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, as well as Sinhalese and Tamil. He was known to his wide circle of friends as "Raja", "Brother Raja", or "CJ"
Early years and education
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. He was in the Goygama caste. 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. Brother Raja wrote of that year:
There was a certain day for me in November 1889, when I was thirteen when my feet were "washed in the blood of the heart." That day the Master received me as his chela.
He wrote more of this event in his book Christ and Buddha.
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. Jinarājadāsa met Madame Blavatsky for the first time. For two years, Raja and Leadbeater lived in the Sinnett household, but after that they moved into tiny quarters supported by Leadbeater's work giving English languages to foreigners. Raja attended classes to prepare for university.
On March 14, 1893 he became a member of the Theosophical Society through the London Lodge, and 1894 was admitted into its Inner Group where he "was present at the intimate and informal gatherings of the Group which were held on most Sunday mornings in Mr. Sinnett's library for discussion."
In 1896, Raja was admitted to St John’s College, Cambridge, 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.
In 1916, Mr. Jinarājadāsa married Miss Dorothy M. Graham, an English member who founded the Women's Indian Association with Margaret Cousins.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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. A memorial plaque was installed in the Garden of Remembrance at Adyar.
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
For more information go to Theosophy Wiki, click HERE (Theosophy Wiki contains a load of very useful information!)
The historical photos which follow here, were carefully selected and scanned by Jaishree Kannan, Officer in Charge of the Surendra Narayan Archives in Adyar.
The collection is not quite in chronological order, nor does it offer a complete overview of Brother Raja’s productive life.
While compiling this edition of historical photos I came to the conclusion that CJ must have travelled the world over at least three times, if not more. Just think about how difficult and time-consuming travelling was during those years, it was truly remarkable what this fine man undertook.On the subject of travelling Janet Kerschner, Archivist at Olcott in Wheaton wrote the following:
No one has done more to spread Theosophy across five continents, or in more languages. He toured for months in South America in 1929, 1934, and 1938, speaking in Spanish and Portuguese. There were tours to North America, in 1909-1911, 1924, 1935, and 1939. Then during the Second World War, in 1942, he sailed out of Adyar to Singapore, and across the Pacific to the United States. He lectured for several months before continuing across the submarine-infested Atlantic to England. He repeatedly visited most of the countries of western Europe and several in eastern Europe, plus southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Late in life, he was studying German and Hindi.
Like always I thank Jaishree Kannan in Adyar and Janet Kerschner for their kind cooperation and support. (JNK)
Earliest photos available of CJ in the SN Archives. Year is not know, probably around 1886 or 1887
CJ, at the age of thirteen in 1888
Photo taken in September 1894, after joining the Theosophical Society
CJ in 1900 as a student in Cambridge, St. John's College, where he studied Sanskrit and Philology (i.e. the branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development, and relationships of a language or languages) . He took a degree there.
CJ, while studying at Cambridge, enjoyed rowing. He was coxswain (steersman) of the College boat
Photo taken in Benares, 1911
CJ, now in a Western outfit and his face in the shade. Photo taken in 1911.The tent was in the backyard of the house at 826 Oakdale Avenue in Chicago where the American Theosophical Society had its headquarters then. It was always very crowded inside, even having a desk on a stair landing
Three times CJ, wearing Indian clothes, 1914
While touring New Zealand, Wellington in 1916, In the same year he married Dorothy M. Graham, who was a member of the English Section and one of the founding members of the Indian Women's Association
Chicago, 1924. CJ would travel to the USA quite a lot, his first trip took place in 1904
CJ accompanied by his wife Dorothy, visiting Yellowstone park in the USA (year not known)
CJ inspecting the vulcanic landscape around Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, 1927
Lima. Peru in 1929. As lecturer CJ was much in demand, he spoke in English, French, German. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Sinhalese and Tamil!
1930, Ommen, the Netherlands
CJ in Cuba, 1935
In 1942 Brother Raja returned to London from Adyar via Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States - a harrowing journey in wartime, that was eagerly followed in The American Theosophist. In London, he put on a Zuckerman helmet like thousands of other citizens in the Civil Defence, and helped to locate and extinguish fires. All over the city there were foot-operated pumps used to douse the fires with water. Volunteers like CJ assisted the Air Raid Wardens and the Fire Service. SFP meant "Street Fire Party" or "Supplementary Fire Party"
CJ in Karachi, Pakistan withJamshed Nasserwanji and others, 1947
CJ at the head of the "tea" table, during the 1949 Convention in Benares. Among the guests joining him is Rukmini Devi-Arundale
CJ, Elithe Neiswanger,Jamni Thadani and others in 1951
Final letter CJ wrote to his long-time friend Boris de Zirkoff, dated. June 10 - 1953; he would pass away only a few days later, on June 18
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. A memorial plaque was installed in the Garden of Remembrance at Adyar
The Fox River is about 12 miles west of the Olcott campus. James S Perkins (President of the Theosophical Society in America from 1945 until 1960 ) rented two rowboats, probably in Geneva, Illinois where there is a nice park. In the Wiki article, JSP is in the middle, with his wife Kathrine at the stern holding an oar, and Caroline Tess, the National Secretary and Joy Mills' best friend, in the bow of the boat. Helen Zahara was in the other boat taking the picture, with Geoffrey Hodson.(JK)
CJ was awarded the Subba Row Medal in 1913