Jiddu Krishnamurti, the religious philosopher and teacher, died of cancer yesterday at his residence at the Krishnamurti Foundation in Ojai, California. He was 90 years old.
Failing health last month forced Mr. Krishnamurti to cut short his final visit to India, where he gave his last public talk Jan. 3 in Madras, the place of his birth. His last appearances in New York were at a gathering at the United Nations in April 1985 and two talks before capacity audiences at Carnegie Hall in March 1982.
Mr. Krishnamurti continued to draw young listeners as well as elderly admirers who remembered the years when many revered him as virtually the new messiah, a notion he firmly renounced more than 55 years ago.
His "Teachings" are based on unflinching self-knowledge
His teaching - he was distrustful of the word - was based on self-reliance and unflinching self-knowledge. People, he said, must understand themselves without delusions, a challenge that only they can meet and they must meet to change society for the better.
Renunciation of Religion
Mr. Krishnamurti renounced all organized religions and ideologies in 1929, saying that religions, with their prescribed teachings and worship services, retarded self-awareness. In that spirit, he carried his message to audiences in many countries.
People who agreed with him supported him and the nonprofit foundations he set up in southern California, England and Madras. But unlike some other Eastern gurus with a western following, he was rarely accused of exploiting their trust.
When he was not traveling, he spent most time in Ojai, a resort town he first saw in 1922. He established the principal Krishnamurti Foundation in 1969 and was still chairman of the board at the time of his death. Aside from an office and his residence, the foundation operates the Oak Grove School, founded on the other side of town in 1975. With about 90 students from preschool to high school age, the school teaches regular academic subjects and encourages students to think for themselves, according to the foundation.
Mr. Krishnamurti was the author of about 40 books, some of which were collections of talks and conversations. Erna Lillienfelt, a foundation trustee in Ojai, said a new book by him, "The Future of Humanity", a series of discussions he had with Dr. David Bohm, a physicist, was to be issued by Mr. Krishnamurti's publisher, Harper & Row, in early May.
The foundation, which has no members, says it is impossible to estimate how many people might practice Mr. Krishnamurti's philosophy. But according to Mrs. Lillienfelt, the mailing list of the American Foundation alone has grown to 20,000.
Foundations and schools in California, England and India will continue
She said the Foundation would continue its schools, including five in India and one in Hampshire, England, and the task of seeing to the publication of his books, most of which remain in print.
Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in May 11, 1895, outside Madras, where the family later moved. His father, Jiddu Narayania, a poorly paid civil servant, was a devout Brahmin as well as a Theosophist who worked part-time in the Madras office of the Theosophist Society, a pan-religious movement.
When Jiddu Krishnamurti was a teenager, he became the protege of Annie Besant, president of the Theosophist Society. It was Mrs. Besant, who was highly visible in India as a political and social reformer, who hailed the boy as the chosen vehicle of what she called the Great Teacher or the World Teacher.
The reference was to a messianic Buddha figure in Hindu mythology. To further the cause, Mrs. Besant in 1911 founded the World Order of the Star of the East, with Mr. Krishnamurti at its head.
He was privately educated in England and at the Sorbonne in Paris, and Mrs. Besant traveled with him in Europe and in the United States. His early visits to New York in the 1920's became choice items for the city's many tabloids, which feasted on the fervor of Mrs. Besants followers and their notion of the new Messiah.
By the mid-1920's, Mrs.Besant issued public disclaimers noting that she and the Order of the Star had never made such claims. The World Teacher, she insisted, had spoken through the body of Jesus 2,000 years ago and had made Mr. Krishnamurti his "vehicle" this time.
Mr. Krishnamurti made his break in 1929 by dissolving the order and repudiating the idea that salvation could be had by following a cult leader. Instead, he embarked on a mission to set human beings "absolutely, unconditionally free."
Mr. Krishnamurti, a tall, striking figure, with a head of once dark hair, spoke with a proper upper-class English accent. A vegetarian, teetotaler, nonsmoker and practitioner of yoga, he dressed in Western suits or traditional Indian wear according to his surroundings.
Over the years he counted among his friends such world figures as George Bernard Shaw, Henry Miller and Aldous Huxley. Huxley wrote in 1961 that listening to Mr. Krishnamurti was "like listening to the discourse of a Buddha."
In accordance with his wishes, there will be no memorial service. He is to be cremated, with his ashes scattered at the foundation sites in California, England and India.