Friday, November 23, 2007

How I Met UG

First Introduction: The first time I heard about UG was with Terry Newland (then Agnew). I knew Terry in Berkeley around 1969 when I was living in Berkeley. I once saw an announcement in the campus newspaper that there was going to be a J. Krishnamurti discussion group meeting in the Student Union Building on campus. I went there mainly out of curiosity (and perhaps also out a ‘need’ to belong to a group). Terry was conducting the meeting. It seemed like an organizational meeting. After the meeting we became friends.

It must have been some months later in the same year. Terry took a fancy to me and invited me to Sonoma State for a philosophy talk in a professor’s class. He also asked me to talk to a student group. Then I visited an elementary school where Terry was teaching at the time. He asked me to speak to the kids there and then showed me his yoga class. About that time he had a fall out with the Krishnamurti people, particularly in Switzerland. Terry was duly kicked out of the Krishnamurti circle. Earlier, he was specially invited to go to Switzerland to meet and spend time with Krishnamurti. At the same time, he was also listening to UG.

Later, Terry invited me and three of my friends to spend the night in his place in Sebastapol on our way to Carson City where we were also going to visit another friend who was teaching in the Indian Reservation School at that time. Early in the morning, I got to watch Terry do yoga. He looked like the image of health – sounds of breath coming out of his nostrils like steam from pipes and perfectly precise and graceful asanas, all done seemingly effortlessly with a robust and statuesque body.

That morning Terry gave us a breakfast of musilex. He also showed me a picture of UG and referred to him as an enlightened man. Terry had heard him speak in Switzerland. He told me later how UG took him out for a coffee and talked to him about himself.

UG had invited him to spend three months in India (in Bangalore) with him and write his biography. Terry described how UG’s physical features had changed because of the transformation he had undergone: ashes falling out of his forehead, arms being turned backward, glands swelling, eyes not blinking, and so on.[1]

Terry was obviously quite touched by the attention UG showered on him. Apparently, UG would get up early in the morning before Terry and arrange for his hot water for his bath![2] The biography he was supposed to write, for which purpose he took a typewriter with him, never came about. I heard several such accounts about UG from Terry and simply stored them away in memory without doing much about them.

Second Introduction: The next occasion I heard about UG was when I was in Hawaii with Terry. Around 1971, my then-partner Linda and I went on a trip to Hawaii on a special invitation from Terry to spend a month with him and learn Yoga. Soon after we got to his cabin in Molakai, there was an accident while he was lighting a stove to make dinner for us and the whole cabin burned down to ashes. We escaped with a few belongings, but lost our air tickets to the fire. We spent the night in Terry’s friends’ house and the next day moved to another friend’s rather large house miles away. There Linda and I stayed for a week and learned some yoga from Terry anyway. We came to the main island of Oahu after that, got replacement airline tickets and headed back to the mainland.

A day or two after the cabin was burned down, I went with Linda and Terri to one of his lady friends’ place. It was a lone house amid fields and pineapple plantations. There he played a tape of UG speaking. Again, I felt no reaction. I remember UG’s voice in the tape being somewhat shriek.

Third Introduction: Linda, to whom I now was married, our daughter Bujji and I went to India in the summer of 1975. Just that past year, I began teaching in the Monterey Peninsula College. We spent a few days in Madras and then went to Tiruvannamalai, visiting my old friend, the famous writer Chalam. Just as I entered Chalam’s front yard (across the street from Ramanashram), and was approaching the main house, I heard UG’s audio cassette being played. I distinctly remember him in the tape saying something about the space between two thoughts. At that time, I was suffering from a bout of the flu. I went upstairs in a few minutes, as the talk didn’t make much impression on me. Some kind of Vedanta, I thought. I also saw a picture of UG on a wall in Chalam’s house for the first time. Sowris, Chalam’s daughter and a mystic, said that UG was her distant cousin. I later learned from Chandrasekhar that a few years before I went there, he told them about UG and showed them a picture of him.[3] Then Sowris recognized him as the one to whom she could have been married when she was young, except that UG wasn’t interested. Chalam and his family met UG through Chandrasekhar.

Sowris, Chalam and Sowris’s ‘gang’ used to visit UG in Bangalore. Apparently, after the initial visits, UG, in his usual fashion, started tightening screws on Sowris and bluntly told her that if she wanted to see him, she should come without all her followers. He also forbade her singing in his presence (singing was one of her attachments!). Later, when Chalam, being already on a wheelchair, was having trouble visiting him in Bangalore, UG said, “Why should that old man come here all the way? I will go and visit him myself,” and went there to visit.

My First Meeting with UG: Then, some years later, early in 1981, I got a letter from Nartaki, the lady who lived in Chalam’s family for much of her life.[4] She said that UG was coming to the U.S. and suggested that I should go and visit him. (I don’t remember if she gave me an address or a phone number.) I, of course, promptly ignored the letter.

At about the same time, Terry also called from Mill Valley saying that UG was in town and was asking about me (“Where is this Dr. Narayana Moorty?”). Apparently, Nartaki had given him my phone number and address which he promptly lost. She later told me that she said to him, “You go and see everyone everywhere; why don’t you go see this man also?” Terry asked me if I wanted to come and visit UG in Mill Valley. I replied that I was too old to go see ‘teachers’ (I was already burned out with J. Krishnamurti), and if he was passing through here in Seaside, he would be welcome here. So, I didn’t go then.

It must have been about a month or so later: one morning (this must be in 1981, around October), I got a phone call from Ramesh Ganerwala, an engineer who worked for the California Energy Commission, from Carmel. He was driving UG and Valentine from San Louis Obispo after visiting James Brodsky (later Jane) or some other person. He said that UG and Valentine were with him and that UG wanted to know if they could come and visit. I said they would be most welcome and that they could have lunch at my place as well.

I had a large quantity of upma made for my in-laws who were visiting me that morning. After breakfast they had all gone out with my wife, Wendy. I was home alone. The time was about noon. Ramesh drove UG and Valentine in his small old beat-up BMW. I watched through the living room window UG getting out of the car and walking on the pavement toward my house. With his arms hanging loose, he had the gait of a zombie. His face was expressionless and he looked like a man on the death row.

Valentine and Ramesh as well as UG, all came in. I greeted them, led them into the kitchen and seated them at the kitchen table. UG sat next to the wall in the kitchen and I sat across the table from him. I served lunch to everyone. UG was praising my upma to Ramesh saying that it was the ‘authentic stuff’. UG started talking mostly about himself. During the conversation he and I exchanged notes about our backgrounds -- he coming from Gudivada and I from Vijayawada, both towns in Andhra Pradesh, just twenty miles apart -- and about the people we had known in common. He went to Madras University for his Honors studies and had known T.M.P. Mahadevan who was also my thesis supervisor. We both also knew my Sanskrit lecturer in S.R.R. & C.V.R. College, Vijayawada, and a few others. Apparently he dropped out of his Philosophy Honors in Madras University, not having taken the final examinations.

During the conversation, UG joked about Satya Sai Baba, saying how he used to materialize Swiss watches before, but how he materialized only Hindustan watches now, after Indira Gandhi imposed an import restriction on Swiss watches.

They stayed for about two hours. As they were leaving, I tried to put my arm around UG’s shoulder as a gesture of affection, but he quickly moved away. I realized that he was not open to such physical contact. In the living room, as he was leaving, I shook his hand to say goodbye, addressing him as ‘Mr. Krishnamurti.’ He said that I could just as well call him ‘number 69,’ like a jail convict, and that people called him ‘UG.’

