(1875-1953). Fourth President of the Theosophical Society (TS). Jinarajadasa was born in Sri Lanka on December 16, 1875, one month after the TS was founded. His parents were Buddhists and he was raised as such. In 1886 the prominent theosophical worker Charles LEADBEATER visited Sri Lanka in connection with Buddhist education there and met Jinarajadasa. At the age of thirteen he was taken to England by Leadbeater and after a period of private education went up to St. John’s College, Cambridge, and in 1900 graduated in Sanskrit and Philology. After graduation Jinarajadasa returned to Sri Lanka and accepted an appointment as Vice-Principal of Ananda College (1900-01). He joined the TS in March 14, 1903, and worked energetically for the Society in Sri Lanka until, at the request of Annie BESANT, then President of the TS, he spent two years in Italy on theosophical work, during which time he attended the University of Pavia for post-graduate study. After his time in Italy he commenced a period of international lecturing for the TS which continued until the outbreak of war in 1939.
Jinarajadasa was married in 1916 to Dorothy M. Graham who was a prominent worker for the TS, a Justice of the Peace for Madras, and founded the Women’s Indian Association in 1917.
Jinarajadasa held many positions in the TS including: Vice-President, 1921-28; Head of The Manor at Sydney, Australia, 1934 (see MANOR); and Director of the Adyar Library, 1930-32. In 1935 he became Outer Head of the Esoteric School of Theosophy.
In 1945 Jinarajadasa was nominated for the position of President of the TS and was elected unopposed, taking office on February 17, 1946. The Adyar headquarters were then in a state of disrepair due to it being occupied, in part, by the English Royal Air Force and the years of neglect caused by the war. He drew around him a committed band of workers and under his leadership the estate rapidly regained its former beauty. In spite of poor health, he threw himself into the task of reconstruction of the TS in those countries that had suffered badly from the devastation of war, particularly in Europe. A special conference was held in Geneva, with nineteen sections represented to aid the revival of the lodges. In 1949 he started The School of the Wisdom at the Adyar headquarters both to offer members more advanced training in theosophy and to fit them for work in their own districts.
Jinarajadasa was noted for his extensive traveling and lecturing on behalf of the TS. Being fluent in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese enabled him to promote theosophy in many countries and he was, undoubtedly, instrumental in bringing about the revival of theosophical work after the end of World War II. He was that unusual combination, a mystic with a strong scientific inclination. He was able to go to the essence of any thesis or theory and present it in clear, easily understood terms. Throughout his life he kept in close touch with current affairs and scientific discoveries, thus bringing to his theosophical work a freshness of presentation that endeared him to his audiences.
By 1953 he had completed his seven year term as President and, because of poor health, he declined to be renominated and after installing his successor, N. Sri Ram, he embarked on what was to be his final journey. Although his health was the cause of much anxiety, he insisted on keeping a promise to visit America and it was there that he passed out of this life on June 18, 1953.
To those who knew him, Jinarajadasa was a complex personality who presented different facets of himself according to circumstances. At times he could be absorbed in some mystic realm of his own and at such times appear brusque yet at other times warm and sympathetic. He wrote a great deal, both prose and poetry, and in 1913 was awarded the T. SUBBA ROW MEDAL for his contribution to theosophical literature.
Published works include: Christ and Buddha, 1908; In His Name, (1913); Theosophy and Modern Thought, (1914); How We Remember Our Past Lives, (1915); The Nature of Mysticism, (1917); Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom, First Series, (1919); First Principles of Theosophy, (1921); The Early Teachings of the Masters, (1923); Did Madame Blavatsky Forge the Mahatma Letters?, (1934). Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom, Second Series (1926). (All published by the T.P.H., Madras, India.)
Ransom, Josephine. The Seventy-fifth Anniversary Book
Ransom, Josephine. A Short History of the Theosophical Society.
The Theosophist, December 1975 (Jinarajadasa centenary number).
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