The day was October 10, 1992. Suguna arrived in Yercaud with Mr. and Mrs. Satyanarayana and Sashidhar, all friends of U.G. Suguna said, "Dr. Desiraju died from a heart attack. They announced it in the papers." I was shocked to hear the news. He was a renowned neurophysiologist with the National Institute of Mental Health. He was from Andhra. Although I didn't know him well, the reason for my shock was that, seventeen years ago, he was the one who was responsible for letting U.G.'s view of life be known to the public in U.G.'s own words.
I can never forget that event in my life. It happened on December 23, 1976. That year U.G. had set up his camp on the street opposite the Mallikarjuna temple in an old building. The rooms upstairs were big. In the long hall-way the red-cemented floor was polished well and covered with a rug. Dr. Varma, Dr. Desiraju, Dr. Kapoor (the former director) and six other doctors came from NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience) to talk to U.G.
My friends and I were waiting eagerly for a discussion to take place. U.G. spoke continuously for two and a half hours, answering the doctors' questions. After hearing U.G.'s description of his Natural State and how his senses functioned in that state, Dr. Desiraju asked, "I would like to know precisely how all these things happened to you. I will be happy if you could tell us about them in as much detail as you can remember. Just assume I am a Nachiketa(1)." U.G. smiled in a mild manner and said, "That's a long story. It's not so easy."
Dr. Desiraju: We would like to hear it.
U.G.: I can't. I'll have to tell you the whole story. It takes a lot of time. My biography goes only so far; then it stops. After that, I have nothing to report.
Any of my biographers' aim is only to establish that my childhood upbringing, my education, the spiritual practices I performed, all brought about this Natural State. If I try to tell them that all those things were only obstacles and that whatever happened to me happened in spite of them, they don't want to listen to me, because then they can't make their story juicy. They all want to know how this sort of thing happened, and in what way it happened. When I tell them that this is acausal, they become disappointed. My background is of no value to me. How can this be a model for you? Your background is different. Each background is unique.
Dr. Desiraju: It is not that I want to make your biography into a model. It's just like looking at the sun and the moon or the pole star flickering in the distant skies. I am not necessarily requesting this in order to imitate you. That's why I said I am a Nachiketa. I shall not leave this place until I learn the truth from you.
U.G.: I am not opposed to your request, but I am unable to tell you. I don't know where to start. It looks like I have to tell you the whole story.
Dr. Desiraju: We are ready to hear it all.
That was how Dr. Desiraju, the veritable Nachiketa, provoked and persuaded U.G. to tell his whole life story. We recorded all of it on tape. Rodney Arms edited the material and published it as the first chapter in the book the Mystique of Enlightenment.
First Visit to Madras:
U.G. underwent much physical turmoil after the Calamity that befell him in 1967. Either because of the chemical changes that occurred in his body, or because of energy outbursts, his whole body used to undergo contortions as though a wet cloth was being wrung out. At the time, Mr. Desikachar, who was well known as a Yoga teacher in India, happened to be in Saanen, Switzerland, where U.G. was also. He became acquainted with U.G. and used to visit U.G. and spend time with him under the pretext of eating South Indian meals prepared by U.G.
Observing U.G.'s bodily condition, he opined that if U.G. practiced Yoga his body would quiet down. He told U.G. that his father, Sri Krishnamacharya, was in fact more capable of teaching Yoga than himself.
At Mr. Desikachar's insistence, U.G. came to Madras with Valentine at the end of that year. There he started practicing Yoga under the guidance of Sri Krishnamacharya. Sri Krishnamacharya was even more renowned than Mr. Desikachar as a Yoga teacher. He was also a scholar and a centenarian. U.G. was surprised to find that the Yoga postures Sri Krishnamacharya taught proved contrary to the natural energy movements in U.G.'s body. U.G. remarked about this to Sri Krishnamacharya. The latter quoted verses from the Bhagavad Gita substantiating his methods. With that, U.G. lost the little faith he had had before in the worth of Yoga practice. Because, by his nature, he wouldn't brush aside anything so quickly, U.G. wanted to give this Yoga practice a good chance, and continued to practice it for three years. So, he practiced all the postures prescribed by Sri Krishnamacharya faithfully. He examined minutely all the effects of this yoga on his body, and thus proved to himself beyond doubt that those practices were all of no avail to him.
At that time, U.G. used to live in the house in Hanumanthanagar in Bangalore. I too stayed in that house for a few days. As was my practice, I used to get up early in the morning, take a cold water bath and practice some Yoga postures in the manner taught to me by Sowris. During my practice, U.G. sometimes used to come in and correct me in some places. For instance, he admonished me not to open my eyes during my headstand.
The truth which U.G. finally realized from his own experience was that Yoga does more harm than good to the body. U.G. says that the movements which the body goes through spontaneously as it is coming out of the state of 'death' are closer to the Tai Chi movements than to the postures of Yoga. Also, U.G. says that it's a mistake to perform the 'Corpse Posture' (Savasana) at the end of the Yoga practice. He insists that it should come at the beginning.
U.G. liked the environs of Sringeri very much and also the peaceful climate of the banks of the River Tunga. He wanted to rent or buy a place and live there. Mr. Ramalingeswara Rao introduced U.G. to the Swami of Sringeri.(2) When he heard of the Calamity that had happened to U.G., he said "I must talk to you in private," and led U.G. into his private chambers which were located in a garden called Narasimhavana on the far side of the river Tunga. It is noteworthy that he allowed Valentine also into that room. The Swami sat on the Teacher's Seat (Guru Pitha), and U.G. and Valentine sat in front of him. "When I heard of the extraordinary things that happened to you, I am reminded of my guru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati," the Jagadguru started talking. "I don't know of these things in my own personal experience. But my teacher used to describe his experiences just the way they have occurred in your case. We were afraid that perhaps his mind was deranged. It is very rare that the body survives the shock of such a thoughtless state. According to the scriptures, within twenty one days after such an event the body dies. If the body could sustain its vital force and not die off, it must surely be for the sake of saving humanity. There is no doubt about it."
U.G., on the contrary, had no inclination to save the world or uplift humanity. He listened silently as the teacher spoke. Then he presented to the Jagadguru his proposal for establishing his residence near Sringeri in a solitary place away from people. In reply, the Jagadguru said, "I will be responsible for getting you any place around here, if you so wish. But your idea of living alone will never work. Whether you stay in a jungle or in a mountain cave, people won't stop coming to see you." The teacher's warning made U.G. abandon his resolve to stay away from people.
At that time, Dr. K. B. Ramakrishna Rao used to be the principal of the JCBM College in Sringeri. The Jagadguru invited him to visit and introduced him to U.G.
The following are the highlights of Professor Ramakrishna Rao's account of his early acquaintance with U.G.:
"In those days I was deeply studying Kundalini Yoga. My chief daily activities then were reading books about that Yoga, discussing it with people who had some experience of it and practicing it as much as possible. After I met U.G., in the presence of the Jagadguru, I invited him to my home. I detected some uniqueness and divinity in him. When I saw him walking with shoes even inside the house, I thought it must a habit he had acquired in the West. I was surprised when he said that that was not the case, that if he put his bare feet on the ground, he would be bothered by the electromagnetic energy that would be transmitted from the ground. When I heard later all the things that had happened to U.G., I was amazed and wonderstruck.
