What is important is not controlling thought, but understanding it… The brain stores up memories…. If it had not stored up memories, it would not be able to think at all. That memory is the result of experience, of knowledge – yours, or of the community, of the family, of the race, and so on. Thought springs from that storehouse of memory. So thought is never free….there is no such thing as freedom of thought.
…..There is freedom only when there is an understanding of the function of knowledge and therefore freedom from the known.
Meditation is the emptying of consciousness of its content, the known, the “me”.
Whenever Alex and I do a road trip, I make some CDs for the road. One song always stands out, and seems to sum up the trip. There were a couple of contenders on this last visit to the States – The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds took on new meaning, and I fell in love all over again with Joni Mitchell’s Refuge of the Road. But the track that floored us both, made us quiet, and seemed to kick in at just the right moment was Imagine by John Lennon. I had only added it as a filler.
So much of this last trip was spent flipping from Earth to politics and society. While we were in the States, they experienced another mass shooting, the war in Ukraine rolled on, the fall-out from Covid was evident. We learned from locals about the effect of climate change. We listened to the Far Right on Fox News and local radio. We talked to the liberals on the California coast. Immigrant taxi drivers told us tales of enormous courage. We listened to waiters keen to tell us about the cost of living, the US health system, their struggles. And then we viewed monuments of the Earth. The weirdness of man’s creation had never been so evident.
Cue, Imagine. The simple words describing a utopia that has surely now slipped too far from our grasp. John Lennon had been friends with Krishnamurti, and indeed had visited him at his home in Ojai, California. Coincidentally, we had decided to end the road trip part of our travels in Ojai, at Krishnamurti’s former home, now a retreat and education centre. There is a suite there named after John Lennon, also rooms named after Charlie Chaplin and Aldous Huxley, both of whom were friends of Krishnamurti. Alex and I stayed in the Lawrence suite, where DH Lawrence had resided for a while.
Krishnamurti is not an easy teacher. If you watch videos of him he comes across as stern and patronising. His ideas are often abstract and difficult to grasp. He deliberately did not describe any method for spiritual advancement. Only the seeker can uncover the Truth – Krishnmurti is no guru. I find him the most sincere of all the recent spiritual thinkers and philosophers. I like the challenge posed by his words. I have dipped in and out of his teachings since my teens, and it had long been my dream to stay at his former home in Ojai.
The light at the property was extraordinary, sunlight filtered through large trees creating almost a glitter ball effect. It was clearly the home of a thinker – clean, spacious, with an ethereal feel. There was a sense of Krishnamurti throughout the place, as though his spirit had never left. We were allowed access to his former living rooms, now a library and information centre. We met his former chef who explained that Krishnamurti, in person, was very shy and warm, with a keen interest in World news. That he had had an almost extraterrestrial quality, as though he was not of this Earth. His main living room was white, open, and flooded with light. A grand piano hauntingly reminiscent of John Lennon’s Imagine video.
I got to wander through his home and soak it up. I browsed books in his library, sat in meditation in the dedicated quiet room. After all the grounded, earthy places we had visited, this was a shock to the system, very much a place of the mind and spirit, of contemplation, rising above everything to see clearly. His chef had told us that Krishnamurti did not concern himself with practical considerations like cooking, money, or travel plans. He was extremely fortunate to be able to dedicate his life to study, spiritual pursuits, travel, writing, and contemplation.
He was in yogic terms the ultimate higher chakra being, untouched by rajas and tamas, able to live a sattvic life effortlessly. Some believe he was a re-incarnated master – he clearly seems to have been gifted a life worthy of a great spiritual teacher. We have so few people able to live like that now – most spiritual types these days are busy promoting books or self-help retreats. And anyone who thinks outside the box is now seen either as a waster or a threat. Goodness knows what category of Woke they would have put Krishnamurti in.
I wrote a lot in Ojai. My meditation was uncomfortable but then Krishnamurti was not an easy touch. It shook all beliefs in who I am and what I want. Dug up a deep sense of sorrow, some of which I didn’t even realise I was carrying. And made me acutely aware of the conflict between yoga as a practice, and yoga as a business. I am still processing much of this and think I will be for some time! I came away with the instruction to find the light behind the sorrow and let that inform action. I have a strange feeling that I will be returning to Ojai.
Perhaps my lasting impression of our time in Ojai was of the vital role thinkers and idealists play. People who are unafraid to think outside the box and voice ideas that seem outlandish. Dreamers, as John Lennon put it. People free of the shackles of traditional ways of thinking – freedom from the known, as Krishnamurti said. We are all so hell-bent on “getting on with things”, and “c’est la vie” that we no longer allow the suggestion that maybe there is a better way. Looking at the States, here, Europe, the rest of the World, something needs to change. Climate change, a growing divide between rich and poor, wars, famine, pandemics, and mental health problems. This is a not a healthy World. Thinkers and dreamers need to step up, and fast. We are in desperate need of a new narrative.