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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Krishnamurti, Jiddu

J Krishnamurti
Jiddu Krishnamurti

(1895-1986). Jiddu Krishnamurti was born on May 11, 1895 (according to Indian reckoning), at Madanapalle, a small hill town between Madras and Bangalore. He was the eighth child of Jiddu Narianiah, a tax collector for the British Government. Always very delicate, suffering from continual bouts of malaria, he was particularly close to his mother who died when he was ten. His father, a theosophist of long standing, finding that he could not live on his pension when he retired in 1907, persuaded Annie BESANT to give him a clerk’s job at ADYAR, and in January 1909 he moved there with his four surviving sons, one older and two younger than Krishnamurti who was inseparable from his brother Nityananda (Nitya) three years younger than himself.

Charles W. LEADBEATER was at this time looking for a “vehicle” for the World Teacher, the Lord MAITREYA, who he believed was soon to appear again on earth in human form as he had 2,000 years before taken the body of Jesus and before that of Sri Krishna. Seeing Krishnamurti playing on the beach with other boys he chose him for the beauty of his aura, to the great surprise of his secretary who assured him that the boy was so dreamy that he was beaten every day at school for his inability to learn.

Krishnamurti and Nitya, an extremely bright boy, were taken from school by Leadbeater to be taught by several theosophical tutors and to be built up physically. Krishnamurti received occult training under the Master KOOT HOOMI to whose house in Tibet Leadbeater claimed to take him every night on the astral plane. In January 1910 he was said by Leadbeater to have taken his first INITIATION.

Annie BESANT, the President of the Theosophical Society (TS), was not involved in the “discovery” of Krishnamurti because she was abroad at the time, but on her return to Adyar she concurred with Leadbeater’s choice and obtained Narianiah’s permission to become the legal guardian of Krishnamurti and Nitya and to take them to England to be educated.

In 1910 in Benares (now Varanasi) an organization was formed called the Order of the Star in the East (the O.S.E.) to prepare the world for the coming of the World Teacher. Besant and Leadbeater became the Protectors of the Order of which Krishnamurti was made the Head. In Benares Krishnamurti became attached to George ARUNDALE, Principal of the Central Hindu College, who traveled with Besant and the boys to England for six months in May 1911. From 1912 to 1920 the boys remained in England with Arundale and C. Jinarajadasa as their tutors.

In 1916 the brothers were sent to a “crammer” in Kent, a clergyman with a theosophist wife, who coached them for the entrance examination to a university. Although Nitya, who was studying law, passed with honors the first time, Krishnamurti failed the examination three times. In 1919 Krishnamurti obtained Besant’s permission to live in France to study French. He seemed happier in France, but went through a period of disillusionment, rebelling against his role and expressing a longing for a normal family life. Nitya, who had remained in England studying for the Bar, developed tuberculosis early in 1921 and for the next few years the course of Krishnamurti’s life was determined by the fluctuations in his brother’s health.

In 1921, Baron Philip van Pallandt gave to the O.S.E. his beautiful Castle Eerde at Ommen in Holland with 5,000 acres of woodland; it ceased to be an O.S.E. camp after 1929, but was open to the public until the end of World War II. Nitya having been pronounced cured by a Swiss specialist, Besant sent for the brothers to come to India in November 1921 so that Krishnamurti could begin his life’s work. Shy and self-effacing, the adulation he received in India and his first efforts to speak in public were torture to him.

In April 1922 the brothers went to Sydney for a TS Convention where they met Leadbeater again after nearly ten years. In Sydney Nitya’s illness flared up again and he was told that he must return to Switzerland as soon as possible. The brothers decided to go via San Francisco and break their journey in the Ojai Valley near Santa Barbara where a theosophist had offered to lend them a cottage. At an elevation of 1,500 feet (457m) the climate was considered excellent for tubercular sufferers. Before leaving Sydney a message had been “brought through” to Krishnamurti by Leadbeater from the Master Koot Hoomi which had a profound impact on him. He started meditating again for the first time in years, determined to get back his old touch with the Master. In August 1922 he underwent a three-day spiritual experience at the cottage which entirely changed his life and from which he emerged “God-intoxicated.” From then both brothers worked whole-heartedly for the O.S.E. The cottage and six acres (4 hectares) of surrounding land with a larger house on it was bought for Krishnamurti’s work and became his main home.