It was a pleasant experience meeting UG. I had the strange feeling as we were standing at the kitchen door and holding each other’s hands, that he was so similar to me in many ways, and that I was meeting myself. The feeling was one of closeness. I was already bonded with UG!

As he left, he invited me to visit him in Mill Valley. I thought that it was merely a formal invitation. I said, “OK, thank you,” and didn’t take the invitation seriously.

First Visit to UG: I think UG came a second time, when Elena, a Russian young lady, was also present.[5] It must be about a month or so after his first visit. I can’t remember much about this visit except that this time he invited both Elena and me to visit him. Again, I didn’t respond except saying “OK, thank you.” But the night before Thanksgiving that year, I got another phone call from Ramesh in Mill Valley saying that UG would like to see me, could I come? Earlier, I had built all kinds of excuses in my mind not to go to see UG in Mill Valley, that the invitation was only a formality and he wasn’t probably very serious about it; that I didn’t like driving long distances; that my old AMC car wouldn’t make it that far; and that I didn’t like traveling -- to mention a few. But all those excuses had evaporated now, as the invitation this time was so specific and I couldn’t as well turn it down. Also, Kodvatiganti Subbarao, an engineer from Berkeley who worked for the FEMA and was visiting us for Thanksgiving, was leaving on Thanksgiving Day and was willing to give me and Elena a ride to Mill Valley. So, we all three drove to Mill Valley.

We arrived at UG’s house in Mill Valley around 5 in the afternoon. Subbarao and UG quickly got into an argument on the subject of the Bhagavad Gita. The argument got nowhere and Subbarao left after about an hour.

Julie Wellings, whom I had met long before (in 1975) in Tiruvannamalai, where she was living in Chalam’s household and learning Telugu from Sowris, was also visiting UG. She brought her own beer that night and drank it, to my surprise[6]. The next day a few pictures were taken.

UG gave me a room upstairs with a big (soft) bed and some sheets. Not much else. I couldn’t sleep very well. I was there a couple of nights. The next day in the kitchen, UG asked me if I could “look into” the cooking which Kim was doing. I put a few spices like cumin (or anything suitable I could find on the shelf) in the food.

On the second day I was there, Ramesh was also there. Then UG went on talking hours on end about his past life, his wife, family and so on. Then a young man visited UG. He sat at the table and they talked about Zen. UG challenged the man, holding a cup in his hand, “Tell me what this is.” “Do you really see this? What do you really see here?” And he kept repeating the questions. Soon he enlisted my help. I remember saying, “There is something funny about Zen. How can anyone certify that someone had satori or enlightenment and to what degree?” UG appeared to agree with me.

It was during this visit that Terry brought mimeographed copies of conversations with UG (later to become part of The Mystique of Enlightenment) and distributed them to people around. He collected five dollars per copy for the cost of mimeographing. I got a copy for myself.

That was where Elena met Krim, a young American of Russian origin, who had known UG in Switzerland and in the US for a number of years. I remember going out for a short walk with them. Apparently, UG cautioned to Krim as we were leaving, “Make it, short—kurtz promenade!” That was the beginning of the disastrous relationship between Krim and Elena which ended a few years later. UG repeatedly mentioned how he warned him. I wonder if he knew what was to come.[7]

That afternoon, an elderly man and a young couple, all Americans, came to visit UG. I was told that they were friends of Alan Watts. UG received them cordially and soon got involved in a discussion with them. At one stage, I interjected saying something trying to help the discussion and UG immediately interrupted me saying, “I want to stop him right there.” I got the message and shut up.

I was ready to leave after two days. Kim was driving Ramesh’s BMW car for UG in those days. On the third day, sometime in the afternoon, Kim was ready to drive me to the Bus Depot in San Francisco. (I was going to take a bus, but UG would have none of that.) I remember giving a hug to Ramesh and whoever before I left. UG decided to drive with us to the bus depot. I felt flattered. At the bus depot, he got out of the car and bid me farewell. I felt so special that he came to see me off there. I bought myself a ticket, got on the bus and returned to Monterey.

[1] Till his final days, on special occasions, especially on full moon days, UG demonstrated the swollen glands to people around him.

[2] I know that treatment: there were times when I slept in UG’s living rooms. He would come early in the morning at 6 or 7 am, stand by my side and say in a feeble and gentle voice: “It’s 7 o’clock now, will you try to get up?”

[3] Chandrasekhar was a frequent visitor to Chalam’s house and regarded Chalam as his ‘father’ besides being devoted to Sowris.

[4] Having been a widow and had no place to go, she took shelter in Chalam’s place and became part of the household.

[5] She had lived with us for about a month. I think she just got out of living with a Russian old lady in Monterey. She was separated from her husband Ian and apparently they had both met UG once before in India).

[6] I thought people didn’t drink or smoke in front of spiritual people like UG.

[7] He did make a few futile attempts later [sometimes with me helping him] to break up the relationship. They ended up having a child and then separating.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Additions to "Teaching" Post

I have added the following three pieces to my "Being with UG: His Teaching Process" post, as I felt they are important to understanding UG and his teaching process:

1) Being Around UG: To be around UG can be quite a challenge. UG always maintained that wanting permanent happiness without a moment of unhappiness is the source of our misery. In his own life, things constantly changed. If you spend a whole day around UG and go along with all the changes he goes through or puts you through, you will leave totally exhausted and wiped out. You wonder how anyone could live through so much change in a day without ever looking back. I have not seen another person like UG who could do that! Being around UG and moving with him were in themselves a great learning experience.

2) Power: Few knew the role of power in human relationships as well as UG. He pointed out how relationships are mostly based on each person getting his or her way. Many times he himself was an absolute monarch, but only when he had a say or choice in the matter. (He had that manner of a prince dealing with his subjects. That was so evident when he gave gifts to people -- children or adults.) Even then, he would sometimes yield to people's desires and pressures and some other times would be as friendly as anyone could possibly be. It all depended. Often he pointed out how if you don't care about what the other person (or authority) could give you or do to you, you could not only be fearless, but free to do precisely whatever you wanted to do. He always dictated his terms and encouraged friends to do the same, of course, depending on what they wanted.

One good reason why he stayed away from institutions, governments and people who held high offices was that he kept his freedom and didn't have to compromise with their rules and regulations. But there was another: institutions bred power and power-mongering. He did not let any institutions to be built around him just for that reason. (No one then could claim exclusive rights over his teachings!) He did not subject himself to any scientific research done on him because he bemoaned the fact that the results of that research would only be exploited by businesses and governments for money and power purposes. The Internet served as a suitable medium for publishing books on him or reports of his dialogs, because they were released free of copyright and other commercial strings. He never voted. His argument , if I remember right, was, "I don't have to choose between two evils." In fact, he never paid taxes, as he didn't stay in any country long enough to establish residency. His passport was Indian, and of course, he had to have to it to be able to travel.

UG's own 'energy' was such that you could never take him or your relationship with him for granted. When he (or IT) was dealing with you, he (IT) knew nothing personal. (And as I said, there is no 'person' there in UG.) He could attack you wildly or even throw you out!

