[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Why Adyar was chosen

Dec 08, 2008 00:29 AM
by Pedro Oliveira

[Below is the text of an article written by me and published in The 
Theosophist, May 2004]

Why Adyar Was Chosen

The Founders of the Theosophical Society did not have a personal 
agenda. Their critics kept (and still keep) saying that they were 
either spies, cultural saboteurs, frauds and even agents of the 
devil! But the lives of Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, their 
legacy and the uplifting influence they had on many who met them, 
speak for themselves.

Although the TS was founded in New York in 1875, HSO and HPB sailed 
to India on 17 December 1878, arriving in Bombay on 16 February 
1879, where they eventually established their headquarters at `Crows 
Nest', in Breach Candy. Neither Olcott nor Blavatsky made a secret 
of being both dedicated to serve those great souls who are referred 
to as Mahatmas in the East. There is ample independent evidence from 
that time that at least two Mahatmas occasionally visited and had 
conversations with both of the Founders during their life of work 
for the Society. Sometimes such visits would come at crucial 
moments, either when HPB was at death's door or when the pressure on 
Col. Olcott was at breaking point. In such visits the Mahatmas 
offered healing, guidance and reassurance to the Founders about 
their work for the TS, without taking upon themselves the heavy 
responsibilities the Founders had voluntarily accepted to undertake.

Writing in The Theosophist, July1882, in an editorial comment 
entitled "Coming Events Foretold", which preceded a statement by a 
chela of Ramalinga Pillay who, much before the Founders had arrived 
in India, had preached the principle of Universal Brotherhood and 
the existence of the Mahatmas, HPB remarked:

"When, in answer to a direct challenge, the author of The Occult 
World wrote to the Bombay Gazette (April 4, 1882), he began his 
letter with the following profession of faith: "I was already sure, 
when I wrote The Occult World, that the Theosophical Society was 
connected, through Madame Blavatsky, with the great Brotherhood of 
Adepts I described. I now know this to be the case, which much 
greater amplitude of knowledge." Little did our loyal friend fancy, 
when he was penning these lines, that his assertion would one day be 
capable of corroboration by the testimony of thousands. But such is 
now the state of the case. Skeptics and prejudiced or interested 
witnesses in general may scoff as they like, the fact cannot be 
gainsaid. ...

While at Madras [May,1882], we were told that a well-known Tamil 
scholar, a Pandit in the Presidency College, desired to have a 
private conversation with us. The interview occurred in the presence 
of Mr Singaravelu, President of the Krishna Theosophical Society, 
and another trustworthy Theosophist, Mr C. Aravamudu Ayangar, a 
Sanskritist, of Nellore. We are no more at liberty to repeat here 
all the questions put to us by the interviewer than we are to 
divulge certain other facts, which would still more strongly 
corroborate our repeated assertions that (1) our Society was founded 
at the direct suggestion of Indian and Tibetan Adepts; and (2) that 
in coming to this country we but obeyed their wishes. But we shall 
leave our friends to draw their own inferences from all the facts."  

Although the Society quickly expanded with the arrival of the 
Founders in India, they were searching for a suitable Headquarters. 
In Old Diary Leaves (Second Series), Col. Olcott explains:

"In my travels over India and Ceylon I had been observing places, 
people, and climates, with a view to selecting the best place for a 
permanent Headquarters for the Society. Liberal offers of houses, 
free of rent, had been made us in Ceylon, and, certainly, the Island 
presented a most charming appearance to one seeking an Asian home; 
but several considerations, such as its isolation from India, the 
cost of postage ... overweighted its loveliness and led us to choose 
India in preference. Up to the present time, however, no good 
property had been offered us, and we had made no definite plans. On 
31st May [1882], however, we two were begged by Judge Muttuswamy's 
sons to go and look at a property that was to be had cheap. We were 
driven to Adyar, and at the first glance knew that our future home 
was found. 

People glibly speak of Madras as "the Benighted Presidency" and as 
being insufferably hot. The fact is, however, that as regards 
climate I prefer it above the others, and as to Sanskrit Literature 
and Aryan Philosophy, it is the most enlightened of the Indian 
Presidencies; there are more learned Pandits in the villages, and 
the educated class, as a whole, have been less spoilt by Western 
education. In Bengal and Bombay there are more litterateurs of the 
class of Telang and Bhandarkar, but I cannot recall one equal to T. 
Subba Row, of Madras, in bright genius for grasping the spirit of 
the Ancient Wisdom. And his being at Madras was one of the causes of 
our fixing upon that Presidency town for our official residence. 
Although he is dead and gone, yet we have never regretted our 
choice, for Adyar is a sort of paradise."

To fully appreciate Col. Olcott's reference to Subba Row it may be 
helpful to mention the  following passages from The Mahatma Letters 
to A. P. Sinnett: 

"This Subba Row will help you [Sinnett] to learn, though his terms ? 
he being an initiated Brahmin and holding to the Brahmanical 
esoteric teaching ? will be different from those of the "Arhat 
Buddhist" terminology". (Letter 60, chronological.) 

