Nature Writings

We have introduced Krishnamurti in the 'Selected Masters' section, and saw that he could not be called primarily a Nature mystic in his teaching or thinking. However the space which he devotes to descriptions of Nature in his notebooks indicates the importance it held for him, and we also know that he spent a considerable time walking in Nature and gardening where the opportunity allowed. Perhaps the best of his many 'notebooks' is The Only Revolution, which introduces each section with keenly observed natural scenes, though not observed in the way that a naturalist would. Here are some examples:

For Krishnamurti, Nature's appeal is in the silence that resonates between him and it. He, like Jefferies, was glad for the minimum of modern intrusion on nature, so that the human blended with it and did not jar. In the next extract it is clear how people and their obliviousness to nature pained Krishnamurti.

This is included because it shows many of Krishnamurti's concerns and how he related them to Nature. In the daffodils he 'forgot the world'; for Krishnamurti, more like Jefferies than like Whitman, was not the 'rough' type that allows for the common, coarse and good-natured. The following passage shows again Krishnamurti's sensitivity to nature (he is speaking to Asit Chandmal):

It is instructive to compare Krishnamurti with the Buddha and Richard Jefferies in this context. As far as we can tell all three men placed no importance on the spiritual teachings of other individuals or traditions, relying entirely on their own direct apprehension of the truth. In different degrees this amounts to a form of iconoclasm, not of a destructive kind but nevertheless a view that was forcefully held. In the case of the Buddha we find no interest in Nature at all, though his eyes must have been as open and as sensitive to it as Krishnamurti or Jefferies. Was it simply that our consciousness of Nature is a result of the Industrial Revolution and the following realisation that we were in danger of losing it? Not necessarily, when we think for example of the Nature writings of Matsuo Basho in Japan of the seventeenth century, a place that was to be untouched by the Industrial Revolution for another two hundred years. What then, makes a man like Krishnamurti, in many ways so like the Buddha, place such an emphasis on Nature? Without knowing more about the Buddha as a man, all we might say is that perhaps it comes down to personality, and in particular an aesthetic sense. The is shared between Krishnamurti and Jefferies, but their response to Nature is not quite the same. The immense reserve of Krishnamurti did not permit the more ecstatic expression found in Jefferies' prose, but he nevertheless finds the same eternity in it. Perhaps, in keeping with Krishnamurti's temperament, it was silence above all that Nature spoke to him about, as we see in this passage:

     Silence has many qualities. There is the silence between two noises, the silence between two notes and the widening silence in the interval between two thoughts. There is that peculiar, quiet, pervading silence that comes of an evening in the country; there is the silence through which you hear the bark of a dog in the distance or the whistle of a train as it comes up a steep grade; the silence in a house when everybody has gone to sleep, and its peculiar emphasis when you wake up in the middle of the night and listen to an own hooting in the valley; and there is that silence before the owl's mate answers. There is the silence of an old deserted house, and the silence of a mountain; the silence between two human beings when they have seen the same thing, felt the same thing, and acted.
      That night, particularly in that distant valley with the most ancient hills with their peculiar shaped boulders, the silence was as real as the wall you touched. And you looked out of the window at the brilliant stars. It was not a self-generated silence; it was not that the earth was quiet and the villagers asleep but it came from everywhere—from the distant stars, from those dark hills and from your own mind and heart. This silence seemed to cover everything from the tiniest grain of sand in the river-bed—which only knew running water when it rained—to the tall, spreading banyan tree and a slight breeze that was now beginning. There is the silence of the mind which is never touched by any noise, by any thought or by the passing wind of experience. It is this silence that is innocent, and so endless. When there is this silence of the mind action springs from it, and this action does not cause confusion or misery.
      The meditation of a mind that is utterly silent is the benediction that man is ever seeking. In this silence every quality of silence is. (The Only Revolution, p. 31)

But Nature is not always such a private matter for Krishnamurti and there are times when he uses it in teaching. In the next extract he is talking to a sannyasi or monk, who has been explaining why renunciation is necessary:

