A Journey of Spiritual Discovery and Adventure
Close Encounters -- Iain McNay
Hawaii was somewhere I had always wanted to visit. When Paul Lowe was invited there to conduct three weeks of meetings and seminars I had imagined sun filled days lying on the beach, hikes in the crater and lazy afternoons walking in the countryside on our days off. We had spent the previous three months in New York and it had turned very cold. When we arrived at Kahului airport on Maui it was pouring with rain and it didn't stop for a week. I got soaked every day! I found the people in Maui friendly, soft, sincere, and... a little sleepy. Maybe life was just too easy there. After the first few days I was beginning to miss the intensity and urgency of life in New York.
One evening Hanya, an old friend of Paul's, invited a small group of her friends to meet us. Among the guests were some therapists, a couple of healers and a very energetic chap called Ken Cadigan with his equally high-energy wife, Brenda. After courteous introductions, Ken enthusiastically said to us, "I've found a book you have just got to read." With that, he went rushing off to his car and returned with a small volume entitled, Mind is a Myth—Disquieting Conversations with a Man Called U.G. On the front was a rather stern looking Indian man who was called U.G. Krishnamurti. Apparently Ken had heard about the book from a friend of his and had then gone into the Bodhi Tree bookstore in Los Angeles to see if he could find it. Discovering they had just had ten copies delivered, he immediately bought them all. He kept enthusing about the book all evening. Paul took it with him and I managed to borrow it a few days later. The opening page contained the following statement.
"My teaching, if that is the word you want to use, has no copyright. You are free to reproduce, distribute, interpret, misinterpret, distort, garble, do what you like, even claim authorship, without my consent or the permission of anybody. U.G."
I was fascinated. I knew Ken had discovered someone very unique who wasn't going to convey the usual "new age" message. The introduction to the book then contained the following "encouraging" message for would be seekers, written by the book's editor Terry Newland:
U.G.'s message is a shocking one: we are all on the wrong train, on the wrong track, going in the wrong direction. When the time comes to face up to the catastrophe of man's present crisis, you will find U.G. at the head of the line, ready and able to demolish the carefully built assumptions so dear and consoling to us all. A U.G. sampler: Making love is war; cause and effect is the shibboleth of confused minds; yoga and health foods destroy the body; the body and not the soul is immortal; there is no Communism in Russia, no freedom in America and no spirituality in India; service to mankind is utter selfishness; Jesus was another misguided Jew and Buddha was a crackpot; mutual terror, not love, will save mankind; attending church and going to the bar for a drink are identical; there is nothing inside you but fear; communication is impossible between human beings; God, love, happiness, the unconscious, death, reincarnation and the soul are non-existent figments of our rich imagination; Freud is the fraud of the 20th century, while J. Krishnamurti is its greatest phony.
I was hooked. I knew that this book was a whole missing link for me. I could already tell that U.G. was going to smash all my ideas and preconceptions on enlightenment and consciousness. His own story is quite extraordinary and it is worth telling at length. I am grateful to Terry Newland for much of the narrative.
Uppaluri Gopala Krishnamurti was born of middle class Brahmin parents in 1918, in South India. The family name was Uppaluri, while Krishnamurti was a given name which is a common name for boys in South India. There is no family relationship between him and the famous teacher and author, J. Krishnamurti.
U.G. was brought up by his grandparents. His grandfather was an ardent Theosophist and knew J Krishnamurti, Annie Besant, Col. Alcott, and the other leaders of the Theosophical Society. U.G. was to meet all these people in his youth and was to spend his early years around Adyar, the world headquarters of the Theosophical Society, in Madras, India. There were endless discussions on philosophy, comparative religions, the occult, and metaphysics. Every wall of the house was covered with pictures of famous Hindu and Theosophical leaders.
Commented U.G., "I was brought up in a very religious atmosphere. My grandfather was a very cultured man. He knew Blavatsky (the founder of the Theosophical Society) and Olcott and then, later on, the second and third generation of Theosophists. They all visited our house. My grandfather was a great lawyer, a very rich man, a very cultured man and strangely, a very orthodox man. He was a sort of mixed-up kid: orthodoxy, tradition on one side and then the opposite, Theosophy and the whole thing, on the other side. He failed to establish a balance. That was the beginning of my problem. He had learned men on his payroll and he dedicated himself to create a profound atmosphere for me and to educate me in the right way, inspired by the Theosophists and the whole lot."
It was in these early years of his life that U.G. began to feel that "something was wrong somewhere," referring to the whole religious tradition into which he had been immersed almost from the beginning. His yoga master, a strict and self-righteous figure of authority, was startled by U.G. when the latter found him devouring some hot pickles forbidden for yogis, behind closed doors. U.G., just a boy, said to himself, "How can this man deceive himself and others, pretending to be one thing while doing another?"
U.G. remembers, "My grandfather used to meditate for one or two hours a day in a separate meditation room. One day a little baby, only about two years old, started crying for some reason. That chap came down and started beating the child and the child almost turned blue! I thought to myself, 'There must be something funny about the whole business of meditation. Their lives are shallow, empty. They talk marvelously, express things in a very beautiful way, but what about their lives?'"
