|STRIPPING THE GURUS||
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The messiah, or World Teacher, was made to correspond with the traditional Hindu figure of the Avatar, a deific person sent to the world at certain crucial times to watch over the dawn of a new religious era (Vernon, 2001).
No one used that term [i.e., “World Teacher”] in my childhood. As I could not pronounce his name, Krishnamurti, he was known to me always, as Krinsh (Sloss, 2000).
JIDDU KRISHNAMURTI WAS DISCOVERED as a teenage boy by Charles Leadbeater of the Theosophical Society, on a beach in Madras, India, in 1909.
The Theosophical Society itself had been founded in New York City by the east-European “seer” Madame Helena P. Blavatsky (HPB), in 1875. Its membership soon numbered over 100,000; an Asian headquarters was established in Adyar, India, in 1882.
The Theosophical Society ... was at first enormously successful and attracted converts of the intellectual stature of the inventor Thomas Edison and Darwin’s friend and collaborator Alfred Russel Wallace (Storr, 1996).
No less an authority than [Zen scholar] D. T. Suzuki was prepared to say that [Blavatsky’s] explication of Buddhist teachings in The Voice of Silence ... testified to an initiation into “the deeper side of Mahayana doctrine” (Oldmeadow, 2004).
Perhaps. And yet
W. E. Coleman has shown that [Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled] comprises a sustained and frequent plagiarism of about one hundred contemporary texts, chiefly relating to ancient and exotic religions, demonology, Freemasonry and the case for spiritualism....
[The Secret Doctrine] betrayed her plagiarism again but now her sources were mainly contemporary works on Hinduism and modern science (Goodrick-Clarke, 2004).
Interestingly, when Blavatsky and her co-founder, Colonel Henry Olcott, sailed to India in 1879, the man whom they left in charge of the Theosophical Society in America was one Abner Doubleday, the inventor of baseball (Fields, 1992).
Blavatsky herself taught the existence of a hierarchy of “Ascended Masters,” included among them one Lord Maitreya, the World Teacher whose incarnations had allegedly included both Krishna and Jesus. Those same Masters, however, were modeled on real figures from public life, e.g., on individuals involved in East Indian political reform (Vernon, 2001). They were fraudulently contacted in other ways as well:
[Blavatsky’s housekeeper, Emma Cutting, demonstrated] how she and HPB had made a doll together, which they ... manipulated on a long bamboo pole in semi-darkness to provide the Master’s alleged apparitions. Emma had also dropped “precipitated” letters on to Theosophical heads from holes in the ceiling, while her husband had made sliding panels and hidden entrances into the shrine room [adjoining HPB’s bedroom] to facilitate Blavatsky’s comings and goings and make possible the substitution of all the brooches, dishes and other objects that she used in her demonstrations [i.e., as purported materializations or “apports”]....
The Russian journalist V. S. Solovieff claimed to have caught [Blavatsky] red-handed with the silver bells which produced astral music [in séances].... Blavatsky confessed to Solovieff quite bluntly that the phenomena were fraudulent, adding that one must deceive men in order to rule them (Washington, 1995).
Madame Blavatsky died in 1891. Prior to that passing, however, Leadbeater had already begun claiming to channel messages himself, from Blavatsky’s fabricated “Masters.”
The famously clairvoyant Leadbeater, further, had before (and after) been accused of indecent behavior toward a series of adolescent males:
One of Leadbeater’s favorite boys [accused him] of secretly teaching boys to masturbate under cover of occult training, and insinuat[ed] that masturbation was only the prelude to the gratifying of homosexual lust (Washington, 1995).
In any case, the young “Krishna on the Beach” was no typical teenager, in need of such mundane lessons, as the clairvoyant well noted. Indeed, upon examining his aura, Leadbeater found Krishnamurti to be a highly refined soul, apparently completely free of selfishness, i.e., ego.
