In many of his talks, and particularly in discussions with students and young people, Krishnamurti mentioned yoga. He did not advocate a particular system or school of yoga and warned of not making it into a religion or system of enlightenment. He eschewed the philosophical and spiritual aspects of yoga, instead highlighting the moral aspects and the importance of a ‘good body’ which is sensitive and ‘independently intelligent’
How yoga came into being
Yoga is the fashionable thing now. Yoga, as translated, means joining, yoking two separate things together. I am sure it had quite a different meaning at the beginning. Yoga meant probably harmony, not bringing two things together, the soul and the body. Yoga has been brought to the Western world to make people healthy, happy, young, find God. Originally, from what I was told, there was a certain leaf in the Himalayas which only very few people chewed, and it kept their brains and their minds tremendously alert. And as the vine or the bush disappeared, they had to invent a system called yoga which kept all the glands perfectly healthy, operating efficiently. And that is how yoga came into being, the exercises. Also in it is involved a moral way of life, not just doing some silly little exercises.
Yoga is to see the whole of life as one unitary movement
K: The word yoga means to yoke, but it is a wrong translation as it implies duality. Yoga means unitive perception, to see the whole of life as one. The seeing of it as a whole is to act as a whole. To see the whole of life as one unitary movement is yoga, not standing on your head and all that. As human beings do not see the whole of life as a unitary movement, standing on your head breathing properly will help you, at least one hopes, to see life as a whole.
Q: But would that help you really?
K: Wait. First get the true meaning of it: not joining two things, the soul and the body – that’s all nonsense – but to observe, to perceive life as a whole, as a total unitary movement. Because you see it as a whole movement you act non-fragmentarily. Therefore your relationship is total. Not my wife, my husband, my family, my children and all the rest of it, but complete, as a whole human being.
How is that to come about? Therefore they say you must breathe properly, etc., and perhaps that will then give you that. And then we get caught up in asanas. You exercise and forget the other, becoming lazy, self-centred. I am not saying you shouldn’t stand on your head. I do it. But that is not going to lead to the other. So when you see the importance of a life which is non-fragmentary, you won’t get caught in the asanas. You will do them, but you won’t be caught in them. Because by itself, doing asanas you might be terribly selfish and egocentric and lazy.
The body needs to be sensitive to have a very clear brain
One can see for oneself how important it is to have a physical organism that is independently intelligent, not chivvied about or driven by thought, by desire, by various pressures and strains, so that the body, the organism is no longer controlled, shaped by thought in its search for pleasure and the avoidance of pain or fear, and has the quality of great sensitivity and intelligence. So that is one part of it, the complete stillness of the body, intelligent, not disciplined according to the various psychological demands, various pressures so that the body becomes highly alert, sensitive, and therefore has its own intelligence. Is that possible in the world in which we are living, where one smokes, drinks, kills animals to eat, and so on? Is it possible for a body to be completely so highly disciplined? And that discipline is not imposed by thought but by its own intelligence.
It is possible only when one has the right kind of diet. But not to make diet a religion, which is, being a vegetarian, don’t make that into something extraordinarily holy. And this quality of sensitivity and intelligence, physical exercise is necessary. Am I laying down a discipline? No, I don’t think so. And therefore they say you must do yoga – and again one mustn’t make it into a religion – then only you will be highly intelligent, highly moral, highly spiritual. Hitler was a vegetarian, so was Mussolini, and there are a great many yogis who lose their temper at the least provocation, and are full of vanity. But one can see that exercise is necessary – walking, swimming or doing yoga. I was told that word yoga means harmony, skill, not only in action but also inwardly, to have great skill in all action, which is in all relationship. And in doing yoga exercise, it is also necessary to find out and be taught, perhaps, how to breathe rightly, which is called pranayama, so that you have more oxygen in your blood. The speaker does yoga and pranayama every day. It is not a religion; it is purely an exercise to keep the body healthy, vigorous, vital. When the body, the sensory perceptions are extraordinarily alert, sensitive, clear, which can obviously only exist when the body doesn’t overeat, doesn’t drink – you know all those things, which are obvious – then the body, the organism, is extraordinarily alive, sensitive, aware, watchful, and we can proceed to find out how the mind, the brain, also can be vital, alive, highly sensitive. And that very sensitivity, which is intelligence, brings about that quality of silence in which alone you can observe.