"Upasika (Madam B.) and Subba Row, though pupils of the same Master, 
have not followed the same philosophy ? the one is Buddhist and the 
other an Adwaitee." (Letter 120, chronological.) 

The presence of this initiated Chela in Madras was therefore of 
paramount importance in the Founders' decision to establish the TS 
Headquarters there. And it also made clear the character of Adyar as 
a centre for the Masters' work.  

HPB, in a letter to her aunt Nadyezhda A. de Fadeyev (published in 
The Path, September 1895), described the beautiful quiet that is one 
of the enduring aspects of Adyar as a spiritual centre:

"It is simply delightful. What air we have here; what nights! And 
what marvellous quiet! No more city noises and street yells. I am 
sitting quietly writing, and now and then gaze over the ocean 
sparkling all over as if a living thing ? really. I am often under 
the impression that the sea breathes, or that it is angry, roaring 
and hurling itself about in wrath... But when it is quiet and 
caressing, there can be nothing in the world as fascinating as its 
beauty, especially on a moonlight night. The moon here against the 
deep dark-blue sky seems twice as big and ten times brighter than 
your European little mother-of-pearl ball."

Such were the momentous beginnings of Adyar as the home of the 
Theosophical Society. It was not only the home of the Founders; it 
was and it remains the heart of the worldwide theosophical work 
which was spearheaded by them. During Annie Besant's presidency the 
state was expanded into the beautiful campus it is today. Many 
generations of devoted workers have served there and their 
dedication, devotion and profound altruistic commitment to Theosophy 
has definitely contributed in making Adyar the `Flaming Centre' it 

The beauty of Adyar is indeed incomparable and it exerts a profound 
influence on the consciousness of those who visit or stay there, 
sometimes even of those who just visit for a very short while. While 
working there the writer had the occasion of meeting rather briefly 
an overseas businessman on a short visit to Madras. He came to Adyar 
and his experience there led him to say: "It is a pity I that I have 
to go away so soon. This is a remarkable place. There is something 
sacred here." This was, of course, the experience of many, many 
others. Perhaps it is not difficult to understand that 121 years of 
continuous theosophical work for the spiritual regeneration of 
humanity have created at Adyar a very special and profound 
atmosphere. Annie Besant expressed this realization beautifully when 
she wrote: "Work for Adyar, the Masters' Home". In this way Adyar is 
the very heart of the Theosophical Society, radiating those powerful 
and uplifting influences to every theosophical centre in the world 
as well as to the entire planet.

Therefore those who, from time to time, say or imply that the 
International Headquarters of the TS should be elsewhere do not 
have, obviously, an informed opinion about the subject. Sometimes 
one of the reasons given for such a change is the perceived lack of 
security and efficiency in India. Let us examine this point. The 
attacks on New York on 11 September 2001 have made clear that 
absolute security is a myth, for if terrorists could strike at the 
heart of the nation with the mightiest military power on earth, as 
they did, they could do so anywhere else in the world. Also, the 
Theosophical Society is not a business corporation seeking to 
dominate any given market. It is not, and it has never been, guided 
by worldly values or sagacity. The peace, quiet, harmony and 
indescribable beauty of Adyar are, in themselves, an enormous 
contribution to the world, for through them the Great Ones pour out 
constantly their regenerating blessings. As for efficiency, the 
example at Adyar is given by our International President herself, 
for she works seven days a week, travels incessantly to visit and 
speak to centres of the TS worldwide, deals with an inhumane amount 
of correspondence and is responsible for the overall activities at 
that Centre. Also, Adyar has kept apace with the new technologies 
and all the major offices are provided with electronic 
communications, the Centre has an informative web site and the 
Theosophical Publishing House has an online catalogue and its books 
are in constant demand.

For the individual member who has the unique privilege of working 
and serving at Adyar, there is a very special opportunity. Unlike 
many in the world today believe, a real spiritual centre is not 
meant for people to have `a good time', receive `messages from 
gurus', develop `powers', nor any of the like. The power of a true 
spiritual centre, when one is sincere, helps to accelerate in the 
individual the process of self-confrontation, bringing to the 
surface of the conscious mind every hitherto hidden content, 
tendencies, deceptions and vices, as well as  spiritual aspiration, 
goodness and any other moral quality which were laying dormant 
within him or her.  This results in a very efficient and lasting 
educational process, helping the person to lay strong foundations on 
the path of self-knowledge, for unless one is self-aware one cannot 
really help the forces of wisdom and compassion in their work to 
liberate human consciousness from the illusion of separateness. 

It is a very great privilege and honour to have Adyar has the head 
and the heart of the Theosophical Society. And the fact that many, 
many members, all over the world, remember Adyar and support it in 
every way they can is an eloquent testimony of Adyar's living and 
strong spiritual heritage. May Adyar grow always stronger and may 
those TS members who are ready offer themselves to go there and 
devote the best years of their lives to what Adyar stands for: the 
spiritual regeneration of humanity.      


[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application