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Blavatsky & Krishnamurti

Feb 05, 2009 08:12 PM
by Pedro Oliveira

(The article below is a contribution to a debate that started 
sometime in 1909 - or before - and still continues. It was published 
in The Theosophist, September 2008. PO)

Blavatsky and Krishnamurti: A Timeless Dialogue

Pedro Oliveira

All true spiritual teachers are unique. They have all shared with 
each other, throughout the ages of human evolution on this globe, a 
capacity to provoke thinking and to unsettle conditioned minds from 
their spiritual slumber. This may explain why many of them were 
profoundly misunderstood by their contemporaries. The orthodox 
religious mindset prevailing in both India and Judea, for example, 
rejected the message of both the Buddha and Jesus Christ. Their 
teaching was simply too radical and too disturbing to the 
psychological comfort zone of most people in their times.

Genuine spirituality is not concerned with acceptance of beliefs, 
explanations, descriptions of the world or presumed spiritual 
authority. Its core concern is true spiritual transformation through 
the contact with that which is uncreated, timeless and eternal. Such 
a transformation, when it is real and not imaginary, brings about a 
complete openness of mind and heart that endows every relationship 
with a quality of love and understanding that never fades away. 

The personalities of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Jiddu Krishnamurti 
were quite different. She was born in 1831 to a Russian aristocratic 
family, had a fiery temperament and loved adventure and travels. He 
was a shy, vacant-looking Telugu-speaking boy born in 1895 to a 
Brahmin family in South India. While she went on to found the 
Theosophical Society in 1875 and left behind a body of teachings 
which became the historical and metaphysical foundations of modern 
theosophical literature, he shook the Theosophical Society to its 
very core in 1929 when he dissolved the Order of the Star in the East 
and ceased his association with the TS and with a role he had not 

In spite of the abovementioned differences, there are profound 
similarities between some aspects of HPB's and Krishnaji's teachings 
on self-knowledge, the nature of the mind, newness, the self, 
understanding, true seeing and the timeless experience, among others. 
This article, however, is not an attempt to reconcile the views of 
such profoundly different individuals nor to justify why they 
differed. It is based on the premise that those who found wisdom 
share a perception of life which is fundamentally similar in its 
essential aspects for, as it was said of wisdom, `being but one, she 
can do all things: and remaining in herself, she maketh all things 

Perhaps students of both HPB's and Krishnaji's teachings may find 
this present attempt pointless. Some students of HPB's works seem to 
see Krishnamurti as a messianic invention by both Annie Besant and C. 
W. Leadbeater. On the other hand, some Krishnamurti students tend to 
look at the Theosophical Society as if it was `frozen' in the 1920s 
while apparently ignoring the fact that it emerged from that 
turbulent period reinvigorated by its refusal to ascribe authority to 
any person or any teaching, and by insisting that its members are 
free to explore the significance of life through their own enquiry. 
It is possible that wisdom-teachings from different epochs and 
cultures are indeed in dialogue with each other for they embody 
aspects of a perennial insight into life's unfathomable depths. The 
words of the wise may differ but their language is one.


"The first necessity for obtaining self-knowledge is to become 
profoundly conscious of ignorance; to feel with every fibre of the 
heart that one is ceaselessly self-deceived."(2)  

"To know oneself as one is requires an extraordinary alertness of 
mind, because what is is constantly undergoing transformation, 
change, and to follow it the mind must not be tethered to any 
particular dogma or belief, to any particular pattern of action."(3)  

The present age has been hailed as the `information age' and never 
than before human beings have a colossal amount of information and 
knowledge at their fingertips. Yet, and not surprisingly, self-
knowledge remains elusive and very rare. Both HPB and K suggested 
that without alertness and awareness one cannot see through the 
deceptions that mental activity creates. Several traditions have 
insisted that in order to know oneself there must be impersonal 
attention to what happens both within and without. Such attention not 
only sees through the machinations and illusions to which we have 
become accustomed to call `me' but also brings them to an end. Self-
knowledge is the beginning of transformation.

