Can Humanity Change?

New Picture (2)

J. Krishnamurti in Dialogue with Buddhists
By J. Krishnamurti

“Krishnamurti is one of the greatest philosophers of the age.”—the Dalai Lama
Description of Can Humanity Change?

Many have considered Buddhism to be the religion closest in spirit to J. Krishnamurti’s spiritual teaching—even though the great teacher was famous for urging students to seek truth outside organized religion. This record of a historic encounter between Krishnamurti and a group of Buddhist scholars provides a unique opportunity to see what the great teacher had to say himself about Buddhist teachings. The conversations, which took place in London in the late 1970s, focused on human consciousness and its potential for transformation. Participants include Walpola Rahula, the renowned Sri Lankan Buddhist monk and scholar, author of the classic introductory text What the Buddha Taught.

Excerpt from Can Humanity Change?


Is what is happening in the world pointing to the need for a fundamental change in human consciousness, and is such a change possible? This is an issue at the heart of both Krishnamurti’s and the Buddha’s teaching, and in 1978 and 1979 the eminent Buddhist scholar Walpola Rahula came to Brockwood Park in England to put questions that had occurred to him from his reading of Krishnamurti’s books.

The future Chancellor of the Sri Lankan University of Buddhist and Pali Studies, Walpola Rahula was an acknowledged authority on both the Theravada and the Mahayana schools of Buddhism. He had lectured at universities around the world, and was the author of the article on the Buddha in the Encyclopedia Britannica. He had also written a widely known introduction to Buddhism, translated into many languages, called What the Buddha Taught. He was accompanied by Irmgard Schloegl, a well-known teacher of Zen Buddhism and for some years the librarian of the Buddhist Society of London.

Nearly all the conversations, in which the physicist David Bohm and the scientist and author Phiroz Mehta also participated, start with Dr. Rahula raising an issue of crucial importance for any radical change in the way we usually see ourselves, others, life, and death.

The nature of personal identity, whether there is a relative truth and an ultimate truth, and the distinction between insight and intellectual understanding are all topics on which he argues that the Buddha and Krishnamurti have said substantially the same things.

He also explains to Krishnamurti that in his view the original teaching of the Buddha has over the centuries been in many ways misunderstood and misinterpreted particularly with regard to the nature of meditation and the form of meditation known as satipatthana, or “mindfulness.”

On each occasion, however, instead of discussing whether Dr. Rahula’s argument is right or wrong, Krishnamurti moves the debate into quite a different direction. Why, he asks, compare? What is the value of such comparison? Why bring the Buddha into the discussion between the two of them? Courteously, and with a lightness of tone, Krishnamurti challenges Walpola Rahula to say whether he is taking part in the conversation as a Buddhist or as a human being, whether he considers that humanity is in any sense progressing psychologically, what he understands by the word “love.”

Dr. Rahula continues, however, in most of these conversations to draw parallels between what the Buddha has said and what Krishnamurti is saying, so that a reader interested in that inquiry will find much of interest. But at another level there is something quite different going on.

Time and time again after describing, say, the role of thought in creating the self, Krishnamurti will ask Dr. Rahula and the other participants: Do you see that? The word see is rightly emphasized, because the seeing in question is clearly meant to be seeing with such depth and clarity that consciousness and simultaneously action are radically transformed.

It is also notable that Krishnamurti unfolds his argument by a series of questions, some of which he wants his listeners to allow to sink in rather than to answer—a distinction they do not always find it easy to make.

This moves the debate into an area which all of us are familiar with, to some extent at least—understanding verbally, rather than understanding so deeply that we change our behavior. There must be few of us who have not looked at something we have done and said, “I can see why I did that, and I shouldn’t have done it,” yet do exactly the same thing a short time later. “I shouldn’t have taken that criticism personally.” “I shouldn’t have lost patience.” “I shouldn’t have said that, it really doesn’t help.”

