An Introduction to U. G. and his Teaching


J.S.R.L.Narayana Moorty

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U. G. Krishnamurti was born in Andhra Pradesh in 1918. He studied Philosophy in Madras University. He had early training in the scriptures and meditation. His quest, like many before, was spiritual--to realize the Self. He is indeed said to have attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Notwithstanding, his quest remained.

U. G., as he likes to be called, did meet some holy men of his time: particularly Sri Ramana Maharshi, with whom he had a brief conversation, and J. Krishnamurti. He himself grew up in the Theosophical environment which included J. Krishnamurti. At one time he had a series of conversations with the latter for forty days in a row. Not being satisfied with Krishnamurti's answers to his questions, he left vowing never to return.

Because of family inheritance he never had to work. He went to the U. S. in the `50s seeking treatment for an illness of his son. (That son died recently in Bombay). He lectured in the U. S. for the Theosophical Society on Indian culture.

Personally he was a "misfit", an unadjusted man. This led to family troubles. His family was sent back to India, his wife died in a mental asylum, and he never met the rest of his family until many years later. Meanwhile he was totally lost, drifting from place to place. Being financially and in every way broke, he ended up at the Indian embassy in Geneva, Switzerland, requesting a "lift" to India. A Swiss lady who worked there called Valentine DeKerven gave him shelter and became a lifelong friend, traveling companion and benefactor of U. G. Now 87 and no longer able to travel, Valentine lives in Bangalore, South India.

In 1967, returning from listening to a talk given by J. Krishnamurti, in Saanen, Switzerland, U. G.'s transformation process began and went on for several days. He calls it "Calamity" for lack of a better term.* Since then he has been traveling around the world, and talking informally to people. He does not get up on a platform and give lectures, for, he says,


* U. G. himself rejects the notion of transformation: "There is nothing to be transformed, no psyche to revolutionize, and no awareness you can use to improve or change yourself." He says: "I have searched everywhere to find an answer to my question, " Is there enlightenment?", but have never questioned the search itself. Because I have assumed that goal, enlightenment, exists, I have had to search, and it is the search itself which has been choking me and keeping me out of my natural state. There is no such thing as spiritual or psychological enlightenment because there is no such thing as spirit or psyche at all. I have been a damn fool all my life, searching for something which does not exist. My search is at an end." (From the Mystique of Enlightenment.)


he has nothing to offer. Two books of conversations with him have come out, The Mystique of Enlightenment (edited by Rodney Arms and published by Dinesh Vaghela, Cemetile Corp. in Goa in 1982), Mind is a Myth (edited by Terry Newland and published by the same publisher in 1988), and Thought is Your Enemy (edited by Antony Paul Frank Noronha and published by Sowmya Publishers, Bangalore in 1990).

After his transformation, he has no "biography" to report, for he lives so much in the "moment" that one cannot say there is one continuous person. People around him have a lot to say about him, but none of that can be fit into any consistent picture about him. So, read on....

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U. G. often says that you cannot separate yourself from what you listen to or look at, probably meaning that your preconceptions and expectations are all built into what you think you are listening to or looking at. This is particularly true when we listen to U. G. talking. We normally hear in U. G.'s talks only those things which interest us, give us hope, give us something which we can turn into a recipe for living, something which will give us happiness or enlightenment. The mere fact that we even treat him as a teacher and listen to him with attention and reverence reveals that we are after some kind of transformation which we hope to receive by using what he says. Unfortunately for us, U. G. frustrates us right at the very first step.

U. G. says there is nothing you can do to change your present condition because whatever you are now, your confusions, problems, conflicts, violence, are all products of thought and self-consciousness. Any attempt on your part to change the given is born out of thought, and whatever thought does only perpetuates and strengthens itself and the knowledge it has, but does not make you free from them.

Each thought we think splits itself up and creates the division of the thinker or the self and the world. The process of thinking is a constant attempt to become other than itself, to change the given or the present condition, however the condition is perceived to be. Thought uses all its knowledge of the past, knowledge of all the things that have given us pleasure or pain, to create a state of permanence for itself, a state of permanent happiness, and perpetually seeks to attain that state. Whether it is a millionaire seeking the next million or a religious devotee seeking God's grace, the process of seeking is identical.

In order to perpetuate itself thought creates many illusions, including the illusion of spiritual experiences. The latter are illusions too, because it is only thought that can identify an experience as such; in the absence of thought identifying and recognizing we have no way of knowing that it is even an experience, let alone a spiritual experience of a certain kind. Thought uses the mechanism of knowledge to perpetuate itself, to create a continuity and permanence for itself. Thought can never know anything as it is. It has to distort what is given according to its predilections as to what is pleasant and what is unpleasant, pursue what it sees as pleasant, avoid what it sees as unpleasant in experience, and perpetuate itself in this process of seeking. The illusion of the self is also a product of thought, a higher order abstraction which thought uses to perpetuate itself. Even selfless activity is a ploy which thought uses in its self-centered activity.