3) It must be mentioned here that UG had a way of making everyone around him feel special. That's a unique experience people had when they tried to relate to UG.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Self is a Set of Habits

A habit is no habit without continuity. You break up the continuity; then you break the habit. The self is such a habit. Habits have a momentum. The momentum of a habit forces your consciousness to go back to a certain experience in the past and get repeated, or to seek a pleasurable experience, a novelty, an excitement, something interesting and so forth. If you catch the urge as it arises, there is no need to ‘go’ anywhere or ‘seek’ anything. By interspersing the continuity with your consciousness, you ‘pulverize’ the continuity of the habit into pieces. Then the habit loses its force.

You can say the force of habit is what they traditionally called in Indian philosophy vasanas and samskaras. I think it is that accounts for what there is such an instability in consciousness when it doesn’t have to think about anything. There is a constant urge to go out and seek something, as if without that something you are groundless and unfulfilled. This can especially be noticed when we sit for a while doing nothing and feel jittery.

That which you seek of course is pleasure. You think, naturally, only of what gave you pleasure in the past. The thinking of it gives you pleasure once again right now and that pleasure creates the further urge to seek some more of the same or a similar pleasure. The self is nothing but this habitual seeking for pleasure which creates its own continuity.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Being with UG: His Teaching Process

It’s not possible to make any generalizations about either UG or his teaching, as for each generalization you make about UG, one is bound to find many exceptions. At best one can paint on a broad canvass a mosaic of many concrete instances from one’s own experience and dealings with UG.[1][2] Others undoubtedly will readily come up with their own different experiences. I wouldn’t even bother to mention here the many instances in which people experienced UG’s healing of their pains or saving them from accidents or illnesses or other dangers, as they are not only countless, but they are entrenched more in the realm of the subjective.

Being Around UG: To be around UG can be quite a challenge. UG always maintained that wanting permanent happiness without a moment of unhappiness is the source of our misery. In his own life, things constantly changed. If you spend a whole day around UG and go along with all the changes he goes through or puts you through, you will leave totally exhausted and wiped out. You wonder how anyone could live through so much change in a day without ever looking back. I have not seen another person like UG who could do that! Being around UG and moving with him were in themselves a great learning experience.

UG’s Teaching Process: You cannot separate UG’s teaching from his person. UG was a teacher who constantly operated from a state of nonduality: his actions were not born out of calculation or premeditation; they were spontaneous. His dealings with people were directed constantly toward drawing them into the vortex of nonduality where there are no distinctions between bondage and liberation, or indeed, even between life and death. UG did not distinguish himself from others. He was not trying to achieve any results, nor was he trying to change anyone. Yet, his dealings had that effect on people, viz., they were constantly prodded to question their belief structures. His only aim seemed to be to dismantle the mental structures people had so carefully and assiduously built within themselves, without attempting to replace them with any of his own. He would say, “You can walk, you don’t need any crutches.”

UG was not aware of any distinctions: yet, he appeared to make all kinds of distinctions: he seemed to punish, praise, brag, exaggerate, play games with money, challenge, etc. etc. He even seemed to act through various conditionings and prejudices of his own.

After his Calamity, the question did occur to UG how he should talk to people or relate to them: he thought to himself, “I will tell it like it is; I will talk about the way I operate.” From then on that became his primary mode of communication. Sometimes, he talked constantly about himself and his past experiences. He often spoke about himself and his Natural State. He spoke of how it was being constantly in peace and how there were no problems there.[3]

This method he used until the very end of his life, although later on he mixed it with details from his past, his encounters with J. Krishnamurti, and other talk about himself. This served the purpose of pulling the minds of his audience away from themselves. He would often talk for hours, to the extent that people would doze off intermittently and their minds would be dazed after it was over. They were temporarily removed from their daily concerns, thoughts and worries. As a result, people might temporarily have been cleansed of their past.

At other times, he talked about his main ideas concerning thought, self, conditioning, liberation, meditation, calamity and so forth. He would engage and answer people’s questions. On some of those occasions, he sounded as if some ancient teacher was speaking in a strange voice across centuries of time; and you felt as if you had heard him in another lifetime as well as this.

UG taught during all his waking hours and perhaps when he retired too, as you never knew what happened when he went to bed. He used to say he lay awake in bed most of time so as not to disturb others in the apartment or house. What else transpired in that bedroom? We used to joke about UG saying that he ruled the whole universe from his bedroom (while everyone else was asleep!).

UG left no holy cows unbutchered. If he even as much as sensed someone was hung up about a tradition, a country, a religion, a nationality, a spiritual tradition or a teacher, he would pour his verbal abuse on that subject-matter. Many people who gathered around him were former followers of J. Krishnamurti or Rajneesh. Most of his verbal attacks were on J. Krishnamurti and the next frequent victim was Rajneesh. He added Ramana Maharshi and Sri Ramakrishna and others later to his list.

UG also left no demons buried. He poured his praise for people like Hitler: his famous one-liner was: “There were only two good things that came out of Germany: Cambozola cheese and Hitler!”

In spite of all the vituperation he showered, UG never showed any malice. After everyone left, there were many times when I was alone with him. Never once did he mention the topic of abuse after everyone left. In fact, there was once an occasion when he talked to me appreciating J. Krishnamurti!

After watching him over many years, I am convinced that his attacks were intended to unhook a person from his hang-ups and dislodge him (or her) from his fascination for a certain guru or his or her uncritical repulsion to ‘evil’.

There were also times when he threw koan-like questions at people: he would ask you, “If someone asks you, ‘what does UG say?’ or ‘what is his teaching?’ what would you say?” Then, without waiting much longer, he would answer the question himself: “Any answer you give, any movement your thought makes in any direction, is a false answer.”

* * *

In later years, he resorted to reading a passage or two from one of his books or ‘the archives’, consisting of letters and newspaper and magazine reviews, or what someone else had written about him (Mahesh Bhatt’s UGKrishnamurti – A Life, for instance), and of course, letters people had written to him. Or, he would ask to play a video or audio tape or disc. He did not play them just to entertain people, but as part of his teaching. This had the added benefit of giving him a bit of rest from his constant talking.

Astrology, Palmistry and Nadi: UG was notorious for his seeming interest in astrology, palmistry and nadi. If he noticed that someone could read his palm or horoscope, he would right away extend his arm for the person to read it or ask them to read his horoscope. His pet questions were always about his money and about his travels. Many times, the readers would also talk about how long he would live or where he would die, and so forth. A whole book of these readings has been put together.

When astrologers made predictions about UG, for example, that he would face a certain danger on a certain day), he always brushed them aside and did whatever he wanted to do anyway. Those astrologers then claimed that the planets had no influence on him because he was a liberated man.

In my opinion, his interest or belief in these matters was perfunctory. He was more interested in the astrologer or palmist than his reading. I witnessed how he once involved an American astrologer in such deep discussion about his horoscope that the astrologer not only noticed his own shortcomings but was at his wits end to respond to UG’s technical astrological remarks.

When he himself read someone's hand (which he did -- he learned palmistry in the US in his youth), his readings were always vague and general, like, "Nothing comes easy for you; you have to work hard for things," "You have a pot of money hiding somewhere," or “Where are you hiding all that money?” "You will live a long, long life," etc.

Sometimes I suspected that he might even have been influencing an astrologer's readings to come out the way he wanted, by communicating indirectly with the person whose palm was being read. But I can't prove any of that.

Care and Compassion:
On occasion, a grieving person would come to him, having lost a dear one recently; or, upon hearing the news of the death of someone, UG himself would go and visit the grieving person or family. Typically, UG would not say many words to comfort the person, but would sit silently with the person. Once, a lady came to visit UG for a whole week, having just lost her 11 year-old son, and sat in the room with him each day. To everyone’s relief, she was comforted and healed and left for her home with a smile on her face.

