May 16, 1983
It’s impossible to define UG as such and such, or to put his teaching into a mold or fit it within a certain frame. He is beyond our grasp. You think you have a hold on him, but he slips away with ease.
As soon as you think “I understand him now,” there is another flash, another lightning or another manifestation quite contrary to what we think we have understood. ‘Contrary’ doesn’t mean that he denies what he has said before. Rather, the boundaries [of our understanding], the frontiers keep expanding as we listen to him, watch him and absorb what he says in our minds. Maybe that’s the nature of truth!
“Truth is not something static. It’s movement. Truth is a moving target,” says UG.
That’s why we can’t understand UG. I hesitate to write anything [about him or his teaching] because I fear that after all these years of trying to understand him, I have only gotten tired, and that whatever I say, think or write would only be an insult to him.
I remember reading sometime ago in the Sivaparadha Sutra of a devotee, who, while singing the praise of God, enumerates all his transgressions. He wails: “I committed many unpardonable crimes against you, such as attributing a form to you whereas [in reality] you are formless, giving you a name whereas you are nameless, imagining you being in a specific place whereas you are omnipresent, and worshipping you whereas you are merely a witness. How can you forgive me?”
My situation with regard to UG is similar. Once I look back, I feel that whatever I have written came just from my imagination.
Rabindranath [Tagore] in one of his poems asks himself, “What is the meaning of the songs in Gitanjali?” and answers briefly, “What do I know about their meaning? And who indeed knows their meaning?”
Nanduri [Subba Rao], who created an unimaginable empire of love, the vibrations of innocent and lovely hearts echoing in its poetic edifices, having given delicate form to two wonderful lovers, says philosophically:
When anyone asks “Who is Enki?”
I point to lights and shadows.
After I have written whatever I have to write, and said whatever I have to say, I feel like saying, “All these are thoughts that have occurred in my head after hearing UG and I wrote them down here. If you happen to read all this, please don’t circumscribe what I have written here and say this is what UG is or what he says. He is an eternal riddle. If you find some answer to the riddle, the question will throw you into tangles and fly away.”
How beautifully Dhurjati has written [in Kalahastiswara Sataka]
If truth were to be described
Can poetry contain it?
Shame on poets like me
Oh! Lord of Sri Kalahasti!
I don’t even have the confidence which Potana shows when he says: “I shall clarify what I have seen, heard and learned from the wise ones...”
* * *
“I wish I could give you a feel of this...”
August 1, 1983
“I wish I could give you a feel of this. Then you would never be interested in it. You wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole,” UG says. You can’t presume that these words are an exaggeration. Perhaps they are true. How could there be any experience when everything we have imagined about that state is turned upside down, when the mind itself disappears along with the image it has built, when our whole existence fizzles out like fog, when the endless flow of our experience comes to a grinding halt, when whatever we thought was unmoving starts trampling around, and when the snow peak of a mountain we approached admiring its beauty all of a sudden cracks down creating tremors in the earth and sky and flows as a stream? Who can experience it? When everything burns in that stream like firewood, when the notions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ rise like sparks in the fire of time for a little while and merge back into that fire, when the inhaled and exhaled breath kindles that fire like air in the bellows, making its flames much brighter, when the series of electrical energy waves radiate with lightning speed vibrating each and every nerve -- who can imagine such a state? Who can wish for such a state? Is it some indescribable bliss? Is it a group of waves in a limitless ocean of peace? Oh my child, what are you thinking? What are you imagining? Are you still dreaming lying on your bed? When the experience burns away like fuel in fire because there is no one who can recognize it as bliss, who remains to describe that experience, to relish it? Who is there that thinks that he cannot bear the heat of the flames of that fire? It wouldn’t leave you even if you don’t want it. It won’t calm down until it reduces everything to ashes like a wildfire.
* * *
Fixing one’s mind in meditation...
My mind has been disappointed because it couldn’t stay in meditation. In the past, I used to cringe the whole day saying, “Alas, I couldn’t fix my mind. I have lost the grace of God.” On the other hand, on days when the mind is able to meditate steadily, I would experience great peace and simple joy. No matter what I was witnessing, eating or doing, I would be in some transcendental state, as if I was watching things from behind glass mirrors. Then I would strive to repeat that state and enhance it. With that endeavor my torture started. The meditation wouldn’t happen and yet I couldn’t quit it. What a great help UG gave me when he came into my life. The first thing he did was to get me away from such childish nonsense.
“Such amazing experiences are natural. They come and they go. You should remain as if you haven’t noticed them. If you give them any importance, then they make you feel like wanting them again,” UG would say.
“Those who take drugs like LSD have even greater experiences. Some have curious things happen to them -- they witness many wonderful scenes, visions and mandalas [mystical designs]. Those are all the effects of the chemical changes that occur in their brains. More than that, there is nothing spiritual about them. But because of those experiences, they fall into the illusion that they are achieving something spiritual and they sink themselves deeper into spiritual practice.
“As a matter of fact, in that state there won’t be anyone to experience anything. You wouldn’t know whether you have thoughts or not, or what you are experiencing, or whether you are experiencing sorrow or bliss.
“Ultimately, even the experience of God is a worthless experience within the limitless consciousness. No matter how great the experience is, it’s a contamination in that consciousness.
“Isn’t it foolish to strive to bring it into experience while saying at the same time that it is unreachable by mind or speech and that it is beyond experience?” UG used to speak to me like this.
Then what must I do now? When I asked UG this question three years ago in
Just do nothing. I think it was said well in the Gita that, “atma-samstham manah krtva na kincid api cintayet [the mind should be fixed on the self alone and should think of nothing else].” Dedicate everything to the Lord of All in your heart; and surrender all your thoughts to Him, staying in the thinking, “I am not concerned. I don’t exist; only you are everything” -- [it doesn’t matter] if there are or not any thoughts, if you are or are not happy, whether you are able to fix your mind in meditation or not. Who am I in the first place that I should do something?
If there is any practice that we can do, only the following seems possible:
Yato-yato niscarati manascancalam asthiram
Tatastat -niyamyai tad atmanyeva vasam nayet
[Whenever the unsteady and fickle mind wanders off somewhere, one should bring it back from there by restraint placing it under the control of oneself’.]
For the little while you sit, whenever your mind or thoughts wander off, you must bring them back to yourself and dedicate to them to the Lord of All. That’s all I can do now.
The mind must come into meditation naturally. It’s not a practice. Does the Gayatri meditation happen due to my effort? The japa indeed starts as though some force unknown to me pushes itself forward. When I remain alone, even when I am meditating, some thoughts do indeed go on.
phire jib phiremukhamahim
Manavato dasadasi phire yahto sumiran nahi
says Kabir. [Rosary keeps rotating in the hands/so does the tongue in the mouth (doing japa)/but the mind keeps wandering off in all the directions. /Surely, this is no meditation!] It’s literally true. Still there is no other choice. It’s not in my hands. I don’t know when it [Gayathri japa] will stop.
* * *
As I looked at UG’s photo, I wondered why his hair is so long. Although not quite as long as the hair which actors in the drama companies grow, UG lets his hair grow down to his neck. “My ears are big. The hair is helpful in hiding them,” he says when someone asks him why he has that hairstyle. I don’t know if anyone has asked him, “Why should you hide your ears? Why can’t they be seen?”
I think in the Science of the Bodily Signs they had examined the characteristics of the organs of holy men. They concluded that great teachers and seers in the spiritual path have large ears. You will understand that if you see the paintings or sculptures of Gautama the Buddha. ‘Dad’ Chalam also had big ears. So did Shau [Sowris, Chalam’s daughter, a mystic]. I think that Bhagavan’s ears too were large in size.
