Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa

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NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION

C. Jinarājadāsa

Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa (16 December 1875 – 18 June 1953), was a Sri Lankan scholar, lecturer, and writer who served as the fourth President of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India from 1945 to 1953. An accomplished linguist, he traveled extensively for fifty years as an international lecturer, speaking in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. He was known to his wide circle of friends as "Raja", "Brother Raja", or "CJ".

Early years and education

CJ as a young man

Mr. Jinarājadāsa was born on December 16, 1875 in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) of Sinhalese Buddhist parents in a town about fifteen miles (24 km) south of the capital city, Colombo. The name Curuppumullage indicates a person "Curuppu" living in the house or town of Mullage. The surname Jinarājadāsa can be interpreted in various ways, but is a combination of three words: jina (winner), raja (king), and dāsa (servant).

His association with Theosophy began at the age of thirteen when, as one of the first students of Ananda College, he met C. W. Leadbeater. The following year, A. P. Sinnett asked Mr. Leadbeater to return from India to England to tutor his son Denny and George Arundale, Leadbeater brought Raja with him. The three boys were close in age: Raja was born in 1875, Denny in 1877, and George in 1878.

In 1889, Jinarājadāsa met Madame Blavatsky for the first time. On March 14, 1893 he became a member of the Theosophical Society through the London Lodge. He entered St John’s College, Cambridge in 1896, and four years later took his Degree in the Oriental Languages Tripos. He also studied Law, and was coxswain of the College boat in the rowing team. He then went back to Ceylon where he became Vice-Principal (1900-1901) of Ananda College in Colombo. In 1902 he returned to Europe to study literature and science at the University of Pavia, Italy. In 1904 he went to America, where he began his career as an international lecturer of the Theosophical Society.[1]

Influences on C. Jinarājadāsa

In 1928, Mr. Jinarājadāsa spoke of some major intellectual influences on his life:

There are four great writers of the West who have influenced my thinking very profoundly. One is Richard Wagner. It was his ethical conception of life, linked to his marvellous creations, that made a profound impression on me. Another is Plato. As far as the West is concerned, ever since Plato wrote, wherever there is any kind of philosophical thought which deals with civilization or tries to understand the principles of art, every political writer and every exponent of art has more or less to follow Plato's trail... The third great writer is Dante, whom I consider the greatest poet humanity has yet produced... The supreme value of Dante is that he is utterly unique, so far as I Know as always rising with his poetic art to the plane of the Buddhi. Whatever he says has a quality of intuition about it which is not characteristic of many other great poets...

The other writer is Ruskin. I well remember the great revolution which took place in my whole attitude toward life when I began to receive the volumes of Ruskin which Bishop Leadbeater sent to me in 1900. He had always been an admirer of Ruskin and he was brought up in the tradition of looking at Ruskin as someone very great indeed. When I received those volumes, there was that exhilaration which you yourself doubtless experienced when you came across Theosophy. It was a revelation...He emphasized the thought that the laws that should govern human life are not the ordinary laws of supply and demand as stated in the schools but that the primary factor in economic life is the human being, not as a producer but as a spiritual being who has an eternal destiny.... Ruskin refused to acknowledge that theology as such was separate from life, or that political economy was not as necessary to the salvation of the soul as any kind of prayers...[2]

A. P. Warrington with Jinarâjadâsas

Marriage

In 1916, Mr. Jinarājadāsa married Miss Dorothy M. Graham, an English member who founded the Women’s Indian Association with Margaret Cousins.

Theosophical work

During the administration of Annie Besant, Brother Raja served as Vice President of the Society, from 1921 to 1928, during the presidency of Annie Besant. For a few years beginning in 1934, he was Head of The Manor, Mosman, Sydney, Australia.[3]

He was one of the founding members of the Order of the Brothers of Service, along with his wife Dorothy and Fritz Kunz. In 1934 he succeeded C. W. Leadbeater as Outer Head of the Esoteric Section.

Mr Jinarâjadâsa was editor of The Theosophist for three periods of time. Annie Besant turned over that responsibility when she was interned for three months in 1917, and again in 1931-33 during her last illness. He resumed the editorship during his term in office as President of the Society from 1946–53.

TO BE EXPANDED

Travels as international lecturer

Because of his deep knowledge of Theosophy, his inspiring personality, and his proficiency in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, Raja was much in demand as a lecturer. The first speaking tour was in 1904 in the United States of America. He presented lectures at annual conventions of the international Society in 1914, 1917, 1921, and many times afterward.

In 1930, Brother Raja was asked to deliver the Blavatsky Lecture. His topic was "The Personality of H. P. Blavatsky".

This is a partial listing of his lecture tours: TO BE ADDED

Adyar library and archives

During the years 1930-1932 and 1935, Mr. Jinarâjadâsa served as director of the Adyar Library and Research Centre. TO BE EXPANDED

He was highly engaged in organizing the archives of the Society, and in publishing materials found there. TO BE EXPANDED

Presidency

Following the death of George Arundale,Mr. Jinarâjadâsa ran unopposed for election to the presidency. He took office as President of the Society on February 17, 1946 and served until 1953, when he resigned due to illness. His successor was N. Sri Ram.

According to his official biography:

As President, during the post-war years, Brother Râjâ, as he was affectionately called, was very concerned about Adyar as it was affected by a shortage of workers, military occupation of the ocean frontage and consequent public traffic through the estate. He did his best to free Adyar of all its entanglements and restore it to its earlier serenity, as the centre of Theosophical thought and the symbol of the unity of the Society, and preserving its international character.

