Jiddu Krishnamurti or J. Krishnamurti (May 11, 1895–February
17, 1986), was born in Madanapalle, India and discovered, in 1909,
as a teenager by C.W. Leadbeater on the private beach at the Theosophical
headquarters at Adyar in Chennai, India. He was subsequently raised
under the tutelage of Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater within the
world-wide organization of the Theosophical Society, who believed
him to be a vehicle for a prophesied World Teacher. As a young man,
he disavowed this destiny and also dissolved the Order established
to support it, and eventually spent the rest of his life travelling
the world as an individual speaker and educator with essentially
the following message:"Truth is a pathless land", humans
cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through
any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge
or psychological technique. At age 90 he addressed the United Nations
on the subject of peace and awareness, and was awarded the 1984
UN Peace Medal. He gave his last talk in India a month before his
death, in 1986, in Ojai, California.
His supporters, working through charitable trusts, founded several
independent schools across the world—in India, England and the United
States—and transcribed many of his thousands of talks, publishing
them as educational philosophical books.
His official biographer, Mary Lutyens wrote a book about Krishnamurti's
early life in India, England, and finally in Ojai, California, entitled
Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening. She was a close associate
of his from the Order of the Star, and knew him from the early days
until the end of his life. This book contains many insights into
this period of his life, about which he rarely spoke. Lutyens wrote
three additional volumes of biography: The Years of Fulfillment
(1983), The Open Door (1988), and Krishnamurti and the Rajagopals
(1996). Additionally, she published an abridgement of the first
three volumes, The Life and Death of Krishnamurti (1991). Other
published biographies of Krishnamurti include: Krishnamurti, A Biography
(1986), by associate Pupul Jayakar and Star In the East: Krishnamurti,
The Invention of a Messiah (2002), by Roland Vernon.
Jiddu Krishnamurti came from a family of Telugu-speaking Brahmins.
His father, Jiddu Narianiah, graduated from Madras University and
then became an official in the Revenue Department of the British
administration, rising by the end of his career to the position
of rent collector and District Magistrate. His parents were second
cousins, having a total of eleven children, only six of whom survived
childhood. They were strict vegetarians, even shunning eggs, and
throwing away any food that the "shadow of an Englishman crossed".
(Lutyens, Awakening, p 1)
He was born in a small town about 150 miles (250 km) north of
Madras, India. His birthdate has been also stated as May 12, however
Mary Lutyens, points out, that the Brahmin day is calculated from
dawn and he was born at 12:30 AM, so therefore on May 11. It's only
the Western world who would state this was May 12. "As an eighth
child, who happened to be a boy, he was, in accordance with Hindu
orthodoxy, named after Sri Krishna who had himself been an eighth
In 1903, the family moved to Cudappah and Krishna contracted
malaria, a disease with which he would suffer recurrent bouts over
many years. In 1904, his eldest sister died, aged twenty. In his
memoirs, he describes his mother as "to a certain extent psychic"
and how she would frequently see and converse with her dead daughter.
Krishna also states that he saw his dead sister on some occasions.
In Dec 1905, his mother, Jiddu Sanjeevamma, died at Cudappah, when
Krishnamurti was ten years old. Krishna says: "I may mention
that I saw her [my mother] after she died" (Lutyens, p 5)
"Narianiah, though an orthodox Brahmin, had been a member
of the Theosophical Society since 1881 (Theosophy embraces all religions)."
(Lutyens, p 7). This was while Helena Blavatsky was still its head
in India. Narianiah had retired at the end of 1907 and wrote to
Annie Besant to recommend himself as a caretaker for the 260-acre
Theosophical estate at Adyar. He had four boys and Annie thought
they would be a disturbing influence and so turned him down. He
continued his requests and finally was accepted as an assistant
to the Recording Secretary of the Esoteric Section. His family which
included, himself, his four sons, and a nephew moved there on Jan
23, 1909. It was a few months after this last move that Krishna
was discovered by C.W. Leadbeater. One evening, C.W.Leadbeater went
with his young assistants to the beach to bathe. On returning he
told his assistant Ernest Wood that one of the boys on the beach
had the most wonderful aura he had ever seen, without a particle
of selfishness in it. It could not be Krishna’s outward appearance
that struck Leadbeater for apart from his wonderful aura, he was
not at all impressive at that time. This is how Krishnamurti was
discovered by the Theosophists in 1909.