In the photographs taken before the Calamity, UG’s hair looks normal. I have two photos in my album, passport photos – one from three years before the Calamity and the other from three years after it. It’s strange that there is no resemblance between the two pictures. It’s hard to tell that the two pictures are of the same person. I don’t understand how there is such a change even in the face. It’s unimaginable to me that a person who is an adult and has not passed his middle age could still change so much in the span of six years.
Once I was leafing through the Ayurvedic manual Charaka Samhita in the World Culture Institute Library, and I noticed a mention of how the characteristics of a penis can differ from person to person. According to the manual, the penises of Jñanis and yogis are soft like jelly. Later, when Swami Sundarananda explained about the Indrajit Asana and showed me its photograph, I thought that Charaka’s statements were accurate. “Sex is impossible for a person in this state,” says UG. Maybe that’s true. “Not that he becomes impotent or any such thing. Even an erection may be possible. But there is no build up, without which sex cannot be achieved,” he adds.
* * *
That is why UG maintains that the ancient sages who lived with their families were not real seers. He asserts that they are the cause of our present [deplorable] state. It is not clear why the term ‘brahmacharya’ came to acquire the meaning of being free from sexual pleasures. If you look at the meaning of the word in Sanskrit, it means ‘moving in Brahman’ or ‘being devoted to Brahman’ or some such thing. There is no reference to sexual copulation. Today, however, people give quite contrary interpretations to the word ‘brahmachari’, namely, ‘he who doesn’t indulge in sexual pleasures’ or ‘an unmarried person.’ Perhaps they noticed that those devoted to Brahman have no sexual desires and so they fell into the misconception that ‘brahmacharya’ means the absence of sexual desires.
Be that as it may, it’s indisputable that in that ‘nondual’ state there is a total absence of bodily concern and craving for sensual enjoyment. There is no such thing as arriving at that state.
“This is not a thing to be attained. It is not a state which you enter at one time and come out at another. It’s always there.... there is no such thing as a ‘fall’ from that state...”
The state of a ‘yoga bhrashtha’ [one who has fallen from yoga] is nothing but a bizarre and abnormal aberration before reaching that state.
* * *
August 5, 1983
When Arjuna asks:
[What are the
characteristics of the one who is established in wisdom and absorbed in
How can a yogi who sports in a state devoid of volition be capable of performing the duties that he has to carry on?
prajahati yada kaman
sarvan partha mano-gatan
atmany evatmana tustah
[When a person renounces all the desires that arise in the mind, Partha, and finds contentment within his self, then he is said to be established in wisdom.]
“How can such a man
carry on his worldly affairs?” is Arjuna’s question. The mind and the
desires arising from it are indeed the basis and primary motivation for
“What does UG say?...’
April 1, 1986
Two nights ago, when I went into the hall, it was filled with people: Shanta’s friend Pushpa and Pushpa’s husband and the friends who are usually there. I sat in a corner next to the stairs going to the second floor. Pushpa’s husband seemed to be middle aged. Apparently, he has a job in the Indian Institute of Science. Subbanna as usual sat leaning against the wall, with stretched legs, dozing off.
“Come, Valentine, come and sit in this chair,” UG said and showed her the chair. She climbed down three steps slowly and sat in the chair.
“Chandrasekhar, suppose somebody asks you ‘What does UG say?’ how would you answer in brief?” asked UG suddenly.
That’s a question which UG routinely asks. He is curious to hear how one elaborates on it. As I couldn’t think of anything, I didn’t answer. UG repeated his question; so I attempted a reply:
“Everyone is seeking something or the other, as he is not satisfied with what he is. You point out through your discussions or conversations the futility of this search and you knock out all the goals created by the society and culture ……. You explain that anything that is experienced, however profound the nature of that experience may be, is worthless, because it is born out of the knowledge one already has about it. There is no such thing as a new experience at all. Knowledge creates the experience and the experience further strengthens the knowledge, which is a vicious circle. You show that one is helpless in a given situation, but one doesn’t want to accept that situation. We constantly wants to do something with that which is creating misery and conflict,” I tried to summarize thus but UG appeared unimpressed.
“Why do you all come here day after day? Why? I don’t offer you anything! I haven’t invited any of you. So why do you come? Haven’t some of you been coming for 15 or 16 years? Why? What do you want?” UG was hammering the assembly with his questions.
Yes, this question intrigues me too. Why do they come? Why do I go to UG? What do I want?
“There’s a lot of entertainment here. Why not leave it at that?” Venkatramayya said laughingly.
“What entertainment? I have no objection, but there are better entertainments elsewhere. Why come here? Why are you interested in this kind of a thing?” said UG.
In the meantime the Australians came up with their usual air of extreme reverence towards UG and settled down on the floor.
UG noticed a plastic bag in their hands. “I think you should stop bringing all these things to us,” UG admonished. Max giggled.
‘May I ask you one thing?’ said UG. “Why do you come here day after day? Why? What do you want?”
Max was speechless for sometime. Perhaps they were not prepared for such a question that would hit them directly.
“You are like a magnet UG! You draw us all to you irresistibly,” said Max with folded hands.
“No, I don’t think so. I really want to understand why you all come here. Please don’t get me wrong. If nobody is here it’s just fine with me. It’s not a motiveless thing. When you come and throw questions at me you are creating a motive in me. Otherwise, I just sit here — I can sit and talk for 24 hours. It never exhausts me. But this talking is not a self-fulfilling thing to me. Obviously you want some thing. You imagine that I am some kind of god-knows-what. But actually and factually, you have no way of knowing anything about me, and much less about yourself. You project your ideas on me and hope to get something. Basically you are interested in changing yourself. But my question is why that change should be only in the future – tomorrow -- but not today, right here and now. Why? You hope to be something, whatever you want to be, only tomorrow. So, it is the hope that keeps you going.”
Suddenly Mr. Sivaraman, the lawyer, butted in and said, “According to law, once we make a contract we are always bound by that. There is no way of breaking the contract. That is why we are all here.” Everybody in the assembly burst into laughter, including UG.
* * *
April 5, 1986 (Saturday)
Mahesh is expected tomorrow morning. Dinesh is also coming from
Tonight there were not many in the hall. About 8 pm, Mr. Harish Singh of
Ooty suddenly showed up with a person in an ochre robe whom he introduced to
UG as his elder brother. Harish is a teacher in the
“We’ve arrived just now, at 7 pm, on our way to
The brother was evidently a follower of Rajneesh; he was stroking the mala on his neck with his fingers.
“When are you going to
“This very night. Tomorrow, I’ll put my brother on the train to
“We’re moving into a new house soon, a bigger place,” UG told him.
Harish looked surprised. “This month? Is the place far off? How can I find it when I come next?”
“It’s not very far. Just ten minutes by walk from here. If you come back here, you can get the directions from someone here. That’s no problem.”
“So, UG, you’re going to have a bigger place. Are you also planning to have a secretary, intermediaries and all that, too?” Harish was trying to have a dig.
“Why? Do you want to apply for his secretary’s job?” I countered Harish on UG’s behalf.
Harish smiled. “I may not mind being his secretary, but I don’t think we two would get on well,” he said.
UG nodded and said, “That’s true, especially not after what you wrote all that on education in that Blue Print. [UG was referring to the editorial written by Harish in their in-house magazine, a copy of which he had sent to UG earlier.] How can you write all that? ‘Education is the only panacea for all the evils that the society is a prey to….”-- you wrote something to that effect.’
“Why not, UG?” recoiled Harish, “You feel that way because you are not an educationalist. What’s wrong with my statement?”
