This was posted earlier on the thread, an excerpt from the book "Questioning Krishnamurti", which contained an exchange between JK and the Ven. Prof Walpola Sri Rahula Mahathera (1907–1997), a respected Buddhist scholar and author of "What the Buddha Taught":
Walpola Rahula: I have been following your teaching -- if I may use that word -- from my younger days. I have read most of your books with great interest, and I have wanted to have this discussion with you for a long time.
To someone who knows Buddha's teaching fairly well, your teaching is quite familiar, not something new to him. What the Buddha taught 2,500 years ago you teach today in a new idiom, a new style, a new garb. When I read your books I often write in the margin, comparing what you say with the Buddha, sometimes I even quote chapter and verse, or the text -- not only Buddha's original teaching, but also the ideas of the later Buddhist philosophers -- those too you put in practically the same way. I was surprised how well and beautifully you expressed them.
So to begin with I want to mention briefly a few points that are common to Buddha's teaching and yours. For instance, Buddha did not accept the notion of a creator-God who rules this world and rewards and punishes people for their actions. Nor do you, I believe. Buddha did not accept the old Vedic, Brahmanic idea of an eternal, permanent everlasting, unchanging soul or atman -- Buddha denied this. Nor do you, I think, accept that notion.
Buddha begins his teaching from the premise that human life is a predicament, suffering, conflict, sorrow. And your books always emphasize that. Also, Buddha says that what causes this conflict, suffering, is the selfishness created by the wrong idea of my self, my atman. I think you say that too.
Buddha says that when one is free from desire, attachment, from the self, one is free from suffering and conflict. And you said somwhere, I remember, that freedom means freedom from all attachment. That is exactly what Buddha taught, from all attachment -- there is no discrimination between attachment that is good and attachment that is bad -- of course there is in ordinary practical life, but ultimately there is no such division.
Then there is the seeing of truth, the realization of truth, that is, to see things as they are; when you do that, you see reality, you see truth and are free from conflict. I think you have said this very often -- in, for example, the book Truth and Actuality. This is quite well known in Buddhist thought as samvrti-satya and paramartha- satya: samvrti-satya is the conventional truth, and paramartha- satya is the absolute or ultimate truth. And you can't see the ultimate or absolute truth without seeing the conventional or relative truth. That is the Buddhist attitude. I think you say the same thing.
On the more popular level, but very importantly, you always say that you must not depend on authority -- anybody's authority, anybody's teaching. You must realize it yourself, see it for yourself. This is a very well known teaching in Buddhism. Buddha said, don't accept anything just because it is said by religion or scripture, or by a teacher or guru, only accept it if you see for yourself that it is right, if you see it is wrong or bad then reject it.
In a very interesting discussion that you had with Swami Venkatesananda, he asked about the imporance of gurus, and your answer was always: what can a guru do? It is up to you to do it, a guru can't save you. This is exactly the Buddhist attitude -- that you should not accept authority. After reading the whole of this discussion in your book The Awakening of Intelligence, I wrote that Buddha has said these things too, and summarized them in two lines in the Dhammapada: you must make the effort, the Buddhas only teach. This is in the Dhammapada that you read long ago when you were young.
Another very important thing is your emphasis on awareness or mindfulness. This is something that is extremely important in Buddha's teaching, to be mindful. I myself was surprised when I read the Mahaparinibbanasutra, a discourse about the last month of his life, that wherever he stopped and talked to his disciples he always said: be aware, cultivate awareness, mindfulness. It is called the presence of mindfulness. This is also a very strong point in your teaching, which I very much appreciate and follow.
Then another interesting thing is your constant emphasis on impermanence. This is one of the fundamental things in Buddha's teaching, everything is impermanent, there is nothing permanent. And in the book Freedom from the Known you have said that to discern nothing is permanent is of trimendous importance -- for only then is the mind free . That is in complete accordance with the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha .
There is another point showing how your teaching and the Buddha's go together. I think in Freedom from the Known, you say that control and outward discipline are not the way, nor has an undisciplined life any value . When I read this I wrote in the margin: a Brahmin asked the Buddha, how did you attain these spiritual heights, by what precepts, what discipline, what knowledge ? Buddha said, not by knowledge, not by discipline, not by precepts, nor without them. That is the important thing -- not with these things, but not without them either. It is exactly what you say: you condemn slavery to discipline but without discipline life has no value . That is exactly how it is in Zen Buddhism -- there is no Zen Buddhism, Zen is Buddhism. In Zen, slavery to discipline is seen as attachment, and that is very much condemned, but there is no Buddhist sect in the world where discipline is so much emphasized.
We have many other things to talk about but to begin with I want to say that there is fundamental agreement on these things, and there is no conflict between you and the Buddha . Of course, you are not a Buddhist, as you say.
K: No, sir.
WR: And I myself don't know what I am, it does not matter. But there is hardly any difference between your teaching and the Buddha's, it is just that you say the same thing in a way that is fascinating for Man today, and for tomorrow's Man. And now I would like to know what you think about all this.
K: May I ask, sir, with due respect, why you compare ?
WR: This is because when I read your books as a Buddhist scholar, as one who has studied Buddhist texts, I always see that it is the same thing.
K: Yes, sir, but if I may ask, what is the necessity of comparing?
WR: There is no necessity.
K: If you were not a scholar of Buddhism and all the sutras and sayings of the Buddha, if you had not gone very deeply into Buddhism, how would it strike you on reading these books, without the background of all that?
WR: That I can't tell you because I was never without that background. One is conditioned, it is a conditioning. We are all conditioned. Therefore I cannot answer that question because I don't know what the position would be .
K: So if I may point out, I hope you don't mind...
WR: No, not at all.
K: ...does knowledge condition human beings -- knowledge of scriptures, knowledge of what the saints have said and so on, the whole gamut of so-called sacred books, does that help mankind at all?