The Encounter 'If you are searching for someone who will enlighten you, you have come to the wrong man.' U.G.
27th August, 1991. My flight from Bombay to London is on schedule. Leaving home and your near and dear ones even for a while is tough. I wonder how U.G. has turned his back to the entire experience. As I take off for forty days and forty nights to join U.G. in London and thereafter journey with him to California to write his biography, I am overcome by a feeling of dread. Will I be able to do justice to this self-imposed task of presenting U.G. to the world? I wonder.
The legend of Icarus from Greek mythology leaps out of a page of the 'Magazine of New Writing'. The legend: Daedalus secretly made two sets of wings—one pair for himself and one for his son Icarus. The wings were cleverly fashioned with feathers set in beeswax. The father showed his son how to use them and warned him not to fly too high as the heat of the sun would melt the wax. Then he led him up to the highest tower, and, flapping their wings, they both flew off like two birds. Nobody could stop their flight. The young and foolish Icarus could not resist the temptation to rise ever higher into the sky. The whole world seemed to lie at his feet. He flew too close to the sun and the wax began to melt. The feathers came loose, the wings fell apart and Icarus plunged into the sea and drowned.
It is said that one cannot stare at death or the sun too long without blinking. Looking into U.G.'s desolate life is no different. Perhaps the only way to write this biography is to give myself the permission to fail. One cannot be intimidated into living up to anyone's high standards, even one's own.
It is not always possible to wander backward through the blur of years and remember the exact moment when you met someone. When did I first meet U.G.? Where and how? Looking at one's past is like looking at things from the wrong end of a telescope. It makes everything look distant and small. As the aircraft plunged into a sea of clouds I floated backwards into time, descending into a mist of images...
Those were the days of living dangerously—of reading Jonathan Livingston-Seagull, listening to John Lennon and taking L.S.D. I was meditating that morning when the telephone rang. As I walked to pick up the phone, little did I know that this call would change my entire life.
'U.G. is here... when would you like to meet him?' asked Pratap Karvat. 'Now,' I said. 'Take down my address...'
I had met Pratap Karvat, a soft and meek intellectual, by chance at a film shooting. Seeing me dressed in orange robes (I was a Rajneeshi sannyasi then), reading the latest J. Krishnamurti book, The Awakening of Intelligence, Pratap approached me, wanting to take a look at that book. He is a voracious reader, a book addict. He spoke about J. Krishnamurti, Rajneesh and the whole spiritual game. Then, just like that, out of nowhere, he mentioned the name of another Krishnamurti called U.G. Krishnamurti who visited India every year but remained anonymous. 'Would you like to meet this U.G.?' he asked. I was curious. 'Why not, the more the merrier. Let us see what he has to say.'
The scent of tobacco, the clamor of the city and the dark, squeaky staircase. How vivid the memory of my first meeting with U.G. is. His face slowly eclipsed everything around me. A volcanic silence blazed through my guts. How can I ever forget what he said that day!:
I am not a god man. I would rather be called a fraud. The quest for God has become such an obsessive factor in the lives of human beings because of the impossibility of achieving pleasure without pain. That messy thing called the mind has created many destructive things. By far the most destructive of them all is God. God has become the ultimate pleasure. The variations of God—self-realization, moksha or liberation, fashionable transformation gimmicks, the first and the last freedom and all the freedoms that come in between—are the ones that are pushing man into a manic-depressive state. Somewhere along the line of evolution, man experienced self-consciousness for the first time in contradistinction to the way consciousness is functioning in other species. It was there, in that division of consciousness, that God, along with the nuclear doctrine that is threatening the extinction of all that nature has created with such tremendous care, was born.
No power on this earth, no god, no avatar, can halt this. Man is doomed. He has no freedom of action. All we can do is to wait for the end of the world—even while we talk of ways to stop a nuclear holocaust. This may sound like Jeremiah or an apocalyptic warning of a prophet of doom. U.G. was like a raging bull, his fury was stunning. It was strangely attractive.