“Why do you want to use poor children for your own self-aggrandizement? They don’t need all that. I don’t think environment plays any role in shaping the individual,” UG remarked, “Now they say we’re all genetically controlled. Two students go to the same school, to the same teacher and receive the same kind of instruction, but each comes out differently. How do you explain that?”
He said further, “Now it has become a fashion to start new schools. With all these spiritual and religious organizations, Ramakrishna Mission, even Chinmayananda – everyone is bent on educating the children in his or her particular school of thinking. Why brainwash poor helpless children? What’s so marvelous about your particular method of schooling? How is it distinct and different from the regular schools?”
Harish moved uneasily on the carpet. “It’s distinct and different in the sense that we don’t force and punish the children. We try to create an [open] atmosphere.”
“That’s all the more wrong. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ What’s wrong in punishing? When I was a boy, I was hit with a pencil on my finger by my teacher and was given ‘imposition’ because I spelled the word ‘February’ wrong – I had to write that word in the sand twenty times. Of course, I had no courage to hit my teacher back. I attended very ordinary schools. What’s wrong with me? There’s cut-throat competition everywhere; yet you teach the children not to compete. The atmosphere you’re trying to create is false. It doesn’t exist. You’re only making them misfits in the world.”
“But I earn my bread working there….”
“That’s all right; that’s acceptable to me. You may very well work there and earn more. There are people in this world with more money than sense. It’s a status symbol to send their children to private schools spending thousands. That’s all right. But I’m questioning the usefulness of such schools. What’s the result? Show me one individual – a leader – who is a perfect product of these schools?
“Krishnamurti and I had the same argument. He wanted me to go and teach in
Suddenly UG remembered something. “Is it true that in the
“Yes, it’s very much true,” said Harish, nodding his head.
“That must have shattered the Old Man,” said UG referring to JK.
* * *
UG was narrating about his earlier days in
“Every year I used to spend three months in
“I was a National Lecturer of the Theosophical Society. I used to visit
North India, keeping my headquarters in
“Did you pick up quite a bit of Hindi while you were there?”
“Hindi?” UG laughed and exclaimed, “Down with Hindi! Down with North Indian music, too. I don’t like them. My Hindi stopped with Pahli, Dusri and Tisri standard books.”
* * *
“You must have had many experiences, spiritual experiences in those days.”
“Oh, yes, all kinds of experiences -- samadhi states, you name it. But I soon realized that there is nothing to all those experiences.”
“You once said you had a great mystical experience after listening to
Krishnamurti. Was it after you said goodbye to him in
“No, it was much earlier, when I was attending his talks in
“You said that you could have easily started a huge organization drawing from the strength of that experience.”
“Yes, that’s true. In
“Was that while listening to Krishnamurti?”
“Yes, it was right in the hall. In those days, he had smaller gatherings of 100 or 150 people. I felt that something like a vacuum pump was sucking the life out me. I felt a terrible fear of dying.”
“Did you tell Krishnamurti about that experience?”
“Yes. I talked to him about it at great length. He listened to me patiently for half-an-hour. At the end, he said, ‘If there is anything to that, sir, it will certainly express itself in its own way. Otherwise, it will fade out.’ It did fade out after some time.”
“How did you get to feel that you could start a huge organization on the strength of that experience?”
“You see, I was able to see Krishnamurti’s teaching with more clarity in the light of that experience. But I had to fall back on him for that clarity. That dependence created a revolt in me. Finally, I stopped going to his talks.”
* * *
“You were saying that you had acquired some powers as a result of that experience. What were those powers?”
“Yes, I had all those powers. By looking at a person I could tell his past, present and future. Sometimes, I did tell people what I saw. But soon I realized that telling them about their futures created more trouble for them.”
“Do you remember any such instance?”
“Once, Mr. Olivetti, an Italian business magnate, came to me. Looking at him, I told him he had cancer. He was startled. His doctors had just recently assured him, after several tests, that he had no cancer. But my observation created a doubt in him. He rushed to his doctors and they confirmed that he had cancer. He died of it soon after.”
“But such flashes are not uncommon, at least to a few.”
“This is nothing marvelous -- that’s what I maintain. There is no power outside of man, and there is nothing to supernatural powers. Everybody has them. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t -- fifty-fifty percent. After the Calamity or whatever had happened to me, the first thing I said to Valentine was ‘I have lost all my powers.’”
“How did you know that you had lost them?”
“...because nothing was coming to my head. Now I know that whatever comes in here [pointing to his head] must be true. It cannot be false. But I have no use of those thoughts. There is nobody to translate them. So, they get burnt there. That’s the energy, sir, not the frictional energy created by thought.
“Here, this is like a drum -- a perfectly tuned instrument. You come here and play it. The lyric is yours, the tune is yours and the beat is yours. The drum has nothing to do with what melodies you produce. It’s not interested,” said UG, referring to himself.
* * *
‘Here and now’
“’Here and now’ has no meaning. ‘Here’ is space and ‘now’ is time. Thought creates the space and the time because thought is space and thought is time. So, nothing can happen in the ‘here and now’. Anything that is captured and projected by thought is worthless. How can thought, which is born in space and time, end itself in space and time?
“It’s always tomorrow. When tomorrow arrives it [thought] pushes it further. So, nothing can happen here and now – ‘the eternal present’. All that is nonsense.
“What is there to happen? There’s nothing to happen.”
* * *
“The goal creates its opposite...”
“The root cause of corruption lies in the religious thinking of man. Religion is responsible for the corruption, crime and selfishness that we see around us. It’s the goal that creates its opposite. As long as love is there, so long will there be hate. It’s love that creates hate; it’s selflessness that creates selfishness. When the goal [to be selfless] goes, with that selfishness also goes. But you don’t seem to understand that the goal is not different from you; you are the goal. You are the selfishness. It’s not in your interest to end yourself. So, the logical structure evolves more logic around this argument and continues. Otherwise, it collapses.”
* * *
Peace of Mind
“There is no such thing as peace of mind. As long as you think you have what you call ‘mind’, so long will you be restless. Restlessness is the nature of the mind.
“Peace of mind will blow your mind! You can’t ask for it, because.... How can you ask for something the nature of which you have no idea?
“Your wanting to be ‘peaceful’ is creating the restlessness. Otherwise, there is perfect peace in that organism. There is no need to do anything. The body is very peaceful.
“What they are offering in the marketplace are just the pain-killers. There is no such thing as a cure anywhere. If you want those temporary pain-killers, go jolly well to those [who sell them] in the marketplace. Don’t come here and ask for ‘peace of mind’. Whatever peace of mind is left there will also be lost!”
* * *
“First you master the art of sleeping while standing....”
April 19, 1991
Sleep, deep sleep and waking states have always interested Vedantam Satyanarayana. He somehow managed to bring those subjects into his conversation with UG this evening. We were all sitting on the terrace trying to avoid the sweltering heat in the glass room. As soon as I returned from my work, Frank began describing the harrowing experience of jealousy that was burning inside him. UG kept the flame burning purposely by his ‘educated guesses’ about Frank’s sordid state of affairs.
“The Observer video tape has arrived at last!” said UG as we were sitting on the mats. The courier who had brought it had trouble locating our house because he was told that the house number was 10 instead of the correct number 40. Vedantam Satyanarayana gave the courier the wrong number. “He is so much preoccupied with Ultimate Reality that he never noticed the number of the house painted in large figures on the gate,” someone said.
Radhakishan remarked, “Sir, how can you know Brahman when you don’t know the number of the house which you visit every day, both morning and evening?” We all laughed.
