Book Review: The First and Last Freedom by J. Krishnamurti (I/II)

The First and Last Freedom by J. Krishnamurti is one of the most profound works that I have ever come across after Vivekananda. I have always been intrigued with relationship between thinker and thought. To some extent, I think, after reading this book, I have come close to the understanding of the mind’s duality, of course in terms of thinker and thought.

In a way, we are unaware of ourselves. We need to find ourselves free from any external conditioning and Krishnamurti in this epic work approaches us in a psychological way and help us take out ourselves from our own miseries.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to transform oneself through rational introspection into clear thinking. It surely is a life-changing book.    

I don’t think I can ever review Krishnamurti’s books however, I have jotted down my understanding of his twenty chapters, which I have segmented into two parts (blog posts). This article consists of first ten chapters and here is the second post The First and Last Freedom by J. Krishnamurti (II/II) with the subsequent ten chapters.

I) What are we seeking

We are seeking permanence. None of the things that we acquire or run after in the material world gives us the feeling of permanence or reality. Hence, we look for something else, to which we have no clue. And then we come to a point in life, when we ask ourselves does the thing that gives us peace or permanence is outside? Can it be given to us by someone else?

Until and unless we understand ourselves, all our (outward) search is in vain. To gain clarity in one’s life and problems one suffers in the journey of life, one needs to know more about oneself. Knowing oneself can only be done via self-inquiry and not through imposed self-discipline. In fact, there is no end to self-knowledge, it is like an endless river.

As one studies and gradually goes deeper into the inner world of knowing oneself, one gains peace. And in that tranquillity, one finds the seed of permanence.   

II) Individual and society

Does an individual make a society or does society decides the parameters for individuals to follow? Humans, by nature, is a social animal and fitting into a society means a lot for us. So, we try to copy our leaders, influencers and lead lives as mentioned in the holy books. Not only our lives but our thought process too is bound by the opinions of others. And this will never lead to freedom.

For freedom, we need to break the shackles of “what will others think about us” syndrome.  

Also, we need to bring some alteration in social systems. Society as a whole is based on what people at large believe in, most of the time, it is backed up with their sentiments seeped in religion, politics, nationalism, traditions, hypocrisy and so on. In due course of time, social order sprouting from such lines of thought morphs into static and stale society. People come to a point when they do not care about the parameters set by them. Eventually this at large scale leads to disintegration, menace, war and dissatisfaction among the populace.

The only way to break free from the frustration is to create a social system that is based on inner transformation at individualistic level.  

III) Self-knowledge

Problems of the world is not outside. It is within the creator and so the solution too lies inside. World is the projection of ourselves, to understand the world, we must understand ourselves. We and our problems can never be understood in isolation. We just cannot live outside the world. Transformation of the world begins with transformation of self.

To transform oneself, self-knowledge is essential. And this is obtained by two things:

  • one, self-inquiry and
  • second, constant alertness (at mind level).

Both of these will give freedom from conditioning.

Method of knowing the self is done moment to moment. Accumulation of knowledge (by books, lecture, listening to a guru) and experience can never lead to understanding the self. In fact, both become centre through which thought forms and has its being.

As mentioned earlier, understanding the self is an ongoing process. And until and unless we cannot transform ourselves, we can never really transform the world. Revolution must begin within ourself but not according to – beliefs, ideologies, following a guru, religious fanaticism, influencers, politicians, leaders, orators etc.

IV) Action and idea

Idea comes first and then action takes place. If idea shapes action, then action can never lead to solution.

So how does idea come into being? Idea is the outcome of thought process. Thoughts come from memory. And memory is always in the past.

Action that is not based on idea is spontaneous, that is, independent of experience. And that is the only state of understanding. That is the only thing that frees.

As long as we cling to ideas, there can be no experiencing. Ideas are not truth. Truth is something that is experienced directly – moment to moment.

When mind is free from idea there can be experiencing. Only when thought is completely silent, is there a state of experiencing. Eventually, then the truth surfaces.

V) Belief

Why do we accept beliefs? We think our beliefs gives us our identity. We feel secure, else without beliefs we’d be lost. We think we understand ourselves through our belief system. However, Krishnamurti says, beliefs put limitations on our understanding of ourselves.