"To satisfy my curiosity U.G. showed me the colors that appeared on his skin at the base of his neck, on his chest and around his navel. The common opinion is that the energy centers called Nadi Chakras, which Kundalini Yoga talks about, are merely psychological. I used to wonder how, if that were the case, the ancients were able to ascribe forms, measurements and colors to them? When I heard the things U.G. had undergone, I felt that, for the first time, I had new answers to my doubts, answers which I had never heard before. U.G. explained that at precisely the same locations as the Nadi centers there are some ductless glands, and that when and if the mechanism of thought comes to a stop, all the energies that are dormant in those glands become active and bring about biological and chemical changes, and that the result was indeed the Natural State. As I continued to observe U.G.'s actions and movements, I gained the firm conviction that he was truly a living example of the Natural State which he had been describing. I felt that such new truths from such a unique vision must become accessible to as many people as possible."
That evening, Dr. Ramakrishna Rao and a group of his friends led U.G. and Valentine to the top of Rishyasringa Hill adjacent to the Tunga river. They all sat under a tree. They were curious to hear the story of U.G.'s Calamity. U. G. didn't like to disappoint them; so he narrated, for about an hour, all the things that had happened to him. It turned out to be a long lecture. It must be in Sringeri that U.G. probably first started lecturing again after he quit his lecturing in the U.S.A. many years before.
From that day till now, in all of these twenty five years, how many thousands of people, from all corners of the earth, have come to hear U.G.'s talks! Between then and now U.G.'s manner of speaking has not changed. He never gets up on a platform. He never accepts invitations from institutions. If anyone comes to him and asks him questions, he answers in the manner he feels appropriate.
In the state of Karnataka, Chikkamagaluru district is famous for its coffee estates. It is five thousand feet high from the sea level. Many places in that district compete with each other for their natural beauty. That day, U.G., Valentine and David Barry were staying in a Travellers' Bungalow in a place called Jayapura. Suddenly, U.G. announced, "Valentine, we are not going to stay here any longer. Let's leave." Valentine was shocked. She knew that it would be useless to ask him, "Where are we going?" So she packed her luggage and got ready to go. Meanwhile, a stranger came into the Bungalow saying that he had heard that there was a 'Yogi' there. "How does that Yogi look?" asked U.G. "Just like you," he replied, saluting U.G.
His name was Subbarao. He was the manager of a coffee estate in Tirthagundi near Jayapura. One night his servant had a dream in which a Yogi appeared in white pajamas and jubba and taught him many interesting philosophical truths in a language that he could understand. After relating his dream, he said to his master, "What that Swami taught was completely opposed to what you say. What you say is all false." As the servant spoke with such conviction, Subbarao did not question him.
That morning the servant saw U.G. near the Travelers' Bungalow and identified him as the Yogi who had appeared in his dream. He ran to his master and reported that the Yogi who had appeared in his dream was staying in the Travelers' Bungalow on the outskirts of the town.
"If you have no objection, you can stay in our coffee estate guest house. You will be quite comfortable there. There is also a cook," he said. U.G. went in his car to look at the place out and then accepted his invitation. He moved there with Valentine, David Barry and the luggage. All this happened in a matter of minutes.
Since then, until 1973, U.G. and Valentine used to go to Tirthagundi whenever they came to India.
Before a month had elapsed, I received another letter from U.G. This time he wrote care of Chalam in Ramanasthan. He must have thought that I had gone there. Sowris forwarded that letter to me. U.G. didn't mention anything special in it, but hinted that he was thinking of coming to Bangalore that year , also. I received another letter from Mysore from Valentine. By this time it was December again.
Valentine wrote that she and U.G. would be passing through Bangalore on their way to Madras and asked me to rent a cottage for them in the Woodlands Hotel. When I saw that letter, I reproached myself for not replying to U.G.'s previous letters. Just then, a friend of mine called Jagannath was getting his newly-built house ready for a house-warming function. I felt that a separate house for U.G. and Valentine would be better than a cottage in a hotel and wrote accordingly to Valentine. I received a telegram within four days asking me to rent that house and send U.G. confirmation of the rental.
I spoke to my friend, rented the house for the first week of January 1971 and wrote accordingly to U.G. "We are arriving next Sunday by car," U.G. informed me by telegram a week before he came.
We were at that time involved in arranging a program in Bangalore for the following Friday, to celebrate Sri Ramana's Birthday under the auspices of our Sankara School of Culture. For that day, we were planning different sorts of meetings, a big dinner for the invitees, and group devotional singing. As I was immersed in those arrangements, I didn't think of making arrangements for U.G.'s minimal needs in the new house.
Unexpectedly, on Friday afternoon, U.G. and Valentine got out of a taxi at our hostel. I was so surprised to see them, as I was expecting them on Sunday. The celebration was still going on in the hall. U.G. and Valentine waited patiently until the festivities came to an end. I still can't believe even now that along with all the others, U.G. received the "Grace" when incense was burned to signal the completion of the celebration, by showing his hands to the incense and pressing them against his eyes.
U.G. even dined with all of us in the hostel that day. I must pay a tribute to U.G.'s patience: he never made himself conspicuous, he never caused any anxiety or worry to anyone as a result of his presence, and he bore patiently all the commotion of the celebration until I had time to attend to his needs. It was evening when at last I was able to take U.G. and Valentine to the house I had arranged for them. We had the house all right, but the rooms were barren, with not a single piece of furniture in them, not even a reed mat. An empty house welcomed us. I thought regretfully that if I had had another day at my disposal, I could have catered to all their basic necessities.
"I like this house. If the house owner has no objection, we will rent it for three weeks," U.G. said. Then he turned to me and said, smiling, "You eat with us tonight." "Is he making fun of me?" I thought. There was nothing in the house. The kitchen was empty. There wasn't even a spoon. What would they cook and what would we eat? I was completely at a loss. But right in front of my eyes something spectacular happened that day. U.G. went out accompanied by me and arranged to buy all the necessary things, including chairs, tables, beds, and mattresses and got them all arranged. As I was watching, the kitchen looked full, with the necessary pots, pans and utensils. U.G. did not even forget a rag to clean the floors.
I marveled at U.G.'s actions: "What sort of a jivanmukta is this? He surpasses even a staunch family man in his ability to furnish a house." The efficiency he had shown in shopping for the household things made the ego I had developed regarding my own efficiency feel very deflated.
U.G. seemed to have taught me a lesson without saying anything: "The Natural State is not closing your nose, sitting in some cave and falling asleep. It is being able to act efficiently without a flaw even in the market place." All of my friends and I ate a full meal of Upma with U. G. in the new house.
U.G. and Valentine arrived in Bangalore in January. The enthusiasm of anticipating U.G.'s arrival did not last long. As soon as he came, he started making fun of me. I couldn't endure U.G. making it his business to laugh at my beliefs, convictions and the persons whom I revered as deities. But what could I do? I knew my weaknesses. Moreover, however much I tried to brush it aside, the truth in U.G.'s words would sink into my head. I knew clearly that he was only trying to enable me to throw away my crutches and stand on my own legs without faltering.
Despite these insights, when in his presence, my feelings used to be hurt. The more hurt I felt, the angrier I became. One night I boiled over. I didn't want to stay with him, or his teasing, for one more minute. "No, I don't want the friendship of gentlemen like him anymore. I am fed up with what I have already had," I fumed as I headed home. My mind was seething with emotion and anger. As soon as I got home, I grabbed the framed picture of U.G. and Sowris -- the picture of the two persons I adored as deities -- and flung it hard on a stone and broke it. With continuing vengeance I took the photo out of the broken frame and tore it up. Surprisingly, I then saw that among all the torn up pieces U.G.'s face was still intact and untorn on one of the fragments. I was dumbfounded for a minute. Collecting myself, I threw away all the pieces. "Finished, I am done with both of these people. I will live my own life. I will never see their faces again," I was talking to myself in anger.
