If you have read Freedom from the Known (1969) by the enlightened mystic of the 20th century, the great philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, you would know he was a man who questioned the conventional, authoritative and mechanical workings of the world. Born to an orthodox Brahmin Telugu family on May 11th 1895, in Madanapalle, a small town in south India, he and his brother Nityananda (Nitya) were adopted in their youth by Dr Annie Besant, then president of the Theosophical Society. At a young age, he was presented to the world as a torchbearer, a teacher and was announced as the Head of Order of the Star in the East. Despite the massive following, in 1929, at about 32-33 years of age, Krishnamurti renounced his role, dissolved the Order, returned all the money and severed all ties with any religious or spiritual organization. He believed that ‘Truth’ could not be found through any organization or creed, dogma, priest or ritual, not even through philosophical knowledge or psychological technique. In his Dissolution Speech on August 3rd, 1929, he said, “No organization can lead a man to spirituality. Suppose an organization be created for this purpose. In that case, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, bondage. It must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth.”
True to his words, for the rest of his life, Krishnamurti followed intellectual analysis and introspective dissection as a means of finding Truth.
He tried to address the human mind, its complexities, shallow understanding of the world and its inability to look at anything in a simpler form. He tried to understand fear in its entirety, how one’s pleasures harbor it, how one’s conditioning nourishes it, and how humans respond to it as a whole. He tried to transform the human psyche by asking scientific questions, by reasoning, by removing the layers of one’s mind one by one. For instance, in his book, The Awakening of Intelligence (1973), which is a detailed account of his conversations with Professor Jacob Needleman, Swami Venkatesananda, Alain Naude′ and Dr David Bohm, he talks about the role of a ‘guru’ and why do humans seek an authority of an external figure? Why is this wrong on several grounds? He discusses spiritual revolution among young people and how the possibility of growth originates when one pursues it with all seriousness? He questions the relevance of Vedanta, the traditional workings of ancient Indian philosophy. He counters the infinite struggles of a man and how our outer environment engenders our internal environment? He answers if intelligence is a product of thought? Why our minds have become dull and our hearts indifferent? All his life, Krishnamurti’s attempts to provoke human intellect and stir the unfathomable through his words never fell short.
What’s more intriguing is – he never did this from a position of authority. The natural curiosity to understand the ‘crisis’ that is plaguing the world called for certain discoveries. All he did was – make these discoveries accessible to people.
But with almost 100 million words to his account, enormous following and simplicity of a common man, why was the eminent spiritual leader, the 1984 UN Peace Medal Awardee the way he was?
In the words of Indian Yogi and Author, Sadhguru, J. Krishnamurti’s own experience of his teachers was so horrid that he always spoke about never depending on a Guru. He looked inward for every answer. He refused to initiate anyone into anything or give any method or process. Somewhere in his writings over the years, one can sense a disturbance in his repose because he knew all along what is causing the ‘real crisis in the world we live today’, but one never found him uncomfortable in addressing it, in engaging with it. He would speak with his razor-sharp tongue, and people would sit raptly and witness the brilliance, but many out of the crowd would not be able to process it. That is because most of us are not built for taking Truth in its purest form.
What is this Truth? In his book, the Future of Humanity (1986) which he co-authored with Dr Bohm, he writes, “I cannot know what Truth is without knowing what is false, and what non-violence is without knowing what violence is. Truth cannot be seen as an object of desirability or attained because of its vastness and context.” According to him, there was no formula to deduce Truth which he closely connected with self-consciousness – The state of ‘self-awareness’. The state of ‘constant fulfilment’. This state leads us to Truth, and it cannot be attained by following a path, a system, a method or even by looking for any assurance or certainty.
Sage, philosopher, and religious teacher, Krishnamurti illuminated the lives of millions across the globe until his death in the year 1986. Considered a force to be reckoned with, he grew up to be known as our times’ most influential voice. During a lifetime that spanned over 90 years, he set up four foundations – one each in India, United Kingdom, United States and Spain to ensure that worldwide people had access to his teaching, his words without any distortion. He set up schools in India, UK and the USA.
Today, the Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) manages six schools – Rishi Valley School (Madanapalle), Rajghat Besant School (Varanasi), Valley School (Bengaluru), The School-KFI (Chennai), Sahayadri School (Pune) and Pathashaala school (near Chennai). Each of these schools has a study centre open to anyone wishing to engage with the teachings. KFI India, located at Vasanta Vihar in Chennai, used to be the spiritual leader’s home when he toured India. Today it houses a study centre, a library, a bookstore and an archive of the original teachings.