The Star Publishing Trust, Eerde, Ommen, Holland, 1928

The Path

Part 1 - To Part II

J. Krishnamurti

There is not a cloud in the sky; there is not a breath of wind; the sun is pouring down cruelly and relentlessly its hot rays; there is a mist caused by the heat, and I am alone on the road. On both sides of me there are fields melting into the far distant horizon; there is not a blade of grass that is green; there is not a flower breathing in this heart-breaking country; everything is withered and parched, all crying with anguish of the untold and unutterable pain of ages. There is not a tree in the vast fields under whose shade a tender thing might grow up smiling, careless of the cruel sun. The very earth is cracked and gaping hopelessly, with bared eyes, at the pitiless sun.
The sky has lost its delicate blue and it is grey with the heat of many centuries. Those skies must have shed gentle rain, this very earth must have received it, those dead plants, those huddled up bushes, those withered blades of grass must have once quenched their thirst. They are dead, dead beyond all thought of life. How many centuries ago the soothing drops of rain fell I cannot tell, nor can those hot stones remember when they were happy in the rain, nor those dead blades of grass when they were wet. Everything is dead, dead beyond hope. There is not a sound; awful and fearsome silence reigns. Now and then, there is a groan of immense pain as the earth cracks, and the dust goes up and comes down, lifeless.
Not a living thing breathes this stifling air; all things, once living, are now dead. The wide stream beside the road, which in former ages bubbled with mirth and laughter, satisfying many living things with its delicious cool waters, is now dead; the bed of the stream has forgotten when the waters used to flow over it, nor can those dead fish, whose bleached and delicate skeletons lie open to the blinding light, remember when they swam in couples exposing their exquisite and brilliant colors to the warm and life-giving sun. The fields are covered with the dead of many bygone ages, never can the dead vibrate again with the happy pulse of life. All is gone, all is spent, death has trapped in its cruel embrace all living things – all except me.
I am all alone on the road, not a soul in front of me; there may be many behind me, but I do not desire to look back upon the horror of past sufferings. On either side of what seems to be an interminable highway of my life, there is desolate waste ever beckoning me to join its miserable quietude – death. In front of me the Path stretches mile after mile, year after year, century after century, white in the blazing, pitiless sun; the road ever mounts, in an imperceptible inclination. The whiteness of this weary Path, with the glittering sun, almost blinds me; look where I may to rest my tired eyes, there is everywhere that immense ocean of blinding light, blatant in its intensity.
The sun never goes to sleep but ruthlessly sheds his unwelcome and awful heat. The road is not all even, but here and there are parts as smooth as a lake on a calm, peaceful day. This dreary Path is even to the tread, but unexpectedly, like some unsatisfied storm which suddenly bursts forth into triumph in its joy of destruction, the road is broken up and becomes merciless to the already bleeding feet. I cannot tell when it will again become smooth and encouraging; it may be at the next footstep or after many years of toil and suffering. This bitter road cares not if it causes pain or pleasure; it is there for me to tread willingly or unwillingly. Who built this road of misfortune I cannot tell, nor can the road mention his name. It has existed for many centuries, nay for many millennia.
No one has trodden it but I; it has been cut out for me to walk alone. Companions, friends, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers have I had, but on this dreadful road they cannot exist. This Path is like the jealous and exacting lover, hating his love to have other friends and other lovers. The road is my inexorable love, and it guards my love jealously, destroying all those who would accompany me or help me. Exacting in all things both small or great, it never releases me from its cruel, kind grasp. It embraces me with a strength that almost chokes me, and laughs with a knowing kindness as my feet bleed; I cannot go away from it, it is my constant and lonely love. I cannot look elsewhere but only at the long interminable Path.