U.G. gave up his yoga practices, maintaining a healthy skepticism towards all things spiritual on into his adulthood. More and more he wanted to do things his way, questioning the authority of others over him. He became a young cynic, rejecting the spiritual conventions of his culture and questioning everything for himself.
By the age of twenty-one, U.G. had become a quasiatheist, studying secular western philosophy and psychology at the University of Madras. A friend asked him to go with him to visit the famous Sage of Arunachula, Bhagvan Sri Ramana Maharshi, at his ashram not far south of Madras. Reluctantly U.G. went. He was convinced by that time that all holy men were phonies and were taking people for a ride. But to his surprise Ramana Maharshi was different. The Bhagvan, a serene, doe-eyed sage of the highest wisdom and integrity, could not help but make a strong impression on the young U.G. He rarely spoke to those who approached him with questions and U.G. approached the Bhagvan with some trepidation and misgivings, putting to the master three questions:
"Is there," asked U.G., "anything like enlightenment?" "Yes, there is," replied the master.
"Are there any levels to it?" The Bhagvan replied, "No, no levels are possible, it is all one thing. Either you are there or not there at all."
Finally U.G., asked, "This thing called enlightenment, can you give it to me?"
Looking the serious young man in the eyes, he replied, "Yes, I can give it, but can you take it?"
U.G. was haunted by this reply: "Boy! First this fellow says that he has something and then tells me I can't take it. Nobody before had said, 'I can give it to you' but this man said, 'I can give it to you, but can you take it?' Then I said to myself, 'If there is any individual in this world who can take it, it is me, because I have done so much spiritual practice. He can think that I can't take it, but I can take it. If I can't take it, who can take it? I was so confident of myself!'
"Then my real search began. All my religious background was there for me. For some years I studied psychology and the whole area of human knowledge. I started exploring on my own. The search went on and on. 'What is my state?' was my question, and the question had an intensity of its own. By his mid-twenties, sex had become a focus for U.G. Although intermittently vowing to forego sex and marriage in deference to the life of a religious celibate; he eventually reasoned that sex was a natural drive, that it was not wise to suppress it, and that anyhow, society had provided legitimate institutions to fulfill this urge."
Explained U.G., "I didn't rush into sex. I wanted to experience the sex urge. 'Suppose you don't do anything, what happens to that?' I thought to myself. I wanted to understand the whole business. 'Why do I indulge in these auto-eroticisms? I don't know anything about sex—then why is it that I have all these images of sex?' This was my enquiry, this was my meditation; not sitting in the lotus position or standing on my head. And then, I was also interested in finding out what this sex experience was. Although I myself had not experienced sex, I seemed to know what the sex experience was like. This went on and on and on. I did not rush to have sex with a woman or anything; I allowed things to happen in their own way. Eventually I said to myself, 'If it is a question of satisfying your sex urge, why not marry? That is what society is there for. Why should you go and have sex with some woman? You can have a natural expression of sex in marriage'."
He chose, as his bride, one of three young beautiful Brahmin women his grandmother had selected for him as possible suitable mates. He was to say later, "I awoke the morning after my wedding night and knew without doubt that I had made the biggest mistake of my life." However, he remained married for seventeen years, fathering four children. From the very beginning he wanted out of the marriage. But somehow children kept coming and the married life continued. His oldest son caught polio and U.G. decided to move the family to the United States so that the boy could receive the best treatment. In the process he spent nearly all his fortune, which he had received from his grandfather. His hope was that he could get her in an independent position so that he could go on alone. This he did, finding her a job with the World Book Encyclopedia. By this time his money had run out, and he was fed up with being a public speaker (first on behalf of the Theosophical Society and later as an independent platform orator). His marriage was finished, and he was losing interest in the struggle to be somebody in this world. By his early forties he was broke, alone, and all but forgotten by his friends and associates. He began wandering, first in New York City, then London, where he was reduced to spending his days in a London library to escape the English cold winter and giving cooking lessons for a little money. Then he went on to Paris where his aimless wanderings continued. Of that period in his life U.G. was later to say,
"I was like a leaf blown about by a fickle wind, with neither past or future, neither family nor career, nor any sort of spiritual fulfillment. I was slowly losing my will power to do anything. I was not rejecting or renouncing the world; it was just drifting away from me and I was unable and unwilling to hold on to it."
Broke and alone, he wandered to Geneva where he had left a few Francs in an old account, enough possibly to get him by for a few days. Then that little money ran out, his rent became due and he was left with nowhere to turn. He decided to go to the Indian Consulate there in Geneva and ask to be repatriated to India. "I had no money, no friends, and no will left. I thought that at least they can't turn me out of India. I am, after all, a citizen. Perhaps I can just sit under a banyan tree somewhere and maybe someone will feed me." So, at the age of forty-five, a complete failure in the eyes of the world, penniless and alone, he walked into the Consulate and begged to be returned to his homeland. He had little choice. This was to be a turning point in his life.