In 1949 Jinarâjadâsa founded the School of the Wisdom at Adyar, for the study of Theosophical teachings in depth as given in the textbooks, but primarily because a student knowing these things could with widened vision ‘sit in the centre’ of his own being and ‘enjoy clear day’ in his understanding of the world of men and affairs. The School was also to devote its studies to the thoughts of the great and the affairs of men in the larger sense through historical time. Its yearly sessions attract students from several countries to this day. He tried to make the Headquarters once more a centre for students and gradually reorganized the estate for that purpose. Jinarâjadâsa could always present his thoughts with clear and delicate appreciation of the pictures his words would create in the minds of his readers.[4]

Other accomplishments:

  • 1949 - Led an appeal by scholars to the new nation of India "to accord Sanskrit the honored position which belongs to it" as a foundational source of spiritual and practical wisdom.[5]


TO BE EXPANDED

Other activities

Brother Raja was fond of the American sport of baseball:

Base Ball originated in America. It was introduced into India by Mr. Jinarajadasa, who took with him on his return from this country a supply of bats, balls, gloves and rule books, and as always his work has taken root. We have a letter from Mr. Felix Layton, the Head Master of the Besant Theosophical School at Adyar, stating that that team has won the Madras Schools' Base Ball Championship. In other respects, also, the school is doing well.[6]

TO BE EXPANDED

Final letter to Boris de Zirkoff

Final years

Memorial service in Olcott Library
Ashes scattered in Fox River

The strains of his travels took a toll on his health. In a 1946 letter to James Perkins he wryly commented on the hot climate of Adyar, India:

If only Adyar would cool off 20° between day and night we would manage quite well. As to my stay in Bangalore, the one who worked hardest was Elithe [Nisewanger, his secretary], because I gave several lectures and talks and she took them all down. The skin irritation stopped with 10° cooler than Adyar, but by compensation to equalize karmic debits, knees and particularly my left shoulder (I am left handed) got going. However, all these ups and downs are part of the order of the day.[7]

On February 17, 1953, suffering from diabetes and heart disease, Mr. Jinarājadāsa resigned from the presidency of the Society after one term in office. He was the only President who declined to stand for re-election, and in February of that year Nilakanta Sri Ram became his successor.

CJ had committed to a lecture tour of the United States. When he reached the headquarters of the American Section, he became ill. On June 10th he wrote a final letter to his longtime friend Boris de Zirkoff describing his heart attacks. Despite the earnest efforts of Dr. Henry A. Smith, other doctors, and the staff to help him, Mr. Jinarājadāsa passed away on June 18, 1953. A memorial service was held in the library, and all of his ashes were scattered on the Fox River by James S. Perkins, Kathrine Perkins, Helen Zahara, Caroline Tess, and Geoffrey Hodson, according to Brother Raja's specific instructions. A very detailed account of his final days was written by Mr. Perkins.[8]

A few years before his death, he composed an epitaph for himself:

He loved children, the sea,
Beethoven, Wagner’s Ring, the
Hallelujah Chorus, and his
Gospel was Ruskin.[9]

Writings

C. Jinarājadāsa was one of the foremost Theosophical writers. A list of his works is in a separate article, Jinarājadāsa writings.

In 1913 he was awarded the Subba Row Medal for his extensive contributions to Theosophical literature.

Articles are indexed in the Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals. Over 1600 articles are listed under the name Jinarājadāsa. Searching under CJ will result in a lengthy list that includes work by Charles Johnston, a Sanskrit scholar who was married to Madame Blavatsky's niece, and who was also known the same initials. Within the results list, the articles by Mr. Jinarājadāsa will include those in the periodicals: The Adyar Bulletin, The American Theosophist, The Australian ES Bulletin, The Herald of the Star, The Messenger, Sishya (The Student)], The Theosophic Messenger, The Theosophist, and World Theosophy. Articles by Charles Johnston appear in Theosophical Quarterly, Theosophy, The Path, and The Irish Theosophist.

Awards and honors

In 1913, Mr. Jinarājadāsa was awarded the Subba Row Medal for his contribution to Theosophical literature. A grove was planted at the Olcott campus with a plaque and stone bench. A Raja Commemorative Fund was established to support travel expenses of lecturers.

Photo gallery

Online resources

Articles

  • "C. Jinarajadasa" by Surendra Narayan. This article was originally published in Quest 93.6 (November-December 2005): 228-229.

Audio

Social media

Notes

  1. "Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage," The Theosophical Year Book, 1938. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 189.
  2. C. Jinarājadāsa, "Ruskin - A Herald of the New Age," The American Theosophist 34.11 (November, 1946), 245-247. Taken from unrevised notes of a lecture given in 1928.
  3. "Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage," The Theosophical Year Book, 1938. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 189.
  4. "C. Jinarājadāsa (1875–1953)", TS Adyar Web Page. Available at TS Adyar Web page.
  5. "To Lovers of Sanskrit," The American Theosophist 38.1 (January, 1050), 23).
  6. "Base Ball Championship at Adyar," The American Theosophist 28.5 (May, 1940), 117.
  7. C. Jinarājadāsa letter to James S. Perkins, July 30, 1946. James S. Perkins Papers. Records Series 08.06. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  8. James S. Perkins to Dr. P. W. Van den Broek [at The Manor]. August 9, 1953. James S. Perkins Papers. Records Series 08.06. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  9. "C. Jinarājadāsa (1875–1953)," Theosophical Society, Adyar web page.