There is no problem with our present life. For thought there seems to be one because it extracts certain knowledge out of past pleasures and pains, compares the present with it, passes judgments, avoids the present by concocting a future and pursuing it. But for the comparisons that thought makes there is no problem with our life as it is; and there is no other life. It is precisely our thought of a better state that prevents us from coming to terms with our life as it is.

The questions people ask of him, U. G. points out, are also part of the attempt of thought to continue itself. In fact we already know the answers to them inasmuch as we only accept those answers which suit our predilections and reject the others. But these answers cannot, and in fact no answers can satisfy us. If they did, thought would have to rest in the answer, but that would destroy the process of thought because then it cannot seek an answer any more in its attempt to perpetuate itself. In other words, thought does not want any answer to put an end to itself. If any answer really satisfies the question, it must end the question. But if the question is the thinker, then with the end of the question the questioner must end, and that is the last the thing we want. That is why U. G. says we really don't want an answer to our questions.

What good does all this do for anyone who hears U. G.? To ask that question is to fall again into the trap of fishing out a "directive", to use one of U. G.'s terms, from what he says. U. G. does sometimes say that when it "dawns" on you that whatever thought does is only an attempt of thought to perpetuate itself, that there is absolutely nothing you can do to free yourself from your state, and that the very idea of freedom is an illusion created by thought, then perhaps the question "burns itself out." And with the question goes the thinker. You as you know yourself will end. You will go through what U. G. calls a "clinical death." What happens to you after that is, according to U. G., "no concern of yours." Listen to this again gives us a ray of hope.

We hope that by doing something, by trying to give up thinking or whatever, we can make this "dawning" happen. But unfortunately we cannot do anything to make this "dawning" happen either. U. G. says that you have to accept the fact that this life of thought, so-called unfreedom, may be all there is, and there may be, as far as you are concerned, no other life. This again gives us hope, and we start our "travel" again: What can we do to accept this life as it is? To ask that question is to want to change what is, and not accept what we in fact are. Obviously we missed the point again. Why does U. G. say such things then? Or to ask the question differently, why do we, in spite of U. G.'s guarantees to the contrary, keep trying to change the given? Or, Why do we think we can use what U. G. says to get to a "better" state?

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Just as we cannot separate ourselves from what we listen in U. G.'s teaching, we cannot separate U. G.'s teaching from U. G.'s person, the accounts he gives of himself, and finally also the way people relate to him.

The Technique: You are never with U. G. for any length of time without his putting you "on the spot." And you know you are in question. He either picks a question himself and asks you, or responds to your comments or questions. But whatever it is, when you say something, he not only bounces back with tenfold energy, but denies practically every statement of yours, even at the expense of committing self-contradictions. (For he says from where he is there are no self-contradictions. He makes a statement, then a moment later, he makes a second statement which negates the first, but now by that moment he has moved from the first to the second, so he no longer holds to the first statement. The next moment he negates the second and so on. For him, these so-called contradictions are no contradictions. Since, as far he is concerned, there is no reality with which the first statement agrees and becomes true, there is no second statement which by negating the first becomes its contradictory.) Or, he constantly exposes the unwarranted assumptions we make in our thinking, leaving us totally defenseless. At times, he makes some dogmatic statements without even trying to justify them. On initial impressions, the listener is tempted to contradict them, but soon he or she realizes that U. G. makes them with such authority that the listener backs off and starts wonder in what sense the statements could be true. Soon the listener also realizes that U. G.'s authority comes from his living, which the listener is no great position to understand or judge.

U. G. never fills the vacuum he creates in our consciousness by his negating process with anything positive. To destroy the illusions of this mind is his only task. For the same reason, there is not a single statement I can imagine myself making to U. G. without his extracting from that statement a hidden assumption underlying that statement. Being aware of that, suppose I say that just for the sake of argument or discussion, I am making a statement. I can immediately hear U. G. resounding in my ears, "There is no such thing as just for the sake of anything....All "sakes" really are only for the sake of perpetuating the self." Nevertheless, knowing that, I keep saying....

