I saw a fascinating book in a small San Francisco bookstore. The picture on the dust jacket knocked the breath out of me, utterly. I know you can't judge a book by its cover. So I started to leaf through the book, forgetting what I went there for. The book called into question many of the fundamental assumptions in my life. And the devastating logic left me shattered. Everything in it is the opposite of the wisdom of the ages. It washes everything out. It is a dangerous book in all sorts of ways. I promptly realized that this book cannot be read like any other book. I wanted to buy the book right away.
The title of the book is Mind is a Myth: Disquieting Conversations with the Man called U.G. It is edited by Mr. Terry Newland and published in Goa, India.
"That's only for display. There is such a great demand for that book. It's a terrific book. It's a humdinger! It's a book that will blow your mind. You need to read it to understand what I mean. It's almost nine o'clock. I must close the shop. Are you interested in meeting that guy, U.G.?" The girl at the desk volunteered all that information.
"Where does he live?" I asked her.
She copied his address and phone number out of her address book and handed the paper over to me, saying, "I had no idea he lives in Marin County." I thanked her profusely.
"I must go to his place and have a look at him," I said to myself, and drove straight to the address in Mill Valley. Despite the heavy traffic on Freeway 101 and on the Golden Gate Bridge, I made the trip in about twenty minutes. And I was wildly excited about meeting this man. I lost the way, but finally managed to get to his place and knocked on the door.
U.G. himself opened the door and welcomed me inside with a captivating smile. Nothing in the room attracted my attention except that the TV was on. He turned it off, saying that he was recording "Video Hits One - Top Ten" for his friends' kids in India. He sat on his bed under a very bright light, and I sat facing him on a couch.
The first thought that came into my mind was that that man in blue jeans and a sweat shirt can't be an enlightened man. He doesn't exactly fit the romantic idea of all those self-styled enlightened men we have in our midst today. There is no aura of spirituality about him.
I didn't quite know how to begin. I must confess I was a bit tongue-tied. I said slowly, "Forgive my barging in on you unannounced and without any appointment, thrusting myself upon you clumsily like this at this late hour. I strolled into a well-stocked bookstore in San Francisco a few hours ago and saw a book of yours displayed in a very prominent place along with some best-sellers. They had only one copy for display. It is not available in any of the fifty bookstores I called across the country. They haven't heard of the book. What a shame! It's hard to believe that I am here with you. I have been yearning to meet a man like you. I am excited to see you in person."
He said nothing. We looked at each other. There was silence. I felt as if I was sucked into silence. I was fixedly looking at him.
"Why are you looking at me like that? Do I look funny?" asked U.G. I said, "I tried hard not to stare at you like that, but those eyes of yours have that strange and penetrating look. I have a few questions. The first question is slow in coming. I begin with the second: "How old are you?"
"I was born in 1918. You can figure out my age."
"That makes you seventy years old. You look half that age. You don't look a day over that. I hoped for forty, may be fifty. No one believes that you are seventy. You look fabulous for your age. I am sure you will look young forever. To what do you owe your youthful fresh look? What is your secret? Do you have any special health and fitness routine? Do you follow any regimen? Any special diet? Any systematic course like Yoga, meditation, and breath-control techniques?"
"Oh no! Your attempts to minimize the aging process through all those techniques will turn you into an avid fitness nut. You may feel younger. You may even look younger. Whoever said that you are as old as you look is just kidding you. Forget it. Nutrition quackery and other forms of body and health care, and fitness regimens to keep yourself young, all suggested by the so-called laboratory tests, will only make you feel good. Gimmicks like Yoga and meditation will only help you to escape into that feeling of wellness. It is one of those hypes you fall for, more so if they are sold in the name of science. How much of science is there in their claims is anybody's guess. Everything that has the stamp of science turns you into a fanatic and a health food junkie. It used to be three out of four. Now it is, `Nine out of ten doctors recommend....' You can be sure that whatever they recommend are the very things that will destroy your health. Doctors need to be educated, and you will be better off listening to `the tenth' one. When you have lost faith in everything, health becomes an obsession. Nutritional wisdom cannot stop the aging process. One day through genetic engineering the process of aging can be delayed; but it cannot be stopped. You may feel well and look more attractive. There is no such thing as the fountain of youth. War against aging is a lost battle. What's the name of that Biblical patriarch who is recorded to have lived 969 years?"
