UG Krishnamurti: A Life

  The Encounter  ·  Early Years  ·  Life Among Theosophists  ·  Locking of Horns  ·  Adrift In London  ·  Endings  ·  What Is That State?  ·  Calamity  ·  Aftermath  ·  Years After  ·  The Never-ending Story  ·  A Taste of Death  ·  Conversations



'The Search must come to an end before anything can happen.' U.G.

20 September, 1991. Carmel, California. The time is 4.30 a.m. I am up and I am here at my desk writing. This has been my work pattern for almost a fortnight now. These hours and hours of silence get into one's bones. I ask why have I sentenced myself to such loneliness. Writing is indeed a lonely job. I guess anything one does deeply is very lonely. Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his dream and its final expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have this certainty, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say.

This birthday of mine appears to be a long one. The calls from India greeting me 'Happy Birthday' began last evening and went on right through the night. India is thirteen hours away from here. 'What do you mean it is not your birthday yet?' asked my nine-year son Rahul, unable to comprehend the day and night difference between California and Bombay. I tried to explain but failed. When I mentioned to Rahul about the three mild-to-moderate earthquakes I had experienced here in Carmel over the past few days he was thrilled. 'How lucky, papa! You are having a great time, aren't you?' Suddenly we were cut off...

U.G. has not been feeling well. It is his usual 'plumbing problem' (a cardio-spasm). He has not been able to keep any food or drink in his stomach. He looks emaciated. For the first time since 1939 he has lost three kilos of weight. (His weight has never fluctuated much.) There is an unspoken anxiety about his health amongst us all. But U.G. himself seems unaffected. He is his usual self. Narayana Moorty has been successful in making U.G. take some Homeopathic medicine. Watching U.G. popping these Homeopathic pills is a funny sight! He looks like a baby. These pills make him sleep for long hours. 'If he doesn't respond to these pills, we should ask him to see a doctor,' says Moorty. Knowing U.G.'s views about doctors, I hesitantly drop a hint. 'The only time I will see a doctor is when I need the death certificate,' says U.G., meaning every word of what he is saying. I am sliding into a swamp of depression. As I sat down to write what can be termed in film jargon the climax of U.G.'s life, the earth beneath our feet shook. It was another earthquake. 5.1 on the Richter, reported the news reader on television.

On his forty-ninth birthday (according to the Indian moon-based calendar), the day after he walked out of J. Krishnamurti's tent, U.G. was sitting on a bench under a tree overlooking one of the most beautiful spots in the whole world, the seven hills and seven valleys of Saanenland:

I was sitting there. Not that the question was there; the whole of my being was the question: 'How do I know that I am in that state?' I asked myself, 'There is some kind of peculiar division inside of me: there is somebody who knows that he is in that state. The knowledge of that state—what I have read, what I have experienced, what they have talked about—it is this knowledge that is looking at that state, so it is only this knowledge that has projected that state.' I said to myself, 'Look here, old chap, after forty years you have not moved one step; you are still there at square number one. It is the same knowledge that projected your mind there when you asked this question. You are in the same situation, asking the same question, "How do I know?" because it is this knowledge, the description of the state by those people, that has created this state for you. You are kidding yourself. You are a damned fool.' But still there was some peculiar feeling that this was the state.

U.G. didn't have any answer to the second question—'How do I know that this is the state?' It was like a question in a whirlpool. It went on and on. Then suddenly the question disappeared. Nothing happened—the question just disappeared. U.G. didn't say to himself, 'Oh, my God! Now I have found the answer.' Even that state disappeared—the state he thought he was in, the state of the Buddha or Jesus—even that disappeared.

The question disappeared. The whole thing was finished for me, and that was all. From then on, never did I say to myself, 'Now I have the answer to all those questions.' That state of which I had said, 'This is the state'—that state disappeared. The question disappeared; finished. It is not emptiness; it is not blankness; it is not the void; it is not any of those things—the question disappeared suddenly, and that's all.

The disappearance of his fundamental question, on discovering that it had no answer, was a physiological phenomenon, U.G. says: 'It was a sudden "explosion" inside, blasting, as it were, every cell, every nerve and every gland in my body.' And with that explosion, the illusion that there is continuity of thought, that there is a center, an 'I' linking up thoughts, was not there any more. U.G. further says of this state:

Then thought cannot link up. The linking gets broken, and once it is broken, it is finished. Then it is not once that thought explodes; every time a thought arises, it explodes. So this continuity comes to an end, and thought falls into its natural rhythm. Since then I have no questions of any kind, because the questions cannot stay there any more. The only questions I have are very simple questions like, 'How do I go to Hyderabad?,' questions necessary to function in this world. And people have answers for these questions. But for those questions, nobody has any answers. So there are no questions anymore.

