KRISHNAMURTI, JIDDU (1895–1986), an Indian spiritual leader, attained fame through his presentation of a unique version of Indian philosophy and mysticism in a charismatic, even mesmerizing style of lecturing that attracted large audiences around the world. Although Krishnamurti taught a philosophy that seemed to border on atheism, it is clear in his authorized biography that throughout his life he was subject to a profound spiritual purgation. This purgation came to be called "the Process" and suggested to those who witnessed it that his "higher self" departed from his body and entered into what appeared to be a transcendent state of consciousness. This state was accompanied at times by severe pain in his head and back. The suffering accompanying this experience occurred only under certain circumstances and did not impede his teaching work. In fact, it was understood to contribute to the exalted state in which Krishnamurti knew the oneness with all life and the unconditioned freedom that he tried—through his continual lecturing and the books, tape recordings, and videotapes published by his organization—to convey to thousands of persons under his influence.
Krishnamurti was born in Madanapalle, a small town in what is now the state of Andhra Pradesh, north of Chennai (Madras). He was of brahman caste. His mother, Sanjeevama, died when Krishnamurti was ten years old. His father, Narianiah, cared for Krishnamurti and his brothers until he retired from government service and was granted permission to move to the estate of the Theosophical Society, located at Adyar, just outside Chennai. This move occurred in January 1909, when Annie Besant was the international president of the Theosophical Society. Her close collaborator was Charles W. Leadbeater, whose clairvoyant powers, he claimed, enabled him to recognize Krishnamurti's potential for spiritual greatness when he observed the boy's aura as he was playing on the beach at the seaside edge of the Theosophical Society estate.
Leadbeater and Besant taught that the Lord Maitreya, the World Teacher, would become incarnate in this age in a manner similar to the way Śri Kṛṣṇa (the Hindu deity) and Jesus had appeared in the world in earlier eras. They taught that the Lord Maitreya was a master residing in the Himalayas in a place described by Leadbeater in a metaphorical and symbolic manner. The Lord Maitreya occupied the office of the Christ or the bodhisattva in the occult hierarchy of masters. Leadbeater and Besant expected that a portion of the consciousness of the Lord Maitreya would occupy an appropriate vehicle to present a teaching that would raise humanity's awareness of unity and lead to a "new civilization." Krishnamurti was a likely candidate to become the vehicle for such a manifestation, but it remained for him to be trained and tested before he could actually take on such a role.
Krishnamurti and his brother Nityananda, usually called Nitya, were understood to have been "put on probation" (i.e., rigorously tested and prepared for spiritual leadership) by a master in the occult hierarchy named Kuthumi on August 1, 1909, when Krishnamurti was fourteen years old. From that time onward Krishnamurti was nurtured and financially supported by a circle of upper-class English and American men and women and was under the scrutiny of the larger group of Theosophists who saw him at public gatherings.
Krishnamurti and Nitya left India in 1911 for their first visit to England. After their return to India, Krishnamurti's father allowed Krishnamurti and Nitya to be taken back to England for education by Besant, signing a document to that effect in 1912. By the end of 1912 Narianiah had filed suit against Besant to regain custody, charging that Leadbeater and Krishnamurti were involved in a sexual relationship. In 1914, after a judgment against her in the Indian courts, Besant won an appeal to the Privy Council in London. Both she and Leadbeater were exonerated from the charges brought by Narianiah. Krishnamurti and Nitya remained in England during this period and were prepared by a tutor for university studies. However, Krishnamurti was not able to pass the entrance examinations and never obtained a university degree, although he studied for many years privately and learned English, French, and some Sanskrit.
