- Krishnamurti, Jiddu
- (1895–1986)spiritual teacher of radical self-observationChosen while still a child as the new messiah, or World Teacher, by the THEOSOPHICAL SOCI-ETY, the Indian J. Krishnamurti acquired world fame as he traveled and lectured on the society’s universalist teachings. After a personal spiritual transformation, he rejected the society and its occultism and went on to teach his philosophy of free inquiry toward the goal of understanding the self.Born on May 12, 1895, in Madanapalle, near Madras (Chennai) in colonial India, Krishnamurti (the image of Krishna) grew up in an orthodox BRAHMIN family steeped in tradition, ritual, and a sacred view of the world. After the death of his mother when he was only 10 years old, he moved with his father and siblings to the compound of the Theosophical Society, a rapidly growing spiri-tual movement, in Adyar, near Madras.The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 in New York City, began as an organization dedicated to a synthesis of science, religion, and philoso-phy with the credo “There is no religion higher than truth.” Theosophical teaching includes the exploration of clairvoyant powers for discov-ering the hidden mysteries of nature and the esoteric powers of humanity. The Theosophists drew freely from their understanding of Eastern thought, particularly Buddhist and Hindu cos-mologies, to form a worldview that included a complex cosmology, an esoteric psychology, and an evolutionary scheme that encompassed eons. Drawing upon many religious traditions and prophecies, the Theosophical Society at the time of Krishnamurti’s youth was actively looking for a messiah, a world teacher, who would destroy evil and restore righteousness.In his early teen years, Krishnamurti was chosen by the Theosophists as the young world teacher and appointed head of the Order of the Star in the East, an organization devoted to real-izing his teaching mission. For a number of years he traveled and addressed audiences, maturing in Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986), philosopher and teacher of radical self-observation (Krishnamurti Foundation America) his understanding of the order, the Theosophical Society, and his role in each.Over many months in 1922–23, Krishnamurti experienced a profound transformation. Begun as MEDITATION, Krishnamurti’s “process” contained moments of great beauty and clarity offset by peri-ods of physical pain, even agony. He would fall unconscious, converse with nonphysical entities, and speak from several personas. Krishnamurti’s account is consistent with other reports of mys-tical non-dualist transformations. His personal-ity dissolved into communion with all that lay beyond him. In his words, “I was in everything, or rather everything was in me, inanimate and animate, the mountain, the work and all breath-ing things.”After “the process” was complete, he experi-enced a growing dissatisfaction with the author-ity structure of the Theosophical Society and its emphasis on occultism. At the death of his brother, which the occultists of the Theosophi-cal Society did not foresee, his dissatisfaction became overwhelming. He declared himself in revolt against Theosophy and against all forms of spiritual authority, advising every person, “Be a light unto yourselves.” He disbanded the Order of the Star in the East in 1929, declaring, “Truth is a pathless land.”From then until his death in 1986, Krish-namurti traveled around the world teaching his insights. He became a champion of freedom and inquiry and a relentless advocate of the discovery of truth without the aid of any organization, reli-gion, or belief system. His teaching emphasized the necessity of developing awareness of one’s conditioning and one’s bondage to thought, fear, and time. His goal was to make people “uncon-ditionally free” and, to this end, he invited those who listened to him to observe their inner selves, including their motives and the functions of thought. With each audience, Krishnamurti inquired into the basic nature of humanity and found that real self-transformation involves an instantaneous awareness of the psyche and its workings. Accompanied by simplicity and humil-ity, this awareness can open a person to the reality of oneself.The Krishnamurti Foundation of America was founded in 1969 to preserve and disseminate his teachings. Activities include the Oak Grove School, the Krishnamurti Archives, the Krish-namurti Study Center, the Krishnamurti Library, and Krishnamurti Publications of America. The Krishnamurti Foundation of England, begun in 1968, oversees the Brockwood Park School. The Krishnamurti Foundation of India sponsors the Rishi Valley School, the Krishnamurti Study Cen-tre in Varanasi, Vasanta College of Rajghat, and other centers.During his lifetime Krishnamurti created schools for children and young adults in India, the United States, England, and Switzerland. These alternative schools continue today in their mission to provide a new definition and practice of education, free of the conditioning and author-ity structures prevalent in modern educational institutions.In his later years, Krishnamurti joined the physicist David Bohm in an exploration of the human condition through a series of dialogues. Both men recognized the limitations of traditional didactic teaching and sought a way in which truth and insight might be discovered within individu-als and small groups. The dialogue process, prac-ticed today in all Krishnamurti Foundations in the United States, India, and England, encourages individual inquiry without didactic formalism and authority structures. Krishnamurti and Bohm predicted that the actual structure of the human brain could change as a result of increased aware-ness and open inquiry.Krishnamurti died on February 18, 1986, in Ojai, California, among his students.Further reading: S. Holroyd, The Quest of the Quiet Mind: The Philosophy of Krishnamurti (Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1980); Pupul Jayakar, J. Krishnamurti: A Biography (New York: Penguin, 1986); Constance Jones, “Krishnamurti Foundations,” in J. Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann, eds., Religions of the World (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2002); J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living, from the Notebooks of J. Krishnamurti. Edited by D. Rajagopal, 3 vols. (Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1960); ———, Education and the Significance of Life (San Francisco: Harper, 1953); ———, The First and Last Freedom (San Francisco: Harper, 1954); ———, Freedom from the Known (San Francisco: Harper, 1969); ———, Talks and Dialogues of J. Krishnamurti (New York: Avon, 1968); J. Krishnamurti and David Bohm, The Ending of Time (San Francisco: Harper, 1985); Mary Lutyens, Krishnamurti, 3 vols. (New York: Farrar, Straus Giroux, 1988).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.