Category Archives: b. Hinduism in Universalistic Religion

The Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society held its first regular meeting on November 17th, 1875 in New York City (Campbell 29). The Society had been envisioned only two months prior by its first President, American Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, supported by his fast friend, the German-Russian Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (Campbell 27), or H. P. B., as she preferred to be called (Campbell 2). To distinguish itself from other organizations (Campbell 78), the Society claimed three essential goals: to create a universal brotherhood, to compare humanity’s diverse ways of knowing, and to gain a better understanding of the hidden laws of nature and the abilities which lay dormant within humans (Scott 179). Rather than asserting a single doctrine for its members, the Society embraced an eclectic method of research, examining all religions and the Absolute Truth being pointed to by each of them (Olcott 58). Merriam-Webster defines theosophy itself as a way of coming to know the divine through mystical experiences. Similarly, in India, it was translated as brahmavidya, meaning the study or knowledge of the divine (Ingalls 87). The Theosophical Society would go on to have broad influence across the globe, with special relevance to the revival of Hinduism in India, and its heightened popularity in the West.

The Society was inspired by a number of previous traditions, such as American Transcendentalism and Spiritualism, which were in vogue during the 1870s (Campbell 9, 20), as well as Occultism (Campbell 10) and Free Masonry (Campbell 12). While these traditions were in part a response to existing dilemmas within Christianity (Campbell 9), the Theosophical Society very quickly began to align itself more with Eastern traditions than those of the West (Campbell 87). This shift toward the “Orient” became clear in 1879, when founders Olcott and Blavatasky moved the headquarters of the Theosophical Society first to Bombay, and then on to Adyar, south Chennai (then Madras), Tamil Nadu, India in 1882 (Campbell 78, Cranston xiv).

The Society rapidly grew in size and influence after Blavatsky and Olcott’s arrival in India, due in part to the moderate success of their magazine, The Theosophist, which they had co-founded with Alfred Percy Sinnett (Morrisson 8), and to their deep reverence for India as well, which warmed many locals to their cause (Campbell 79). More than one hundred Theosophical Society branches were opened within five years of Blavatsky and Olcott’s arrival to India (Campbell 86). Most locals who joined the Society were of the Brahmin class, and had been educated in the British schooling system, which left them torn between the religion of their childhood and the rationalism in which they were trained (Bevir 104). The reconciliation, which the Society offered, between the ideologies of Hinduism and science (Bevir 104) was another significant reason for the rapid growth of the Society.

This ability to reconcile the “old” and the “new” was one of the characteristics of Neo-Hinduism, a movement which was instrumental in reigniting India’s passion for her own religious history (Bevir 105). The Theosophists were a major landmark on the map of Neo-Hinduism, along with the Brahmo Sabha and Arya Samaj movements (Bevir 105). Blavatsky’s choice to attribute the purest source of ancient wisdom to India, rather than Egypt or any other Eastern country, connected well with the Samajists in particular, who sought to bring back the sanatana dharma of the Vedas (Campbell 77). The Samajists and the Theosophical Society were already closely connected prior to Blavatsky and Olcott’s arrival in India, and united into a single organization for a brief period of time before Olcott and Blavatsky came to realize that the organizations had too many significant differences (Campbell 77). Their biggest concern was that the Arya Samaj organization, which was founded by Swami Dayanand Sarasvati in 1875 (Campbell 77), asserted the absolute superiority of Hinduism (Bevir 105), which went directly against the eclectic stance of Theosophy. Although their formal ties were dissolved, the impact of these Neo-Hindu organizations continued to shape the future of society and religion within India for many years to come.

In 1884, only two years after the move to Adyar, controversy overtook the Theosophical Society. Emma and Alexis Coulomb were old acquaintances of Madame Blavatksy’s, who had worked as members of the staff in Adyar until being discharged (Campbell 88). Seemingly in anger at their dismissal (Cranston 266), the Coulombs sent forty letters of reputed communication between Madame Blavatsky and Madame Coulomb to the Christian College Magazine; the letters indicated widespread fraud on Blavatsky’s part (Campbell 88). Although H. P. B. wanted to take the Coulombs to court, Olcott and the rest of the Society barred her from doing so, fearful of the trial becoming an attack on their beliefs rather than on Madame Blavatsky herself (Campbell 91, Cranston 280). Fierce debate on the authenticity of the Coulomb letters continued for some time thereafter (Cranston 270-272).

The fires of the debates around the so-called Coulomb Affair were fanned by Richard Hodgson when he released a damning report on the Theosophists for the British Society for Psychical Research in late 1885. He determined that everything he saw during his time with the Theosophical Society was deeply fraudulent (Campbell 93), despite his friendly opinion of Theosophy prior to his arrival in Adyar (Cranston 277). Although some have accused Hodgson’s report of being deeply biased (Cranston 277), his judgement had widespread influence on the court of public opinion. However, in an unexpected turn of events, this attack upon the Society went on to cause its global popularity to rise, rather than to diminish (Cranston 284).

Following this dramatic period, Madame Blavatsky experienced a brief and life-threatening illness, and consequently resigned as the Theosophical Society’s secretary and leader of the Esoteric Section in March 1885. H. P. B. moved to Europe, where she bonded with Annie Besant, began to print her second magazine, Lucifer, and founded the Blavatsky Lodge of London in 1887 (Cranston xv). She remained in England until her death at age sixty on May 8, 1891 (Cranston 407). Colonel Olcott, however, had remained in Adyar after Blavatsky’s departure to Europe in 1885, touring throughout India and working to rebuild the Society’s reputation in the wake of the Coulomb Affair (Campbell 95).

Despite Olcott’s existing position as President, there was a four year struggle over who would lead the Esoteric Section of the Society following Madame Blavatsky’s death (Campbell 103). The struggle was ultimately ended when the man behind Theosophical expansion in the United States, and fellow competitor for the role of Esoteric Section leader, William Quan Judge, spearheaded a secession from Olcott’s Theosophy, declaring “The Theosophical Society in America” as separate in 1895 (Campbell 111). Olcott remained at the head of the Society at Adyar until his death in 1907, when the Englishwoman Annie Besant ran to succeed him as the Society’s President, and won by a large majority (Campbell 118).

Besant had been politically active in England, advocating for socialism, contraceptives, and atheism before ultimately aiming her sights on Theosophy (Ingalls 85). She moved quickly through the Society’s ranks, becoming so trusted that she would go on to speak as one of the representatives of Theosophy at the first World Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, only four years after she had joined the Society (Campbell 102). Mahatma Gandhi himself held Besant in very high esteem after having met her and Blavatsky in London, and had some of his own spiritual beliefs shaped by his time with the Theosophists (Bergunder 406).  Annie Besant moved to India in the same year as the World’s Fair (Mortimer 61), where she became interested in Colonel Olcott’s early initiatives to improve the lives of the Dalits (Campbell 114).

Following Olcott’s death and her consequent election as President, Besant endeavoured to build upon the work which Olcott had previously started; she focused on reformation of religion, education, and problematic social norms in particular (Mortimer 61). Some of her most important accomplishments included founding the Central Hindu College in Banaras, the Adyar Library (Ingalls 86), raising the marriageable age of girls, and stoking the flames of Indian nationalism (Mortimer 61, 62). Besant also produced an exceptional amount of literature for the Theosophical Society, wrote a much respected translation of the Bhagavad Gita and studied other classical Sanskrit works; moreover, she declared India as her own land of spiritual origin, claiming to have lived there in at least nineteen of her previous lives (Ingalls 86).

Besant turned her focus to politics in 1913, when she formed the Brothers of India group and published a book entitled Wake Up India! (Mortimer 64). Shortly thereafter, she joined the Indian National Congress, and began publishing a weekly newspaper, The Commonweal, which outlined a plan of Indian independence (Verma & Bakshi 292). Besant then purchased and renamed the New India daily newspaper in 1914, using it to support an idea of Indian Home Rule (Mortimer 65) which she fashioned after the Irish Home Rule movements (Ingalls 87). Besant supported universal suffrage and a complex democratic system of jurisdictions and electorates (Mortimer 68), and worked tirelessly across India throughout World War I until she was placed under house-arrest by the government in June 1917 (Mortimer 73). This action pushed the debates on Indian independence to a breaking point (Mortimer 75); between August and December of 1917, the Secretary of State for India announced the imminence of the nation’s independence, and Annie Besant was freed and elected President of the Indian National Congress (Mortimer 76), the only Western woman ever elected to this position (qtd. in Bevir 112).

Throughout her life with the Society, Besant was closely tied to fellow Theosophist C.W. Leadbeater (Ingalls 88), an Anglican priest-turned-Buddhist (Campbell 114). Leadbeater’s reputation crumbled in 1906, when he was formally accused of pedophilia (Vas 1); the accusations, coming from young boys, centered around his recommendations of masturbation as an occult practice. While the Theosophical Society accepted his resignation in response to these allegations (Campbell 116), Leadbeater was controversially reinstated to the Society only a year later, following Besant’s election to the Presidency (Tillett 33).

Two years after his reinstatement, Leadbeater discovered the young Jiddu Krishnamurti living with his family at Adyar, and promptly declared him to be the next great World Teacher and vehicle for the Christ (Campbell 120). Annie Besant worked with Leadbeater to gain custody of Jiddu and his brother, Nityananda (Campbell 120), after which they sent the boys to England for further education during World War I (Ingalls 88). Although their father attempted to regain custody of his sons twice, once after their move overseas and once following Leadbeater’s alleged sexual assault of Jiddu, Mr. Krishnamurti’s attempts were unsuccessful, and Leadbeater remained very much a part of the boys’ lives (Vas 2).

While Nityananda was accepted to Oxford, Jiddu was not, allowing him to train full time for the day when he would officially become the next World Teacher (Vas 3). He was thought to have taken on the role in 1925, and Annie Besant consequently suspended the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society, deeming it unnecessary (Campbell 129). An organization was built around Krishnamurti, called The Order of the Star in the East (Campbell 121), which grew throughout the 1920s, but was dissolved by Krishnamurti himself in 1929 (Campbell 129). While he went on to be a prolific lecturer and author, Krishnamurti left the Theosophical Society in 1930 (Campbell 147). Annie Besant died only three years after Krishnamurti’s departure, allegedly of a broken heart (Ingalls 88); her position as Society President was filled shortly thereafter by George Arundale (Campbell 130). However, the success which Krishnamurti found throughout his adult life, until his death in 1986, left some wondering if he was the World Teacher that Theosophy had promised after all (Vas 5).

Krishnamurti’s international fame (Campbell 148) serves as an excellent example of the way in which the Theosophical Society and many of its charismatic members helped to revive Hinduism in India and to popularize it in the West. While the effects in the West may be less noticeable, they are just as influential. Perhaps most importantly, Krishnamurti’s beliefs regarding meditation became popular in Hollywood, drawing many celebrities to his side, including Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo (Altman 213). Much of Krishnamurti’s appeal seems rooted in the disillusionment which many North Americans were feeling with Protestant Christianity at the time; furthermore, the meditative, inward-looking nature of his teachings – and those of the other Yogic teachers active during the same period, such as Yogananda and Vivekananda – allowed Americans to participate in “Americanized” Hindu practices without their fellow citizens noticing (Altman 213).

By the turn of the century, Americans were well-acquainted with the Theosophical Society; William Quan Judge’s schismatic organization, the Theosophical Society in America, already had seventy-one active branches within the United States by the year 1900 (qtd. in Morrisson 8). Theosophical ideas, such as the universalism and Unitarianism that Krishnamurti championed, formed a kind of bridge between the American disenchantment with Protestantism and their embrace of Asian religions. One can see the powerful effects of these Theosophical ideas still influencing spirituality today, especially in the current vigour for “neo-Vedantic” spiritual discourses formed largely within the context of Hinduism, such as those of Amritanandamayi Ma, better known as Amma (Huffer 377, 378). Although Amma’s teachings are rooted in Advaita philosophy, and she praises many aspects of Hinduism, she promotes non-denominational spirituality above all else (Huffer 377) – much as the Theosophists would have done, and continue to do.

The Theosophical Society in America still functions within the United States and internationally, simultaneously with the Theosophical Society at Adyar. These organizations are only two of the many spiritual movements which can find their roots within the rich, albeit short, history of Theosophy and its membership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

 

Altman, Michael J. (2016) “The Construction of Hinduism in America.” Religion Compass 10 #8: 207-216.

 

Bergunder, Michael (2014) “Experiments with Theosophical Truth: Gandhi, Esotericism, and

Global Religious History.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82: 398-426.