Do look at that river—the morning light on it, and those sparkling , green luscious wheatfields, and the trees beyond. There is great beauty; and the eyes that see it must be full of love to comprehend it. And to hear the rattling of that train over the iron bridge is as important as to hear the voice of the bird. So do look—and listen to those pigeons cooing. And look at that tamarind tree with those two green parrots. For the eyes to see them there must be communion with them—with the river, with that boat passing by filled with villagers, singing as they row. This is part of the world. If you renounce it you are renouncing beauty and love—the very earth itself. What you are renouncing is the society of men, but not the things which man has made out of the world. You are not renouncing culture, the tradition, the knowledge—all of that goes with you when you withdraw from the world. You are renouncing beauty and love because you are frightened of those two words and what lies behind those words. Beauty is associated with sensuous reality with its sexual implications and the love that is involved in it. This renunciation has made the so-called religious people self-centred—at a higher lever perhaps than with the man of the world, but it is still self-centredness. When you have no beauty and love there is no possibility of coming upon that immeasurable thing. If you observe, right through the domain of the sannyasis and saints, this beauty and love are far from them. They may talk about it, but they are harsh disciplinarians, violent in their controls and demands. So essentially, though they may put on the saffron robe or the black robe, or the scarlet of the cardinal, they are all very worldly. (The Only Revolution, p. 46)

This is a very significant passage from Krishnamurti and contains an irony that will be lost on most, that this could be word for word what Osho said many times in his discourses. However, the particular way that Krishnamurti describes Nature is all his, and he is making an important point to the renunciate monk in front of him. (This takes place in India where the ideal of sexual repression and renunciation are deeply embedded in popular consciousness.) The first point that Krishnamurti is making is that to see Nature one needs eyes full of love, and a sense of communion, and to renounce the world is to renounce beauty and love. He also points out that the train on the iron bridge is as important as the bird. His next point is that one can withdraw from the company of others, but the society follows one through one's culture and conditioning. Hence in fact one does not give up the world, because the old ideas are still with one, but one gives up love and beauty, and without those the 'immeasurable thing' cannot come about. In India it is particularly noticeable that renunciation is often accompanied by either an increase in pedantry or a deadness of look, though these are universal qualities of the so-called saints or sannyasis (there are of course genuine cases as well).

Krishnamurti's rejection here of the renunciative stance can be seen as a form of via positiva, and he certainly includes Nature in this, and even uses it in teaching as we see above (though he concludes this section in his notebook with another attack on the guru-disciple relationship). What Krishnamurti could not do was to take his love for Nature and extend it much beyond the train on the iron bridge, to include mankind and the whole spectrum of its grandeur and folly. Like Gurdjieff, he lived through two world wars, the loss of his beloved brother at an early age, and, because of his undoubted sensitivity, Krishnamurti was somewhat pessimistic. It is in the work of Heraclitus and Walt Whitman that we find the via positiva taken to its logical conclusion, an acceptance of the whole of life, its 'hidden harmony'. But this is a little unfair on Krishnamurti: we would best think of him as being the great Master who taught the path of no path at all.

One last quote from Krishnamurti will bring us neatly to consider our next spiritual Master in the context of Nature Mysticism: Thomas Traherne.

     It was a lovely morning with fleeting clouds and a clear blue sky. It had rained, and the air was clean. Every leaf was new and the dreary winter was over; each leaf knew, in the sparkling sunshine, that it had no relation to last year's spring. The sun shone through the new leaves, shedding a soft green light on the wet path that led through the woods to the main road that went on to the big city.
There were children playing about, but they never looked at that lovely spring day. They had no need to look, for they were the spring. Their laughter and their play were part of the tree, the leaf and the flower. You felt this, you didn't imagine it. It was as though the leaves and the flowers were taking part in the laughter, in the shouting, and in the balloon that went by. Every blade of grass, the yellow dandelion, and the tender leaf that was so vulnerable, all were part of the children, and the children were part of the whole earth. (The Only Revolution, p. 148)