Krishnamurti was soon thereafter declared by Leadbeater to be the current “vehicle” for Lord Maitreya, and schooled accordingly within the Theosophical ranks. (An American boy had earlier been advanced for the same position by Leadbeater, but the latter appears to have “changed his mind” in that regard. Later, Leadbeater was to propose yet another East Indian youth for the title of World Teacher. That boy, Rajagopal, went on to manage Krishnamurti’s financial affairs, while his wife handled Jiddu’s other affairs, as we shall see.)
The brothers [i.e., Krishnamurti and his younger sibling] no doubt found Leadbeater’s swings of temperament confusing. One moment they would be adored, pampered, idolized, and the next scolded for breaching some piece of esoteric etiquette they did not understand (Vernon, 2001).
Throughout this book, we shall see many examples of students and disciples being placed in comparable situations by their teachers and guru-figures. In such psychological binds, persons for whom it is vitally important to earn the approval of their “master” are rather unable to discern how to gain that reward, with often-tragic results. There are, indeed, two possible extreme reactions to such intermittent reward/punishment, where one cannot ascertain the conditions by which the reward will be earned or the punishment given. That is, one can either simply drop all of one’s reactions and live in “choiceless awareness” of the moment; or, more often, evolve that impossibility of “guessing right” into neuroses, violence or extreme depression.
Indeed, relevant experiments have been done by students of Pavlov himself (Winn, 2000), wherein dogs were first taught, via reward and punishment, to distinguish between circles and ellipses. Then, the circles were gradually flattened, and the ellipses made rounder, until the experimental subjects could no longer distinguish between them. The dogs were thus unable to give the “correct response” to earn a corresponding prize, instead being rewarded and punished “randomly.” The effect on the animals was that initially happy and excitable dogs became violent, biting their experimenters. Other previously “laid back, carefree” animals, by contrast, became lethargic, not caring about anything.
At any rate, even prior to being discovered by Leadbeater, while still in India’s public school system, Krishnamurti’s own education had been a traumatic experience:
Never one to endear himself to schoolmasters, Krishna was punished brutally for his inadequacies and branded an imbecile (Vernon, 2001).
He was caned almost every day for being unable to learn his lessons. Half his time at school was spent in tears on the veranda (Lutyens, 1975).
Not surprisingly, then, in later years Krishnamurti evinced little regard for academic accomplishments:
[The Nobel-caliber physicist David Bohm] spoke of the humiliation he had experienced at the hands of Krishnamurti who, in his presence, made cutting jokes about “professors” and did not acknowledge the importance of Bohm’s work....
He suffered greatly under [Krishnamurti’s] disrespect of him, which at times was blatantly obvious (Peat, 1997).
Krishnamurti’s contemporary appearance on Earth offered hope to Theosophists for the “salvation of mankind.” After years of being groomed for his role as their World Teacher, however, Krishnamurti’s faith in the protection of Theosophy’s Masters, and Leadbeater’s guiding visions of the same, was shattered in 1925 by the unexpected death of his own younger brother. (Jiddu had previously been assured, in his own believed meetings with the Masters on the astral plane, that his brother would survive the relevant illness.) Thereafter, he viewed those visions, including his own, as being merely personal wish-fulfillments, and considered the occult hierarchy of Masters to be irrelevant (Vernon, 2001).
That, however, did not imply any rejection of mysticism in general, on Krishnamurti’s part:
By the autumn of 1926 [following an alleged kundalini awakening which began in 1922] Krishna made it clear ... that a metamorphosis had taken place. [The kundalini is a subtle energy believed to reside at the base of the spine. When “awakened” and directed up the spine into the brain, it produces ecstatic spiritual realization.] His former personality had been stripped away, leaving him in a state of constant and irreversible union with the godhead (Vernon, 2001).
Or, as Krishnamurti (1969) himself put it, in openly proclaiming his status as World Teacher:
I have become one with the Beloved. I have been made simple. I have become glorified because of Him.