 

Bevir, Mark (2003) “Theosophy and the Origins of the Indian National Congress.” International

Journal of Hindu Studies 7 #1/3: 99-115

 

Campbell, Bruce (1980)   Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement.

Berkeley: University of California Press.

 

Cranston, Sylvia (1993)   H.P.B. The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky,

Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

 

Huffer, Amanda J. (2011) “Hinduism Without Religion: Amma’s Movement in America.” Cross

Currents 61 #3: 374-398.

 

Ingalls, Daniel H.H. (1965) “The Heritage of a Fallible Saint: Annie Besant’s Gifts to India”

            Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 109 #2: 85-88.

 

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theosophy

 

Morrisson, Mark S. (2008) “The periodical culture of the occult revival: esoteric wisdom,

Modernity, and counter-public spheres.” Journal of Modern Literature 31 #2: 1-22.

 

Mortimer, Joanne Stafford (1983) “Annie Besant and India 1913-1917.” Journal of

Contemporary History 18 #1: 61-78.

 

Olcott, Henry Steel (1885) Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science. London: G. Redway.

 

Scott, J. Barton (2016) Spiritual Despots: Modern Hinduism and the Genealogies of Self-Rule.

Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press.

 

Tillett, Gregory (2012) “Modern Western Magic and Theosophy.” Aries 12: 17-51

 

Vas, Luis S.R. (2004) J. Krishnamurti Great Liberator or Failed Messiah? Delhi: Motilal

Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

 

Verma, B.R., and S.R. Bakshi (eds.) (2005) British Policy and Indian Nationalism (1858-1919).

New Delhi: Commonwealth Publishers.

 

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation:

Amma (Amritanandamayi Ma)

Annie Besant

Colonel Henry Steel Olcott

C.W. Leadbeater
Free Masonry
H.P. Blavatsky
Indian National Congress

Jiddu Krishnamurti
Mahatma Gandhi
Neo-Hinduism
Neo-Vedanta
Occultism
Orientalism

Spiritualism

The Order of the Star in the East
Transcendentalism
Vivekananda

Yogananda

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

http://www.ts-adyar.org/

https://www.theosophical.org/

http://inc.in/

https://www.kfa.org/

http://www.katinkahesselink.net/his/chronol.htm

https://www.theosophical.org/online-resources/leaflets/25-online-resources/online-leaflets/1796-hp-blavatsky-and-her-writings

http://questbooks.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=4

https://www.facebook.com/Theosophical/

 

This article was written by: Jamie Lewis (Spring 2017), who is solely responsible for its content.

Dasanami Samnyasins

The development and the components of Hindu monasticism may appear complex. Sankara, the famous Indian philosopher, founded a Hindu monastic federation referred to as the Dasanami Order (Wade nd). Hindu monks, known as samnyasin, were divided into ten lineages which trace back to Sankara and compose the Dasanami Order. The ten different monk/renouncer groups were then divided up among the four monasteries founded by Sankara (Clark 2). The four monasteries (mathas) are located in the east, west, south, and north of India and they are respectively called Govardhan, Sarada, Srngeri, and Jyotir (Clark 115). This order is the most respected and influential in the Hindu tradition (Werner 148).

Historically, it has been viewed that the four monasteries are representative of Sankara’s travel and his spiritual authority. Sankara’s life is regarded as somewhat legendary. He lost his father at a young age and he was an admirer of the samnyasin life style. Sources claim that at the age of eight, Sankara was captured by a crocodile while he bathed in a river. Sankara told his mother that if he did not receive her blessing to become a samnyasin the crocodile would have taken his life (Pande 31). Historians believe that three factors contribute to why Sankara is held in the highest regard. It is said that Sankara was an incarnation of Siva (Pande 73). His strong connection to and the belief in his embodiment of Siva could be due to Sankara’s connections to miracles. Secondly, the implementation of authentic practices was to emphasize the social and spiritual claims of the reorganized monasteries. The final aspect which made Sankara legendary was the expansion of the Advaitic and non Advaitic schools (Pande 73). The rationales behind legends of his incarnation have been to fortify the Vedic faith and help spread the spiritual way of living across India (Pande 82).

Samnyasin (renouncing) is the final stage of one’s life. One may renounce after they have completed the householders’ stage grahastha (Miller 3). However, some Hindus enter renunciation earlier, once they have completed their education, though such young renouncers are less common. A renouncer is considered to be a wise holy man. He is expected to withdraw from society. From that point on, his life is dedicated to the attainment of moksa (Werner 147). A renouncer’s withdrawal from society is theoretical because, he may live in close proximity to society and interact with its members however, physical detachment is essential (Olivelle 272). One must leave their family and possessions in order to discover the meaning of life and gain inner peace (Burghart 635). Renouncers are placed outside of the caste system and are highly valued. A renouncer who receives offerings and praise from Hindus is not uncommon.

Once Hindu monks formally renounce, they are categorized in relation to the method of initiation and their way of life (Wade nd). Renouncers may fall into one of three distinct categories: the dandis, nagas, or paramahamsas. However, all Dasanami consider themselves as Siva (Clémentin 2). Many Dasanami renouncers decorate themselves with rudrāka beads and put three white horizontal stripes on their forehead to embody the symbolism of Siva and Visnu (Clémentin 3). Each type of renouncer group is affiliated with one of the four monasteries. To formally renounce, a monk must attain a new identity. He is given one of the ten surnames which made him a part of that particular spiritual lineage. The name one receives is linked to the monastery they are associated with and reflects their caste as well as their renouncing lifestyle. The monasteries from the south and west are mainly composed of dandi renouncers. The lineages commonly assigned to these monks, once they formally renounce include: Bharati (speech), Sarasvati (learning), Tirtha (sacred bathing), and Asrama (hermitage). Puri (town) and Giri (hill) are lineages linked to naga renouncers. Other names, sometimes received by all types of renouncers include: Vana (woods), Aranya (forest), Parrata (mountain), and Sagara (ocean) (Dazery na). Receiving a new name is significant because it symbolizes the relationship one has under a guru which acts as an investiture. An opportunity for the new renouncers to teach and ordain followers is given (Clémentin 16). Once a name is received, one is able to initiate another person into the samnyasin stage of life. All three branches of the Dasanami (dandi, nagas, and the paramahamsa) have networks of mathas (monasteries) spread across India.

The dandis traditionally come from a high caste background and hold knowledge of the Sanskrit language. They are the wanderers who usually carry a staff. The staff may be embellished with a saffron cloth with an axe head under it (Clark 28). Generally, dandi renouncers were previous householders, have short hair, and believe that they are the true samnyasin (Clark 41). Their initiation ceremony is completed by a guru and the name given depends on what matha one is affiliated to (Clark 41). One of the four brahmacari names is given at the ceremony either being Svarup, Prakasa, Ananda or Caitanya (Clark 42). The second ceremony a dandi partakes in is called the viraja home (Clark 89). A short sacred utterance that presumably encapsulates the essential wisdom of Vedanta from the monk’s monastic lineage is spoken (Wade nd).

Renouncers, who fall under the paramahasa grouping, discard all belongings including their staff, perform the most asceticism and obtain the highest amount of respect (Clark 102). They more frequently live in mathas and are affiliated to an akhara. However, paramahamsan monks are not deeply connected to the akharas life compared to the nagas (Clark 42).

Lower caste members form the naga renouncer group (Clark 39). Some scholars refer to them as “naked fighting monks” (Wade nd).  The naga have been known to travel nude and they cover their entire bodies (sometimes just their private areas) in ash, especially on festive holidays (Clark 35). The nagas are organized into seven akharas (Clark 48). To be initiated into the akhara as a naga, one must go through a third process referred to as the tang tode (Clark 98). This is a unique initiation among the three groups.

Typically, males are the ones who enter the stage of renunciation. However, women renouncers have recently been reported. About ten percent of female renouncers belong to the Dasanami (Clark 31). However, women may become brahmacarini, but they cannot enter the second stage of initiation in becoming “full” samnyasin (Clark 33). Women remove all jewelry as a symbol of their renunciation. The majority of women belong to the paramahamsa renouncer group. Two known monasteries exclusively admit women. The least number of women belong to the naga group (Clark 34).

A life apart from society cultivates detachment through a community which shares similar perspectives (Clémentin 2). Some renouncers may choose to join a monastic community (Tambiah 300). Monastic communities provide a shared living space between many samnyasin monks. It is where asceticism is ingrained through tradition (Clémentin 2). This concept of communal settlement was introduced by Sankara, and is referred to as the matha system (Miller 4). The purpose was to create a sense of solidarity through group support. The matha was a larger unit comprised of temples, a traditional Sanskrit school, a library, and a shelter for lay followers (Clémentin 4). The caste system was embedded into the institution. Individuals were born to specific gurus. Gurus raised money to support children’s education for their caste (Aya 58). Donations from patrons allow for monks to teach, provide medical care, and help feed the community (Miller 5). Service to the community was viewed as important and resembled Hindu cohesion. Monks may continue traveling, but if they remain in a community for an extended period of time they are less respected, except if it is the rainy season (Olivelle 271).  Clémentin addresses that, “the important point to stress is that they do not owe their allegiance to a monastery, but to a lineage of spiritual succession” (3). Sankara’s successor, a Sankaracarya (head of 1 of the 4 monasteries) essentially becomes “the teacher of the world” by representing the founder of his lineage (Clémentin 6). Sankaracaryas have substantial spiritual power and settle disputes within the matha by helping with court cases (Clark 79). For example, cases may include initiation and personal affairs, adultery, abuse, and caste pollution. Sankaracaryas help decide the punishment of a fine, a fine, forms of social exclusion, and sometimes even excommunication ceremonies (Clark 80).

The origins of the Dasanami Samnyasin illustrate the prominence of Sankara’s philosophical influence in creating the order. Spiritual lineages of the samnyasin monks are traced back to Sankara. The samnyasins aquire a new religious identity in which they abide by certain roles, codes, and practices (Clark 2). The different groupings of renouncers across the four cardinal directions are symbolic of Sankara’s spiritual journey and the prominence of Brahman (Wade nd). The caste system is significant to the Dasanami Order because it allows for different renouncer groups to exist. Subtle differences exist among the samnyasins such as, their appearance, initiation process, status, and their affiliation to a distinct lineage (Clark 39). The matha system was important for the development of education and philosophical ideas for the samnyasin and their lay followers (Clémentin 4). Life consisted of days of expressing bhakti in prayer, meditation, and lectures (Werner 147). Overall, evidence suggests that the Dasanami Order has been very influential and is a representation of Sankara’s philosophy. 

 

References and Further Recommended Readings

Burghart, R., (1983) “Renunciation in the Religious Traditions of South Asia”. Man18(4), 635–653. http://doi.org/10.2307/2801900

Clark, Matthew (2006) Dasanami Samnyasis. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers.

Clémentin-Ojha, C. (2006) “Replacing the Abbot: Rituals of monastic ordination and investiture in modern Hinduism”. Asiatische Studien, Etudes Asiatiques, Vol.60, 535- 573.

Ikegame, A (2012) “The Governing Guru”. The Guru in South Asia: New Interdisciplinary Perspectives, London & New York, NY: Routledge 5, 46.

Miller, D. M., & Wertz, D. C (1976) Hindu monastic life: The monks and monasteries of Bhubaneswar. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP.

 Olivelle, P. (2001)”The Renouncer Tradition”. In The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism,  G. Flood (Ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing  271-287.

 Pande, G. C (1994) Life and thought of Sankaracarya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.

 Tambiah, S. J. (1982) “The renouncer: his individuality and his community”. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 15(1), 299-320.

Wade, D. (2012) “Dasanamis.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, Vasudha Narayanan. Retrieved March 23, 2016, from <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/brill-s-encyclopedia-of hinduism/dasanamis-BEHCOM_9000000043>

Werner, Karel (2013) Love Divine: Studies in bhakti and devotional mysticism, London & New York, NY: Routledge 147-152.

 

Topics for Further Investigation

The Ramanadi Order

Bhakti

Guru

The Four Monasteries

Akharas

Pitha

 

Noteworthy Websites

http://dashnami.blogspot.ca/2009/11/history-of-dashnami.html

http://www.amritapuri.org/14530/sampradaya.aum

http://www.dlshq.org/saints/sankara.htm

http://www.mahavidya.ca/hindu-asceticism/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashanami_Sampradaya

 

Article written by: Miranda Deringer (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

Annie Besant

Annie Besant was an English woman who would come to be an advocate for the Hindu religion and women’s educational rights in India. Born in 1847, Besant grew up in a home where her father valued science over religion and her mother was a devout Anglican. Her parents’ differing views on religion would come to impact Besant’s beliefs and work as she grew up. She came to associate England and India by gendered terms. England being male and paternal in its rationality and materialism, and India as female due to its spirituality and mysticism. Besant’s father died when she was only five years old, thus, she grew up mainly influenced by her mother’s Christian beliefs. She received a good education from a wealthy woman who agreed to privately tutor her because her mother could not afford public education. Besant married a clergyman, however, her marriage quickly became tumultuous as she began to denounce her Christian faith. Besant would refuse to take communion and unsurprisingly this angered her clergyman husband. This led to a fractious marriage and an eventual separation (Anderson 2002:28).