U.G. went into the Indian Consulate office in Geneva and began telling his sad story to the Consul there. The more he talked, the more fascinated the Consul became. Soon the whole office was in a hushed silence, listening to his remarkable tale. A secretary-translator in the office, Valentine de Kerven, was listening intently. Already in her early sixties, she had much experience of the world, and took pity on the strange charismatic man. No one in the office knew what to do with him, so Valentine volunteered to put him up in her place for a few days until the Consul could figure out something.
Valentine, no stranger to adversity herself, sympathized with the wandering, destitute man and soon offered him a home in Europe. She had a small inheritance and pension which was sufficient for them both. U.G. loathed to return to India and face his family, friends and poor prospects so he gratefully accepted the offer. The next four years (1963-67) were halcyon days for both of them. She left her job at the Consulate and lived quietly with U.G. moving with the weather to Italy, the south of France, Paris and Switzerland. Later they began spending their winters in South India where things were relatively inexpensive and the weather more benign. During these years U.G. did nothing. "I slept, read Time magazine, ate and went for walks with Valentine, or alone. That was all."
He was in a sort of an incubation period. His search had nearly come to an end. He never talked to Valentine about his spiritual experience, and religious background which constituted so much of his life. They just lived simply and quietly as private migrating householders.
They took to spending their summer months in the converted attic of a 400 year old chalet in the charming Swiss village of Saanen, in the bernese Oberland. For some reason J. Krishnamurti decided to hold a series of talks and gatherings in a huge tent erected on the outskirts of the same little town. Religious seekers, yogis, philosophers, and intellectuals from both the East and the West began showing up in the small town to attend the J. Krishnamurti talks, to give and take yoga instructions, and confer on matters spiritual and philosophical. U.G. and Valentine kept a respectful distance, not wishing to become part of the growing scene which began to resemble more and more a circus. In this environment U.G. approached his forty-ninth birthday. The Kowmara Nadi, a famous and respected astrological "record" in Madras, had long ago predicted that U.G. would undergo a profound transformation on his forty-ninth birthday. As the day approached, strange, unaccountable things began occurring to him. Something radical and utterly unexpected was about to happen.
In his 35th year U.G. began to get recurring painful headaches and, not knowing what to do, began taking large amounts of coffee and aspirin to cope with the excruciating pain. At this time also, he started to look younger instead of older. By the time he was forty-nine he looked to be a young man of seventeen or eighteen years. After the age of forty-nine he began aging once again. Between headaches he would go through extraordinary experiences where, as he later described it, "I felt headless, like my head was missing."
Arising simultaneously with these strange phenomena were the so called occult powers, or what U.G. refers to as man's natural powers and instincts. A person could walk into the room and U.G., having never met that person, could see his entire past and history as though reading a living autobiography. He could glance at a stranger's palm and instantly know their destiny. All the occult powers began to manifest themselves in him gradually after the age of thirty five. "I never used these powers for anything; they were just there. I knew they were of no great importance and just let them be."
Things kept building within him and U.G., concerned Valentine might conclude that he was mad, never mentioned a thing about these extraordinary developments to her, or anyone else. "During that time all kinds of things were happening to me inside, constant headaches, terrible pains here in my brain. I swallowed, I don't know how many tens of thousands of aspirins. Nothing gave me relief. It was not migraine or any of those known headaches, but tremendous headaches. All kinds of funny things happened to me. I remember when I rubbed my body there was a sparkle, like a phosphorous glow, on my body. Valentine used to run out of the bedroom to see. Every time I rolled in my bed there was a sparkling of light and it was so funny to me. Despite all these strange things happening, I never related them to liberation or freedom. I had arrived at a point where I said to myself, "Buddha deluded himself and deluded others. All those teachers and saviours of mankind were damn fools—they fooled themselves—so I am not interested in this kind of thing anymore."
As his forty-ninth birthday approached he began to have what he later referred to as "panoramic vision." That was a way of seeing in which the field of vision wrapped around the open eyes in a nearly 360 degree spread, while the viewer or observer disappeared entirely and objects moved right through the head and body. The entire organism, unknown to U.G. at the time, was evidently preparing itself for a transformation of immense proportions. U.G. did nothing.
On the morning of July 9th, 1967, his forty-ninth birthday, U.G. went to hear J. Krishnamurti give a public talk in a large tent on the outskirts of Saanen, the village in which U.G. and Valentine had been living for some time. While sitting on the bench alone, looking at the green valley and rugged peaks of the Oberland, it occurred to him:
"I have searched everywhere to find an answer to my question, 'Is there enlightenment?' but have never questioned the search itself. Because I have assumed that goal of enlightenment exists, I have had to search. It is the search itself which has been choking me and keeping me out of my natural state. There is no such thing as spiritual or psychological enlightenment because there is no such thing as spirit or psyche at all. I have been a damn fool all my life, searching for something which does not exist. My search is at an end."
At that moment all questions disappeared and U.G. ceased to act any longer via the separative thought structure. "Suddenly the question disappeared. Nothing happened; the question just disappeared. I didn't say to myself, 'Oh my God, now I have found the answer'. Even that state disappeared. The state I thought I was in, the state of Buddha and Jesus, even that disappeared. It is not emptiness, it is not blankness, it is not the void, it is not any of these things. The question suddenly disappeared, and that is all."