[Krishnamurti] maintained that his consciousness was merged with his beloved, by which he meant all of creation (Sloss, 2000).
In August of 1929, reasoning that organizations inherently condition and restrict Truth, the thirty-four-year-old Krishnamurti formally dissolved the Theosophical Society’s “Order of the Star” branch, which he had previously headed since 1911.
Even there, however, it was more the organization and its “Ascended Master”-based philosophy, rather than his own role as World Teacher or Messiah, that was being repudiated. Krishnamurti himself explained as much after the dissolution:
When it becomes necessary for humanity to receive in a new form the ancient wisdom, someone whose duty it is to repeat these truths is incarnated (in Michel, 1992).
Or, as Vernon (2001) confirmed:
[Krishnamurti] never went as far as to deny being the World Teacher, just that it made no difference who or what he was.
In 1932, Krishnamurti and Rajagopal’s wife began an affair which would last for more than twenty-five years. The woman, Rosalind, became pregnant on several occasions, suffering miscarriages and at least two covert/illegal abortions. The oddity of that relationship is not lessened by Jiddu’s earlier regard for the same woman. For, both he and his brother believed that Rosalind was the reincarnation of their long-lost mother ... in spite of the fact that the latter had only died two years after Rosalind was born (Sloss, 2000).
In the late 1930s, Krishnamurti retired to Ojai, California, becoming close friends with Aldous Huxley. Being thus affectionate, however, did not stop Jiddu from insultingly regarding Huxley, behind his back, as having a mind “like a wastebasket” (Sloss, 2000). Huxley in turn, after hearing Krishnamurti speak in Switzerland in 1961, wrote of that lecture: “It was like listening to a discourse of the Buddha” (in Peat, 1997). Further, when Aldous’ house and library were lost in a fire, Krishnamurti’s Commentaries on Living were the first of the books he replaced.
With his proximity to northern Los Angeles, Jiddu also visited with composer Igor Stravinsky, writer Thomas Mann and philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell, and picnicked with screen legends Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin.
The continuing affair with Rosalind was, not surprisingly, less than completely in line with the quasi-Messiah’s own teachings:
Krishnamurti had occasionally told young people that celibacy was significant, indicating that it encouraged the generation of great energy and intensity that could lead to psychological transformation. Krishnamurti seems to have raised the matter with [David] Bohm as well, and the physicist believed that the Indian teacher led a celibate life (Peat, 1997).
Bohm first met Krishnamurti in 1961, and went on to become easily the most famous of his followers (until their distancing from each other in 1984), co-authoring several books of dialogs on spiritual topics with Jiddu. Bohm further sat as a trustee on the board of a Krishnamurti-founded school in England, and was viewed by many as potentially being the Krinsh’s “successor.”
Consequently, apologetic protests that Krishnamurti’s behavior with Rosalind was “not dishonest/hypocritical,” simply for him not having spent his entire life preaching the benefits of celibacy or marriage, ring hollow. On the contrary, if we are to believe Peat’s report that Krishnamurti “had spoken to Bohm of the importance of celibacy,” there absolutely was a contradiction between Krishnamurti’s teachings and his life. That is so even though the quarter-century affair with Rosalind, hidden for whatever reasons, had ended by the time he met Bohm.
Given that, the only possible verdict regarding Krishnamurti’s behavior is that of obvious hypocrisy.
Considering Krishnamurti’s own abusive schooling, it is hardly surprising that he should have perpetuated that same cycle on his students, under the pretense of deliberately creating crises to promote change and growth in them:
The gopis [early, young female disciples of Krishnamurti, by analogy with the followers of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita] would seek out private interviews with him, during which he mercilessly tore down their defenses and laid naked their faults, invariably ending with the girls crying their hearts out, but feeling it must be for the best (Vernon, 2001).
Even many years later, employing the same “skillful/cruel means” of awakening others,
Krishnamurti confronted Bohm in a way that others later described as “brutal” (Peat, 1997).
As we shall see, that is a common problem among the world’s spiritual paths for disciples who have endured their own guru-figures’ harsh discipline, and have then assumed license to treat others in the same lousy way as they themselves had been treated. The excuse there is, of course, always that such mistreatment is for the “spiritual benefit” of those others, even in contexts where that claim could not possibly be true.
Quarrels due to what Raja[gopal] remembers as Krishna’s frequent lying and undercutting of him, Krishna’s agreeing to proposals behind Raja’s back, and making promises that could not be kept, became so severe after several months in South America that once Krishna, who could only take so much criticism, slapped Raja. This was not the only time that would happen, but it was the first (Sloss, 2000).
Krishnamurti lacked ordinary human compassion and kindness; he was intolerant, even contemptuous, of those who could not rise to his own high plane (Vernon, 2001).
“Born with a heart two sizes too small,” etc.
At least one of Jiddu’s early “gopis,” however, saw through his clumsy, “cruel to be kind” attempts at spiritual discipline:
These supposedly privileged and beneficial sessions consisted of Krishna repeatedly pointing out well-known faults and picking on everything detrimental and sapping one’s confidence (Lutyens, 1972).
On at least one occasion, Krishnamurti was likewise inadvertently overheard making unprovoked, uncomplimentary remarks about others ... in his bedroom, with the married Rosalind (Sloss, 2000).
Neither Rajagopal nor Rosalind were ever devotees of Krishnamurti. Nor was David Bohm, whose own response to Krishnamurti’s (unsolicited) harsh public disciplinein a context where they were supposed to be in a dialog, not a guru-disciple relationship, by Jiddu’s own explicit rejection of the latterwas beyond tragic:
[T]he physicist was thrown into despair. Unable to sleep, obsessed with thoughts, he constantly paced the room to the point where he thought of suicide. At one point he believed that he could feel the neurotransmitters firing in his brain.... His despair soon reached the point where he was placed on antidepressants....
He once wrote to [Fritz Wilhelm] that he thought that his chest pains were a result of K’s [i.e., Krishnamurti’s] misbehaving towards him. “This problem with K is literally crushing me” (Peat, 1997).
Krishnamurti continued to lecture and discipline until his passing in 1986. In those activities, he gradually mutated his teaching style from that of a savior pronouncing cosmic truths to that of a personal counselor, focusing the content of those lectures on the split in consciousness between subject and object:
When man becomes aware of the movement of his own consciousness he will see the division between the thinker and the thought, the observer and the observed, the experiencer and the experience. He will discover that this division is an illusion. Then only is there pure observation which is insight without any shadow of the past. This timeless insight brings about a deep radical change in the mind (Krishnamurti, in [Lutyens, 1983]).
Through that personal realization, Krishnamurti claimed (completely untenably) to be unconditioned by his own upbringing and, indeed, to have (conveniently) “forgotten” most of his past. Nevertheless, his own teachings have much in common with those of both the Buddha and the Upanishads. Not coincidentally, Jiddu had been intensively schooled in both of those philosophies during his early years at Adyar (Sloss, 2000).
In line with his stultifying ideas on the nature of thought and knowledge, Krishnamurti further gave no instruction in structural/content techniques of meditation. Instead, he taught and practiced the meditative exercise as “a movement without any motive, without words and the activity of thought.”
[R]epeating mantras and following gurus were, he said, particularly stupid ways of wasting time (Peat, 1997).
And the Krinsh, with his krinsh-feet quite warm in Ojai,
Jiddu himself, however, was a guru in everything but name. The authoritarian pronouncements, intolerance for disagreement, and grandiosity could have come from any of the other “enlightened” individuals with whom we shall soon become too familiar. Though Krishnamurti himself was “allergic” to the guru-disciple relationship, “if it looks like a guru, talks like a guru and acts like a guru....”
After so many years surrounded by an inner circle, like a monarch attended by his courtiers who adored him and believed he could do no wrong, he had grown unused to being contradicted (Vernon, 2001).
[E]ven as he was insisting on the vital importance of individual discovery, the transcripts of his conversations with pupils [at his schools] reveal a man who mercilessly bullied his interlocutors into accepting his point of view (Washington, 1995).
Krishnamurti isolated himself from criticism and feedback, “just like everybody he was criticizing,” [Joel] Kramer [co-author of The Guru Papers] said, and had to have “the last word on everything” (Horgan, 1999).
Even as he lay on his deathbed, wasting away from pancreatic cancer, Krishnamurti stated firmly that “while he was alive he was still ‘the World Teacher’” (Vernon, 2001). (That terminal illness occurred in spite of his claimed possession of laying-on-of-hands healing abilities, which proved equally ineffectual in his own prior attempts at healing Bohm of his heart ailments.) Indeed, so enamored was the Krinsh of his own teaching position in the world that he recorded the following statement a mere ten days before his passing:
I don’t think people realize what tremendous energy and intelligence went through this body.... You won’t find another body like this, or that supreme intelligence operating in a body for many hundred years. You won’t see it again (in Lutyens, 1988).
Krishnamurti is supposed to have said that he is even greater than Buddha or the Christ (in Sloss, 2000).
And what happened then...?
Of course, Krishnamurti’s dissolution of the Order of the Star is often naïvely taken as indicating a profound humility on his part. However, as we shall implicitly see with every one of the “sages” to follow, it is only through extensive editing, in the selective presentation of the “enlightened” man’s speech and actions, that any of them begin to look so humble and holy.
As to what Jiddu’s own legacy may be, beyond his voluminous and arid written and recorded teachings, he essentially answered that question himself:
Shortly before his death the Indian teacher had declared that no one had ever truly understood his teaching; no one besides himself had experienced transformation (Peat, 1997).
That, too, is a recurring problem with the “great guru-figures” of this worldin generally failing to create even one disciple “as great as” themselves, in spite of their “skillful” discipline. More pointedly, any lesser, non-World teacher who could openly admit that not even one of his students had ever “truly understood his teaching” might have begun to question his own abilities in that regard. This World Teacher, however, evidently was not “conditioned” by any such need for self-evaluation.
Krishnamurti exhibited a lifelong penchant for fine, tailored clothing. One can further easily see clear vestiges, in his psychology, of the Indian caste system under which he had grown up (Vernon, 2001). Indeed, that background influenced him even to the point of his insisting that used books from others be wiped before his reading of them. In planning for his own death, he had further actually left instructions for the needed crematory oven to be thoroughly cleaned before his own use of it, and for that cleanliness to be verified by one of his followers. Evidently, this was to ensure that no one else’s “impure” ashes would commingle with his own holy, brahmin-caste remains.
We should all be so “unconditioned” by our own “forgotten” pasts, no?
[W]hen I interrogated Krishnamurti himself about the whole World Mother affair [i.e., the Theosophical Society’s short-lived programme for global spiritual upliftment under a chosen woman after the “World Teacher” plans for Krishnamurti had fallen through], he blurted out, “Oh, that was all cooked u” before he caught himself in the realization that he was admitting to a recollection of events in his early life which he later came to deny he possessed (Sloss, 2000).
[Emily Lutyens] said she knew Krishna was a congenital liar but that she would nevertheless always adore him....
My mother asked him once why he lied and he replied with astonishing frankness, “Because of fear” (Sloss, 2000).
Krinsh was outraged. His voice changed completely from a formal indifference to heated anger. It became almost shrill.
“I have no ego!” he said. “Who do you think you are, to talk to me like this?” (Sloss, 2000).
One day, history will reveal everything; but the division in Krishnamurti himself will cast a very dark shadow on all he has said or written. Because the first thing the readers will say, is: “If he cannot live it, who can?” (in Sloss, 2000).
Then the Krinsh slowly took off his World Teacher hat
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