For two days, I didn't go near the house where U.G. was living. I suppressed my longing for U.G. "No, don't fall into that fascination again. What do you lack if you don't see U.G.?" I consoled myself. On the evening of the third day, half an hour after I came home from work, I heard someone knocking at my door. I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened the door. There was U.G., with a smile on his face, and Valentine, standing in front of me.
"Chandrasekhar, what happened? We haven't had the pleasure of your visit for three days. Who can take care of us if not you?" U.G. said walking in. I felt like embracing his legs and crying. At that very moment all my anger disappeared. I became normal. I wondered how I had been able to carry on without seeing U.G. for those three days.
That year, U.G. stayed in Bangalore for five months. He never stayed in Bangalore that long ever again. There was an old abandoned bungalow in the Vani Vilas Street across from the Lal Bagh Gate. We arranged U.G.'s residence in the second floor of that building for that year. That floor of the house had been abandoned because three years previously someone had committed suicide there. After U.G. and company started living there, the house acquired an inhabited look. My friend, Hanumantha Reddy, was unemployed at that time. So, he used to live with U.G. and Valentine to help them out.
"Psychological fears are of two kinds: the fear of not getting what we want, and the fear of losing what we have," says U.G. In those days these two fears used to ride over me like two demons, day in and day out. I would be in turmoil at not being able to find a solution to some personal problem that was tormenting me. I wouldn't listen to anyone's advice. I was choking in a mire that I had voluntarily thrown myself into, and I didn't have the guts to get myself out of it. I groped around hoping that I would get a helping hand from some trusted unknown force. Unable to express my suffering to anyone, I was instead consumed by it.
One night, U.G. and I were sitting on the terrace of the abandoned bungalow in the open air at the dinner table. U.G. knew my problem. I knew the solution that U.G. would suggest to me. He knew that I was not prepared for the solution he was suggesting. For many days this peek-a-boo game had been going on.
"The basis of all personal relations is the same: it is 'What will I get from this relationship?' All relationships are based on exchange. If the exchange does not work out, the relationship will collapse. It [a relationship] is not so easy, and it is not so easily broken. But your welfare lies in its being broken," said U.G. Meanwhile, the power in the electric lines went out. A small lamp which Hanumantha Reddy lighted was fighting the darkness as best as it could.
My heart was moaning in silence: "Is this inevitable? Is there no way to avoid this goblet of poison? Can there be no grace from God?" Suddenly I heard U.G.'s voice, "If there is such a thing as grace anywhere, it will certainly separate you two [myself and my wife]." There was neither harshness nor softness in that voice. Words came out of him as though from a robot. That was it. After that, my heart became very lonely. My sorrow cried out silently. Then U.G.'s clouds of compassion burst down on me. That compassion instantly broke dams, made me breathless, and filled my barren existence with new life.
That year  U.G. had to carry dual burdens of the persons of Brahmachariji and myself. We both clung to U.G. like mindless leeches: we had been playing with life foolishly, had been hurt terribly and had lost all interest in life. We felt only U.G. could hold us each by his hand on either side and save us from danger.
U.G. sometimes runs into a problem with his esophagus. His assessment of it is, "This is a plumbing problem." The problem sometimes causes anxiety to those around U.G. A famous cancer specialist in Germany once examined U.G. and said that it might be a cancer of the esophagus. Valentine started worrying. "I am ready to go at any time," was U.G.'s response.
Dr. Prabhu was one of the doctors who took upon themselves the task of preserving U.G.'s health when he came to India that year. He hailed from Mangalore and he was a great Ayurvedic physician. He was acclaimed as unequaled in diagnosing a disease on the basis of examining a person's pulse.(4) Whenever U.G. visited Mangalore, he used to stay in Dr. Prabhu's house as his guest. That year Dr. Prabhu set up camp in Bangalore for a month to attend to U.G. Sometime before that U.G. stayed in Manipal Medical College Hostel for a week as Dr. Prabhu's guest. Dr. Prabhu was treating U.G. at that time for his esophagus trouble. He had a special medicated oil prepared for him. He had his eighteen-year old daughter, Pratibha, massage the whole of U.G.'s body with that oil. The reason, he said, was that U.G.'s skin was more delicate than a newborn baby's. His nervous system, Dr. Prabhu said, had become so sensitive that it couldn't stand the touch of men. Dr. Prabhu claimed that the oil could only be applied delicately by a 16 to18 year-old girl. He gave holy water to the girl and supervised her massage standing by her side. The process went on for hours each day. U.G. would sit almost naked with a loin cloth and she would apply the oil on the whole of his body and massage it. Dr. Prabhu would sit by his side chatting and feeling his pulse. Until the day he told us in Bangalore later, we didn't know that he was subjecting U.G. to a terrible test. "I have the skill of detecting the thousand ways that a pulse can beat," Dr. Prabhu said, "If even for a moment sexual feelings arise in the body when a young woman touches it all over, it will be registered in the pulse instantly. But there was no reaction at all in U.G.'s body. It doesn't mean he is a eunuch. Even eunuchs have sexual feelings. It became extremely clear to me that U.G.'s nervous system is beyond emotions and passions." We listened to this in amazement.
Six months later, when U.G. returned to Bangalore in December 1972, we reserved Sastri Sadanam opposite the Anjaneya Temple for his residence. U.G. wanted to rent that house not just on a short-term basis but for two years. He also wanted me to vacate my current house and move to Sastri Sadanam. He asked me to speak to the owner, Viswanath, regarding the rental arrangements. Later, when we were all chatting that same evening outside of the house on an open porch, Viswanath came by. U.G. told him of his plans and asked him to build a bathroom upstairs for his convenience. Viswanath agreed to everything, but they had a disagreement over money. Viswanath wanted a hundred rupees more toward rent. U.G. was adamant and refused to pay more. When U.G. shouted at him saying, "We don't want this house; please return our advance money," Viswanath shouted back louder saying, "Never, I won't give it until you vacate the house!" The next moment U.G. went into a rage: "We won't vacate the house; nor will we pay the rent! We will see what you will do!" I was dumbfounded when U.G. thus squared himself off for a fight.
"If you don't vacate, I will take you to court," threatened Viswanath. U.G. pounced on him with a fiery face saying, "No one here is afraid of your stupid threats, get out!" "We shall see," said Viswanath and he left hurriedly.
The whole fight took place in the presence of all those gentlemen and gentle ladies who came to U.G.'s place to have his satsang [lit. communion], believing him to be a Brahmajnani.
My friends slipped away one by one. Not only U.G. and Valentine, but also their guests Volcker, Dr. Lynn, Julie [Wellings] from California and John Allen were also staying there at that time. U.G.'s anger did not subside even after he came back into the house. "He is threatening to drag me to the court. He thinks I don't know the law. The house is in our control. No court will get us out of here," said U.G., turning to me. "Chandrasekhar, you are the one who is going to stay in this house. We will be going away. Don't be frightened by the threats of Viswanath. If you want to stand up and fight bravely, you will have all my financial, moral and physical support. What do you say?"
Everyone present was looking at me in pity, as though I were an innocent bystander caught up in trouble unawares. When U.G. asked me thus, I had an unknown courage: "I am ready U.G.," I said.
"Right. Tomorrow morning I will give you a plan about what you should do and how you should conduct the case. Good night!" U.G. said and retired into his room. All the foreign friends were commenting on what happened in whatever way they thought fit. Julie looked at me and said, "Chandrasekhar, think carefully. U.G. and his company will all leave. You will be the only one who will take care of the court affairs. Why do you want to get caught in these tangles?" She advised me to wash my hands of this affair.
I came to a decision that night. Whatever might happen, even if the sky above collapses on me, I would stand by my words and listen to U.G. If he wanted me to jump into fire, I would. I was already in hell. What could be worse? When I came to this decision late in the night, I fell asleep soundly.
