This is an observation and evaluation of key spiritual themes and statements in this book, and is not a standard review. The book is a compilation of several lectures given by Krishnamurti in India, England, and the United States (New York City and Ojai, California). The book is the 1983 edition published by the Krishnamurti Foundation Ltd, London.
Born in India, Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) was discovered as a young man by Theosophist Charles Leadbeater, and thereafter was taken in by Leadbeater and Theosophical head Annie Besant. Leadbeater and Besant groomed Krishnamurti to be the “World Teacher,” believing him to be a spiritually advanced soul born for that purpose. However, the Theosophical Society was disrupted by controversies and, eventually, Krishnamurti renounced his expected role as World Teacher and left Theosophy, giving spiritual talks around the world.
Recommended for more information is Peter Washington’s Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon, an entertaining and well researched book on the history and reach of Theosophy, which includes more details on Krishnamurti.
Though Krishnamurti was hailed as a wise teacher whose ideas were considered startlingly profound, The Flame of Attention expresses very little that is new. The views are a fusion of Eastern spiritualities and pop psychology, with Krishnamurti sometimes chiding his audience and often repeating certain phrases in a rather irritating manner, such as “Let us be quite clear on this point.”
The Mind and Thought
Krishnamurti maintains that, aside from creation itself, everything is a product of thought, much of that being narrow-minded religions (p. 25) and disorder (p. 95) that have led to violence, although he admits man has created beautiful things. He states that our minds are always repeating thoughts and he calls on people to examine the content of their minds.
Some of Krishnamurti’s remarks on this area are:
The “shoddy little mind” that is always “occupied” (21, 29)
The “content of consciousness” should be wiped out to find true “creativity” (70)
“The mind must be free, utterly still, not controlled” (29)
“It is only the silent mind, the mind that is free, that can come upon that which is beyond all time.” (29)
“[Y]our mind is eternally chattering” (29)
“A mind that is crippled by beliefs is an unhealthy mind” (87)
But isn’t it a belief in itself to assert the view that a mind crippled by beliefs is unhealthy? Yes, it is. This is called a self-refuting or self-defeating statement; that is, the idea expressed refutes itself.
Describing the mind as “chattering” is a tactic to denigrate thought because in Eastern spirituality, the mind and thinking are part of the false material world, which is part of the deception. One cannot know truth through this mind, or through rational thinking.
Krishnamurti makes self-refuting declarations throughout the book, especially about the mind or thoughts, such as:
Quote==God is invented by man. God is the projection of our own thought. (87)==End quote
But isn’t this view a thought? In fact, all of his lectures are the product of Krishnamurti’s thinking. Therefore, based on his assertions about thought, we should reject all of Krishnamurti’s claims. One could throw out the book on this basis alone, and this article could rightly end at this point.
Krishnamurti insists that one cannot truly observe if one has any bias or prejudice (48). But to be able to honestly say this, Krishnamurti could have no bias himself. Otherwise, this statement is biased and cannot be trusted. Yet, there is much evidence from Krishnamurti’s own words that he is very biased.
Readers should be alert to these self-refuting assertions because Krishnamurti defeats almost his whole philosophy this way.
No Personal God
Moreover, Krishnamurti does not believe in a personal God. Such a God, according to him, as well as all religions are the result of man’s thought (13, 53). Krishnamurti, perhaps due to his bad experiences in Theosophy, believed that if religions were eradicated, there would be no violence.
He contends that there is an “original ground” that is the “origin of all things” (31). This “ground” is reminiscent of the neo-orthodox theologian Paul Tillich and his view of God as the rather abstract “ground of Being Itself.” Yet God has revealed himself as personal, and has clearly expressed the ability of man to have a relationship with him through faith in Jesus Christ.
Along with rejection of God, self-refuting avowals, and the belief that thought leads to deception, Krishnamurti teaches that we are not separate individuals, and that our “consciousness” is the “consciousness of all humanity” (67).
Quote==We are conditioned to think that we are separate individuals….We are not individuals at all….we are not separate.(56)==End quote
Quote==[T]here is no division between the observer and the observed, you are that, and there is no division. (41)==End quote
Quote==Is thought yours? Or is there only thinking? (87)==End quote
These ideas have many forerunners to Krishnamurti, including mystics like Meister Eckhart, nondualistic Hinduism (nondualism means there are no distinctions in reality), and the Buddhist view that the individual self is temporary and ultimately not real.
However, Genesis chapters 1 and 2, as well as other passages, reveal humanity has been created by God in the image of God, meaning humanity has intelligence, an ability to know there is good and evil, and a will. We have the evidence and all the tools necessary to perceive reality and to know there is a personal God who has revealed himself.
Krishnamurti urges his hearers to meditate, but it is meditation that does not involve contemplating with the mind.
Quote==The essence of meditation is to inquire into the abnegation of the self. (25)==End quote
Quote==So there is an origin, an original ground, from which all things arise, and that original ground is not the word. The word is never the thing. And meditation is to come upon that ground, which is the origin of all things and which is free from all time. (31)==End quote
Through the meditation of suspending thought, one can come to the conclusions Krishnamurti advocates because the mind is not being used. The “original ground” is not defined but since he does not believe in God, it is likely Krishnamurti is referring to an impersonal source that gave rise to all life.
There is yet another self-refutation when Krishnamurti asserts above that the “word is not the thing” since his lectures were composed, of course, of words.
It may be easy to conclude, after seeing the flaws in this book, that no one could take it seriously. However, Krishnamurti influenced large numbers of people and many who are part of the New Age. As I read this book, I was able to see how Krishnamurti’s ideas could sound wise and profound to a person seeking answers.
In fact, before I became a Christian, I was influenced by many people with similar beliefs to those in this book. Krishnamurti’s style is somewhat spellbinding, and his words wrap around the unwary mind. Customer reviews of this book on websites reveal Krishnamurti’s profound impact. Therefore, while this book should be critically analyzed, it is never right to mock those who follow Krishnamurti’s teachings.
God’s wisdom is beyond what man can conceive and we have access to the spiritual knowledge we need through what God has revealed, in his word and through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus is the “wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:24).
There is an eternal, personal God. God has revealed that there is a Creator through nature (Rom. 1), and has revealed who he is in his word, and through his son, the God-man Jesus Christ. Isaiah 45:5, 46:9; Luke 22: 67-70; John 1, 8:19
Man is born with a will to go against God and needs reconciliation through Christ. Luke 3:3; John 8:24; Acts 3:19, 26:18; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Ephesians 2:1; 1 Peter 2:24
We are to use reason and rational mind. Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:3; I Corinthians 14; Philippians 4:8. The book of Romans is a logical apologetic for the Christian faith. The Bible is in words, and language is based on logic and reason, all of which are rooted in Godâ€™s character.
Biblical meditation and prayer uses the mind. When praying, we are not to go into non-thinking states, but to be observant and aware: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
God created us as individuals with unique, real identities. Genesis 1 and 2; Psalm 139:13-16; Matthew 10:29-31
Truth is based on God’s word. Hebrews 4:12; Luke 21:33; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3: 16, 17
But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:24, 25
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 1 Corinthians 3:19
In him [Jesus] lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3