Universality & Particularity
Competing Visions of Hindu Divinity

Militant Hinduism
The galvanizing event in the recent history of religion in India was the destruction of the so-called Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, a sleepy pilgrimage town on the Gangetic Plain southeast of Delhi. There, on December 6, 1992, Hindu militants pulled down a Mughal mosque stone by stone as two hundred thousand people watched and cheered. They were clearing the ground for a massive temple to Rama on the site they believe to be this god’s birthplace — a site, therefore, where no mosque ever belonged. ...
Turmoils at Ayodhya have had a way of coinciding with major political shifts. Confrontations between groups of Hindus and Muslims shortly preceded the British takeover of that part of India in 1856 and again followed the great anti-British revolt of 1857. About a century later, in 1949, soon after the British had “quit India” and the subcontinent had suffered a bloody partition into the sister states of India and Pakistan, an image of Rama suddenly appeared inside the precincts of the mosque. Heralded as a miracle by some and as a hoax by others, this event led to a long moratorium in which the mosque/temple was closed to worship, by court order. When judges opened the doors again in 1986, the struggle intensified, this time primarily under the pressure of a massive campaign waged by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, or World Hindu Council), a group with close ties to the major instrument of Hindu nationalism in India today, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP depicted itself to voters across India and to expatriates around the world as the one force capable of rescuing India from the long-ruling Congress Party’s policies of socialism, unbalanced secularism, slavish submission to the demands of minorities, and general corruption. The BJP portrayed itself as the superior party on two fronts. First, it was clean and efficient — a claim that enjoyed somewhat greater credence before the BJP actually acceded to rule in several states. Second, it was a party with a central agenda, and an agenda about a center. That center was Hinduness (hindutva), a concept it borrowed from Hindu groups who had been active since the early decades of this century. The BJP filled out the concept by giving it a physical focus: it held up Ayodhya as the symbolic center of Hindu life. Ayodhya was depicted as the ideal city, the city where the god Rama had watched over his golden-age kingdom (ram rajya). As the divine exemplar of sovereignty, Rama himself was to be India’s ruler again, with the BJP (and implicitly sister groups such as the VHP) as his chief instruments of power.
The problem as the BJP saw it was that Ayodhya, once a truly sacred center, had been defiled. Its most massive building was now a mosque, a structure representative of a polity and religion that the BJP and VHP depicted as belonging to an invader — politically Mughal, religiously Muslim. The mosque must go if India was to recover the sacred core of its identity. A new temple marking Rama’s birthplace would supplant it. ...
Toward the end of 1990, drama yielded to confrontation as the BJP and its allies sent the first “troops” to attack the mosque itself. Tens of thousands of activists massed, and six of them were killed by police in the fray. Instantly, they became martyrs. From then onward clouds gathered thickly as electoral struggles intensified — there were major BJP victories at the polls in 1991 — and at the end of 1992 another major thrust against the mosque was organized. This time hundreds of thousands of militants flooded into Ayodhya, camping in regional groups and often in settings prepared with near-military precision. December 6 was the day announced for attack (“liberation”), and a flurry of last-minute measures involving the provincial and central governments and the judiciary ultimately did nothing to deflect it. To many people’s surprise — and horror — the government failed to intervene in any decisive way. In five hours’ time the mosque came down, its three great domes crashing into a dusty sea of rubble. (The Life of Hinduism, 257-9)