I just had a cancer operation. [I consulted with UG before and he advised me to go through with the operation.] After the surgery, I called from the hospital room in Stanford to tell him how the operation went. When I returned home a couple of days later, UG and Mahesh took a plane and came and visited me in Seaside. UG made sure that no others visited (which would normally be the case) at that time. After they came, I went into the living room and sat on a high stool talking to them. After a while, I felt exhausted, still suffering from the after-effects of surgery, and said, “You guys keep talking. I am a little tired. I will go and lie down in my bedroom.” And after I lay in the bed, UG came into the bedroom and sat next to me at the bed for a length of time and chatted with me. I was so touched!

Later, after he returned to Palm Springs, after a while, UG wanted me to go to Switzerland to his place and get a good rest there. He cashed his frequent flyer miles and a first-class ticket and got me a business class ticket and Wendy and Kiran tourist class tickets and told Wendy, “You drop this guy off in Gstaad, and then you can return to Seaside.” Of course, Wendy stayed with me the whole time and we spent two months in Gstaad as UG’s guests. (I was kept busy translating Chandrasekhar’s notebooks at that time – that’s some kind of rest!) But UG’s care and compassion were boundless!

I think it was on that trip or on another trip to Gstaad, I distinctly remember that in the big room upstairs we were given to stay, I needed a separate mattress as Wendy and my little boy Kiran were occupying the big bed. UG was told by the landlord that there was an extra mattress in the storeroom. Before I knew it, I noticed UG climbing up the steps with the mattress! A seventy-five-year-old man carrying a mattress upstairs all by himself!

Another time, while I was visiting UG in Palm Springs, as usual, I was asked to sleep in UG’s living room. There was a sofa on which I was supposed to sleep. I said I had trouble sleeping on sofas, and that I would rather put the pillows on the floor and sleep. He said he would rather that I slept in his bed and he would sleep on the sofa. I said, “no such thing.” He then went into his bed room and got blankets and pillows and arranged the pillows on the floor and made a bed with blankets and all. Then I had to remark to UG: “UG, you are doing everything to take me to bed short of singing lullabies!”

I heard of an occasion in which UG encountered a paraplegic in a parking lot as he was entering Bob and Paul’s restaurant in Larkspur. The man was obviously suffering from cerebral palsy, I was told. Upon noticing UG, he apparently extended his arms towards him. For some mysterious reason, UG went toward him, held him by his arms, almost hugged him, and then quickly walked away. You never can tell with UG, what transpires between him and those who come to see him.

Severing Connections: UG on occasion did meddle with people’s lives and unsettled them in their beliefs or makes suggestions about their specific problems of living. There were times when he did meddle with people’s lives rather intimately, sometimes to their annoyance and reluctance; but ultimately many of them were grateful that he had. He actually tried to sever some relationships, which he must have thought were destructive or otherwise untenable.[4] Sometimes, he would advise people, depending on the person, either not to meditate, or to meditate, or to teach meditation, or make more money, find a girl, do something useful with their lives, and so on. He was not, however, always successful, in the case of some people, in stopping a relationship or changing their lives in any basic way. Their problems remained in spite of his best efforts and despite his radical ‘ill-treatment’ of them. It’s hard to assess his influence on people, as much of it is unspoken and intangible, or the effects would only manifest many years later. But many individuals were surely affected and benefited by his paternal care.

He gave advice to people on practical matters of money, work, and relationships and so on. Some thought he was not competent to give advice on money matters, but in my opinion, he was very shrewd in practical matters and those who didn’t listen to his advice might have lost out.

UG insisted that people take advantage of and exploited their natural talents, whether they be beauty or intelligence or some other virtue, talent or advantage. He wanted people to succeed in this world, and he always chided people who were wasting away their time in ‘unprofitable’ or ‘useless’ pursuits, not doing what they could to utilize their talents. On the other hand, he would be all praise for those who made a good buck in the day.

UG often remarked: “All problems result from wanting two things at the same time. If you just want one thing, you have no problem.” And he sometimes added: “There is nothing you can’t get, if you just want one thing.”

Personal Problems: Most of the time, UG refused to give private audience to people, even if they begged him for it. He would not generally even respond to requests for advice, but there were exceptions: Sometimes someone would ask a question or bring a problem and he would respond in such a way that the answer would be quite appropriate to the person’s problem and would even contain a suggestion (generally to ‘accept’ the problem or to do such-and-such or do nothing). Sometimes UG would analyze the problem in such a way that the analysis would expose hidden agendas of the person that were the source of the problem. At other times, UG would simply maintain a prolonged silence, which at times lasted as long as a whole hour. Then something got communicated and the person would leave in peace.

And if the person didn’t mind speaking out about his or her personal problems in front of others, UG might discuss it: [Of late, he was wont to say, “You don’t have a problem.”] I remember on one occasion, he discussed a couple’s problem with the wife’s mother staying in their house. [I was the only other person present in the meeting.] He summed up his discussion, “You don’t want her to stay with you.” He made the couple confront their own resistance to the person. Yet he didn’t point any fingers. He was very calm and non-judgmental in his remarks. After they left, he asked me what I thought about the discussion: I said, “You made the problem very clear to them.” That’s what he did. I witnessed many such occurrences.

UG was a master at laying bare hidden assumptions and motivations in people’s psyche. No wonder people often shuddered to stand in front of him as they felt they were being stripped naked with his looks. They felt that UG’s ‘truth serum’ was at work.

There were also times when he would contrive a situation in such a way, that others would leave the room and he would sit alone with a person for a length of time, at times as much as an hour. Then, you wouldn’t know what transpired between them, but you could see the person emerge from the room in peace.

When a friend of UG’s was is in dire need or crisis, often they reported that they either got a call from UG or he visited them at their place on some pretext. I myself remember the time when someone suggested that I eat a bagle to take care of the problem of hypoglycemia, which turned out to be a serious mistake: I almost fainted. Then my phone rang and there was Guha’s voice on the phone telling me that UG wanted to know what my plans were for the following summer.

UG’s ways were indeed mysterious. No one could fathom them.

* * *

Reflecting People: UG physically reflected people: I always felt that he could not only read my thoughts and feelings but he could feel what was going on in my body and even arrange a situation which would address that problem. Here is an example, once in Palm Springs, because of sitting in front of a computer for a number of hours, my back was in severe pain. I didn’t say anything about it. But UG took us all out on a ‘window-shopping’ trip and was browsing in the Sharper Image store where he left me with one or two others, saying he would be back in about twenty minutes. Waiting, I sat in the massage chair for those twenty minutes until UG returned, and most of my back pain was gone! Of course, it could all be a coincidence! But knowing UG for so long, it’s hard to believe that it was just a coincidence.

At other times, he so reflected people and their problems that he would actually worry for them at that moment. When we went with a couple of others for car-shopping, he and I were sitting in the lobby of the car dealership. UG kept watching a sales woman pacing back and forth in the lobby, and he started worrying, “What will happen to her? (Meaning how was she going to live that style of life?) What will happen to her?”

I noticed, on another occasion, he was worrying about a friend’s credit card problems: “How is he going to pay for all that? The bank will be after him.” And so on.

In a restaurant once in Berkeley, we were waiting for a friend. He was a few minutes late. Meanwhile, UG started worrying about him, pacing up and down in the restaurant looking out for him. He did worry about people’s physical welfare.