At times it is neither kind nor unkind – indifferent as to whether I am happy or unhappy, whether I am in pain or in ecstasy, whether I am in profound sorrow or in deep adoration, indifferent to all things. That enthralling Path well knows that I cannot leave it, nor can it depart from my sorrow-laden self. We are inseparable; it cannot exist without me nor I without it. We are one, yet I am different.
Like the smile of a sweet spring morn the Path beckons me to walk on it, and like the angry and treacherous ocean it cheats me of my momentary happiness. It holds me as I fall, in blissful embrace, making me forget the sorrow and the suffering of the past, kissing me with the kiss of a tender and loving mother whose only thought is to protect, and when I am in complete oblivion and ecstasy, as a man who has drunk deep at the fountain of supreme happiness, it wakes me with a rude shock from my happy and ephemeral dream and pushes me roughly to my aching feet.
Cruel and kind is my lonely friend and lover, unexpected in her hard tyranny and her delicious love. Does she like me, I do not care; does she dislike me, I do not care; but she is my only companion, nor do I desire any other.
The sun is scorching me and the Path makes me bleed. I leave no footprints on that hard road nor do I see the traces of any human being. So I am the only lover my Path has had and I glory in my exclusiveness and separateness. I suffer unlike others, am happy unlike others, and my obstinacy in loving her is unlike that of any other lover the world has ever seen. I am breathless in my adoration of her, and no other worshipper can ever lay his sacrifice at her feet with greater willingness and with greater enthusiasm than I.
There is no follower with a greater fanaticism; not can there exist a greater devotee. Her cruelty only makes me lover her more, and her kindness binds me closer and everlastingly to her. We live for each other and I alone can see her dear face, I alone can kiss her hand. No other lover has she besides me, no other friend. As the young bird escapes from its restraining nest with its untried wings to enjoy the freedom and the beauty of the great world, so have I rushed on this Path to enjoy the exhilaration of loving her in solitude away from others who might dare to look on her beauteous face.
Many winds of many seasons have battered me, like a dead leaf blown hither and thither by autumnal winds, but I have always wandered back to this enticing Path. Like a wave glittering in the hot ceaseless sunshine, have I been dancing to the fierce winds; like a desert which is bound by no mountain, have I lain open to the sun; like the sands of the ocean, have my lives been. Never a peaceful rest, never has contentment filled my soul, never has joy penetrated my very being and never have I been comforted. No smile has ever compensated my longing; no face, sweet and gentle, has brought balm to my aching heart; no kind words have allayed my infinite suffering.
Neither the love of the mother nor the wife nor the child has ever quenched my burning love; but all have deserted me and I have abandoned them all. Like some leprous thing have I wandered, alone and unwept for. Pain and sorrow have been my eternal and inseparable companions. Like a shadow has my grief clung to me; like one in everlasting pain have I wept bitter tears.
Many a time have I longed for death and complete oblivion and neither have been granted to me; many a time have I looked death in its horrible face, tearing my heart and welcoming joyously the terror of so many, but it smiled and gave me a blessing; many a time, tired of wooing death, have I turned my face and footsteps to the altar of love and worship, but little comfort have I found; many a sacrifice, both of myself and others, have I made in the hope of reaching the altar of contentment, but in vain; many a time have I dwelt in breathless adoration, but, like the scent of a delicately perfumed flower, has my adoration been wafted through centuries and left me listless, and still on my aching knees; many a time have I laid fragrant flowers at sacred feet, and no blessing have I received.
Many a time have I offered to the numerous Gods of many lands and races, and the Gods have always been silent and Their look always averted; many a time have I been Their priest in Their sacred temples, but the white robes have fallen off me and left me naked to the sun; many a holy lotus of the temple have I kissed in adoration of the Gods, but the lotus has withered in my hand. Many a time have I worshipped at the altars that the world has ever created, but with bowed head and silent have I returned.
