Copyright 1995-2015 by Jim Hull

(Please cite the author if you quote from this article)


The philosopher Krishnamurti's life was like a fairy tale: there are main characters who make a wish; the wish comes true in a surprising and - to some - tragic way; people learn something important. In fact, his life points up the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for: you might get it!" As follows:

Once upon a time, it was foretold that a great Avatar would appear to save humanity. Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, leaders of an esoteric religion, wished very hard that the Avatar would come to their group of believers and lead them into a new, different and wonderful future. They even prepared a creche of sorts for this new being, and called it "The Order of the Star."

One day they found a young, beautiful, quiet Indian boy named Jiddu Krishnamurti, and were certain they had found the Avatar. They trained him in the arcana he would need when he assumed the role of leader of this new future. He studied hard, and he loved and respected his elders. But young Krishnamurti was troubled by the cloying, gilded cage in which he lived, and struggled mightily with his doubts.

Then, sitting under a pepper tree in California, he had an overpowering vision, an insight which changed him completely. This was wonderful news to his handlers, and soon preparations were underway for the convocation of the new Order. Thousands of people arrived for his installation, eager with anticipation. This, finally, would be the new experience they'd all waited so patiently for.

And then Krishnamurti did an extraordinary thing, a truly new thing. He disbanded the Order of the Star. "Truth is a pathless land," he said, and walked away.

Besant and Leadbeater were crushed, and within a few years they were dead, perhaps from broken hearts. Krishnamurti, saddened by their passing, went forth alone, holding talks and discussions with people, including those who were searching for answers to the troubles of life. His purpose in these talks was to call into question that very searching, which, he suggested, can never fill our empty souls. Instead, we trap ourselves within the walls of our beliefs and creeds, and the emptiness continues. Krishnamurti warned that even our quest to rid ourselves of the search can become a trap. "The moment you really see that the question, 'How can I change?' sets up a new authority," he said, "you have finished with authority for ever."

All the while the faithful waited, certain he was testing them, convinced he would someday reveal himself as the Avatar they had so yearned for, who would soon show them how to live.

He died quietly at great age without giving them the sign or blessing they awaited, or pulling off a mask to reveal himself as their Avatar. No new religion was launched in his name.

It seemed that Besant and Leadbeater had failed in their quest. But in fact they had succeeded. They had wished for something completely new, and they had gotten it. But it was so startlingly different from what they expected that they had failed to recognize it. The newness they had sought slipped from their hands precisely because they had tried to grasp it. The newness they had sought was within themselves - ever-evolving - and in grasping at it they had tried to freeze it and worship it, as if to stare lovingly at an old photograph of themselves. But the photo crumbled even as they stared.

It's a true story - two or three biographies are out, and his writings are still in print - yet Krishnamurti's life has an aura of myth or fairy tale. There's a sense of authority about him, though he would dismiss such a notion out of hand. It's tempting even for people who understand him to be in awe of him. Alan Watts, an admirer, once quipped that Krishnamurti was surrounded by "non-disciples." What's most interesting about him is that ineffable sense of newness, of possibility, of mystery which - if you grasp at it - vanishes. Like magic. Like a fairy tale.

If you find any part of this work quoted without credit to the author, please let him know! Thank you.



But caveat auctor: Jim reserves the right to put your little screed on his Web site! (And he has no dignity about this, so be careful what you say...)

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Omygosh, somebody actually read this article!

-- Sampsa Kuukasjarvi of Finland writes:

Thank you for your important article "Krishnamurti, once upon a time." I liked the idea of "pathless truth." I criticize the article because of a couple of unexact things.

I wonder why you don't use the name Theosophy when you write about leaders of the religion which thought that Krishnamurti would be an avatar. You just say that it was "an esoteric religion." Hey, Theosophy is a well-known religion or wisdom and it was very big at that time in the beginning of the century! And actually Leadbeater and Besant claimed that the Indian boy Alcyone (Krishnamurti) would be Christ, not any avatar!

I also wonder why you don't tell readers when Krishnamurti disbanded the Order of the Star. It happened in 1929. And Besant and Leadbeater didn't die "within few years" after that "perhaps from broken hearts." It is true that they died relatively soon after that (in the 1930s), but they both were in old age, being born in the 1840s.

Finally I have to add that Theosophy is of course much more than the odd case of Krishnamurti. Theosophy has spiritual ideas which surely develop people.

Keep writing interesting articles.

-- Jim replies:

I structured the article somewhat as a fairy tale, so I didn't add a lot of details. Further, had I said, "They were Theosophists," I'd have effectively taken a potshot at Theosophy, instead of emphasizing Krishnamurti's general critique on the pitfalls of organized religions. I didn't want to single out Theosophy unfairly. (My grandparents were Theosophists, by the way, and I got interested in Krishnamurti originally through a book my father owned, "At the Feet of the Master," by K.)

Perhaps they actually died of old age, but I'm guessing the "broken heart" part played a significant role. We all die when our hearts stop beating, but the actual causes can vary.

The point of my "fairy tale" isn't really about Theosophy or even about Krishnamurti. It's about what we wish for, and what we get as a result.


-- Regina Schulz writes:

I just want to thank You for this article. For me it touches very beautifully the quality I sense with Krishnamurti, revealing that something very sacred is going to happen if You allow it to and don't grasp at it.

-- Jim replies:

It's strange, isn't it, how the very idea of the sacred can get in the way of the sacred? Ironic. K said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- you can leave the window open, but you can't make the breeze blow in. The trick is to open the window without hoping for a breeze.

There's a Zen story about a famous old Buddhist who's sitting under a tree, and blossoms begin to fall on him. He looks up. A voice from the heavens says, "We are praising your discourse on emptiness." He says, "I wasn't even thinking about emptiness." The voice replies, "That is the true emptiness." And the blossoms rain down.

-- Kathleen Tehrani writes:

Thank you so much for your article on Krishnamurti. I found the reference to "Fairy Tale" quite to the point.....or in other words his teachings exemplified Joseph Campbell's reference to the term "metaphor" in our attempts to understand what it is to simply "be".

-- Jim replies:

In Zen, they say, "If I point at the moon, don't stare at my finger."

-- Kathleen Tehrani continues:

Isn't it interesting that the more words we use to describe something the farther from its essence we tend to stray :)   And as soon as we open our mouths....the truth is severed from its source and becomes a virtual corpse of its sponsor.

-- Jim replies:

Yet another reference, this time Alan Watts: trying to describe enlightenment (or "reality" or "true understanding") in words is an attempt to "eff the ineffable". Watts understood the difficulty of "talking about talking" or "learning about knowledge", and he likened it to a finger trying to touch itself or a tooth trying to bite itself. The closest he came to describing the indescribable was to call it "the than-which-there-is-no-whicher".


Are Humans Obsolete?

Have we done so well in our quest for improvement that we've created a world where we're no longer needed? Jim Hull speaks to this and other questions about our future in his book, Are Humans Obsolete? Available in paper or e-book.


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