In all these cases one may be able to express with great clarity the reasons why one did what one did and should not do it, and then find oneself doing precisely that again. In other words, our understanding was purely verbal or intellectual, lacking what one might call a radical insight, and definitely not of the kind that we refer to when we say, “Then I really understood.”

So what brings about a fundamental change in a human being? And one that brings about an endless, unfolding awareness? This is a question that runs like a silken thread throughout these conversations. Repeatedly Walpola Rahula says all the right words, and Krishnamurti does not deny that his Buddhist questioner may well see the truth to which these words refer. But Krishnamurti urges him to go further and to explain how such seeing comes about, and to discuss the nature and quality of the mind that has such clarity. This is really the kernel of the encounter.

Most of this book consists of these five conversations. Since, however, they are concerned with barriers to deep shifts of perception, the book also contains a final section of questions in which people who find they have not changed after listening to Krishnamurti ask him to account for this.

The various and sometimes vigorous answers he gives may be of as much interest to Buddhists as to students of Krishnamurti, and to readers in neither of these two groups. What is one to make of this encounter? This seems like a question whose very nature demands that the answer, if there is one, be left solely to the reader.

The book is available at Shambhala Publications at

Evolution of Consciousness

Gandhi has edited this collection with an intellectual precision and literary flair that makes it an exciting adventure. The book presents a selection of eighteen carefully edited essays by a celebrated list of contributors. Included are George Wald, Nobel Laureate and Harvard Biologist, Karan Singh, Indian Religious leader, Member of Parliament, psychologist, and educator, Fritj of Capra, scientist and author of the Tao of Physics, and M. A. Sinaceur of UNESCO.

The book provides the most comprehensive and critical collection of essays on the possibilities for the evolutionary shaping of human consciousness available today. It touches upon the major ambivalent theme of our times, the choice between suicide and an increased level of consciousness.

The crisis of man and civilization, at every level, is too real to be ignored. Looking in depth, it is traceable to a crisis of consciousness. This is a subject deep and dark, but full of promises.

The present fluid situation in the world is partly the result of our inability to achieve a balanced development between the unique scientific and technological breakthrough of the twentieth century and the growth of human consciousness. Consequently, the human species has been brought to the verge of self-destruction, and it is now an open question as to whether or not man will be able to survive his own technological ingenuity.

In such a situation, nothing is more important than our search for viable alternatives for the human race to live in global harmony, with norms of its own, based on a holistic and evolutionary world view. It is only through actualizing the total potentiality of the human mind and enlarging our areas of awareness that we will be able to contain our societal and psychological conflicts which threaten to explode as we move towards the twenty-first century.

Table of Contents
The Contributors
1. Life and Mind in the Universe
George Wald
2. Biological Foundations of Human Evolution and Consciousness
B. R. Sheshachar
3. Two Sides of the Brain
R.M. Varma
4. The Phenomenology of Mind and Consciousness
J. S. Neki
5. The Psychology of Consciousness: An Empirical Study
Davendra Singh
6. The Evolution of the Mind: Projections into the Future
E. C. G. Sudershan
7. The Science and Knowing of Higher Consciousness
Ravi Ravindra
8. Order and Openness
Robert Artigiani
9. Consciousness and the Idea of Progress
Joel Colton
10. The Present Quantum Shift in Consciousness and Society
Alastair M. Taylor
11. Education and Transformation of Human Consciousness: A Future Possibility
Kishore Gandhi
12. UNESCO: Adventuring in Evolution of Consciousness
M.A. Sinaceur
13. Consciousness and Culture
Sisirkumar Ghose
14. Toward Culture and Consciousness Symbiosis: A Contemporary Challenge
Prem Kirpal
15. The Future of Consciousness
Karan Singh
16. Communicative Consciousness with Built-In Control
17. Atom and Self
D. S. Kothari
18. The Turning Point
Fritjof Capra

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