Theosophical Publishing House, 1911

At the Feet of the Master

Alcyone (penname for Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Comments on this classic


TO THOSE WHO KNOCK


From the unreal
Lead me to the Real.

From darkness
Lead me to Light.

From death
Lead me to Immortality.

Foreword

These are not my words; they are the words of the Master who taught me. Without Him I could have done nothing; but through His help I have set my feet upon the Path. You also desire to enter the same Path, so the words which He spoke to me will help you also, if you will obey them. It is not enough to say that they are true and beautiful; a man who wishes to succeed must do exactly what is said. To look at food and say that it is good will not satisfy a starving man; he must put forth his hand and eat. So, to hear the Master's words is not enough; you must do what He says, attending to every word, taking every hint. If a hint is not taken, if a word is missed, it is lost for ever; for He does not speak twice.


Four Qualifications there are for this pathway:

DISCRIMINATION

DESIRELESSNESS

GOOD CONDUCT

LOVE

What the Master has said to me on each of these I shall try to tell you.

I
Discrimination

The first of these Qualifications is Discrimination; and this is usually taken as the discrimination between the real and the unreal which leads men to enter the Path. It is this, but it is also much more; and it is to be practised, not only at the beginning of the Path, but at every step of it every day until the end. You enter the Path because you have learnt that on it alone can be found those things which are worth gaining. Men who do not know work to gain wealth and power, but these are at most for one life only, and therefore unreal. There are greater things than these - things which are real and lasting; when you have once seen these, you desire those others no more.

In all the world there are only two kinds of people - those who know, and those who do not know; and this knowledge is the thing which matters. What religion a man holds, to what race he belongs - these things are not important; the really important thing is this knowledge - the knowledge of God's plan for men. For God has a plan, and that plan is evolution. When once a man has seen that and really knows it, he cannot help working for it and making himself one with it, because it is so glorious, so beautiful. So, because he knows, he is on God's side, standing for good and resisting evil, working for evolution and not for selfishness.

If he is on God's side he is one of us, and it does not matter in the least whether he calls himself a Hindu or a Buddhist, a Christian or a Mohammedan, whether he is an Indian or an Englishman, a Chinaman or a Russian. Those who are on His side know why they are here and what they should do, and they are trying to do it; all the others do not yet know what they should do, and so they often act foolishly, and then try to invent ways for themselves which they think will be pleasant for themselves, not understanding that all are one, and that therefore only what the One wills can ever be really pleasant for any one. They are following the unreal instead of the real. Until they learn to distinguish between these two, they have not ranged themselves on God's side, and so this discrimination is the first step.

But even when the choice is made, you must still remember that of the real and the unreal there are many varieties; and discrimination must still be made between the right and the wrong, the important and the unimportant, the useful and the useless, the true and the false, the selfish and the unselfish.

Between right and wrong it should not be difficult to choose, for those who wish to follow the Master have already decided to take the right at all costs. But the body and the man are two, and the man's will is not always what the body wishes. When your body wishes something, stop and think whether you really wish it. For you are God, and you will only what God wills; but you must dig deep down into yourself to find the God within you, and listen to His voice, which is your voice. Do not mistake you bodies for yourself - neither the physical body, nor the astral, nor the mental. Each one of them will pretend to be the Self, in order to gain what it wants. But you must know them all, and know yourself as their master.

When there is work that must be done, the physical body wants to rest, to go out walking, to eat and drink; and the man who does not know says to himself: 'I want to do these things, and I must do them.' But the man who knows says: 'This that wants is not I, and it must wait awhile.' Often when there is an opportunity to help someone, the body feels: 'How much trouble it will be for me; let somebody else do it.' But the man replies to his body: 'You shall not hinder me in doing good work.'

The body is your animal - the horse upon which you ride. Therefore you must treat it well, and take good care of it; you must not overwork it, you must feed it properly on pure food and drink only, and keep it strictly clean always, even from the minutest speck of dirt. For without a perfectly clean and healthy body you cannot do the arduous work of preparation, you cannot bear its ceaseless strain. But it must always be you who controls that body, not that it controls you.