The subject of sleep kept even the sleeping Subbanna awake. “First, how do you know that you are awake?” asked UG, “You have been told that... it’s only knowledge.”
“I don’t accept that knowledge is coming in between the sensory perceptions...” asserted Vedantam.
At last, UG said, “Look at the tree. Why do you say it’s green?”
“Because it is green.”
“It’s not because it is green. You really don’t know what it is. You’ve been taught that it is green. That is knowledge. In exactly the same way, you know that you are awake, asleep or dreaming. There is no such thing as reality. I don’t know whether I’m awake or asleep.”
Subbanna got interested in the talk of sleep. He told us he was practicing sleeping while standing in the city bus.
He wanted UG to teach him how to sleep with his eyes wide open. “First you master the art of sleeping while standing; then we’ll see about the other sleep,” replied UG.
“If the great heritage of your country has produced persons like you, then I
don’t see any reason to feel proud about this culture.” -- This was the last
line in the nine-and-a-half minute video we watched of the dialogue between
UG and Mahesh which will be marketed by the
“So you come between two politicians [in the video]?” quipped Vedantam Satyanarayana.
“That’s better. JK’s talks were shown in the
* * *
August 25, 1991, Sunday
It was in the afternoon, around 4:30 pm. I suddenly felt an urge to meet Vedam Satyanarayana. I wasn’t sure whether he would be home; so I rang up his number. He answered the phone and said he was not well. He had been seriously ill for quite some time during the past month -- he contracted typhoid and had been recovering slowly. I decided that Suguna and I must go and see him; and in spite of the overcast sky which was threatening to rain, we reached his house by 5:30 pm.
He looked very weak and obviously had lost a lot of weight. He said he was on leave till the end of this month. Then he started talking about many matters including money and Suguna’s health.
I want to record here his account of a dream he had had while he was ill. When he was having a high temperature and his body was dehydrated, he noticed peculiar feelings of energy movements. Satyanarayana feels that this was not a hallucination.
“I suddenly felt an electrical current passing through my ankles and bursting through my hips. It all happened so suddenly that I don’t know what exactly had happened. It occurred a few times and then suddenly the electrical discharge started in my head and like a wave filled my entire body and got discharged through my penis. Again, it lasted only a fraction of a second and the discharge left a feeling of irritation at the tip of my penis. There was no semen or fluid but just this sudden discharge of electrical energy with great force. It was so severe that the irritation lasted till the next morning.
“Then some sort of fear gripped me every time I lay down. The energy would start with wave-like movements. So I would get up and then they would stop. I tried to sit up the whole night, knowing that the energy would hit me again if I lay down. During that time I had a vivid dream: UG was lying flat on a cot with closed eyes. I was gripped with the fear of death while I looked at him. He spread both his palms open and I understood that he wanted my palms to be placed on them. When I did that, he clasped them tight. I thought he was going to transmit some of his energy. Suddenly he started mumbling something to himself. I thought he was saying some prayers and I was curious to know what he was murmuring. When I listened closely, to my utter astonishment, I heard his usual pet lines which he often repeats during his talks. Immediately, I recalled in the dream that Sri Aurobindo used to advise his followers to read his words or some passages at random from his books. He believed that just those sounds have a tremendous effect on the human body.
“After that, the dream ended and I suddenly felt very ecstatic and came back to normal.”
This shows how UG’s words and deeds which are charged with great power can help certain people. Satyanarayana, having felt he was on the brink of death, suddenly regained his vitality after this dream.
* * *
“Peanuts activate sex glands...”
Major is experimenting with natural foods. He now survives on sprouted legumes, fruits, and so on. “If you eat banana peels, the chemical substance in them is said to give some ‘kick’; and if you eat bananas you will go ‘bananas’,” comments UG, "Don’t eat peanuts. They are supposed to activate the sex glands. That’s what they have found after experimenting with peanut butter.”
Major’s new problem seems to be that he gets aggravated. UG, on his part, has strong opinions about ‘natural’ diet. He never misses a chance to take a dig at those who religiously pursue dietary discipline for their spiritual goals. “You can gobble up the newborn baby next door to you and still be spiritual,” is more his line of thinking. UG’s food habits hardly fit into any natural diet regimen, yet he is seventy four years-old. “I take a pint of cream every day and what’s wrong with me? I have no problem of cholesterol. Shoot at sight and on sight all those bastards who talk of natural diet!” UG responds. For seventy four years he has maintained good health.
* * *
“Being reborn as a cockroach is better...”
Vedantam Satyanarayana enters the garden looking well-fed and chewing betel leaves. UG makes room for him next to him on the swing, “Come, sir, sit here.”
Satyanarayana half-seriously and half-jokingly enquires, “What’s the current status of enlightenment, sir?”
“Same as yesterday; and it’s going to be the same tomorrow too,” replies UG without a moment’s pause. Everyone laughs. UG asks Satyanarayana, “Sir, what will you do with enlightenment, assuming for a moment you get it? What will you do? ...”
“The trouble is that you want to know you are in your natural state. There is no knowing,” UG adds.
“If we don’t attain enlightenment, who knows, we may have to be born again as a cat or a dog...,” Satyanarayana replies.
“That’s better,” said UG, “a cockroach is even better. You will survive the nuclear holocaust. How old are you, sir?”
“Sixty seven,” said Satyanarayana.
“You’re a kid compared to me. I am seventy-four,” UG said mockingly.
* * *
i. ‘Poor Indian...’
Events from February 8, 1992.
This year, UG has asked Suguna and me to travel with him to
* * *
Another incident from
* * *
iii. The movie star Sridevi with UG…
That day it was February 10, 1992. It was rather cold in
* * *
In those days, UG was keeping Julie at a distance. That means, the
torturing of Julie had already begun. If Julie wanted to stay with him any
* * *
It was October 7, 1992, the day UG’s camp in Yercaud began. That afternoon, the sun was not very hot, and we sat under a tree in the mild sun. The cottage was all wet due to the previous rain. UG was speaking to us about the intelligence of the body.
“The body has no death at all. When once the separateness is gone, the body doesn’t belong to you. It’s no more your body. It’s everybody’s. First of all, where is the body? There are only certain points of contact. But I cannot complete the picture of my body inside of me by connecting these contact points. So, I have no way of knowing the body,” said UG. He waved his hand in the air: “Whose hand is that? Where is the movement? There is no division at all. There is no division such as waking and sleeping. And I don’t have dreams.”
We finished our lunch sitting under the tree. UG ate a bit of the potato curry – leftover in the refrigerator from yesterday. He also ate a small bowl of masur dahl soup that I had prepared. Major ate his sprouts.
Birds were chirping on the tree. Woodpeckers’ rhythmic sounds were heard in a distance. UG was silent. No one spoke. I broke the silence and asked him: “They say that there is some sort of energy concentration in geometric shapes and forms like pyramids and pagodas. What is your experience, UG?” He didn’t reply. He was looking at his palm and the lines on it. Suddenly he said, “All the lines in the palm are converging at the Jupiter mount. The heart line, the head line and the life line – all the three are going into the index finger. There are stars coming up on all the mounts. This fellow has a long life line. He is going to live for a long time. He is not going to die in the place of his birth.”
* * *
On October 14, I finished the registration of the Trust and arrived in
* * *
That night, Vedam Satyanarayana and Sashidhara recited the Veda (October 10, 1992) in the South Wing. They recited Taittiriya, Arunam, Namakam, Chamakam and Purusha Suktam in UG’s presence. This was the first Vedic recitation in Yercaud. “For the whole time of the recitation, it felt in my consciousness as if a frustrated attempt was being made to launch an airplane into the air,” said UG.