More and more Besant began to question the Christian faith. The illness of her young daughter Mabel was one such event which drew Besant towards an atheist mindset. She eventually joined the National Secular Society which was lead by Charles Bradlaugh. Besant and Bradlaugh formed a strong friendship and he helped foster her free-thinking ideas.  Besant also became acquainted with George Bernard Shaw at this time (Oppenheim 13). With her new secularist mindset, Besant did not deny the presence of God but rather attributed consequences to human action. Before, her Christian faith had led her to believe that the universe revolved around God as the one true deity. In contrast, secularism allowed humans to be accountable for evil and for the consequences, whether it be rewards or punishment (Oppenheim 14).

In the year 1874, Annie Besant went to London and there she became known as ‘Red Annie.’ She supported such issues as women’s suffrage, use of birth control, secularism and socialism. Besant made it very clear that she was against the imperialism of England. She became a rebel figure because she went against the Victorian ideals that existed at the time in England. A series of articles written by Besant in the 1870’s demonstrated her discontent over England’s control of India. At this time, Besant identified herself as an atheist socialist but in 1889 she turned to the religion of Theosophy (Anderson 1994: 565). This particular religion was new at the time Besant converted to it and was based on discovering the hidden meanings or mysteries behind divinity. It sought to explain the relationships or bonds between the universe, humans, and the divine. Her conversion to Theosophy was met with consternation from her fellow secularists and from Indian theosophists. She had been a woman who did not believe in God and wanted the separation of religion and the state, and now she was affiliating herself with a religion where “all major creeds are paths to God” (Anderson 2002:28). Oppenheim (1989) suggests that her conversion to Theosophy was not as surprising as many thought. She had been questioning the secularist and atheist thoughts for some time, and had found that they did not allow for brotherhoods to be formed, but rather pitted different groups against each other (15). Besant remained a follower of Theosophy for the rest of her life and based much of her work on its ideologies.

1907 was an important year for Besant as she became the president of the Theosophical Society.  By this time Besant had already become quite assimilated into Indian culture. The base for the Theosophical Society was in India and Besant tried to participate in Indian life as fully as possible. She moved to India permanently and wore a white sari, as widows do, because it demonstrated mourning over the wrongdoings Britain had committed in India (Anderson 2002:29). She explained her affinity for India by claiming that she felt she had been Indian in another lifetime [Ingalls (1965) mentions how Besant discovered that many of her incarnations took place in India]. Whilst in the Theosophical Society, Besant focussed much of her work on supporting the domesticity of Indian women. Besant believed that it was important that Indian customs be upheld and this included women carrying out their traditional roles in the home. She received some criticism for this viewpoint because she had been so against the Victorian idea of a private sphere for women in her native land of England. Indeed many ambiguities arose with Besant’s ideas. One such ambiguity or criticism Besant faced was her lack of political conviction. In the year 1885 the Indian National Congress, composed of British members, was attempting to include more Indians in the governance of India. Besant had long been known to be against the Imperial supremacy of Britain yet she did not seem to have any qualms with British involvement in India’s government. She was quoted once as saying that “an Indian does not resent being governed; for he thinks the duty of a ruler is to rule, but he does resent the insolence often shown by the very juvenile civilians” that Britain was sending to India (Anderson 2002:30). Rather, Besant chose to focus mainly on the spiritual nature of India as she believed that this was the most vital part of its essence. She was concerned that western ideologies were crippling to India’s traditional Hindu beliefs and practices.

Bust of Annie Besant in the Theosophical Society headquarters (Adyar, Tamil Nadu, India)
Bust of Annie Besant in the Theosophical Society headquarters (Adyar, Tamil Nadu, India)

In order to preserve India’s Hindu background, Besant turned her efforts towards education. She felt that it was important to educate the young males on the religion, and history of India in order that they may be proud citizens of India in the future. In this way, Besant was trying to ensure that the western ideals of the British did not permeate into India and eradicate its important history and spirituality. Besant tried to distance herself from social reforms, wanting to focus mainly on the preservation of India’s Hindu culture. However, in the early 1900s she did become involved in advocating against child marriages and the seclusion of women. It is important to note that her support of these issues in no way negated her belief that women should still be domestic. When she began a school for young girls, the goal was that their education would help them to be better wives, not to help them achieve independence (Anderson 2002: 31). Tradition held that the men dealt in public affairs outside of the home and that women were mothers and wives who concerned themselves with domestic affairs. It is clear that Besant did not believe Indian women to be suppressed because of this (Anderson 1994: 567). To her, they seemed quite content in their societal roles and thus no change needed to be made. In the Central Hindu School (Besant’s school for boys) and her school for girls, Besant ensured that Sanskrit was taught as vigorously as the English language. Just as in the schools run by the British, her schools also taught important morals. However, Besant had more success than the British run universities in India because she tailored her curriculums to Indian culture. Figures such as St. Paul would be replaced in a lesson with Sri Rama; King Alfred was replaced by Sivaji. Besant’s devotion to Hindu tradition and custom in the education of India’s youth won her over with her pupils and their parents (Ingalls 86).

The year 1913 was significant for Besant because it was then that she turned to political pursuits. Having been distant from involving herself in issues of a political nature, Besant was thrown into the realm of politics when she was taken to court by a man whose sons were under her guardianship.  Accusations about one of her colleagues were made and this cast a shadow on the Theosophical Society. As a result, Besant felt an increasing need, in her own words: “to enter more than I have hitherto done into the social life of Madras” (Stafford 62-63).  After her negative experience in court, she formed ‘The Brothers of India.’  This was a group committed to looking out for India’s best interests with a focus on Hinduism as the mode towards their means. The men in this group were from the Theosophical Society and they had seven guidelines, which they were to follow in order to serve India’s best interests. The first six guidelines reflected many of Besant’s early beliefs. For example, these men were to only have their daughters marry when they were seventeen years of age to promote the education of the masses and to not ostracize widows for remarrying. The seventh guideline was most significant which “committed all members to a combined programme of spiritual, educational, social and political reform, and the placing of the programme under the guidance and direction of the Indian National Congress” (Stafford 64). Before, there had been reforms for each of these areas individually, but Besant wanted to unite all of these areas and to place equal importance on all reforms together. The Indian National Congress was asked to take the programme under its direction but they felt that it was not their place to interfere in these reforms because they were focussed solely on political ventures. However, Annie Besant was not deterred. She sought to bring the different groups and movements into one strong voice.

Home Rule for India was brought forth by Besant. She believed that both India and Britain would be better off if India was permitted to be self-governing. Stafford (1983) suggests that Besant’s Irish background influenced her decision to have a Home Rule for India. Besant wrote many articles which stressed how India would be a much more valuable ally as a nation free from colonialism as opposed to being a colonial state. She discussed the many grievances that India had suffered under British rule. According to Besant, Britain continuously benefitted more from India than India did from itself. Britain prevented India’s capital from remaining within the nation. As well, in terms of education, missionaries wanted Indians to convert, and the British geared education towards their own means; the cultivation of more clerks and junior officials was often the British goal (Stafford 66-67).  With the approaching war (World War I), Besant asserted that it was important for India to recognize her own nationhood. In 1916 Besant was finally successful in achieving a Home Rule for India. A meeting between the Congress and the Moslem League occurred.  As Ingalls (1965) suggests, this was very significant because an agreement called the Lucknow Agreement determined that in the event of Indian self-government, “two-thirds majority of either religious community would hold a veto power” (87).  Unfortunately, the Congress did not honor this agreement. Being the strong-willed woman that she was, Besant continued to give speeches to gain support. She was then placed under house arrest by a governor of Madras [see Anderson (2002: 39) for more information on the Governor’s actions against Besant]. Much to the dismay of the Congress, Besant had many devout followers, and her house arrest only served to make her a martyr for her cause. Gandhi was amongst her supporters, as well as other male Indian nationalists. People were dismayed to hear of the treatment of Besant. She was called Mother Besant by many and had won over the hearts of the people with her passionate belief in Indian nationalism. Significantly, Besant’s internment brought forth many Indian women activists for women’s rights. Others who normally would not have supported an English woman as a nationalist leader also protested her internment. When she was released after three months, she became the President of the Indian National Congress in December of 1917 (Ingalls 87-88).

Now as president, Besant was able to induce change for women’s rights in India. As she had done in the past, Besant did not denounce the important role in the home of the women, but rather suggested that women had an ancient importance and that their emancipation was needed so that they could fulfill their ancient position. In this way, Besant appealed to the traditionalism of Indian women and men, while still implying that some changes needed to be made. In late 1917 Besant formed and presided over the first feminist organization in India. It was called the Women’s Indian Association (Anderson 2002:47). Many women looked up to Besant as someone who had defied the odds and demonstrated that women could have a voice and the power to affect change in a male-dominated world. After 1917, her influence began to decrease. Gandhi was at the forefront of India’s nationalism and many saw him as a more appropriate leader for the Indian cause because he was a swadeshi or home made nationalist. Besant disagreed with many of Gandhi’s ideas and she lost favor with many because of this. To many, it seemed that she had become pro-government despite her original Home Rule intentions for India, however, she had simply altered her views because the political climate of India had changed. Besant had once been deemed an incarnate goddess, but at this time she was being referred to as a demoness and some called her Putana [this is a demoness from the epic Ramayana. She is known to have put poison on her breasts and suckled the child Lord Krsna, thus killing him (Anderson 2002:50)]. Interestingly, Gandhi, though he had many qualms with Besant’s views, stood up for her against the harsh words she was receiving from those who once supported her.

The last years of Besant’s career were difficult times for her. She resigned from the Home Rule League she had founded and Gandhi took her place as president. Moreover, she also resigned from the Indian National Congress. Besant was embittered by the way in which she was disregarded, but she continued to persevere. She formed a new National Home Rule League and eventually rejoined the Indian National Congress, though not in a leading position. Besant died in the year 1933 at the age of eighty-six. Towards the end of her career she was marginalized, however, many still fondly remembered her as Mother Annie Besant. She was the English woman with the Indian soul who fought for a more free India (Anderson 2002:49-51).

 

 

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

 

Anderson, Nancy Fix (2002) “Mother Besant and Indian National Politics.” The Journal of        Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 30, No. 3: p.27-54. London: Frank Cass

 

Anderson, Nancy Fix (1994) “Bridging Cross-cultural Feminisms: Annie Besant and women’s   rights in England and India, 1874-1933.” Women’s History Review, Vol. 3, No. 4: p.       563-580. New Orleans: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

 

Ingalls, Daniel H.H. (1965) “The Heritage of a Fallible Saint: Annie Besant’s Gifts to India.”         Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 109, No. 2: p. 85-88.     Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.

 

Mortimer, Joanne Stafford (1983) “Annie Besant and India 1913-1917.” Journal of      

            Contemporary History, Vol. 18, No. 1: p. 61-78. London: Sage Publications, Ltd.

 

Oppenheim, Janet (1989) “The Odyssey of Annie Besant.” History Today, Vol. 39, No. 9: p.        12-18. Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company.