Everything in the head had tightened—there was no room for anything there inside of my brain. For the first time I became conscious of my head with everything 'tight' inside of it. These vasanas (past impressions) or whatever you call them, they do try to show their heads sometimes, but then the brain cells are so 'tight' that the vasanas have no opportunity to fool around there any more. The division cannot stay there. It's a physical impossibility. You don't have to do a thing about it. That is why I say that when this 'explosion' takes place (I use the word 'explosion' because it is like a nuclear explosion), it leaves behind chain reactions. Every cell in your body, the cells in the very marrow of your bones, have to undergo this 'change'—I don't want to use the word—but it is an irreversible change, an alchemy of some sort.

It's like a nuclear explosion. It shatters the whole body. It's not an easy thing; it's the end of the man. Such a shattering blasts every cell, every nerve in your body. I went through terrible physical torture at that moment. Not that you experience the 'explosion'—you can't experience the 'explosion'—but only its after-effects. The 'fall-out' changes the whole chemistry of your body.

The after-effects of that, the way the senses are operating now without any coordinator or center—that's all I can say. Another thing: the chemistry has changed. I can say that, because unless that change in the whole chemistry takes place, there is no way of freeing this organism from thought, from the continuity of thought. So, since there is no continuity of thought, you can very easily say that something has happened, but what actually has happened, I have no way of experiencing at all.

This is a thing that has happened outside the field, the area in which I expected, dreamed, and wanted change. So I don't call this a 'change'. I really don't know what has happened to me. What I am telling you about is the way I am functioning. There seems to be some difference between the way you are functioning and the way I am functioning, but basically there can't be any difference. How can there be any difference between you and me? There can't be. But from the way we are trying to express ourselves, there seems to be some difference. I have a feeling that there is some difference, and what that difference is is all that I am trying to understand. U.G. noticed, during the week following the 'explosion', some fundamental changes in the functioning of his senses. On the last day his body went through 'a process of physical death' and the changes became permanent features. The changes began. 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.

On the first day he noticed that his skin was so soft that it felt like silk and also had a peculiar kind of glow, a golden glow. '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.' U.G. did not attach any significance to all this. He merely observed.

On the second day he became aware for the first time that his mind was in what he calls a 'declutched state'. He was upstairs in the kitchen, and Valentine had prepared some tomato soup. He looked at it and didn't know what it was. She told him it was tomato soup. He tasted it, and then he recognized it, 'This is how tomato soup tastes.'

He swallowed the soup and he was back to that odd frame of mind. Rather, it was a frame of 'no mind'. He asked Valentine again, 'What is that?' Again she said it was tomato soup. Again U.G. tasted it. Again he swallowed and forgot what it was. 'I played with this for some time. It was such a funny business—this declutched state.'

Now that state has become normal for U.G. He says he no longer spends time in reverie, worry, conceptualization and other kinds of thinking that most people do when they are alone. His mind is only engaged when it is needed, as, for instance, when someone asks questions, or when he has to fix a tape recorder. When it is not needed, there is no mind there, there is no thought. There is only life.

On the third day, some friends of U.G. invited themselves over for dinner. He agreed to cook for them. 'But somehow I couldn't smell or taste properly. I became gradually aware that these two senses had been transformed. Every time some odor entered my nostrils it irritated my olfactory center in just about the same way—whether it came from an 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 later. From that moment on perfume made no sense to me, and spicy food had no appeal for me. I could taste only the dominant spice—chili or whatever it was.' On the fourth day, something happened to his eyes. U.G. and his friends were sitting in the Rialto restaurant in Gstaad. It was here that U.G. became aware of a tremendous sort of 'vista vision', like a concave mirror. 'Things coming toward me, were moving into me, as it were. And things going away from me seemed to move out from inside of me. It was such a puzzle to me—as if my eyes were a gigantic camera, changing focus without my doing anything. Now I am used to the puzzle. Nowadays that is how I see. When you drive me around in your car, I am like a cameraman dollying along. The cars in the other direction go into me, and the cars that pass us come out of me. When my eyes fix on something they do it with total attention, like a camera.'

