Sunday, October 04, 2009

Personal Experience?

If I understand Krishnamurti, most religions emphasize personal experience. You will be saved if you do this or that thing, follow that person, or belief. But if we are to believe modern science, Krishnamurti, the Buddha, and other deep thinkers, there is no such thing as personal experience. What I mean is that if every being is an observer participating in this reality or world we live on, then every observer is only perceiving a fragment of the whole of reality. When two or more observers observe the same event, the result is a shared experience. This is just as true for two human beings, a human being and a pet cat, dog, or bird, or any combination of human and other animals. We humans tend to think of ourselves as unique, but I know my cats have their needs and wants and their own ideas about how their world should be. Dogs are not as fussy, but even dogs have their own personalities and talents, and wants and needs.

So, if shared experiences are the most common events between human beings, how can a religious belief system work by emphasizing that people have personal experiences? Personal experience seems to be an oxymoron. Krishnamurti uses the ocean as an example and says that the ocean is there for any one to look at and admire, but it is not YOUR ocean. You don't own it, so it can't be a personal experience. But the same holds true for most everything else on the planet. The only people who may have had a personal experience were the command module pilots on the Apollo Moon missions who orbited around the Moon alone while their colleagues were on the lunar surface, and they weren't entirely alone except when their spacecraft went into the radio shadow of the Moon.

I believe that what Krishnamurti and other people are emphasizing is that spiritual growth is the lessening of the "me", the "me" identity of the mind. Others call it the loss of self. When I was born, there was no "me" - no conscious "me". There was a baby, but there was no "me" yet. When this body dies, there will be no "me" as well. The mind will have died with the brain. So, what is it that strives to understand whatever it is? What is it that loves, knows joy, laughs, cries, and tries to find happiness and contentment in the here and now? What is it that recognises itself in others, but is not the "me"?


I'm not at all sure that Krishnamurti is saying that organized religion emphasizes personal experience. What they insist upon is personal adherence to some doctrine or creed with a promise of reward at the end of it. If anything they condemn the individual's free exploration of these issues.
As Robert Anton Wilson pointed out, each of us has a particular reality tunnel through which we observe our world. The point is to realize this fact, which creates more tolerance and less arrogance.

in re experience - it's my experience of the ocean. it's not my ocean. the experience belongs to the individual, that which is experienced does not.

it's the story of the blind men and the elephant...

Watch this video and decide for yourself what Krishnamurti is emphasizing.

You ask..."how can a religious belief system work by emphasizing that people have personal experiences?"

The answer, I think, is that these so called "personal experiences" are not personal at all, but rather the hoped for outcome of following the authority of organized religious traditions, whether it be the Buddhist's Nirvana, or the Christian's being born-again.

Of course, independent personal experience can be equally limiting and self-enclosing, but it needn't be.

I'm familiar with parts of the inverview with Trungpa, and I heard Krishnamurti speak in person many times. Clearly Krishnamurti is critical of all ego-centric activity. Personal experience, whether arrived at independently or shaped by organized religion, is unacceptable in his mind.

However, I don't necessarily accept the view that they are interchangeable.Some things would seem to be more authentic than others.

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