The Learning Mind     

"He must endeavor as much as possible to free his mind, while 
studying or trying to carry out that which is given him, from all the 
ideas which he may have derived by heredity, from education, from 
surroundings, or from other teachers. His mind should be made 
perfectly free from all other thoughts, so that the inner meaning of 
the instructions may be impressed upon him apart from the words in 
which they are clothed."(4)

"Reality is not as thing which is knowable by the mind, because the 
mind is the result of the known, of the past; therefore the mind must 
understand itself and its functioning, its truth, and only then is it 
possible for the unknown to be."(5)  

In order to learn the mind needs to educate itself. The word 
education comes from the Latin educere, `lead out'. Fresh 
understanding and insight are not possible if the mind is 
constantly `crowded' with opinions, second hand knowledge and 
reactions. They have to emerge from a deeper source within. The mind 
that truly learns is the one that pays attention to what is before 
it ? the `book of life' ? and has an understanding which is both 
sensitive and compassionate, which are qualities that can only unfold 
in the present moment. 


"Every such attempt as the Theosophical Society has hitherto ended in 
failure, because, sooner or later, it has degenerated into a sect, 
set up hard-and-fast dogmas of its own, and so lost by imperceptible 
degrees that vitality which living truth alone can impart. You must 
remember that all our members have been bred and born in some creed 
or religion, that all are more or less of their generation both 
physically and mentally, and consequently that their judgment is but 
too likely to be warped and unconsciously biased by some or all of 
these influences. If, then, they cannot be freed from such inherent 
bias, or at least taught to recognise it instantly and so avoid being 
led away by it, the result can only be that the Society will drift 
off on to some sandbank of thought or another, and there remain a 
stranded carcass to moulder and die."(6)

"Only when there is no residue of memory can there be newness and 
there is residue when experience is not finished, concluded, ended; 
that is when the understanding of experience is incomplete. When the 
experience is complete, there is no residue ? that is the beauty of 
life. Love is not residue, love is not experience, it is a state of 
being. Love is eternally new."(7) 

The world bears ample testimony that mindless identification with an 
ideology ? religious, political, intellectual, institutional ? begets 
separateness, aggressiveness, violence and bitter division. It has 
been said that the reason why people so identify themselves is 
because it gives them a sense of security. But this, alas, is only 
one aspect of the problem. The unconscious desire for power and 
authority is a very deep undercurrent in the human mind and it has 
the capacity to warp and twist our understanding and judgment, thus 
preventing us from knowing what newness truly is. Only contact with 
what is eternal, beyond time, what HPB referred to as `living truth', 
can make newness possible. Such a contact takes place only when there 
is the ending of all `residue' ? the debris of unfinished experience 
which generate conditioning in its many forms.

No Self-seeking

"The Book of the Golden Precepts ? some of which are pre-Buddhistic 
while others belong to a later date ? contains about ninety distinct 
little treatises. Of these I learnt thirty-nine by heart, years ago. 
To translate the rest, I should have to resort to notes scattered 
among a too large number of papers and memoranda collected for the 
last twenty years and never put in order, to make of it by any means 
an easy task. Nor could they be all translated and given to a world 
too selfish and too much attached to objects of sense to be in any 
way prepared to receive such exalted ethics in the right spirit. For, 
unless a man perseveres seriously in the pursuit of self-knowledge, 
he will never lend a willing ear to advice of this nature."(8) 

"Therefore there is no method for self-knowledge. Seeking a method 
invariably implies the desire to attain some result ? and that is 
what we all want. We follow authority ? if not that of a person, then 
of a system, of an ideology ? because we want a result which will be 
satisfactory, which will give us security. We really do not want to 
understand ourselves, our impulses and reactions, the whole process 
of our thinking, the conscious as well as the unconscious; we would 
rather pursue a system which assures us of a result. But the pursuit 
of a system is invariably the outcome of our desire for security, for 
certainty, and the result is obviously not the understanding of 

One of the interesting phenomena in the world today is the `self-
help' industry. It is a big business world wide, commanding millions 
of dollars and involving the production of many books, DVDs, 
seminars, workshops, etc. A pattern that pervades this industry is 
that it offers people what they want ? fulfillment, wealth, pleasure, 
recognition, personal power, psychic abilities, kundalini awakening, 
among many other things. Invariably, in such industry questioning the 
patterns of self-seeking is not encouraged as the aim is to enhance 
the capacities and powers of the personal self. And yet, the advice 
of the wise ones throughout the ages has been always the same: be 
aware of your motives, learn to look at yourself impersonally, be 
alert to the trappings created by self-interest. Self-seeking goes in 
the opposite direction of self-knowledge. The former imprisons us 
more and more in illusion and frustration; the latter opens the 
gateway to true spiritual freedom.   