This discovery created a bit of a problem, as there was already
a conflicting claim made for Hubert van Hook (b 1896), son of Dr
Weller van Hook, a surgeon in Chicago, and the General Secretary
of the Theosophical Society in the United States. Hubert was also
chosen by Leadbeater and after she left her husband, his mother
brought him to India for special training. After Krishna was found,
Hubert was soon dropped. (Lutyens, p 12)
Leadbeater had a history of being in the company of young boys,
and gossip about that was vehemently denied by Annie Besant. The
gossip erupted into a scandal in 1906 and led to Leadbeater's resignation
from the Theosophical Society, however at the end of 1908 he was
re-instated on a vote. (Lutyens, p 15)
Hubert and Mrs Van Hook, his mother, also arrived at Adyar and
stayed there for some time.
Separation from father
Krishna (or Krishnaji as he was often called) and his younger
brother Nitya were educated at the Theosophical compound and later
taken to England to finish their education. His father, pushed into
the background by the swirl of interest around Krishna, ended up
in a lawsuit against the Society to try to protect his parental
interests. As a result of this separation from his family and home,
Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya became extremely close and in
the following years they often travelled together.
A philosophical awakening
Mary Lutyens states that there came a time when Krishnamurti
fully believed that he was to become the World Teacher that he had
been told, after correct guidance and education, he would become.
However, the unnexpected death of his brother Nitya on November
11, 1925 at age 27 from tuberculosis, fundamentally shook his belief
and faith in the divine 'Masters', and the leaders of the Theosophical
Society. (Crucially, though he later abandoned the society, he was
never to explicitly deny his role of 'the World Teacher' which had
been foreseen. Typically he would prefer to discuss directly the
fundamental problems effecting mankind rather than such grand and
imposed notions - no matter how essentially true they may have been.)
He had prayed directly to the Masters for his brother's life to
be spared but it was not. The experience of his brother's death
shattered his remaining illusions.
From The Song of Life (1931)
My brother died; We were as two stars in a naked sky. He was
like me, Burnt by the warm sun...
He died; I wept in loneliness. Where'er I went, I heard his voice
and his happy laughter. I looked for his face in every passer by
and asked each if he had not met with my brother; But none could
give me comfort. I worshipped, I prayed, But the gods were silent.
I could weep no more; I could dream no more. I sought him in all
things, in every clime. I heard the whispering of many trees Calling
me to his abode. And then, in my search, I beheld Thee, O Lord of
my heart; In Thee alone I saw the face of my brother. In Thee alone,
O my eternal Love, Do I behold the faces Of all the living and all
From 1925 onward things were to never be the same again.
...An old dream is dead and a new one is being born, as a flower
that pushes through the solid earth. A new vision is coming into
being and a greater consciousness is being unfolded. ...A new strength,
born of suffering, is pulsating in the veins and a new sympathy
and understanding is being born of past suffering---a greater desire
to see others suffer less, and, if they must suffer, to see that
they bear it nobly and come out of it without too many scars. I
have wept, but I do not want others to weep; but if they do, I know
what it means. (from The Herald of the Star, January 1926)
In 1925, he was expected by Theosophists to enter Sydney, Australia
walking on water, but this did not eventuate and he visited Australia
the following year by ship.
Krishnamurti's new vision and consciousness continued to develop
and reached a climax in 1929, when he rebuffed attempts by Leadbeater
and Besant to continue with The Order of the Star - the section
of the Theosophical Society devoted to the coming of the World Teacher.
Krishnamurti dramatically dissolved the Order on the opening day
of the annual Star Camp at Ommen, Holland, August 2, 1929, where,
in front of several thousand members, he gave a speech saying:
You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his
were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man
stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and
put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, "What
did that man pick up?" "He picked up a piece of the truth,"
said the devil. "That is a very bad business for you, then,"
said his friend. "Oh, not at all," the devil replied, "I
am going to help him organize it."
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.
After disbanding the Order of the Star and drifting away from
the Theosophical Society, its belief system and practices, Krishnamurti
spent the rest of his life holding dialogues and giving public talks
across the world on the nature of belief, truth, sorrow, freedom,
death and the apparently eternal quest for a spiritually-fulfilled
life et cetera. Following on from the 'pathless land' notion, Krishnamurti
accepted neither followers nor worshippers, seeing the relationship
between disciple and guru as encouraging the antithesis of spiritual
emancipation - dependency and exploitation. He constantly urged
people to think independently and clearly and to explore and discuss
specific topics together with him, to "walk as two friends".
He accepted gifts and financial support freely offered to him by
people inspired by his work (his main residence being on donated
land in Ojai, California) and relentlessly continued with lecture
tours and the publication of books and talk transcripts for more
than half a century.
