The Theosophical Society has its international headquarters at Adyar, a locality in Chennai. I don’t know much about Theosophy, but I had read J. Krishnamurti’s biography by Mary Lutyens and what attracted me to this place was the link between the Society and Krishnamurti.
The Theosophists were expecting a messiah (a World Teacher in their terminology) who would lead the world towards enlightenment. Discovered by Charles Leadbeater near the Adyar river, a lot of hopes were built up on Krishnamurti to be a vehicle for this role. At the age of 27, Krishnamurti underwent intense spiritual experiences in Ojai, California and was said to have achieved enlightenment.
But a few years later, he declared in his speech at Ommen in Netherlands that he was dissolving the order since he believed that truth is a pathless land and a spiritual leader is not required to lead them towards it. A lot of the Theosophists became disillusioned and depressed because of this event. But a new set of people started following Krishnamurti and he went on to achieve his destiny as a World Teacher. To me it all sounded like a spiritual fairy tale – searching for something all your life and finding it finally, but not recognizing it at that moment.
Last June, 2 of us went to Chennai for a friend’s wedding reception. Adyar was very close to the reception venue, so we visited it just before catching the train back. Inside the compound, it was beautiful – lots of trees, well maintained gardens, old buildings. Monuments for each faith seemed to be present – we sighted a Gurudwara, a church and a temple.
We visited the museum and found some old photographs, books and articles displayed. It didn’t seem to be well stocked though, probably they showed more only to members of the Society and less to the general public. A disappointment for me was that it was mostly about the Theosophical Society and less about Krishnamurti (which was sort of expected).
While roaming around the compound, we came to know something surprising – a 450 year old Banyan tree located here is considered to be among the largest trees in the world. On seeing an old caretaker nearby, we asked him about this institution and its history, but he seemed to be more interested in showing us the tree than telling us about Krishnamurti. 🙂
Other than the beautiful surroundings, the only consolation I got out of the trip was, to see the bench near the Banyan tree where Krishnamurti had sat and had given one of his famous discourses more than a century back.