The next day was Sunday. At eight o'clock in the morning U.G. called me and asked me to send word to Viswanath to come. He came immediately. As if nothing had happened the night before, U.G. said 'hello' to Viswanath and said, "We will pay you the rent you want. I will also pay you now for two years rent, so that you can make those changes and repairs. O.K.?"
Viswanath was immensely pleased with this offer. "I myself wanted to reduce the rent," he said.
U.G. said, "No, no. Don't. It's only five hundred rupees. In Switzerland we spend that much money in a week." That was it. In three minutes the transaction was closed. All the friends who had come with worried minds let out sighs of relief when they learned of the latest developments. When U.G. could settle matters so easily, why did he make so much fuss the evening before? Why did he enact that drama? Even now I can't fathom that.
Thus began the time of my moving into the house on Anjaneya Temple Street. That winter was cold. A sonorous voice could be heard passing on the street every morning singing to the accompaniment of cymbals the chant "Hari Narayana, Hari Narayana." U.G. had noticed him, too, and remarked one day: "I see someone going on the street everyday singing Bhajans. His shoulders are covered with a shawl. I wonder who he is?" When he came into our house on the Siva Ratri day in the same attire, then we knew that he was no less than Mr. Bangalore Krishna Bhagavatar, known not only in Bangalore, but throughout South India. Everyone called him 'Bhagavatar'. He was a guru to many. He wore a white Glasgow Mull dhoti, a white shirt, a Kashmir shawl on his shoulders, and a rosary around his neck. His body being fair shone through the clothes. He wore marks of vibhuti (ashes) on his forehead. In the middle of those marks, he wore a round red vermilion mark. The Bhagavatar was an attractive man. Although he was over seventy five, he looked healthy and strong. He had a college degree in agriculture and had worked for some years. His wife's and son's deaths when he was twenty five caused havoc in his life. He renounced everything and took to traveling. There was no holy place he did not visit. There was no ashram he did not go to. At last, he attained peace in the presence of a guru in Srirangam. When the guru provoked the artistic talent in him by showing him a way of attaining self-satisfaction through entertaining everyone by singing Harikathas (Stories of Gods; lit. stories of Vishnu), Bhagavatar's life gained a new purpose. Since then, for the next fifty years, he had a steady life. He not only studied Indian culture and tradition thoroughly, but also practiced them in his everyday life. As a last living witness to the Indian Tradition, he went around the city singing devotional songs. The Rama temples he had built by singing Hari Kathas and collecting contributions remain today as a tribute to his memory. He was a great scholar, and was fluent not only in the Kannada, Tamil and Telugu languages but also in English. He wrote Harikathas in all four languages.
One day, when he was on his City Singing rounds, he visited my friend Sanjiva Rao's house. As Sanjiva Rao knew about the Bhagavatar's spiritual quest, he told him, "In this same street there is a jnani called U. G. Krishnamurti. He just arrived from Switzerland. Go and visit him."
Bhagavatar received this information rather lightly. He replied, "You can't fool me. I have seen and heard many Krishnamurtis before."
At the same time my friend's wife, who was standing next to them asked, "Swami, what's the significance of today?"
"Today is Maha Siva Ratri, my lady. I must go to the Siva Temple from here."
She said, "If you really want to visit Siva in person, there is a living Siva in Viswanath's house at the end of this street. Go and visit him." Bhagavatar was shocked at her words. He was more inclined to believe her than her husband.
He straightaway arrived at the doorway of U.G., and since that day U.G.'s house became Bhagavatar's second home. He ran to it whenever he thought of U.G. Ever since he found U.G., there was never an end to his jubilation. He used to address U.G. as 'Appa' (Lit. 'Father'), although U.G. was twenty years younger than him. This reminded me of how Sri Ramana Maharshi addressed Mr. Ganapati Sastry, who was older than him, as 'Nayana' ('Father'). Bhagavatar also used to call Valentine 'Mother'. He used to sit by U.G.'s side and relate many stories about devotees (of gods) in a tasteful manner, acting them out. Whenever Bhagavatar's eyes rolled in tears, U.G.'s eyes too became moist. Bhagavatar used to appreciate that in U.G., "Appa is really a lover of devotees. He is moved by their devotion." When he quoted a saying in Sanskrit "bhaktireva gariyasi..." ('with bhakti thou shall excel') and looked meaningfully at U.G., the latter merely smiled and collected himself. The smile could be read as, "as if you know what bhakti really means." But U.G. never condemned Bhagavatar's faith or beliefs.
When at times U.G. started his tirade on human culture and civilization, immediately Bhagatar used to get up and run out saying, "'Father', it's time for me to go. Goodbye." He didn't have the courage to withstand the attacks.
Even after U.G. had left for Switzerland, Bhagavatar used to come and chat with me every day. He was quite keen on composing a Hari Katha on U.G. in English. But he was terribly disappointed when he couldn't find even a sampling of any of the elements which would normally be found in the lives of spiritual people (or Devotees).
Meanwhile, it was getting close to U.G.'s birthday. Bhagavatar was enthusiastic about celebrating it along with all of us. We all agreed. But how could we do it without informing U.G. about it? What would he say if he knew about it? I decided to write to him, no matter what the consequence might be. Just as we expected, U.G. replied scolding us: "Celebrating the birthday of anyone is an immature, childish, infantile activity. How can you do such a thing to me?" He concluded the letter with, "....That is your house. You may spend your time in fasts, feasts and festivals, but leave this individual who has neither birth nor death severely alone...." That was a lesson to us. When I showed the letter to Bhagavatar, he started laughing: "That's right, Appa, That's right. True, we are still children. We keep playing." Then he borrowed a photo of U.G. from me to get an enlargement and frame it.
The U.G.'s Birthday tradition which began thus continued uninterrupted for ten years. We used to set up the picture of U.G., listen to some tapes of U.G.'s, and make someone speak about U.G. We would send greetings to U.G. and all of us used to sign it. "My birthday gathers bigger crowds than I do," U.G. joked. Apparently, once, when no one was around, Bhagavatar held U.G.'s feet saying, "Appa, no one else cares for me. Only you can show me the way to Release [moksha]."
U.G. instantly picked him up trying to prevent him from holding his feet. He said, "You spent so many years with Ramana Maharshi. Why didn't you ask him?"
"At that time, I didn't have either that interest or yearning. Now, I feel I don't want anything else," he answered.
U.G. said, "That's the only thing I cannot give. It's not something that someone can give and someone else can receive. You ask for anything else. I will give that." As soon as he said that, the Bhagavatar asked U.G. to get him a small transistor [from abroad], U.G. reported. U.G. jokes about him saying, "His interest slipped fast from moksha to a transistor." But I had no doubt about the earnestness of the Bhagavatar [in spiritual matters]. He used to treasure his acquaintance with U.G. Even when he was 92 and unable to move, he used to come and see U.G. every year. Bhagavatar moved his camp from this world the same year that we changed our residence to Poornakutee.
After that Kalyani used to come every day. She had total liberty in U.G.'s presence. She laughed and made others laugh. She sang and danced around. If there was anyone in the audience whom she didn't like, she used to insult them with words. She used to ask U.G. for money. "Don't beg for money any more. I will give you whatever you want," U.G. would say to her and give her a lot of money. Even then, she would still beg for coins with her aluminum bowl in front of the Anjaneya temple. She was always glad to see Valentine. She used to call her, 'Madam.' When she became more sentimental, she used to hug her, calling her, "Dammu, Dammu [vernacular variation of 'madam']." Although Valentine did not care for Kalyani's behavior, she liked Kalyani's decoration of herself.