From about 1920 on, Krishnamurti's extraordinary gifts as a public lecturer and his independent viewpoint on the spiritual quest became evident. He spoke more and more frequently at gatherings of the Theosophical Society in India, the Netherlands, and North America. At some of these meetings he referred to himself in a way that implied he was speaking as the World Teacher. (Krishnamurti's brother, Nityananda, died of tuberculosis in Ojai, California, on November 13, 1925; Krishnamurti's struggle with the ensuing sorrow was formative of his judgment about the "bondages of the mind.") However, the articulation of his own special teachings alienated him from the inner circle of the leadership of the Theosophical Society, including Besant, Leadbeater, George Arundale, and C. Jinarajadasa, each of whom claimed to have received communications from the masters consisting of instructions for the Theosophical Society that were contrary to Krishnamurti's increasingly independent course. In 1926 Krishnamurti dissolved the Order of the Star, built up by Annie Besant, an organization of about thirty thousand members expecting the World Teacher. Besant's death in 1933 ended Krishnamurti's ties to the Theosophical Society. Krishnamurti was repudiated for some time by leading officials of the Theosophical Society. However, Jinarajadasa's successors to the presidency of the Theosophical Society, Nilakanta Sri Ram and Radha Burnier, sought cordial relations with Krishnamurti.
There was no apparent single turning point in the development of Krishnamurti away from and beyond the confines of the role created for him in the Theosophical Society by his early mentors Leadbeater and Besant. It is undoubtedly true that Leadbeater had a dominating and charismatic personality in his own right. Krishnamurti was the center of an extensive circle of young people who faithfully followed Leadbeater in the work of the Co-Masonic Order and the Liberal Catholic Church and other subsidiary organizations, including the Order of the Star, that provided—and mostly continue to provide—a total way of life for members of the Theosophical Society. Krishnamurti had been appointed a further pivotal figure in the formation of one of these groups, the Bharata Samaj, which offers a reformed Hindu ritual, based on Vedic mantras and traditional ceremonies, for Hindu members and others in the Theosophical Society. Under Leadbeater's direction, Krishnamurti had performed the first public rite of the Bharata Samaj, in effect as its first priest. (Priesthood of women is also allowed in the Bharata Samaj.) One can suppose that Krishnamurti's own internal spiritual dynamic had finally profoundly rejected the complex system of organizations and rituals increasingly promoted by Besant, Leadbeater, and other leaders of the Theosophical Society, as they believed, under the guidance of the masters. There is no other apparent explanation than a matter of temperament on Krishnamurti's part to reject these developments.
Ever afterward, Krishnamurti continued to express the emergence of his spirituality from a type of experience beyond all physical and particularly mental forms. It was the offering of that ultimate abstraction from all the inherited limitations of the million-year-old human brain (that he liked to refer to in evolutionary terms) that was the cause he promoted tirelessly until his death in his ninetieth year. To his most committed followers, it was this radical insight that drew them to try to grasp his teachings. To others in the Theosophical Society and elsewhere, his teaching was incomprehensible. In his later years Krishnamurti sometimes made comparisons between what the Buddha had taught and what he taught, and he also accepted such comparisons. But that seemed to be as far as he would go in defining his status. Pupul Jayakar records the context of these extensive discussions and dialogues in Krishnamurti: A Biography (1986).
Krishnamurti's work as an independent teacher eventually combined two approaches. First, he traveled around the world on a schedule of lectures. In India he spoke often in Chennai and Bombay, and occasionally in Delhi and Banaras. He lectured at Saanen in Switzerland, Brockwood Park in England, and New York City and Ojai, California, in the United States. Second, he founded several schools in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India, where students through high school age are instructed in ways to reduce aggression and to aid in acquiring Krishnamurti's universal insight. In his later life he participated in various dialogues with groups or individuals from the scientific community on the possible connection between his teachings and contemporary theories of, for example, physics. One of the last books he published, The Ending of Time (1985), was cowritten with David Bohm, a professor of theoretical physics at Birkbeck College, University of London.
