A Jewel on a Silver Platter: Remembering Jiddu Krishnamurti

N.p: Peepal Leaves, 2015. 417 + xiii pp., $30 hardcover; $20 paper; $10 digital PDF.

A Jewel on a Silver Platter: Remembering Jiddu Krishnamurti is a collection of personal accounts about this modern spiritual teacher by those who knew him well. Its author, Padmanabhan Krishna, a longstanding member of the Theosophical Society, is a trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation in India and was rector of the Rajgat Besant School in Varanasi, India. He also knew Krishnamurti for many years and has a deep grasp of his teachings. All this puts him in an ideal position to write this book.

The author first seeks to provide a sense of who Krishnamurti was, not just as a teacher on a platform, but as a person in real life. A record of personal interactions, especially those during the last months of Krishnamurti’s life, illustrates his responses in different situations, which always revolved around his primary motive — a deep concern for the welfare of human beings. Interviews with senior associates such as Achyut Patwardhan, Vimala Thakar, Radha Burnier, and Mark Lee convey their experiences and their struggles to understand this extraordinary individual. (A version of an interview with Burnier, late international president of the TS, was published in Quest, spring 2015.) These reports, along with a collection of anecdotes, gives the reader access to intimate aspects of his personality that are not widely known.

The book also presents a fine collection of short essays written by Prof. Krishna that serve as a good introduction to Krishnamurti’s work. They either examine the fundamental aspects of his teachings or enquire into important matters of life in the manner furthered by Krishnamurti himself. There is a glossary of terms provided that the novice will find useful.

The author does not shy away from some interesting aspects of Krishnamurti’s personality and life, which constitute what is sometimes referred to as “the mystery of K.” Prof. Krishna enquires into his role as the “World Teacher,” something Krishnamurti typically refused to discuss in public. Several passages also show that Krishnamurti did not deny the existence of the Masters of Wisdom. For example, in one dialogue with Radha Burnier, Krishnamurti asked her, “Do you know what the Masters meant to amma [Annie Besant]? She would give her life for it! Knowing that, now tell me, do you believe in the Masters?” “Yes,” said Radhaji emphatically. Krishnaji held her hands and said, “Good!” Rather it was the misunderstandings of what the Masters really are, and the dependence that results, that Krishnamurti criticized.

The book also explores Krishnamurti’s remarkable sensitivity, which gave him perceptions and abilities most would regard as miraculous. There are accounts of instances in which he sensed invisible disturbances in places, perceived people’s thoughts, healed illnesses, and performed similar phenomena. Although he had these occult abilities, he was not attracted to them because, as he stated, this is “another form of power, it has nothing to do with goodness.” As the author remarks, “To him freedom from the ego was more essential than the cultivation of any power because the ego can misuse any power, including occult power.”

Krishnamurti’s life is a concrete embodiment of many Theosophical principles. His attitude and his at times cryptic statements suggest how a person who knows “the hidden side of things” firsthand acts in everyday life. For example, after finding out that a person they both knew had been arrested, Prof. Krishna tried to talk about it with Krishnamurti. However, says the author, “Before I could repeat the words I had heard on TV, he stopped me saying, ‘Don’t utter those words Sir! They attract evil. Just say poor fellow and move on.’ That was his level of purity.” Students of Theosophy familiar with the effect of negative thought-forms and their association with elementals and skandhas will recognize in Krishnamurti’s attitude the same advice repeatedly given by H.P. Blavatsky, Besant, and C.W. Leadbeater.

There are a few statements regarding the TS that its members may find inaccurate. As the author states, this is a truthful record of actual conversations, and they simply reflect the views of the speakers at that time. In fact, the book is written in a fair-minded spirit, true to Prof. Krishna’s personality, and certainly does not contain the kind of disparaging statements about Theosophical matters that one often finds in some books about the life of Krishnamurti.

A Jewel on a Silver Platter is a valuable addition to the literature about this influential world teacher. All those interested in his life, teachings, and approach to education would do well to add this significant resource to their bookshelves.

Pablo Sender

Pablo Sender lectures frequently for the TS worldwide. His writings are available on his website, www.pablosender.com.

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