Jiddu Krishnamurti was an enlightened Indian speaker and writer on philosophical and spiritual subjects.
In his early life he was groomed to be the new World Teacher but later rejected this mantle and disbanded the organisation behind it. His subject matter included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He constantly stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasised that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social.
Krishnamurti was born in what was then British India and in early adolescence had a chance encounter with prominent occultist and theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater on the grounds of the Theosophical Society headquarters at Adyar in Madras (now Chennai). He was subsequently raised under the tutelage of Annie Besant and Leadbeater, leaders of the Society at the time, who believed him to be a ‘vehicle’ for an expected World Teacher. As a young man, he disavowed this idea and dissolved the Order of the Star in the East, an organisation that had been established to support it.
He did not claim any allegiance to nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy, and spent the rest of his life travelling the world, speaking to large and small groups, and individuals. He wrote many books, among them The First and Last Freedom, The Only Revolution, and Krishnamurti’s Notebook; also many of his talks and discussions have been published. His last public talk was in Madras, India, in January 1986, a month before his death at his home in Ojai, California, USA.
Family background and childhood
The date of birth of Jiddu Krishnamurti (4 May 1895 – 17 February 1986) is a matter of dispute and dates range to up to a year later. His birthplace was the small town of Madanapalle in Madras Presidency (modern-day Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh). He came from a family of pious Telugu-speaking Hindu Brahmins and his father, Jiddu Narayaniah, was employed as an official of the British colonial administration. Krishnamurti was fond of his mother Sanjeevamma, who died when he was ten. His parents had a total of eleven children, of whom six survived childhood.
In 1903, the family settled in Cudappah, where Krishnamurti had contracted malaria during a previous stay. He would suffer recurrent bouts of the disease over many years. A sensitive and sickly child, “vague and dreamy,” he was often taken to be intellectually disabled, and was beaten regularly at school by his teachers and at home by his father. In memoirs written when he was eighteen years old, Krishnamurti described psychic experiences, such as seeing his sister, who had died in 1904, and his late mother. During his childhood he developed a bond with nature that was to stay with him for the rest of his life.
Krishnamurti’s father retired at the end of 1907, and, being of limited means, sought employment at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar. In addition to being a Brahmin, Narayaniah had been a theosophist since 1882. He was eventually hired by the Society as a clerk, moving there with his family in January 1909.
In April 1909, Krishnamurti first met Charles Webster Leadbeater, who claimed clairvoyance. Leadbeater had noticed Krishnamurti on the Society’s beach on the Adyar river, and was amazed by the “most wonderful aura he had ever seen, without a particle of selfishness in it.” Leadbeater was convinced that the boy would become a spiritual teacher and a great orator; the likely “vehicle for the Lord Maitreya” – in Theosophical doctrine, an advanced spiritual entity periodically appearing on Earth as a World Teacher to guide the evolution of humankind.
Following his discovery by Leadbeater, Krishnamurti was nurtured by the Theosophical Society in Adyar. Leadbeater and a small number of trusted associates undertook the task of educating, protecting, and generally preparing Krishnamurti as the “vehicle” of the expected World Teacher. Krishnamurti (often later called Krishnaji) and his younger brother Nityananda (Nitya) were privately tutored at the Theosophical compound in Madras, and later exposed to a comparatively opulent life among a segment of European high society, as his education was continued abroad. Despite his history of problems with schoolwork and concerns about his capacities and physical condition, 14-year-old Krishnamurti was able to speak and write competently in English within six months.
During this time, Krishnamurti had developed a strong bond with Annie Besant and came to view her as a surrogate mother. His father, who had initially assented to Besant’s legal guardianship of Krishnamurti, was pushed into the background by the swirl of attention around his son. In 1912, he sued Besant to annul the guardianship agreement. After a protracted legal battle, Besant took custody of Krishnamurti and Nitya. As a result of this separation from family and home, Krishnamurti and his brother (whose relationship had always been very close) became more dependent on each other, and in the following years they often travelled together.
In 1911, the Theosophical Society established the Order of the Star in the East (OSE) to prepare the world for the expected appearance of the World Teacher. Krishnamurti was named as its head, with senior Theosophists assigned various other positions. Membership was open to anybody who accepted the doctrine of the Coming of the World Teacher. Controversy soon erupted, both within the Theosophical Society and outside it, in Hindu circles and the Indian press.