Many ceremonies have I performed, but my longing has never been satisfied; many rites have I delighted in, but there has been no joy, no hope. In many a temple have I been consecrated, but have received no comfort. Many a sacred book have I read, but knowledge was denied to me. Many a life have I spent in holiness, but my life has been dark. Many a window have I opened to gaze at the stars, but they parted not with their profound wisdom. Often have I lain awake looking into nothingness, looking for light, but darkness, intense darkness has ever reigned.
Often, in many lives, have I deliberately followed, sometimes blindly, sometimes with open eyes, the humble teachers of the secluded village, but their teachings have left me at the foot of the lonesome hill. I have lived nobly and toiled laboriously; I have restrained myself and I have been without restraint. Often have I cried, with aching heart and with bitter tears, for the Divine Hand to lead me, but no hand has aided me. I have struggled fiercely with humanity to gain the light, but the light and humanity have I lost. I have meditated profoundly with my eyes fixed on the goal, controlling all my emotions, searching for truth, but nothing was revealed to me.
Many a time have I sought seclusion from my noisy brethren and tried to escape from their petty and ignoble thoughts and worries, from their false and uncouth emotions, from their little miseries and sorrows which they have created for themselves, from their cruel hate and their infantile pity, from their puerile affection and their fleeting compassion, from their unfair gossip and from their warm and selfish friendship, from their bitter quarrels and their loud rejoicings, from their vindictive anger and their soft love, from their talk of great things which they know not of, and their knowledge of little things which they know so well, from their showerings of honors and their withering scorn, from their gross flattery and their obvious contumely, from their fleeting desires and their petty aversions, from all that was human, longing for all that was divine, noble and great; but wheresoever I have been, and wheresoever I go, humanity with its terrible agonies and its crying pain has pursued me.
Many a time I sought seclusion and solitude in the forest glade, dim and peaceful, but I found it peopled with my thoughts and haunted with misery. Many a time was I thrilled by the beauty of the world, the soft spring and the harsh winter, the calm and glorious sunset and the heavenly and luminous stars, the waking morn and the dying evening, the tender moon and the soft light, the pitiless sun and the shadows numberless, the green grass, the velvety leaf, the fierce tiger, the gentle deer, the loathsome reptile, the dignified elephant, the magnificent mountains, the boisterous seas. I have enjoyed to the full the beauties that the world can give, but no joy have I found in them. I have wandered in the shady valleys and climbed the precipitous mountains. I have searched everywhere in vain and in pain.
Many a time, in many a life, have I practiced Yoga through starvation, through physical torture, through self-denial, but I have not seen the seated God. Desires and false emotions have I annihilated; I have lived purely according to the sacred laws of many nations, I have done noble deeds which the world has praised and honored, and it has showered me with earthly glories. I have never bowed my bleeding head to sorrow or to temptation. I have made pilgrimages to the earth's sacred abodes; but always and everywhere have I found no true and lasting comfort.
Visions have I had in the temples of Nineveh, Babylon, Egypt, and in the sacred temples of holy India; their Gods have I worshipped, denying earthly happiness, renouncing father, mother, wife and child, noble and petty, offering sacrifices great and small, noble and petty, sacrificing my body and my very soul for the light to guide me; contentment has been denied me in all things I have done.
I have loved divinely, I have suffered nobly, I have smiled joyously, I have danced rapturously in front of many Gods, I have been intoxicated with divinity, I have longed to be freed from this aching world. I have helped many though helping I needed most; I have healed many though healing I needed most; I have guided many though guidance I needed most; I have comforted when comfort I needed most. When in deep sorrow I have smiled, when joyous, I have grieved; losing, I was happy; gaining, I was miserable; and ever have I loved by God.
Yet my soul is in utter chaos, yet I am pitiably blind, surrounded by darkness and unrealities, yet the pure light is denied me, yet healing comfort have I none, yet soothing contentment is withheld, yet blissful happiness is nowhere to be found, and I am alone, lonely as a wanderer in the sky. I am alone with myself.