Kalyani was born in a rich Ayyengar family. She graduated from college with a B.Sc. and used to work as a mathematics teacher in a girls high school. Her husband was a superior I.A.S. [Indian Administrative Service] officer. He was a joint secretary in the Central Government in Delhi. She was used to giving charities from early in her life. Her family used to give freely to monks and heads of Maths. She performed many worships and rituals and as a result she lost her mind. Her family could no longer manage her behavior, so they admitted her in the mental hospital. Since then her manner changed completely. Even after she was discharged from the mental hospital, she could not go back to her normal life. Unable to help her, her husband left her to her own devices. Her daughter's husband was also an I.A.S. officer. They both lived in Hyderabad. The two hundred rupees her husband sent every month, and the fifty rupees that the management of the school she had worked in paid her, these were her only monthly income. Until she came to U.G. she had no one to care for her. U.G. arranged a room for her in the premises of Sastri Sadanam. Whenever she asked, U.G. would give her ten rupees. "U.G. sir made me a rich beggar," she used to say. Noticing her manner and ways, U.G.'s friends, Mahesh, Parveen Babi and many others became fond of her. Mahesh's wife Kiran liked Kalyani very much.
Kalyani used to keep a tab on how much money people gave her. In some fashion or other, as she saw fit, she used to help them. Once she asked me for five rupees and got it. Later, on my birthday, I received from the Kanchi Kamakoti Math Office some sacraments and a receipt in my name for five rupees. I wondered who sent them that money. Another time she gave me a package and asked me to deliver it to the Swami (monk) residing in the Avani Sankara Math on the outskirts of Bangalore. I did not have the time to do that. Kalyani used to ask me everyday, "When are you going to go there?" One evening I went there straight from my office and delivered the package to the Swami telling him that Kalyani asked me to give it to him. In the package there was a brand new sacred golden necklace worn by a bride on her wedding day and kept for the rest of her married life. The Swami and I were both surprised. Apparently, just two days before, thieves broke into the temple and stole valuable jewelry. Just as he was regretting that the image of the goddess didn't even have the sacred necklace, I brought this package. "That lady is not really crazy, I know her," the Swami affirmed and pressed the necklace to his eyes. I related the incident to Kalyani upon returning home. "Did you know before that this was going to happen?" I asked Kalyani. Kalyani poured abuses on me as a response.
To show her gratitude to U.G. for his help, Kalyani performed the services of cleaning the house and decorating it. U.G. used to say, "I can't afford a rich servant like you, Kalyani." She would never let anyone else do the household chores. When U.G. got angry at her, she used to hurry everyone with an authoritarian tone. One day after she finished her work she said to U.G., "Goodbye, Sir, I'll see you again." U.G. said, "Why see me again? Don't."
"I shouldn't come? If I don't come to torture you, who will?"
"Why do you want to torture me? What did I do to you?"
"Because of the sins you committed in your past life. You must suffer the consequences of torturing your wife in this life. " She said this and left. We all laughed loudly.
I felt that Kalyani must have had some extrasensory powers. U.G. says that they are commonly found in crazy people. But Kalyani's case is different. She is a veritable deity for Dr. Siromani of Hyderabad. Some friends of U.G. used to make fun of Dr. Siromani by calling her Devotee Siromani. She used to send clothes and lots of mangoes to Kalyani and to U.G. Once U.G.'s daughter, Bharati, came to Bangalore. That morning her husband, Mr. Rayudu, was asking about the Skanda Nadi in Bangalore. He was wondering if the nadi could find any solution to some of the problems that bothered him. Kalyani said, "Sir. You are the son-in-law of such a great man as U.G., yet how come you are seeking the help of the Nadi man? Show me your hand, and I will tell you what you need to know." He was surprised at this and showed his hand to her. She looked at his hand from some distance and said, "You will get a promotion in your job. Your boss who has been pestering you will get transferred and you will get his job." After a few days, it exactly happened just as she had predicted.
Kalyani used to collect a lot of flowers from somewhere and shower them on U.G. She used to ask, "Sir, when will my ex-[husband] take me back? When will you send me to my daughter?" When U.G. would reply to her, "Forget all that Kalyani. None of that will happen," she would look disappointed and leave.
Finally, I did run into her husband once in Bangalore. He told me he didn't have any objection to her coming back. "But she must quit her roaming around and begging and remain at home," he said.
Kalyani smiled apathetically, on hearing this. "I can't see any difference between the street and my home, what can I do?" she explained. Her husband returned to Delhi. Her daughter, Sobhana Rangachari, was a great singer. She died in Hyderabad in a fire accident. I offered to take Kalyani to Hyderabad. She said, "Never." She said with conviction, "My daughter is still alive. I don't believe all those rumors."
Kalyani had a good singing voice. She was born in a family of great singers. I used to go into ecstasies hearing her singing the compositions of Tyagaraja, sitting in front of the picture of her favorite deity in her room. When I offered to record her singing she turned my offer down. When once I started recording secretly without her knowledge, she stopped her singing, became abusive and cried. But U.G. always used to ask her to sing whenever he gave her money. Sometimes he would stop his conversation and ask her to narrate incidents of her life in the mental hospital.
Kalyani continued her visits even after we moved to Poornakutee from the Anjaneya Temple Street. Meanwhile, she had an attack of breast cancer. No matter how much we tried to persuade her to undergo treatment, she refused. Finally, her chest became like a big open wound. Before she died in 1990, U.G. went to visit her once. She came running to the gate, crying. I was so sorry to see her in that state. U.G. tried to give her some money. She did not take it. "Please grant me death, U.G. Sir! That's what I need," she begged, crying. U.G. remained silent. He stood quietly holding her hand. She died soon after. The day before she died, Suguna and I went to see her. She invited us in. She gestured for us to come in from her bed where she was lying. She showed us all her belongings in the room and said, "All these and whatever else I have belong to U.G. sir." Within a year after Kalyani died Valentine passed away. The seven thousand rupees that remained of the money which the Australian friends of U.G. gave Kalyani for medical treatment became the starter money for the school founded in Valentine's name.
Meeting new friends -- Indian Institute of World Culture:
Everyone knows in Bangalore the name of the Indian Institute of World Culture. The late B.P.Wadia and Sophia Wadia founded the Institute in the Basavanagudi area in 1945. It served as a platform for many great native and foreign personages and intellectuals. Many intellectuals consider it a great honor to have the opportunity to speak in it. In 1972, the then Secretary of the Institute, Mr. Venkataramayya, invited U.G. to give a talk there. U.G. was already renowned as an international lecturer. He lost the urge to speak in public even before the Calamity. "We talk a lot when we don't know much. If we know a little, there is nothing to say," says U.G. After the Calamity, U.G. found no need for meetings and platforms. No matter how much U.G. tried to explain to him his situation, Venkataramayya would not take a "No" for an answer. Finally, either because of Venkataramayya's insistence or because of our persuasion, U.G. gave a talk on the stage of the Institute in the month of May, 1972. After the Calamity that was his first and last public lecture.
That day the lecture hall was filled with people. Mr. Dilip Kothari, former Chairman of the Film Censor Board and U.G.'s friend from Bombay, introduced U.G. Notwithstanding the interruptions by Dr. Kothar's comments, the audience listened to U.G.'s talk spellbound. Many persons like Nagaraj, Radhakishan Bajaj, Rochaldas Shroff and Narayanachari, who were sold on J.Krishnamurti before, became even more attracted to U.G. as a result of that talk.