That day when U.G. came back home from the restaurant he looked in the mirror to find that there was something odd about his eyes—they were 'fixed'. He kept looking in the mirror for a long time and observed that his eyelids were not blinking. For almost forty-five minutes he stared into the mirror—still no blinking of the eyes! 'Instinctive blinking was over for me, and it still is.' On the fifth day, U.G. noticed a change in his hearing. When he heard the barking of a dog, the barking seemed to originate inside of him. All sounds seemed to come from within him and not from outside. They still do.

The five senses changed in five days. On the sixth day U.G. was lying down on a sofa. Valentine was in the kitchen.

'And suddenly my body disappeared. There was no body there. I looked at my hand... I looked at it—"Is this my hand?" There was no actual question, but the whole situation was somewhat like that. 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 and asked: "Do you see my body on this sofa? Nothing inside of me says that this is my body." She touched it and said, "This is your body." And yet that assurance didn't give me any comfort or satisfaction. I said to myself, "What is this funny business? My body is missing." My body had gone away, and it has never come back.' Now, as regards his body, the points of contact are all that U.G. has, nothing else, because the sense of vision, he says, is independent of the sense of touch. So it is not possible for him to create a complete image of his own body because, in the absence of the sensation of touch, the corresponding points are missing in his consciousness. And finally, on the seventh day, U.G. was again lying on the same sofa, relaxing, enjoying the 'declutched state'. Valentine would come in, and he would recognize her as Valentine. She would go out of the room. Then, finish, blank—no Valentine. He would think, 'What is this? I can't even imagine what Valentine looks like.' He would listen to the sounds coming from the kitchen and ask himself, 'What are those sounds coming from inside me? But I could not relate to them.' He had discovered that all his senses were without a coordinating mechanism inside of himself: the coordinator was missing. And then...

'I felt something happening inside of me: the life energy drawing to a focal point from different parts of my body. I said to myself, "Now you have come to the end of your life. You are going to die." Then I called Valentine and said, "I am going to die, Valentine, and you will have to do something with this body. Hand it over to the doctors; maybe they will use it. I don't believe in burning or burial. In your own interest you have to dispose of this body. One day it will stink. So, why not give it away?"' Valentine replied, 'U.G., you are a foreigner. The Swiss government won't take your body. Forget about it.' The frightening movement of his life force had come to a focal point. Valentine's bed was empty. He moved over to that bed and stretched out, getting ready to die. Valentine, of course, ignored what was going on. She left. But before she left she said, 'One day you say this thing has changed, another day you say that thing has changed, and a third day you say something else has changed. What is all this? And now you say you are going to die. You are not going to die. You are all right, hale and healthy,' saying this, she left the room. U.G. continues his account:

Then a point arrived where it looked as if the aperture of a camera was trying to close itself. It is the only simile that I can think of. The way I am describing this is quite different from the way things actually happened at that time, because there was nobody there thinking in such terms. All this, however, must have been part of my experience, otherwise I wouldn't be able to talk about it. So the aperture was trying to close itself, and something was there trying to keep it open. Then after a while there was no will to do anything, not even to prevent the aperture closing itself. Suddenly, as it were, it closed. I don't know what happened after that. This process lasted for forty-nine minutes—this process of dying. It was like a physical death. U.G. says that even now it happens to him:

My hands and feet become so cold, the body becomes stiff, the heartbeat slows down, the breathing slows down, and then there is a gasping for breath. Up to a point you are there, you breathe your last breath, as it were, and then you are finished. What happens after that, nobody knows.

When U.G. came out of this his landlady said that there was a telephone call for him. He went downstairs in a daze to answer the phone. He didn't know what had happened. He had been through a physical death. What brought him back to life, he didn't know. How long it lasted, he didn't know. 'I can't say anything about that, because the experiencer was finished: there was nobody to experience that death at all...' Here the account of Douglas Rosenstein, the only eyewitness to this thing called the 'calamity', will be most appropriate. In fact, portions of what follows were written by him prior to his visit to Carmel. The rest he relates to my video camera. For a moment I was filled with envy. Here was a person who could boast of having witnessed the most extraordinary breakthrough of U.G.'s life:

Twenty-four Summers ago, I was a witness to that rarest of all transformations, arguably the only real one—the death and rebirth of an ordinary human being. This was an ordinary man rather than a 'god man', a chosen one or a world teacher. It all began in the Summer of 1966 when I went to Saanen to listen to the talks of J. Krishnamurti. I was camping by the river with some friends. One day someone told me he had bumped into an intense Indian man whom he described as a very unusual guy. He encouraged me to go and meet this man who lived in a three-hundred-year old chalet called Chalet Pfeffynegg (which means 'windy') in the Saanen Village. I remember vividly the first time I laid eyes on U.G. He was the first Indian I had ever seen. He was arguing vehemently with an American musician who played the organ in a Saanen church. U.G. was denouncing J. Krishnamurti. I had recently heard J. Krishnamurti's talks and I was very impressed. My very first thought was that this guy was way off base. But I didn't wish to intrude. So I watched the heated debate go back and forth for some time. Something other than my judging mind was attracted to U.G. Even while I was intellectually offended, I was drawn to him. That battle in myself raged for many years... but that is another story.