"Do you want to live that long? What for? One thousand years of misery! Maybe gerontologists will make it possible. I wouldn't know. Freezing a dead diseased human being in the hopes of reviving him or her at a future time when a cure for the disease has been developed - what do you call it...?"
"May I switch the subject and ask a question relevant to what is being said? Is there any such thing as reincarnation?"
"There is reincarnation for those who believe in it. There is no reincarnation for those who do not believe in it. If the question is, `Is reincarnation part of nature as is gravity?' the answer is a straight `No'. Ideas of soul and life after death are born out of the demand for permanence. That's the basis of man's religious thinking. All religious thinking is born out of the demand for permanence. What do they call that abode of the blessed after death ...?"
"Nothing ever dies. Nothing ever is born. Your unwillingness to accept man as just a biological being like any other species on this planet is responsible for your misery. Man is nothing but a fortuitous concourse of atoms. Death occurs only when there is a need for the reshuffling of atoms. The sum total of energy remains the same."
"What sign are you astrologically?"
"Cancer. Triple cancer, they say."
"How do you feel about astrology?"
"Many people believe in it. I don't. Predictive astrology is like fortune-telling. Stars don't shape the events of your life. But planets do affect you and you affect the planets. The action of a single electron on earth affects and is affected by the entire universe. There is no past, present, and future in the vast system. There is no place for free will. Do you learn anything from your experience? Or from your mistakes? Or from the mistakes of others?"
"Are you enlightened?"
"Do I look like an enlightened man? Well, tell me, how does an enlightened man look?"
"I haven't the faintest idea. I haven't met any enlightened ones."
"I don't have to live up to the image they have of the enlightened ones."
"They call you an enlightened man."
"I have those labels stuck on me. I don't know why. I don't care."
"Call it enlightenment, call it transformation, call it self-realization, or what you will. There is something odd about your refusal to admit that something unusual must have happened to you. Strange indeed that you call yourself an ordinary man."
And yet the moment I saw him I knew he was no ordinary man. To my way of thinking he can be called the most remarkable man, and we are not likely to encounter another like him in our time. To say that would most probably be tantamount to uncritical idolatry.
"I want to write a piece on you for one of the most prestigious New York weeklies, for those who have not met you or even heard of you. What do you want them to know about you?"
"They will be better off if they knew nothing about me."
"If I have to tell who and what U.G. is, I will have a major problem."
His name is U.G. Krishnamurti, but he is widely known as U.G. If you haven't heard about this man called U.G., chances are that you think that he is perhaps Jiddu Krishnamurti, the messiah of the Theosophists, whose teachings were claimed by himself and his followers as the groundwork for bringing about a radical transformation in individuals, which would act as a spearhead for bringing about the "one and only revolution".
Some people compare U.G. to the other Krishnamurti. There are some who call him "Krishnamurti Number Two". Are there any parallels or similarities between the two Krishnamurtis? It is interesting that both in some respects come from the same background. But there the resemblance ends. Regardless of whether the Theosophists recognize this rare flower that blossomed in the same garden, the world cannot remain indifferent to U.G. He may not have attracted the fame that the other Krishnamurti enjoyed in his lifetime. He is as yet not so well known in the world, but his name is spreading. His two books, The Mystique of Enlightenment, and Mind is a Myth have been sell-outs. They have been translated into several European languages, lately into Polish, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese, and are awaiting publication. He attracts remarkable groups of people wherever he goes. When once you listen to U.G., then the other Krishnamurti, touted as the world's most revolutionary religious teacher, sounds like a dimwitted oldster dishing out Victorian homilies with a seventeenth century religious zeal. That is not to belittle the achievements of him as one of the profound thinkers of our times. That's not the point. Like it or not, they both will be linked together beyond their deaths. Which brings me to the inevitable subject of U.G.'s encounter with the other Krishnamurti.
"You are hardly reverential to Krishnamurti and his teaching. Why do you single him out in your attacks? Do you ever look back reflectively on your earlier years - your years amongst the Theosophists and on your encounter with Jiddu?"