'Are you not taking away hope from us, Sir,' I questioned.
U.G. smiled and said, 'Am I? I am no jaunty optimist. You can live in hope and die in hope.'
'Do you have any special attitude toward sexuality?' I asked.
U.G. answered: 'God and sex spring from the same source. God is the ultimate pleasure. God has to go first before sex goes. Why should sex go? Let me mention en passant that my whole thinking on the subject of sex had been found at the hands of the holy men. Now I maintain that the life of ascetic austerity, denial of sex and all the disciplines associated with the religious life, have had nothing to do with whatever has happened to me. That is not to say that indulgence in sex or a life of promiscuity is the springboard to enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it. You have been fed on that rubbish and I am not in any way compelled to disillusion you. You can delude yourself that smoking marijuana or preaching sexual freedom is a sure path to selfhood or samadhi. The fact that you are violating both moral injunctions and legal codes of conduct is a matter between you and your society. Social attitudes may be changing but your actions are still considered to be anti-social.'
'Your guru has given you the license and cover, so you don't feel guilty or immoral or impure. Similarly, those aspiring starlets who have sex—on what they call in Hollywood the casting couch—with the producer-director to get a part in his film, also feel superior to professional whores. They get away with that because they belong to a glamorous profession. I have no moral position. Are you happy? Who amongst you is happy? You? Your girlfriend? Your wife? Or her boyfriend? Everybody is unhappy. Don't forget that your actions affect everybody. Everybody is miserable.'
I felt scorched. Accidentally, I had touched a live wire, walked into a field of mines. His words jolted me out of the spiritual coma I had sunk into. I was desperate. I needed a trip badly. It was LSD which had initiated me into the world of meditation. It had given me and an entire generation of the flower children a taste of the mystical. The desire to relive this chemically-induced experience drew me into by-lanes of the spiritual bazaar. That evening, as I dimmed the lights of my room and sat down to meditate, the after-image of U.G. loomed there in the darkness. His words resonated in my head.
'Meditation is warfare,' said U.G., as I was leaving his place. For the first time in two years, since my acquaintance with Rajneesh, I panicked and found that I could not meditate. I wandered out into the streets. The street dogs, which at first sight barked, soon knew that I was one of them. I stood by a fire with strangers. The night was cold. Flames rushed up in yellow sheets. Sparks glittered in our eyes. All the men around the fire were drunk. The fire held us and comforted us all. 'Are you Mahesh Bhatt?,' asked one of them. 'Yes,' I answered. They smiled. They were happy to have me amidst them. I wondered why. Why was I not happy to be with myself? All the faces around the fire looked haggard. Later, I tried to sleep, but I couldn't. Something told me, 'Friend, you're heading for trouble.'
'I feel lost, alone. I am frightened and full of doubt. Help me!' I said when I met Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in his ashram on a cold winter evening in Pune. He stared at me, gently placed his hand on my head and said, 'Jesus too was seized by such doubt when he was crucified. "Oh God, why hast thou forsaken me?" he screamed, doubting if God was with him. But as soon as he had uttered these words, he saw for himself that God was very much by his side.' 'I am very much with you.'
That evening he gave me a gift—his white robe. 'Wear this, Mahesh. Everything will be fine. You are doing well.' His words comforted me. He told me things I wanted to hear. Unfortunately, this feeling of well-being did not last long. I had to go back again and again to the ashram front office, begging for one more darshan with the Bhagwan. I was like a drug addict, desperately hunting for his next fix. Rajneesh had become my crutch.
It was a paradox. My quest for freedom was transformed into a trap, a prison from which I blurted out concepts of liberty and independence. My encounter with U.G. had left me traumatized. Deep within me a wound festered. You can run but you can't hide. You can lie to the whole world but can you really lie to yourself? I knew my days with Rajneesh were numbered. The walls of paradise had begun to crack. My Bhagwan was dying within me and there was nothing I could do.