While he showed a natural aptitude in sports, Krishnamurti always had problems with formal schooling and was not academically inclined. He eventually gave up university education after several attempts at admission. He did take to foreign languages, in time speaking several with some fluency. His public image, cultivated by the Theosophists, was to be characterized by a well-polished exterior, a sobriety of purpose, a cosmopolitan outlook and an otherworldly, almost beatific detachment in his demeanour. It was apparently clear early on that he possessed an innate personal magnetism, not of a warm physical variety, but nonetheless emotive in its austerity, and inclined to inspire veneration. However, as he was growing up, Krishnamurti showed signs of adolescent rebellion and emotional instability, chafing at the regimen imposed on him, visibly uncomfortable with the publicity surrounding him, and occasionally expressing doubts about the future prescribed for him.
Krishnamurti and Nitya were taken to England in April 1911. During that journey Krishnamurti gave his first public speech – to members of the OSE in London. His first writings had also started to appear, published in booklets by the Theosophical Society and in Theosophical and OSE-affiliated magazines. Between 1911 and the start of World War I in 1914, the brothers visited several other European countries, always accompanied by Theosophist chaperones.
After the war, Krishnamurti embarked on a series of lectures, meetings and discussions around the world related to his duties as the Head of the OSE, accompanied by Nitya, by then the Organizing Secretary of the Order. Krishnamurti also continued writing. The content of his talks and writings revolved around the work of the Order and of its members, in preparation for the Coming. He was described, initially, as a halting, hesitant, and repetitive speaker, but his delivery and confidence improved, and he gradually took command of the meetings.
He fell in love, in 1921, with Helen Knothe (later Helen Knothe Nearing), a 17-year-old American whose family associated with the Theosophists. The experience was tempered by the realisation that his work and expected life-mission precluded what would otherwise be considered normal relationships and by the mid-1920s the two of them had drifted apart.
In 1922, Krishnamurti and Nitya travelled by steamer from Sydney to California. In California they stayed at a cottage in the Ojai Valley. It was thought that the area’s climate would be beneficial to Nitya, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. At Ojai, they met Rosalind Williams, a young American who became close to them both, and who was later to play a significant role in Krishnamurti’s life. For the first time, the brothers were without immediate supervision by their Theosophical Society minders and they found the Valley to be very agreeable. Eventually a trust, formed by supporters, bought a cottage and surrounding property there for them. This became Krishnamurti’s official residence.
By establishing his home at Arya Vihara, Ojai became one of four worldwide centers for his teachings. He held many discussions and private interviews at Arya Vihara. Among those who visited Krishnamurti here were Annie Besant, Charlie Chaplin, Aldous Huxley, Jonas Salk, John Lennon, Greta Garbo, Igor Stravinsky, D.H. Lawrence, and David Bohm.
At Ojai in August and September 1922, Krishnamurti went through an intense “life-changing” experience. This has been variously characterised as a spiritual awakening, a psychological transformation and a physical reconditioning. The initial events happened in two distinct phases: first a three-day spiritual experience, and two weeks later, a longer-lasting condition that Krishnamurti and those around him referred to as the process. This condition recurred, at frequent intervals and with varying intensity, until his death.
He enjoyed walking alone in the hills, climbing through orange groves and scrub brush. As the days passed, a strange uneasiness seized him. He became ill and complained of intense pain and suffocating heat. There were periods of unconsciousness as the strange process reached its peak. Agitated and feverish he insisted on walking alone but was urged instead to rest under a young pepper tree that stood near the cottage. It was there, in the stillness of the night, that a transcendent event took place that shook his life to his foundations.
“I could feel the wind passing through the trees and the little ant on the blade of grass, I could feel the birds, the dust, and every noise was a part of me. I was in everything, or rather everything was in me. I was supremely happy for I had seen nothing could ever be the same. I had drunk from the clear and pure waters of the fountain of life and my thirst was appeased. Nevermore could I be thirsty, nevermore could I be in utter darkness. I have touched the compassion which heals all sorrow and suffering. It is not for myself but for the world.”
