Krishnamurti, U. G.

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U. G. Krishnamurti

Indian philosopher and writer Uppaluri Gopala (U.G.) Krishnamurti (1918-2007) has been described as the “anti–guru.” Throughout his life, this unique spiritual figure repeatedly and vehemently insisted that he could not help anyone seeking enlighten ment. Ironically, he attracted a large following through his lectures and books.

Krishnamurti's main message to those who looked to him for illumination was that he had no message at all to offer. Appropriately, he has been described as the anti–guru, a spiritual nihilist and a philosopher without a philosophy. During his long, personal spiritual quest, Krishnamurti, widely known as U.G. Krishnamurti, rejected the paths presented by well–known spiritual leaders throughout history. Though he inspired others, he did not want fellow seekers to forge a template that matched his own experiences. “I have no particular message for mankind, except to say that all holy systems for obtaining enlightenment are nonsense and that all talk of arriving at a psychological mutation through awareness is rubbish,” he once stated, as quoted on the Mystic Missal Web site. “Psychological mutation is impossible. The natural state can happen only through biological mutation.”

Interestingly enough, his rebellious stance resonated with a great many people who drew upon his wisdom as they proceeded on their individual paths toward this desired “natural state.”

Early Life

Krishnamurti was born on July 9, 1918, in South India, into a Brahmin family that lived in Masulipatam, a coastal town in the state of Andhra Pradesh. His mother died only seven days after she gave birth to the future spiritual sage, but before she passed away, she predicted a remarkable destiny for her son.

Krishnamurti was raised by his maternal grandparents, and he never really knew his father, who remarried soon after his wife's death and left his son in the care of the grandparents. Krishnamurti's maternal grandfather, Tummalapalli Gopala Krishnamurti (T.G. Krishnamurti), was a wealthy Brahmin lawyer and prominent member of the Theosophical Society. He believed in his daughter's prediction about her son, and he gave up his thriving law practice to devote himself to U.G. Krishnamurti's upbringing and education. Grandparents and family friends believed that Krishnamurti was a yogabhrashta, someone who had come close to enlightenment in a past life. As such, Krishnamurti received a thorough education in classical Hindu literature and was raised to become a great spiritual leader, a role that he would eventually renounce.

Awakening of a Spiritual Rebel

As T.G. Krishnamurti was both a Theosophist and an orthodox Brahmin, U.G. Krishnamurti's early education included a diverse, incongruous mixture of the orthodox and unorthodox, including both Hindu religious beliefs and Theosophical spiritual beliefs. U.G. Krishnamurti later said that his grandfather was a “mixed up” man. The educational dichotomy, coupled with his grandfather's apparent spiritual confusion, would affect Krishnamurti's own belief system in later years.

To help with his grandson's spiritual upbringing, T.G. Krishnamurti invited many so–called holy men into his home. When U.G. Krishnamurti was only three years old, he forsook typical childhood pastimes to spend his time in meditative postures, imitating the celebrated visitors. Further, during the entire course of each day, he was taught from the major holy books, including the Upanishads, Panchadasi, and Naishkarmya Siddhi, as well as the commentaries on these works (and even the commentaries on the commentaries). By the time he was seven, he could recite important passages from these complex books.

With his early indoctrination into both the Hindu scriptures and spiritualism, Krishnamurti came to a realization: By embracing their respective beliefs, both Hindus and Theosophists were kept from comprehending the real truth. Further, truth is something they had to discover for themselves. This realization formed the basis of the message he would later deliver to the world, and it underscored the nature of his character. From childhood to adulthood, he was rebellious and could even be brutally honest.

In 1925, when he was seven years old, U.G. Krishnamurti lost his faith in the power of prayer and found the concept of God irrelevant when he perceived a contradiction in a personal prayer request. Essentially, he came to believe that prayer fulfillment resulted from sheer strength of his own desire rather than the power of prayer itself.

His disillusionment also resulted from the hypocrisies he perceived in his teachers. For instance, he once witnessed T.G. Krishnamurti administer a harsh beating to a crying great–grandchild who had disturbed his concentration during meditation. About this incident, as recorded on the Web site dedicated to him, U.G. Krishnamurti later commented: “There must be something funny about the whole business of meditation. [The practitioners'] lives are shallow and empty. They talk marvelously. But there is a neurotic fear in their lives. Whatever they preach does not seem to operate in their lives. Why?” Such questions formed the basis of his own spiritual search, which lasted a good part of his life.