Tired of worship and adoration, tired of solitude and loneliness, tired of seeking and longing for divine happiness, tired of sacrifice and self-mortification, tired of searching for the light and the truth, tired of being noble and unselfish, tired of the struggle and the steep climb, tired of body and soul, I threw myself with a vigour and an uproar into the material world, hoping thus to gain the ungainable and the unfathomable.
I became young and healthy, beautiful and passionate, free and joyous, gay without a thought for the morrow, carefree and careless. I set about diligently and systematically to enjoy myself supremely and selfishly, heeding nothing but bodily pleasure and flashes of mental enjoyment. I set about to gain and to taste every experience both low and high that the mortal world could give me; nothing could be withheld from me, supreme pleasure was my sole aim.
Often was I born rich, to sleep in the lap of luxury and to enjoy the lull of flattery. Youth was on my side and beauty was not denied to me; with these two the world and its gross and unappetising pleasures were ever upon me. Foremost in all that was boisterous and lively was I; surrounded by the licentious the untold pleasures of youth had I from morning till night, nay till gentle dawn appeared in the dim east. I was foremost in gaiety, no rival could I find in my extremes. The pleasures of bright Nineveh, of gay Babylon, of wondrous Egypt and sun-burnt India were ever at my call; they showered upon me their honours, their praise and their flattery. I drank deep the wine of merriment at the fountain of gaiety and satisfaction.
Slaves, servants had I many, but never a master, not one. Desires, springing up like the glorious flowers of the tender spring, were immediately satisfied, never was there a curb to my whims and caprices. No sooner was there a thought of enjoyment, it was fulfilled at the next pleasurable moment. Love, of all kinds, was ever at my elbow; no pure thing was safe from me. I desecrated all chastity, scoffing at the high gods, spurning the humbly faithful of the human race. Rich and fragrant wine was always beside me with a slave to hand it to me.
Surfeited with the throbs of gratification of man, in all civilized countries, among all refined nations and races, I incarnated as a woman to relish the delicate raptures of being loved by passionate men. Never was I satisfied with the monotony of one lover and the love of one wooer, but many and innumerable adorers had I at my window. Languishing in one love, clamouring for more, I passed my life. All the suffering of child-bearing, the joys of having a child, the grief of losing one, the pains and sorrows of old age and the neglect and the indifference of former lovers, have I experienced, and have gloated over past memories, cried over long lost admirers.
Many a life, tired of being a licentious and free-loving woman, I became a sacred wife and gained the happiness of pure love. Children have I borne with pleasure and there never stirred in my heart, as of yore, the hate of suffering when I put forth to the world an innocent being. The tender love of clinging children, their innocent smiles, their little sorrows and pains, their pure hearts, their dear and holy kisses, their delicate embraces, have I enjoyed, and have been thrilled at their welcome.
A loving wife, a tender mother I became, and gloried in the feelings of love. Having gained that experience of womanhood, I turned once more to the free man with strong and brutal emotions. Passion rent my heart and I lay in the lap of luxury, forgetful of sorrow and pain, oblivious to the suffering of any creature. I lived a life of selfish enjoyment, rich in gross experiences, wealthy in mortal pleasures, and the material world withheld nothing from me.
But there was not satisfaction, no contentment, no blissful happiness, and my heart was as bare and desolate as the waste desert, with no living thing to give beauty and rapture to it.
I had tasted the wealth of the worlds, and I became a poor man, a beggar, wandering from house to house, with bleeding feet, denied and cursed at, dirty, tired, ugly, hideous in my own eyes, laughed at and pointed at, hungry, fatherless, motherless, with no woman who dared to touch me, pitiable, riddled with known and unknown diseases; with a dirty sackcloth on my shoulders which served me as a robe on festal days, as a blanket when the cool night breezes blew, as a headgear when the blazing sun shone pitiless on my dirty head; and with a worn staff in my hand have I wandered through the rich and inhospitable streets of many nations. The wealthy shopkeepers welcomed me, each and all, with a curse and a howl, with a hit and a kick; I was chased by men and savage dogs.
