Jiddu Krishnamurti is one of the most famous speakers and writers on the topics of philosophical meditation.
He did not like to call himself a teacher but rather preferred to engage in dialogue with those who came to listen to him. He had an unusual upbringing and life path, and he helped many open their minds to spiritual exploration.
In this guide, we look at:
- Biography & Legacy
- No Teacher and No Students
- Relationships are a Result of Images in Our Minds
- The Unnameable
- Truth Is A Pathless Land
- Beyond Belief
Read on and get inspired by the unique character and approach of Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Jiddu Krishnamurti Biography
The exact date of birth for Jiddu Krishnamurti is uncertain, but the author of his biography Mary Lutyens sets it to be 11 May 1895.
He was born in a small town Madanapalle in a Brahmin family, meaning they belonged to a priest caste. His mother died when he was ten, and his father worked for the British administration.
In school, many considered him to be vague and dreamy. We find this out from his journal, where we also learn about his first psychic visions, specifically one of his dead sister.
His father retired from work in 1907 and then applied to the Theosophical Society for additional employment. He was hired as a clerk there, and in 1909, he moved to Chennai with his sons to work in the Theosophical Society headquarters.
That’s when Jiddu Krishnamurti met a famous theosophist at the time, whose name was Charles Webster Leadbeater.
He saw a spark in Krishnamurti, saying he would surely become a spiritual leader and speaker who would be used by Lord Maitreya. Maitreya is a spiritual entity from theosophy who comes to earth as a teacher to help with the evolution of humanity.
That’s when they began to tutor him in the Theosophical Society. There, he strongly connected with Annie Besant, to such an extent his father gave her legal guardianship over him.
In 1911 the Theosophical Society chose Jiddu Krishnamurti as the head of their new organization called Order of the Star in the East. This organization received press coverage, and the sudden publicity surrounding him and his expected future made him uncomfortable.Still, he began his career then. He gave his first public speech and started writing for the society’s booklets and magazines. After World War I, he started giving lectures and continued writing.
In 1922, he had a meeting with Rosalind Wiliams about the “world teacher project”, in California. A bit later, he had a life-changing spiritual experience, which completely changed his life and path.
In his famous “Dissolution Speech” in August 1929, he dissolved the order he guided until that point, denying the idea that he was a leader prophesied by the society. With time, he completely dissociated from the society.
He spent the remainder of his life in philosophical public talks and continued publishing books.
Between 1930 and 1944, he focused on speaking tours with “Star Publishing Trust”. He spoke in Europe, America, and Australia. He got both praise and followers and opposition for his opinions.
He shared his educational ideas, upon which Rishi Valley School has opened. Throughout his life, he opened six more schools.
In 1953, he wrote his first book of prose. He started meeting other teachers, scientists and leaders, like Dalai Lama, Jawarhalai Nehru, Iyengar, and a physicist called David Bohm, who shared his beliefs and soon became one of his closest friends.
He also met prominent politicians, such as the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (in the 1980s), and continued to write books. He summarized the foundations of his teachings in the 80s book “Core of the Teaching”.
In the later years of his life, he was worried about his legacy and wanted to make sure his teachings remained freely available to the world without any interpreters.
In his final statement a few days before his death, he said that no one except for him understood what happened to him and that the “supreme intelligence” that operated through his body would die along with him, and it is impossible that he has successors.
He died of pancreatic cancer in February 1986 at the age of 90. He held his last talks until the very last months of his life.
Not many people have left such a huge legacy like Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Most of his talks and dialogues were recorded, especially in the later years. Altogether there are around 600 video recordings and over 2500 audio recordings. There are also transcriptions of more than 5,000 events in the archives.
Based on these, more than 80 were published and were translated into over 60 languages.
Krishnamurti founded five schools in India, one in California, and one in England.
The Krishnamurti Foundation takes care of his legacy. If you want to learn more about him, we recommend you go to the official foundation pages for a great summary of Krishnamurti books to find ones that fit your interests.
Jiddu Krishnamurti Teachings
1. No Teacher and No Students
At first, Krishnamurti’s teachings seem intellectual, and one may try to understand them with their mind. That is the way we are used to learning.