Scattered throughout the Krishnamurti writings and in the various transcripts of discussions and dialogues are reports of the unusual psychic experiences of Krishnamurti when he was in touch with the source, beyond language or thought or the vacillations of the emotions, that convinced him of the correctness of what he taught. The following passage from Jayakar's biography was given in a dialogue in January 1980 in Bombay and speaks of the certitude Krishnamurti had that he was in touch with that which is beyond all limitations. The reader must judge whether Krishnamurti has succeeded in this and other similar statements in portraying the underlying reality or "emptiness" upon which he tried to construct the language to propose his doctrine of an absolute freedom for himself and humanity as a whole. It is on such a judgment that claims made about Krishnamurti as a World Teacher should be based.
Recently, when I was in Rishi Valley [the location of his school in southern India], a peculiar thing happened. For several nights, one actually touched the source of the energy of all things. It was an extraordinary feeling, not from the mind or brain, but from the source itself. And that has been going on, in Madras and here. It is as though one was totally isolated—if one can so use that word without a sense of withdrawal. There was a sense of nothing existing except "that." That source or feeling was a state in which the mind, the brain, was no longer in operation—only that source was in operation. … So I am extremely careful to see that that thing remains pure. The word pure means clear, unspotted, not corrupted. It is like pure water, distilled water, a mountain stream which has never been touched by human mind or hand. (Jayakar, 1986, pp. 392–393)
From 1968 to 1986 Krishnamurti was involved in an increasingly bitter dispute with D. Rajagopal, Rosalind Rajagopal (D. Rajagopal's divorced wife), and other officials and workers in the company called Krishnamurti Writings, Inc., and in other organizations controlled by D. Rajagopal. Rajagopal had been an associate of Krishnamurti's from the early days of their connection with the Theosophical Society. As the World Teacher—however it was understood—Krishnamurti for many years did not take an active role in the management of the groups that gathered monetary contributions and gifts of properties and undertook to publish his many books. Rajagopal was in charge of most of these enterprises to the extent that he even allocated pocket money to Krishnamurti for expenses while traveling.
When the disputes finally erupted openly, from Krishnamurti's point of view, Rajagopal appeared to have mismanaged the work for his personal gain. Krishnamurti instituted legal proceedings in California, England, and India to recover money, property, and even publication rights to his own books. Rajagopal countersued, and approximately four major legal proceedings with various settlements developed. Krishnamurti severed all ties with Rajagopal 's organizations. In their place he established the Krishnamurti Foundation, which in the early twenty-first century is his designated organization to disseminate his teachings.
It is important to note and even study the issues that were raised in the conflict between Krishnamurti and Rajagopal, because they are representative of the difficulties faced by the successors of a spiritual teacher who try to preserve both the integrity of the teaching and some kind of organization that will guarantee the survival of the teacher's charisma for future generations. Various strategies are in operation, but the most viable seems to be the appointment of someone, or of a group of individuals, who can embody and transmit the charisma. The twelve apostles of Jesus Christ are exemplary of this formula. Krishnamurti did not choose that route of succession and transmission. He seemed to believe that under a kind of corporate banner of his own devising—the Krishnamurti Foundation—his work can continue. The theoretical basis for the analysis of these issues in one of the Hindu systems is in Charles S. J. White's article "Structure and the History of Religions: Some Bhakti Examples" (1978).
Mary Lutyens's biographies, Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening (New York, 1975) and Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfilment (New York, 1983), were, according to Lutyens, read by Krishnamurti prior to their publication, and their factual contents and interpretations were approved by him. Emily Lutyens, Candles in the Sun (London, 1957) (Mary Lutyens's mother) recounts her relationship with Krishnamurti during the time she and others took charge of his welfare in adolescence and early manhood. The bond between them was one of the closest in Krishnamurti's life.
