"People call me an enlightened man—I detest that term. There is no such thing as enlightenment....All my life I have searched and wanted to be an enlightened man....There is no power outside man. Man has created God out of fear. So the problem is fear and not God....I have no message for mankind....If you are searching for someone who will enlighten you, you have come to the wrong man....A real guru, if there is one, frees you from himself."
These words of U.G. Krishnamurti bring to focus the preception and approach of U.G. Krishnamurti, who, as he himself said, was not a guru, not a priest, not a teacher, nor a servant. Then what was he?
Uppaluri Gopala Krishnamurti was born on July 9, 1918 in the small town of Masulipatam in south India. Those were the days of the First World War. His mother expired after seven days of giving birth to the child. Before she died she had predicted that, "The boy is born to a destiny immeasurably high." Her father, Tummalapalli Gopala Krishnamurti, a wealthy Brahmin lawyer, took his dying daughter's prediction quite seriously. He gave up his flourishing law practice to devote himself to his grandson's upbringing and education. The grandparents and their friends felt convinced that the child was born a yogabrashta, one who has come within inches of enlightenment in his past life. U.G.'s father remarried soon after his wife's death and left his son to be taken care of by the child's grandparents.
Thus U.G.'s father didn't have any role in his son's upbringing. Rather, it was his grandfather, T.G. Krishnamurti, who influenced the child's psyche. T.G. was an orthodox Brahmin. However, he came in contact with the Theosophical Society, which was founded in 1873 by Helena Petrova Blavatsky, a Russian immigrant to the United States, and Colonel Alcott, an American lawyer. The Theosophical Society was built largely on their reading of Buddhism and Hinduism and on a fusion of assorted occult presuppositions. Its subject was to delve into the riddle of creation to discover the dormant power in man. It was open equally to believers and non-believers as well as to the orthodox and the unorthodox. In those days, theosophy had a strong appeal to those which found little solace in orthodoxy and yet were not content to call themselves atheists. It attracted an articulate group of free thinkers and avowed atheists searching for some order and spiritual support.
However, T.G. combined in himself the qualities of an orthodox and theosophist. He used to invite all the holy men to his house. Thus, he created a spiritual atmosphere, which had an impact on the child's mind. When U.G. was three, instead of playing with toys he sat cross-legged in meditation, imitating all those holy men who visited his house. Everyday, from dawn to dusk, U.G. had an opportunity to listen to the Upanishads, Panchadasi, Naishkarmya Siddhi and the commentaries. By the time U.G. was seven he could repeat from memory most of the passages from the holy books. God became irrelevant to him. He lost his faith in prayer.
In 1925, when the Theosophical Society commemorated its Golden Jubilee celebration, U.G. was keen to attend it. He thought of praying to Hanuman and gifting him 500 coconuts, but didn't have the money to purchase 500 coconuts to gratify Hanuman. Should he steal? Even if he did, what he would do with all the other coconut halves that the temple would return? Where would he keep them? He was in a dilemma how to please Hanuman. When he learned that his grandparents had decided to attend the celebration, he wondered how his prayer was granted. He now felt that it was his power and vigor of thought which had swayed his grandparents. Again, he felt convinced that he could find fulfillment not through the efficacy of prayer but through the strength of his own desire.
When U.G. was a twelve-year-old, he found printers leaking test papers to students with the aim to amass wealth. To prevent this, the school authorities used stencils and destroyed the master copy immediately after making copies. One day, U.G. devised a scheme for defeating the authorities with the help of ten other boys in his class. All of them collected 100 rupees. U.G. was able to bribe the attendant who ran the machine into giving them the original stencil. Just before the examination U.G. thought, 'Why should we alone be benefited?' Therefore, he and his friends distributed the question sheets to all the students in the class. Naturally, the authorities of the school came to know of this. The poor attendant was dismissed. A reexamination was held and U.G. and all his associates failed. The authorities would have expelled them if it were not for the fact that U.G.'s uncle happened to be on the governing committee of the school.
