Appreciating JK’S philosophy

The other day my sister called me up from Chennai to share her excitement about a music concert she attended a couple of days back. The conversation went something like this:
She told me excitedly-‘You know the concert was excellent’ . I said ‘oh-I see’; she continued, ‘The guy was highly innovative….’ And she went on and on waxing eloquent on the young artist’s creativity. During the next 5 minutes or so, she must have exhausted all the adjectives she knew of describing the joy of her experience. But I was not moved. She talked about the ‘raagaas’ rendered by the musician in exquisite beauty and showered praises on his daring and unpredictable ‘sangatis’,swara kalpana’ etc. She said the young lad is already on par with the best in the field! I kept saying ‘very good-very good’ all the while but failed to experience her enthusiasm or excitement, at least not to the same degree.

The point of narrating this dialogue is to drive home an important message of Jiddu Krishnamurthy who exposes the limitations of language in conveying the depth of one’s experience. Verbalization of beauty and immensity of an experience even by a great poet is bound to fall far short of the real experience itself. The only way to experience a great musical concert, for instance, is to directly experience it. There is no short cut.(It is beside the point that my sister succeeded in motivating me to attend the next music concert by the same young artist).

But one might ask – ‘How can anyone resist the temptation of using exclamatory expressions or better still poetic language (if one is capable)when one sees a beautiful flower like,say, a Rose?’ This is a typical reaction to J Krishnamurthy’s well known remarks on experiencing beauty without languaging the same.
I tell them JK is completely misunderstood. Let us try to understand JK’s thoughts in the right perspective. JK’s oft quoted comment is – ‘The word is not THE THING’. What does he mean by that? Words can never capture the true beauty and experience of , say, a Rose,for instance. Words or poetry or music have limitations, however sublime or profound the medium of an art might be. For, if one is unguarded, it can limit the beauty of a flower to a mere word. JK often stated that the immensity of beauty and Truth can only be experienced but can never be put in words or through poetry or music. The moment one uses a poetic language one can get into a trap in the sense that the poetry becomes more important than the real thing and one is likely to miss the Truth and beauty altogether. JK is not a critic of poetry or music or of any artistic form per se. He is only cautioning us against the pitfalls of such a medium for expression of beauty. He says, ‘The movement of creation does not demand any expression’. On the contrary every expression should come to an end for the mind to find the immensity of creation. JK further puts a rhetorical question – “Is beauty something put together by man Or is beauty something beyond thought….?”.

In fact musical saints like Thyagaraja or Ramadas express the same thoughts through their compositions. For instance in one of Thyagaraja’s kritis – ” Baagaayanayya nI maaya lento; brahmakaina koniyaada taramaa”. Here the saint is saying that His ‘maaya’ is beyond the comprehension of even BRAHMA. Likewise ,another musical saint Ramadas expresses similar ideas in his well known kriti – “Emayya Rama brahmEndraadulaku naina
nI Maaya teliya vashamaa shri Rama ” . He says that even Brahma or Indra are not capable of comprehending the Lord’s beauty and charms.
Even our Upanishads say the same thing in a slightly different manner. Consider the famous lines from Taitriya upanishad- “Yato vaacho nivartante apraapya manasa sah anandam brahmano vidwan….”. The ideas are pretty much similar. It says that when it comes to expressing Truth,words and mind fail. Know that Truth is nothing but Bliss.

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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