Although Nitya did recover at Ojai he became ill again on a second voyage to India in 1924, and by the time the brothers returned to Ojai via Australia in June the following year his condition was critical. Besant urged Krishnamurti to go with her to Adyar in the autumn of 1925 for the Jubilee TS Convention. He was very reluctant to leave Nitya, but had been assured by Leadbeater and the Master that Nitya would not die; his life was too valuable. So, having made sure that Nitya would be well cared for, he left Ojai for England and India in November. As they entered the Suez Canal a telegram arrived announcing Nitya’s death.

This was another great turning point in Krishnamurti’s life; not only did he suffer deep personal grief, but much of his faith in what he had been brought up to believe was destroyed, especially Leadbeater’s infallibility. If he was to go on with his mission, in which he still believed, he could rely only on himself. In the next few years his own philosophy evolved. He felt more and more convinced that he was merging into the consciousness of the one great teacher whom he came to call “the beloved.”

Besant had complete faith in this “merging of consciousness” and while staying with him at Ojai in April 1927 she announced to the Associated Press of America: “The Divine Spirit has descended once more on a man, Krishnamurti, . . . the World teacher is here.” Speaking at the Ommen Camp that summer, Krishnamurti expressed his fundamental criticism of theosophy as expounded by Leadbeater: “You are accustomed to being told what is your spiritual state. How childish! Who but yourself can tell if you are beautiful or ugly inside?”

J. Krishnamurti and Annie Besant
J. Krishnamurti and Annie Besant

Two years later at the Ommen Camp, in the presence of Besant and over three thousand Star members (there were 40,000 members of the O.S.E. at that time), Krishnamurti dissolved the Order, saying that it was impossible to organize a belief. He declared that he did not want to be anyone’s crutch or guru. It was up to each individual to find Truth in himself.

After the dissolution, all his meetings became open to the public, attracting new audiences. He returned Castle Eerde and its estate to the Baron, (the deed of transfer was signed in March 26, 1931), keeping only the land on which the camp was built. Leadbeater maintained that “the Coming had gone wrong;” and ARUNDALE and Jinarajadasa, who, it seems, had never believed in the “blending of consciousness,” became hostile. Besant remained devoted to Krishnamurti and he to her. He saw her at Adyar four months before her death in 1933, after which there was nothing to draw him there. Krishnamurti did not return to Adyar for forty-seven years and then it was for the sake of Radha BURNIER, a close personal friend. He told her that if she won the election for the presidency of the TS in 1980 he would visit Adyar again. She did win it and that winter, while he was in Madras, he walked with her through the compound to her house on the beach followed by a welcoming crowd of Theosophists. Thereafter, until his death in 1986, he drove through the estate every afternoon that he was in Madras and each time walked with her on the beach.

For over sixty years after the dissolution of the O.S.E. Krishnamurti traveled the world, speaking to large audiences wherever he went and holding an international gathering every summer at Saanen in Switzerland, as well as annual gatherings at Ojai and Hampshire in England. He published more than thirty books and many audio and video tapes. He founded five schools in India, three in the United States and one in England. Education had always been one of his deepest concerns; he hoped to protect the young from the contamination of the national, racial and religious prejudices of their elders. His philosophy was fundamentally simple though with many subtle ramifications. “You are the world,” he said, “the world is you.” Even war was but a dramatic expression of the violence and conflict in each one of us, and nothing could change society but a fundamental change in the human psyche. That such a transformation was possible he remained certain for the rest of his life. He died from cancer of the pancreas in February 17, 1986, at Ojai.

As a man Krishnamurti was to some people disconcertingly unlike their image of what a religious leader should be. He always dressed smartly with the greatest care and suitably according to which country he was in, and he kept his boyish figure to the end. He cared very much for outward appearance, not only for himself, but for others. He looked upon his body as something entrusted to his care, dissociating it entirely from himself. He was full of fun, enjoying silly jokes with a deep and infectious laugh; he also enjoyed the cinema and detective fiction. Surprisingly, he was intensely interested in all kinds of machinery, appreciating its beauty and intricacy. Above all, he had an abiding love of nature, and could literally stand for half an hour absorbed in watching a sunset, a mountain, a tree, or the play of shadows on water.

Among his published works are: The First and Last Freedom; Freedom from the Known; Commentaries on Living; The Urgency of Change; The Awakening of Intelligence; Krishnamurti’s Notebook.

M.L.

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