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.
Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.


All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.