 

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Atheism

Central Hindu School

Charles Bradlaugh

Commonweal (newspaper)

Home Rule League

Indian National Congress

Madame Blavatsky

Madras

nationalist movement (India)

National Reformer (newspaper)

New India (newspaper)

‘Red Annie’

Secularism

‘The Brothers of India’

Theosophical Society

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/besant_annie.shtml

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Besant

 

http://www.ts-adyar.org/content/annie-besant-1847-1933

http://spartacus-educational.com/Wbesant.htm

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophical_Society

 

http://www.ts-adyar.org/

 

https://theosophical.org/the-society/history-of-the-society

 

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/285841/Indian-National-Congress

 

Article written by: Haley Kleckner (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

Swami Abhishiktananda

Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux)

Henri Le Saux, also known as Swami Abhishiktananda was a French Benedictine monk.  He was born on August 30, 1910 at St. Briac in northern Brittany, the eldest child of a large devoutly Catholic, Breton family.  It became evident early on in his life that Le Saux was drawn to priesthood and was sent to a seminary in 1921.  Despite vehement protests from his parents he decided to become a Benedictine monk and entered the monastery of Kergonan soon after his nineteenth birthday (Stuart 5).  Although his friends and family alienated him because of his choice, Le Saux continued on that course and was eventually ordained as a priest in 1935.  Even before he had taken his final vows Le Saux heard the call to India.  This occurred because Kergonan was unable to fulfil Le Saux’s deepest aspiration, which was to seek God (Stuart 11).  He found a way to seek God by reading Indian texts and discovering the perspective of Advaita.  As a result, he decided that he wanted to live a monastic life in an Indian church or one of contemplation in a hermitage (Stuart 11).  After several years of trying to figure out a way that he could achieve his goal, Le Saux finally found the answer in the priest Jules Monchanin.  In Monchanin he discovered a kindred spirit who had a similar desire to study in India.  Monchanin had been in India since 1939 and was in charge of the parish at Kulittalai (Stuart 14). After corresponding with each other over the course of several years, Le Saux was finally able to convince his Bishop to let him travel to India and join Monchanin in 1948 (Stuart 21).

Despite being born in France and remaining fiercely devoted to his nationality, Le Saux spent the last twenty-five years of his life in India, dying there in 1973.  Although he was master of ceremonies for his monastery and a well respected member of the church Le Saux was overtaken by his passion for India (Du Boulay xv).  After years of trying to figure out a way that he could fulfill this passion Le Saux became discouraged.  However, after coming into contact with Monchanin his passion was reunited and he fervently set out trying to make it a reality.  This passion was finally realized when he left his home in France in 1948, never to return, at the age of thirty-eight and traveled to India; where he spent the remainder of his life (Rodrigues 425).  Although he never returned to his home, the family ties that had been created were very strong.  This is evidenced by the fact that throughout his twenty-five years in India Le Saux corresponded regularly with his siblings, writing to them almost monthly (Stuart 9).   Upon arriving in India he joined Monchanin at Kulittalai and began his Indian initiation on the first day (Stuart 22).  The two Catholic men began to prepare for the ashram lifestyle that they hoped to lead while still continuing their Catholicism.  Le Saux was enchanted with the Indian lifestyle and as such took up their customs very quickly.  Within two months of being in Kulittalai he had adopted the local diet, clothing and various other customs and practices of the area (Stuart 24).  Le Saux also put great effort into studying not only the Christian works but Sanskrit and Hindu texts as well.

Swami Abhishiktananda had traveled to India because he had been drawn to the Hindu perspective of Advaita, which means to experience a state of union with God in a mystical union of non-duality (Vattakuzhy xiv).  This perspective was so fascinating to Le Saux that he co-founded a Christian ashram in 1950 called Shantivanam (Forest of Peace) and became Swami Abhishiktananda (Bliss of the Anointed One) (Rodrigues 425).  The religious experiences that Le Saux had while he was living in India caused him to become one of the great spiritual bridges between Christianity and Hinduism.  This is due to one of the most interesting facts about Swami Abhishiktananda.  Despite immersing himself in the Hindu culture he never stopped practicing Christianity.  In fact he remained devoutly Catholic his entire life and never stopped celebrating Mass (Du Boulay xv).  As a result, he was faced with many challenges in trying to harmoniously blend all the religious aspects of his life.

Due to the challenges that he faced while trying to stay true to his religions, Le Saux was in a state of spiritual agony for most of his time in India (Abhishiktananda 2006:150).  The main question that led to this was whether or not it was possible to be drawn towards advaita but still remain a Christian (Abhishiktananda 2006:150).  One of the ways that Le Saux was able to answer this question was first by gathering a definition of what it meant to be Christian along with several notable examples.  Once he had completed this he used it to compare it with the followings of advaita.  An answer was found to the question in the form of comparing the followers of the gospel to the sannyasi. Le Saux discovered that in order to be a true follower of the gospel one must complete several paradoxical tasks, many of which are eerily similar to those that the wandering Indian ascetics are required to do (Abhishiktananda 2006:156).  Although it was not a perfect answer and he still ran into many problems over the course of his life Le Saux was able to continue his quest of maintaining both his Christianity and advaita.

As part of their initiation into an ashram lifestyle, Monchanin took Le Saux to many of the surrounding ashrams near Kulittalai.  While visiting each of these ashrams Le Saux constantly discussed their plans of founding their own ashram to anyone who would listen – in an attempt to find recruits, focusing on the diocesan clergy (Stuart 34).  After several months of doing this they decided that it was finally time to begin construction.  However, things went very slowly in the beginning and Le Saux was worried about how the ashram would be financially sustained.  Fortunately construction was completed and the proprietor of the ashram had provided enough money so that there were no further issues (Stuart 35).  Once construction was completed and the ashram was fully functional it served as the home for Le Saux for many years; however, he was often travelling the countryside and he was not always there.

Ultimately Le Saux became a sannyasi, an Indian holy man, and traded the habit of his fellow Christian monks for the saffron robes worn by Hindu ascetics (Du Boulay xv).  One of Le Saux’s many features was that he wished to experience everything firsthand (Abhishiktananda 2005:23).  In order to personally accomplish this meant that Le Saux couldn’t stay at Shantivanam; he merely used it as his base.  While travelling the Indian countryside Le Saux, was able to experience several spiritual enlightenments.  One of these was his aspiration to become a true sannyasi and as a result he tried to renounce everything; however, he never totally renounced his roots.  In an effort to maintain the renunciation Le Saux refused to go home and visit France, despite his family asking him multiple times.  He didn’t want to return home because Le Saux believed that if he simply forgot his past his renunciation would not be complete (Stuart 9).  The added challenge of remaining in contact but never being able to see his family was a great burden on Le Saux.  It was a constant struggle for him to be so disconnected from them, but he viewed it as a way to strengthen his devotion.

When Le Saux first came to India he had a specific goal in mind.  He wanted to firmly establish Indian monasticism along the lines of a well-tested rule – in this case Benedictine monasticism.  Basically, he wanted to Christianize India following the Benedictine style that he knew (Abhishiktananda 23).  However, after spending only a short amount of time in India he realized that this was not going to happen.  It forced his point of view to change quite dramatically.  After coming to understand Hinduism from a Christian perspective Le Saux saw that intellectually Hinduism and Christianity were not compatible (Stuart 28).  Instead of letting this stop him, Le Saux viewed it as a challenge that he needed to overcome.  If he couldn’t unite the two religious traditions in some way the swami decided that his only remaining course of action was to try and discover the truth through the Hindu experience (Stuart 28).  At first he had wanted to Christianize the country, which would have reduced the Hindu influence, but several months after staying in India his viewpoint totally changed.  The paradigm shift that Le Saux underwent shows the profound effect that being immersed in the Hindu culture had had on him.

The work of swami Abhishiktananda did not stop with his death.  After he had died at an Indore nursing home the Abhishiktananda Society was formed.  The Society’s Mission is, “to make known the spiritual message of the late Swami Abhishiktananda and to coordinate the efforts of those interested in it and in its further implications” (Yesurathnam 127).  Henri Le Saux was simply a man who was searching for God and was willing to do anything he had to in order to complete that search.  However, his path led him down a road of many contradictions:

He was a man who longed for silence and yet loved to talk, a man who rejoiced in solitude yet had countless friends; a man who reveled in books and writing, yet preferred the direct teachings of lived experience.  Most of all was the contradiction between the irresistible attraction he felt toward advaita, the nondual experience of Hinduism, and his inborn love of his Catholic faith:” (Du Boulay xv).

Le Saux underwent many transformations over the course of his life.  His wide-ranging experiences in the spiritual field gave him unusually clear insights into both the Christian and Hindu religions, despite the lack of cohesion between the two traditions.  Through his experiences and teachings a bridge between Hindu and Christian spirituality was formed that exists to this day.

References and Further Recommended Reading

Abhishiktananda, Swami (1998) Ascent to the Depth of the Heart. Delhi: ISPCK.

Abhishiktananda, Swami (2006) Swami Abhishiktananda: Essential Writings Selected with an  introduction by Shirley Du Boulay. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Du Boulay, Shirley (2005) The Cave of the Heart: the Life of Swami Abhishiktananda. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oldmeadow, Harry (2008) A Christian Pilgrim in India: the Spiritual Journey of Swami            Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux). Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The Ebook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Stuart, James (1989) Swami Abhishiktananda: His Life Told Through His Letters. Delhi: ISPCK.

Vandana (1986) Swami Abhishiktananda: The Man and His Teaching by Some of His Friends and Disciples. Delhi: ISPCK

Vattakuzhy, Emmanuel (1981) Indian Christian Sannyasa and Swami Abhishiktananda. Bangalore: Theological Publications in India.

Yesurathnam, Regunta (2006) A Christian Dialogical Theology: the Contribution of Swami Abhishiktananda. Kolkata: Punthi Pustak.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Advaita

Abhishiktananda Society

Benedictine Monasticism

ashram

Shantivanam

Arunachala

Upanisads

Cuttat circle

Raimon Panikkar

sannyasi

Ramana Maharshi

guru

Bede Griffiths

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhishiktananda

http://www.monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=372

http://saieditor.com/stars/saux.html

http://arunachalagrace.blogspot.com/2009/06/swami-abhishiktananda.html

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=16771

http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/authors/Henri-Le-Saux.aspx

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpQOho3kQAg (Seminar)

http://www.monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=832

http://www.monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=901

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Ashrams

http://www.upanishad.org/lesaux/abhisociety.htm

Article written by: Josh Campbell (March 2012) who is solely responsible for its content.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888 – 1975)

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a philosopher, politician and academic and was considered one of the greatest Indian thinkers of the twentieth century.  He was born on September 5, 1888 and lived to age 86.  Throughout his adult life he was a well known public figure in his native India, serving as both Vice-President and President. In addition to his political career, he was also a renowned writer on Hindu philosophy. Radhakrishnan is known to some as a “bridge builder” between the East and the West for his efforts to expand Western society’s knowledge about India and their understanding of Hindu thought and religion. He showed that the philosophical systems of each tradition are comprehensible within the terms of the other (Behur 1-4). One is hard pressed to find Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s own words about his life story since he steadfastly refused to write an autobiography (Braue 1-2).

Early Life

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born during a time when Hinduism was in the midst of being renewed and restored in the hearts of millions of Indians (Harris 2-3). He was the second of five sons and one daughter born to Sarvepalli Veeraswamy and Sitamma, poor Brahmins living in the town of Tirutani in Tamil Nadu state.  Tirutani had a population of about 170 000 and was considered a pilgrimage destination due to its major Subrahmanya temple (Minor 4). Radhakrishnan’s family kept the name Sarvepalli as an indication of their place of origin. In the middle of the 18th century the family moved from Sarvepalli to another village located in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. All were devout Vaisnavaties and worshipped the well-known god Krsna (Minor 3-4).  Radhakrishnan’s early life was spent in the religious centers of the small towns of Tirutani and Tirupati.  His father was employed as a subordinate revenue official in the service of the local Zamindar [landlord] and with limited income the family lived in relative poverty.

Education

Radhakrishnan grew up in a traditional Hindu atmosphere (Harris 3). His parents were very orthodox and his father did not want his son to learn English [his mother tongue was Telugu] and pressed his boy to become a priest. However, despite their orthodox views, his parents sent him away to several Christian Missionary Institutions – the Lutheran Mission School in Tirupati (1896 – 1900), Voorhee’s college, Vellore (1900 – 1904) and Madras Christian College in Madras (1904 – 1908) (Kohli 38-39). Sarvepalli was an excellent student and was awarded multiple scholarships which helped sustain him throughout his academic career.

In 1906, he received a B.A. with honours in philosophy, and in 1909 obtained an M.A. and was a most distinguished alumni. He main interest was in the Vedas and Upanishads and spent much of his time specializing in these subjects as well as studying Hindi and the Sanskrit language. He wrote his thesis for his M.A. on the ‘Ethics of the Vedanta and its Metaphysical Presuppositions”. At only age 20 his thesis was recognized and published. Radhakrishnan’s passion for philosophy developed more by chance than choice. A cousin, recently graduated from the same college, was kind enough to pass on his textbooks in philosophy.  This generosity decidedly influenced his academic path (Kohli 40-41).

Marriage and Family

In 1903, at age 16, it was arranged by his family that Radhakrishnan was to be married to Siva Kumaramma, his 10 year old first cousin (Minor 4). The couple had their first daughter together in 1908, the first of six children over the proceeding fifteen years. Their family included four daughters and two sons, one of which died shortly after birth (Kohli 39). Their youngest son, Sarvepalli Gopal, would go on to become a distinguished and notable historian and biographer (Braue 4). Radhakrishnan’s devoted wife, Sivakamu, died on November 26, 1956 and their marriage was “the end of a long chapter”, as he put it.