Further Youthful Disillusionment

After his home schooling, U.G. Krishnamurti received his formal education in the town of Gudivada. Between the ages of fourteen and twenty–one, he practiced a wide assortment of spiritual exercises to determine if moksha, a state of total liberation, truly existed. As many great spiritual leaders preached extensively about this particular concept, Krishnamurti wanted to experience it for himself. He later recalled: “I was so young, but I was determined to find out if there was any such thing as moksha, and I wanted that moksha for myself,” as quoted in the Mystic Missal Web site. “Everybody is talking about moksha, liberation, freedom. What is that? I want to know for myself. These are all useless fellows, yet there must be some person in this world who is an embodiment and apostle of all those things. If there is one, I want to find out for myself.”

As far as his efforts toward achieving moksha, the Mystic Missal Web site recorded his observation that “[n]obody can give that state; I am on my own. I have to go on this uncharted sea without a compass, without a boat, with not even a raft to take me. I am going to find out for myself what the state is in which that man is. I wanted that very much, otherwise I wouldn't have given my life.”

At various times throughout this early period of his life, he studied classical Yoga with Hindu evangelist Swami Sivananda Saraswati in Rishikesh: practicing yoga and meditation, led to several spiritual visions and experiences. These were the kinds of experiences described in the sacred texts and were called “samadhi,” “super samadhi,” and “nirvikalpa samadhi.” However, Krishnamurti questioned the validity of his own experiences, as he felt these were not entirely revelatory but based on prior knowledge. The Web site dedicated to him documented his beliefs that “[t]hought can create any experience you want—bliss, beatitude, ecstasy, melting away into nothingness—all those experiences. But this can't be the thing, because I have remained the same person, mechanically doing these things.”

After all his searching up to this point, he concluded that he had not found what he had been looking for. Appropriately, he looked to other directions.

Graduated from College and Joined Theosophical Society

In 1939, Krishnamurti enrolled in the University of Madras. By this time, he was leaning toward atheism. At the university, he studied psychology, philosophy (both Eastern and Western), mysticism and modern sciences. Eventually, he received bachelor's degrees in philosophy and psychology. Still, formal studies of various philosophical and psychological systems left him unimpressed.

As he continued maturing, he evolved into a spiritual cynic. He questioned all accepted dogmas and philosophies, denounced the “hypocrisy of the holy business,” according to his Web site, and continued challenging accepted spiritual authorities. Furthermore, he came to believe that all of mankind's greatest spiritual teachers (e.g., Buddha, Jesus, Sri Ramakrishna) were self–delusional and, as such, only deluded their followers.

In 1941, after he left the university, he joined the Theosophical Society, which was co–founded in 1873 by Helena Petrova Blavatsky, a Russian immigrant to the United States. The Society was formed on a basis of Buddhism, Hinduism and various occult teachings, and it attracted freethinkers, agnostics and atheists, providing believers and non–believers with spiritual order and support. Krishnamurti became a public speaker and lectured extensively on Theosophy, helping the Society introduce the Western world to Eastern spiritual thought.

Moved to the United States Following Marriage

In 1943, when he was twenty–five years old, Krishnamurti married Kusuma Kumari. They eventually had four children, but he continued to work with the Theosophical Society, giving lectures throughout Europe.

In 1955, he moved his family to the United States so that his son could receive medical treatment for his polio condition. By this time in his life, Krishnamurti never really had to seek work, as he benefited from his grandfather's inheritance. However, by the mid–1950s, his funds began to dwindle, so he began lecturing for a fee in the United States, giving talks for the Theosophical Society about the world's major religions and philosophers. During this period, he met some of the greatest living spiritual teachers, including Ramana Maharshi and Judda Krishnamurti (who was not related to U.G.). Even so, he still felt that no one had anything to offer him in regards to answers to his questions. His spiritual dissatisfaction intensified, which led to personal, professional, financial, and marital turmoil. After about two years of lecturing, he lost interest in public speaking. It was also at this time that his marriage came to an end. After his wife and children returned to India, Krishnamurti entered a period in his life when he drifted from one place to another. His inheritance had run out, and he was virtually penniless. His wife eventually died in a mental institution, and he would not establish contact with his family again until much later in his life.

A Homeless Wanderer in Europe

In his destitute and rambling state, he eventually ended up in Paris, France and London, England in 1961. “I was a bum practically, living on the charity of some people and not knowing anything,” he later described, quoted on the Sentient Publications Web site. “There was no will. I didn't know what I was doing. I was practically insane.”