Activity of the Mind

"The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. 
Let the Disciple slay the Slayer."(10) 

"Now what is the mind as it is functioning? It is actually a process 
of isolation, is it not? Fundamentally that is what the process of 
thought is. It is thinking in an isolated form, yet remaining 
collective. When you observe your own thinking, you will see it as an 
isolated, fragmentary process. You are thinking according to your 
reactions, the reactions of your memory, of your experience, of your 
knowledge, of your belief."(11) 

In the above passages, both HPB and Krishnaji point out one of the 
essential features of the activity of the mind: its self-created 
separation from Reality. Our minds, under the sway of self-centered 
activity, prevent us from having a true and complete relationship 
with life in all its splendour. Unless we actually see for ourselves 
the continuous process of isolation created by the personal mind it 
is of no use anybody telling us about it. In the strongly 
metaphorical language of The Voice of the Silence, one has to `slay 
the Slayer', which may mean looking at all mental activity ? 
thoughts, memories, emotions, reactions ? without automatically 
identifying with it.

What is the Self?   

"The Self of matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet. 
One of the twain must disappear; there is no place for both."(12)  

"Where you are, the other is not."(13)  

Evolution is a vast process, stretching to almost unimaginable 
periods of time. Throughout this process consciousness unfolds many 
capacities and at the human stage it is centred in the mind and its 
activities. Even emotional responses are dependent upon and 
conditioned by mental activity. Thus the mind becomes the centre of 
our individuality, which has at its core a strong, resistant and 
resilient sense of self. It is like a fortress in which self-image 
and self-importance are the protecting walls. 

A close consideration and study reveal that such sense of 
individuality and self are not natural developments of the 
evolutionary movement. They are acquired and are the mind's response 
to the process of experience. When the experience is pleasant there 
is identification and attachment. When it is unpleasant, there is 
repulsion and avoidance. But the wise ones have taught that we do not 
need to remain in such a state of bondage, that freedom is possible 
and that that freedom is within, for it is what we really are: the 
Other, the One without a second, the Self of all things, the 
uncreated Order.

Dying to the Past   

"Long and weary is the way before thee, O Disciple. One single thought
about the past that thou hast left behind, will drag thee down and 
thou wilt have to start the climb anew."(14)  

"Kill in thyself all memory of past experiences. Look not behind or 
thou art lost."(15)  

"When the mind is agitated, questioning, worrying, dissecting, 
analyzing, there is no understanding. When there is the intensity to 
understand, the mind is obviously tranquil."(16)

Past impressions have a strong pull on the mind and condition its 
activity. Perhaps one of the reasons why we dwell such much on the 
memory of past experiences is because of our profound attachment to 
and identification with our self-image. This intense process causes a 
serious drainage of energy and in order to know ourselves we need the 
energy of attention and wakefulness. Life only happens in the present 
and continuous attention to the present is necessary for the mind to 
gain that capacity of seeing things clearly. There is no light in 
past experiences. 

Learning to Listen and to See

"Unless thou hearest, thou canst not see. 
Unless thou seest thou canst not hear."(17)  

"To understand a problem obviously requires a certain intelligence, 
and that intelligence cannot be derived from or cultivated through 
specialization. It comes only when we are passively aware of the 
whole process of our consciousness, which is to be aware of ourselves 
without choice, without choosing what is right and what is 

Most people seem to have no difficulty in hearing and seeing what is 
happening around them. In scientific work, the capacity for hearing 
and seeing has been developed to a great degree and we now have, for 
example, potent telescopes that send images from the farthest reaches 
of the universe that one can see in one's home computer! But it is 
quite another matter to hear and see what is actually happening 
within oneself. In the US recently an astronaut, highly trained 
scientifically and intellectually, was charged with attempting to 
assault another fellow astronaut who apparently got in the way of her 
romantic interest. To truly learn how to see and listen to what 
happens within one's consciousness requires a quiet objectivity and 
dispassion, an awareness that comes into being when one realizes that 
the honest confrontation of oneself is the only sane alternative. 