U.G. came to India in September that year. That was the first time Kumar met his father after many years. Kumar was then 17 years old. When his father said hello to him, he did not respond; instead, he turned his head reticently. He would avoid his father as much as he could. He didn't seem to notice what U.G. said or did. One afternoon, when we were all sitting on the front porch, Kumar was killing the red ants marching in a row on the floor. "Why, mister? Why are you killing them?" asked U.G., unable to bear that violence in front of him. "How shall I vent my anger, then?" replied Kumar, continuing to squash the ants on the floor with his foot. "Take it out on those you are angry with. What did the poor ants do to you?" as U.G. said this, Kumar looked at once at his father with rage and left the scene.
That same son came to adore U.G. within a month. Even I, who was observing these incidents at close quarters, was astonished at the transformation in Kumar. U.G. used to give him money and ask him to do small errands for him. He bought him a bicycle to ride to his college.
One evening, as Kumar was about to leave on his bicycle, U.G. enquired, "Hey, mister, where are you going?"
"I am going to a movie."
"You are going at this late hour? Will you be able to get a ticket?"
As soon as U.G. said this, Kumar brought his bicycle back inside the gate.
"Why, you are not going?" asked U.G., surprised.
"When you mentioned it, I knew I wouldn't be able to get a ticket. Why should I go that far? It's a waste," said Kumar as he was going into the house.
I was astonished at the faith Kumar had acquired in even casual remarks of U.G.
When Kumar was completing his 18th year in 1974, U.G. said to him, "You are an American citizen by virtue of your birth in the U.S. You must make up your mind, before you are 18, as to whether you will find a place for yourself in the U.S., or you are going to waste your talents staying here in India." By that time, Kumar already was in the habit of treating his father's words as Gospel. U.G. rendered him the minimal help he needed to get to the U.S. "This is all I can do for you. Whether you will sink or sail will all depend on your own abilities," exhorted U.G. saying goodbye to him.
Kumar arrived in a country where he had no one to support him. He faced many odds there. Yet, in a period of about ten years he started an independent business and got married. When I met him in a hotel in New York in 1986, now a bona fide American entrepreneur, my joy and amazement knew no bounds.
A Sardarji's palm reading:
My marriage with Suguna was settled in 1974. After U.G. and Valentine returned to India, they kept asking me when my marriage would take place and on what day. Valentine was curious to see my prospective bride. I wrote to Suguna's brother asking him to bring her to Bangalore. Valentine was very pleased to meet Suguna. "She looks like a baby squirrel," remarked Valentine to me. Valentine was very fond of squirrels.
"From now on Chandrasekhar's life will be smooth sailing," said U.G. contentedly. "What day is the wedding? We are leaving the country on December 25. We want to see Chandrasekhar as a married man before then," said U.G. to Suguna's brother, persuading him to arrange a date for the wedding before then.
But even in November we didn't get word from Suguna's family as to on what day the wedding was going to be performed, and U.G. meanwhile kept asking: "The wedding must take place before we leave. Why haven't they contacted you yet?" One afternoon, we were all sitting in the porch when an old Sardarji walked in and asked if anyone of us wanted our fortune told. U. G. asked him when Kumar would be going to the U.S. The Sardarji looked at his palm and said, "He is going to go in six months." Then U.G. pointed me to him and asked him when I would be marrying. I never was interested in showing my palm to anyone, but I showed it on U.G.'s insistence.
"The marriage will occur in a month," the Sardarji said.
"That's enough. We need not know what will happen later," U.G. said, pulling my hand away from the Sardarji.
That day Volcker, John Allen and Dr. Lynn all had their palms read by the Sardarji. Everyone was astonished at how accurately he told about everyone's past and future. We all gave him some money. "All this is because of your grace; I don't have much to do with it," as he said this, the Sardarji bent forward to touch U.G. U.G. moved away from him, and no matter how many times the Sardarji asked to touch U.G., U.G. did not let him touch even his hand.
We received the wedding invitations a week later. The wedding was to take place on December 20. Valentine was very eager to witness the wedding. But U.G. prevented her. He told her: "It's hard to arrange for your stay in a remote village. The couple will come to Bangalore on the third day after the wedding. You can see them then."
When Suguna and I arrived in Bangalore on December 24, Kumar met us at the doorway. "U.G. is at Brahmachariji's ashram. He told me to tell you to come there tonight even if you are late," Kumar said. We instantly hired a taxi and drove to the ashram, which was about 20 kilometers away from Bangalore.
"I told you that they would come no matter how late it is in the night," U.G. said to those around him, seeing us approaching from a distance. The next day was Christmas. Our wedding feast and our bidding farewell to U.G. -- both happened rather unostentatiously.
Nagaraj retired after we moved to Purnakutee. He asked U.G. to help him quit his habit of cigarette smoking as he was wasting a lot of money on it. U.G. answered, "Double your quota. Don't stop smoking." Nagaraj didn't heed this advice. In spite of U.G.'s advice, Nagaraj quit smoking and sank into a heavy depression.
About a year later, one morning, he got up from sleep, drank his coffee, went to bed again and went to sleep forever. It took me a long time to collect myself after his death. Whenever there was a mention of Nagaraj during conversations, U.G. used to say to divert us, "Where did Nagaraj go? He is here with us." Maybe he is with us while I am writing this. Nagaraj, are you listening to your story? Among all the friends that gathered around U.G., Nagaraj was my most intimate.
I can't speak enough about him. The Sundays we spent transcribing his notes on U.G. in his office working for hours together, the phone conversations we would have with U.G. from that office, the funny jokes Nagaraj would tell -- the more I think of those memories, the more forlorn I feel.
"Your teaching that 'There is nothing' is our everything. You please give me that," he used to say cleverly. U.G. would get angry at him and start scolding him. If U.G. said, "You have so many gurus. Why do you come here instead of going to them?" Rochaldas would reply: "U.G., all they want is my money. You are the only one who is giving me what I need free of charge. When you ask me to get out, I feel as if you are saying, 'Get out of these worldly involvements;' and if you tell me not to come back, I feel as if you are saying, 'Don't come back into the cycle of death and rebirth;' and, if you tell me, 'You will not get anything here,' I feel as if in this moment, right here I am filled with the Infinite. How can I not come to you again and again?"
When U.G. would hold his head unable to answer Rochaldas, Nagaraj would then jump with joy saying, "Great, you have met your equal in Rochaldas, U.G. I will salute you if you can silence him."
One day, Rochaldas was reluctant to leave even after spending a long time with U.G., and stayed downstairs even after Valentine and U.G. retired upstairs after their lunch. He had a habit of muttering some holy names or prayers within himself when he wasn't talking to anyone, and he was doing so at this time. In a little while U.G. came downstairs and sat in a chair in front of Rochaldas. He said seriously, "Look Rochaldas, it's useless to think of jnana and moksha after amassing millions and billions. You must let all that wealth go. Not just give it to your children. That won't mean anything. There is a line in a poem which says, 'On whomsoever my grace falls, him I will rob of everything.' You must first let everything go and become a pauper. Then God will think of bestowing grace on you." Rochaldas was truly terrified by these words.
Ever since then, he stopped pestering U.G. about liberation. But he still would go look for and bring people who would provoke U.G. with their questions, and thus make him talk. He would go on missions to visit great scientists, doctors and philosophers, and he would tell them about U.G. and bring them to him. It was owing to his initiative that the NIMHANS doctors came to U.G. for discussions. He used to call the visitors of U.G. 'bakras'. 'Bakra' means sheep in the Sindhi language. His implication was that all those visitors were sheep that were victims of U.G.'s eloquence. If a new bakra arrived who could stand up to U.G. in conversation, Rochaldas would be mightily pleased. He would say, "U.G., when you talk I hear the divine flute of Krishna. All I want is to keep listening to it." He would even listen to U.G.'s tapes during the nights.