A bit of energy entered his brain through one of the senses and was left alone. Energy left alone to vibrate freely, untranslated, uncensored and unused by a separative, preemptive thought structure is a dangerous thing. It is the very substance of inner anarchy. Being untouched by thought, which is time, it has nowhere to go and can find no escape from the stillness. A tremendous molecular pressure is built up that can release only in an explosion. That explosion caused within U.G. the collapse of the entire thought structure and with it the notion of an independent self and an opposing society. He had reached the end of the corridor of opposites; cause and effect ceased altogether. The "calamity" reached right down to the level of the cells and chromosomes. It was physiological not psychological, in nature. It implies that at the end of the known is the "Big Bang."
U.G., sitting bewildered and flabbergasted on the little bench, looked down at his body. But this time he looked without the cultural background that identified him as male, Indian, Brahmin, seeker, world traveller, public speaker, civilized gentleman, virtuous person, etc... Instead he saw a warm blooded mammal; a calm, harmless, fully clothed monkey. The slate had been miraculously wiped clean, culture and the self had been utterly undone in a twinkling and what was left was a graceful, simple, well mannered ape. Aware, intelligent, and free of all pretence and self-absorption. Not having the foggiest notion of what was happening to him, he walked the few feet to his chalet and lay down.
Within hours he felt the contractions at various locations on his body slacken, mostly in the brain and at the locations of the nervous plexuses and certain glands. The body, no longer choked and suppressed by the accumulated knowledge of the past (the separative thought structure), began a full-scale mutation. Large swellings appeared at various sites, including the pituitary, pineal, and thymus glands, the center of the forehead, and the anterior of the throat. The eyes stopped blinking and his tear ducts, heretofore dormant, started to function, lubricating the eyes in a new way. Various "kundalini" experiences manifested themselves, although U.G. refers to these in purely physiological terms. A sort of combustion or "ionization" of the cells occurred on a daily basis, raising the body temperature to incredible heights and throwing off a sort of ash which could easily be seen on his body. Just as a computer "goes down," U.G. "went down" several times a day, slipping into a death state where the heartbeat would nearly cease, the body's temperature would drop to a level just sufficient to sustain life and the entire body would become very stiff and moribund. Just before the body reached a complete clinical death state, it would somehow "kick on" again. The pulse would quicken, the temperature would rise to normal and slow stretching movements, similar to a baby's, would manifest themselves. Within minutes he would be back to functioning normally.
"The first day I noticed that my skin was soft like silk and had a peculiar kind of glow, a golden color. I was shaving and each time I tried to shave, the razor slipped. I changed blades, but it was no use. I touched my face. My sense of touch was different, also the way I held my razor. Especially my skin—my skin was soft as silk and had this golden glow.
"The second day I became aware for the first time that my mind was in what I call a 'declutched state'. I was upstairs in the kitchen and Valentine had prepared tomato soup. I looked at it and I didn't know what it was. She told me it was tomato soup, and I tasted it, and I recognized, 'This is how tomato soup tastes'. I swallowed the soup and then I returned to this odd frame of mind—although 'frame of mind' is not the word for it; it was a frame of 'not mind' in which I forgot again. I asked again, 'What is that?' Again she said it was tomato soup. Again I tasted it. Again I swallowed and forgot. I played with this for some time. It was such a funny business for me then. Now this 'declutched state' has become normal.
"The next day some friends invited themselves over for dinner, and I said, 'All right. I'll prepare something'. But somehow I couldn't smell or taste properly. I became gradually aware that these two senses had been transformed. Every time some odour entered my nostrils, it irritated my olfactory center in just the same way. Whether it came from the most expensive scent or from cow dung, it was the same irritation. And then, every time I tasted something, I tasted the dominant ingredient only, the taste of the other ingredients came slowly afterwards. From that moment perfume made no sense to me and spicy foods had no appeal.
"On the fourth day something happened to my eyes. We were sitting in a restaurant, and I became aware of a tremendous sort of 'vistavision', like a concave mirror. Things coming towards me, moved into me, as it were; and things going away from me, seemed to move from inside me. It was such a puzzle to me; it was as if my eyes were a gigantic camera, changing focus without doing anything. Now I am used to the puzzle. Nowadays that is how I see. When we came back from the restaurant I came home and looked in the mirror to see what was odd about my eyes, to see how they were, 'fixed'. I looked in the mirror for a long time, and then I observed that my eyelids were not blinking. For about 45 minutes I looked into the mirror, still no blinking of the eyes. Instinctive blinking was over for me, and still is.
"The fifth day I noticed a change in hearing. When I heard the barking of the dog, the barking originated inside me. And the same with the mooing of the cow and the whistle of the train. Suddenly all sounds originated inside me, as it were, coming from within, and not from outside. They still do. Five senses changed in five days.