On October 15, 1992, as we were driving to the
“You are like the pig, the dog and the rat. Elephants learn words. And they respond to those sounds. What’s so marvelous about language? You’re also like those animals, just repeating whatever you have heard. Other than that, there is nothing original.”
* * *
It was October 15, 1992. It was nighttime in the South Wing. The Malladi couple, Gita, Suguna, Major and I were present. UG sat on the sofa. Sanjivi was kindling the fire in the fireplace. It was very dark outside. All was quiet. The following dialogue took place at that time:
Q: UG, nobody has succeeded in describing you. How do you describe yourself?
UG: I have no way of looking at myself. I have no image. There is nobody here. When I say ‘there is nothing there,’ it doesn’t mean, ‘sunya’ and all that rubbish. When I say ‘it cannot be described,’ it doesn’t mean there is something which cannot be described. There is nothing. Again, some clever chap asks, ‘How do you know there is nothing?’ It’s school boys’ logic. I really don’t know. It’s just a response to your question about my statement that there is ‘nothing’. To say ‘I have no way of knowing’ implies there is something. No. I don’t mean that. It has realized by itself that there is no way. Full stop. Period. There is no further movement.
I am describing your state, not mine, your body, your organism. I’m describing the way your body would function when it is freed from the stranglehold of thought.
Q: What is your message to the world? Do you have any?
UG: Why are you concerned about the world? Are you really interested? Your interest lies in your fears, security and relationships. That’s all. I have no message for mankind. I’m not interested. Humanity can go to hell. I don’t care.
Q: What do you want to put across to the world through the mass media?
UG: I am questioning the whole basis of human thinking. I am brushing aside all that has been built on the foundation of human thinking. My attack is not on religious thinking alone.
Q: Why do you single out religious thinking? How is it responsible for all the ills we are facing?
UG: Everything we think, including the political and legal codes of conduct, springs from religious thinking. They are all the warty outgrowths of the religious thinking of man. All your desire to find the origin of the universe, your trying to find extra-terrestrial intelligence, springs from religious thinking.
Q: Why do you attack science and technological progress?
UG: Where is the progress? Of what use is that progress? Why is only two percent of the population benefited by the technological progress? Why is there poverty and hunger? You may pat your backs saying what great progress we have achieved in the field of technology. It took days for our forefathers to cover a distance which we are now able to cover today in a few minutes by air travel. But how many planes do we use for travel and transportation and how many do we use to destroy the life and property of people?
Q: Do you think the world will benefit from your ravings?
UG: Not a chance. I have no illusions. Take it or leave it. Better leave it. You’ll be better off if you leave it.
Q: You want to project that you cannot be fitted into any framework. You’re hopeless!
UG: I’m giving you hope here and now. But you are ducking and pushing it off until tomorrow. That’s why I say, go to your gurus. They are your comforters. Don’t come to me. You cannot have all this and heaven too! You will lose all that you hold precious to yourself. Your wife will go first... You cannot be interested in what I’m saying.
Q: What about your advice to hold on to physical comforts? And what about your talk of money?
UG: In that framework that’s the only thing that you can do. Nothing exists beyond that. If you don’t do that, you’ll be miserable. For me money is not for security. It’s only a means to buy comfort. It’s not so for you. For you, it gives security for tomorrow.
Q: You say that the body has its own intelligence...
UG: Your acquired intelligence is no match to that.
Q: Are there two?
UG: No, there is only the intelligence of the body. Acquired intelligence is a myth.
Q: So, one has to leave everything to that fate.
UG: You don’t act as one who has trust in that fate. It’s not operating in your life. My words are true and valid to me. If you repeat them, it’s no use. They’re not valid for you.
* * *
He cancelled his trip….
The day was October 21, 1992. UG was set to travel to
Vedam Satyanarayana told us later: “Normally, the day UG fixes for his travel is auspicious. The day of the week, the day of the month, the zodiac sign – they would all give him planetary support. It’s not premeditated, but if UG decides on a certain date, he won’t face any obstacles. But this time, the day he wanted to travel is governed partly by the constellation Aslesha, which is said to be a Vipattara [a constellation which causes calamities], and partly by the constellation Makha, which is said to be a Naidhanatara [a constellation which causes death], both in reference to UG’s birth constellation Punarvasu. Somehow UG canceled his trip and the danger has now passed,” said Vedam. He said it would be better if UG postponed his journey till January ‘93. But will UG heed to this advice? Still, it’s strange that it happened this way this time.
* * *
In 1992, UG was in
* * *
questionnaire came from the International Biographical Centre in
* * *
The next morning, UG sat on the verandah in a chair, pushing his feet against the pillar. “There is no body consciousness at all. There is no UG resting in the chair. This foot pressing against the pillar – that’s the only UG; there’s no other division. This is the only division I am talking about,” UG said.
* * *
“Wife and money are the two symbols of security,” said UG. “I bring them
into focus so that you understand… If you repeat what I say, you are only
preventing something that could happen to you,” he said. The next day he
asked Suguna to stay over in Yercaud. I ended up having to go back to
* * *
On October 25, 1992, we were in
UG bought Brahmachari new clothes.
* * *
That day, that is, November 1, 1992, we all went to Gandhi Bazaar. Usually, UG buys fabrics in Sanmohan Textiles and Bombay Dyeing. Sometimes he shops in Siddhoji’s shop. Then he goes to Sankar Tailors. He gives the fabrics to Sankar to tailor his clothes. That day he said suddenly that we should go to Vedam Satyanarayana’s home. When he saw UG getting out of Major’s Maruti car, Satyanaraya was flattered and amazed.
“Have you finished your puja? Hope we’re not interfering,” UG said. Satyanarayana, who had been getting ready for his puja, said happily, “Why all that puja when God Himself has appeared, Sir?” “When that God goes, I also go along with him,” retorted UG instantly.
“I can’t do that, Sir. God won’t go for me,” said Satyanarayana and prostrated himself before UG right there and held his feet in spite of UG trying to prevent him. Our eyes moistened watching the scene. “This is all I can do, Sir,” said Satyanarayana with tears in his eyes.
* * *
Only two Andhras gave the message of “Go to hell” to the world: one was Chalam and the other, UG.
* * *
November 2, 1992. We were all in the room on the second floor of ‘Poorna Kuti’ with glass windows. That night there was torrential rain. The power was cut off. We all sat around UG in the dim light of candles. At that time, the Mayya couple was present. After she visited UG the previous day, Mayya’s wife experienced a miracle. The knee pain she had been suffering from for the last six months had suddenly disappeared. Before that, many doctors did different kinds of therapy for her pain. She was wonderstruck that the pain was wiped out without a trace. That night she reported her experience to UG.
Mohan, who was right there, asked, “Then why can’t you heal Suguna’s headaches, UG?” “Are you ready to take on her headache?” UG chided him. “I suffer with the suffering man; and I am happy with the happy man. Everything around affects me. That’s all. There are no healing powers,” he said.
Major then started a discussion. In a letter to UG the Princess of Hanover wrote there was a mention of a young Bavarian village woman who had read the lines in UG’s palm and said that he had healing powers.
* * *
On November 20, ‘92, UG called from
This time, however, as soon as UG stepped into the Geneva Indian Embassy, a
Punjabi Vice-Consul called Kaul welcomed him with respect, seated him, and
while UG waited, filled out all the forms, got him to sign them and issued
him a new passport. He extended the expiry date for ten years, till the year
2002. “I don’t think I’ll live longer than that,” UG quipped. “Please
don’t say that. You must live for a long time. I’ve read your books, and I
saw your interview in the Doordarshan when I was in
* * *
“What’s the most amazing thing in the world?” a yaksha [a semi-divine being who is half-god and half-demon] asked Dharmaraja in the Mahabharata. Even though his tongue was parched with thirst and his four dear brothers lay by his side appearing dead, he answered unperturbed, “Although man sees countless people dying around him, he lives with the confidence that he will be alive forever and will not die soon. What else is more amazing than this?”