Teaching Career

Sarvepalli’s education had shaped a most disciplined mind and strong individual, acquiring many qualities of a potentially great leader. Spanning from 1909 to 1952, his career had three notable phases, teacher of philosophy, leader in higher education and finally politician and statesman.

In 1909 he accepted a teaching position at the Madras Presidency College in the Philosophy department where he spent seven years teaching and researching in the area of Indian Philosophy and Religion.  In 1916, he advanced to a full professorship (Braue 4).  He impressed the senior professor of philosophy so much that his mentor actually ended up asking him to lecture his classes. Radhakrishnan was endowed with a great intellect and gifted with an amazing memory enabling him to employ a vast vocabulary and eloquent communication style, to great advantage (Kohli 38-40).

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta took notice of this extraordinary academic mind and offered Sarvepalli the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science, a prestigious position which he occupied twice – from 1921 to 1931 and again from 1937 to 1941.  He was clearly honoured by this appointment and described the position as “the most important philosophy chair in India”.  As chair, he represented the University of Calcutta at the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire and the International Congress of Philosophy at Harvard in 1926.  Radhakrishnan also presented many lectures at numerous universities: Chicago, London, Manchester and Oxford.  He then accepted a position at Manchester College in Oxford in addition to teaching comparative religion at the University of Oxford (Braue 4).

In 1931, he was knighted by England for his great services to education and subsequently stepped down as the King George V Chair in order to accept the Sir Sayaji Rao  Gaekwad Chair at Banaras Hindu University. Later in his academic career he also occupied the Spalding Chair in England until 1952, when he was appointed Professor Emeritus at Oxford. (Braue 4-6).

The second key phase of Radhakrishnan’s life, as a leader in higher education, spanned from 1931 to 1962.  He was made the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University and served as a member of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations. Throughout this time he delivered many presentations at universities all over his native India.

During World War II he also toured and lectured in China (Braue 6-7), and from 1953 to 1962 he held the post of chancellor of Delhi University.  In 1940, he achieved a milestone by being the first Indian to be elected as Fellow of the British Academy. As a professor, he was always very popular with his students and was loved and respected as a remarkable teacher. The genesis of his popularity was his genuine empathy and his great ability to engage people of all ages. This combination of attributes and skills continued to win him respect throughout his long and memorable public life (Behura 3).

Rise in Politics and Political Career

After the end of the Second World War, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan began a shift from his academic career with a view to apply his philosophy and religious studies toward political and social development.  He served as head of the Indian delegation to the UNSECO conferences held in Paris from 1946 – 1952 (Braue 7) and was later elected to the position of Chairman of UNESCO in 1948.

When India received independence from Great Britain in 1947, Sarvepalli was still India’s key representative at UNSECO. He would later also be awarded the titles and responsibilities of Ambassador-Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of India to the Soviet Union from 1949 to 1952 (Kohli 44).  Radhakrishnan was widely thought to be one of the most respected and successful of all diplomats in Moscow at the time. He had met Stalin twice, as the Ambassador of India, with Stalin commenting, “ You are the first person to treat me as a human being and not as a monster. You are leaving us and I am sad. I want you to live long.” (Kohli 45). Dr. Radhakrishnan, the diplomat, was considered a very sympathetic and humane person, open to other viewpoints, and never considered to be an elitist intellectual.

After his return to India in 1952, Sarvepalli was elected as India’s first Vice-President, an inaugural position that had been created under the new constitution. He would be re-elected in 1957, not long after the death of his wife. During his many tours around the world his main objective was to impress upon foreign leaders India’s viewpoint on major international issues and increase his country’s role on the global stage.

In many of his books and dissertations, Radhakrishnan takes great pains to interpret Indian thought in a way that Westerners could relate to. (Kohli 45) Through his public life he remained steadfastly committed to high principles, dignity and moral authority. This integrity of purpose made him a highly revered figure in India and internationally he became one of the best-liked and respected public figures of all time.

In May of 1962, this well regarded philosopher and statesman was elected President of the State of India, succeeding Dr. Rajendra Prasad, becoming the second Head of State of a newly independent India. During his presidency, India was faced with war on two separate occasions, first with China and subsequently with Pakistan. In 1967,  Sarvepalli made an emotional farewell broadcast to the nation and told his loving country that he would not seek another term as President and would retire from public life.

After the death of Nehru in 1964, he described the former leader as “an earnest of the age to come, the age of the world men with world compassion.” And went on to say, “The best way to honour his memory is to get on with the work which he left unfinished, his work of peace, justice and freedom at home and abroad” (Dehruy 8).  Radhakrishnan’s dedication and efforts made a great contribution towards the realization of Nehru’s objectives.

Philosophical Beliefs

Sarvepalli often described philosophy as “ the attempt to think out the presuppositions of experience, to grasp. By means of reason, life or reality as a whole”(Braue 42). He attained prominence due to his eloquence in describing Indian philosophy according to Western academic standards, enabling non-Indo cultures to understand and consider Eastern philosophies and, most particularly, from India. He once stated his greatest challenge was that western philosophers, despite claiming to be objective, were inevitably influenced by the theological teachings of their own cultures.

Radhakrishnan’s philosophical work took two distinct directions. His philosophy is Indian idealism (Braue 44). First, his Indian Philosophy was defined as Radhakrishnan interpreted it. Originally what he presented was no different than the “Vedanta” which he had defined earlier.  Later, he changed its designation to “Hinduism” or the “Hindu View”. The second direction was the construction of a philosophical system from experimental grounds without relying on Indian thought (Minor 43).

Radhakrishnan tried to clarify for his western audiences that Hinduism is a progressive unity and that the history of Hinduism is of evolutionary advancement. He saw the method of “Hinduism’s” historical development as characterized by a critical attitude toward the traditions of the past in a modern sense, not just accepting past thoughts (Minor 45). Radhakrishnan was also an advocate of the class system of Hinduism. He believed that it was the only democratic solution to racial problems. Caste was a way to organize society and suggested that it is entirely functional, not a “mystery of divine appointment” (Minor 45-46). Thus, the foundation of the caste system are the ideas of free will, equality and democracy (Minor 45-46).

Radhakrishnan wrote many books on his philosophical beliefs and he was well known for his ideas on the Prasthana Trayi, the Bhagavadgita, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutra.

Death

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan died on April 17,1975 after a prolonged illness. At that time, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi said, “As a teacher, he was deeply involved with the welfare of youth. As a statesman, he had deep understanding of the practical problems of nation building. He contributed significantly to the consolidation of our political parliamentary traditions. Now death has claimed him, but the memory of his commanding presence, the resonance of his voice and the radiance of his thought cannot fade and will remain a part of our legacy.” (Kohli 48)

Every year on September 5th, on Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday, “Teachers Day” is celebrated all across India and the government gives national awards to teachers. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan will remain one of the greatest Indian philosophers of the 20th century and of all time (Kohli 48-49).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RCOMMENDED READING

Braue, Donald A. (1985) Maya in Radhakrishnan’s Thought. New Delhi: Narendra Prakash Jain.

Dehury, Dinabandhu (2010) Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan as Statesman. Orissa: Orissa Government.

Gopal, Sarvepalli (1989) Radhakrishnan, a Biography. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Harris, Ishwar C. (1982) Radhakrishnan: the Profile of a Universalist. Columbia: South Asian Books

Hawley, Michael (2003) “The Making of a Mahatma: Radhakrishnan’s Critique of Gandhi. Studies in Religion 32(1-2), 135-148.

Kohli, A.B. (2001) Presidents of India. New Delhi: Reliance Publishing House.

Kumar Behura, Dillip (2010) The Great Indian Philosopher: Dr. Radhakrishnan. Orissa: Orissa Government.

Michael, Aloysius (1979) Radhakrishnan on Hindu Moral Life and Action. Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.

Minor, Robert N. (1987) Radhakrishnan A Religious Biography. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Minor, Robert N. (1997) Radhakrishnan as Advocate of the Class/Caste System as a Universal Religio-Social. International Journal of Hindu Studies 1(2), 386 – 400.

Murty, K. Satchidananda and Vohra, Ashok (1990) Radhakrishnan: His Life and Ideas. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Schilpp, Paul A. (1992) The Philosophy of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers

Sharma, Arvind (2002) Modern Hindu Thought. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

 

Indian political system

Rajendra Prasad

Sarvepalli Gopal

Comparative Religion

Maya

Vedanta

Jawaharlal Nehru

Rabindranath Tagore

 

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

 

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli

http://www.uramamurthy.com/srk_phil.html

http://www.preservearticles.com/201104306172/sarvepalli-radhakrishnan.html

http://pib.nic.in/feature/feyr98/fe0898/f2808981.html

Article written by Ryan Booth (Spring 2012), who is solely responsible for its content.

Sathya Sai Baba

..

Sathya Sai Baba It is said that “the only person in India who can draw larger crowds than Sai Baba is the prime minister” (Swallow 125). Also known as Satya Sai Baba, Sai Baba has risen in the last century as an important figure in modern day India. It is difficult to know the amount of followers that Sai Baba has, but it is estimated that there are at least twenty million adherents worldwide (Rodrigues 487). His name, when broken down, gives meaning, Satya means truth, Sai is the divine mother, and Baba mean father. His name stands for the union of the male and female aspects in the world (Bassuk 87). Sai Baba’s most powerful technique to draw people to his cause is the use of miracles, especially materialization (Babb 1986: 181). Over the course of his life, Sai Baba has attracted many followers, but he has also received his fair share of negative attention. Scepticism and doubt have been cast on the legitimacy of his miracles, and controversy has risen in his inner circle with accusations of murder and pedophilia. Examining his life, his miracles, his cult, his divine “connection”, as well as the criticism of others, are all important for understanding who Sathya Sai Baba is, and his importance to the modern Hindu society.

Sathya was born in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the village of Puttaparthi in 1926 (Babb 1983: 116). He was born into the Raju caste, his birth name Satyanarayana Raju (Bassuk 87). At his birth special signs occurred to mark his coming, one of which was a cobra mysteriously appearing under Sai Baba’s bed, and another was a Tambura magically had its strings plucked (Urban 78). Sai Baba attended school like a normal child where he focused on drama and bhajan, which are devotional songs (Babb 1986: 163). In 1940, Sai Baba had an epileptic seizure and began acting in a bizarre manner. Exorcists were brought in to try to cure the boy, but failed (Urban 79). This was explained to be the possession of his body by Shirdi Sai Baba (Bassuk 88). Shirdi Sai Baba was an Indian healer and miracle work who had died in 1918 (Babb 1983: 117). Through claiming to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, Satya had proclaimed his avatarhood (Bassuk 87) and gave his miraculous powers legitimacy (Urban 79). It was at this time that Satya left his family and began attracting devotees to his cause. Ten years later, he constructed his ashram in Puttaparthi and his influence began to be felt across the country (Urban 79). In 1963, Sai Baba had another forceful seizure, was diagnosed with tubercular meningitis, and went into a coma. He was brought before a crowd for a festival and he miraculously cured himself and began proclaiming himself as the Lord Siva and his consort Sakti in embodied form (Babb 1986: 165). He claimed that the illness was caused by Sakti, as she had caused the mage Bharadvaja to become ill, and Siva had cured him by sprinkling water. Sai Baba claimed that by sprinkling the water on himself he had cured his disease (Babb 1986: 165). After his proclamation, Sai Baba began travelling around the Indian sub-continent spreading his message through lectures, speeches, festivals and special pujas (Urban 79). He also founded a number of “Sathya Sai Colleges” and has been active in charitable and philanthropic activities (Babb 1986: 168). Sai Baba has stated that his goal in his current incarnation is to combat social evils and spiritual degeneration present in the modern day (Urban 87). Sai Baba has also prophesied his own death, at the age of 96 in the year 2022 (Babb 1986: 166).

An important aspect of Sai Baba legitimacy is his claim that he is an avatara, a god in human form. The idea of avatara arose through the complex polytheism occurring in the Vedic period, the idea that a god has descended into a human form (White 865). The Buddha is a common example of one considered to be an avatara. Sai Baba uses the idea of the avatara to draw legitimacy to his powers. He claims that in his current form, he is Siva and Sakti together in human form. Sai Baba suggests that there are three Sai incarnations, Shirdi Sai Baba who was Sakti alone, Satya Sai Baba who is both Siva and Sakti, and the future Sai incarnation Prema Sai who will be Siva incarnate alone (Babb 1986: 166). Many of the miracles that Sai Baba performs also play an important role in connecting him with Shiva. One of the most common objects that Sai Baba materializes is vibhuti, sacred ash that has a connection with Siva (Babb 1983: 119). Another materialization miracle of producing a lingam out of his mouth draws strong symbolic connections with Siva who is primarily associated with the lingam (Swallow 138 and 146).