"On the sixth day I was lying down on a sofa and suddenly my body disappeared. There was no body there. I looked at my hand. 'Is this my hand?' There was no questioning here, but the whole situation was like that, that is all I am describing. So I touched my body. Nothing. I didn't feel there was anything there except the touch, the point of contact. Then I called Valentine. 'Do you see my body on this sofa? Nothing inside of me says that this is my body', I asked her. She touched it. 'This is your body'. And yet that assurance didn't give me any comfort or satisfaction. 'What is this funny business? My body is missing. My body had gone away, and it has never come back'. The points of comfort are all that there is for the body. Nothing else is there for me, because the seeing is altogether independent of the sense of touch here.
"On the seventh day I was again lying on the same sofa, relaxing, enjoying the 'declutched state'. Valentine would come in. I would recognize her as Valentine and then she would go out of the room. Finish, blank, no Valentine. 'What is this? I can't even imagine what Valentine looks like'. I would listen to the sounds coming from the kitchen. 'What are those sounds coming from inside me?' I could not relate. I had discovered that all my senses were without any coordinating thing inside; the coordinator was missing."
U.G. has come to refer to this extraordinary mutation as his "calamity." It was a tremendous shock to the body to have its suppressor, the separative psychic structure, collapse and entirely disappear. There was no longer any psychic coordinator collating, comparing and matching all the sensory input so that it could use the body and its relations for its own separative continuity. Events became disjointed and unrelated. The senses, freed from the "pale cast of thought" began their independent careers, and the useful content of thought and culture dropped, as it were, into the background. They are brought forth into consciousness unencumbered by any sentimental or emotional overtones, only when an objective demand is made upon them and for the smooth functioning of the material organism. The hands and forearms changed their structure, so that now his hands face backward instead of to the sides. His body is now hermaphroditic, a perfect union of animusanima and enjoys a sexuality the likes of which we can only guess. His right side responds to women, his left more to men. The natural flow of energy through his body, no longer blocked and dissipated by contractive thought, flows right up from the spine through the brain and out the top of the head. His biological sensitivity (and there is no other kind) is so acute that the movements of celestial bodies, especially the moon, have a visibly strong effect on him. "To be affectionate does not mean that you are demonstrative or like to compulsively touch others, but, rather, that you are affected by everything," he says.
These incredible physiological changes continued on for years. He was so bewildered by what had happened to him that he did not speak for a year after the calamity. He had to practically learn to think and walk all over again, so complete was his mutation. After a year or so he had regained most of his communicative powers, yet he did not speak about it. "What is there to say after a thing like this?" He asked himself. One day the answer came to him in a flash. "I will say it exactly the way it is." Except for a year's break in the late 1970s, he has been speaking tirelessly ever since. Of all this U.G. now says: "I did not know what was happening to me. I had no reference point at all. Somehow I died and came back to life free of my past, and thank God for that. This thing happened without my volition and despite my religious background and that is a miracle. It cannot be used as a model and be duplicated by others."
U.G. has not founded schools, ashrams, or meditation centers. He has no teaching to protect or disseminate. He has no following, gives no public talks, mounts no platforms, writes no strictures, offers no practice or sadhana of any kind and offers no solutions to man's mounting problems. He is a private citizen, living in a house by the side of the road, talking informally with those who, for whatever reason, appear at his door. No one is asked to come. His life and teaching is written on water and the attempt by anyone to save, purify or institutionalize his message is a denial of all he is so fearlessly saying, and, therefore, absurd.
U.G.'s book and story made a deep impression on me. It was a great relief to hear his story. The notion that there was nothing that I could do to find my freedom, was just dawning on me. I was beginning to accept the possibility that the goal didn't exist and that there was only the journey. Somewhere inside me, I knew that all the searching and struggling of The Six Months Project had been in vain, but I also knew that I wouldn't have missed the adventure for anything. Through that experience life had become clearer for me, and I knew that I could now most definitely cope with it better. But I still felt there was something else and I felt that both Gillian and U.G. were living in that space. Yes, they had both said, in their own way, that they had done nothing to go there. I liked the fact that U.G. had been so total in the search to answer his question. "Is there such a thing as enlightenment?" He had continually asked himself. I felt if he hadn't been so single minded in his dedication, he probably wouldn't have gone through to the other level he was now living in.
A few months later Renate and I were in Vancouver. One evening we were sitting round a table chatting, waiting for one of our seminars to begin. People had been talking about books they had enjoyed. Since reading U.G., I hadn't read any other 'spiritual' books. They all seemed so irrelevant in comparison. I started talking about U.G. thinking that no one would have heard of him. To my amazement one of the people there had actually met him in Switzerland and another had talked to him on the phone once. I wanted to find out more about him. Tony, the man who had met him seemed to have been relatively unimpressed by the experience. "What is he like? Do you think he's really enlightened?" I asked him excitedly.
I wanted to know what he was like. So many times I had read books and then, when I had met the author or found others who had, had been disappointed as they hadn't seemed to have been living what they had been writing about. The other guy Mike who had phoned him, had had, for him, a disappointing response. He had found out his phone number and called him in India. When U.G. had answered the call Mike had told him with great enthusiasm that he had read his book and wanted to know more. U.G. had replied, "If you have read the book, why waste my time calling me? There is nothing I can do for you." A click followed as U.G. put the receiver down.
