Yogi Berra, the great catcher for the New York Yankees, was known for his illogical statements that somehow made perfect sense. For example, “Nobody goes to that restaurant any more — it’s too crowded.” Or, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” But my favorite of his sayings is, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
That is one that Krishnamurti would have liked. A great deal of his philosophy revolves around sheer observation. It is something that he put into practice, often in surprising ways.
Once, at the lunch table, there was a woman sitting about four places to his left. She was only just within his field of vision. I was sitting next to him, and he told me very quietly to watch how she was eating. I noticed for the first time how she bent her head low over her plate and shoveled large forkfuls of food into her mouth. It was a little bit gross and unpleasant to watch.
Another time I was helping him move some stones out of an uncultivated strip of land behind his cottage. I thought I was being attentive and helpful, but he told me to be more careful and to watch where I was placing my feet. Only then I noticed some tiny plants growing wild there, about a quarter of an inch high. I had been stepping on them inadvertently while I carried twenty-pound stones from one place to another. He saw it and pointed it out.
On a more serious note, we were discussing once at a teachers’ meeting about observing oneself. He was talking about observing without any movement of judgment or comparison, and he used the metaphor of a pool of water. He asked if we could observe our own state of mind as if we were watching our reflection in a pool of water. I said, “That pool may be muddied.” And he said, “We’re going to clear it. By watching, we’re going to clear it.”
Thought and observation are perhaps the two great pillars of Krishnamurti’s philosophy. If we could understand each of those completely, and their relationship to one another, it would probably resolve most of the sources of conflict and illusion in our lives.