The festival of Mahasivaratri becomes an important annual activity for Sai Baba’s cult. This festival is known as the great night of Siva and Sai Baba is worshipped as a living lingam (Swallow 146). The main reason for the success of Sai Baba is his ability to perform miracles. The miracles that Sai Baba performs are crucial for recruitment and maintenance of the cult. Sai Baba himself has even called his miracles nidarshan (“evidence”) of his divine character and important for influencing the spiritual being of his devotees (Babb 1983: 117). Some of the miracles that have been attributed to Sai Baba include the curing of illnesses, being able to leave his body and be in more than one place at once, raising the dead, knowing intimate details of those he helps without being told, being able to fly, and multiplication of loaves of bread and fish (Spurr 119 and Babb 1986: 174). However, the most important type of miracle that is performed is materialization. It is believed that he can materialize practically anything (Babb 1986: 179). The most common object materialized is vibhuti, and it is said that he produces a pound a day (Babb 1983: 117). These miraculous powers are known in Hinduism as siddhis which are supernormal powers that can be obtained through yoga (Rodrigues 204). It is important to note that the absence of Sai Baba does not mean that a “miraculous” event could not be attributed to him, but rather increases his authority by creating an essence of the miraculous (Babb 1986: 180). An example of this would be the mysterious and sudden presence of vibhuti within the devotee’s household (Babb 1986: 179). This miraculous element is at the foundation of Sai Baba’s movement.

An understanding of Sai Baba can also be obtained by examining the practices of his cult. Participation can be as simple as placing a picture of Sai Baba in the family shrine, to the more devout practices, in which devotees will fill their homes with images of the Baba. Committed members will also take part in the education and social service systems that the cult takes part in (Babb 1986: 170). Education and social service are important goals of the cult, with members partaking in sponsored charitable and philanthropic activities. These activities are funded by donations of wealthy devotees. Sai Baba himself does not receive the donations, but rather a trust called the Central Shri Sathya Sai Trust receives all donations. This has made the donation process very simple, as devotees can make donations at any branch of the Canara bank (Urban 81). The cult and Sai Baba have established four “Sathya Sai Colleges”, as well as putting major efforts into Bal vikas, which are child development programs (Babb 1986: 168). In general, the individuals most drawn to Sai Baba’s cause are the well educated middle class (Urban 81). Sai Baba has gained western attention by becoming the guru to the owner of the “Hard Rock Cafe”, Isaac Tigrett (Urban 74).

Like most religious figures Sai Baba, has not escaped the criticisms and skepticisms that come with the role. Two types of skeptics have arisen. Some completely dismiss Sai Baba and view his miracles as sleight-of-hand tricks. Others do not dismiss his abilities, but rather dismiss the idea of him being divine, and attribute his abilities to the siddhis of a yogic adept. In an eye witness account of “materialization”, Michael Spurr carefully watched the process by which Sai Baba materialized goods for his devotees. Spurr suggests a simple sleight-of-hand trick, in which the “materialized” object was held in the left hand, concealed by a stack of paper. When the time is right, he transfers the object to his right hand, holding it between his fingers. He then spins his hand palm down and “materializes” the object for the devotee. Spurr also saw objects in between the cracks of Sai Baba’s left hand and saw him drop a pellet that could be the vibhuti that is materialized (201). Spurr also had an eye witness account where Sai Baba recalled incorrect details about two of the devotees whom he was talking with. This was rationalized by other devotees as Sai Baba joking around (205). Other areas of controversy have arisen around Sai Baba. In 1993, six members of Sai Baba inner circle were killed in Sai Baba’s room, two of which were murdered, and four, who were bearing knives, gunned down by police. The motive of the murders was suggested to be an internal conflict, and Sai Baba was never interrogated about the murders (Gogineni 58). Accusations of pedophilia have also surfaced surrounding Sai Baba. A book called “Avatar in the Night”, released by a former devotee of Sai Baba, accuses Sai Baba of having homosexual interest in young boys (Gogineni 58).

All copies of the book were burned. Sathya Sai Baba is a complex figure and although he has come under intense criticism, he has had an important role in the shaping of modern day Hinduism.

Bibliography

Babb, Lawrence A.(1983) “Sathya Sai Baba’s Magic”. Anthropological Quarterly 56. 3:116-124

Babb, Lawrence A. (1986) Redemptive Encounters: Three Modern Styles in the Hindu Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press

Bassuk, Daniel E. (1987), “Six Modern Indian Avatars and the Ways they Understand Their Divinity” Dialogue & Alliance 1. 2:73-92

Gogineni, Babu (1999) “The God Man of India Sex, Lies and Video Tape in the Satya Sai Baba Story” Skeptic 7. 4:56-59

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The eBook – an Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd

Spurr, Michael J. (2003)“Visiting-card revisited: an account of some recent first-hand observations of the “miracles” of Sathya Sai Baba, and an investigation into the role of the miraculous in his theology”. Journal of Religion and Psychical Research 26 2:198-216

Swallow, D. A. (1982) “Ashes and Power: Myth, Rite and Miracle in an Indian God-Man’s Cult”. Modern Asian Studies 16. 1:123-158

White, Charles S. J. (1972) “The Sai Baba Movement: Approaches to the Study of India Saints”. The Journal of Asian Studies 31. 4:863-878

Urban, Hugh B. (2003) “Avatar for Our Age: Sathya Sai Baba and the Cultural Contradictions of Late Capitalism”. Religion 33:73-93

Related Topics for further investigation

Avatara

Bharadvaja

Bhakti yoga

Linga (lingam)

Mahasivaratri

Prem Sai

Pujas

Puttaparthi

Sakti

Siddhis

Siva

Shirdi Sai Baba

Vibhuti

Notable Websites

http://www.exbaba.com/ http://www.sathyasai.org/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sathya_Sai_Baba http://www.saibaba.ws/ http://sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com/sai-baba-miracles/ http://www.srisathyasai.org.in/ http://www.saibabaofindia.com/

Written by Michael Racz (Spring 2009), who is solely responsible for its content.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti was an influential Indian spiritual leader with worldwide devotion to his unique combination of Indian religious philosophy and mysticism (Shringy 353; Holroyd 10). Krishnamurti’s path as a spiritual leader began after he was brought under the care of the Theosophical Society, which was a group intent on preparing him to be a great world teacher and the physical vehicle for Maitreya Buddha, which is the Buddha’s next incarnation (Martin 8). In 1929, after approximately 20 years with the organization, Krishnamurti left Theosophy, and dissolved the Order of the Star, which was an organization formed to carry out his work (Shringy 31-32). When dissolving the order, Krishnamurti asserted that “Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.” For “Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path.” (Shiringy 31-31) Any belief that becomes organized “becomes dead.” Krishnamurti instead desired “those, who seek to understand me, to be free, not to follow me, not to make out of me a cage which will become a religion, a sect” (Lutyens 272).

A successful summary of Krishnamurti’s ideas should start by saying he would likely find any attempt to provide an accurate account of his philosophy uninteresting (Martin 3). In fact, he would probably be averse to the label of philosopher, for he was not well versed in philosophy and was opposed to philosophical theories (Holroyd 9; Martin 3). Instead of being labeled a philosopher, he might be called a teacher; however, that label would also be inadequate, for he was only a teacher insofar as he led people to discover that nothing of importance can be taught (Holroyd 10). Krishnamurti thought truth must be discovered for oneself. However, despite rejecting philosophizing, he inevitably did talk and write about issues pertinent to philosophy (Martin 3). It is these contributions that will be considered here.

Krishnamurti encouraged people to push past the limitations of language, dogma, religious ritual, and even knowledge because these are claimed to prevent the mind from understanding the workings of itself (Jayakar 197; Rodrigues 71). His teachings consistently encourage audiences to become engaged in a journey inside their own minds. Krishnamurti’s view of the mind is central to understanding this journey; in Krishnamurti’s opinion, there is no dichotomy between unconscious and conscious states. He maintained that human consciousness includes what is normally considered to be the unconscious, and that the deeper levels of the mind are largely free of the conditioning by which the surface levels are bound. Krishnamurti claimed that because they lack conditioning, the deeper levels of consciousness can be explored and become a source of new things (Holroyd 50).

Krishnamurti thought that the mind was conditioned by reason and the expectations of our society, culture, and personal needs (Holroyd 50). He held that having a conditioned mind is an obstacle that needs to be overcome through insight in order for an individual to move to a higher state of consciousness (Rodrigues 67). Krishnamurti talked in multiple ways about the conditioned mind. One of these ways is through the analogy of the pendulum. He used this analogy to show that normal consciousness swings from past to future, and then reverses. Humans are always in one of the two states, either the past which consists of memories, or the future which consists of expectations. Krishnamurti claimed that at the center of the pendulum swing, the present exists, and it is at this infinitesimal moment when a preconscious state of mind can be cultivated (Holroyd 52). By training the mind to “live” in the present, it can be emptied of all content in order to facilitate a true awareness of what is (Holroyd 53). Awareness of what is comes through insight and signifies the development of the religious mind (Rodrigues 123).

Knowledge was thought by Krishnamurti to be an impediment to perception of what is. His explanation of why this is forms his epistemology, or theory of knowledge. Krishnamurti’s goal was not for individuals to erase all of their knowledge, for some knowledge is clearly necessary for survival (Rodrigues 122). He rather placed his emphasis on knowledge that relates to values. This is the knowledge that informs people’s expectations or inhibitions, and is suspect because it acts as a barrier to the way people experience the world. If this knowledge informs someone’s expectations, then it prevents them from experiencing anything new (Holroyd 58-59). Having insight depends on shedding knowledge that biases experience of the world because it causes a distorted picture to be seen instead of reality. Religious dogma comes under this category of knowledge because it shapes an individual’s values, and thus their experience of the world (Holroyd 61).

Another impediment to true awareness of what is, according to Krishnamurti, is the self (Shringy 221-222). Like knowledge, the view of the self is also made up of the past; it is a collection of perceptions and memories to which people give substance. This collection of perceptions and memories is seen as the entity, or the “I,” that has agency in actions; it is through this misconception that people become more tied to the past, and further from the present where true awareness of what is exists (Holroyd 54). Krishnamurti claims to have eliminated the “I” from his experience, though the path to this elimination comes about not by any specific or concentrated effort, but by indirect means (Shringy 223). The elimination of the “I” is thought to accompany insight and is a hallmark of the religious mind. Through an acute awareness it becomes possible to dissolve the barrier between the self and its experiences (Rodrigues 109). This acute awareness is also the path to what Krishnamurti thought to be true intelligence. He said that a “sensitive awareness of the totality of life” is intelligence (Krishnamurti 122), without being caught up in the particulars, such as life’s “problems, contradictions, miseries, [and] joys” (Krishnamurti 121). It is necessary to have a choice-less awareness, or freedom from interpreting and evaluating each aspect of life, in order to see what is as it is (Shringy 223).

The mind that is free of thought that is capable of perception, and this is insight (Rodrigues 108). True insight into what is frees the conditioned mind. However, the movement from the conditioned to the religious mind cannot be experienced in any way because through insight the self is dissolved, and is no longer the separate agent necessary for experience to occur (Rodrigues 115). True insight into what is- is the movement to the religious mind, and according to Krishnamurti, religion becomes the activity of the free mind. The religious mind sees its connections with the whole of reality. Krishnamurti emphasizes that to understand the whole of reality is to understand oneself because they are one and the same (Rodrigues 124).

Revelation of what is- is a permanent and instant occurrence that ends conditioned thinking and induces Mind, which is a transformed state of consciousness (Shringy 147). The Mind in meditation is the religious mind, and this state is Truth. Truth is holistic in Krishnamurti’s view, for the heightened reality is both induced by Truth, and a manifestation of Truth; Truth to the religious mind is reality (Rodrigues 198; Shringy 74).

Bibliography and Related Readings

Holroyd, Stuart (2002) The Quest of the Quiet Mind: The Philosophy of Krishnamurti. Wellinborough: Aquarian Press

Jayakar, Pupul (1986) J. Krishnamurti: A Biography. Penguin Books

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (2003) Krishnamurti’s Notebook. California: Krishnamurti Publications of America

Lutyens, Mary (1975) Krishnamurti:The Years of Awakening. Boston: Shanmbala Productions Inc.

