Seeing of truth: Grand travelling exhibition celebrates 125 years of J Krishnamurti's teachings
J Krishnamurti (1895-1986) is widely regarded as having been a profoundly original thinker and spiritual teacher.
For nearly 60 years, he travelled the world and spoke to individuals, small groups and large audiences with a singular intent — ‘to set man absolutely and unconditionally free’.
And yet, he advocated no practice, no definitive steps towards such a goal. He said, “Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever...”
The First Step is the Last Step, the exhibition has been conceived and curated by the Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) on the occasion of Krishamurti’s 125th birth anniversary year (11 May, 2019 —
11 May, 2020).
The show premieres at Vasanta Vihar, Chennai and will then travel thereafter to Varanasi and Bengaluru.
The show draws inspiration from a phrase Krishnamurti used in his dialogues in which he sees the attentive mind as being fully capable of perceiving the ‘what is’ for itself.
This seeing of the truth is not linked to time, accretion of knowledge or a perpetuation of practice, and hence necessarily, becomes both the first and the last step. The show is structured around this paradox.
It seeks to evoke the potential held within its aphoristic title in a manner that sets aside predictable templates of linearity, accumulation and progression.
It invites the viewer to engage with themes that Krishnamurti frequently spoke or wrote about — fear, love, violence, death, religion, relationship and education.
In this immersive process of self-enquiry, there will be opportunity to question, look afresh, and perhaps come upon a ‘flame of understanding’, which derives from and belongs to no one, but the questioners themselves.
Spread the message
To spread his work, KFI, in collaboration with the schools run by it and the study centres, are drawing up a number of plans for creating an awareness of the teachings in the land of Krishnamurti’s birth—these will consist of events, public talks, seminars, video screenings of his talks and dialogues, photo exhibitions, programmes to share Krishnamurti’s vision of school education, and the release of new books in English and translations in Indian languages. Miti Design Lab has collaborated with the KFI to envisage the exhibition.
Open to the public for eight days, the events feature curated walks, a book launch, a concert and talks on the spiritual leader — all in an attempt to use art and architecture to engage viewers with his teaching.
Krishnamurti, whose life and teachings spanned the greater part of the 20th Century, is regarded by many as one who has had the most profound impact on human consciousness in modern times.
Sage, philosopher and thinker, he illuminated the lives of millions the world over — intellectuals and laymen, young and old, while breaking away from organised religion and also denying his role as a Guru.
A note from the hosts explained the impetus for the show: “In the past, the focus of the Foundation was dissemination through talks, dialogues, videos, sale of books and retreats. This was done largely through referrals by people who are familiar with Krishnamurti."
"After more than three decades of his departing, there has come into being a new generation of people who are perhaps not acquainted either with the teacher or his teachings."
"Therefore, it was felt that the Foundation should endeavour to introduce and make available Krishnamurti’s vision of life to a new and wider audience, who may find that this timeless teaching is also very contemporary and relevant to their personal lives."
A CHAT WITH SP KANDASWAMY, SECRETARY, KRISHNAMURTI FOUNDATION INDIA
A quick Q&A with SP Kandaswamy, Secretary, Krishnamurti Foundation India on the show, The First Step Is The Last Step — An Exhibition on J Krishnamurti — The Teacher & The Teachings, set to be held on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary year. Also, look out for the public lecture by SP Kandaswamy among the events (see box).
What inspired the title, The First Step is the Last Step?
The First Step is the Last Step draws inspiration from J Krishnamurti’s dialogue with Pupul Jayakar in 1970, in which he first used the phrase.
Packed into this phrase is a key insight into understanding the core of Krishamurti’s message — that the transformation of the individual does not lie in time-indexed practice and effort, but in an instant and total perception of the truth, which is available to anyone who is willing to see it.
Krishnamurti saw ‘time’ as an agent of corruption which comes in the way of truly seeing. The mind is quite capable of seeing and perceiving for itself the extraordinary truth. Instead of leaving it there, it then seeks to cultivate and perpetuate that state of illumination for a lifetime.
In doing so, it comes in contact with ‘time’ and all perception is lost and becomes mere knowledge and memory. When the mind breaks free from this pattern of movement, of thinking along a measurable plane of time, then that single moment of deep insight becomes necessarily, both, the first and the last step.
How have you woven the space of Vasanta Vihar to integrate the idea of this exhibition into the fabric of the experience?
Central to Krishnamurti’s teaching is nature which is resplendent in all of our centres and schools. The whole campus is the canvas on which the exhibition has been conceptualised.
Various elements of the execution have been designed to meld with the campus without interfering with it.
Within Vasanta Vihar, there are trees, corners, buildings, and lawns, etc, each of them having a story to tell about Krishnamurti or his teaching, which the exhibition subtly exploits.
What are the plans to carry forward the J Krishnamurti legacy?
Krishnamurti’s teachings are timeless and are of immense relevance for all future generations. Moving forward, our endeavour is to employ new means of dissemination that can resonate with newer younger audience in the digital era. Books will continue to play a big role in dissemination.
From being purely dependent on in-house publishing and primary content, we plan to explore working with publishers and authors who have affinity for Krishnamurti to publish secondary literature for wider reach and appeal.
Making teachings available in various forms of digital platform is another endeavour that is being planned. Retreats, Dialogues and Talks will continue for deep explorers with a religious mind and
are already immersed in Krishnamurti’s teaching.
• Book launch: World Teacher: The Life and Teachings of J Krishnamurti by RE Mark Lee. The author will be in conversation with Siddhartha Menon, Director, Rajghat Besant School. On 1 February, 6 pm.
• Lecture: KFI Centre for Continuing Dialogue presents SP Kandaswamy on My Journey with Krishnamurthi’s Teachings. On February 2, 5.45 pm.
• Public concert: Music Of The Mystics by Monali Bala & Vedanth Bharadwaj. On 7 February, 6 pm.
• Musical storytelling: A session for 8 to 90-year-olds. Derek Hook delights audiences with his stories, filled with humour and fanciful plots that leave audiences with deep questions about life and living. He will be joined by jazz guitarist Mike Walker on stage. On 3 February, 6 pm.
Public viewing from 1 to 8 February (9 am to 8 pm on all days) at Vasantha Vihar, KFI.