By Ravi Ravindra, PhD
Over a period of 20 years, Dr. Ravindra engaged in conversations with the famed philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. He kept notes of these conversations and later wrote several books about Krishnamurti. As he pondered Patanjali’s teachings, Dr. Ravindra often returned to the philosophy of Krishnamurti and to that of his other mentor, Madame Jeanne de Salzmann (Gurdjieff’s closest disciple, appointed by him to continue his work) for illumination. In this article, Dr. Ravindra shares selected sutras excerpted from his book, The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, as he reflects on these in light of his conversations with Krishnamurti.
In my reading of the Yoga Sutras I have been influenced by many sacred texts, especially
the Bhagavad Gita and the Gospels, both canonical and non-canonical. There are two sages who have been sources of great inspiration and clarity for me. They are Madame Jeanne de Salzmann and J. Krishnamurti. Their teachings have been constant reminders of the existence of higher levels of being and the possibility of connecting with these. Whenever I was unclear about the meaning of any sutra in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras, I would turn to their teachings and find helpful insights. No words are adequate to express my gratitude to them; I feel blessed having had some contact with them.
All great masters are original, not novel, but original in the real sense of the word—they are close to the origins. Therefore, they each express truth in their own slightly unique way. Krishnamurti had this repeated expression, “Intelligence beyond thought.” He insisted that we should go beyond knowledge. We usually think of knowledge as being a good thing. But, Krishnamurti was emphasizing the point that thought is the source of the problem not source of solution. Patanjali would say all the movements of the mind are the source of the problem. There is much commonality between Patanjali and Krishnamurti, but expressed in a unique way. Let us explore some of these commonalities.
Sutra 1.2 Yoga is establishing the mind (chitta) in stillness.
An accomplished yogi’s mind has a quality of deep silence, which can be felt. Krishnamurti embodied this stillness of the mind. On one occasion, I asked him, “What is the nature of your mind, Krishna Ji? What do you see when you look at that tree?” He was silent for a while and then said, “My mind is like a mill-pond. Any disturbance that is created in it soon dies, leaving it unruffled as before.” Then, as if reading what I was about to ask, he added with the most playful smile, “And your mind, sir, is like a mill!”
The sages have said that when the mind is silent, without distractions, the original state of intelligence or of consciousness, far beyond the capacity of the thinking mind, is present. That intelligence is more aligned to direct perception than to thinking or reasoning. The reminder from Krishnamurti, and from the philosopher Wittgenstein in a different context: “Don’t think; look!” calls us to a perception of the intelligence beyond thought. We may well say that Yoga is for the purpose of cultivating direct seeing, without imaginings. Yoga leads to gnosis, a knowledge which is quite different from rational knowledge. In fact, Patañjali prefers to call the Real Knower, the Seer.
Sutra 1.3 Then the Seer dwells in its essential nature.
Sutra 1. 4 Otherwise the movements of the mind (vrittis) are regarded as the Seer.
The essential nature, or the true form of the Seer, or the Seer’s own form, is Purusha, the Transcendent Being. Purusha is steady attention without distractions, Conscious Energy or Pure Awareness. When the distractions are removed, the Seer resides in its own true nature. The true Seer is Purusha who knows through the mind. The purpose of Yoga is to refine the mind, so that it can serve as a proper instrument for Purusha. When thinking enters, the mind brings its expectations and its projections; then we cannot see reality as it is.
On one occasion, I had asked Krishnamurti what he thought of something we had been looking at. He said, “Sir, K [that is how he often referred to himself] does not think at all; he just looks…”
Read the rest of this article in the Spring 2010 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.