It was inevitable, I said to myself as I watched the remains of my broken mala (I'd taken from Rajneesh) slowly disappear down the toilet. It felt so strange to be free of the dog collar which had kept me on a leash for almost three years. I was tired of the life I had been leading. I was tired of the man I was. The years spent in and around the Rajneesh Neo-Sannyas International Commune had not contributed in any way toward my self-improvement. Progress in that area was perhaps an illusion. 'If books and talks could change people, this world would become a paradise,' says U.G. A chapter in my life was over.
'Bhagwan is very angry with you, Mahesh. I am shooting a movie at Filmistan Studios. Come over right away. I have his message to pass on,' said Vinod Khanna, the film star, a few days after my breakup with Rajneesh. News about my dumping the mala down the commode had got back to the ashram. I was ready for the repercussions. 'Why, Mahesh? Why did you do that?' asked Vinod. His concern for me was sincere. 'I have never seen Bhagwan in such a temper. He wants you to come to the ashram and hand the mala back to him in person. It's a breach of trust on your part. He says he works so hard on you. If you don't do that he says he will destroy you, Mahesh.' He looked at me as if my days on this earth were numbered. There was a heavy silence in the make-up room. I had rebelled against 'God'. His wrath was now directed at me.
I was angry. I remembered how Rajneesh had given discourses on unconditional love and had spoken at great length abut how detestable it was for man to be so possessive. It was disgusting now to see him behave just like any jilted lover, unable to swallow a rejection. He was just a wordsmith peddling half-truths, high-sounding phrases and holy concepts. And that's what people wanted, not the blunt facts. At this time U.G.'s words came to my rescue: 'A guru is one who tells you to throw away all crutches. He would ask you to walk and if you fall, he would say that you will rise and walk.' These words gave me unimaginable courage. 'Who is afraid of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh? Get up,' I said to myself. 'Get up on your own two feet, no matter how shaky they are, and walk.' Once I did that, there was no looking back.
1977 to 1979. During these years I met U.G. whenever he passed through Bombay. In those days, U.G., Lallubhai Shah and I went for a walk almost every morning. 'You should write U.G.'s biography someday,' said Lalubhai Shah to me on a misty morning. [Lalubhai was a prosperous diamond merchant who had given up his flourishing trade to join Vinoba Bhave in the Sarvodaya movement. He had also worked under Mahatma Gandhi during the Quit India movement against the British Raj.] At that time, I was a struggling film maker who made advertisement films to make ends meet. My personal life was a big mess, to put it mildly. I was a married man with a lovely daughter, yet I was involved with an infamous film star, the Time magazine cover girl, as she was popularly known in those days—Parveen Babi.
The front office of the ashram had warned the sannyasi against seeing U.G. After they met U.G., many of Rajneesh's very close devotees had quit the ashram. I remember in those days, Rajneesh gave four talks against U.G., calling him all sorts of names. 'U.G., you have not said a word in response to the repeated attacks Rajneesh has been making on you of late. Why? I have also noticed that you don't say much against any particular guru,' I asked.
His reply was unusual: Gurus play a social role. So do prostitutes. Unfortunately, in society, what the gurus are offering is not only socially acceptable but also considered the be-all and end-all of our existence. The others are not. You choose what suits you best...
Ever since I can remember, I was always frightened of the dark, and I still am. When I am alone at home or out in a hotel, I just cannot sleep in the dark. Right from the kalmas which my Moslem mother taught me up to the explanations and techniques given by god men and psychotherapists, all have failed to free me from this phobia. When I placed my problem before U.G., he said:
'All the phobias that the psychiatrists are trying to free you from are essential for the survival of the living organism. Society wants to free you from these fears so that it can use you to fulfill its own needs... If you don't have one fear you will have some other fear.'