Rochaldas had three heart attacks before he was seventy five, but he didn't worry about them. He visited U.G. everyday whenever U.G. came to Bangalore. Although he had three or four cars, Rochaldas would travel in an auto rickshaw to save money. A day would not go by without U.G. making fun of Rochaldas's miserliness: "Would you have come here if I charged you one rupee per visit? Tell me the truth, Rochaldas!" Rochaldas would smile and nod in agreement and say, "It's true, I would not have come."
Once Rochaldas invited U.G. to his house for lunch. Julie Thayer accompanied U.G., and Rochaldas introduced his whole family to U.G. Did you complete all the arrangements for the distribution of your property [to your successors after you]? Did you prepare your will yet?" U.G. asked Rochaldas.
Rochaldas replied, "No, not yet." He was not willing to distribute his property even to his own immediate relatives. Finally, U.G. made Rochaldas agree to soon make those arrangements. The faces of the family members expressed gladness at this.
In this context, U.G. asked Rochaldas, "If you had a way of saving all your property for your next life, would you have distributed your property to your children?"
"Not on my dead body," replied Rochaldas with conviction. U.G. laughed.
One day, Rochaldas was not feeling well. Doctors asked him not to get out of bed. Soon after they left, he called U.G. and told him that he felt like visiting him, and asked him if he could come. "I won't let you, if you come in an auto rickshaw. You must come in a car," said U.G. He came and sat for a long time that day in Poornakutee. He left for home around two o'clock in the afternoon. Two hours later we received the news that Rochaldas had died.
"What an easy death!" I thought. I remember his saying goodbye to everyone before he left.
"If I come to your Math, would I have to wear clothing appropriate to your ritual rules? I wouldn't be allowed with my pajama and lalchi. Besides, Valentine also will have to come with me. She is a foreigner," said U.G. trying to discourage the Swami from inviting him.
The Swami reassured U.G. that he could come dressed just the way he was and bring Valentine as well. "But, please don't force me to sit with you to eat. That's all I ask," he said, repeating his invitation. He arranged to serve U.G. and Valentine a tasty meal with twenty five items. He sat in front of them while they ate their lunch, and they talked about many things. After listening to U.G. for a while, the Swami said to his disciples, "That Krishna and this Krishna say the same thing."
Then U.G. remarked, "Among the three Acharyas(5) I like Madhvacharya the most."
The Adamara Math Swami was flattered with this remark, believing that U.G. was admiring his tradition. "Why, U.G., why?" he asked with excitement.
"It is because of Madhvacharya that Udipi restaurants sprung up all over the world.(6) Whether we go to New York or London or some other place, thanks to those restaurants, I can find the idlis I need." When U.G. finished saying this, the Swami looked hurt.
Being bluntly honest and outspoken is unique to U.G. He doesn't wait to consider how the other person will take what he says. I think that he alienated even people close to him by this quality of his speaking. But as for U.G., he would say, "I can't lose a friend I don't have."
The following happened about twenty years ago, when we were in the Anjaneya Street House. One day, Professor N.A. Nikam came with Dr. Ramakrishna Rao. Prof. Nikam had retired from being the vice-chancellor of the Mysore University. Dr. Ramakrishna Rao did his doctorate under his supervision. Rumor had it that, years ago, the then Maharajah of Mysore, Jayachamaraja Wadayar, recognized the high level of scholarship that Nikam had in Advaita Vedanta, and got him to write his speeches. Prof. Nikam handed a copy of the brand new book he wrote called Bhagavan Ramana to U.G. and said, "I want your candid opinion on this."
U.G. replied without taking the book, "I am sorry. I don't read biographies, much less autobiographies." Nikam's face turned pale upon this. U.G. must have been the only person who had ever turned down a book offered by him.
Narayan invited U.G. and Valentine to visit his school in Hyderabad. The Oasis school is situated in a big building on a large site of four or five acres. Apparently, it is still one of the best residential schools in Andhra Pradesh. After Narayan's death the school changed hands many times.
From 1972 to 1980 -- for seven years -- U.G. and Valentine used to spend two to three weeks each year at the Oasis School. It was there that U.G.'s boyhood classmate, Mr. Prasada Rao, came to see U.G. He, Mr. Sripada Gopalakrishnamurti, Narayan and some other friends, all used to have discussions with U.G. Narayan, upon U.G.'s suggestion, gave Hanumantha Reddy a teacher's job in his school. Thus, a fairly large group of people gathered there, including Gopal, Shanta, Satyavati Reddi, Siromani, and Rajasekhar Reddi, whenever U.G. visited Hyderabad.
In April 1980, U. G. came to India unexpectedly and stayed for a month. In May, he went to Hyderabad and stayed with Narayan for a week in the Oasis School. That was the last time he saw Narayan, for just a few days later he heard the news that Narayan died of a heart attack.
Sitaramayya -- U.G.'s father:
In 1977, when U.G. was in Hyderabad, news arrived that U.G.'s father, Mr. Uppaluri Sitaramayya, was on his death bed. Relatives sent word to U.G. conveying his wish to see U.G. U.G. said, "If he sees me, he will die. If he wants to stay alive, he shouldn't see me." But he couldn't very well turn down the request of Valentine and Narayan; so he went to see his father in his step-brother's house. Apparently, his father cried holding U.G.'s hands. "I probably met my father about seven or eight times in my life. I haven't had any more contact with him than that," says U.G.
I think it was in the year 1978. When U.G. came to Bangalore that year, he thought it would be nice if Shanta came to Bangalore for Christmas. He asked Nagaraj to write a letter to her on behalf of all our friends. "U.G. says that he won't stay in Bangalore if you don't come. You must come at least for our sake. If Mr. Narayan doesn't grant you leave, you should resign the job, if necessary," Nagaraj wrote in the letter.
Shanta rushed to Bangalore as soon as she got the letter. Since then, her enthusiasm knew no bounds. Her feet wouldn't stay on the ground, as she felt that U.G. invited her specially to take care of him. She was overwhelmed with the regard he showed for her. In just a few days, she became so dependent on U.G. that she felt she couldn't live without him. She made serving U.G. the purpose of her life. At times when U.G. was annoyed with her, she used to cry. Meanwhile, the time came for her to return to Hyderabad. Just then U.G. fell ill. He was lying in bed one day with a fever. She sat outside his room, without eating or drinking, with a crestfallen face. She would pester U.G. hour after hour asking him each time, "Would you like me to mix some gruel? Would you like some fruit juice now?" She would listen repeatedly to Balamurali's song, "I can't live without you..." on the tape recorder. She would think of U.G. while listening to it and start crying. It was sad to watch her in that state.
That evening some people came to see U.G. "U.G. is resting; you can't see him yet. Please sit down and wait for a while," Shanta told them. Usually, if anyone came to see him, U.G. never liked to tell them to wait, or to make them wait. U.G. did not tolerate it even if Valentine did something of that sort. After about half an hour, U.G. came out of his room on some errand, saw those people waiting for him, felt sorry, and asked Shanta, "Why didn't you tell me that someone was here to see me?"
Shanta answered, "You weren't feeling well. I thought you were asleep. So I didn't wake you up." Then, while U.G. was talking to his visitors, Shanta went to the post office, phoned Hyderabad, talked to Narayan and told him that U.G. asked her to stay because he was ill, and requested him to extend her leave by four days.
After his visitors left, U.G. scolded her: "I was lying in my room reading the Time Magazine. Don't you know that if anyone came to see me, you should tell me at once?" Then he asked her, "What did you tell Narayan on the phone?"
She replied timidly, "I told him I will come after four more days, when you get better."
