Politics and spirituality. A view of K.’s teaching in the context of Indian nationalism

I’d like to introduce a topic which I think should concern every one here because it’s an issue which often arises in our discussions, and which often prevents reciprocal understanding.

I’ll try my best to be clear and direct hoping not to offend anyone. I’ll have to go slowly, step by step.

Everyone knows (at least the well-informed ones) that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi introduced in his country a politics of strong nationalism. So strong and so absurd that it might be compared to fascism. (I remember few years ago the insulting and beating of a crippled man in a wheeling chair for not standing up in a cinema during the national anthem. Just to have an idea of the atmosphere Modi has created.)

(One pause should be done here: he is not the only one in the world, we have good examples in other big countries like USA or China, just to name a few. It seems that the nationalism madness is spreading and rising in many parts of the world. I’m saying this to prevent the futile argument/reply to justify this nationalism saying that it’s the same stuff in other countries.

I think that every person interested in K.’s teaching should be worried about this madness. Do I need to explain why I called it madness?)

Now, I have the impression that this kind of fascism or at least a nationalistic view of spirituality is present in some people posting here. I may be wrong, and I wish I am because it seems to me that it’s one of the most unintelligent and dangerous mistakes to mix politics with the search for truth.

On what is based my impression? On the fact that many of the arguments that those people bring in the discussion have the purpose to defend ancient Indian spirituality against K.s statement that one has to put aside all scriptures. Not only that, actually someone dared to say that K. was dishonest in not acknowledging his debit with Indian spirituality.

I have already tackled this last affirmation pointing out that each one of us can discover something anew without the contribution or influence of the same discovery made by someone else in the past, the essence of which is that the source of all knowledge is reality. If I can discover truth only reading let’s say Vedanta, then how the people who wrote the Vedanta scriptures have discovered theirs? We should suppose an infinite chain of transmission no one knows who started it!

And the same person replied that source is not important. The absurdity of this assertion is self-evident but considering that that person is (or should be) interested in K.s teaching makes that statement even more absurd and contradictory.

And contradiction is the key word here because those people, in their nationalist attempt to defend Indian ancient spirituality fall unconsciously into an irreconcilable contradiction.

From one side they kind of appreciate K. or at least they cannot ignore him because he was “Indian” and because he was famous. On the other side they contest or criticize his basic affirmations.

Mind: I’m not saying that one cannot criticize K., I have done it once or twice regarding not important side-issues. He was only a man and he could commit mistakes while speaking like any of us. But the point is that the main teaching, the basic statements do not come from K.s individual mind or consciousness. But even if you don’t believe that (and it’s always sage not to believe) you cannot discard those basic teachings which are essential to the understanding and to the transformation of our consciousness. In discarding that you are discarding the whole message of K.

Those persons should be more honest and state clearly that K.s message does not liberate man.

It’s OK, and one will know what’s the issue at stake.

What those people do is quite similar to what several Hindu pundits or Buddhist scholar used to do in their conversations with K. They were attracted by K. – either for his fame or his wisdom and love, but accepted his teachings only when those teachings confirmed what their “sacred” scriptures said, while they discarded his repeated and important affirmations regarding the necessity to abandon every religion and every crutch. It’s evident that those people were so attached to their religions that could not understand K.’s statements. Even Buddhists which stress the importance of not being attached to anything fail to apply this principle to their religion!

Is not that sufficient to makes one utters: “Oh my!”

So, nationalism is another form of attachment and a very dangerous one. I’m curious to know how those people justify their nationalism and attachments.


Nationalism just as with Fundamentalism, be it Christian, Islamic or Economic for that matter, together with violent extremism of all kinds are all dangerous expressions of the psyche. The self’s ability to weld contradictory thoughts and ideas into an illusionary whole are legendary. This is why one cannot take at face value anything that any self thinks it is. The various masks and costumes self equips itself with, from priest to teacher, politician, ruler, philanthropist, you name it, are all as false as the day is long. Some might protest this too is absolutism of a kind and a problem also, but there is no sane self identity, and awareness of one’s own self is what matters.

I would like to post the following exchange Krishnamurti has with David Bohm as I feel it addresses the central issue in everything you have raised above regarding nationalism and organised religion.

K: So the common factor is that man suffers - right? That is the common factor. And the way of observing matters.

DB: Yes. I wonder whether scientists would accept that as the most fundamental factor of man.

K: All right. Conflict?

DB: Well, they have argued about it.

K: Take anything, it doesn’t matter. Attachment, pleasure, fear.

DB: I think some people might object, saying we should take something more positive.

K: Which is what?

DB: Simply, for example, some people might have said that rationality is a common factor.

K: No, no, no! I won’t call rationality a common factor. If people were rational they wouldn’t be fighting each other.

DB: We have to make this clear. Let’s say in the past somebody like Aristotle might have said rationality is the common factor of man. Now your argument against it is that men are not generally rational.

K: No, they are not.

DB: Though they might be, they are not. So you are saying that is not a fact.

K: That’s right.

DB: I think commonly scientists would say that there are many different human beings and that the common factor of mankind is that they are all striving for happiness.

K: Is that the common factor? No. I won’t accept that - that many human beings are trying for happiness.

Q: No. Human beings are all different.

K: Agreed. Stay there.

Q: What I am saying is that this is the common theory, which people believe to be a fact.

K: That is, each person thinks he is totally different from others.

Q: Yes. And they are all independently struggling for happiness.

K: They are all seeking some kind of gratification. Would you agree to that?

DB: That is one common factor. But the reason I brought up rationality was that the very existence of science is based on the notion that rationality is common to man.

K: But each person is seeking his own individuality.

DB: But, you see, science would be impossible if that were entirely true.

K: Quite.

Q: Why?

DB: Because everybody would not be interested in the truth. The very possibility of scientific discovery depends on people feeling that this common goal of finding the truth is beyond personal satisfaction, because even if your theory is wrong you must accept that it is wrong, though it is not gratifying. That is, it becomes very disappointing for people, but they accept it, and say, well, that is wrong.

K: I am not seeking gratification. I am a common man. You have brought up that scientists take for granted that human beings are rational.

DB: At least when they do science. They may agree that they are not very rational in private life, but they say that at least they are capable of being rational when they do scientific work. Otherwise it would be impossible to begin.

K: So outwardly, in dealing with matter, they are all rational.

DB: At least they try to be, and they are to some extent.

K: They try to be, but they become irrational in their relationships with other human beings.

DB: Yes. They cannot maintain it.

K: So that is the common factor.

DB: Yes. It is important to bring out this point - that rationality is limited, and, as you say, the fundamental fact is that more generally they cannot be rational. They may succeed in some limited area.

K: That’s right. That is a fact.

DB: That is a fact, though we don’t say it is inevitable, or that it can’t be changed.

K: No. It is a fact.

DB: It is a fact that it has been, it has happened, it is happening.

K: Yes. I, as a common human being, have been irrational. And my life has been totally contradictory, and so on, which is irrational. Now can I as a human being change that?

From: The Ending of Time: Chapter 3: Why Has Man Given Supreme Importance to Thought?

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