Krishnamurti's own Krishnamurti's Notebook (New York, 1976) contains firsthand descriptions of "the Process." Alcyone [J. Krishnamurti], At the Feet of the Master (Wheaton, Ill., 2001), has run to more than forty editions since it was first published in 1910. It recounts teachings from the Master Kuthumi that Krishnamurti received during astral projection while asleep and under the guidance of Leadbeater. For an analysis of the esoteric side of Krishnamurti's life experience, as against the often-repeated claims that Krishnamurti completely rejected occultism and religion in general, see Aryel Sanat [Miguel de Sanabria], The Inner Life of Krishnamurti: Private Passion and Perennial Wisdom (Wheaton, Ill., 1999).
Radha Rajagopal Sloss, Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti (Reading, Mass., 1991), by D. Rajagopal's daughter, recounts her long association with Krishnamurti but also criticizes Krishnamurti and justifies her parents' actions. To refute Sloss, the Krishnamurti Foundation published Statement by the Krishnamurti Foundation of America about the Radha Sloss Book "Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti" (1995); Mary Lutyens, Krishnamurti and the Rajagopals (1996); and Erna Lilliefelt, History of the KFA: Report on the Formation of Krishnamurti Foundation of America and the Lawsuits Which Took Place between 1968 and 1986 to Recover Assets for Krishnamurti's Work (1995), which contains much legal documentation. Catherine Lowman Wessinger, Annie Besant and Progressive Messianism, Studies in Women and Religion, vol. 26 (Lewiston, N.Y., 1988), discusses the role of Krishnamurti as the World Teacher promoted by Annie Besant. Pupul Jayakar discusses her personal relationship with Krishnamurti and records his ideas extensively and historically in Krishnamurti: A Biography (San Francisco, 1986). As with much else written about Krishnamurti, this work contains little analytical apparatus to help the reader understand its subject. Charles S. J. White, "Structure and the History of Religions: Some Bhakti Examples," History of Religions 18, no. l (1978): 77–94, discusses the issues surrounding a spiritual leader's succession and the transmission of his or her ideas.
Charles S. J. White (1987 and 2005)
Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) was an Indian mystic and philosopher whose teaching stresses universal religious values, personal insight, and autonomous self-discipline, synthesizing both Indian and Western philosophical and psychological principles.
Jiddu Krishnamurti was born on May 11, 1895 in Madanapalle, a small town in southern India, 150 miles northwest of Madras. His parents, Jiddu Sanjeevamma and Jiddu Narianiah, were devout Brahmin Hindus, who named their eighth son Krishnamurti ("the image of Krishna"), after the god Krsna, who appeared as an eighth child. He nearly died of malaria when he was two and the disease would continue to reappear and sicken him. When Krishnamurti was six, he was initiated into Brahminhood with the sacred thread ceremony, and he formally started his schooling. Amid poverty and hardship Krishnamurti was a shy and withdrawn child who found school life difficult.
Krishnamurti's father was a civil servant in the revenue department and a part-time worker at the Theosophical Society. After his wife died in 1905, Krishnamurti's father was forced to retire from his job with the colonial bureaucracy and seek full-time employment with the Theosophical Society. The family moved to Adyar near Madras, and it was there at the age of 12 that Krishnamurti's precocious spirituality attracted the attention of Annie Besant, head of the Theosophical Society—an organization promoting the religious unity of all men chiefly within the framework of Indian values. She gained guardianship of Krishnamurti and his younger brother, Nitya, and privately educated them in the Society.
In 1911 Besant and her colleagues founded the Order of the Star in the East (OSE), with Krishnamurti to be its spiritual head. He was the expected "World Teacher" and began a long period of training directed toward fulfillment of this role. However, Krishnamurti's father was worried by Besant's influence on his sons, and he tried to regain custody of them, but eventually failed. Krishnamurti and Nitya continued their studies in England and France. In England Krishnamurti developed a close friendship with Lady Emily Lutyens, who introduced him to aristocratic circles. According to Hillary Rodrigues, in Insight and Religious Mind, Krishnamurti read extensively during his time in England, enjoying the works of Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and P.G. Wodehouse. He was also influenced by Paul Carus' The Buddha's Way of Virtue and Sir Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia.