"I knew him fairly well. He was part of my background. I liked him but not his teaching."
"What is it about him that you liked, admired, and deeply honored? Otherwise you wouldn't have listened to him for several years."
"That's ancient history."
"Let's get one thing straight. Do you owe him more than anyone else in this world?"
"I am not in the least influenced by him. For that matter, I don't think I have learned much either from spiritual teachers or secular teachers. How come you know so much about Krishnamurti? Are you a Krishnamurti freak?"
"No. I heard him once. Yes, only once. What turned me off was his ponderous, hortatory, fuzzy mysticism with theatrics thrown in. Recently I chanced upon Mary Lutyen's The Open Door, the last of the trilogy of his biography. My interest in all and every kind of biography goes back to my college years."
"Are you a religious person at all?"
"If by `religious person' you mean I am someone who is devoted to religion and has reverence to
God, the answer is `No'. I am an unconverted member of the human race. My viewpoint throughout
life has been in tension with those who readily conform to the middle-class standards and conventions
of my generation. I am in revolt against the mainsprings of our faith, the religious customs that propel
us and form the impelling motives of our actions. To paddle out of the mainstream isn't easy. You
can't side-step real-life complexities for mythical uncertainties. But people perceive myth as real
"Is there a meaning to life?" "There is no meaning; let alone deeper meaning."
"I have found out what I have been looking for all my life in that book of yours. The book brilliantly discredits and frees us from the entrapment of all the parameters of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences evolved through the ages. The whole body of your ideas, if I may put it that way, may not necessarily be what the mainstream world is looking for. But you offer a healthy way of looking at things. What you say represents a genuine, brave, honest, buoyant, and extraordinary approach. When once you read this book you will not read anyone else. Make no mistake: that book haunts you!"
"It doesn't make a damn bit of difference whether or not people care for what I am saying. It stands or falls by itself."
"Is there any such thing as reality?"
"Averages cannot describe reality. To become aware of things through the senses is an entertainingly misleading deception of the highest kind. To see, understand, or grasp mentally is all that you can do. The senses have no way of looking at any physically observable fact or event except through the knowledge you have about them. You can't experience what you don't know. We have to accept the reality of the world as it is imposed on us. Doing so helps us to function sanely and intelligently. Otherwise we will end up in a loony bin singing loony tunes and merry melodies."
"You are one of the most widely traveled persons I have come across in my life. You have known America longer than most people of my age. You are in an unrivaled position to pronounce judgment on America. Do you have any lessons for America?"
"Travel destroys many illusions. Travel also creates new illusions. I have wildly extravagant opinions or views about religion and politics. My opinions are no more important than the opinions of those who collect garbage every Friday morning. How come you are not interested in what the majority of people tend to say on these matters?"
Suddenly he exploded into the most animated jeremiad, giving a distressing picture of the situation we find ourselves in. He lashed out almost with the viciousness of an angry man. But to hear U.G. tell it gives it new poignancy.
"The foundation of culture is to kill and be killed in the name of God, symbolized by Church, political ideologies, and the state. That knocks out the whole foundation of human culture, all that is ingrained in the culture, all the parameters, and everything we have evolved through the centuries."
"If religion doesn't hold the key, if political ideologies have failed, there must be some other solution, some other answer. These are extremely important questions to ask and find answers for, on which depends the fate not only of America but, as a matter of fact, of the whole world. No answers are forthcoming."
"Traditional values and the military might of America cannot save anyone. You have grown up with the sense that America is the center of the world. You were better at everything. Today the glory is gone; you are an also-ran. You are another England! This is a blot to your national image. You are being overtaken by others. I am as terrified if the U.S. gets dumped from its throne as you will be; what you would do is anybody's guess.... The Russian revolution is a total failure. That revolution is only a revaluation of a value system. They replaced one system with another system of values. Which system will blow up the world? It matters not virtually who is going to blow up the world. The solutions to the world problems do not rest with your bureaucrats or the big boys. They are muddle-headed and low-grade morons; so are the other leaders of mankind. You can't get rid of them. You have delegated your power to them, placed them in the seats of power, and handed over the most destructive weapons to them. They are the defense that turned against you."