Later years and "farewell talks"
In his later years, J. Krishnamurti spoke at the United Nations
in New York, on the 11th April 1985, where he was awarded the United
Nations 1984 Peace medal. (Talk and Q+A session transcript)
In November of 1985, he revisited the places in which he had
grown up in India, holding a last set of "farewell talks"
between then and January 1986. These last talks were on fundamental
principles of belief and lessons. Krishnamurti commented that he
did not wish to invite Death, but was not sure how long his body
would last, he had already lost some 6 kg (13 lb) and once he could
no longer talk or teach, he would have no further purpose. He said
a formal farewell to all four points of the compass, the so-called
'elephant's turn', on the Adayar shore where he had long ago come
to the attention of others. His final talk, on January 4, 1986,
invited his co-participants to examine with him the nature of inquiry,
the nature of life, and the nature of creation. It ended:
"So we are inquiring what makes a bird. What is creation
behind all this? Are you waiting for me to describe it, to go into
it? ... Why? Why do you ask [what creation is]? Because I asked?
No description can ever describe the origin. The origin is nameless;
the origin is absolutely quiet, it's not whirring about making noise.
Creation is something that is most holy, that's the most sacred
thing in life, and if you have made a mess of your life, change
it. Change it today, not tomorrow. If you are uncertain, find out
why and be certain. If your thinking is not straight, think straight,
logically. Unless all that is prepared, all that is settled, you
can't enter into this world, into the world of creation."
"It ends." (these two words are hardly audible, breathed
rather than spoken)
"This is the last talk. Do you want to sit together quietly
for a while? All right, sirs, let us sit quietly for a while."
(quotes in this section from "The Future Is Now: Last Talks
J. Krishnamurti passed away one and a half months later at the
age of 90 from pancreatic cancer. His remains were cremated and
scattered by friends and former associates in the three countries
where he had spent most of his life, India, England and United States
"The Core of the Teachings" contains the essence of
Krishnamurti's work. It was written in London on October 21, 1980,
and states in its entirety:
The core of Krishnamurti's teaching is contained in the statement
he made in 1929 when he said: 'Truth is a pathless land'. Man cannot
come to it through any
organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest
or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological
technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship,
through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through
observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective
dissection. Man has built in himself images as a fence of security
— religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas,
beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man's thinking, his
relationships and his daily life. These images are the causes of
our problems for they divide man from man. His perception of life
is shaped by the concepts already established in his mind. The content
of his consciousness is his entire existence. This content is common
to all humanity. The individuality is the name, the form and superficial
culture he acquires from tradition and environment. The uniqueness
of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from
the content of his consciousness, which is common to all mankind.
So he is not an individual.
Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not a choice. It is man's
pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure
observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward.
Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution
of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation
one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in
the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity. Thought
is time. Thought is born of experience and knowledge which are inseparable
from time and the past. Time is the psychological enemy of man.
Our action is based on knowledge and therefore time, so man is always
a slave to the past. Thought is ever-limited and so we live in constant
conflict and struggle. There is no psychological evolution.
When man becomes aware of the movement of his own thoughts he
will see the division between the thinker and thought, the observer
and the observed, the experience and the experiencer. He will discover
that this division is an illusion. Then only is there pure observation
which is insight without any shadow of the past or of time. This
timeless insight brings about a deep radical mutation in the mind.
Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is
negation of all those things that thought has brought about psychologically,
only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.
In "The Last Talks", Radhika Herzberger comments,
"He had set his face against the whole paraphernalia of
organized religion - its dogma, churches, rituals, sacred books
and gurus - since 1929 when he had written: 'When Krishnamurti dies,
which is inevitable, you will set about forming rules in your minds,
because the individual, Krishnamurti, had represented to you the
Truth. So you will build a temple, you will then begin to have ceremonies,
to invent phrases, dogmas, systems of belief, creeds, and to create
philosophies. If you build great foundations upon me, the individual,
you will be caught in that house, in that temple, and so you will
have to have another Teacher come and extricate you from that temple.
But the human mind is such that you will build another temple around
Him, and so it will go on and on.'
A tremendous volume of material exists documenting the philosophical
investigations of Krishnamurti (or simply "K" as he is
sometimes referred to) mostly in the form of recorded conversations
and talks, although K also wrote several series of short essays
and kept a personal journal at least twice in his life. He had dialogues
and personal meetings with a wide variety of people from all kinds
of backgrounds. An example of the far-ranging and probing dialogues
he had is a series of conversations recorded in 1980 with theoretical
physicist David Bohm that resulted in the publication of The Ending
of Time and The Future of Humanity. These conversations are also
available on audio tape and a subset of them on video and DVD as
well. Two conversations with Swami Venkatesananda in Saanen explore
the role of the guru and the fundamental paths of Hinduism. These
conversations are also available on audio tape.
Observation without reward
Questioner: "I have listened to you for many years
and I have become quite good at watching my thoughts and being aware
of every thing I do, but I have never touched the deep waters or
experienced the transformation of which you speak. Why?"