With faces averted the people passed, and their hands withheld the comfort which lay in their power to give. The villages and towns were alike; pitiless and with a hard heart the peoples of all nations passed me by. My bedchamber was some desolate and lonesome spot where no man or animal dared to come, loathing to breathe such foul air. Hunger always gnawing at my stomach, the heat of the sun always burning me, cold winds of the north always biting me, frosts withering me, shivering with ague and pain, tottering with weariness, eaten by disease, have I wandered all over the earth, never meeting a smile, never a kind word, never a loving look.
The dogs were happy, they were fed, they had someone to pet them, to comfort and to care for them; but the dogs howled at me. No house ever opened its door to my knock; the holy priests chased me from their sacred temples. Children, stricken with horror, stopped crying when they beheld me. Mothers held their children closer at the distant sight of me, rushing with a shriek into their protecting homes.
I seemed to spread pestilence and unhappiness; the very heavens clouded; the rivers dried up at my approach, as I went to quench my thirst; the trees gave me no fruit; the earth quaked at my advance and the stars disappeared at the sight of my unfortunate being. No gentle rain fell on my head, cleansing my impurities.
Thus for many generations, among various nations, among strange people, alone and unhappy, like a lone cloud that hangs over the vale and the hill, that is chased and harried by wanton winds, have I wandered, miserable and loathed.
Shelter and physical comfort have I not found for many ages; weary of body and desolate of soul, hunted like some vicious animal, have I sought seclusion, and in solitude, alas! misery ever dwelt in me. Like a dead leaf that is crushed by many a foot, have I suffered in this cruel and gruesome abode of the flesh, poor and dirty, without love and without hate, with complete indifference as to sorrow or pain, void of intelligence, famished and thirsty, all the glorious emotions that once kindled my heart dead for many an age. Blind to hope, despairing of my existence, crawling from human sight, detested and loathed by the youngest of humanity, have I sought, through this agony and through this interminable sorrow, through this torture of the physical body and through the privation of the soul, through this degradation and horror – crying and in eternal pain – for that light, for that comfort and for that happiness which were denied to me when sunk in gross riches, when wallowing in selfish contentment and caring for nothing except my crude pleasures, which were withheld from me also when I attempted to lead the noble and pure life.
For when I worshipped and dwelt in pure adoration, when life was continual self-denial and self-mortification, when sin was abhorred by me, when, with head erect, I gazed always into the dim future for truth, when there was so much light around me, and yet profound and dismal darkness within me, when I loved purely and longed nobly, when I was thrilled at the simple name of God; in those lives of temple piety and harmlessness, no blissful contentment could I find.
Many and varied were my experiences, thoughts and emotions; innumerable passions, bestial and noble, fine sympathies and great loves; many a love, pure and selfish, many shades of gratification and fine and glorious feelings, much high intelligence and low cunning have I known; through many ages and through many centuries, through different nations and races, in every capacity, have I passed and gained the knowledge that the world can give to one who seeks and suffers.
Yet where is that light which sages have seen, that truth which conquers all unrealities, that compassion which heals all suffering, that blissful contentment which brings eternal happiness to the sorrow-stricken soul and that wisdom which guides aching humanity? Wheresoever I have been, wheresoever I have groped, I have returned with an empty hand and grieving heart. Like an erring child that strays from its beloved mother, have I wandered far into the realms of despair and unrealities seeking the great reality. Far from the lonely road have I departed in quest of that unconquerable longing and that unquenchable thirst; but I have been burnt with anguish, and with drooping head have I returned.
No satisfaction or gratification have I found, either amidst warring humanity or away from madding crowd; happy or unhappy, elevated or degraded, in pain or in pleasure, there has always dwelt with me, like the dark shadow, a deep void which nothing could fill, an infinite longing which could not be satisfied; I have wandered blindly and wearily, asking every passer-by for that balm which would cure my aching heart; they gave of their best with a gentle smile and a blessing, but did not further my long quest. Where is that light and where is that infinite happiness?