"Tell me where we have failed. Tell me where we have gone wrong."
"Somewhere along the evolutionary process self-consciousness occurred in the human species and separated it from other species, the world, and the universe around. The whole thing is one organism. The view that human species is a special case in nature is false. Humans are just a perfect achievement of nature. We are not here on this planet for any grander purpose than the mosquito that is sucking your blood is. We have accorded to ourselves an important place. If the human species becomes extinct nothing is lost. Unfortunately everything goes with it. Mankind's destructive tendencies born out of thought may be nature's way of eliminating the whole species and starting all over again. Thought is self-protecting. Thought in its origin, content, expression, and action is fascist. Thoughts are not self-generated. They are not spontaneous. The brain is just a reactor and a converter. It is not a creator. It reacts to external stimuli and produces what we call thoughts. The human brain appears to solve life's problems. But that is not really the case. It only achieves the results for which nature created it. Overall, systems of nature are endowed with an assemblage of life forms, possessing either brain or brawn or both."
"You are talking of a thought-sphere. Is it something like what they call a morphogenetic field?"
"What I am saying is quite different. It is the other way around. There is no way you can manipulate genes except through genetic engineering. Maybe one day those biochemists, microbiologists, and geneticists will shed more light on these questions. What all they - the scientists - can do is to apply the laws of nature and apply them for destructive purposes. They can't make them [laws of nature]. They are not made by the users. All research is fraught with subjectivism and is only used to be fitted into the scientist's value system."
"To control the ultimate destiny - is that what you are saying?"
This is an eye-opening emphasis. It is so unprecedented, a whole new way of looking at things. What does he say? His great unusualness and no-nonsense approach to mankind and its problems shed fresh light and bring a fresh breath of air. What he says is not a "logically ascertained premise," not well-observed or deeply felt or much thought-out stuff. His words come from a source other than thinking. He is unjustifiably known as a spiritual teacher. He has no stance on the problems that man is confronted with. No help comes from him in solving our day-to-day problems. He says that what he is talking about has no social content. He doesn't talk of or promise the emergence of a new and stable pattern of society. He offers no dreams of a new life, nor does he live in such dreams. His striking perceptions, if they are to be called that, often get to the heart of the matter. What he says represents a genuinely fresh approach to all that we have evolved through centuries. There is a steady glow of authenticity. It is utterly free of all the clichés; the values that we have always cherished as sacred are brushed aside. If we are disturbed while we listen to him, it is because he doesn't tell us what we want to hear.
And there is none of the "urgency of change" that you hear about in standard books, and none of the fuzzy mysticism. He brushes aside all that talk of inner worlds and supernatural worlds along with the mystical quality that is associated with the experience that is common to all the saints. Yet his statements have that vitality, freshness, and energy. He uses the modern slang, the scientific idiom -- he speaks the language of today.
What then is the attraction?
It is not so much what he says but what he is that affects the people around him. An encounter with him brings about, in an unpredictable and inexpressible way, the potential in you, the effects of which are experienced with violent velocity. It's like an underground explosion which may not be immediately obvious on the surface. Finally, when it blows out, it is in the form of a manifestation comparable only to a nuclear explosion. The energy that springs up continuously is original, pure, and uncontaminated.
"Why are you here in America? You travel a lot. Why?"
"I have no inner compulsion to keep constantly traveling. I don't like traveling. I am not a tourist."
"And yet you travel. You go twice a year around the world. Why? Why?"
"Maybe I have some migratory genes like those birds that fly from Siberia in Russia all the way to some bird sanctuary in South India every Winter and return every Summer. I am a man with no fixed abode - moving from one country, place, even locality to another, practically all my life."
"You must have a pretty nest egg!"
"I have a little money to take care of my travels and personal needs. When once your goals and needs are the same, it is very simple to live my kind of life. I have friends everywhere, and they offer me gracious hospitality."
"What brought you to Marin County?"
"I have lots of friends who happen to be here - friends I have known for years. This apartment belongs to Mr. Terry Newland who edited the book, Mind is a Myth. And he readily makes it available for my use every time I come to America. I hate to dislodge him."