I know a famous film producer from the United States who has this phobia about cats. Every time he comes to see me his aids first make sure that there are no cats around. One day, this man, who was embarrassed by his phobia, and had seen every psychiatrist in the U.S., mentioned his fear to me. He thought there was something wrong with him. He was relieved when I told him that there was no need for him to try and free himself from his phobia. That ended his problem. So what's wrong with your having the fear of the dark...?
His words freed me from the search for the solution to end my phobia. I am still scared of the dark but I am not scared that I am scared of the dark! Amongst those that came to see him that day was a gentleman connected with many institutions and president of an organization dedicated to social work. He said to U.G., 'You don't seem to have any love for your fellow men. Are you indifferent to the poverty and suffering around you? Your teaching has no practical utility for mankind.'
U.G.'s reply was blunt: 'You are just a good man blinded by the folly of doing good to others. What is a good man good for? What makes you think that you are living to do good unto others? To live to do good to others is a self-absorbed, self-centered activity of yours. You are not honest enough to admit that. You call it a mission in life to serve humanity. You have been amply rewarded for the service to your country. Humanity is just an abstraction. Death will lay its icy hands on you too. You know perfectly well that there is an end for you too. That is why you project permanence on mankind by struggling against all change. The belief in the eternity of your soul and the afterlife springs from the same source.'
A parapsychologist intervened. 'Do you have any comment to make on clairvoyance, clairaudience, extrasensory perception and psychic phenomena?'
U.G. nodded and explained: 'Man is one of the species on this planet to inherit these things in common with all the other species. Man, in his anxiety to maintain his non-existing and illusory identity, has been using thought to translate sensory perception. Now the yogis are promising these things back to us and making a business out of it. Let me give you an example of how effectively it operates in the animals. In Switzerland, where we live up in the Alps, hunting of deer is permitted from 16 September every year. Would you believe it, on 15 September every year, hordes and hordes of deer come down from all over into the safety of the animal sanctuary next door to us. How do you explain this phenomenon?'
'U.G. is the most radical man I have met,' said my writer friend, Sujit Sen. He was keeping a hawk-like eye on everything U.G. said and did. He had come to meet U.G. reluctantly, hesitantly and unwillingly on my insistence. Sujit is an intellectual, devoid of any religious or spiritual aspirations. He is a leftist who was once a member of a terrorist group that failed to achieve its revolutionary goals. Now he is full of bitterness. His life is drained of any purpose, and he is simmering with anger and frustration. Sujit asked, 'Has life any purpose, U.G.?'
'Why must there be any meaning or purpose to life?' replied U.G. 'We must latch on to something to prevent us from disappearing. Or else, why should I not commit suicide?'
Sujit persisted. U.G. asked: 'Do you have the courage to do it? Go right ahead and do it! Don't forget that if you fail in your attempt, the law will be after you. You don't have the courage to live. You don't have the courage to die. And yet you don't begrudge laying down your life in the name of freedom or communism or whatever happens to be your particular fancy. Or you can give a name and philosophy to that thing called despair and market it. That may bring you into the limelight. Sujit said, 'This is no laughing matter. Jokes aside, let me ask you a question that is of great importance. The end of civilization seems to be around the corner. New weapons are threatening our very existence...'
U.G. interrupted him saying, 'Isn't it strange that you are talking of suicide in one breath and nuclear holocaust in another?'
Sujit answered, 'Paradoxical as it may seem to you, the fact remains that mankind too seems to have opted for suicide.'
This discussion really got U.G. going. 'Your minds pose as much a threat to the future of mankind as the nuclear weapons. The hydrogen bomb has its origin in the jawbone of an ass. The caveman used it to kill his neighbor. Here, your civilized man is doing what the caveman did, but you do it for the good of mankind. Those who still hold that right is all on their side, and that their eternal good will burn away the evil of others, are the real enemies of mankind. It doesn't matter how the world will blow itself up—with a bomb that has the markings of the stars and stripes, or a hammer and sickle, or a crescent, or a Jewish star, or the Ashok Chakra.'