But I wasn't put off and still wanted to meet him. I took down a contact number in New York, and called the person the next day. I discovered that U.G. was coming to New York in three weeks time. By luck I was planning to be in New York at that time as well. It seemed that I really might get to meet him!
A month later I rang U.G. with a little trepidation. The stories I had heard made me a little wary of the response I might get from him. However when he answered the phone, he was very polite and we arranged to meet in a couple of days. He was staying in a very smart apartment overlooking Central Park. When he gave me the address I managed to get it wrong, and Renate and I finally arrived, a little confused and breathless several minutes late. The door was opened by a women in her mid sixties who I thanked and strode past looking for U.G. I met Julie, who was U.G.'s assistant and whose apartment it was, who immediately said to me, "There is a phone call for you. The Rabbi wants to talk to you." This was Rabbi Bobroff, who had published U.G.'s other book, The Mystique of Enlightenment in the U.S. After finishing the call I sat down and realized that the woman who had opened the door was U.G.! The only picture I had seen of him was the one in the book and he had aged considerably since then. I felt a little bit embarrassed by my mistake. U.G. however seemed quite unaffected as we started to talk politely about countries he had visited. I took my Sony Walkman out of my pocket and asked him some questions. I want to give you a feel of this quite extraordinary man so I transcribe part of our conversation below.
"How did your book get published in America?" I asked. "The Rabbi wrote to me asking my permission to publish it. I said to him, 'You don't need my permission to publish it'. I said to him, 'You don't need my permission, you are free to do what you like'. Even if he puts his name as the author, what do I care? If it doesn't help you, what is the point? The book is something living. It came out of the expression of life, although, if it is put in that language, it has lost the quality of life. It has come from the source, the living thing there, it is not intellectually thought out. So it has a quality of its own. That is all. Quite different from conceptual thinking, born out of your logical thinking. If it touches something, it touches something. I cannot take credit for it. Who the hell am I? So that is why when people talk as a channel, a medium or a super consciousness it is such nonsense! You and I, the cat and every animal that there is, are all the expression of the energy of life. Nobody is chosen for any purpose. Everybody is expression. What causes that expression to come in its own way is thought. That is the cultural input. So if you are lucky to be freed from that, whatever is there, the uniqueness, expresses itself. It has to use some medium that will be your medium, your background. So your part cannot be my part, my part cannot be your part. You may talk of the pathless path and all that poetry, romantic stuff. How I struggled! But my background was quite different from your background. Your background will express itself.
"I have no way of telling you how I freed myself, this is not what I am saying. What you read there (points to the book) is the devastating effect of the earthquake, the lightning hitting you, the Disaster. Some who it has to subdivide and, what is left there, is put together from the rubble. Nothing else. It is bound to have a devastating effect. It is not an ordinary explosion. It is matter, it is very powerful. If it explodes in one person, that gives you a chance to think that it will also explode in you? No!"
"Are there many other people that you have met that are in the same state as you?" I ventured.
"I don't know and I don't even want to. I don't care. The thought that I am different from you never enters my head. So when you ask some questions I wonder, 'Why is he asking these questions? What is the difference?' So this seems to be the difference between the way you and I are functioning. The difference is not in the physical functioning of the bodies but in some other area. That is what I am pointing out. That is all that I am saying. And throwing back your questions at you—not as a clever game, but just to restrict it. Questions are born out of the answers you already have. I don't want to indulge in this kind of ritual, sit here and discuss and give answers to questions that have no meaning."
"You are very different from the image of you I had in the books."
"Yes?" Replied U.G. smiling.
"That was a very tough and ruthless image."
"In the book you get that image?" U.G. laughed. "This is what everybody says. No effort is made by me, that is what I am. But words sometimes come. I am tough with people if they try to play the games with me. They will get it then! Am I behaving well with the people that are coming to see me, or am I rude and harsh?" he asks Julie.
"Most of the people have been agreeing with you," she replies.
"Yes, they are nice people. So, everybody says the same thing. The image they have of me from the books is quite different. It is just up to you. I have nothing to do."
"Do you feel a connection with Gurdjieff at all? I feel you have some things in common with your approach."
"Not really, I could never read his books. I tried to read one of Ouspenski's books once, when I was reading those kind of books but couldn't make head or tail of it. It was terrible. Just intellectual rubbish."
The more I sat talking with U.G., the more I was fascinated. After nearly two hours sitting with him, I felt him getting restless and a little impatient. I quickly thought up an excuse to meet him again the next day.
"Could I book a video studio for tomorrow and interview you here in New York?" I asked him.
"You and I sitting and talking? Why not? But it must be very spontaneous. I go there and sit with nothing in my head. Empty. I don't know what will come out of it. So, it is up to you!"
The next day we met up in at a dingy video studio in Manhattan. It was the only available studio I could find at short notice. We sat around for nearly an hour while we waited for the technicians to organize themselves. U.G. sat on a table swinging his legs, not saying very much, looking at the floor most of the time. When we began the interview he came to life.