"I have a guest house in Sausalito. Would you be interested in staying there the next time you are in California? I would count myself lucky if you accepted my offer. I have got what you need, it's yours."
"Thank you for your generous offer. This place is just right for me. I call this the `Crow's Nest'. Thank you once again."
"Well, if at any time you need a place to stay, you won't want to fly by that opportunity."
"What do you do? You have a way with your words. Are you a writer?"
"I gave up journalism to follow a long-standing interest in writing. I got nowhere with my interest. What brought me out of it was the sudden death of my parents and their wish that I should take over the family business. What keeps me in business is the taste of money. I am doing fine as a businesswoman. Who knows, I might go back to writing and one day write your biography. Your life story must be told. As I know a few big league publishers in this country, it wouldn't be difficult to have it published in the U.S."
"The details of my life story are of no interest to others."
"I feel a sense of mission."
"What mission, if I may know?"
"TV is a very powerful medium and means of communication. When once that interview with Dr. Mishlove on "Thinking Allowed," hits the airwaves, it will bring demands for guest-spots on talk-shows across the country. I will not let the opportunity escape me. I worked with some friends who work for the three networks. I will put you on every talk-show in this country. It should have been done long ago. It's going to happen sooner or later. Why not with me?" "I know that TV is a very powerful, incredibly powerful, medium of expression. To be seen and heard by the widest audience is very attractive. But I don't think the world is hungering for my message. There is no need to shout to the world."
"You have never been interested in doing anything to promote yourself, nor have you allowed others to promote you. You have never made attempts to assemble people around you. You have not set up a Holy Business. I just wish to draw the attention of the people to this rare and unusual man. You deserve more than all those daffy, spaced, silly, foolish, mad people. For that reason, I feel strongly that you should appear on TV."
"Why join the showy parade?"
A quick look at the watch showed the time.
"It's 11:20 p.m. It's time to go now.
I didn't expect him to be that simple. When you come face-to-face with him, you don't feel talked down and held out at a distance. You don't find a trace of the pomposity and pretentiousness found in some of the contemporary spiritual teachers. The tone and immediacy of his certainties, his buoyancy, his honesty, and his courage impressed me. He is a very intelligent, well-informed, and sensitive man.
It is difficult to figure out this master and his teaching. I only hope he will have no cult audience around him and will not be stigmatized as a spiritual teacher. Someday, someone else has to put together his unclassifiable teaching into a coherent philosophy. I wonder if anyone can!
"This is going to be my last and boldest question."
"Something strange and unusual is happening to me. Pure fire is exploding through me. And I am going out of my mind. My curiosity to know what you would do if I did something improper is getting better of me."
He saw that I was fairly worked up.
"I see that special glitter in your eyes. What are you up to?"
"You are turning me on. What would you do if I seduced you?"
"Try it," he said with a slight bemused smile.
That hit me like a shaft of lightning. This answer was unexpected. I didn't expect that kind of an answer for my cocky boldness, unmitigated gall, to my shameless brazen-faced advances. He made no attempt to laugh it off either. His composure was unassailable.
"Sorry. I was pretty dumb to ask that question. I stepped out of line," I said.
"Think nothing of it," he said.
"I am sorry to have intruded on your time. Thank you for seeing me. I am especially grateful for giving me so much time. It's impossible to thank you. Good-bye! Sleep well."
"I'll find my way out."
I rose on my trembling legs and walked out as fast as I could. I lost my breath. On my way back home I pondered over how my encounter with U.G. came to a climax in a dramatic twist. I laughed and laughed. If I didn't laugh, I'd cry - a cathartic effect of shedding tears rather than an expression of genuine tears of disappointment. I put that question, not a hypothetical one, because I liked the man very much. I realized that I was driving too fast even for an empty road. I stopped by a wayside café‚ and ordered a bowl of salad and a pot of coffee. As I sat down to eat my salad and sip my coffee, the whole scene of my unforgettable visit with U.G. panicked me.
As soon as I got home I transcribed the interview from my tape recorder.
That night, lying in my bed, I drifted in and out of dreams of seeing him again next spring.