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U.G. combines his teaching with a critique of others' teachings, particularly those of J. Krishnamurti, as well as of spiritual experiences of all sorts. The authority for such a critique, as mentioned above, comes from his own accounts of himself. For example, he says, when thought does not occur he has no knowledge of what happens to him, and he has "no way of knowing." When thought does occur it is limited to responding to the needs of the present situation. Thought also never produces in him the consciousness of himself as different or separate from others. He has, as he would say, no image of himself. Hence, as far as he is concerned, all talk of compassion to fellow human beings etc., which presupposes a separation between oneself and the other is meaningless. He constantly denies that from where he is there is duality of any kind. U. G.'s critique of others' teachings thus cannot be separated from the person of U. G.

Then U. G. himself becomes personally an enigma to us. He is now one thing, the next moment he may be the exact opposite. He condemns and denies whatever you say, and the next moment uses what you say against what someone else says. He obeys no rules of logic. He says, "That's your game, not mine." He is ruthless in condemning people for their beliefs or practices, although he appears so impersonal at other times, and the next moment he goes and squeezes the hand of that same person indicating the tenderness he has for him or her. He sometimes meddles with people's private lives quite intimately on their request, yet the next moment he appears totally unconcerned and disconnected. He seems to care for no one and nothing, yet at the next moment you feel that somehow that no one cares for you as much as he does. He has a way of making even a servant maid feel very special. You feel that at least at that moment he identifies with you so much that even you don't care for yourself as much.

In all such contradictions you begin to wonder who U. G. is. Is there such a person at all? There may be no such person as U. G., although you may find the recurrence of certain preferences, prejudices and recognitions of a person whom we know as U.G. over a period of time. The "Energy" he talks about responds to each situation according to the demands of the situation. There are only these discrete responses to situations but no continuous person who connects in and through thought and memory these responses. How can one be like that and yet have memory, make projects which involve connecting one thing with another in time, etc., is all a mystery to the observer, a big unknown. U. G. says that from where he is (or for him) there is no problem: his brain is responding to situations mechanically like a computer machine, there being no one to direct a response or coordinate several responses. In fact, even each sense may be acting independently of other senses.

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How does one relate to such an enigma, the unknown, the big cipher? If U. G. has no positive teaching of any kind, can he even be called a teacher? If there is no positive "directive" or recipe one can draw from his teaching, why do people still come and see him? He simply does not make sense to people in a sense, because you can get nothing out of what he says. If people still want to see him, it may be because they are still consciously or unconsciously extracting directives out of what he says, or because they attribute to him causation for some kinds of spiritual experiences or other. He vehemently discounts these experiences as sheer illusions created by your thought ("You belong in the loony bin singing merry melodies"), and says that he is not aware of his having anything to do with them. This, however, does not prevent him from making references to how people attribute the causation of those experiences to him!

Also, many people I have met, particularly in India, attribute supernatural events, extra-sensory perception and even miracles to U. G. For example, he is reputed to be able to forestall disasters and save people from them. He is known to give people specific advice on practical matters of living which they interpret sometimes as prophesizing. U. G. listens to all these and says that when people ask him for an advice in a particular context it is natural for him to give it, and he is not aware of himself as doing anything supernatural. You get the impression that he really does not deny authorship of any of them, except that he does not want you to attach any importance to them.

Or, people relate to the unknown in U. G. by noticing that after they came into contact with him, over the years, slowly, gently but profoundly their lives change--they become more simple, straightforward and honest. They also probably found themselves shaking off some longstanding, deep-lying habits and ways of living which they could not free themselves from before, at least not as easily and with such little effort.

On coming into contact with U. G. some may find that seeing him is exciting, although one is always on guard! (Doesn't he know that?!) They also find themselves thinking of him more often than a million other things which normally preoccupy or worry them in their daily lives. They also find that traces of the energy they felt in U. G.'s presence remain for a long time to come and trigger various processes within them, either those of self-examination or those of meditation or whatever.

Of course, U.G. would deny that he is aware of doing anything to people. He is probably right. It may just be that we have U. G. more constantly in our consciousness, and that creates a possibility (and perhaps hope too) of change that gets carried out without much effort. It's not that U.G. is something different or outside of us. It is the same Energy that's operating within us that is operating there within him too. (I can hear U. G. chuckling!) Only perhaps because of U. G. we are in touch with it now.

In this muddle of U. G., ourselves, and his conversations or talks with us, we get all mixed up, get separated and get mixed up again, and we haven't the faintest idea of where this is all leading. Where does it, U.G.?

It does not have to lead anywhere. U. G. constantly reminds us that it is the urge to know and to create a state of permanence that makes us ask all these questions, and when we quit them, everything will be all right, as it should be. You take what comes, and no questions asked. No one is there to keep a tally. No accounts kept. And what's wrong with that? Where is a problem there? What happens, then, as U. G. says, would be none of our concern.

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