He asked, "Did you tell him that I asked you to stay? Or, did you tell him that you wanted to stay?" Then she told him the whole truth: she was afraid that if she told him that she would like to stay, Narayan wouldn't grant her the leave. Therefore she told him that U.G. wanted her to stay. When he heard this, U.G. got furious. "You can't stay here for one minute longer. You leave right now. You had the audacity to tell Narayan that I wanted you to stay! Pack up! You must not stay here even for one minute." Thus he made her get ready to go right then.
Shanta broke down into tears. Her apology was of no use: "It was a mistake, U.G. Please forgive me just this once."
Nagaraj and I also pleaded with U.G. to let Shanta stay at least for that night: "Why should she go alone on the evening bus? It will be safer for her to go tomorrow in the train," we tried to explain to him.
"Nothing of the sort. Crying and tears don't touch me. She must pay for her mistakes. Let her go," he said and did not even let us escort her to the bus stand. Shanta left that evening, crying loudly.
Later U.G. said, "The girl developed an attachment for me. That's not healthy. It's not good for her. It has to be nipped in the bud." Shanta never came to U.G. again. Later, after she married another teacher called Gopal, they both left the Oasis School.
During the early sixties, when he was delivering lectures on Vedanta in the city, people thronged in thousands to hear him speak. He was well known for his revolutionary ideas in the spiritual field. He always stressed on the practical aspects of Vedanta and ridiculed the traditional ritualistic approach in attaining self-realization. He had a huge ashram in the Kerala State from where he hailed. Every year he would visit Bangalore where his followers would arrange his lecture series. He encouraged some of our friends like Dr. H. R. Nagendra, Professor Satyanarayana Sastri, Srikantaiah, Anantaram and others to form a spiritual group called 'Jnana Sadhana Sangha'.
Those were the hey days for Swamiji -- until he got involved with one of his lady disciples running a women's hostel in Basavanagudi. Eventually when he announced to the wide world his decision to give up Sannyasa, his own admirers became his sworn enemies.
It was at that time that we were attracted to Brahmachariji living in a cave near the Shamkara Math and leading a secluded life. Though all my friends deserted Swamiji after his marriage, for my part, I always continued my contact with him. By then, Swamiji had come under the influence of J. Krishnamurti's teachings. He was meeting J.K. regularly and was intimate with him. Swamiji told me once that he considered self- realized masters like J.K. and U.G. as his own fathers and revered them. He said that he had taught J.K., who was all eager to learn any technique to keep his body in a fit condition, a special kind of breathing technique called 'Antariksha Pranayama'.
That day, when Swamiji visited U.G., the conversation naturally turned around J. Krishanamurti's death which happened a few days before. "How can such a man die of cancer?" wondered Swamiji. U.G. smiled and said, "Why not? Why do you think that such people will not die of cancer?" He added: "Do you know that in his interview with David Bohm, J. Krishnamurti even made statements to the effect that such people [as himself] would live eternally? What sort of a fellow do you think he is?" Swamiji looked a bit puzzled. "Why can't you brush him aside sir!" U.G. asked him. Swamiji smiled and said, "He was a nice man. A lovable man." " I agree with you. But that doesn't mean you should swallow whatever he said. I always said, ' I like Mahesh but not his films.' So, that fellow [J.K.] may be a phony. Why can't you brush him aside?" asked U.G.. Swamiji was silent.
After some time, he narrated an incident concerning J.K. At that time Swamiji was suffering from acute pain due to the formation of stones in his kidneys. One day, during his informal chats, Swamiji told J.K. about his problem. "What is the best treatment for that, Sir?" enquired J.K. Swamiji replied that he was advised to undergo ultrasonic treatment. In that treatment the stones in the bladder are pulverized, without a need of surgery. Swamiji added, "But, if a person like you has intense feeling towards me, I am sure of being cured without having to go through any treatment." J.K. looked into his face and said, "Do you know that Sir? Then you can forget about the treatment." However, after six months, Swamiji had to submit himself to the same medical treatment in London and free himself from the pain.
"So, it was medical technology that came to your rescue ultimately" quipped U.G. Swamiji nodded his head.
I remember vividly the first meeting of Swamiji with U.G. That was in the year 1976 when U.G. and Valentine were staying in Sannidhi street. Rochaldas accompanied Swamiji. I felt very happy that at last Swamiji could come to meet U.G. As he heard of U.G.'s anti-J.K. approach Swamiji was reluctant to see him earlier. U.G. sat with all of us on the carpet. Swamiji looked very relaxed in U.G.'s company. He then fired the first salvo at U.G. "Sir, I want to know the difference between the two happenings -- enlightenment and Kundalini awakening: which one happens first to a person?" U.G. instantly replied: "They both occur simultaneously. There is no time gap at all." Swamiji was visibly shaken at the tone of authority in U.G.'s voice. After that U.G. harangued non-stop, for more than an hour, touching various aspects such as enlightenment, spiritual sadhana, the Natural State. Luckily we had recorded the talk on that day. Nagaraj later transcribed the tape and most of its contents found their place in U.G.'s first book The Mystique of Enlightenment.
That day, just before taking leave from U.G., Swamiji hesitantly asked, "U.G., I quite agree that nothing needs to be done to come into our own Natural State. But, should we not, at least, try to keep the doors and windows open and wait for the Otherness to enter?" U.G., with all his seriousness, slowly said, "Sir, if that were to happen, it hits like a hurricane uprooting the whole edifice. It doesn't really matter whether you close or open the windows or doors." Swamiji stood speechless for a while. U.G. smiled and gently touching his shoulder showed him the door.
From that day Swamiji always came to see U.G. whenever U.G. happened to be in Bangalore. Having observed both U.G. and Valentine supporting themselves on their own meager resources, Swamiji many times offered to pay for their expenses. He asked me whether he could bear a part of the burden of their maintenance. When I declined, trying to explain the fiercely independent nature of U.G., he started pleading: "Shall I at least send my cow's milk for their use? Shall I offer rides in my car whenever he feels like going out?" Tears swell in my eyes when I recall Swamiji's genuine concern for U.G. and Valentine. Swamiji would never miss a chance to talk about U.G.'s high spiritual stature in his public discourses and talks. "If you are really interested in meeting a true jivanmukta, there is one here right now in the city, camped in Basavanagudi. Go and meet him," he would exhort his audience. Shanta Kelker, the lady who later authored the exquisite book, The sage and the Housewife, on U.G., was one of those who were inspired by Swamiji's remarks. The last time U.G. saw Swamiji was when he received the news that he was dying of brain cancer. Swamiji wanted to see U.G. It was such a pathetic scene. His wife, otherwise a bold lady, was all shattered. She wept bitterly praying U.G. to save her husband. U.G. stood silently at his bed side. He took Swamiji's hand into his for a while. There were tears in Swamiji's eyes when he bade good- bye to U.G. with folded hands.
1. The young boy in the Katha Upanishad who wanted to know the secrets of life and death from the God of Death, Yama.
2. Mention of this event is also made in the book Sringeri Revisited which Mr. Tummalapalli published in 1969.
3. The Swami's private chambers were located in a garden called Narasimhavana on the far side of the river Tunga.
4. When he started his practice in Mangalore, he used to collect a fee of four annas per family per month. No matter how many people fell ill in the same family there was no extra charge. Dr. Prabhu thus earned reputation as a 'four anna doctor' in Mangalore. Soon his practice prospered and he earned millions of rupees.
5. "Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva were the three Acharyas [teachers] who founded three separate religious traditions, one after another. Each of them wrote commentaries on the three Books of Vedanta [Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahma Sutras] in support of their own traditions. They condemned one another's tradition. "My hats off to them for performing such an unparalleled feat," says U.G.
6. All the Brahmins who run the Udipi Restaurants are from the Madhva tradition.
Go to Part Three