What does Krishnamurti invite us to do?

One can’t listen to Krishnamurti without looking at the role that thought plays in one’s life

Krishnamurti is like someone revealing an endless vista of human consciousness, as though some kind of natural unfolding of awareness, of infinite learning, is what it means to be truly alive. But instead of being lured away from reality, from what is, by an enticing mirage of that, he invites me to see and understand where I am here and now. And that will mean not covering up, not copping out from what is experienced in everyday, ordinary life (not perhaps so easy, if as psychiatrist Anthony Clare once said, most of us are in denial of our inner world).

Usually, after some dispute or when lonely or worried, for example, we seek escapes — the company of others, one’s mobile, TV, the Web, or looking for a new partner. Instead Krishnamurti suggests staying with such states, holding them, dwelling in them, observing them in the way already mentioned, without condemning or justifying. So one now has a different option with such ‘negative’ states: to explore them and see what that does.

In a way this is like an all-embracing version of what psychologists recommend us to do with grief. We need to make room for disturbed energy to well up and dissolve, and for what caused it to reveal its roots and story. Without this venting, the disturbed energy will remain intact and repressed, able to flare up again in the future. And what gives extra interest and vitality to such self-monitoring is the sense of exploring human consciousness, rather than something that is exclusively personal.

One can’t listen to Krishnamurti without looking at the role that thought plays in one’s life. What is misapplied, useless thought? And what is its rightful role? Also, a frequent proposal of his is to ask oneself, very seriously, a fundamental question and not answer it, but ‘plant it like a seed in the mind.’

This is how some of the great scientific discoveries have been made, so why not do this to one’s own psyche? Perhaps the most crucial questions are: Am I aware of my self-image and the life-determining effects it has? Are self-images and the images made of others inevitably stunting, blinkered perceptions? Why have them at all, if one sees that they are? And what is intelligence? Is it, for example, understanding what love is? And does putting and exploring such questions in my life wake me up?

It is possible to see what Krishnamurti is asking us to do as very simple: to make wider and deeper use of natural faculties of the mind. But he sees this not merely as a matter of useful enhancement, but as an urgent and deep need, something that life demands. Neglect of these faculties causes us confusion, distress and conflict. And before they can flourish one needs to be aware of and understand the reasons for this neglect. Does this all sound heavy going? Well, unravelling knots in one’s psyche through observation does, at least sometimes, have something of the fun of solving an equation or a tough riddle. Another question for checking whether something helpful happens is: are at least some of my problems no longer problems?

But is this kind of inquiry only for a dedicated few? Here is Krishnamurti’s answer: ‘…let us not make this into an elitist understanding. Any person who pays attention, who wants to hear, who is passionate, not just casual about it, and who really says, "I must find the source of life" will listen. He will listen—not to me — he will just listen. It’s in the air.’

David Skitt was educated at Cambridge. From 1955 to 1985 he worked as a translation revisereditor for the OECD and the European Space Agency in Paris. He is a trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation at Brockwood Park, Hampshire.
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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