The event that propelled U.G. into his quest for truth was a traumatic one. His grandfather had a personal meditation room in which he used to meditate every day for long hours. U.G. was not permitted to enter into this room since he had meddled with the photographs of the Masters of Theosophy. One was to be initiated into the Esoteric Group of the Theosophical Society even to have a glimpse of these Masters. The Esoteric Society or E.S., as it came to be known, was strictly for those who had proved their dedication to Theosophy, mostly through work. These select members were deemed ready for exposure to the ancient wisdom, which would help them along the path of the Masters. Membership of the E.S. was supposed to be absolutely secret. U.G. was too young to be initiated into that group. Later, when he reached the age of 14, he was admitted as one of its privileged members. Only the so-called 'spiritually evolved' people were enrolled in this elite group.
One day, T.G. was meditating when his great-granddaughter, a little baby, started crying. The child's wailing interrupted the old man's meditation. This infuriated him. He came down and thrashed the child. 'There must be something funny about the whole business of meditation,' felt U.G., as he helplessly witnessed his grandfather beating his own great-granddaughter. 'Their lives are shallow and empty. They talk marvelously, but there is a neurotic fear in their lives. Whatever they preach does not seem to operate in their lives. Why?' U.G. felt.
This was the beginning of his search, a search that lasted till his forty-ninth year of life. In 1932, when U.G. was fourteen, three significant events took place which steered him further away from the world of orthodoxy and tradition. One day, a pontiff of great repute, Sankaracharya of a well-known math, visited U.G.'s house. During those days, everybody couldn't afford to have guests. The Sankaracharya travelled with a huge entourage of disciples and attendants. The religious ceremony that was performed extended to several days. All this involved a lot of money. The pomp and show, the crown and the scepter of the pontiff fascinated U.G. He wanted to be like Sankaracharya when he grew up. He wanted to leave his house and succeed him and inherit all that he had. The pontiff turned U.G.'s request down saying that he was too young for that kind of life and that leaving his home would make his family extremely unhappy. This didn't distract U.G. from his aspirations. 'There must be somebody else somewhere who can fulfill this desire of mine,' he thought. The pontiff, while leaving, gave U.G. a Shiva mantra. For the next seven years U.G. recited this mantra 3,000 times, every place he went.
U.G. was disenchanted with the Theosophical Society when the Society's President Annie Besant, at the Society's convention in 1932, did not recognize U.G.'s grandfather who had been its follower. She was more absorbed in looking at U.G. Therefore, when she asked U.G. if he was going to work for the Society U.G. didn't respond. On the death anniversary of his mother, U.G. finally broke away from the practice of all religious rites. Every year, on this day, U.G. was made to fast. The little boy was permitted to eat only at the end of the day after feeding a couple of Brahmin priests and washing their feet. U.G. was also made to meditate and recreate in his mind the image of his dead mother, whom he had hardly seen. U.G. was enraged when he discovered the Brahmin priests eating heartily in a nearby restaurant. 'They too are supposed to be fasting. Enough is enough. They are all fakes,' he felt. He went to his grandfather and, in an act of defiance, broke his sacred thread, the symbol of his religious heritage and threw it away.
At the age of 29, U.G. became a quasi-atheist. He joined the University of Madras and for some years studied eastern and western psychology, mysticism and modern sciences. The human mind had always intrigued U.G. With the passage of time, the intensity of his search had grown. One day, he asked his professor if he knew what the mind is. His professor took it as an irrelevant question and asked U.G. to concentrate only on the text. At this stage, his friend guided him to Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai, who was considered a human embodiment of the Hindu tradition. U.G., by then, had arrived at a point where he felt certain that all the teachers of mankind—Buddha, Jesus, Ramakrishna etc.—had deluded themselves and deluded others. He developed a revulsion against everything sacred and everything holy. U.G.'s friend gave him a book to read. It was entitled A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton. U.G. read the chapter in it relating to Ramana. In 1939, he unwillingly went to meet Ramana Maharshi. Ramana Maharshi was reading comic strips when U.G. first saw him. U.G. thought, 'How can this man help me?' As he sat there for two hours, watching Maharshi cutting vegetables and doing other things, all questions that had disappeared in his presence became fables. He asked Maharshi whether there is anything like enlightenment and whether he could have it. Maharshi offered to give it to U.G. if the latter could take it. At this, U.G. thought that Maharshi was like any other person and how could he possess something which he could give to U.G. U.G. left Ramana Maharshi.
Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, U.G. undertook all kinds of spiritual exercises. He practised all the austerities. While practising yoga and meditation, he had every kind of experience referred to in the sacred books—samadhi, super samadhi, nivikalpa samadhi. He was determined to find out if there was any such thing as moksha, about which all the great teachers of mankind had spoken endlessly. He wanted that moksha for himself. He had also resolved to prove to himself and to everybody that there cannot be hypocrisy in the people who have realized themselves. He searched for a person who was an embodiment of this realization. In those days, there was a Hindu evangelist, a strict and righteous spiritual authority by the name of Sivananda Saraswati, with whom U.G. spent seven summers in the Himalayas studying classical yoga. But still he felt that all this did not lead him anywhere. Thus, those years laid the foundation for his quest.
Sex became an issue for U.G. He wondered why religious people wanted to allay or suppress a natural biological urge. He wanted to find out what happened to that urge if he did not do anything with it. He wanted to understand everything about sex. 'Why do I want to indulge in autoeroticism. I don't know anything about sex. Then why is it that I have all kinds of images about sex?' U.G. inquired. This became his meditation. How was he to form the sexual images? He had never been to a movie or seen anything of a sexual nature. How is it that the sexual images exist inside his mind but all stimulation apparently comes from outside. But there is another kind of stimulation which comes from within, he thought. He felt that he could cut out all external stimulation, but how to eliminate what was inside his mind, that was the question.
In his mid-20s, though he had intermittently vowed to forego sex and marriage in defense of the life of a religious celibate, he reasoned that sex was a natural drive and that it was not wise to suppress it. He said to himself, 'If it is a question of satisfying your sex urge, why not marry? That is what society is there for. Why should you have sex with some (unattached) woman? You can have a natural expression of sex in marriage.' His close friend looked at his astrological chart and told him that he was to be married on May 15, 1943. The sudden death of the only surviving daughter of U.G.'s grandparents created a vacuum in their lives. He felt that he owed it to them to marry. He chose a beautiful Brahmin girl, Kusum Kumari, as his bride. Later in his life, he regretted over his decision to marry. His married life finally ended after seventeen years of marriage while he was in the U.S.A.
U.G.'s aim during those days was to become an ascetic or a monk and he did not entertain the thought of marriage. Though he thought of gods and goddesses he had wet dreams. He questioned why he felt guilty about this when he had no control over it. His meditation, his discipline and his study of holy books had not helped him with this issue. Even his staying away from salt, chilies and all kinds of spices had not worked. His yoga master, Sivananda, was startled when U.G. caught him devouring some hot pickles behind closed doors. 'How can this man deceive himself and others, pretending to be one thing while doing another? He has denied himself everything in the hope of getting something but he cannot control himself. He is a hypocrite. This kind of life is not for me.' U.G. gave up his yoga practice and left Sivananda.
U.G. started attending the discourses of J. Krishnamurti. One day, he had a heated discussion with him on the question of death and the death experience. U.G. said, "I don't see any mind in me, let alone a subconscious or unconscious mind." U.G. told J. Krishnamurti about his background of the Theosophical Society. Krishnamurti saw U.G.'s wife, Kusuma, their two daughters and a young girl carrying their son. The next day when U.G. went to see him again, Krishnamurti told him how pained he was to see a young girl carrying a grown-up boy. U.G. told him that the boy was handicapped, that both his legs were affected by polio. Krishnamurti asked U.G. to bring the whole family the next day. U.G. wanted to send the boy abroad for treatment, which involved a lot of expense. Krishnamurti tried his healing technique by massaging the boy's legs for several days. U.G. was in London and then in America for five years. Krishnamurti kept occasional contact with him to know the progress of the medical treatment.
In 1961, U.G. was in London, alone and penniless. He virtually became insane. He went to the Ramakrishna Mission where the Swami-in-charge offered him some literary work. U.G. was paid five pounds for working on the Vivekananda Centenary Issue. With the money thus earned he decided to see every film that was on in London. After three months, U.G. left the Mission as he didn't like the work. He wandered from place to place. One day, Krishnamurti asked, "Why are you trying to detach yourself from your family?" At this, U.G. didn't have any answer. That was his last meeting with Krishnamurti. U.G.'s wife died in 1963 after twenty-one years of their marriage. U.G. then was in London and he heard about this after many months. He didn't return to India. He lost contact with his children. In 1967, when he returned after almost fourteen years, his daughters were married and had children of their own.