Outbursts: UG is known for his unexpected, almost ‘irrational’ outbursts of anger: (He never found problems with his anger: he always called it ‘energy’.) His outbursts could be on some social or political issue, against a government or its policy, or against a politician, or against a person in the gathering. An outburst wasn’t always intended for the person whom UG was directly addressing it. Many times the outburst was directed obliquely at someone else in the group whom UG didn’t want to address directly. There was a time when I actually felt that UG was dealing with me and my hurt while he was yelling at someone else. In a few minutes, I could feel my hurt simply erased![5]

Yet, although he was in totally foreign places among foreign cultures and peoples, he would not criticize people’s ways of living: he would always fend off criticisms by saying, “That’s their way.”

* * *

Power: Few knew the role of power in human relationships as well as UG. He pointed out how relationships are mostly based on each person getting his or her way. Many times he himself was an absolute monarch, but only when he had a say or choice in the matter. (He had that manner of a prince dealing with his subjects. That was so evident when he gave gifts to people -- children or adults.) Even then, he would sometimes yield to people's desires and pressures and some other times would be as friendly as anyone could possibly be. It all depended. Often he pointed out how if you don't care about what the other person (or authority) could give you or do to you, you could not only be fearless, but free to do precisely whatever you wanted to do . He always dictated his terms and encouraged friends to do the same, of course, depending on what they wanted.

One good reason why he stayed away from institutions, governments and people who held high offices was that he kept his freedom and didn't have to compromise with their rules and regulations. But there was another: institutions bred power and power-mongering. He did not let any institutions to be built around him just for that reason. (No one then could claim exclusive rights over his teachings!) He did not subject himself to any scientific research done on him because he bemoaned the fact that the results of that research would only be exploited by businesses and governments for money and power purposes. The Internet served as a suitable medium for publishing books on him or reports of his dialogs, because they were released free of copyright and other commercial strings. He never voted. His argument , if I remember right, was, "I don't have to choose between two evils." In fact, he never paid taxes, as he didn't stay in any country long enough to establish residency. His passport was Indian, and of course, he had to have to it to be able to travel.

UG's own 'energy' was such that you could never take him or your relationship with him for granted. When he (or IT) was dealing with you, he (IT) knew nothing personal. (And as I said, there is no 'person' there in UG.) He could attack you wildly or even throw you out!

Debates: They could happen in the context of answering a question or responding to what someone said: there would be a heated conversation, usually ending with UG abusing the other person, pointing out the flaws or fallacies in the other person’s argument or attacking in some other fashion. But sometimes the other person would attack UG in a personal fashion or the debate would end in a stalemate. And UG never shied away from ‘wrestling in the mud’ with any interlocutor. UG would say, “You say that and I say this. You take it or leave it.” If someone asks, “why you do talk?” UG would say, “I talk because you are here, because you ask these ‘idiotic’ questions. I didn’t ask you to come here. You can as well leave.” If the person says, “you invited me to come,” UG might even answer, “The invitation is withdrawn, now you can leave.”

There was a time when UG was visiting at my house and someone phoned and asked if he could come. After he came the person talked to UG confrontationally for a few minutes. Then UG sensed something that was going on in the man’s mind and felt that he was carrying a set of agenda of points to debate. He said abruptly, “Now you can leave.” My wife had just given the visitor a cup of coffee which he was sipping, and she said, “Finish the coffee.” UG said forcefully, “No, no, he can leave now!” The guy was simply shaking in his pants; you could hear the rattle of cup in the saucer. He put down the coffee cup and left in a hurry.

I saw many contexts in which UG got involved in verbal wrangling with people: the argument would go on at length, UG working hard at breaking down the defense structures of the person he was dealing with, and he would not quit until the point of capitulation, like in arm wrestling. He would yell at the top of his lungs, (once, in the middle of it he turned to me with a twinkle in his eye, as if it was all a big joke!), pouring all the insults and abuse possible on his victim. At times, UG himself had to pay a heavy price for confrontation: there was a physical drain from which he would not recover for a few days (a guy who hardly slept for more than forty-five minutes at a stretch would not get up from bed until late the next morning). Unfortunately, you can’t tell the real outcome of such encounters.

There were times that in arguing people would be at loggerheads with UG. They would get furious and leave the scene. One of those persons, a Sufi teacher, called back the next day wondering what had happened. Then he came once again later to be clobbered again! His Sufi philosophy was under attack. He never returned.

If UG was cornered into a contradiction of some sort, he would become helpless. On one occasion he said, “What do you want me to do?” or “what do you want me to say?”

On the other hand, his genius would manifest itself on some rare occasions. For instance, I noticed his discussion with a biologist once in Chennai. For a minute or two, I could follow their discussion. But then the exchange between them went so fast that I completely lost track of the discussion and the biologist himself was dumfounded. He probably never expected such a challenge from a non-scientist. I don’t know if he ever returned.

There were, however, times when his professional audience, in this instance, scientists and professors from Oxford gathering in Australia, weren’t all that impressed. I remember one of them saying repeatedly, “It’s absurd....” The man was obviously annoyed by UG’s assertions such as “There is no such thing as matter....”

Money: When people are told about UG, a frequent question they ask is, “How does he get his money?” Some complained about UG’s money-hustling deals, but few doubted his integrity in money matters. There was a time once, in the early years of his coming to California, the friend who was taking caring UG’s housing needs, asked me to contribute some money toward paying extra rent to pay for the few days before UG arrived. He made me promise not to reveal the matter to UG, as UG would never approve of people raising money for him. I agreed and never told UG until recently. My friend meanwhile had died many years ago. UG’s integrity in money matters, in my opinion, was impeccable.

Nevertheless, he always pointed out to people that money and food were their deepest attachments. As for himself, money was as a mere instrument; but he knew people treated it as an end in itself and amassed it beyond proportions.

In later years, he changed his ways. Although he never directly asked people for money, his dealing with them bordered on hustling. I know the reason: in the early years, he collected and saved people’s money for them in a Swiss bank account and the money was later returned to them intact. On the other hand, the money people gave him as gift whether on his birthdays or on other occasion, and the money he ‘hustled’, went to funding children’s education or as gifts to the needy or to friends and relatives, but little of it went toward his own expenses. He himself lived rather frugally, in spite of the fact that he traveled in luxury class, paid for by his friends. People gave him expensive clothing, which he would in turn give away, replacing them with pieces of clothing given by others and so on. Sometimes the clothing was passed on unused.

When he was young, he sold off the property he had inherited from his grandfather for a discount to the farmers who tilled the land and rented it. Ever since then, he never owned property except once for a few months by mistake.

Nothing Personal: UG would constantly test people. No one could take him for granted. Sometimes he would extol what a person did for a living, but the next moment around he would be critical of the same person. He might be the chummiest person at the moment, but the next turn he might attack viciously. He didn’t spare anyone. In that sense, he had no personal relationships. In some sense or other he was loyal to some of his friends, but not all. Some broke away and never saw him again, and some just veered off and remained distant to him without openly breaking up with him.

It must be mentioned here that UG had a way of making everyone around him feel special. That's a unique experience people had when they tried to relate to UG.

He also tested strangers: of late, he didn’t make it easy for people to see him. When they called to see him, he would put them off giving some excuse or other, or ask them to call later and so on. But there weren’t many who were serious and persistent, who did not succeed in seeing him. UG was making sure that they were earnest.