However, in his talks and discussions, he rejected responses based on thoughts and memory. Rather, he wanted honest replies that meet him “on the same level” and deepen the conversation, rather than only referring to him as a teacher.
Although we can no longer get into dialogue with him, if we want to respect his legacy, we still need to see him as a “mirror” to our own minds, rather than an authority or a guru. We can see him as an inspiration for developing our own ideas and concepts.
You can see exactly how by taking inspiration from some of his speeches. You will notice they are not inspired by knowledge thought by tradition but with his own vision of the truth.
Although his message mainly remained consistent throughout the years, this approach also gave him freshness. He approached audiences as a friend, and many had felt he was talking to them personally.
In private discussions and interviews, he often challenged religious scholars, scientists, and psychologists, encouraging them to find their own answers and to discover the limits of the theories they believed in.
2. Relationships are a Result of Images in Our Minds
The idea that he is not a guru, and his encouragement of everyone to observe with their own mind, brings up the topic of relationships as a whole.
In our relationships, we usually operate from the past, so we can never see people with fresh eyes, without our thoughts and images.
Krishnamurti states that the observer must discover himself in the thing he observes and that the division between the two is illusory. He challenges us with the idea that this illusory division is the root of most conflicts within ourselves and in the world.
Once one realizes that the observer is also the observed, all relationships go through a transformation.
Otherwise, if we try to solve our issues with thought and time, we will always be limited. This entire concept in itself is something impossible to understand with thought.
Try to discover for yourself: it is possible to see the other person without the past that already exists in us. Maybe, by overcoming these images, we can also overcome the result of building our relationships upon them.
In Krishnamurti’s words:
Thought builds a great many images, both inwardly and outwardly, in all our relationships, and hence there is a division in relationship which invariably brings about conflict and separation.
3. The Unnameable
A lot of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s work revolved around the “unnameable”.
The discussion often comes with the topic many avoid – death.
He wonders if death is something that happens at the end of life, or if is it a part of it. His challenge is for us to always stay conscious of death and our own mortality. Only then can we start anew.
You have brought this faraway thing called death to the immediate action of life, which is the ending of your attachment.
So death means a total renewal, a total renewal of a mind that has been caught in the past. So the mind becomes astonishingly alive, it is not living in the past.
Close to this inquiry about mortality is the topic of the unnameable.
This is something, a state, that is timeless, choiceless, unnameable, immeasurable, something beyond the known which humanity has always looked for. This “unnameable” isn’t something we can reach with known approaches.
In fact, he says:
4. Truth Is A Pathless Land
To continue on the previous idea, let’s mention Jiddu Krishnamurti’s answer when he was asked in 1929 what is the core of his teaching:
Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest, or ritual, nor 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.
To summarize his other words based around this idea, we have built our characters and our sense of security on our belief systems. These could be religious, political, and personal.
The problem is, that these become a burden to our thought processes, relationships, and daily life.
We are not able to perceive life without these already-established concepts. We acquire our individuality from the culture we live in. However, this is not where our true freedom, our true uniqueness comes from.
We can find our freedom in observation without having any direction, without the fear or desire for an outcome.
Once we start observing our own minds, we will see the illusory division between the one who thinks and the thought, which can radically change our perspective.
5. Beyond Belief
We can’t talk about Jiddu Krishnamurti without mentioning his thoughts on religion. As we mentioned in the previous section, he repeatedly stated belief can only prevent the healing of the earth and our relationships.
We are all humans before we are Hindus, Christians, Jews, Muslims, ‘spiritual’, or atheists – we are all the same.
He didn’t associate himself with any movement, religion, or tradition, but rather focused on the universal search for truth.
When I kill an Arab, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a communist, whoever it is, I am killing myself. I wonder if you realise this.
We could say so much more about Jiddu Krishnamurti – after all, he has done such a large body of work.
We could write another long article about his thoughts on love, fear, God, nature, and all other key topics to humanity. But we would be going on forever!
You can also learn about other philosophers and famous speakers: