Born in 1895 in a small town west of Madras, Krishnamurti was the eighth child of Brahmin parents. Against his express wishes, the house where he was born has since been declared a national monument by the Indian Government.
In 1909 his father, a minor government official, moved to the International Headquarters of the Theosophical Society of Madras. For some years the Society had been looking for the coming of Maitreya, the next ‘World Teacher’ after Krishna, the Buddha, and Jesus.
Charles Leadbeater, a senior figure in the Theosophical Society, who claimed to be clairvoyant, picked out the boy Krishnamurti as ‘the Vehicle for the Lord Maitreya’ and in 1911 an organisation was formed by Annie Besant and Leadbeater called the Order of the Star in the East, of which Krishnamurti was made the head. Years later, in 1922, Krishnamurti was said to undergo a profound spiritual experience in Ojai, California, and in April 1927 was finally declared by Mrs Besant to be ‘The World Teacher’.
It then came as a severe shock to most of his followers when in August 1929 Krishnamurti publicly dissolved the Order of the Star, declaring that no organisation could lead to the discovery of truth. His only concern would be ‘to set man free.’ He was to dismiss the title of ‘World Teacher’ as a ‘flimsy label,’ belief or disbelief in it being irrelevant. He then went on for the rest of his life to give talks around the world when invited to do so, and probably spoke with more human beings than anyone has ever done on the deeper issues of life. As time went on Foundations were set up in India, America, England and Spain to preserve and make available his works, and schools were also established in India, America and England.
Krishnamurti’s life was by any standard remarkable. For some people the aura of ‘The World Teacher’, of a twentieth century Maitreya or Messiah, always clung to him, while others saw him as a fallible, if extraordinary, human being. Most people were deeply impressed, overwhelmed even, but it is of course difficult to know how much of that was in the eye of the beholder. Certainly anything that smacked of worship or personality cult was anathema to him. What nobody would dispute is that for more than sixty years Krishnamurti argued passionately that the problems facing us demand a radical change in human consciousness.