"In one of your books, there is an account of someone's experiences with you. They said that they came to you for help, but they left in despair," I started.
"I don't do any such thing. My interest is only to tell you that you don't need crutches at all and, once you know that, you can throw them away. Don't try the fancy crutches that all kinds of people are selling in the market place. I know that you can walk. Throw away those crutches! But don't ask me to help you to walk. If you fall, you know how to get up again. You don't need anybody's help, that much I can say. That is all that I tell the people. Just to focus on the situation in which they find themselves. I cannot give any help to them. Don't ask me for a helping hand. You can walk, that is all that I can say. I myself have been through that kind of a thing. Although I fell so many times, I found that I always got up and walked away from everything that I had been caught up in."
"When I talked to you yesterday, you said that you feel that "the long dark night of the soul" doesn't really exist."
"You see I was raised on the fundamental belief that money is the root cause of evil. But now I would say that lack of money is the cause. How much money you should have is your business; you have to draw the line somewhere. What is necessary for you, is not necessary for me. One has to draw a line for himself or herself as the case may be.
"The second thing is, looking back, I find that that was a perverse way of living. I know now that it is not a necessary thing for one to go through, to achieve your spiritual goals, whatever they are. In fact, I would go one step further and say that it was no dark night of the soul. The phrase infers that you have to go through the darkness of your soul to achieve your spiritual goals. It is not a necessary thing and you don't have to go through that at all. And now referring to the word calamity; I use that word deliberately and purposefully to tell those who are interested in achieving their spiritual goals, especially what they call enlightenment. You think that once you are enlightened you will be in a very peaceful and blissful state and all that kind of thing. Once this kind of a thing hits you, it hits you like a bolt of lightning. You will not even know what happens to you. You cannot tell yourself that you are in a perpetual state of happiness, of bliss, of immensity, or whatever fancy phrase you choose. Once you realize that, there is no way that you can tell yourself you are in a blissful state, or that you are an enlightened or a free man. You really don't know what you are left with. And I felt, and realized, that I was freed. I use the word freed, quote and unquote, otherwise it has a lot of connotations from the very demand that you be freed from anything. So I deliberately use that word calamity to emphasize that you are hit by something, the nature of which you have no way of knowing. You see, I found myself in a state of not-knowing and I didn't know what it was that had hit me.
"We are now all reading about the devastating earthquake in California. It hit many people. They have lost their near and dear and their property. But looking at it from a different angle, which is no consolation to those who have lost everything, you have no way of finding out why this has hit. California is such a paradise and the planet probably has its own ways of finding a new way of equilibrium. We really don't know. So when this kind of a thing hits you, it strikes you like a bolt of lightning. You don't know what has happened. You are left with all these pains and aches and you wonder if this can be the thing that all those people sought. That was my question. Not that the question framed itself that way. I did not know what hit me. After a while, the whole thing settles down to a new rhythm of life and equilibrium and everything functions in a very natural way. When I use the words "natural state" it does not mean that it is a synonymous term for enlightenment or any such thing. The body begins to function in a very natural way freed from the stranglehold of the totality of man's experiences and thoughts. That is the reason that I use that word calamity. It does not mean that it was a calamity to me. I am talking a lot...(he laughs)"
"When you see the people living on the streets in New York does it affect you?"
"You see, you are one with them. If I put it that way, you think I feel the oneness with them, but I don't know what words to use. You suffer with them in that particular frame. If there is anything you can do to help them out in that situation, you would do it, even without you knowing whether you are capable of doing it or not. That does not mean that you talk about it or organize, helping the crusades to collect money and help them out."
"Is there a purpose to life?"
"Why do you want to find a reason? We are caught up in this cause and effect relationship. That is all that the mind can do. So we are interested in finding out the cause of everything. We want to know who created this universe. God created the universe. Or, some mysterious evil in the scheme of things, created this universe. It is not of much importance, not much of an interest to us. It doesn't matter much what happened billions and billions of years ago. We can leave that discussion to the theologians, and the scientists. They seem to be interested in finding out the cause of everything. But actually they are only interested in prestigious awards and Nobel prizes. What they find is of no interest, no importance to the common man. All that technology has done for us, has not helped the common man on the streets in the world. It helps only a limited percentage of people.
"A group of scientists who are doing a lot of research work visited me in India and they asked me the question, 'We feel guilty because what we are doing will only benefit two percent of the people in this country. What should we do about this?' 'Why do you have a guilt problem, that is a living for you?' I replied. 'It is bound to effect only two percent, or even a smaller percentage of people in this world. Your research is how you make your living. Don't ask me those kind of questions. I am not here to advise you, or to deal with the problem of your guilt. Why are you guilty? You are only interested in your livelihood and all this talk of altruism is borsch and nonsense'."
"I wanted to ask you some more down-to-earth questions."
"Yes, go ahead!"
"I met someone the other day who had spent quite a lot of time with J. Krishnamurti. He said that J. Krishnamurti used to get angry and I was quite surprised that he would get angry..."