This very thought that amazed Dharmaraja obsessed the terrified seven-year-old boy Nachiketa in the Kathopanishad.
Nachiketa realized the miserliness of his father when he noticed that he was giving away Brahmins infertile old cows as gifts in the sacrifice of ‘donating-all’. He could not tolerate his father acting in such a mean fashion, driven by greed to attain the worlds of bliss by ‘sacrificing everything’.
Nachiketa was possessed by the thought, “Why should a person who cannot give away everything perform a sacrifice at all in the first place? Whom is he trying to please? Whom is so afraid of that he must warp his life in this fashion and deceive himself?” He knew for sure that the high states which his father was hoping for could not be obtained through such deceit.
“Whom will you give me away as a gift?” he teased his father. His father got vexed with his pestering and answered in anger, “I’ll give you to Yama [Death]; just get out of my way!”
Nachiketa thought that his father said the right thing.
He wondered, “What will Death do with me?” Death may have some use for old barren cows, but what use would he have of him? All his ancestors had lived like his father. As grains ripen, fall on the ground and sprout again, so were they born and they died. Must he too go on existing, being born and dying?
He knew he too must die some day. Instead of rejecting and foregoing the opportunity out of fear, he could indeed try to find out the mystery behind life and death by confronting Death willingly.
No sooner had such a thought arisen in his mind than Nachiketa’s faith skyrocketed. The spirit of inquiry latent in him for so long was suddenly kindled.
He was transformed in one moment. Breaking all ties and burning like a garland of flames, he arrived at the abode of Yama like the world-consuming Vaiswanara. Consumed by his own fire, for three nights Nachiketa went into an initiation at Yama’s abode.
Upon his return, Yama noticed and was amazed at the intensity of the faith of Nachiketa who stood steadfast in his discipline in the face of Death.
Then starts the real story of Kathopanishad. Only he who has faced death is the seer of truth. Until then that person understands nothing.
Any prophet or wise man becomes enlightened only after arriving at the mortal limits of life. Only because it is the teaching of Death in person that the Kathopanishad sheds ever-new light and appears ever so fresh after so long a time.
“First the ‘you’ in you must end. Unless you end it literally, there is no solution to your problems. Until then you won’t understand the truth,” says UG again and again.
Who cares about solutions after one is dead? Who will understand? What will remain? These, indeed, were also the questions that arose in Nachiketa’s mind. He prevailed on Death to answer just such questions.
“First die and then find out. Then there won’t be any questions, because then the questioner disappears. The question is not different from the questioner. They are the same. It [the question] splits itself into two and carries on the game,” UG says.
We sit on one shore and while away our time speculating about the opposite shore.
“First, you jump into the stream. You don’t need to be afraid that you can’t swim. Don’t worry if you are washed away,” says UG. (The example in the Upanishads is a leaky boat.)
If we do indeed jump into the stream, then the other shore we have been imagining and dreaming about disappears. Where is the question of reaching it then?
“What will remain then?” asks Nachiketa. Yama, in great compassion, tries to open the eyes of his pupil. To show that such a question is not inappropriate in such an Upanishad, he points to all the fears hidden within us behind that question.
He explains that it is only because of our separation from this infinite stream of consciousness that these sorrows, problems and stifling questions constantly torment us.
If not in every verse, in many places, you can hear UG’s voice in Yama’s words.
When you hear Yama repeatedly emphasizing, “This is not even a state of mind. This is physical. It’s a strange bodily state,” you can’t but feel UG’s presence.
Why should I write specially about Kathopanishad? Is it to declare that what Yama says and what UG says are one and the same? If anyone questions, “Who will benefit from this?” true, who will? I moan, saying that it has no use.
“How does this benefit even you?” I hear UG mocking at me.
How did I come to know about Kathopanishad?
“Why do you bother with this Kathopanishad in the first place? Why don’t you just live simply?” I tried to talk myself out of it in so many ways. But I could not release myself from its grip.
* * *
It all started when UG came to
“What’s the story of Kathopanishad?” he asked without any preamble.
As I was familiar with Mahesh’s abrupt ways, I answered right away as well as I could.
Mahesh was writing something on the topic of death. Apparently J. Krishnamurti mentions the Kathopanishad in one of his talks.
Mahesh said that Nachiketa had not succumbed to the temptations posed by Yama, but pointed out to Yama instead, “When you are standing behind all those things, what would I have to do with them?” Mahesh wanted to know more details of the story.
After I hung up the phone with Mahesh, my mind started reviewing the details of Kathopanishad. I remembered the things in it that caught my attention and wrote them down.
* * *
In the first chapter, 16th verse, Yama says to Nachiketa, “I give you as a gift this necklace with gems of varied colors. Wear it.”
What is this necklace? Why did Yama give it to Nachiketa? You can’t find satisfactory answers to these questions in any of the commentaries. Even Sankara merely speculated that “it may have been a necklace with nine types of precious stones, symbolizing the maturing of karma from many lifetimes.”
This gift became physically manifested, one hundred percent, only in UG’s case. After his ‘Calamity’, among the changes that had occurred in his body was the appearance of blood streaks of different colors in the shape of a necklace, stretching from his neck to his chest. The fact that the swellings were in the form of medallions and appeared like a necklace of nine gems gives a silent confirmation to that verse.
When I mentioned this matter many years ago to Dr. Ramarkrishna Rao, he too was amazed. Then I forgot all about the Kathopanishad.
But this time it hasn’t let go of me. I have been feeling it as if the lasso of Death has been whirling around me, regardless of whatever activity I am engaged in. I came across other writers’ discussions in books on the Kathopanishad.
One day, Vedantam Satyanarayana lent me the book Kathopanishad written in Kannada by Satchidananda Saraswati Swami. In it there is a wonderful Kannada translation of the Sanskrit original and of Sankara’s commentary on it.
Then, one after another, I came across the talks of Chinmayananda on the
a book written by T.V. Kapali Sastry called
Light on the Upanishad,
Krishna Prem’s book
called Yoga of Kathopanishad
and the translation by Swami Sarvananda, published by the Ramakrishna
I was surprised that I couldn’t find in any of them the meanings that had I thought of when I read the original text. I started noting down the thoughts that had occurred to me. Finally, on December 1, I had a strong urge to write down what I had been thinking about the whole Kathopanishad, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.
Was I competent to do it? I didn’t wait to answer that question. From that day on, in exactly 15 days, I completed the writing.
When I finished it and read it over, I felt that I needed to polish it in some places. On the whole, I am glad that I was able to unburden my head of all those thoughts.
I am not concerned about whether it will see the light of day. I have faith that if there is any truth in the light I had seen, it will find its own destiny.
UG’s words, “If there is any truth in my words, they will stand on their own. They don’t need any support,” are my guideposts.
* * *
I have a small appeal to make to those scholars who spurn it while turning its pages, saying, “What did he write? Who cares about all these? How is he qualified to write on the subject? What authority does he have to write a commentary on the Kathopanishad?”
When I was commenting on the original Sanskrit mantras, I tried to stay as close to the source as I could and not to stray from them; I commented on the original words first and wrote their symbolic meaning separately.