Looking Without Images 

"For mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects. It 
needs the gentle breezes of Soul-Wisdom to brush away the dust of our 
illusions. Seek O Beginner, to blend thy Mind and Soul."(19) 

"To look is important. We look to immediate things and out of 
immediate necessities to the future, coloured by the past. Our seeing 
is very limited and our eyes are accustomed to near things. Our look 
is as bound by time-space as our brain. We never look, we never see 
beyond this limitation; we do not know how to look through and beyond 
these fragmentary frontiers. But the eyes have to see beyond them, 
penetrating deeply and widely, without choosing, without shelter; 
they have to wander beyond man-made frontiers of ideas and values and 
to feel beyond love."(20)  

In both above-mentioned statements one aspect of the mind's 
conditioning is highlighted. As St Paul wrote, `now we see through a 
glass, darkly' (1Cor.13:12). Whatever we see ? Nature, other people, 
ourselves ? we see it through the dark glass of our conditioning, our 
psychological memory, the accumulated impressions of many 
experiences, reactions, predilections as well as inherited responses. 
These become inbuilt in the very process of perception. On the other 
hand, when there is the glimmering of wisdom within there is a new 
perception that reveals the intrinsic nature of everything. As C. 
Jinarajadasa wrote, `even a wayside flower throbs with the message of 
the cosmos'. For the unaware a wayside flower is just another little 
flower like all others; for someone who is learning to look without 
images, it is an embodiment of timeless beauty, order and grace.

Love is the Only Real Relationship

"To reach Nirvana one must reach Self-Knowledge, and Self-Knowledge 
is of loving deeds the child."(21)  

"There can be true relationship only when there is love but love is 
not the search for gratification. Love exists only when there is self-
forgetfulness, when there is complete communion, not between one or 
two, but communion with the highest; and that can only take place 
when the self is forgotten."(22)  

HPB's statement quoted above is nothing short of revolutionary. There 
will be some for whom self-knowledge is a private, individual affair, 
and who tend to shun relationships as `obstacles' on their way to 
knowing themselves. But her words clearly indicate that it is only 
through love that Self-knowledge comes, almost as if suggesting that 
loving deeds helps us to gain access to a much deeper dimension 
within ourselves. Krishnaji's statement that love exists only where 
there is self-forgetfulness equally implies that genuine love is free 
from the entanglements that arise from self-centered activity. In a 
fundamental sense, there is no difference between self-knowledge and 
love in their true meaning.

Freedom from Oneself

"The way to final freedom is within thy SELF. 
That way begins and ends outside of Self."(23)  

"The fundamental understanding of oneself does not come through 
knowledge or through accumulation of experiences, which is merely the 
cultivation of memory. The understanding of oneself is from moment to 
moment; if we merely accumulate knowledge of the self, that very 
knowledge prevents further understanding, because accumulated 
knowledge and experience becomes the centre through which thought
focuses and has its being."(24)  

The word `paradox' has a very interesting etymology. It is a Greek 
composite word: para, `beyond', and doxa, `opinion'. A paradox, 
therefore, is an expression or a teaching that challenges, perturbs 
and unsettles accepted opinions on a given subject. The passage from 
The Voice of the Silence quoted above is a paradox: freedom is within 
us but the way to it begins and ends outside of self. The ample 
canvas of human experience throughout the ages attests to the fact 
that any self-based endeavour sooner or later ends in frustration. As 
the well-known saying affirms, `the path of Occultism [or Self-
Knowledge] is strewn with wrecks'. Illustrating the insidious ways of 
the personal self, the Buddha, in one of his sermons, compared the 
self to a stranger that comes in the dead of night to a household, 
asks for food and shelter, gets liked by all the family in the 
household, and eventually kills the householder and takes over his 
entire property and family. Unless one is self-aware, from moment to 
moment, as suggested by Krishnaji, inner freedom remains elusive. 
Another paradox: in order to know oneself one has to be free from 
oneself as a product of past experiences. 

