Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


Krishnamurti And The Making Of A Religion?

This is the sad story of how the teachings of an illumined teacher have been turned into groupthink by his followers, and threaten to become the basis for another religion. I’m referring to the worldwide “dialogue” network that formed after the death of Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1986.

Contradictions about Krishnamurti’s life have emerged since his death, and there have long been questions about the organization and people surrounding him and “the teachings.” But Krishnamurti’s teachings themselves remain the clearest expression of “the perennial teachings” I’ve ever heard or read.

Krishnamurti was born at the end of the 19th century, when Theosophy was all the rage in England, America and India. Theosophy had and still has some serious elements, but it became associated with all manner of occult mumbo jumbo in the early part of the 20th century. It was fixated on “Ascended Masters” – purportedly realized beings that allegedly incarnate in human beings.

Though it would be decades before Indians threw off the chains of the colonial British Empire, an early and effective English advocate of Indian Home Rule was Annie Besant, who became president of the Theosophical Society after its notorious Russian founder, Helena Blavatsky.

Krishnamurti was “discovered” at 11 years old by Besant’s cohort, an unsavory character named Charles Leadbeater, as Krishnamurti was walking the beach at Adyar India with his younger brother Nitya. Leadbeater, who supposedly had the power to instantly read auras, said the young Krishnamurti had the purest aura he’d ever seen. Krishnaji, as he came to be affectionately known, was one of eight children in a poor Brahmin family whose mother had died a few years earlier. Besant and Leadbeater took in Krishnamurti and prepared him to be the “World Teacher.”

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

After coming of age, Krishnamurti displayed tremendous integrity and courage by renouncing his role in Theosophy as head of “The Order of the Star,” declaring, “You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages.”

“K” went on to give extraordinarily clear and passionate talks around the world for over 60 years on the human condition as it pertained to and is enfolded within the individual. Paradoxically, he thereby became a world teacher, strongly influencing people like Aldous Huxley, Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle.

The essence of K’s teachings remained the same throughout the decades of his speaking, and can be summed up in the statement he made in the late 1920’s, when he broke with Theosophy: “Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.”

When it was over, and Krishnamurti lay dying from pancreatic cancer in Ojai California at age 93, he said, “No one understood.” He also said, “Don’t interpret; protect the teachings.”

It’s ironic, though perhaps not surprising, that those around Krishnamurti, and those that came into the K community after his death, seem to have done exactly the opposite—interpreting Krishnamurti’s message along the lines of their mediocrity, and instituting a groupthink bordering on cultishness. So much so that it makes one doubt whether the entire project was fundamentally flawed.

For example, Krishnamurti said near the end of his life, “No teacher, however illumined, has changed the basic course of man.” For decades he called for a psychological revolution within the individual that clearly went beyond the individual.

Yet his followers, and especially the K people of today nearly 40 years since his death, insist, during their worldwide zoom dialogues, on interpreting his message solely in terms of their individual selves. They draw psychological comfort by citing things K said such as, “The seed of that radical revolution has already been planted and will operate; you have not a thing to do.”

K people tend to be very intellectual, skilled at the very casuistry and sly tricks of thought that Krishnamurti deplored. As one of the two people present at Krishnamurti’s death said to me, “People are unfortunate; K people are more unfortunate than most.”

When asked about the apparent gulf between the teacher and his followers (they bridle at the term followers, but it applies), they invariably say grating things like: “Groupthink does not seem to be a problem with K folks any more than any other group of people. Besides, groupthink is almost always present, to some extent, in any gathering of two or more people.”

Failing to hold themselves to a higher standard than “any other group of people,” while at the same time saying, “I attribute the flowering I detect in me to Krishnamurti’s teachings,” reflects the maddeningly cunning habit K people have of having things both ways. Clearly, groupthink is a very different thing than thinking together.

My doubts stem from Krishnamurti creating a worldwide organization to disseminate “the teachings,” despite having decried such organizations for decades. It raises the question: Does the parlous condition of the Krishnamurti network stem from a flaw in the man and his teachings, or from the very thing he warned about – personal interpretation rather than living inquiry and insight?

There are also contradictions about Krishnamurti’s life, especially around his concern for his public image, despite denouncing images all his life. Nevertheless, he clearly lived his teachings to an extraordinary degree, as this passage from “Krishnamurti’s Notebook” attests:

“Waking towards dawn, meditation was the splendor of light for the otherness was there, in an unfamiliar room. It was an imminent and urgent peace, not the peace of the politicians or of the priests nor of the contented; it was too vast to be contained in space and time, to be formulated by thought or feeling. It was the weight of the earth and the things upon it; it was the heavens and beyond it. Man has to cease for it to be.”

Though Krishnamurti was illumined, daily meditation was still central to his life. Yet K people don’t meditate, which they confuse and conflate with mindfulness, often uttering the hackneyed excuse that “I meditate while I’m running or doing carpentry.”

Krishnamurti, in breaking with Theosophy, famously said, “My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.” Irrespective of the male dominated language of the day, he certainly did not achieve that in his lifetime. Indeed, people are more conditioned and human consciousness much darker than at Krishnamurti’s death.

Though most educated people still deny it, cleverly evading the present crisis with rationalizations like, “people have always egotistically thought that their time was the end of the world,” it’s irrefutable that humankind is regressing inwardly in inverse proportion to the outward progress of science and technology.

As darkness and deadness engulf the human spirit, the mindfulness movement, owing no small influence to Krishnamurti’s teachings, skates along on the surface, giving new meaning to solipsism and self-absorption.

Even so, Krishnamurti’s teachings could take their place at the forefront of the perennial teachings and the ancient work of transmutation and revolution.

That is, if enough people are truly doing the non-self-centered spadework within (flowing from the passive awareness and effortless negation of meditation), rather than endlessly interpreting and rehashing Krishnamurti’s or anyone else’s teachings.

In that perennially liquid foundation, the seed of radical revolution has truly been planted within us. Then human beings can dialogue and ignite insight together, and ignite the revolution in human consciousness as a whole that changes the disastrous course of man.

Martin LeFevre

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.