As I was only focusing on parallels with UG’s ideas in the Upanishad, I didn’t consider other commentators’ opinions or ideas. Wherever I felt UG’s thought was different from Yama’s, I noted that explicitly without hesitation. However, I am not proposing or defending any theory in my writing. I feel that Dr. Ramakrishna Rao, in giving the title, Illivadavilla, Iruvudellaveda for his first book on UG, published in Kannada, represented UG’s thought accurately.
“Then, is there such a thing as UG’s philosophy? And, do you understand it?” If you stop me and ask such questions, I would answer both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
If I don’t feel that there is a philosophy or that I understand it to some degree or other, I wouldn’t need to write any of this. So, my answer is ‘yes’.
But since the truth is something that cannot be reached by the mind or imagination, since UG’s teaching is not what we think or experience about it, and since there is no question of understanding it, my answer is ‘no’.
I only appeal to you to please set aside all the commentaries and glosses you have read and heard of before and try to look at Yama’s teaching from this point of view.
UG says that the root cause of the restlessness and disturbance that have been raging in man from times immemorial, and the anarchy and lack of peace which we are observing all over the world, stem from man’s thinking that he is a self and his separating himself from everything else.
Everything is a limitless infinite vibration of consciousness. It’s impossible to know how man has separated himself from it as an ‘I’ and built a cocoon around himself.
Although he has thus become separate, his yearning is only about how to achieve union with the whole. But the more he exerts himself and the more he continues to think, the stronger that separation becomes, but does not disappear. There is not a single effort he has not put forth to that end, not a method that he has not pursued or path that he has not followed.
If that separation has to go, it would indeed be death, literally, physical death. That is so because it is thought that has given us a shape as something separate from the universe and maintained our existence as ‘ourselves’. Unless the thing called ‘thought’ is burned away, unless its continuous linking is broken, there is no release.
Then what is the way? How can this separation end? As soon as one points to something and say “this is the way”, that way becomes another basis for that separation to continue.
That’s why UG says there is no way out. “To know that there is no way is the way.” “Nanyah pantha vidyate’yanaya” says the scripture.
Indeed, the mind doesn’t admit defeat so easily. There are no tricks unknown to it. That’s why no matter how many ways one tries to dismantle it, the framework of separation will carry on inevitably.
So whatever happens must happen in the physical realm. That means there must be unimaginable changes in the physical processes to the extent that there is no scope for the framework of separation to take root. The body which has been born with thought must be burnt out and must go through another divine birth. Truth will only dawn then.
Yama explains this same truth in many ways, from different angles. But he also digresses frequently from the essential subject-matter and teaches useless trash, as a school teacher recites morals codes. Soon after, either he becomes conscious of himself or is woken up by Nachiketa’s shaking him. Then he resumes his profound discourse.
I feel, however, that the principle which both Yama and UG declare with their liberated voices is one and the same:
Nayamatma pravacanena labhyo
na medhaya na bahuna srutena
Yamevaisa vrnute tena labhyas
tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam.
[This Atman cannot be attained through teaching
or through intellect or various scriptures.
It’s attained by him whom It chooses.
This Atman reveals itself to him.]
* * *
December 23, 1994
The Kannada friends in
What is UG’s teaching? He says there is none. True.
“His very words are an upanishad. His words frequently echo the Upanishads. Here [in UG’s teaching], Yajnavalkya, Uddalaka, Aruni, Sanatkumara and the Rishi from Mandukya Upanishad – they all gather and reveal their mysteries. Budha, Gaudapada and Sankara – all thrust themselves forward. To those who do not understand, UG’s teaching appears as weird. But those who can are overjoyed by it, as though their hearts have experienced an indescribable truth, as though their lives are fulfilled.” Only someone like Professor Ramakrishna Rao, who is well-versed in Vedanta, can connect UG’s words with the philosophy of the Upanishads.
What does UG say about the Upanishads? Does he accept their philosophy? This is a question that those who are not well-acquainted with UG’s philosophy ask.
“Why are you concerned about my opinion? I have opinions on all matters -- from disease to divinity. I don’t care if you accept or reject them. Even the servant maid in your home has her own opinions on politics, social systems and about many other things. My opinions are no better than those,” says UG. He is not saying this merely to brag about his broadmindedness. This is something which no one can believe unless they see firsthand how he practices what he says literally and how he values everyone’s tastes and opinions.
In UG’s view, culture and tradition weigh down human development and progress. Mankind cannot be free unless it gets rid of them. The root cause of today’s political, scientific, economic and social crises, according to him, is the religious thinking that began centuries ago.
The day when the universal consciousness surged forth spontaneously, aroused the consciousness of ‘I’ in itself, and separated itself as an individual consciousness which enjoys divine experience, that was the day when mankind’s peril had started, says UG. Ever since then, mankind has been walking with eyes closed, trying in vain to remove that division and become reunited with the infinite consciousness, and has thus been moving closer to total devastation.
“What you see in the Vedic mantras and the sayings of the Upanishads is nothing but those sages struggling to become reunited with the universal consciousness dancing in their consciousness,” says UG. That’s why in the Vedas there is the worship of the natural forces behind the five elements and of the lingam as a symbol of universal energy.
For centuries, different religions, cultures and civilizations in the world have been trying to bring about a change in the beast-like human being and reform him into a nobler being. But only his demonic nature has been gradually on the rise. And why is that? Every popular leader preaches only ideals, shouting ‘peace’, ‘virtue’ and ‘justice’; but it is rare that anyone thinks deeply about what all this business is about and how it has gone awry. I think the source of man’s problems is his trying to fight battles in air while escaping from realities.
“The organism, which vibrates with life, and thought, which is lifeless, are two separate things. There is no relationship between the two. The body only knows how to respond to stimuli and sensations. Thought is something that tries to ‘experience’ them through the veneer of culture it imposes upon them. Experience, whether it is spiritual or otherwise, is based on the search for pleasure. As soon as it [thought] finds something ‘pleasurable’, the desire to maintain it forever arises. The body is not concerned about pleasure and pain. As soon the limited duration of those experiences is over, the organism pushes those sensations out of itself,” says UG.
There has been no change in human nature for thousands of years. No matter how much man has learned or disciplined himself, any transformation has only been superficial. The beast in man has continued undisturbed. That is the conflict in everyone, the unsustainable struggle that goes on between the animal nature in us and the ideals which our culture has imposed on us. You don’t need to ask which side has won the final victory.
“The body doesn’t want to learn anything from our culture. As a matter of fact, nature has achieved a great feat by creating the wonderful thing called the body. The body doesn’t even like to learn anything from us. It doesn’t care about bliss and beatitude. It doesn’t want any of the pleasures you crave for. It doesn’t like anything you like,” says UG.
UG says that there is no power outside of the body. There is no such thing as the mind, the self, consciousness or the soul. Only the organism vibrating with life exists. That’s why UG describes everything that happens to him as bodily experiences.
In UG’s view, if there is any effect of the Upanishads or Vedic mantras, it’s only physiological; there is no effect on any other level.
* * *
Towards the end of his stay in Yercaud in the year 1996, a swamiji living in Yercaud visited UG. His name was Swami Poornanandagiri. He was popularly known as the Yercaud Swami. He was a disciple of the famous yogi Jnananandagiri Swami of Tirukkoilur, near Tiruvannamalai, who is believed to have lived for about 150 years. When I and Major first met him in his ashram, I was impressed by his simple and straightforward manner. I was amazed at his earnest interest in meeting UG. He said he had heard and known about UG before. He was visibly overjoyed to learn that UG visits Yercaud; and he requested us to inform him when UG came the next time. That year, the day before the Sivaratri Day, on February15, Swamiji came to see UG.