Sujit was speechless. At this point, a politician waylaid U.G. and asked, 'If humanity is to be saved from the chaos of its own making, what role can India play in restoring peace to mankind? Can the heritage of India be of any value to mankind?'
U.G.'s answer was: 'India has neither the spiritual power nor the material strength to be of any help to mankind. Sorry.'
Every word he said that day had a sense of finality. Yet I knew he did not intend to evoke paranoia within us. I asked, 'Is it possible to avert the catastrophe by somehow changing or improving human nature?' What he said to me was something I had not asked for:
'Man is merely a biological being. There is no spiritual side to his nature. All your virtues, principles, beliefs, ideas and spiritual values imposed on you by your culture are mere affectations. They haven't touched anything in you. Religion exploited for centuries the devoutness, piousness and whole-souled fervor of the religious man. Not in "Love thy neighbor as thyself" but in the terror that if you try to kill your neighbor you will also be destroyed along with him lies the future of mankind. How long is anyone's guess.'
The wounds of sexual betrayal leave a lasting scar. A famous film star made an overture to the woman I was living with in those days. I was furious. Every cell in my body vibrated with jealousy. I felt like strangling that man and my girlfriend. I fought hard with the upsurge of my wild emotions and realized that it was a losing battle. 'Love is unconditional,' said Rajneesh. The writing was there on the wall. My guru's maxim was not working in my life. That's when I ran up to U.G. and asked him: 'Is it possible for me to be free from jealousy and at the same time have sex, pleasure, companionship, and exchange ideas and opinions with my girlfriend?'
U.G. said: 'Wanting to kill that man and woman is something natural. That is a healthy reaction. If you felt differently for any reason, religious or otherwise, then something is wrong with you. You are a sick man. What culture has done to you has unfortunately turned you into a hypocrite. When someone makes a pass at your girlfriend or when you suspect unfaithfulness you are bound to be tortured by jealousy, by hate, and by the agony that is going on inside you. If some ugly saint in the marketplace says that it is possible, that there is a way out, that you can be free from jealousy and yet have sex and the rest of it, he is taking you for a ride. I am sorry I cannot swallow that pill. If jealousy goes, sex goes too. If you can make it possible without going mad, good luck to you!'
Every time I went to him, my mental processes were put to rout. I went to U.G. for help and what I got was despair. The hopelessness of my situation was like the story of a man who is lost in a pitch dark jungle. He is in great pain because of a thorn stuck in his foot. He gropes around and finds another thorn to remove the thorn which is causing him agony. Instead of freeing himself of the first thorn, what he finds to his dismay is that now he is stuck with two thorns instead of one. So there I was stuck with two thorns—jealousy and despair. I had come to a dead end. Perhaps the only way out then from that feeling of utter hopelessness and desperation was to resort to an act of recklessness.
It was two o'clock in the morning when this drunken man, myself, walked to U.G.'s house and rang his bell. U.G. opened the door. I still remember what I said, 'I want to kill you. Why on earth did I ever have to meet a man like you? No matter what topic I begin with, it ultimately ends in despair.' U.G. said, 'Why don't you go to sleep, Mahesh. There is a sofa and there is a blanket. If you want to kill me, you will do well to wait till tomorrow when people will be around. Then you can make a ritual of the whole thing.' Minute later I bid 'Good night' to him and kissing his hand said, 'U.G., I love you.' That was the beginning of my one-way love story with U.G.
As days wore on in his company, I realized that this man's sagacity was not acquired by years of learning and experience. What spilt out of him did not seem to be labored. There was something indefinable about him. He had a peculiar quietening quality about him that seemed to affect the people that came to see him. The peace he radiated was not obtrusive. It seeped into you. What was its source? How or by what means had U.G. stumbled into this 'state' of being? Had his life been a preparation for this? These questions began to weigh on me. And then one day, he told me the story of his life and his search.