On more than one occasion, he would draw a person into a discussion by asking for his response: He did this with me several times. It surely was something he used to communicate with the audience (he wanted my ‘moral support’ he sometimes said), but also as a way of teaching me by drawing me out. (I didn’t always came forth with my views.)

To my mind, UG had not only a sharp intellect, but astounding artistic creativity: I didn’t realize this until I saw him giving his suggestions about the biography Mahesh Bhatt was writing in Carmel, California, near where I live. UG was going so fast with his ideas, I completely lost him after a while. (Earlier, Mahesh Bhatt, after hearing his suggestions, had said, “UG, I can’t write like that!”[6]) The gist of UG’s idea was to show how he, after his Calamity, had no life of his own and that he only lived in the lives of the people around him. That perspective would have been impossible to convey in a book!

* * *

One thing I can say for certain: I have never seen another human being who could metamorphose so suddenly and completely that you felt as if you were seeing a totally different person before you. No matter how strange or difficult the situation was, or what had happened in the past, if the situation demanded it, UG would throw in all his resources into it to try to help the situation.

I remember an occasion when he planned to spend the night in Seaside in a motel and paid for the hotel room and all that. But something changed all that; a Polish fellow was driving to Los Angeles in his old beat-up car, and UG suddenly changed all his plans and drove away with him to Los Angeles! Of course, he had to forgo his hotel rent. That meant nothing to him.

Getting Physical: In his last years, UG started getting physically demonstrative. Before then, I thought he was physically shy: I knew many men, including myself, from my culture being so. I had noticed the very first time I met UG in my house that he had shied away when I tried to put my arm around his shoulder. The most he would ever do was to tap on someone’s shoulder or shake or touch someone’s hand (his touch was actually one of his means of communication). He would joke with his friends when they were parting, asking them, “You want some energy transmission?” and shake their hand.

But all that suddenly changed a few years ago when I noticed that he had gotten quite physical with Louis. He would get physical to the point of hitting him and beating or pouring stuff on him (making him eat and drink all kinds of weird concoctions – handfuls of sugar or chocolate etc.). He would not only beat him himself, but would ask people like Nataraj hit him on his (bald) head with a split stick (which wouldn’t really hurt as much as an unsplit stick). Nataraj would obey and beat Louis on his head with the stick, keeping the beat while singing a song! Or UG would ask a child, a son of one of the visitors, to beat up Louis. And the kid would do that, rather viciously, to the point that I would leave the scene – I just didn’t want to sit there and watch. (At times I would protest, saying “Stop it UG!”) Louis had to admonish the father for not doing anything to prevent the child from hitting him.

You could notice uneasiness in those who were watching. You would wonder what UG was trying to teach in such situations.

Releasing Aggression: But this procedure was not limited to Louis. I saw UG prompting little kids not just to beat up Louis, but would ask a kid to beat up his grandfather. First, I thought it was just all part of UG’s teaching through entertainment; now I am sure it was more than that. I didn’t realize that until the same child hit me very hard with a ring of keys while I approached his mother, who was holding him, to say goodbye. I then saw that UG was dealing with the aggression in the kids.

I again wonder what sorts of things were being dealt with in Louis!

After all his talking in the day and after everyone had left, UG would collapse in a sofa and instantly fall asleep. He worked hard like this day in and day out for years. There were times when he took breaks from this routine: then he would not have any meetings[7] but would go on car trips to different places, sometimes visiting people there, or just going around shops in downtowns or just plain riding in cars long distances without any specific destination.

UG’s Driving Tests: Sometimes his car trips became his method of teaching: There were times when he would subject the driver to very risky situations. His driving ‘tests’ thus became famous. He would expose people’s fears and confusions to themselves. Except for a couple times, people never got involved in accidents. Even in those times they were never injured or killed. I know at least a couple of people who felt grateful to him for saving them from serious accidents just by his being in their car (always) sitting next to the driver’s seat (the ‘death’ seat, as some called it).

While driving, as the driver didn’t have a prior of knowledge of where precisely UG wanted to go, he would be waiting for directions and other instructions from UG. UG would say, for instance, “Turn right,” and just as the driver was about to make that turn, UG would say, “I think you should go left here,” as if he wasn’t sure himself which way to go. Then the driver would make preparations to turn left. But by then UG had already changed his mind and he would say, I think “It’s the next exit.” This changing of directions would go on endlessly to the point that the driver began to literally freak out.

Of course, sometimes the driver would get lost and stop and reach out for a map in his glove compartment. But UG would have none of that: “You don’t need any maps; you use your eyes;” “Don’t think, just watch;” “Don’t use your head, use your eyes” – were his normal utterances. If the driver complained and said “We lost our way!” UG would reprimand, “You are never lost; you are always somewhere; keep driving!”[8]

The more the driver would fret, the more pressure UG would put him or her under, to the point that at the end of the trip, UG’s blessings will always be waiting for them: “You can be sure that he makes mistakes. He doesn’t use his head. He’s a dunderhead. He took the wrong turn,” and so on.

It’s not clear what anyone would learn from all this haranguing, but I think UG’s main concern was not so much to get anyone to the right place, or to plain abuse anyone, but to expose us to our own reaction mechanisms and push us to deal with them. I don’t know if he ever succeeded.

One more thing should be mentioned here, to be fair to UG: UG normally never interrupted a person’s driving until after the trip was done. Then he would come out with his comments. But, his ‘driving tests,’ on the other hand, were something else!

* * *

This happened not too long ago: just as UG’s birthday was approaching. As was his wont, UG unplugged the telephone (to avoid being inundated with phone calls) and took a bunch of people (including two or three children) in three cars to travel practically day and night moving from one country to another, through France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. People were huddled together in the cars, sometimes being hard-pressed even to get to the bathroom or get a decent meal or sleep. This went on for three days, and then they finally returned to Gstaad after the harrowing journey. Some birthday party! Only UG knew what was behind this trip, if anything, and what it accomplished! Of course, no one dared to complain.

* * *

There were occasions when UG would take a set of people with him, looking for a place for a lengthy stay (a couple of days to a whole month). He would investigate different places, collects people’s opinions and their conveniences, and finally finds a perfect place to the satisfaction of everyone. UG was never afraid of the unknown.[9] Although people were a bit tense about where they were going or what they were going to do, they had an implicit trust in him, which always paid off.

I remember a time when five of us went on a trip down the East Coast of India in search of a place to stay, and looked at a resort place, but returned, not being satisfied. The next day we went again, this time going quite far south of Chennai, to Pondicherry. We thought we could find a place to stay in the Aurobindo Ashram hotel, but there were no vacancies. Then on our way back, about 15 kilometers from Pondicherry, UG spotted from a distance a perfect spot! It was the Government Hotel Ashoka. We stayed there for three days. The beaches there were immaculate – the best I had ever seen. On a full moon night, it was a glorious sight. In the daytime, you could sit in the backyard patio on lawn chairs and watch the boat parked on the beach and the beach itself forever. It was grand! I am sure many others would recount such wonderful stories of trips with UG.

Some trips I took with him (one, without him, with Mario) in Switzerland were the most memorable in my life. We had perfect drivers like Vibodha and Mario. We had grand vista visions of the Italian and Swiss Alps, of Mont Blanc, of Villars, etc. etc. It’s just unforgettable!