During his 1922-23 visit, he spoke at the Hollywood Bowl to an audience of over 16,000 followers. In 1924 he began giving talks in Ojai at the Oak Grove, which continued until his death in 1986.
As news of these mystical experiences spread, rumours concerning the messianic status of Krishnamurti reached fever pitch as the 1925 Theosophical Society Convention was planned, on the 50th anniversary of its founding. There were expectations of significant happenings.
Nitya’s persistent health problems had periodically resurfaced throughout this time. On 13 November 1925, at age 27, he died in Ojai from complications of influenza and tuberculosis. Despite Nitya’s poor health, his death was unexpected, and it fundamentally shook Krishnamurti’s belief in Theosophy and in the leaders of the Theosophical Society. He had received their assurances regarding Nitya’s health, and had come to believe that “Nitya was essential for his life-mission and therefore he would not be allowed to die,” a belief shared by Annie Besant and Krishnamurti’s circle. Moreover, Nitya had been the last surviving link to his family and childhood … the only person to whom he could talk openly, his best friend and companion. According to eyewitness accounts, the news broke him completely, but 12 days after Nitya’s death he was “immensely quiet, radiant, and free of all sentiment and emotion.”
Some have said that Krishnamurti indirectly established the intellectual and social climate of the Ojai Valley. From his earliest days here, he attracted people from all over the world who traveled here to interview him and attend his yearly talks in the Oak Grove in Meiners Oaks. Among those were Aldous Huxley and Dr. David Bohm, Jackson Pollack, Christopher Isherwood, and Ann Morrow Lindbergh. Hollywood stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Elsa Lanchester, Greta Garbo, and Charles Laughton also came to the valley to hear him, as his reputation grew worldwide.
Break with the past
Over the next few years, Krishnamurti’s new vision and consciousness continued to develop. New concepts appeared in his talks, discussions, and correspondence, together with an evolving vocabulary that was progressively free of Theosophical terminology. His new direction reached a climax in 1929, when he rebuffed attempts by Leadbeater and Besant to continue with the ‘Order of the Star’.
Krishnamurti dissolved the Order during the annual Star Camp at Ommen, the Netherlands, on 3 August 1929. He stated that he had made his decision after “careful consideration” during the previous two years, and stated: ”I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path.
This is no magnificent deed,
because I do not want followers,
and I mean this.
The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth.
I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not.
I want to do a certain thing in the world
and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration.
I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free.
I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears,
and not to found religions, new sects,
nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.
Following the dissolution, prominent Theosophists turned against Krishnamurti, including Leadbeater who is said to have stated, “The Coming had gone wrong.” Krishnamurti had denounced all organised belief, the notion of gurus, and the whole teacher-follower relationship. He resigned from the various trusts and other organisations that were affiliated with the defunct Order of the Star, including the Theosophical Society. He returned the money and properties donated to the Order, among them a castle in the Netherlands and 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land, to their donors.
From 1930 through 1944, Krishnamurti engaged in speaking tours and issued publications under the auspice of the “Star Publishing Trust” (SPT) which he had founded with Rajagopal Desikacharya (commonly D. Rajagopal, or ‘Raja’, 1900–1993), a close associate and friend from the Order of the Star.
Ojai was the base of operations for the new enterprise, where Krishnamurti, Rajagopal, and Rosalind Williams (who had married Rajagopal in 1927) resided in the house known as Arya Vihara (meaning Realm of the Aryas, i.e. those noble by righteousness in Sanskrit). The business and organizational aspects of the SPT were administered chiefly by Rajagopal, as Krishnamurti devoted his time to speaking and meditation.
The Rajagopals’ marriage was not a happy one, and the two became physically estranged after the birth of their daughter, Radha, in 1931. In the relative seclusion of Arya Vihara, Krishnamurti’s close friendship with Rosalind deepened into a long-term love affair which was not made public until 1991, when it was it was revealed in the 1991 book Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti written by her daughter, Radha Rajagopal Sloss.
During the 1930s, Krishnamurti spoke in Europe, Latin America, India, Australia and the United States. In 1938, he met Aldous Huxley. The two began a close friendship which endured for many years. They held common concerns about the imminent conflict in Europe which they viewed as the outcome of the pernicious influence of nationalism. Krishnamurti’s stance on World War II was often construed as pacifism and even subversion during a time of patriotic fervour in the United States and for a time he came under the surveillance of the FBI. He did not speak publicly for a period of about four years (between 1940 and 1944). During this time he lived and worked at Arya Vihara, which during the war operated as a largely self-sustaining farm, with its surplus goods donated for relief efforts in Europe.