U.G. returned to India when he came to know that his friend Vasant was seriously ill with cancer. He was now a changed person, nursing and comforting his friend. Vasant died but there was no trace of emotion in U.G. Once in Rome he had gone to see a James Bond movie along with some of his friends. In one scene, gunshots were fired. He was found collapsing on the floor. His friends were alarmed. A few seconds later, U.G. revived. His movements were similar to those of a newborn baby. U.G. said, "Those movements were the origin of yoga. The movements bring the body back to its natural rhythm. What is called Hatha yoga today is nothing but acrobatics." Death and birth, he said, are simultaneous processes and there is no space in between birth and death. For him it is a renewal of the body.
In July 1967, U.G.'s life went through another phase. He had a tremendous intensity of feelings. He said, "It's like rice chaff. If a heap of rice chaff is ignited, it continues burning inside; you don't see any fire outside, but when you touch it, it burns you, of course. In exactly the same way, the question was going on and on, 'What is that state? I want that state.' He was a finished man now. Again and again, he wanted to know what that state was, the state in which the Buddha was, Sankara was, and all those teachers were. At this stage, one of his friends virtually dragged him to the place where J. Krishnamurti was giving his discourse. There he had the peculiar feeling that Krishnamurti was describing U.G.'s state and not his own.
U.G. discovered some "physiological phenomenon" within himself. It was a sudden "explosion" inside, blasting, as it were, every cell, every nerve and every gland in his body. He noticed some fundamental changes in the functioning of his senses. For seven days, every day a change occurred. U.G. discovered that his skin had become extremely soft, the blinking of the eyes had stopped, and his senses of taste, smell and hearing had undergone a change. He felt something happening inside him. He was on the verge of death, but something brought him back to life. Above all, there was no tension and U.G. had perfect tranquility of mind, though there was no perceptible change in his personality. On the eighth day, U.G. felt a tremendous outburst of energy which shook his whole body and along with the body, the sofa, the chalet and the whole universe shook and vibrated. It lasted for hours and hours. There was nothing that he could do to stop it. He was in bed for three days with pain in his body. His friends observed swellings up and down his torso, neck and head, all those points called chakras, but U.G. never attributed all this to psychological or mystical content or religious overtones.
Narayana Moorty says that if he had to reduce U.G.'s teaching to one sentence it would be like this: "Consciousness is so pure that whatever you are doing in the direction of purifying that consciousness is adding impurity to it." According to U.G., "Consciousness has to flush itself out. It has to purge itself of every trace of holiness and of every trace of unholiness, of everything. Even what you consider 'sacred' and 'holy' is a contamination of that consciousness. Yet, it does not happen through any volition of yours. When once the frontiers are broken—although not through any effort or volition of yours—then the floodgates are open and everything goes out."
U.G. said that the only difference between animals and mankind is that mankind can think and can use it as an instrument to function in this world. Every human being has a unique personality of his own, which is trying to express itself. Character building is in the interest of continuity of society. The human instincts—psychic, clairvoyance—are essential because human beings are interested in two things: survival at any cost and reproduction.
He said, "Man is finished....He is already a nut and bolt in the social structure....What little opportunity there is for this personality to express itself will be lost....There are certain areas in the human organism which are outside the control of thought. They are the glands, what you call the ductless glands....Hindus call them chakras....Unless they are activated, any chance of human beings flowering into themselves is lost....Man remains incomplete unless the whole of this human organism blooms into something....The day you control the endocrine glands, you will change the personality of man; you won't need any brainwashing....There is a tremendous intelligence which is guiding the mechanism of the human body and its interest in protection....The perfect man doesn't exist at all....In a given situation I am not capable of acting in any other way....Thoughts come and go; they repeat themselves....They are not problems; they become problems only when you sit in one corner trying to meditate and control your thoughts."
Talking of sex, U.G. said, "All this talk of urdhvaratus (sublimation of sex energy) is bunkum. By closing sex energy, you are not going to improve yourself in any way....Abstinence, continence, celibacy, is not going to help....Sex is unfortunately separated from other activities....Religion is responsible for that....We must have new moral codes of conduct....The old codes are all out of date, anachronistic, finished."
