Carolyn and I have long appreciated the spiritual teachings of the philosopher, speaker, and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Krishnamurti was born in 1895 in South India. He was described as a “sensitive and sickly” child, and his childhood years were difficult. Because Krishnamurti was often seen as “vague and dreamy,” people thought that he was cognitively impaired, and he was beaten regularly, at home by his father and in school by his teachers. However, he developed a special bond with nature during his childhood and this stayed with him throughout his life.
In 1909, while in early adolescence, Krishnamurti met a man named Charles Webster Leadbeater, who was part of a group called the Theosophical Society. This meeting was to change his life. The Theosophical Society is an esoteric religious movement that was founded in 1875 in New York by Russian mystic Helena Blavatsky and others. Leadbeater saw something special in Krishnamurti, and became convinced that he was destined to become a great spiritual teacher.
As a result, Krishnamurti was raised and educated by the Theosophical Society in Adyar, India, and they prepared him for what they believed him to be, the “vehicle” of the expected “World Teacher” or “Lord Maitreya.” In Theosophy, Lord Maitreya is an advanced spiritual entity, and master of ancient wisdom, who “periodically appears on Earth to guide the evolution of humankind.”
In 1911 the Theosophical Society established the Order of the Star in the East (OSE). The OSE was an international organization based in India that existed from 1911 to 1927. It was established by the leadership of the Theosophical Society to “prepare the world” for the arrival of a reputed messianic entity, the World Teacher or Lord Maitreya.
Krishnamurti was named as the head of the OSE, and senior Theosophists were assigned to various other positions. That same year Krishnamurti and his younger brother Nitya were taken to England by the Theosophical Society. Between 1911 and 1914, the brothers visited several other European countries, accompanied by Theosophist chaperones.
As a teenager, Krishnamurti described having psychic experiences, such as seeing the spirits of his late mother, and sister who had died in 1904. As Krishnamurti entered adulthood he embarked on a schedule of lectures in several countries, and he acquired a large following among the members of the Theosophical Society. Chapters of the OSE were formed in as many as forty countries.
In 1922 Krishnamurti and his younger brother Nitya traveled to California, where they stayed in Ojai Valley. During their stay in Ojai, Krishnamurti had a series of transformative psychological and spiritual experiences over a period of several months. Then, in 1925 his brother Nitya died, and this was a devastating event for Krishnamurti.
After years of controversy within the OSE, in 1929 Krishnamurti left his mantle and withdrew from the organization. He renounced his role, dissolved the Order with its following, and returned all of the money and property that had been donated for this work. He stated that he had made this decision after “careful consideration” during the previous two years. Krishnamurti moved away from the Theosophical Society because he came to realize that neither gurus nor organizations are required for attaining salvation, and he said that he had “no allegiance to any nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy.”
Krishnamurti spent the rest of his life traveling the world, speaking to large and small groups, and writing influential books. He also interacted with a number of other brilliant minds. In 1938 Krishnamurti was introduced to Aldous Huxley and the two became close friends for many years. In the early 1960s, Krishnamurti met physicist David Bohm, and the two men also became good friends and collaborated together. They started a common inquiry, in the form of personal dialogues — and occasionally in group discussions with other participants– that continued, periodically, over nearly two decades. Some of these intriguing discussions were published in a series of popular books.
In 1984 and 1985, Krishnamurti spoke to an audience at the United Nations in New York about peace. His 1985 talk, titled Why Can’t Man Live Peacefully on the Earth?
Krishnamurti is the author of over thirty books, including The Book of Life, The Awakening of Intelligence, The Beauty of Life, The First and Last Freedom, The Only Revolution, Krishnamurti’s Notebook, and The Ending of Time: Where Philosophy and Physics Meet, which includes some of his discussions with physicist David Bohm. Many of his talks and discussions have also been published and much is available online.
Krishnamurti was a lifelong vegetarian who exercised regularly and practiced yoga daily. He died in 1986 at the age of 90. Krishnamurti’s philosophy has remained popular in the years since his death; his books are in print, his foundations continue to maintain archives and disseminate his teachings, and his quotes are regularly shared social media.
Our dear friend Jai Italiaander became well acquainted with Krishnamurti. After spending five years in an ashram in Santa Rosa, Jai met someone at the ashram who took her to Ojai, where she became well acquainted with Krishnamurti, and his teachings became part of her life-long study of consciousness.
Some of the quotes that Krishnamurti is known for include:
You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.
Emptiness comes as sunset comes of an evening, full of beauty, enchantment and richness; it comes as naturally as the blossoming of a flower.
You are the world and the world is you… If you as a human being transform yourself, you affect the consciousness of the rest of the world.
It is a waste of energy when we try to conform to a pattern. To conserve energy, we must be aware of how we dissipate energy.
To live in the eternal present there must be death to the past, to memory. In this death there is timeless renewal.
One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end… You can only be afraid of what you think you know.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.