Leadership and Discovery
By the early 1920s, Krishnamurti had begun to take on more of a leadership role. He started contributing the editorial notes to the OSE's Herald of the Star and heading OSE conferences in France and India. He also moved to Ojai, in California where the weather was kinder to his brother, who suffered from tuberculosis. In Ojai he underwent a life-changing experience following extensive meditation and lapses close to unconsciousness, which brought him joy and profound peace. After his experience, he declared, "Love in all its glory has intoxicated my heart; my heart can never be closed. I have drunk at the fountain of Joy and eternal Beauty. I am God-intoxicated."
Krishnamurti's brother died in 1925, and he entered a period of great grief. Amid increasing popularity and renown, he also began to chafe under the worldly institutional restraints imposed on him. In 1929 he broke openly with this organization and disbanded the formal order of some 50,000 adherents, saying, "I maintain that the truth is a pathless land and you cannot approach it by any path what-so-ever, by any religion, by any sect." He officially resigned from the Theosophical Society in 1930.
For the rest of his life, Krishnamurti talked to wide audiences around the world. He mostly visited India, England, the United States, and Switzerland, although he also visited Australia, South America, and Canada. During World War II, he became friends with the writer Aldous Huxley, who encouraged him to write; Krishnamurti subsequently published a number of works, including Education and the Significance of Life (1953) and The First and Last Freedom (1954).
Krishnamurti's teaching is non-dogmatic, centered on his own spiritual experiences and oriented to the particular needs and capacities of his listeners. He regarded life as a voyage of self-discovery in which self-doubt, uncertainty, and self-criticism are inextricably related to inward spiritual transformation. The human problem begins with the "I-process"—an insatiable self-generating and all-consuming greed that is manifest not only in personal selfishness and in the social and historical instances of man's brutality to man but also in conventional morality filled with expediency, self-satisfaction, and subtle self-pride: "He who says he loves does not love." Fear and anxiety, obsession with security, self-assertion, and aggression (the "appearance" of courage) are all forms of frantic self-affirmation. This includes the delusion of the immortality of the soul, which is a particularly egregious projection of the "I" alarmed by annihilation.
Krishnamurti believed spiritual maturity and enlightenment come only with a radical breakthrough to deeper levels of man's psychic resources which then obliterate the debased superficialities of the ego state. This takes the form of a direct intuition and an inner transformation. It is not the result of simple moral striving but of critical self-reflection, doubt, and final enlightenment and self-knowledge, complete and therapeutic. This, in turn, leads to the integration of the human personality, freedom, and love in pure, selfless compassion.
Krishnamurti died on February 17, 1986 in Ojai, California after suffering from pancreatic cancer. His body was cremated and the ashes scattered in California, England, and India. Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India expressed his sadness over Krishnamurti's death: "The People of India deeply mourn the passing away of Sri J. Krishnamurti. He was one of the most stimulating philosophers of our land and age. … Our country and the world are poorer with his death."
Krishnamurti and his thought are discussed in Emily Lutyens, Candles in the Sun (1957); Robert Powell, Zen and Reality: An Approach to Sanity and Happiness on a Non-sectarian Basis (1962); Atmaram Dhondo Dhopeshwarkar, J. Krishnamurtiand Awareness in Action (1967); Wolfgang Saxon, The New York Times (February 18, 1986); and Hillary Rodrigues, Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti's Thought, Peter Lang (1990). □
Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1895-1986)
Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1895-1986)
Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher. Born May 12, 1895 in Madanapelle, South India, Krishnamurti was educated privately. While still a child, in 1909, he was "discovered" by Theosophist Charles W. Leadbeater, who had been promoting the idea that the next world teacher would appear among Theosophists. Leadbeater presented the young boy to Annie Besant, president of the Theosophical Society, who took up his cause.