Hinduism as “Universal Religion”
Jiddu Krishnamurti
Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in 1895 in the town of Madanapalle in the hill-country of southern Andhra Pradesh. His father, a struggling clerk, was a member of the Theosophical Society. After his retirement, he took Krishna and three of his other children to the society’s headquarters in Chennai, where he had found employment. Soon after their arrival, C. W. Leadbeater, a prominent Theosophist, became convinced that Krishna was meant to be the vehicle of the World Teacher that he and his colleagues were awaiting. Soon Krishna had been adopted by Annie Besant, the President of the Theosophical Society, who became his legal guardian. In 1911 an organisation called the Order of the Star in the East was founded with Krishna at its head. The same year he was taken to England, where he lived for the next ten years. Tutored by members of the Society, he grew up in an atmosphere charged with occult mysteries. He also received a conventional education, but repeatedly failed his examinations.
About Us
Welcome to the Theosophical Society in America
The Theosophical Society in America is a membership organization, branch of a world fellowship — the International Theosophical Society with headquarters in Adyar, Chennai, India.
The Society is composed of students belonging to any religion or to none. Its members are united by their approval of the Society’s Three Objects, by their wish to remove religious antagonisms and to draw together people of goodwill whatsoever their religious opinions, and by their desire to study religious truths and to share the results of their studies with others. Their bond of union is not the profession of a common belief, but a common search and aspiration for Truth.
In accordance with the Theosophical spirit, most Theosophists regard Truth as a prize to be striven for, not as a dogma to be imposed by authority. They hold that belief should be the result of individual understanding and intuition rather than mere acceptance of traditional ideas, and that it should rest on knowledge and experience, not on assertion. Truth should therefore be sought by study, reflection, meditation, service, purity of life, and devotion to high ideals. (www.theosophical.org)
In 1922, while staying in California, Krishnamurti had a three-day long spiritual experience that utterly transformed him. He wrote of this later: “The fountain of Truth has been revealed to me and the darkness has been dispersed. ... I have drunk at the fountain of Joy and eternal Beauty. I am God-intoxicated” (Lutyens 1983:7). He now accepted that he was indeed a world-teacher, though perhaps not in the way that had been expected of him.
       For several years Krishnamurti spoke at meetings and conventions of the Order of the Star in the East, but he became increasingly disenchanted with the Order, the Theosophical society, and its hierarchy. Finally, in 1929, he dissolved the Order, returned the properties and funds he had been given, and began to teach to the general public on his own. Over the next fifty-five years he addressed many hundreds of meetings and spoke with thousands of individuals in North America, Europe and India. To all he gave the same fundamental message: an individual in search of truth must not depend on outward authority, whether religious, political, moral, intellectual or other. To find what is not known there must be freedom from the known, from the past, from the web of time. To become aware of what is, one must put an end to the known by means of “meditation”, which is not a state brought on by concentration or any form of practice, but a natural, effortless “emptying of the content of consciousness — which means the fears, the anxieties, the conflicts in relationship — the ending of sorrow and, therefore, compassion. The ending of content of consciousness is complete silence” (Total Freedom, 320). In this silence one can find the immensity or benediction of that which is. (Indian Religions, 516-7)
Truth is a Pathless Land
August 2, 1929

We are going to discuss this morning the dissolution of the Order of the Star. Many people will be delighted, and others will be rather sad. It is a question neither for rejoicing nor for sadness, because it is inevitable, as I am going to explain.
      You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.”
      I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by an sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. That is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down; rather, the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountaintop to the valley. If you would attain to the mountaintop you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices. ...
For eighteen years you have been preparing for this event, for the Coming of the World Teacher. For eighteen years you have organized, you have looked for someone who would give a new delight to your hearts and minds, who would transform your whole life, who would give you a new understanding; for someone who would raise you to a new plane of life, who would give you a new encouragement, who would set you free — and now look what is happening! Consider, reason with yourselves, and discover in what way that belief has made you different — not the superficial difference of the wearing of a badge, which is trivial, absurd. In what manner has such a belief swept away all the unessential things of life? That is the only way to judge: In what way are you freer, greater, more dangerous to every Society which is based on the false and the unessential? In what way have the members of this organization of the Star become different? As I said, you have been preparing for eighteen years for me. I do not care if you believe that I am the World Teacher or not. That is of very little importance. Since you belong to the organization of the Order of the Star, you have given your sympathy, your energy, acknowledging that Krishnamurti is the World Teacher partially or wholly: wholly for those who are really seeking, only partially for those who are satisfied with their own half-truths.
       You have been preparing for eighteen years, and look how many difficulties there are in the way of your understanding, how many complications, how many trivial things. Your prejudices, your fears, your authorities, your churches new and old — all these, I maintain, are a barrier to understanding. I cannot make myself clearer than this. I do not want you to agree with me. I do not want you to follow me. I want you to understand what I am saying. 
This understanding is necessary because your belief has not transformed you but only complicated you, and because you are not willing to face things as they are. You want to have your own gods new gods instead of the old, new religions instead of the old, new forms instead of the old all equally valueless, all barriers, all limitations, all crutches. Instead of old spiritual distinctions you have new spiritual distinctions, instead of old worships you have new worships. You are all depending for your spirituality on someone else, for your happiness on someone else, for your enlightenment on someone else; and although you have been preparing for me for eighteen years, when I say all these things are unnecessary, when I say that you must put them all away and look within yourselves for the enlightenment, for the glory, for the purification, and for the incorruptibility of the self, not one of you is willing to do it. There may be a few, but very, very few. So why have an organization? (www.jkrishnamurti.org...)