To him, spiritual knowledge and sensual knowledge are identical. He said, "Fantasies about God are acceptable, but fantasies about sex are called 'sensual', 'physical....One is socially acceptable and the other is not....There is no such thing as absolute morality....Man is always selfish, and he will remain selfish as long as he practises selfishness as a virtue....Nothing can be wrong with desire....This [desire] is a reality."
To experience God, U.G. wants us to understand the nature of the experiencing structure inside us before we deal with all that.
U.G. said, "In that process of flushing out, you have all these visions. Suddenly you yourself, the whole consciousness takes the shape of the Buddha, Jesus, Mahavira, Mohammed or Socrates—only of those who have come into this state; not of great men or leaders of mankind. One of them was a 'colored' man. Then a naked woman with breasts and flowing hair; I was told there were two saints here in India—Akkamahadevi and Lalleswari—they were women, naked women. Suddenly you have these two breasts and flowing hair. Even the organs change into female organs."
U.G. said that a number of rishis, some Westerners, monks and others, experienced this kind of consciousness and this flushing out of everything, good and bad, holy and unholy, sacred and profane. Otherwise, our consciousness is still contaminated and impure. After that we are put back into that primeval, primordial state of consciousness. Once consciousness has become pure, of and by itself, then nothing can touch it and contaminate it anymore."
His message to mankind is: "All holy systems for obtaining enlightenment are nonsense and all talk of arriving at a psychological mutation through awareness is rubbish. Psychological mutation is impossible. The natural state can happen only through biological mutation."
The incredible physiological changes in U.G. continued to occur for years. He felt so bewildered by what had happened to him that he did not speak for a year and had to practically learn to think and talk all over again. After a year or so, he had regained most of his communicative powers.
U.G. and Brahmachari Sivarama Sarma, a former Professor of Chemical Engineering and Indian Administrative Service officer, shared a volatile relationship for more than twenty years. When the pontiff of Kudli Math nominated Brahmachari as his successor before his death and a rival challenged Brahmachari's stepping onto the throne, dragging Brahmachari into a legal battle, it was U.G. who saved Brahmachari. U.G. kept Brahmachari under his guard, preventing him from venturing out, dissuading him from entertaining the idea of becoming a pontiff of the math. With the assistance of the Karnataka Government, Brahmachari set up a huge ashram on the outskirts of Bangalore where he also built a school, a temple, a guesthouse and cottages for the elderly.
U.G. said that, "You should stay with your misery, you don't need a teacher. You don't know how to do that. It is too severe. You can't cope with the misery." He shunned religious persons, ridiculed social reformers, condemned saints, spoke with disgust about sadhakas (spiritual aspirants), detested the chanting of the Vedas or the recitation of the Upanishads, and is full of rage when he finds people like Sankara or Buddha. He becomes furious at the very mention of Satya Sai Baba or Rajneesh. About J. Krishnamurti he says, "He doesn't give any solution to any of the problems raised and avoids questions about 'enlightenment'; he is a bundle of contradictions. His statements are devastating. His ideas are shocking. His expressions are bewildering. His utterances are irritating." He rejects the role of the guru. His aimless period of life lasted for six years, marked by an intense interest in the question, 'What is that state?' He was still trying desperately to understand the state described by all the great spiritual teachers, by Sankara, Buddha and Jesus. Eventually he came to believe that he was in that state.
Above all, it is difficult, rather impossible, to introduce the work of U.G. Krishnamurti. While he is certainly seen as part of the continuum of perennial wisdom, his approach is confronting and disturbing. He could be best described as a sort of 'spiritual terrorist': he overturns, even attacks all the cherished beliefs that we hold so far—God, mind, soul, enlightenment, religion, humanity, heart, love, relationships. He provides us a totally different picture of who we are. He is not our typical guru. He discourages people from coming to see him and in many cases, politely turns them away. At the same time, he has become one of the most talked about thinkers in India. He has been called 'the anti-guru,' 'the un-guru,' 'the seer with no solution,' 'the raging sage,' and 'the thinker who shuns thought.' Unlike Ramana Maharshi, his approach is not to the point.