A World Teacher Dies

A World Teacher Dies February 16, 2024

Jiddu Krishnamurti
by Albert Witzel
circa 1922








About ten minutes past midnight on the 17th of February, in 1986, Jiddu Krishnamurti died in Ojai, California. He was ninety years old. Or thereabaouts.

He had been several things in his life.

One of them a world teacher.

It’s not precisely sure when Krishnamurti was born, probably in May, but what day precisely, and in either 1895 or 1896. He was born a brahmin in Madanapalle, in Andhra Pradeshi. His father Naarayanaiah, was a government official. He was one of eleven children. His mother died when the boy was ten. He was sickly, sensitive, and dreamy, it is said.

After his father’s retirement from the colonial government, an ardent Theosophist, Narayanaiah went to work at the Theosophical headquarters in Adyar.

In April, 1909 young Krishnamuri had a fateful meeting with the Anglican cleric (and later Liberal Catholic bishop) Charles Leadbeater.

Leadbeater was a disciple of H. P. Blavatsky, a renowned psychic, close associate of Annie Besant, and a leading figure within the Theosophical Society. Later he would be one of the founders of the Liberal Catholic Church. He was also controversial within the movement, having been forced to resign from leadership in the TS in 1906 for advising adolescences to masturbate in order to relieve obsessive sexual thoughts. He was reinstated the next year. But the shadow lingered.

On that fateful day in 1909 Reverend Leadbeatter saw young Krishnamurti playing at the beach. He immediately felt the boy was meant to be the vehicle of the coming world teacher. According to a biographer Leadbeater proclaimed  the “most wonderful aura he had ever seen, without a particle of selfishness in it.”

Krishnamurti and his younger brother Nityananda were taken in and provided with a world class tutorial education in India and later in Europe.He never warmed to Leadbeater, but grew increasingly close to Annie Besant. She became his and his brother’s legal guardian. At some point his father wanted the boys back and there was a legal struggle. Besant won.

In 1911 the TS formed the Order of the Star in the East, which was meant to prepare the way for Krishnamurti to take on his role as world teacher. The following years he was educated and traveled. Ms Besant and others said that when he came into his own he would bring a message. It would be hard to hear, and many wouldn’t.

Then, in 1929 Krishnamurti was scheduled to give a lecture to the Order of the Star of the East. Some three thousand ardent followers were present, as were his mentors.

He rather quickly got to the point. “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 to coerce people along any particular path.”

And with that he dissolved the organization.

For me it is fascinating that for years Bishop Leadbetter and Mrs Besant and other Theosophical leaders were saying that when the new world teacher came, he would say things that people could not accept. And, sure enough, when Krishnamurti came into his own he said words they could not accept.

Institutionally they didn’t have much say. He was in charge. He was, after all, the world teacher.

Soon after Krishnamurti severed all ties with Theosophy and embarked upon his remarkable career as a lecturer and commentator on matters of the spirit.

I am a qualified fan of Krishnamurti. I do not agree with all he said over his teaching life. But, I think he had a genuine eye, as we Zen people like to say, and offered wise counsel that helped many people.

So, thanks to Bishop Leadbetter and Mr Besant for noticing the boy all those years ago, and investing in bringing him to adulthood. And, most of all, to Kirshnamurti himself, for being able to step away from the cult before it hardened his heart. Something rare, I believe. And, then, of course, and then going on to speak to the great matters in ways that people could and continue to be able to hear.

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