I am tired, tired with the wanderings of innumerable ages; I am weary, weary with the fatigue of many centuries; I am exhausted from lack of strength to struggle and to fight; my feet falter at each footstep; I can scarce drag myself along; I am almost blind with long and continuous use of my eyes through interminable eras; I am hairless, haggard and old. Pride and youth have gone from me; I am bent double with the weight and sorrow of my infinite pain; beauty, of which I once clamorously boasted, has deserted me and left me a monstrous horror. What has passed and what has been wrought through those long and insufferable years is beyond my memory, and my indifference is complete.
I am desireless; no passion sways me; no affections tear me; emotions have lost their ancient and all-powerful influence over me; tender love is behind me far back in the distance; the exhilaration of action has been killed out of me; ambition, that spurs so many, either bringing laurels or dishonour, glory or shame, is buried in the distant past; pride that holds its head high amidst the turmoil of noble and ignoble deeds, is vanished, never to reappear; fear, that overwhelms and holds men in thrall, is crushed; gruesome death, the awful and impartial companion of all, can no longer dismay me with its threatening stare. Yet there is a deep void of discontent and an everlasting longing for the almost unattainable.
Can I ever reach the mountain top of blissful contentment and grasp the supreme happiness? O Mighty Beings, have compassion on the lonely traveler who has voyaged through many stormy seas, traveled through many lands and passed through many sorrows! I am alone – come to my help ye pitying and happy Beings! I have worshipped You, I have adored You, I have offered many a sacrifice at Your altars and much have I endured to kiss Your sacred feet. Comfort me, Ye Masters of Wisdom, with those eyes of love and understanding. What have I done, and what must I do to reach the glory and the greatness? How long must this pitiable condition last? How long, O Master, ere I behold Thy sacred beauty? How long must I walk on this long and lonely Path? Is there an end to this interminable agony which burneth the very love for Thee? Why hast Thou turned away Thy rapturous face, and whither has gone that beatific smile that allays all suffering in all things?
I have served the Great Ones and the needy world in a humble and despairing way; I have loved in a blind fashion all things, both small and great, and I have drunk at all the fountains of earthly wisdom. Never have I reached Thy feet. Like a glorious flower that has withered, that has lost its fragrance, its beauty and its tenderness, is the existence of my life; cheerless and desolate, like a dead tree that gives no cool shade to the weary traveler. I have given all, withholding nothing, and empty and hopeless have I remained. I have led the blind and the sorrow-stricken, myself being blind and sorrow-stricken. Why hast Thou not stretched Thy helping hand when I have stumbled? I am weary with asking; I have no hope; all seems to be dead, and utter darkness prevails. No tears fall, but yet I am crying, crying in infinite pain. No passer-by can help me in my pitiable plight, for there is no one but me on this long, long Path that winds about like a mighty stream, without a beginning and without an end. Desperate, like a madman, I wander on, knowing not whither to go, nor caring what becomes of me. The sun can no longer burn me. I am burnt to the very bone. Like a vast ocean which is boundless, is the glaring whiteness that surrounds me on all sides, and I can scarce distinguish the Path which leads me to my ultimate happiness. Everything is left behind me: my companions, my friends and my love – I am desperately lonely.
O! Master of Compassion, come to my rescue and lead me out of this profound darkness to pure light, and to the haven of immortality, and to peaceful enlightenment! I seek the pure enlightenment that few Great Beings have attained. I seek the high Deliverer that will free me from this wheel of birth and death. I seek the Brother that will share with me His divine wisdom; I seek the Lover that will comfort me; I seek to lay my weary head in the lap of compassion; I seek the Friend that will guide me; I seek to take refuge in the Light.

Part II