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Krishnamurti: Two Birds on One Tree

Krishnamurti: Two Birds on One Tree

by Ravi Ravindra

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A longtime student and friend reveals both the spiritual greatness and the human pathos of his remarkable teacher.


A longtime student and friend reveals both the spiritual greatness and the human pathos of his remarkable teacher.

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Quest Books
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4.06(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.34(d)

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Two Birds on One Tree

By Ravi Ravindra

Theosophical Publishing House

Copyright © 1995 Ravi Ravindra
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8356-0718-6



It is precisely because I hear your call that I wish to write to you. The last time I heard you speak, I was once more convinced that this planet is blessed because Krishnamurti walks on it. This feeling adds to my urgency in writing to you. I can foresee the loss there will be when you are no longer here, corporeally visible, radiating palpable energy. Even though any one of us comes close to you at our own peril and must take the risk of being burned, something in your words encourages us to approach you.

I wish, first of all, to say something arising out of our shared cultural and racial history. It is perhaps owing to this common ground that I sometimes fancy I could be your younger brother. In the vast history and mythology of our land, there has been a continual outpouring of spiritual greatness. Maybe this is the special calling and genius of the land of the Bharatas. In my view, you, Krishnamurti, stand foremost among the living bearers of this greatness. In your life and your words you have expressed, perhaps more strongly than anyone else, the need for freedom—from tradition, from history and from teachers. And yet you seem somehow bound by our tradition's long sundering of the orders of time and eternity.

I sense a distortion here which I hope you will help me reappraise. The death of Krishna, when the present age of Kali is said to have begun, marks a radical discontinuity, monumental in its consequences, in the vision of the greatest of our seers. Since that time scarcely any among them—in marked contrast to those of earlier ages—have honored the demands of the world of time simultaneously with the demands of the world of Eternal Intelligence.

The first time I heard you speak was in a public place in India, not far from an exhibition of armaments captured in a recent war. The exhibition, designed to feed the euphoria of a claimed victory, took place near the center of political power in our country. There you sat, physically frail, a spiritual giant. You inveighed against the hypocrisy and stupidity of our rulers with such moral authority that, for a few moments, my heart cherished the hope of a new age dawning in our land, which has been impoverished for a millennium by barbarians who considered winning the world more important than wooing the Spirit.

We had, no doubt, prepared our own ruin. When one of our greatest sons, Gautama Buddha, having conquered the higher kingdom, did not see fit to rule the lower, our later troubles should have been foreseen. From that time onwards, our saints have not been heroes, and our heroes have not been wise. If we had ceased to respond to the demands of our spiritual destiny, there would have been no reason for our continued existence. But what happened was that we did not give the world its due, and the world took vengeance, imperiling our very purpose.

There was a time when our sages married, raised children, fought battles and ruled kingdoms. What change occurred at the turning of the ages? For a long time our culture has not felt that this world could be spiritualized, or that an engagement with it could provide an opportunity for the honing of our instruments of perception to delight in the Spirit. We have behaved as if the world of time and space were a mistake, an unholy illusion, as if freedom consisted in escaping from it by retracting our senses and turning our minds wholly inwards.

I know this is not what you yourself say or do. Nevertheless, the division you make between what is of time and what is timeless has, historically, always led to a devaluation of the world, often followed by a reaction of excessive valuation. My question is, what cosmic necessity, in the scheme of things, makes this duality irreconcilable? Why is it that the two yearnings of my soul—seeking after timeless truth and a passionate involvement with the world—should be in contradiction? Could it not be that the fact of this dual yearning is our opportunity? Might it not even define our human task and place in the universal scheme?

I am now convinced that the resolution of my difficulties is not to be found in discussion or in doctrine, or in any other manifestation of thought. You have often pointed this out. If what is needed is an internal reordering which might make a larger vision possible, how am I to prepare myself for this? Is it solely a matter of grace? Can my thought or body in any way help?

Something in me knows you are right when you say truth is a pathless land. I know my own tendency to imagine that if I were to do certain good things, use certain right formulas, follow certain wise teachers, I should be enlightened and free. In spite of my intermittent wish and hope to the contrary, this much is clear to me: Truth cannot be achieved; there is no path which can lead to It in any determinant manner.

Does this have to mean that there are no models, injunctions or traditions which could influence a person—or even a whole culture—in the right direction? I am what I am, in confusion and conflict, only occasionally in search of order. Is it not possible for me to try to live in a manner that will orient me towards the Truth? Will the description of this manner of living not be a teaching? Does the teacher not, in fact, help? It seems to me that this process of preparation takes place in time. The question, then, is not how to escape the mind or the body or time or the world, but rather how to find their right use and place.

