One might imagine that Krishnamurti would have little to say about an event like the coronavirus epidemic that is fundamentally medical and biological. Moreover, he is not present to make his own contribution, so we have to speculate about what he might say. Nevertheless, certain observations seem to be in order.
Perhaps the most conspicuous point of contact between the virus and Krishnamurti’s philosophy has to do with how thoroughly the virus disregards national boundaries. Those borders we construct so carefully and attach so much significance to are wholly devoid of meaning to the virus. It goes where it pleases according to entirely different principles.
The next point of contact between the virus and the teachings has to do with the manner of its transmission. It jumps from one organism to another. Its highly contagious quality underscores the extent to which we are all connected. From the perspective of the virus, we are hardly even individuals: we are a species, an interconnected mass of living tissue. From the perspective of the virus, we are one global superorganism.
It is also interesting to consider how we label the virus. It can be called COVID-19, or “the novel coronavirus,” or even “the Chinese virus.” Krishnamurti would be the first to point out that these labels inevitably influence how we respond to the epidemic. Of course, the virus itself has no intrinsic quality or characteristic that can be considered Chinese in any respect. To label it in that manner is not only false but insidious, especially insofar as it is also labeled “the invisible enemy.” The net effect can only be to generate hostility toward entirely innocent individuals and their culture.
Finally, it is important to take note of the point of origin of the virus. It came from bats sold for food in public marketplaces. Its origin is biological, not national. It is a byproduct of our unhealthy relationship with the animal world because we treat bats and other animals as commodities. If we left wildlife alone, left them where they belong in their own habitats, this virus would never have made the leap to infect Homo sapiens. This epidemic is a reflection of our dysfunctional relationship with nature, a relationship that Krishnamurti went to great lengths to attempt to repair in his nature writing.
There are some interesting parallels between the way viruses function in the biological field and the way thought functions in the psychological field. Krishnamurti says that thought is not a living thing, as we tend to assume; it is memory, an artifact of the past, and therefore not really alive. A virus, similarly, is not alive. It is a fragment of genetic material that invades living tissue and hijacks cellular machinery for its own purposes. The similarity with the way thought functions and propagates itself is a fascinating story and perhaps warrants an essay in its own right.