Besant saw to his education and in the 1920s began to travel the world with him. She organized the Order of the Star of the East to promote his mission. Krishnamurti emerged as a talented teacher but also began to question the role that had been thrust upon him. In 1929 he publicly announced that he did not accept the messianic role and withdrew from any association with Theosophy. He continued from that time forward as an independent teacher to those who were attracted to him. A network of foundations formed in various countries to facilitate his teaching activity and publish transcripts of his lectures.
Krishnamurti's philosophical position stemmed from his background in Hinduism and Theosophy, but he developed his own unique iconoclastic understanding. He traveled widely and addressed audiences all over the world. He attacked many other Indian teachers then working in the West, some of whom he believed were watering down Indian thought and exploiting their followers.
Krishnamurti died in Ojai, California, on February 17, 1986, at age 90. A number of books were produced from the transcripts of his talks and dialogues with various intellectuals.
Jayakar, Pupul. Krishnamurti. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986.
Krishnamurti, Jiddu. The Awakening of Intelligence. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. ——. The First and Last Freedom. London: V. Gollancz, 1954.
——. Life Ahead. London: V. Gollancz, 1963. ——. The Only Revolution. London: V. Gollancz, 1970. Lutyens, Emily. Candles in the Sun. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1957.
——. Krishnamurti, The Years of Awakening. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1975.
——. Krishnamurti, The Years of Fulfillment. London: J. Murray, 1983.
KRISHNAMURTI, JIDDU (1895–1986), spiritual figure and author Admired by millions throughout the world for his philosophic wisdom, Jiddu Krishnamurti was hailed by India's Theosophical Society president, Annie Besant, as a "world master" and new "Messiah." Born in Madras (Chennai), Jiddu and his younger brother, Nityananda, were introduced by Charles Lead-beater to Besant at their Theosophical Society's headquarters in Adyar. She agreed that young Jiddu's "aura" was "divine" and sponsored his education and global travel, taking him with her first to London, and later to California, where she had a lovely home (Arya Vihara) built for him on the grounds of Theosophy's West Coast headquarters in Ojai's "Happy Valley." Jiddu returned to Ojai annually for most his life, but his frail brother died there in 1922, just a few years after they first arrived.
Krishnamurti was worshiped as Master of the Order of the Star of the East, founded by Besant a year after his initiation, "At the Feet of the Master," in 1911. The Order of the Star enrolled over 50,000 Theosophists, many of whom gathered annually at Adyar to hear their Master speak, believing him "divine," until 1929, when he shocked his followers by announcing "I am not the Messiah." Some disciples, refusing to accept him as a fellow mortal, considered his denial proof positive of his soul's "divine" character. From 1910 until his last year of life, Krishnamurti wrote and published over fifty books, mostly philosophical dialogues, recording views and ideas that emerged during his popular evening "talks," which were often filled with longer intervals of silence than speech. All of his books have been reprinted by the press of the Theosophical Society in Ojai, which keeps his writings and lectures in its fine library, and in print, with tens of millions of copies sold and still read the world over.
Most of Krishnamurti's works are dialogues, much like the ancient Upanishadic Vedanta texts that predate the common era, embodying the wisdom of Hindu sages' philosophic responses to questions posed by disciples seeking enlightenment. His answers were often pithy and paradoxical: "To know is to be ignorant, not to know is the beginning of wisdom." Or "Nobody can put you psychologically into prison. You are already there." And "It is truth that frees, not your effort to be free." Laughter, love, and silence were vital aspects of his philosophy. Shortly before his death he said: "If you don't know how to laugh and love . . . you're not quite a human being." Krishnamurti was one of India's greatest modern sages.
See alsoTheosophical Society
Blau, Evelyne. Krishnamurti: 100 Years. New York: Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1995.
Krishnamurti, J. The Awakening of Intelligence. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
——. Krishnamurti's Notebook. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.
——. The Collected Works of J. Krishnamurti. 17 vols. 1933–1967. Reprint, Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt, 1991.