I sense something fundamental here. You speak about freedom from fear, from thought and from time. Freedom is only a rare and fleeting presence in my inner and outer world. For me, to be aware of what is, is to be aware of inner slavery, anxiety and vanity. Where can I begin if not from where I am? What I need is to learn how to channel my life energy into a saner mode of existence. Your immediate presence has sometimes refreshed my parched soul like a flash flood. But I need to begin to build a reservoir for a steady irrigation.

You have said that the everlasting is not eternal, and that an endless continuation in time does not lead to timeless freedom. But can anything in the realm of time resist the thunderbolt from above? Should we not expect that even the darkest recesses of our mind and of our society have the possibility of being reoriented? They also exist and are part of what is. Perhaps their energy comes from the same source which illumines our highest parts. In that case, no person can be wholly without some saving grace. Is what we need not so much to cease doing what we are doing, as to inform our present activities with awareness?

Perhaps our tradition's radical separation of time and eternity has severed us from a root source of vital energy. It puzzles me that in the land of Shiva and Krishna our spirituality has become so pious and meek. We seem to have become obsessed with a pure white light to the exclusion of all the exuberant colors. Our men have been domesticated and no longer roam as the wild rhinoceros. Nowadays, when one of us is blessed with the opening of the third eye, he does not go riding the bull Nandi, accompanied by his ruffian friends, to wed the mountain woman, Parvati, who will produce virile sons. It takes a robust holy scandal of a man to do that. We have become too tame, too proper, too otherworldly. How can we stand with Shiva, at the eternal still point in the circle of time, engaged in the rhythmic dance of life?

I wish to return to the question of taking "time" seriously and, along with it, "history" and "thought." When you say that thought breeds fear, I can understand that many fears are created and sustained by thought. But does thought always produce fear? Are there no fears which arise independently of thought? Perhaps what I am doing is analyzing. I once heard you say to a large crowd, "Analysis is paralysis." I was aware then of the wholeness of your vision and of the possibility of an understanding more profound than analysis. But a year later, meeting a young man who quoted your remark as a slogan but could not hold a clear thought even for a few seconds about quite ordinary things, I was struck by the terror of what your subtle whispers can lead to in the hands of unprepared and undisciplined people.

You so often talk about real observation in which the observer and the observed are no longer separated from each other. Yet, clearly, you and I and a tree are distinct from each other; if in nothing else, at least in the spaces we occupy. What perspective is it in which the obvious particularities become insignificant and disappear? The feeling that I am, when present during perception, seems to anchor my fluctuating attention and connect me with what I observe, without eliminating my individuality. Does that imply that what distinguishes me from other beings and objects is less a part of myself than what unites me?

The reason I say all this to you is that you seem to be almost alone in our land in your concern with being aware of what is, rather than imagining what could be or should be. What is really important about you is that you are a free man—partly perhaps owing to the Indian tradition and partly, no doubt, in spite of it. In any case, you have the enormous spiritual power necessary to bring about a radical reorientation of a tradition. This, however, seems to require not only the vision of timeless freedom but also a participation in the joys and sorrows of this world and a knowledge of her laws. What is a human being if not a field of interaction between time and eternity?

What you have been saying for half a century strikes a responsive chord; yet to my understanding, it appears partial and incomplete. It seems to ignore time, change and becoming. I suspect it is my own anxiety that impels me to ask for a track in a pathless land, and for a process that will produce uncaused freedom. Nevertheless, something in me does not let go; and I am not sure whether this is my weakness or my strength. I am troubled because I do not know how to reconcile the call I hear from your distant shore with the realities where I am. It is clear that a bridge cannot be built from here to There. But can it be built from There to here?

With gratitude and affection,

There is another art, which is the art of observation, the art of seeing. When you read the book which is yourself, there is not you and the book. There is not the reader and the book separate from you. The book is you.

Then you must also know what meditation is, what it is to have a very still, a very quiet mind. And it is only such a mind that can know the real religious mind. And without the religious mind, without that feeling, life is like a flower that has no fragrance, a river bed that has never known the rippling waters over it, it is like the earth that has never grown a tree, a bush, a flower.

When we consider what meditation is, I think one of the first things is the quietness of the body. A quietness that is not enforced, sought after. I do not know if you have noticed a tree blowing in the wind and the same tree in the evening when the sun has set? It is quiet. In the same way, can the body be quiet, naturally, normally, healthily?

J. Krishnamurti



Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.

