Krishnamurti’s Teachings and COVID-19
- March 8, 2018
- Posted by: kec_admin
- Category: Uncategorized
Perhaps the most conspicuous point of contact between the virus and Krishnamurti’s philosophy has to do with how thoroughly the virus disregards national boundaries.
A friend of mine recently asked me whether Krishnamurti’s teaching really applies to everyday life. I said, of course it does. Consider, for example, the coronavirus. At first glance, we might think Krishnamurti would have little to say about an event that is medical and biological in nature. On the other hand, a crisis that is global in scope might be fertile ground for the application of his philosophy. Because he is not present to make his own contribution, we have to speculate about what he might say, but certain observations seem to be in order.
Perhaps the most conspicuous point of contact between the virus and Krishnamurti’s philosophy has to do with how thoroughly the virus disregards national boundaries. Those borders we construct so carefully and attach so much significance to are wholly devoid of meaning to the virus. It goes where it pleases according to entirely different principles.
The next point of contact between the virus and the teachings has to do with the manner of its transmission. It jumps from one organism to another. Its highly contagious quality underscores the extent to which we are all connected. From the perspective of the virus, we are hardly even individuals: we are a species, an interconnected mass of living tissue. From the perspective of the virus, we are one global superorganism.
It is also interesting to consider how we label the virus. It can be called COVID-19, or “the novel coronavirus,” or even “the Chinese virus.” Krishnamurti would be the first to point out that these labels inevitably influence how we respond to the epidemic.
We may also consider the point of origin of the virus. It evidently came from animals sold in public marketplaces. If we left wildlife alone in their own habitats, this virus would never have made the leap to infect Homo sapiens. This epidemic is a reflection of our dysfunctional relationship with nature, a relationship that Krishnamurti went to great lengths to attempt to repair in his writing.
“Be really in communion with nature, not verbally caught in the description of it, but be a part of it, be aware, feel that you belong to all that. Be able to have love for all that, to admire a deer, the lizard on the wall, a broken branch lying on the ground. Look at the evening star or the new moon, without the word, without merely saying how beautiful it is and turning your back on it, attracted by something else.”
– J. Krishnamurti
Finally, there are some interesting parallels between the way viruses function in the biological field and the way thought functions in the psychological field. Krishnamurti says that thought is not a living thing, as we tend to assume; it is memory, an artifact of the past, and therefore not really alive. A virus, similarly, is not alive. It is a fragment of genetic material that invades living tissue and hijacks cellular machinery for its own purposes. The similarity with the way thought functions is an interesting and illuminating story.
Thoughts and viruses are both pieces of information. The genetic information encoded in viruses is wrapped in a protective shell (the corona of coronavirus) that enables it to penetrate the walls of cells. The protective shell of a thought is the thinker, the psychological entity we regard as the source of our thoughts. As mere pieces of information, thoughts and viruses are not alive in themselves, but they are specifically designed to interact with living tissues. This gives them the semblance of something living, and therefore difficult to distinguish from life.
The viruses present in the global ecosystem number in the trillions, and the vast majority are benign, harmless to humans. The dangerous ones, however, are potentially lethal. Somewhat similarly, most thoughts are not problematic, but the dangerous ones may cause wars and other severe forms of conflict and violence. For this reason, the inherent qualities and characteristics of thought — the subject of so much of Krishnamurti’s work — warrant the closest study and most careful observation.
“In the understanding of what meditation is, the mind has discovered that thought has its right place. And when it discovers that it has a right place, then you will see that thought is no longer a matter of importance.”
– J. Krishnamurti
Author: David Edmund Moody
David Edmund Moody, PhD, is the author of a new biography of Krishnamurti, focusing primarily on his life in Ojai and the United States. This biography sheds new light on Krishnamurti’s relationships and the meaning of his work. Krishnamurti in America: New Perspectives on the Man and his Message, (Alpha Centauri Press, 2020) is now available on Amazon.
Moody was the first teacher hired at Oak Grove when it opened its doors in 1975. His experiences there as teacher, educational director, and director are described in his previous book, The Unconditioned Mind: J. Krishnamurti and the Oak Grove School (Quest, 2011). This book recounts the history of the first twelve years of the school, including Krishnamurti’s close involvement in it and Moody’s many interactions with him.