Category Archives: a. Hinduism for the West

Krishnamurti (Jiddu)


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]. 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]. But to reaffirm, the background he was born into is seemingly causal towards the path he chose to lead his life.


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] 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.


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






Gryha devatas


Rishi Valley School

Brockwood Park School

Oak Grove School

Links Related to the Topic

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

The Hare Krsna Controversy

This article shall discuss the persecution of the Hare Krsna movement in the United States during the mid 1960s through to the late 1970s. In order to fully understand the persecution of this group, one must first know its history as well as the socio-political climate of the United States during this time.

Overview of the Hare Krsnas

The International Society for Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. He was born in Calcutta and studied under Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Gosvami Maharaja who instructed him to spread Krsna consciousness to the western world (Daner 15, 16). Swami Bhaktivedanta traveled to the United States and arrived in New York City – which along with San Francisco was a haven for members of the counter-culture – in 1965 (Daner 17). He taught in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and gained several followers who became known as “Hare Krsnas” due to their Mahamantra [Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare (Daner 112)] (Daner 17-22). Swami Bhaktivedanta eventually traveled to San Francisco where he taught several icons of the counter-culture such as Timothy Leary [A professor of Psychology at Harvard University (1959-1963) Dr. Leary preformed experiments dealing with the usefulness of mind altering drugs (such as LSD) using himself and several of his graduate students as test subjects, which ultimately cost him his position. After he was dismissed from Harvard Leary became an influential member of the counter-culture and a champion for the legalization of psychedelic drugs. He died on May 31, 1996 and is commonly remembered for his controversial statement, “Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.” (Wuergler 274-276) ] and the rock band the Grateful Dead (Daner 17). ISKCON was officially formed in July 1966.

The Counter-Culture

With the assassination of the American president John F. Kennedy in 1963 much of the optimism that America had in the 1950s was lost. As a result many young people began to feel alienated from mainstream American culture and began to rebel against society’s traditional values. They held demonstrations for equal rights, protested the war in Vietnam and the abuse of the environment. Many began to search for inner meaning through Eastern philosophy and by taking narcotics (Stuessy 175-176). These youth embodied what has come to be known as the counter-culture. It was here that ISKCON found many of its followers. ISKCON was opposed to the accumulation of wealth. It encouraged non-violence [While ISKCON did not encourage violence it was not pacifistic. Unlike Gandhi, Swami Bhaktivedanta taught that violence is acceptable, and even necessary, so long as it is in defense. This view is based on Krsna’s speech (known as the Bhagavad-Gita) to Arjuna on the eve of Battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas as told in the Mahabharata (Judah 117)], felt that the United States government needed to be reformed, and that the education system needed to be over-hauled as it devoted too much time teaching students how to acquire wealth (Judah 112-124), all of which appealed to the counter-culture.

The Mainstream

Throughout much of the Cold War the Western World feared everything communist, which included most everything foreign (McCloud 38-39) and were constantly watchful for any infiltrating communist ideology, including religious cults. Starting in the mid-1950s periodicals such as Time, Newsweek, and Life began publishing articles warning people of “fringe,” “offbeat” religions and “California Cults.” An article in the April 12, 1965 Time even described joining a “fringe” religion as a form of neurosis (McCloud 25-45). These articles continued through the 1970s. Another article published in Time (in 1975) accused The Unification Church [The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity was founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon in Korea in 1954. The group’s beliefs are based upon Christianity as well as Moon’s biblical interpretations. Due to the group’s strict communal living, group weddings, aggressive style of proselytizing and foreign origins it was a popular target for the American anticult movement. Members of the Unification Church are often referred to as “Moonies,” a derogatory name referencing the group’s founder. (McCloud 127-129)] of “psychological abuse” and “brainwashing” members (McCloud 127) which encouraged and elevated parents’ fears that their children could be involved with a dangerous group. Eventually most every new religious movement was considered a dangerous cult which employed coercion and brainwashing on its members (McCloud 127-159). During this time the Hare Krsnas took a large amount of criticism. Members were visibly different from the average American (they shaved their heads and wore saffron robes) and they took vows of poverty and lived communally, practices in direct opposition to the American Dream. The Hare Krsnas were also considered to be promiscuous, sexual deviants, attitudes derived solely from the label that they were a “cult” (McCloud 173) and not grounded at all on the groups teachings, for ISKCON was and is opposed to premarital sex (Judah 124-125).

Brainwashing and Deprogramming

As with virtually all new religious movements of that period the Hare Krsnas were accused of using brainwashing to convert people. The notion of brainwash permeated almost all of the 1970s’ culture; from the news to Saturday morning cartoons, brainwashing was everywhere. As with most organizations a number of members who had joined up earlier did leave ISKCON, for not all members of the counter-culture agreed with the group’s communal nature, feeling that it hampered their individuality (Judah 13). According to Larry D. Shinn, some of these former members may have provided “proof” of brainwashing as it is easier to say that they were coerced into joining the group than it is to admit that they chose to join (Gelberg 89-90). To “rescue” members from these cults a process called “Deprogramming” was employed. The modus operandi of the deprogrammer was to kidnap a member of a new religious movement and convince them that their beliefs were wrong (McCloud 137), essentially brainwashing the brainwashed. Interestingly, the media and mainstream religions that accused new religious movements of brainwashing converts did point out that deprogramming violated the right to freedom of religion. Although this may have been on account of the fact that many of Ted Patrick’s [News magazines such as Newsweek originally recommended Ted Patrick as a deprogrammer as he “removed hundreds of young converts from new religions”] (one of the most prominent deprogrammers of the 1970s) patients were members of small, Christian based groups that were similar to American mainstream religions (McCloud 138-141).

Before his death in 1977, Swami Bhaktivedanta appointed eleven disciples as his successors and instructed them to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world. By the early 1980s they had established 130 temples outside the United States (Shinn 267).


Daner, Francine Jeanne (1974) The American Children of Krsna: A Study of the Hare Krsna Movement. Dallas, Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Gelberg, Steven J. (ed.) (1983) Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna: Five Distinguished Scholars on the Krishna Movement in the West. New York: Grove Press.

Judah, J. Stillson (1974) Hare Krishna and the Counterculture. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

McCloud, Sean (2004) Making the American Religious Fringe: Exotics, Subversives and Journalists, 1955-1993. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press

Patrick, John J. and Gerald P. Long (eds.) (1999) Constitutional Debates on Freedom of Religion: Documentary History. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press

Shinn, Larry D. (1987) “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” in The Encyclopedia of Religion. Edited by Mircea Eliade. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company

Stuessy, Joe and Scott Lipscomb (2006) Rock and Roll: It’s History and Stylistic Development. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Wuergler, Brad (1999) “Leary, Timothy” in Historical Dictionary of the 1960s. Edited by James S. Olson. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press

Related Topics for Further Investigation

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada

International Society for Krsna Consciousness (Hare Krsna)




Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic The official Bhaktivedanta Book Trust web site containing information on Vaisnava philosophy and beliefs. An interview with George Harrison about his experiences with ISKCON. A modern day argument against ISKCON which is very similar to those put forth by the anti-cult movement in the 1970s.

Written by Greg Gedrasik (Spring 206) who is solely responsible for its content.