Because I am free, unconditioned, whole, not the part, not the relative, but the whole Truth that is eternal, I desire those who seek to understand me to be free, not to make out of me a cage which will become a religion, a sect. Rather should they be free from all fears—from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, from the fear of life itself.

For two years I have been thinking about this, slowly, carefully, patiently, and I have now decided to disband the Order, as I happen to be its Head. You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages, new decorations for those cages. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.

Thus on August 2, 1929, at the age of thirty-four, Jidda Krishnamurti announced his great renunciation. He dissolved the Order of the Star, an international organization specially created for him by the leaders of the Theosophical Society, who had heralded him as the vehicle of the coming Messiah. Soon afterward, Krishnamurti dissociated himself from the activities of the Society, although it is not clear whether he ever formally resigned from it. He wished to break away completely from the influence of those who had sought to mold him and to confine him within a traditional messianic role.

Jiddu Krishnamurti was born on May 11, 1895, the eighth child of a Telugu Brahmin petty official, in Madanapalle, a small town in Andhra Pradesh, India. Before he was born, his mother, an unusual and sensitive woman, had a premonition that he was to be remarkable in some way. A renowned astrologer who cast the boy's horoscope was convinced that Krishna—as he was called as a child—would be a very great man indeed. The astrologer held to this conviction even when, to his father's great disappointment, Krishna turned out to be vague and dreamy and made little progress in his studies. From early childhood he was inclined to be religious, although he also had an aptitude for mechanical things. Generous by nature, he would often return from school having given away his pencil or slate or notebook to some poor child who could not afford to buy one. After his mother died, when he was ten, it became evident that he was endowed with clairvoyance and other special powers, for he often saw her after her death.

When Krishna's father, a Theosophist, retired, he moved with four of his sons to the Theosophical Society's headquarters at Adyar. It was there one day in 1909 that C.W. Leadbeater, a leader of the Theosophical Society who was considered a great occultist, discovered Krishna playing on the beach. Leadbeater was struck by Krishna's aura which he said was the most wonderful he had ever seen and which was without a particle of selfishness. He was convinced that Krishnamurti was to be the vehicle of Lord Maitreya, the coming World Teacher. Annie Besant, president of the Society, shared his conviction. In order to prepare the body and the mind of Krishnamurti to serve as the proper vehicle for Lord Maitreya, Leadbeater and Besant took over the protection, care and education of Krishna and also of his beloved younger brother, Nitya.

In 1910, their father transferred the legal guardianship of Krishna and Nitya to Mrs. Besant. Later he changed his mind and launched upon litigation that dragged on for several years. He brought charges of sexual misconduct against Leadbeater, although the boys completely denied there was any truth in these allegations. The case went through several courts in England and was finally thrown out by the Privy Council, but by this time the father had become completely estranged from his sons. Later on, when Krishna and Nitya returned to India after an absence of ten years, they made a special point of going to see their father, in the hope of being reconciled with him. According to Krishna's biographer, Mary Lutyens, when Krishna and Nitya paid their visit, they prostrated themselves and touched their father's feet with their foreheads, as is the custom in India. Their father immediately went and washed his feet, declaring them defiled by the touch of pariahs.

Between 1909 and 1929, during the most formative years of his life, from age fourteen to thirty-four, Krishnamurti was almost constantly under the influence of the Theosophical Society. Soon after Leadbeater discovered him, the Theosophists formed a special group called the Order of the Star in the East (later the Order of the Star) to facilitate the mission they foresaw for him. The group, composed of the most senior members of the inner circle of Theosophy and many others, was designed to prepare people to receive the new Messiah or World Teacher who was to inhabit Krishna's body and speak through him. They launched a journal called The Herald of the Star, later The Star Review, with Krishnamurti as its nominal editor. It contained accounts of many past lives of the reincarnating ego of Krishnamurti under the "star name" of Alcyone. In these accounts many of the leaders of the Theosophical Society, under their star names, played significant roles.


Excerpted from Krishnamurti by Ravi Ravindra. Copyright © 1995 Ravi Ravindra. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ravi Ravindra, Ph.D., is a spiritual visionary, scholar, and leading international speaker on religion, science, and spirituality. A native of India, he emigrated to Canada and is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he served for many years as a professor in Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Physics. He was a Member of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla, and Founding Director of the Threshold Award for Integrative Knowledge. He has been a member of the Board of Judges for the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Ravindra's spiritual search has led him to the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, G. Gurdjieff, Yoga, Zen, and a deep immersion in the mystical teachings of the Indian and Christian classical traditions. He is the author of many books, including Christ the Yogi: A Hindu Reflection on the Gospel of John and Krishnamurti: Two Birds on One Tree.

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