Jiddu Krishnamurti Biography


(Survey of World Philosophers)
0111203500-Krishnamurti.jpg Jiddu Krishnamurti brings his message to a group at the Logan estate near Bristol, Pennsylvania, in 1932. (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Krishnamurti maintained that only individual transformation of the human mind can bring peace and harmony to the world, and that every individual transformation contributes to the world revolution necessary to escape decades of global wars and environmental degradation.

Early Life

Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in Madanapalle, a small town in South India near Madras, where he lived with his family until they moved to Madras, after the death of his mother and when he was a young teenager. His name is from Sri Krishna, a Hindu god and an eighth child, like Jiddu. He was frequently beaten in school because he did not learn his lessons. Then he was discovered by C. W. Leadbeater of the Theosophical Society, a group led by noted English writer Annie Besant. In 1911, she arranged for Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya, who died of tuberculosis in 1925, to go to England for training to become the reembodiment of the Buddhist spiritual teacher Lord Maitreya, as head of a new religious organization, the Order of the Star in the East. For years, Krishnamurti served as a vehicle for the society’s teachings, traveling to many cities in India, the Netherlands, France, and the United States.

Life’s Work

Krishnamurti made his permanent home in California’s Ojai Valley, where he spoke and taught for the duration of his long life. His method was to talk informally to the hundreds, and then thousands, who came to visit and hear what he had to say. However, he began to doubt that he was all that the society had made him believe. In 1929, after a vision, he disbanded the Order of the Star in the East (claiming some sixty thousand members) and pronounced that no truth could be found by any formal organization or philosophy. In the same year, he started a school near his birthplace, in Rishi Valley, India, for an education without pressure of tradition. In later years, he established five more schools in India: in Rajghat (on property purchased by Besant), Uttar Kashi in the Himalayas, Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. He repudiated all religions and political groups, all ideals and ideologies, all cultures and nationalities, and, most dramatically, his own spiritual authority. He began a rigorous and arduous career of constant world travel, lecturing to all who would listen.

Krishnamurti attacked the root problem of conformity through pressures of education in his 1953 work Education and the Significance of Life. In the first and second series of his Commentaries on Living, he discussed specific problems caused by the obstacles of hopes, fears, illusions, beliefs, and prejudices.

In the 1960’s, Krishnamurti engaged in extensive dialogues with David Bohm, a theoretical physicist who taught at the University of London. They discussed the nature of time, consciousness, the brain, and, above all, the transformation of humankind and the future of humanity. These experiences are background to the third series of Commentaries on Living, in which Krishnamurti returns to the varied fears and ideas that interfere with free consciousness. However, most important was Krishnamurti’s Notebook, based on seven months in 1961 and 1962 when Krishnamurti kept a daily record of his perceptions and states of consciousness of the Otherness whose immensity and benediction filled the spaces of his life.

In 1964, Think on These Things was published to become one of Krishnamurti’s most popular works. It is made up of discussions he had with students, teachers, and parents in the schools in India. Although this work does not systematically develop any particular theme, the recurring motif of the work is a concern for right education to cleanse world consciousness. In 1968, a time of great unrest on college campuses in the United States, Krishnamurti conducted similar discussions with students. In these discussions, published in 1970 as Talks with American Students, 1968, Krishnamurti shows students a way to explore the true meaning of freedom and rebellion.

In 1968, Krishnamurti was videotaped for the first of many times. In the same year, he joined others in establishing the Brockwood Park School in England, and seven years later he founded the Oak Grove School in the United States. The paradox and irony of his message are captured in the title of Freedom from the Known, in which true education is shown to begin with asking basic questions to which individuals must find individual answers. The irony is that the student must unlearn before learning these truths, and the paradox is that knowledge must be emptied from the mind in order for true education to occur. This and previous concerns were brought together in a collection called Freedom, Love, and Action, drawn from meetings with students throughout the 1960’s.

In 1971, Krishnamurti gave a talk in New York City, in which he focused on the fundamental significance of relationships. Without overcoming social and psychological divisions, there can be no revolution of consciousness. Whatever corruption there may be in the world, it comes from individual...

(The entire section is 2120 words.)