Krishnamurti: "I think it is fairly clear why none
of us do experience something beyond the mere watching. There may
be rare moments of an emotional state in which we see, as it were,
the clarity of the sky between clouds, but I do not mean anything
of that kind. All such experiences are temporary and have very little
significance. The questioner wants to know why, after these many
years of watching, he hasn't found the deep waters. Why should he
find them? Do you understand? You think that by watching your own
thoughts you are going to get a reward: if you do this, you will
get that. You are really not watching at all, because your mind
is concerned with gaining a reward. You think that by watching,
by being aware, you will be more loving, you will suffer less, be
less irritable, get something beyond; so your watching is a process
of buying. With this coin you are buying that, which means that
your watching is a process of choice; therefore it isn't watching,
it isn't attention. To watch is to observe without choice, to see
yourself as you are without any movement of desire to change, which
is an extremely arduous thing to do; but that doesn't mean that
you are going to remain in your present state. You do not know what
will happen if you see yourself as you are without wishing to bring
about a change in that which you see. Do you understand?
I am going to take an example and work it out, and you will see.
Let us say I am violent, as most people are. Our whole culture is
violent; but I won't enter into the anatomy of violence now, because
that is not the problem we are considering. I am violent, and I
realize that I am violent. What happens? My immediate response is
that I must do something about it, is it not? I say I must become
non-violent. That is what every religious teacher has told us for
centuries: that if one is violent one must become non-violent. So
I practise, I do all the ideological things. But now I see how absurd
that is, because the entity who observes violence and wishes to
change it into non-violence, is still violent. So I am concerned,
not with the expression of that entity, but with the entity himself.
You are following all this, I hope?
Now, what is that entity who says, `I must not be violent'? Is
that entity different from the violence he has observed? Are they
two different states? Do you understand, sirs, or is this too abstract?
It is near the end of the talk and probably you are a bit tired.
Surely, the violence and the entity who says, `I must change violence
into non-violence', are both the same. To recognize that fact is
to put an end to all conflict, is it not? There is no longer the
conflict of trying to change, because I see that the very movement
of the mind not to be violent is itself the outcome of violence.
So, the questioner wants to know why it is that he cannot go
beyond all these superficial wrangles of the mind. For the simple
reason that, consciously or unconsciously, the mind is always seeking
something, and that very search brings violence, competition, the
sense of utter dissatisfaction. It is only when the mind is completely
still that there is a possibility of touching the deep waters."
6th public talk Ojai, 21st July 1955 from the booklet "Surely,
Freedom From the Self is the True Function of Man".
The liberating process must begin with the choiceless awareness
of what you will and of your reactions to the symbol-system which
tells you that you ought, or ought not, to will it. (Foreword to
The First and Last Freedom)
If, living in the world, you refuse to be a part of it, you will
help others out of this chaos--not in the future, not tomorrow,
but now. (The First and Last Freedom, p25)
Real revolution is not according to any particular pattern, either
of the left or of the right, but it is a revolution of values, a
revolution from sensate values to the values that are not sensate
or created by environmental influences. (The First and Last Freedom,
p43) To bring about a fundamental revolution in oneself, one must
understand the whole process of one's thought and feeling in relationship.
(p49, The First and Last Freedom.)
"So, to meditate is to purge the mind of its self-centered
activity. And if you have come this far in meditation, you will
find there is silence, a total emptiness. The mind is uncontaminated
by society; it is no longer subject to any influence, to the pressure
of any desire. It is completely alone, and being alone, untouched
it is innocent. Therefore there is a possibility for that which
is timeless, eternal, to come into being. This whole process is
The state of creativeness comes only when the self, which is
the process of recognition and accumulation, ceases to be because,
after all, consciousness as the 'me' is the centre of recognition,
and the centre of recognition, and recognition is merely the process
of the accumulation of experience. (p40, The First and last Freedom.)
The creative release comes only when the thinker is the thought
-- but the gap cannot be bridged by any effort. (p140, The First
and Last Freedom.)
Anything that springs from thought is conditioned, is of time,
of memory; therefore it is not real. (p139, The First and Last Freedom.)
If we had no belief but goodwill, love and consideration between
us, there would be no wars. (p183, The First and Last Freedom.)
To live peacefully means not to create antagonism. (p184, The
First and Last Freedom.)
Love is not different from truth. Love is that state in which
the thought process, as time, has completely ceased. Where love
is, there is transformation. Without love, revolution has no meaning,
for the revolution is merely destruction, decay, a greater and greater
ever-mounting mystery. Where there is love, there is revolution,
because love is transformation from moment to moment. (p288, The
First and Last Freedom.)
A good "first book" to gain an understanding of his
teachings is Freedom From the Known, San Francisco: Harper &
Row, 1969, ISBN 0-06-064808-2.
Suggested Further Reading