Undying Life

"He standeth now like a white pillar to the west, upon whose face the 
rising Sun of thought eternal poureth forth its first most glorious 
waves. His mind, like a becalmed and boundless ocean, spreadeth out 
in shoreless space. He holdeth life and death in his strong 

"Life is always the active present; time always belongs to the past 
and so to the future. And death to time is life in the present. It is 
this life that is immortal, not life in consciousness. Time is 
thought in consciousness and consciousness is held within its frame. 
There is always fear and sorrow within the network of thought and 
feeling. The ending of sorrow is the ending of time."(26)  

The word 'samsâra' means, among other things, going or wandering 
through the circuit of mundane existence, the world, worldly 
illusion. It is described in ancient scriptures as a wheel that 
imprisons the soul or mind in birth, death and rebirth. One of the 
strongest currents in the mighty stream of samsâra is 'avidyâ', the 
primordial or beginningless ignorance or unawareness. Great seers 
have maintained that it is ignorance that attaches us to life and 
makes us afraid of death; such a pattern has dominated human life on 
earth for millennia. 

But in every age there have been those few who have walked into the 
wilderness, through uncharted territory, and discovered the truth 
about the human condition. One of their fundamental discoveries is 
that life and death are not opposites that we should fear or become 
attached to. They are simply two aspects of the same existence. It is 
our perception of them that makes them appear separate and distinct, 
but they are one. 

There is life in death, and death in life. To die to all experiences, 
all attachments, all projected images of oneself and of others is to 
discover uncreated, immortal life. And to live without accumulating 
experiences but understanding them as they arise and to be completely 
free from the tyranny of time which breaks the unbreakable Whole into 
past, present and future, is to welcome renewal. In such a 
consciousness suffering comes to an end, naturally, effortlessly. 

HPB and Krishnaji never met each other but the essence of what they 
taught was perhaps part of a timeless dialogue. For as she co-founded 
the Theosophical Society and left a legacy of profound wisdom and 
insight, he helped us to realize that the word ? the teaching ? is 
not the thing and that the fragrance of sacredness is to be found in 
a life untouched by the self and its pretty concerns.


1. Wisdom of Solomon, 7:27
2. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. VIII, edited by Boris de  
Zirkoff, Theosophical Publishing House: Madras, 1960, p. 109.   
3. Krishnamurti, J. First and Last Freedom, Victor Gollancz: London, 
1961, p. 44.
4. Collected Writings, op. cit. vol. XII, p. 493. 
5. Krishnamurti, op.cit., p. 98.  
6. Blavatsky, H. P. The Key to Theosophy, Theosophical Publishing 
House: London, 1968, Conclusion.
7. Krishnamurti, op.cit., p. 247.
8. Blavatsky, H. P. The Voice of the Silence, The Theosophical 
Publishing House: Chennai, 1998, Preface.
9. Krishnamurti, op.cit., p. 47. 
10.Blavatsky, op. cit., I, 4-5.
11.Krishnamurti, op.cit., p. 115-116.
12.Blavatsky, op. cit., I, 56.
13.Within the Mind ? On J. Krishnamurti published by Krishnamurti 
Foundation India: Madras, 1983, p. 13.
14.Blavatsky, op. cit., I, 74.
15.op. cit., I, 75.
16.Krishnamurti, op.cit., p. 242.
17.Blavatsky, op. cit., I, 82-83. 
18.Krishnamurti, op.cit., p. 96.  
19.Blavatsky, op. cit., II, 115. 
20.Krishnamurti, J. Krishnamurti's Notebook Krishnamurti Foundation   
India: Chennai, 2003, p. 34. 
21.Blavatsky, op. cit., II, 136. 
22.Krishnamurti, J. First and Last Freedom, pp. 180-181.
23.Blavatsky, op. cit., II, 169-170. 
24.Krishnamurti, op. cit., p. 46.
25.Blavatsky, op. cit., III, 282. 
26.Krishnamurti, J. Krishnamurti's Notebook, p. 143. 

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