When UG went out, most of the times he ate with many others: he would always ask, “Who’s going to pay?” Someone or other would volunteer. I did notice however, of late, when he sensed that this became a burden to someone, he would allow people to go ‘Dutch’. His own meals in a restaurant were extremely simple, limited to a piece of bread (with butter) and soup or rosti, or some such ridiculously simple and small meal. He always had hot water after every meal to wash down the food.

Going Along: UG never directly opposed people’s fixations or tried to change people’s ways: instead, he played them up. For instance, the oblique way he dealt with people’s attachment for money was to make them more money-minded, to help them make more money, and ‘talk-up’ money practically all the time (“Money is at the top of my list and food at the bottom”). (Notice how his Money Maxims, which he dictated in about 45 minutes, have become famous.) At the same time, he made people shed money freely, including giving it to him (which he in turn gave away to children). His dealings with people’s attachments remind us of the traditional Tantric ways of dealing with energies by going along with them consciously, instead of opposing them.

I remember an occasion when he once arranged for a drinking session between me and Mahesh Bhatt (Mahesh was drinking at that time) in his hotel room; he never criticized either of us for it. After a couple of drinks, of course, we all went to the restaurant for a meal. On the way to the restaurant, in the hotel corridor, I noticed UG staggering a little. I couldn’t help joking: “UG, this is not fair. We do all the work and you get the effect!”[10]

He Never Questioned Facts: Before something happened, UG might sometimes plan for this or that, or ask someone to come or not to come, and so on, but when things actually unfolded, whether by design or not, he always accepted the outcome. I never saw an exception to it.

Once, I was traveling with UG and others in a car driven by Major Dakshinamurti and on the way to Mysore City, the car had a flat tire and it was stopped. UG’s first question was merely to ask, “What next?” He always asked, “What next?” Of course, the Major changed the tire and we continued on our journey.

* * *

In Carmel, when Mahesh’s biography of UG was being put together, there was a couple who visited for at least a couple of weeks. They had a garbage-dump-like truck that they parked in the driveway. At night they crawled into a coffin-like space in the truck to sleep. The man was some kind of a ‘guru’, but also technically savvy (a drop-out graduate student in computer science). They were on the run from the law, I don’t know for what reason. The man (and perhaps his mate, who was a young woman who seemed to be under his influence and a disciple of his, and who seemed to be mortally afraid of him) had not had a bath in at least a month or two! As a consequence, he was ‘stinking’. Euphemistically, I referred to the couple in front of UG as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Stink’. The sofa on which he sat acquired some of his stink and the living room was filled with the smell. But UG wouldn’t say a thing about the smell! He let them be (they even used his kitchen to prepare food) as long as they were there. When they finally left, he went into his room, brought out a couple of incense sticks and lit them at the fireplace. That’s UG!

* * *

The UG ‘Treatment’: This is a common experience to many. First, UG would be very enthusiastic about a certain person and extol him or her to the skies. But then things would start to cool down and UG would gradually start pointing out problems in the person’s behavior. Then, if that person came too close to him and did some ‘unwanted’ things like making repeated mistakes in what he asked to be done, or did something contrary to his specific instructions, or was dishonest in some way, he would now take the person to task. A huge harangue might follow. It could go on for hours. There was a time when he even ordered a pick-up truck to haul one person’s belongings out of his apartment to be delivered to her apartment at her expense! In another instance, he even pushed a person out of a moving car for her alleged misbehavior! There is no doubt that UG was giving the harsh treatment to bring home the person’s problems and weakness to himself or herself.

But then, at the next moment, you would never get the feeling that UG had ill-treated that person. The person would be treated normally until there was another occasion for a flare-up. The person would be mortally afraid that UG was keeping a watchful eye on her, and that would lead to more mistakes and more harangues. It could become an endless saga! Sometimes people around felt that this ‘treatment’ went beyond limits. Who knows what the final outcome had been or would be?

I know UG verbally belittled, abused and condemned more than one person for their superficiality, dishonesty and inability to exploit their own talents. He would continue to taunt them each time he saw them. And at times he would throw her or him out. But these same people would swear by how touched they were by UG’s love and affection.

Perhaps this was part of UG’s ‘training’ process.

But if you didn’t come close to UG by being friendly with him or trying to do him favors, if you were just a visitor or remained distant otherwise, he would not touch you.

I also know that if he sensed that you were feeling hurt for some reason or other, he would make sure that you felt better (without your even knowing it) before you left. I am remembering one occasion in Vallecrosia during my last visit with him, when a young lady was leaving. UG sensed she was hurt. Her feelings were indeed hurt as some people there had been critical of her ways. As she was leaving she said something to the effect, “I won’t be a bother to anyone anymore.” UG said goodbye to her saying, “Everyone liked you.”

He did praise people, but not directly, but only by saying that “everyone liked what you wrote or did or said.”

Pleasure-seeking: Although UG seemed to enjoy himself when going places or having conversations or playing with children or being outdoors, in all my acquaintance with him, I never saw him being a pleasure seeker. He didn’t crave for any foods or experiences or anything. If someone performed music in front of him, he practically paid a deaf ear: you could detect absolutely no reaction in his face. If he seemed to like a certain food and you offered it to him again, he would say, no, and comment: “Just because I liked something doesn’t mean I want it again.” He used to say how he wouldn’t know what something tasted like as soon as it went down into his gullet from his tongue.

He was always proud to show off his refrigerator to people who visited him: unless someone else was also using it, it was always bare, with little else than a can of frozen pineapple juice, a container of heavy cream and perhaps a bowl of leftover oatmeal.[11]

As I said before, UG attacked people’s attachments to money and food. When he went to someone’s place for lunch, he frequently admonished, “I don’t like the stink and stench of an ashram.” Yet, when there were several people around who haven’t had lunch or dinner, he would ask whether there was enough food for all of them!

When he went shopping for food, UG never bought anything more than what was needed for that day. He also discouraged, sometimes rather strenuously, others from buying excessive amounts of food and storing it “for the morrow.” There was an occasion in Palm Springs when he ordered all the excess foods in the kitchen be collected and thrown in the garbage.

Once, I had a run-in with UG on this subject: he sensed that I was spending too much time in the kitchen cooking and trying to feed people. One night, he said that there were others waiting to use the kitchen and I should get out. He repeated his order even after I finished what I was doing in the kitchen and got out in ten minutes. I got angry and walked out three days later in protest. I know UG was attacking my attachment to food. But did I learn anything from the incident?

The Shepherd: I was visiting UG with my family. That morning I was still in bed. UG walked upstairs where we were staying and walked into our room. I sat up and greeted him. At that time or later, I remarked: “UG is checking his wares!” UG was constantly checking to see everyone around him was ok.

Champion of Children: I remember an occasion when Chandrasekhar’s family just returned from a wedding, and their two children conked out in the living room, having been deprived of sleep the night before. UG stood guard at the entrance that whole afternoon and prevented anyone from entering the room lest they would disturb the kids’ sleep!

He not only played with children wherever he went, he would give them money from his pocket, encourage their talents, and so on. Some children had great affinity for him. Yet, he would not hesitate to expose them to foul language, violence, sex or pornography in films. His reasoning is that they would have to deal with all that in later life anyway. Why protect them? Once, I did take him to task when he was encouraging a child to rebel against her teacher. I said, “What’s the girl going to do when she gets out of school without education, if she is thrown out of school?” I think UG got my point.