Martin, Raymond (2003) On Krishnamurti Belmont: Thompson/Wadsworth

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (1990) Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought New York: Peter Lang Publishing

Shringy, Ravindra Kumar (1976) Philosophy of J. Krishnamurti: A Systematic Study New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers

Related Research Topics

Theosophical Society

The Order of the Star

Matraiya

Mysticism

Meditation

Ultimate Reality

Philosophy of Mind

Philosophy of Self

Philosophy of Truth

Samnyasin

Moksa

Nirvana

Buddhism

Nityananada

Related Websites

www.beyondthemind.net/index.html

www.kfa.org

www.kfionline.org

www.kfoundation.org

www.jkrishnamurti.org

www.jiddu-krishnamurti.net

www.krishnamurti-canada.ca

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiddu_Krishnamurti

Written by Cam Koerselman (Spring 2009), who is solely responsible for its content.

The Devotion of Sri Ramakrishna

“Nobody has been able to understand him who came on earth as Sri Ramakrishna. Even his own nearest devotees have no real clue to it. Only some have a little inkling of it. All will understand in time.” (Swami Vivekananda in Sil xvii)

How can we realize the presence of God? Sri Ramakrishna searched the answer of that question throughout his life in the Daksinesvar Kali Temple, where he is reputed to have succeeded in gaining a vision of the gods and goddesses of many religions. To his devotees, Sri Ramakrishna represents an Avatar (incarnation) of the Divine, among the innumerable spiritual figures of India. Devotees also believe that he spreads the light of mystic radiance over the entire world.

In 1936, in Kamarpukur, a little Bengali village sheltered by banyan trees and mangoes and surrounded by rice fields and pools, Ramakrishna was born. His father was Khudiram Chattopadhaya, and his mother was Chandramoni Devi (Paramahamsa 29). According to legend, while Khudiram was on pilgrimage to Gaya, a god appeared to him during a dream and promised to be reincarnated in Khudiram’s next son. Meanwhile, while Chandra Devi was visiting a Siva Temple, she too had a vision that foretold the birth of a divine child (Lemaitre 45). Dhani Kamarani, a blacksmith woman, was present with Chandramani Devi when this happened. In the memory of the dream at Gaya, he was named Gadadhar which means “the Bearer of the Scepter”, which is one of the names of Visnu (Lemaitre 45). It was later in life that he began to be called Ramakrishna. From a very early age he was disinclined towards formal education and wordily affairs, but he was a very talented boy who could sing spiritual hymns and paint. He was found to be absorbed in spiritual moods while listening to the discussions and discourses of Holy men.

According to his biographies, Gadadhar was six years old when he experienced his first ecstasy. It occurred while he was walking with his sister-in-law and some of her friends to a temple in their village. He was singing devotional songs and running around in the paddy field. The sky was covered by black clouds and when he saw a flight of white canes in front of the dark clouds, Gadadhar lost connection with outer consciousness and experienced an incredible joy in that state (Lemaitre 46). Gadadhar repeatedly experienced similar experiences throughout his childhood. At times when he was worshiping the goddess Vishalakshi or while playing with his friends, he would lose connection with his consciousness and move into his own happy land, samadhi. Once in his village during the festival of Sivaratri, there was a play being conducted about Siva but somehow the person who was going to act as Lord Siva was missing. So Gadadhar volunteered to act. While playing the role of Lord Siva, Gadadhar, once again, lost his consciousness. At the age of ten Gadadhar would experience this trance more often, until it became a common thing.

In 1855, Ramkumar, Gadadhar’s brother, and his nephew, Redayram, became the priests of Dakshineswar Kali temple, which was built by Rani Rashmoni who belonged to Kaivarta cast. Gadadhar’s task in the temple was to decorate Ma Kali. Gadadhar was also known as Thakur, a simple priest. He was unconventional. He believed that if you do not think that god is with you and a human being, then you cannot come close to god. So Gadhadhar did not follow all the rules and regulations of the Brahmin caste. Nevertheless, he was later appointed as the main priest of the temple. He then started looking at the goddess, Ma Kali, as his own mother and also the Mother of the Universe. He also worshipped his own wife, Chandra Devi as the Divine Mother and invoked the divinity in her. As Gambhirananda describes:

“By the by, the Mother lost all outer consciousness and the worshipper, too as he proceeded with his ceremonies, gradually lost himself in beatitude. On the level of ecstasy the Deity and the devotee became identified.” (Sil 147)

During the 1860s Sri Ramakrishna also practiced Islam under the Banyan tree of Daksinesvar. Govind Roy, a Sufi initiated him (Sil 73). Ramakrishna used to say prayers five times daily wearing a cloth like an Arab Muslim. The Hindu way of thinking disappeared from his mind. According to biographical accounts, he spent three days in that mood and a radiant countenance of Muhammad appeared to him in a vision. He also had an interest on Christianity. He was so surprised to see the shyness of the figures of Madonna and the child Jesus and became interested in Christian religion. Though his deep meditation he had a vision of Christ, as a great Yogi and son of the Divine Mother. He did not believe that any one religion could hold the whole truth to the exclusion to others (Lemaitre 112). One of his renowned teachings is: as many faiths so many paths.

One day Ramakrishna went on a pilgrimage to Varanasi with Mathur Babu, the son-in-law of Rani Rashmoni, and his family. They first stopped at the Vaidyanath Siva temple in Behar (Lemaitre 115). He was greatly distressed to see the wretched condition of the people in a nearby village. Moved by sympathy for them, he requested Mathur to feed the poor people and give everyone a piece of cloth. Unfortunately, they did not have sufficient funds to feed and clothe everyone as they had to bear their own expenses for the pilgrimage. However, Ramakrishna was inexorable; he canceled the journey to Varanasi and spent all the money for the poor villagers. He believes that God lives in every living soul. During a state of hyperconsciousness Sri Ramakrishna said, “Jiva is Shiva [the living being is God]” (Lemaitre 116).

Ramakrishna also met with many of the great sons of India. Among them Swami Vivekananda was one of his favorite disciples who became a messenger of Hinduism in the western world. According to legend, long before he knew Naren (i.e., Vivekananda), as in the case of Rakhal, a young disciple who later became Swami Brahmananda, his other favorite son, the priest of Daksinesvar had seen him in a vision in the guise of a wise man plunged in the meditation of the Absolute, having incarnated in a human body in order to assist his master in the earthly task of which at that time Vivekananda was utterly ignorant (Lemaitre 186). Sri Ramakrishna went to Samadhi with Vivekananda before his death and gave everything to Naren to lead the work of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda.

After the death of the great master, his favorite disciple Narendranath assumed the role of organizer and evangelist following Ramakrishna’s example. He took a leadership of the permanent monastery in 1898 at the Belur Math where Vedantic study got a promotion with the arts, sciences , and industries, teacher training, mass literacy and education, establishment of schools, colleges, orphanages, workshops, laboratories, nursing home for individuals and so on. The Math and the Mission together have 144 centers all over India and in different parts of the world (Lemaitre 205). Most of the missions and Maths are situated in India and Bangladesh.

Sri Ramakrishna was a successful priest of Kali as he had a vision of the Divine Mother through his restless devotion. On August 15, 1886, he had fallen into a trance and never awoke, but his teachings are still alive in the millions of his disciples. Sri Ramakrishna’s chief apostle, Swami Vivekananda’s organizations, Ramakrishna missions and Maths, are spreading out the concept of love and devotion among the people of all over the world and providing humanitarian aid. Being an illiterate sage, Sri Ramakrishna became a spiritual master of Hindu philosophy and a savior of twentieth century. The German philologist portrayed Sri Ramakrishna as “a wonderful mixture of God and man” and as “a bhakta, a worshipper or lover of the deity, much more than a Gnanin or a knower.” (Paramahamsa: 58)

References and Further Recommended Reading:

Lemaitre, Solange (1969) Ramakrishna and the vitality of Hinduism. New York: Funk & Wagnalls

Sil, Narasingha Prosad (1937) Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A phychological Profile. New York: Brill’s Indological Library

Gupta, Mahendranath (2001) Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita. Chandigarh: Vedanta Press

Paramahamsa, Sri Ramakrishna (2008) Ramakrishna, His Life and sayings. Toronto: Forgotten Books

Related Topics for further investigations:

  • The Ramakrishna Math and Mission
  • Swami Vivekananda
  • Goddess Kali
  • Sarada Devi
  • The Guru
  • Bhakti
  • The Dakshineswar Kali temple
  • Four stages of life
  • Rani Rashmoni
  • The four stages of life
  • Samadhi
  • The Vedanta
  • The Bhagavad-Gita
  • Brahmasamaj
  • Karma
  • The Darcanas and Yoga

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

http://www.belurmath.org/

http://www.kathamrita.org/

http://www.sriramakrishna.org/

Article written by: Sudipto Chowdhury (2009) who is solely responsible for its content.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is to be considered one of the most profound figures in India’s history. Unlike many people who centre their lives primarily around their outward actions and extrinsic influences, Sri Ramakrishna lived only for spirituality and his innermost thoughts. Solange Lemaitre remarks that, “his life is the muted accompaniment of the purely inner story of an exceptional soul and its spiritual steps towards the Absolute” (146) [For further information on “the Absolute,” see Lemaitre 83-93]. Over the years, Ramakrishna received great fame and admiration for his effortless ability to enter into samadhi [this is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga; a spiritual state when one’s ego disappears, for more information, see Nikhilananda 169], his deep beliefs rooted in the Hindu tradition, and his teachings on acceptance and charity.

Even Ramakrishna’s birth was said to be surrounded by divine occurrences. Both of his parents, Khudiram Chattopadhyaya and Chandra Devi, apparently received spiritual visions about their son before they were even aware of his conception. Khudiram dreamt that the god Visnu made a promise to him to be born as his son, and Chandra experienced a vision “indicating the birth of a divine child” (Nikhilananda 4). And it was on February 18, 1836 that Chandra gave birth to a son, Gadadhar [this name translates as “the Bearer of the Mace,” an epithet of Visnu, see Nikhilananda], who would go on to be recognized as Sri Ramakrishna. He was born at Kamarpukur, a village in the Hooghly District of Bengal, India. Gadadhar grew to be an intelligent, inquisitive, and “healthy and restless boy” (Nikhilananda 4) whose primary interests lay in Hindu mythology and the epics, religious readings, and observing Hindu monks’ pilgrims and worship. Gadadhar’s strong passion for religion and the spiritual world was only beginning to develop and would continue to grow stronger with time.

From an extremely young age, Gadadhar demonstrated unconventional manners, according to the Indian caste system. At his sacred thread ceremony, the nine-year-old Gadadhar accepted and ate food that had been prepared by a sudra woman, which was seen as improper due to his Brahmin status. This event marked the beginning of his long-standing belief that, “[t]hose who love God belong to no caste” (Lemaitre 78).

Gadadhar had special divine qualities about him that sparked in him a burning desire to know God and continually obtain more knowledge about God. Lemaitre explains that as soon as the teenaged Gadadhar “entered into contemplation, the Lord appeared to him virtually immediately. It was from this time forward that the propensity of his nature to lose consciousness became stronger” (49). It was this strengthening propensity that would go on to guide Gadadhar in his new role as a priest at the Kali temple of Dakshineshwar, located near Calcutta, in the state of Bengal. Gadadhar would also be guided throughout the course of his life by two influential and very different people. One of his mentors was a master of non-dual Vedanta, “Totapuri” (Nikhilananda 26), and the other was a female tantric, “the Brahmani” (Nikhilananda 18).

Sri Ramakrishna became a priest at the Kali temple by replacing his brother, who had died one year after accepting the position. At only twenty years of age, Ramakrishna was brimming with vibrant energy and enthusiasm for religion and pursuing God, but he did reserve some hesitation towards the temple of Kali and the hierarchical implications of his new position as a priest. He did not support the idea of the caste system, as previously mentioned, and this was reflected in his initial reluctance to accept the position. But soon after beginning this new chapter of his life, Ramakrishna was overwhelmed by the holiness of the temple, its close proximity to the sacred river the Ganges, the atmosphere of the temple and its surroundings, and above all, “the living presence of the Goddess Kali” (Lemaitre 57). He would go on to regard Kali as the “Divine Mother” (Lemaitre 86) and rapidly became more obsessed with seeing her in her absolute form. This obsession drove Ramakrishna to perform unorthodox rituals, such as praying to Kali throughout the night while removing all of his clothing, including his sacred thread (this was thought to be sacrilegious), in an effort to free himself of all external bonds (Lemaitre 65). These unorthodox practices intensified the growing notion that Ramakrishna was, in actuality, insane. It is not difficult to understand the assumption that Ramakrishna had gone “mad” as he would suffer bouts of hysteria when he felt as though his body was on fire, fits of uncontrollable sobbing, delirious moments of ecstasy, and an overall complete indifference to the outer world (Nikhilananda 18).