The astral body has its desires - dozens of them; it wants you to be angry, to say sharp words, to feel jealous, to be greedy for money, to envy other people their possessions, to yield yourself to depression. All these things it wants, and many more, not because it wishes to harm you, but because it likes violent vibrations, and likes to change them constantly. But you want none of these things, and therefore you must discriminate between your wants and your body's.

Your mental body wishes to think itself proudly separate, to think much of itself and little of others. Even when you have turned it away from worldly things, it still tries to calculate for self, to make you think of your own progress, instead of thinking of the Master's work and of helping others. When you meditate, it will try to make you think of the many different things which it wants instead of the one thing which you want. You are not this mind, but it is yours to use; so here again discrimination is necessary. You must watch unceasingly, or you will fall.

Between right and wrong Occultism knows no compromise. At whatever apparent cost, that which is right you must do, that which is wrong you must not do, not matter what the ignorant may think or say. You must study deeply the hidden laws of Nature, and when you know them arrange your life according to them, using always reason and common sense.

You must discriminate between the important and the unimportant. Firm as a rock where right and wrong are concerned, yield always to others in things which do not matter. For you must be always gentle and kindly, reasonable and accommodating, leaving to others the same full liberty which you need for yourself.

Try to see what is worth doing; and remember that you must not judge by the size of the thing. A small thing which is directly useful in the Master's work is far better worth doing than a large thing which the world would call good. You must distinguish not only the useful from the useless, but the more useful from the less useful. To feed the poor is a good and noble and useful work; yet to feed their souls is nobler and more useful than to feed their bodies. Any rich man can feed the body, but only those who know can feed the soul. If you know, it is your duty to help others to know.

However wise you may be already, on this Path you have much to learn; so much that here also there must be discrimination, and you must think carefully what is worth learning. All knowledge is useful, and one day you will have all knowledge; but while you have only part, take care that it is the most useful part. God is Wisdom as well as Love; and the more wisdom you have the more you can manifest Him. Study then, but study first that which will most help you to help others. Work patiently at your studies, not that men may think you wise, not even that you may have the happiness of being wise, but because only the wise man can be wisely helpful. However much you wish to help, if you are ignorant you may do more harm than good.

You must distinguish between truth and falsehood; you must learn to be true all through, in thought and word and deed.

In thought first, and that is not easy, for there are in the world many untrue thoughts, many foolish superstitions, and no one who is enslaved by them can make progress. Therefore you must not hold a thought just because many other people hold it, not because it has been believed for centuries, nor because it is written in some book which men think sacred; you must think of the matter for yourself, and judge for yourself whether it is reasonable. Remember that though a thousand men agree upon a subject, if they know nothing about that subject their opinion is of no value. He who would walk upon the Path must learn to think for himself, for superstition is one of the greatest evils in the world, one of the fetters from which you must utterly free yourself.

Your thought about others must be true; you must not think of them what you do not know. Do not suppose that they are always thinking of you. If a man does something which you think will harm you, or says something which you think applies to you, do not think at once: 'He meant to injure me.' Most probably he never thought of you at all, for each soul has its own troubles and its thoughts turn chiefly around itself. If a man speaks angrily to you, do not think: 'He hates me, he wishes to wound me.' Probably someone or something else has made him angry, and because he happens to meet you he turns his anger upon you. He is acting foolishly, for all anger is foolish, but you must not therefore think untruly of him.

When you become a pupil of the Master, you may always try the truth of your thought by laying it beside His. For the pupil is one with his Master, and he needs only to put back his thought into the Master's thought to see at once whether it agrees. If it does not, it is wrong, and he changes it instantly, for the Master's thought is perfect, because He knows all. Those who are not yet accepted by Him cannot do quite this; but they may greatly help themselves by stopping often to think: 'What would the Master think about this? What would the Master say or do under these circumstances?' For you must never do or say or think what you cannot imagine the Master as doing or saying or thinking.

You must be true in speech too - accurate and without exaggeration. Never attribute motives to another; only his Master knows his thoughts, and he may be acting from reasons which have never entered your mind. If you hear a story against anyone, do not repeat it; it may not be true, and even if it is, it is kinder to say nothing. Think well before speaking, lest you should fall into inaccuracy.

