symbols -the religious dogmas and the political doctrines- find fertile ground to seize, with the tragic results we know.

What are our hypothetical not yet proven truths? Those we learned from our parents? The ones we were taught in school? The ones we copied from our adolescent friends? Those we read in some persuasive text? The ones we heard from some talkative speaker? Let us respond with caution because only the silent mind can be impartial.

“Truth cannot be repeated; when repeated it becomes a lie’, says Krishnamurti. He adds: “Take, for example, the feeling of love. Can you repeat it? When you hear the words 'love your neighbor', is that a truth to you? It is truth only when you do love your neighbor; and that love cannot be repeated but only the word. Yet most of us are happy with the repetition, 'Love your neighbor'. Merely repeating certain ideas is not reality”.

Religious leaders in their sermons and political leaders in their talks are repeaters of what they read in their sacred books or their doctrinal manuals (when not in their bank accounts). Do you think, patient reader, that your religious doctrine or your political creed is the 'truth'? If it is so, please read again the quote that opens this note and ask yourself, leaving aside the biases of upbringing: “Would this be 'my truth' if I had been handed over for adoption to foreign parents, on the other side of the planet, when I were just a newborn?”

Gustavo Estrada