"It is the image I had of an enlightened man..."
"The image you have and the image you have been brainwashed to believe, that a so-called enlightened man should never get angry, is false. Anger is an outburst of energy. Anything that happens in the framework of the body cannot be false, cannot be wrong. So we are brainwashed to believe by these religious people that it is bad for the body and your spiritual growth to get angry. But they are kidding themselves. What we are told, that anger is bad for the body and spiritual growth, is not really true. Whatever happens here (points to himself) cannot be false. It is an outburst of tremendous energy. You can't say that huge waves and high tides in the ocean are something wrong for the ocean, or for you. Anger is something that you cannot touch, it is like a live wire. If you try touching something living, the instrument that you are using to free yourself from anger is burnt, so it becomes part of that anger. You have no way of separating yourself from anger and telling yourself that your should be free from it.
"You are only interested in freeing yourself from anger. It is not really the anger you are dealing with, but how to be free from it. I don't think you will ever be free from it. Naturally an angry man is a problem to the society. He will destroy the society. Society is interested only in status quo. It may talk of change, of revolution, of all kinds of things, but basically it is not interested in change.
"This is not an interview. I am giving a talk. It is a joke to call this an interview! Actually, I have nothing to say. It is highly presumptuous on my part to sit before these cameras and allow myself to be interviewed by you. The whole thing is a great big joke. I am here like a puppet. It is up to you to get whatever you want to out of this. You have to pull the strings and whatever you try to produce is yours and not mine. One thing I said yesterday and I will repeat it today: This (pointing to himself) is a highly tuned instrument; I am not interested at all. It is just here and so whatever you bring out of this is yours. The music is yours, the lyric is yours, the song is yours. Everything is yours. I have no part to play at all. What you do with it is yours. If when you repeat this and sing this to yourself and to others, you find some false notes, it is because the false notes are created by you. Not by this instrument. This instrument is incapable of creating any false notes. I am not saying that as a proud man, but it is singularly incapable of striking a false note."
"You say in one of your books that sex and jealousy can't exist together. If someone enjoys sex, are they still going to feel jealous sometimes?"
"What would you do in such a situation that somebody makes a pass at your girlfriend? Functioning as you do within this framework, you have got to react. If you don't feel jealous, something is wrong. You can't make a virtue out of that, that is all I am saying. So, jealousy, envy, greed, everything is born out of the same source. You may talk of loving relationships and 'love thy neighbor as thyself', but, when you don't get what you expect in any relationship, what you are left with in the place of love is hatred. You see both these two things spring from the same source, that is all that I am saying. So when everything fails, you want to put a slant on that and use love as a means to get things your way. What is so marvelous about this talk of love? It is another word for hate. If you don't get what you want out of the living relationship, what you are left with is hatred for that person. Indifference, apathy, whatever word you want to use."
"Doesn't real love have no conditions?"
"I don't know what exactly you mean by real love. You see love implies two. Wherever there is a division, there can't be any love. Anybody who is talking of divine love, cosmic love, etc., is just fooling himself. That is all I can say. If he wants to fool himself, that is his privilege but if you allow yourself to be fooled by him, that is too bad."
"Do you see yourself as a human being?"
"I never tell myself that I am a human being. I have no way of fitting myself into any framework. If you throw this question at me and ask, 'Are you a human being?' I would say, "Yes, I am a human being," because the question is born out of the knowledge you have of what a human being is like. So you are the one that is fitting me into the framework, when you put that question to me. The same knowledge that is operating there, gives the answer that I am a human being and not a pig. All the questions that we have, are born out of the answers that you already have. You and I see through the projection of the same knowledge which we share; we are looking in exactly the same way. There is no way I can tell myself that I am looking at that glass of water on the table, other than the way that you look at it. So when that knowledge is not in operation, I have no way of looking at it at all. It is the knowledge that separates me from what I am looking at—otherwise there is not way I can separate myself from what I am looking at, or what is happening there inside of me. You may see that I am very angry, hopping mad with anger; but I have no way of telling myself I am an angry man. That does not mean that I am condoning the response to a particular situation. But even if I am angry, that cannot hurt you at all. You and I have been created by the totality of man's knowledge, passed on to us from generation to generation. Without the use of that knowledge, I have no way of experiencing myself; I have no way of establishing any relationship on any level with anybody."
"The cameraman is saying that we have one minute left. Anything you want to say for the last few seconds?"
"Thank you very much indeed for putting me in this spot. I have said my piece, whether anyone listens to it or not, is not my concern. You made me talk."
At the end of the interview we quickly parted, as he had some people coming to see him and was late. I met him briefly again in the evening, to give him a copy of the interview tape and that was the last time I saw him. A few weeks later I spoke to him on the phone when he was in India and I was in Australia. I told him I was thinking of publishing one of his books.
"Why waste your money? It is so expensive to do these things!" he retorted, doing his best to discourage me.
Then he paused for a few seconds before adding, "I have no message for mankind. But of one thing I am certain. I cannot help you solve your basic dilemma or save you from self-deception and, if I can't help you, no one can. Goodbye!"