Sri Ramakrishna was twenty-three years old when he married Sarada Devi in 1859. His marriage further emphasized his devotion to God and his “unquenchable desire to enjoy God in various ways” (Nikhilananda 15) as their marriage was never consummated. This act of celibacy lifted Sarada Devi to a type of pedestal so that Ramakrishna could “worship his wife as an embodiment of the Divine Mother” (Rodrigues 285). They remained married until his death in August of 1886.

Although Ramakrishna remained a priest in Dakshineshwar, his teachings rapidly spread throughout India and eventually worldwide as well. People were traveling in increasingly larger groups to see the “Divine Incarnation” (Lemaitre 84) and to hear him share his thoughts on life and God. He is well known for his warm acceptance of religions outside of Hinduism, as he himself briefly practiced the disciplines of Islam and Christianity. Nikhilananda remarks, “Sri Ramakrishna realized his identity with Christ, as he had already realized his identity with Kali, Rama, Hanuman, Radha, Krishna, Brahman, and Mohammed […] thus he experienced the truth that Christianity, too, was a path leading to God-Consciousness” (34). These realizations of various spiritual identities undoubtedly caused controversy amongst Hindus and others, but they also underlined Ramakrishna’s notion of tolerance and non-ignorance.

Of all the people who Sri Ramakrishna influenced, his impact on Swami Vivekananda was perhaps the most profound. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) became Ramakrishna’s most devoted disciple, spreading his master’s teachings and stories throughout the world, including the Western world. Ramakrishna’s name, along with Vivekananda’s, became known in North America after Vivekananda visited the United States. His appearance at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 marked the beginning of the development of a more compassionate, accepting, and appreciative relationship between Eastern and Western religions. He established the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York City and this center, along with its missions, continues to bridge the gap between the East and the West.

It was on August 16, 1886, that Sri Ramakrishna died in a house in Cossipore, India, with his disciples, dearest friends, and Sarada Devi at his side. His name lives on in his teachings and in the actions that thousands upon thousands carry out today in his honour. Lemaitre notes that “Ramakrishna’s sympathy for the unfortunate derived from his conception that God is in every being” (116). This sympathy is recognized and put into action through such groups as the Ramakrishna Order which, among other accomplishments, has “created schools, colleges, hospitals, dispensaries, homes for the aged, and orphanages” (Rodrigues 285). And so, Sri Ramakrishna remains a celebrated and illustrious religious figure and one whom Narasingha P. Sil affectionately calls, “the nineteenth-century Bengali Saint” (1).

REFERENCES

Lemaitre, Solange (1969) Ramakrishna and the Vitality of Hinduism. Trans. Charles Lam

Markmann. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

Nikhilananda, Swami (1984) The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-

Vivekananda Center.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2007) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge.

Sil, Narasingha Prosad (1991) Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A Psychological Profile. Ed.

Johannes Bronkhorst. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Related Topics for further investigation:

· The Absolute

· Samadhi

· The Ramakrishna Order

· Keshab Chandra Sen and the Brahmo Samaj

· Swami Vivekananda

· Tantra

· The Vedanta

· The Goddess Kali

· Brahmin class

· Eight powers of yoga

· Aum

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

http://www.ramakrishna.org/

http://www.sriramakrishna.org/

http://www.kathamrita.org/

http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/

Article written by: Stefanie Rausch (2008) who is solely responsible for its content

Krishnamurti (Jiddu)

Legacy

Born into a Brahmin family in 1895, Jiddu Krishnamurti was an important man. His words capture many readers and listeners like that of a modern day God-man or Messiah. Numerous parallels to Hinduism and Buddhism are evident in his life even though he does not follow the religious values they have set in place. An example of these parallels can be seen in his renunciation of all statuses given to him by different people over his 91 years of life. The term samnyasin refers to the final stage in one’s life where a renunciation of all things occurs (Rodrigues 2006:357). This notion of samnyasin is akin to what Krishnamurti embodied. Furthermore, even though he would eventually renounce all religions (and even systems of learning) his Hindu background laid the seed of the life he was to lead. When Krishnamurti (or K as he and many others called him) was just one day old, a local astrologer, Kumara Shrowthulu, told K’s father that his new son would be a great man – encountering many obstacles on his way to becoming a great Teacher (Jayakar 16). His importance was, prophetically speaking, imminent.

Most of the books he has written are taken from oral lectures he gave throughout the world. The body of work he left behind is enormous with tremendous amounts of audio and visual materials available on the internet. A quick internet search reveals much of his body of work. Many different books can be obtained from any major retailer and many of the audio/visual resources available come from institutions bearing his name [an international website that offers audio recordings from 1966 to 1985 and a catalogue of video resources dating as far back as 1968 can be found at www.jkrishnamurti.org]. Along with the plethora of web-resources, many Krishnamurti foundations are still in existence. Foundations representing K are located in Spain, England, the United States, and Britain. In addition, Krishnamurti schools are also open in India, the United States, and Britain. Separately there are 42 countries worldwide that have autonomous committees in place sharing resources, transcribing books, and lecturing on audio/visual presentations they prepare with materials from Krishnamurti [see www.jkrishnamurti.org]. But to reaffirm, the background he was born into is seemingly causal towards the path he chose to lead his life.

Biography

Born in Madanapelle, South India, Jiddu Krishnamurti was the eighth child born to Jiddu Narianiah (father) and Sanjeevamma (mother). At 12:30 am on May 12, 1895 Krishnamurti was born in the puja room of his parent’s home. This room is an unusual place to birth a child as the room was to be pure and unpolluted in order to worship the household gods (gryha devatas) (Jayakar 16). The room was made auspicious by implementing Puspa (fresh flowers) and Dhupa (incense) and it could only be entered after a ritual bath and changing into clean clothes (Jayakar 16). Pupul Jayakar (1986) also states that birth, death, and the menstrual cycle are all ways of obtaining ritual pollution, thus, it is worthy to note that having a child born in the puja room is a strange occurrence. It is believed his mother, who was thought of as psychic, knew of K’s impending future through visions she had, otherwise she would not “have challenged the gods” by having her baby in this room (Jayakar 16).

As a child K was constantly sick, suffering frequent episodes of malaria which at one point kept him away from school for one year and when at school his “vagueness, few words, lack of interest in worldly affairs, and eyes that glazed out at the world, seeing beyond horizons” were thought of as some form of mental retardation by his teacher (Jayakar 18). Additionally, Mary Lutyens (2003) wrote in the original foreword of Krishnamurti’s Notebook about a “spiritual experience” K went through in 1922 that was followed by years of constant spine and head pain. Krishnamurti’s teacher felt he had some sort of a handicap. However, Charles Webster Leadbeater didn’t quite see the same thing. When he saw K playing with the other children he saw the boy who was to become a great spiritual teacher (Jayakar 24). Leadbeater met K four years after the death of his mother Sanjeevamma and what struck him about Krishnamurti was his kindness, or the unselfishness he exhumed when playing with the other children (Rodrigues 1990:9). Charles Webster Leadbeater was a European man in the Theosophical Society who would bring K to meet Annie Besant (the newly appointed president of the Society) by the end of 1909 (Jayakar 29).

The Theosophical Society was: “Based on the tenets of a universal brotherhood of humanity which sought to study ancient wisdom and to explore the hidden mysteries of nature and the latent powers of man. It established an occult hierarchy drawing from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, in particular the Tibetan tantric texts and teachings” (Jayakar 21). Coincidentally the co-founder of the Theosophical Society (TS), Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, wrote before her death in 1891 that the real purpose of the TS was to prepare for the coming of the World Teacher (Jayakar 21). Charles Leadbeater arranged a meeting between Krishnamurti and Besant which took place in late 1909 and by the end of 1909 Krishnamurti had entered the Esoteric section of the TS.

The transition that took place at this time is looked at as the time when K was “stripped of all his Indianness” (Jayakar 27). K and his brother, Nitya, were adopted by Annie Besant. They were told only to speak English, were only allowed to wear Western clothes, and they were “taught to bathe the British way” (Jayakar 27). Essentially, they were encouraged to grow up as young British gentlemen. The boys were also kept distant from their father to limit his influence. However, Narianiah (the boys’ father), felt that Annie Besant had misled him and he filed suit to regain custody. Annie Besant lost the case in both the local and High Court of Madras but she did win her appeal to the Privy Council. With the victory, the boys continued their schooling and would not see India from 1912 to 1922 (Jayakar 37). At this time, while in England, Krishnamurti developed a close relationship with Lady Emily Lutyens and her daughter Mary; feeling as though Emily Lutyens was like his foster mother (Rodrigues 1990:11). It was Lutyens who introduced K to all things a British aristocrat would encounter. Her daughter Mary was regarded as a friend and biographer who penned books about his life [see The Role of a Flower].

In 1911, the Order of the Rising Sun (to be renamed the Order of the Star in the East) was created with the purpose of preparation for the arrival of the World Teacher (Rodrigues 1990:10). This period would mark the first acknowledgments of his status as the “vehicle for the World Teacher.” His father Narianiah’s concern for his son’s well-being had come true (which led to the eventual lawsuit). In 1929, as leader of the Order of the Star, K gave a shocking speech in Ommen, Holland where he rejected organized religion and dissolved the Order of the Star. In the film, The Role of a Flower, Mary Lutyens talks of how the Theosophical Society was a very rich organization and Krishnamurti, in his renunciation, gave everything back to the owner and divested himself of all property. In this, the example of samnyasin rings true. He did not want to be followed; in fact, he never expected people to follow him in the first place (Rodrigues 1990:42). He didn’t want his talks held for enjoyment. His lectures were not for entertainment, though he did want people to pay attention. His attitudes also reflect the notion of moksa, which is “freedom from the bondage of ignorance into the liberation that comes with knowledge of the Self or Absolute Reality” (Rodrigues 2006:52). At this point in his life, K was being regarded as a secular philosopher that was hostile towards religion with representatives of the TS saying that the coming of the World Teacher had become corrupt and incorrect (Jayakar 80).

The rest of his life, up to his death from cancer on February 17, 1986 was a tremendous journey that led him all over the world. He spent his time talking with great world figures, scholars, and mass assembly audiences. He spoke an estimated 175 times per year, whether it was to 50 people or 8,000 audience members [see Rodrigues 1990:22 and www.kfa.org] and many of these dialogues are transcriptions that became the books available today. Although sometimes difficult to read [see Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought], his lectures have topics that are important to vast amounts of people. Fear, love, insight, truth, intelligence, freedom, religion, conditioning, desire, death and sorrow are all themes recurrent in Krishnamurti’s talks with important messages obtained from each topic. He also helped open schools across the globe that represented his ideals towards education and knowledge. Over his 91 years, Jiddu Krishnamurti showed incredible will in wanting to help set man free (Rodrigues 1990:19). With the ideas he has left behind, to say he strove to set humanity free seems more appropriate.


REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS

Collins, Bob, & Jay, Sue (producers) (1986) The Role of a Flower [documentary]. Great Britain: Television South

Jayakar, Pupul (1986) J. Krishnamurti: A Biography. Penguin Books

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (2003) Krishnamurti’s Notebook. California: Krishnamurti Publications of America

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1973) The Awakening of Intelligence. New York: Harper and Row Publishers

Krishnamurti, Jiddu, Rajagopal, D (Ed.) (1964) Think on These Things. New York: Harper and Row Publishers

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (1990) Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought. New York: Peter Lang Publishing

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge Publishing

Related Topics for Further Investigation

World Teacher

Nitya (brother)

Annie Besant

Lady Emily Lutyens

Mary Lutyens

Theosophical Society

Charles Webster Leadbeater

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

The Order of the Rising Sun (The Order of the Star to the East)

The Role of a Flower

Brahmin caste

Samnyasin

Moksa

Puja

Puspa

Dhupa

Gryha devatas

Buddhism

Rishi Valley School

Brockwood Park School

Oak Grove School

Links Related to the Topic

www.kfa.org

www.kfionline.org

www.kfoundation.org

www.jkrishnamurti.org

www.oakgroveschool.com

www.rishivalley.org

www.brockwood.org.uk

www.theschoolkfi.org

www.krishnamurti-canada.ca

Article written by Chad Eggebrecht (March 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.