He lived like this for six more years. All the while, he continued concerning himself with moksha and asking himself “What is the state.” Ultimately, he came to believe he was living that state, due to his property–less and ego–less existence. The experience informed his later radical philosophy.

During his wanderings, he eventually found his way to the Indian embassy in Geneva, Switzerland, and asked for transportation back to India. At the embassy, he met Valentine DeKervan, who took him into her home. She would become his lifelong friend, benefactor and traveling companion.

In this period, Krishnamurti had a mystical experience that changed his life and became part of his legend. It took place in 1967, on his 49th birthday. As he related, for seven days his body underwent confounding physical changes that led him into what he called the “Natural State.” He referred to the experience as the “calamity,” and described it as a “sudden explosion inside, blasting, as it were, every cell, every nerve and every gland in my body,” as the Mystic Missal Web site recounts. Characteristically, he downgraded the importance of the event. “I call it the ‘calamity’ because from the point of view of one who thinks this is something fantastic, blissful, full of beatitude, love, ecstasy and all that kind of a thing, this is physical torture,” he said, from the same Web site. “This is a calamity from that point of view. Not a calamity to me, but a calamity to those who have an image that something marvelous is going to happen. It's not the thing that you had sought after and wanted so much, but totally different. What is there, you really don't know—you have no way of knowing anything about that— there is no image here.”

Post–“Calamity” fame

During the 1970s, he began to become more of a public figure, even though his lecturing came to an end. In 1972, he gave his first and last talk at the Indian Institute of World Culture. The event would prove to be the last time he gave a public talk. But, by this time, people had begun to seek him out for answers to their own personal questions. He willingly received their questions and accommodated them with answers based on his own viewpoint. People from all over the world felt drawn to him, even though he repeatedly said that he had no message for the masses. He gave no lectures, had no organization, was headquartered in no offices and, of course, never had a fixed address. Rather, he got his message out through books and television.

He published his first book, The Mystique of Enlightenment, in 1982. In 1986, he gave his first television interview, which led to many other television and radio interviews across the world. Despite his increasing fame, he still lived an austere lifestyle. As far as living arrangements, he stayed either with friends or in small, rented apartments. He never stayed in one place longer than six months.

As far as his published works, he made the unusual move of not allowing any of his books to be copyrighted. “My teaching, if that is the word you want to use, has no copyright,” he explained, as reprinted in the Web site dedicated to him. “You are free to reproduce, distribute, interpret, misinterpret, distort, garble, do what you like, even claim authorship, without my consent or the permission of anybody.” This arrangement exposed his ideas to even more people.

Some of his other published works include The Mind is a Myth (1988), The Sage and the Housewife (1990), Thought is Your Enemy (1991), and Courage to Stand Alone (1997). Because these books are not copyrighted, they are readily available via download at various Web site sites on the Internet.

Died in Italy

In early 2007, Krishnamurti injured himself in a fall. It was the second such occurrence for the aging anti–guru in two years, only this time he refused any medical treatment. Experiencing failing health and believing that his end was coming soon, he did not want to burden his friends with his physical problems. Rather, he decided to let nature run its course. He remained in his bed, which was situated in an apartment that had been built for him by friends in Vallecrosia, Italy. As he awaited death, he consumed very little food and water.

He died on March 22, 2007. Reportedly, in his final days, he demonstrated no fear about death. Nor did he request any special funeral rites or ceremonies. Furthermore, he did not care about how his body would be disposed, even going so far as to tell his friends that they could throw it away, nihilistic right to the very end. Friends had his body cremated the day after he died.

Described as someone who could be both cruel and loving, U.G. Krishnamurti remained an enigma. He rejected the role of spiritual leader in life, and he wanted no one to worship his memory after he died. “After I am dead and gone,” he said to his friend and biographer, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, from his Web site, “nothing of me must remain inside of you or outside of you. I can certainly do a lot to see that no establishment or institution of any kind mushrooms around me whilst I am alive. But how do I stop all you guys from enshrining me in your brains?”


Bhatt, Mahesh, U.G. Krishnamurti: A Life, Viking, 1992.


“Remembering U.G. Krishnamurti,” U.G. Krishnamurti, (December 15, 2007).

“U.G. Krishnamurti,”, (December 15, 2007).

“U.G. Krishnamurti,”, (December 15, 2007).

“U.G. Krishnamurti,”, (December 15, 2007).

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