I have taken some extracts on the topic of nothingness and emptiness from two series of dialogues that Krishnamurti had with David Bohm, from 1975 and 1980, to give a rough idea of what they meant when using those words.
They also talked about nothingness in a series of dialogues from 1984 that have not been published (because they were recorded during meal times and the audio quality is very poor). If I find some extracts from that dialogue I might share them later.
Something to watch out for is that in the 1975 series they use the word “reality” to mean the world created by our thinking - they do not mean the actual world of nature, people, the universe, etc.
Limits of Thought (1975)
K: This reality is empty. This reality is nothing.
When the mind is empty, when the mind is nothing, not a thing, in that there is perception.
Therefore truth is nothingness—not a thing. The action of nothingness, which is intelligence in the field of reality—that intelligence being free and all the rest of it—operates in reality without distortion.
So a mind that is empty, nothing, is capable of the seeing which is the doing; and the doing is truth and so on.
Sir, reality is a thing. Truth is not a thing, therefore it is nothing.
There is only one energy. There is only one energy which is used in reality and therefore is destructible, perverted, deteriorating, degenerating and all the rest of it. That same energy is nothingness, nothingness being death. Yes, sir?
K: I think—I am just hesitating to put it forth—that the energy born of nothingness is nevertheless different from the other.
DB: But is there some unity, some connection?
K: I think there is a one-way connection—that is, from nothingness to thing; but from thing to nothingness is not possible…
We say nothingness means ending; that is, not a thing…
the love in nothingness can act in the world of reality, but it can never be polluted in the field of reality…
in nothingness there is no measurement.
you come along and say to me, “There is a state of nothingness.’ You say that, and it is tremendously true to you. And it means dying, all that, not a thing in one’s mind.
Does this answer, sir, that beauty, goodness, truth—the purity of it—is in nothingness?
So there must be a sense of non-being, there must be a sense of nothingness. When there is choice in awareness, then it is not.
So if the mind, going through all this, comes to absolute nothingness—nothingness being not a thing in it—that is more than summation of energy; it is far beyond!
Therefore the next question is: can this consciousness be completely empty of its content? Which means, there is nothing inside it, nothing created by thought, by circumstances, by temperament, by imagination, by
tendency, by capacity.
DB: When you are aware of the environment, that’s not what you
mean by ‘nothing inside’. In other words, that includes still an awareness of the
K: Of course. Here there is nothing. Is that possible? Is one imagining it?
In nothingness there is no movement at all. But it has its own movement as energy—whatever it is— which then can operate in the field of reality.
The Ending of Time (1980)
K: it is nothing.
DB: No thing.
K: No thing. That’s right [laughs].
DB: A thing is limited, and this is not a thing because there are no limits. . . . At least, it has everything in potential.
K: Wait, sir. If it is nothing, and so everything, so everything is energy…
the fact of it is there is nothing; therefore there is everything, and all that is cosmic energy. But what started this energy? …
Then is one just walking in emptiness? Is one living in emptiness?
DB: Well, that is not clear.
K: There is nothing, and everything is energy. What is this [points to his body]?
DB: Well, this is a form within the energy…
K: Does it mean then that there is only the organism living—which is part of energy? There is no K, no “me” at all, except the passport, name, and form, otherwise nothing? And therefore there is everything, and therefore all is energy?
Has mankind journeyed through millennia to come to this? That I am nothing, and therefore I am everything, and all energy? …
The ending is the beginning, right? Now I want to go into that. You see, in the ending of all this—the ending of time, we will call it briefly—there is a new beginning. What is that? Because otherwise this seems so utterly futile. I am all energy and just the shell exists, and time has ended. It seems so futile…
We have said that when one denies time, there is nothing. After this long talk, nothing means everything. Everything is energy. And we have stopped there. But that isn’t the end…
Let’s begin again. There is the ending of the “me” as time, and so there is no hope; all that is finished, ended. In the ending of it, there is that sense of nothingness, which is so. And nothingness is this whole universe…
We said nothingness, that nothingness is everything, and so it is that which is total energy. It is undiluted, pure, uncorrupted energy. Is there something beyond that? …
There is something beyond that. How can we talk about it? You see, energy exists only when there is emptiness. They go together.
DB: This pure energy you talk about is emptiness. Are you suggesting there is that which is beyond the emptiness, the ground of the emptiness?
K: Yes… There is something beyond emptiness. How shall we tackle it? …
DB: This thing beyond, would you also say it is alive? Life beyond emptiness, is that still life? Living?
K: Living, yes. Oh, yes.
DB: And intelligent?
K: I don’t want to use those words.
DB: They are too limited?
K: “Living,” “intelligence,” “love,” “compassion”—they are all too limited…
What is beyond emptiness? Is it silence?
DB: Isn’t that similar to emptiness?
K: Yes, that is what I am getting at. Move step by step. Is it silence? Or is silence part of emptiness?
DB: Yes, I should say that.
K: I should say that too. If it is not silence, could we—I am just asking—could we say it is something absolute? You understand?
DB: Well, we could consider the absolute. It would have to be something totally independent; that is what “absolute” really means. It doesn’t depend on anything.
K: Yes. You are getting somewhere near it.
DB: Entirely self-moving, as it were, self-active.
K: Yes. Would you say everything has a cause, and that has no cause at all? …
Emptiness and silence and energy are immense, really immeasurable. But there is something that is—I am using the word “greater”—than that…
Can I—or you—say the ground exists? The ground has certain demands, which are there must be absolute silence, absolute emptiness, which means no sense of egotism in any form, right?
Let us go further. Then there is total emptiness.
DB: Well, emptiness of that content. But when you say total emptiness, you mean emptiness of all this inward content?
K: That’s right. And that emptiness has tremendous energy. It is energy…
You see, I think meditation is a great factor in all this… true meditation is this: the emptying of consciousness. You follow?
Am I willing to face absolute emptiness? …
I am willing to let my past go completely. Which means there is no effort or reward or punishment, no carrot, nothing. And the brain is willing to face this extraordinary and totally new state to it of existing in a state of nothingness. That is appallingly frightening.
DB: Even these words will have their meaning rooted in the past, and that’s where fear comes in.
K: Of course. We have understood that; the word is not the thing. My brain says it is willing to do that, to face this absolute nothingness and emptiness…
May we go on? I, as a human being, have seen that this insight has wiped away the past, and the brain is willing to live in nothingness. Right? We have come to this point several times from different directions. Now, let’s go on. Now, there isn’t a thing put there by thought. There is no movement of thought, except for technical thought, knowledge, which has its own place. But we are talking of the psychological state of mind where there is no movement of thought. There is absolutely nothing…
Now, what is the next step? Does that emptiness contain nothing? Not a thing?
DB: Not a thing, by which we mean anything that has form, structure, stability.
K: Yes. All that—form, structure, reaction, stability, capacity. None of that. Then what is it? Is it then total energy? …
Now, we say that emptiness has no centre as the “me” and all the reactions. In that emptiness there is a movement of timeless energy…
We said that this emptiness is in the mind. It has no cause and no effect. It is not a movement of thought, of time. It is not a movement of material reactions. None of that. Which means is the mind capable of that extraordinary stillness without any movement? And when it is so completely still, there is a movement out of it. It sounds crazy!