The Theosophical
Society in Australia

Launceston Lodge

Birth of Radha Burnier

Anniversary, 15 November 2019.

our longest serving international president and her stellar career

Born at Adyar on 15 November 1923, Radha Burnier was the seventh and longest serving international president of the Theosophical Society from 17 July 1980 until her passing on 31 October 2013. A third-generation Theosophist, she was the daughter of the fifth international president, N. Sri Ram.

Radha joined the TS in 1935 when she was only 12 and by the time she was 22, she had become the president of the Youth Lodge and Adyar Lodge for several years.  From 1945 to 1951 whilst studying at university, she served as the librarian at the national headquarters of the TS in Benares.  From 1954 to 1959 she was the assistant director of the Adyar Library and Research Centre and its Director from 1959 to 1980 and also the editor of the library’s research journal Brahmavidyā, supervising its publications. She translated several significant Sanskrit works, such as the Hatha-yoga-pradīpīka, and the chapter on dance in the Samgita-ratnākara, a classic work on music and dance. She imparted her wisdom and sense of beauty in numerous articles and talks, some of which have been collected in  The World Around Us, Human Regeneration, Truth Beauty and Goodness and No Other Path to Go

Throughout her distinguished TS career Radha met with many notables including the Dalai Lama and Indira Gandhi. She had a life-long deep friendship with J. Krishnamurti.  In 1984, she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the Nagarjuna University for her contribution to the promotion of education and human values.  In 2008 she received the Golden Lotus Award by ChennaiOnline as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations. She trained in classical Indian dance (bharat natyam) for six years at the renowned Arts Academy, Kalakshetra, and had a brief career in film during which she played a major role in the well-known director Jean Renoir’s film The River (Le Fleuve).  She gave dance recitals in many cities in India and abroad and in 1948 performed at Government House in New Delhi for the Governor-General Lord Mountbatten, the Prime Minister Jawahartal Nehru and other dignitaries. She was widely recognised for the beauty of her movements and the technical perfection of her performance.  

Radha’s goal in life was, in her words, 'to perfect the art of self-discipline'.  She believed the main function of the TS to be the promotion of inner change in order to bring about growth in human consciousness, to promote change in the individual from self-centredness to 'a state of sympathy, harmony, and unity, where other people’s well-being is realised to be of as much, if not more, importance than one’s own'. 

Adapted with thanks from https://theosophy.wiki/en/Radha_Burnier#Filming_The_River

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