If there are no beliefs with which the mind has identified with, mind will then be capable of looking at itself as it is. Mind can only be free from beliefs when we understand the inward nature of the causes that make one hold on to it.

Once we are able to go behind and understand the whole process of desire at work. We transcend the idea of gathering stuff for ourselves and ready to set aside the knowledge that we have gathered so far including our life long beliefs.

VI) Effort

We feel effort is a part of our life as we want to reach somewhere. Similarly, we feel happiness comes through effort. But Krishnamurti says, joy and happiness do not come through effort.

“The moment of creation is not born out of struggle”.

Creativeness is a sense of total forgetfulness, total involvement, no turmoil. Rather its effortlessness.

Awareness of one’s insufficiency, loneliness, inadequacy leads to the desire to fulfil. When one accepts what “is” without avoidance, there comes a state of being in which all strife/effort ceases.

VII) Contradiction

We see contradiction in us because we have opposing desires. There is a constant denial of our desire by another desire. There is, however, no permanent desire. Since all desires are impermanent. Constant desire of arriving at one state to another brings about contradiction.

Life is a series of fleeting desires always in opposition to each other. To be free of contradiction, one must be aware of the present without choice. But mind cannot do it, as it is a product of time – of past or future. It just cannot comprehend the present.

To put an end to contradiction, the pattern of thought has to put an end. And this is done by self-knowledge. Questioning the self. Aware of being oneself, as if one is witnessing every aspect of the self.    

VIII) What is Self?

Self is everything about us – money, ideas, beliefs, experiences, intentions, work, job, relationships, personality, assets, profits, losses, accumulated memory, clan etc. what’s more – experience strengthens the self.

We have projections of multiple desires. And there is a constant interplay of:

  • what is seen objectively and our reaction to it, and/or
  • conscious & memories of unconscious

The naming of reaction is experience. Without reaction, there is no experience. And experience is always strengthening the “me”. Even other forms of discipline, belief and knowledge is also strengthening of self.

Can we dissolve this self/me?

Some say yes, while others say it is not possible. Some believe there is a timeless state, to which they call it as an eternal truth. And self could be merged into this timeless eternal truth. But Krishnamurti asks, isn’t the process of dissolving the self an act of strengthening the self only? We think, we are evolving and becoming better version of our own-self but inwardly, it is the “me” only that is functioning at different levels with different labels and different names.

Truth is not knowing; it is a state of being. Similarly, self is a state of being, it is not knowing.

IX) Fear

Fear is always in relation to the known, not to the unknown. We are afraid of death because we are afraid of losing what we possess. We must be free of everything that we own and all our relationships. One can say that fear comes from conscience but conscience itself is a product of conditioning throughout life. Again, which is the result of known.

Consciously and unconsciously, we feel comfortable in the idea that we are within the known regions. A mere thought of going outside the known, that is in the unknown makes us fearful. When our loved one dies, we find solace in the idea that life continuous after death. There is an afterlife. And this idea helps us to endure the grief.   

Fear, like self, finds escape in identification. When we identify ourselves with God, organisation, work, family, relationships, we feel better.

So how can we go beyond the boundaries of fear and self?

By understanding the whole process. Just like by taking a third party stand and looking at things from the perspective of an outsider. Understanding that the whole process is born of desire, which is an offshoot of a thought. Looking at it without an air of judgement, just as is. Eventually, we will be able to transcend the self-created boundaries of fear and the self.

X) Simplicity

Simplicity is not the outward show of having less or no assets. Neither does it mean to adjust to a specific pattern. Intelligence is the seed through which the fruit of simplicity sprouts in.

We think we can be simple by withdrawing. However, simplicity can never by reflected by outward behaviour. The route to simplicity starts from within and from there towards the outside.

To become inwardly simple, one has to understand attachments and fears because these are bondages. But we like to be prisoners, of our mind, our thoughts, our accomplishments, our properties, our likes & dislikes to name a few.

Simplicity requires intelligence. To be intelligent we must be aware of our own impediments. And to be aware, constant alertness is required.

Outward events make us wonder of its implications and gradually, it leads us towards the inner. Only by understanding the outer and not by rejecting the outer, we can reach to the inner. We move to investigate the complexities of our being. We then become more and more sensitive and eventually free.

Please find the second part of the post, here.

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