UG huddled into the corner of a sofa, overwhelmed by the musk perfume which Swamiji wore. Swamiji also wore a necklace. We were all astounded by his nodding in agreement to all the contradictory opinions which UG had been expressing on yoga, meditation, pranayama and such. When we were preparing to honor him as a guest, he said with an uneasy face, “Please don’t treat me as a guest. I would be happy if you include me as one among you.” It was endearing of him to say that.
That day a Canadian called Daniel was asking UG a question. UG suddenly made a profound comment addressing him, “You haven’t heard anything in your life; you haven’t seen anything. By giving shape to the sounds your ears hear, you think that you are listening and seeing. If you can actually see for one second without that knowledge, your life will end. That’s what death is!” Daniel shut up. Swamiji, who sat next to UG, said to Daniel, “Take this as your initiation. You focus on the words which UG has just said and think about them deeply.”
After an hour Swamiji reluctantly got up to leave. “I don’t feel like leaving such a communion. But I must,” he said and looking at UG, “He is a living temple. Why should you spend the Sivaratri in a regular temple?” he said to us.
is a couple of kilometers away from the
Some stranger came in suddenly, touched Swamiji’s feet and was about to touch UG’s feet. UG held him by his shoulders saying, “No, no, I never touched anyone’s feet in my life. It’s disgusting to demean yourself like that. If you want, you can touch your own feet.” UG’s contention is that there is no power higher than man. “I am clear that I don’t have any powers of that sort. Because I don’t have them, it’s even clearer to me that it’s not possible for anyone else to have them either,” he said.
One of the friends Swamiji had invited, Kuppuswami, was looking at UG for a long time in a worshipful manner. “They say that there are treatments which can sustain the body for a long time. What would you say?” he finally asked.
“What’s the use of them?” asked UG.
“You can prolong life and not die.”
“What’s the use? What would you do, living for such a long time?” When UG asked him this question, he didn’t know how to answer. Then UG said: “I too say that there is no death to the body, but not in the way you mean. The raw materials that compose the body return to their original state and become newer forms. There is no such thing as ‘death’ to the body. That’s why I say: ‘Your birth and your death will never come into your experience.’ Then, why do you want this longevity?”
Kuppuswami thought for a while. When he was about to say something like, “There is consciousness in the body...,” UG interrupted him, “Whatever you say is the stuff that they put in your head; it’s not your own. When there is no such thing as consciousness, what meaning do your words have? ... How do you know that this is such and such? Your touch and your eyes don’t say anything about it. You cannot experience even your body except through thought.” Then he paused to make sure that Kuppuswami had been following what he said.
Later, for half an hour, he talked about the harm from overeating and told us stories of how the founders of movements like macrobiotics and jogging exercise which have recently become popular in Western countries, while advising us that if we followed their theories we would live long, had themselves died prematurely. We burst into laughter.
“What I am saying after all is that the body doesn’t need any vitamins and it doesn’t need any proteins. To get all the nutrients it needs, it’s enough to eat sawdust. For taste you may add a little glue.” When UG spoke like that everyone kept laughing.
“I’m not joking! I
said these things even on a TV program in
Whatever be the case with excessive eating, the snacks which Swamiji served us that day were delicious. Even UG, who doesn’t normally drink coffee without cream, appreciated the coffee that day.
As a final item, Swamiji spoke to UG about his health problem. Because of a defect in one of the valves of his heart, he would tire easily. He had difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Surgery was recommended as the only way to correct this defect. His dilemma was whether to undergo surgery or let nature take its course. “If you ask me like that, what can I say? I don’t advise anyone. Not that you will find fault with me, but how can I decide for someone else? You do whatever is acceptable to you,” said UG.
Later, in another context, UG turned toward Swamiji and said, “If you don’t try to practice selfless ideas like love and altruism, the heart does its job mechanically. Only when you practice those things you’ll have heart disease.” UG thus delivered his irrefutable message. I don’t know how Swamiji took this free advice, but toward the end of our visit, when we were about to leave, he heard that UG was quitting Yercaud and said, “There is plenty of accommodation in our ashram. There are independent cottages. You and Major can both stay here.”
“I have to stay with Major. That’s the problem,” said UG jokingly.
“That was my intention in inviting Major, too. I know you won’t live apart from him,” said Swamiji looking at UG. We all laughed at this conversation.
(We later came to know that Swamiji refused to get operated for his heart problem and died gracefully after a year.)
* * *
February 17, 1996 – Saturday, Yercaud
“Sivaratri was last night, not tonight. The nerves around my neck were swollen all last night; I couldn’t sleep,” said UG.
In UG’s room there is a small skylight. A tiny light peeps through it into the room. Except for that there is no way light or air can enter into that room. In the evening, UG called Sanjivi, asked him to go on top of the roof and cover the skylight. He said that the light bothers him. The room is completely dark now. Besides, there is the heat from the heater.
* * *
An item I noted down on January 20, 1997, after I and Major visited Sudha and Chandrasekhar at their home. Apparently, UG had visited their place unexpectedly on December 30, 1996. Sudha related to us how that came about: That same morning, Chandrasekhar went to the Farm House to see UG. Somehow, Sudha came to know of it. She was upset that he went to see UG without telling her. She looked at UG’s photo and quarreled with him saying, “You got just my husband to come there. All right, I’ll never see your face again! I don’t need you!” Meanwhile, UG asked Chandrasekhar to phone Sudha and tell her where he was. He said to him, “Don’t worry. She won’t mind.” “Talk to her,” said UG, and got him to talk to her. He made Chandrasekhar eat with him there. That evening, UG set out on a trip to their home. He went there with the pretext of showing Sudha the greetings Ahalya had sent to Major. She didn’t imagine even in her dreams that UG would come to her home. When she saw UG at her front door, all her anger scattered like shreds of cotton fluff.
* * *
UG spoke many times of his acquaintance with Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. I can’t remember if I had already written about it all somewhere else. It seems that Radhakrishnan had a great deal of influence on UG in his youth; UG was especially influenced by his oratorical skills. Radhakrishnan was an unequalled intellectual. His lectures demonstrated his eloquence.
In his youth, UG selected three brilliant people as his models whom he wanted to emulate: The first was Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer whom UG admired for his versatility. He had a vast repertoire of information; whatever subject matter he was asked to speak on, he had the ability to lecture on it eloquently and discuss it thoroughly. The second person was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan whom he admired for his brilliance, his dazzling command of the English language, his skill and style of speaking, and his torrential phraseology which would astound his audience. And the third was Jinarajadasa who was then the President of the Theosophical Society and who was UG’s first spiritual teacher. Jinarajadasa was adept in many languages. He was such an intelligent man that he could speak with unequalled eloquence in about 14 languages from around the world. UG chose the last one also as his guide.
remember that UG met Radhakrishnan for the first time only after we got our
long time ago, Radhakrishnan consulted the
In the reading it was mentioned that “the subject of this horoscope will
become the emperor of
After that, Radhakrishnan happened to preside over one or two speeches that UG gave for the Theosophical Society. Once, UG attributed what he wanted to say to Radhakrishnan by ostensibly quoting Radhakrishnan’s comments and said, “As our honorable President, Dr. Radhakrishnan, had said….” Even such an unequalled intellectual Radhakrishnan (his main possession was his extraordinary power of memory) was flabbergasted and praised UG as the ‘learned speaker’.
* * *
Many years later, when UG was living in
Just as he had hoped, in 1961, when UG happened to be in
UG says that Nehru looked power-drunk and reminded him of Julius Caesar.
Later, when Nehru learned that UG was going to
* * *
C. Rajagopalachari’s comment…
Once, a meeting was arranged in Gokhale Hall in
On March 3, 1997, UG called from
* * *