Krishnamurti broke the hiatus from public speaking in May 1944 with a series of talks in Ojai. These talks, and subsequent material, were published by Krishnamurti Writings Inc. (KWINC), the successor organisation to the Star Publishing Trust. This was to be the new central Krishnamurti-related entity worldwide, whose sole purpose was the dissemination of the teachings. He had remained in contact with associates from India, and in the autumn of 1947 embarked on a speaking tour there, attracting a new following of young intellectuals.
When in India after World War II, many prominent personalities came to meet Krishnamurti, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In his meetings with Nehru, Krishnamurti elaborated at length on the teachings, saying in one instance, “Understanding of the self only arises in relationship, in watching yourself in relationship to people, ideas, and things; to trees, the earth, and the world around you and within you. Relationship is the mirror in which the self is revealed. Without self-knowledge there is no basis for right thought and action.”
Krishnamurti continued speaking in public lectures, group discussions and with concerned individuals around the world.
In the early 1960s, he made the acquaintance of physicist David Bohm, whose philosophical and scientific concerns regarding the essence of the physical world, and the psychological and sociological state of mankind, found parallels in Krishnamurti’s philosophy. The two men soon became close friends and started a common inquiry that continued, periodically, over nearly two decades.
Although Krishnamurti’s philosophy delved into fields as diverse as religious studies, education, psychology, physics, and consciousness studies, he was not then, nor since, well-known in academic circles. Nevertheless, Krishnamurti met and held discussions with other “New Agers” including physicist Fritjof Capra, biologist Rupert Sheldrake and psychiatrist David Shainberg.
In the 1970s, Krishnamurti met several times with then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, with whom he had far ranging, and in some cases, very serious discussions. Meanwhile, Krishnamurti’s once close relationship with the Rajagopals had deteriorated to the point where he took Rajagopal to court to recover donated property and funds as well as publication rights for his works, manuscripts, and personal correspondence, that were in Rajagopal’s possession. The litigation and ensuing cross complaints, which formally began in 1971, continued for many years. Much property and materials were returned to Krishnamurti during his lifetime; the parties to this case finally settled all other matters in 1986, shortly after his death.
In 1984 and 1985, Krishnamurti spoke to an invited audience at the United Nations in New York. In November 1985, he visited India for the last time, holding a number of what came to be known as “farewell” talks and discussions between then and January 1986. These last talks included the fundamental questions he had been asking through the years, as well as newer concerns about advances in science and technology and their effect on humankind. Krishnamurti had commented to friends that he did not wish to invite death, but was not sure how long his body would last (he had already lost considerable weight), and once he could no longer talk, he would have “no further purpose.” In his final talk, on 4 January 1986, in Madras, he again invited the audience to examine with him the nature of inquiry, the effect of technology, the nature of life and meditation, and the nature of creation.
Krishnamurti was also concerned about his legacy, about being unwittingly turned into some personage whose teachings had been handed down to special individuals, rather than the world at large. He did not want anybody to pose as an interpreter of the teachings. He warned his associates on several occasions that they were not to present themselves as spokesmen on his behalf, or as his successors after his death.
A few days before his death, in a final statement, he declared that nobody among either his associates or the general public had understood what had happened to him (as the conduit of the teachings). He added that the “immense energy” operating in his lifetime would be gone with his death, again implying the impossibility of successors. However, he offered hope by stating that people could approach that energy and gain a measure of understanding “if they live the teachings.” In prior discussions, he had compared himself with Thomas Edison, implying that he did the hard work, and now all that was needed by others was a flick of the switch.
Krishnamurti died of pancreatic cancer on 17 February 1986 in Ojai, at the age of 90.
Hearing about Krishnamurti’s death while on Crete, Greece, Osho said in discourse:
One thing I must say:
there was another man
who was enlightened
who died just a few days ago,
Without him I am feeling alone.
Socrates Poisoned Again after 25 Centuries, Ch 16, Q 7
Main Source Wikipedia
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