That Summer of 1966 was preparatory for what happened in the following Summer. I frequently lunched with U.G. There were times when U.G. would come to our tent with Valentine, and my friends and I would do our best to fix a vegetarian meal for them. My best memories revolved around the talks and lunches we had at Chalet Pfeffynegg. We would come back from the talks of J. Krishnamurti and would sit around discussing his abstractions. There would be U.G., in one moment tearing apart Krishnamurti's arguments, while paradoxically praising the man in the next breath. So the Summer passed. U.G. and Krishnamurti both encouraged me to go to India and study Yoga.

On my return from India, I spent the Summer again in Saanen. I remember that U.G. seemed much the same as he had the previous Summer, only the amperage was up on his attacks on Krishnamurti. Often before the talks, I would see him standing alone looking absorbed, while everyone else was socializing.

The talks ended in mid-August with a surprise announcement that Krishnamurti was extending the talks. On the last day of the talks I saw U.G. again. He didn't appear to be very involved in what Krishnamurti was saying. The next day I was having lunch with Valentine and U.G. U.G. began telling the story of how on the previous day he was lying on a couch and he asked Valentine where his body was. And she had answered that his body was there on the couch. Valentine admitted that this crazy conversation had indeed taken place. We were talking about all this between bites of our lunch. The conversation took place in the past tense. U.G. went on repeating how his body disappeared. I asked him, 'What about now? Is your body there for you now?' And with the certainty that I have never seen in U.G. or anyone else, he said, 'No, it's gone for good. It can't come back.' I asked, 'How can you be sure?' And he switched emphatically into the present tense, and for the next 25 years I have never again heard him use the past tense in reference to how he is functioning.

That day I was at my apartment in Gstaad. It was evening time. The moon was just coming up on the horizon. Something told me that I should call U.G. at his Chalet. I did. The landlady answered the phone. I could hear her yelling, 'U.G. Krishnamurti, phone for you.' Valentine came on the phone. She sounded upset, 'Something is going on with U.G. His body is not moving. He may be dying.' I said, 'Go and get U.G., I'll talk to him.' Valentine said, 'I don't think he will come.' I insisted. And then U.G. came to the phone. His voice sounded very far away, and he said, 'Douglas, you better come over and see this.' It was an invitation to see a 'dead' man. So I ran. At that time the trains weren't running. The distance between Gstaad and Saanen is about three kilometers. I entered the chalet and went up to U.G.'s room. I remember the scene very vividly: Valentine was looking white with terror, and U.G. was lying on the couch—gone. His body was in an arched position. In Yoga you would call this posture dhanurasana (the posture of the bow). The full moon was just coming over the mountain. I asked U.G. to come to the window and look at the moon. He got up. I will never forget the manner in which he looked at the moon. There was something strange going on in that room. I asked him, 'What was all that?' He said, 'It's the final death.'

Moorty, who had been listening to Douglas's account, at this point butts in and asks, 'You mean he said that he was going to die?' Douglas, 'No, it had already happened. U.G. said that it was my phone call that had brought him back.' Moorty asks, 'What was your response, Douglas?' 'I was absolutely delighted; I was so happy for him.' 'Were there any noticeable changes in him?' I asked. 'His personality hadn't changed. He was the same difficult person that he always was. But there was an absence of tension. The doubt was gone. But the personality was the same. I remember very distinctly something he said to me then that has remained with me all these years. He said, "Douglas, there is one thing that I know for certain: the search must come to an end before anything can happen."'

Before he left for Mill Valley that evening, this is how Douglas summed up U.G.:

He is the most subversive human being that ever walked on this planet earth, much more subversive than all those religious leaders mankind has been following for 2,600 years to no purpose. Yes, I am including the Buddha too. U.G.'s subversiveness is so complete that nobody wants to believe it. Everything that you believe in, everything that you put your faith in, your hope in—your desire for continuity, of not only yourself, but of your family, your civilization—all that will go. You won't believe any of it any more. Nothing will have any meaning. And when all this meaning goes, then you will really make it. Only then you will hear what U.G. is saying... That takes courage.