Be true in action; never pretend to be other than you are, for all pretense is a hindrance to the pure light of truth, which should shine through you as sunlight shines through clear glass.

You must discriminate between the selfish and the unselfish. For selfishness has many forms, and when you think you have finally killed it in one of them, it arises in another as strongly as ever. But by degrees you will become so full of thought for the helping of others that there will be no room, no time, for any thought about yourself.

You must discriminate in yet another way. Learn to distinguish the God in everyone and everything, no matter how evil he or it may appear on the surface. You can help your brother through that which you have in common with him, and that is the Divine Life; learn how to arouse that in him, learn how to appeal to that in him: so shall you save your brother from wrong.

II
Desirelessness

There are many for whom the Qualification of Desirelessness is a difficult one, for they feel that they are their desires - that if their distinctive desires, their likings and dislikings, are taken away from them, there will be no self left. But these are only they who have not seen the Master; in the light of His holy Presence all desire dies but the desire to be like Him. Yet before you have the happiness of meeting Him face to face, you may attain desirelessness if you will. Discrimination has already shown you that the things which most men desire, such as wealth and power, are not worth having; when this is really felt, not merely said, all desire for them ceases.

Thus far all is simple; it needs only that you should understand. But there are some who forsake the pursuit of earthly aims only in order to gain heaven, or to attain personal liberation from rebirth; into this error you must not fall. If you have forgotten self altogether, you cannot be thinking when that self should be set free, or what kind of heaven it shall have. Remember that all selfish desire binds, however high may be its object, and until you have god rid of it you are not wholly free to devote yourself to the work of the Master.

When all desires for self are gone, there may still be a desire to see the result of your work. If you help anybody, you want to see how much you have helped him; perhaps even you want him to see it too, and to be grateful. But this is still desire, and also want of trust. When you pour out your strength to help, there must be a result, whether you can see it or not; if you know the Law you know this must be so. So you must do right for the sake of right, not in the hope of reward; you must work for the sake of the work, not in the hope of seeing the result; you must give yourself to the service of the world because you love it, and cannot help giving yourself to it.

Have no desire for psychic powers; they will come when the Master knows that it is best for you to have them. To force them too soon often brings in its train much trouble; often their possessor is misled by deceitful nature-spirits, or becomes conceited and thinks he cannot make a mistake; and in any case the time and strength that it takes to gain them might be spent in work for others. They will come in the course of development - they must come; and if the Master sees that it would be useful for you to have them sooner, He will tell you how to unfold them safely. Until then, you are better without them.

You must guard, too, against certain small desires which are common in daily life. Never wish to shine, or to appear clever; have no desire to speak. It is well to speak little; better still to say nothing, unless you are quite sure that what you wish to say is true, kind and helpful. Before speaking think carefully whether what you are going to say has those three qualities; if it has not, do not say it.

It is well to get used even now to thinking carefully before speaking; for when you reach Initiation you must watch every word, lest you should tell what must not be told. Much common talk is unnecessary and foolish; when it is gossip, it is wicked. So be accustomed to listen rather than to talk; do not offer opinions unless directly asked for them. One statement of the Qualifications gives them thus: to know, to dare, to will and to be silent; and the last of the four is the hardest of them all.

Another common desire which you must sternly repress is the wish to meddle in other men's business. What another man does or says or believes is no affair of yours, and you must learn to let him absolutely alone. He has full right to free thought and speech and action, so long as he does not interfere with anyone else. You yourself claim the freedom to do what you think proper; you must allow the same freedom to him, and when he exercises it you have no right to talk about him.

If you think he is doing wrong, and you can contrive an opportunity of privately and very politely telling him why you think so, it is possible that you may convince him; but there are many cases in which even that would be an improper interference. On no account must you go and gossip to some third person about the matter, for that is an extremely wicked action.

If you see a case of cruelty to a child or an animal, it is your duty to interfere. If you see anyone breaking the law of the country, you should inform the authorities. If you are placed in charge of another person in order to teach him, it may become your duty gently to tell him of his faults. Except in such cases, mind your own business, and learn the virtue of silence.

Part II: good conduct and love