Indeed, a similar point was driven home by a Korean monk who was in one of UG’s meetings at my home: UG was attacking educating children in religion and all that. And the monk asked, how are the children going to grow up without any guidance or education? I think UG saw his point. (I can’t recall the precise conversation.) He conceded.

“Virus Research:” With people giving him money, particularly for his birthdays, he accumulated enough to give it away to kids. He decided to give it to girls of Indian origin studying abroad, as compensation, he said, for all the suffering which Indian women were subject to for centuries at the hands of men. He now had a fancy idea of establishing a fund for research to find a virus that would wipe out the whole of humanity! He wanted to establish scholarships for girls for such a purpose. Guha and I discouraged UG. One fine morning Guha and I stormed into UG’s room in Palm Spring. I told him that what he was doing was not any different from J. Krishnamurti establishing foundations and other institutions. Guha and I told him that the girls would already be rich enough to be able to come to the US; they wouldn’t need his help. Moreover, his intention of establishing a scholarship fund anonymously would not succeed, as legally his name would be there, albeit under the surface: anyone who dug deep enough could discover it. He immediately tore up the papers of his correspondence with lawyers in Stanford and called Chandrasekhar right away and asked him to scrap all those plans. Later, Aruna in Bangalore chided UG about the same matter: “UG, we’re just starting our lives. Why do you want to us to do things to end it?”

Later UG called me and Aruna ‘his gurus!’ Of course, he ultimately did give the money away to girls of Indian origin for their education and arranged to give much of what remained at the end of his life to deserving girls who were yet to be discovered.

* * *

Response to Reports of Experiences: Different people at different times related their personal experiences to UG. There were times he not only agreed with the person, but he even elaborated or commented on them. I can mention a couple of my own experiences here:

1) I caught myself falling asleep once. Later, in the car, I said to UG, “nothing seems so important, even what UG says doesn’t seem to have any value.” He replied, “No, what UG says has no value.”

2) During a conversation I said, “...all this is shit. And I don’t know when all this will end,” or something to that effect. I remember UG shooting back with a resounding reply, “If that is not there [meaning if you don’t compare this with something else], this is not shit!”

3) Another time, I remember my bragging to UG about something “I have seen...”. UG said when everyone was listening, “You haven’t seen it....” I grumbled something in reply, but I dared not challenge the authority with which he said it.

4) Once, I was getting tired of waiting for someone for dinner. I told to UG, “I wouldn’t wait anymore ...” or something to that effect. He replied, “I would.”

5) In my early acquaintance with UG, I was commenting on someone’s phone call to me inviting himself to dinner at my house. I said I wouldn’t fall for that kind of ‘con’. UG mildly reprimanded me by repeating my word ‘con.’

6) One of the first things I learned from UG is not to attach any importance to experiences (no matter of what kind). Since then my oft-used motto has been, “experiences are a dime a dozen.”

7) On a rare occasion, I was asking UG a question about what was thought or something of the sort. He turned to me and looked at me in a certain way. I would never forget it. I could hear his voice changing and his compassion flowed from him to me, as if it some sort of fluid. I think my question was what he meant by ‘knowledge’. His answer was, it was ‘whatever you have learned as to what gives you pleasure or pain.’ But his compassion was worth a million answers. I know many people were bound to UG through such a flow of compassion.

8) In Bangalore, India, UG prodded me to consult a Nadi astrologer and even arranged for Brahmachariji and Chandrasekhar to go with me, as I needed someone to interpret the Kannada and Tamil languages. One of the questions I asked the astrologer was when I was going to be enlightened. Upon our return, this was reported to UG. UG asked me to come to him and said, “How could you ask such a question?” (His teaching has always been that there is no such thing as enlightenment.) Seeking a quick escape, I replied: “I was just curious. Actually, I think I am already enlightened!” UG didn’t say anything. I was saved!

It is brief conversations like these that really drove some points home to me.

* * *

UG Not a Person: The first time I had a clear inkling that there is no ‘person’ inside UG was when I was visiting him in Corte Madera, California, in the early years of my acquaintance with him. It was a rare moment when I looked into his eyes, inside the pupils. What I saw shocked me: it was a vast impersonal energy. No sign of a person. I can never forget that deep inside, what was moving was not anything I expected, like a reflection of my face or recognition of me. (It’s no surprise that people often characterized UG as, “No one at home!”)

Now, when I look deep within myself, I see nothing but the surging ‘Energy’ (I don’t know what other term to use.) Even the images and sounds I talked about in my recent paper are just waves surging from this energy. I don’t exist there! That must be why I felt at times when I was close to UG physically that there was no separation between us. It’s not that I am in that awareness or energy most of the time. But I know what the bottom reality is.

UG asserted more than once that the ‘division’[12] which is millions of years-old, keeps occurring, bringing ‘UG’ into the picture, and that it will never go away. It’s that UG we saw from time to time, the ‘UG’ who reacted to people and situations, sometimes through his own conditioning.

* * *

Mountains of Energy: Some of the conversations which friends had with UG were so memorable that they made permanent imprints in their minds: these occasions were not only noteworthy for their absolutely profound discussions on various topics, but also for the mountains of energy that would be generated during these discussions. The atmosphere would simply be electrified, as if there was a great celebration unfolding! Unfortunately, none of these discussions were recorded, as placing a recording device in their midst would have simply ruined the effect. In fact, although the moments are unforgettable, most of us have hard time even recalling the details of those conversations.

Meaning of Life: UG often asserted that there is no meaning in life. Yet, when people were around him, to prevent them from mentally chewing on themselves, he would assign various tasks to them. Many ladies became familiar with his ‘sweatshops’. Each time one of these ladies came to see him, he would give her some kind of sewing job, to fix a button on a shirt, to cut off a collar on a sweater and sew the edges and such. If there wasn’t a job ready, he would create one. He would act as if he was ripping a tag off a sweater, shirt or pants and create a tear in the clothing (I wonder if it wasn’t purposely done!) and complain that he tore the piece and would ask the lady to mend it. He would of course get his royal haircuts from some of these women (although at other times he would go to a barber). With people who are knowledgeable in other areas like computers, he would ask them to do some chore or other on the computers.

One morning in Hemet, I was sitting alone in silence after getting up early in the morning. Noticing that I was sitting idle doing nothing, he commented teasingly, “Are you meditating?” I asked later whether he was objecting to my meditating because it was “pleasure-seeking.” He answered, yes.

* * *

I remember how once in Palm Springs he led a whole expedition of two or three cars going in a caravan to hunt for sandals for me with rubber bumps on them. We had looked for them earlier but hadn’t found any to my satisfaction. I had protested to UG that it was really not important to find those sandals. But he would have none of that. He said that it would give everyone something to do!

His shopping (and ‘malling’) trips were similar. He would go with a bunch of people into different stores, particularly clothing stores, and browse as if he was looking for a specific something. Meanwhile, he was watching everyone’s movements (and thoughts, too); I don’t know what influence he had over everyone.

The shopping trips were never for the entertainment of people. They were part of his teaching – except no one really knew what they learned out of them! Indeed, UG’s teaching was mysterious!

When he seemed to be interested in some piece of clothing, be it a silk shirt, a cashmere sweater, or an inexpensive pair of pants, there was always someone to buy it for him, although at times, he refused the offer. When he accepted, it was more for the sake of the gift-giver than for himself. In fact, much the same can be said about all the money gifts he accepted from people, particularly for his birthdays.

* * *

The Supernatural: All sorts of supernatural powers have been attributed to UG. It’s part of the nature of the subject matter that it doesn’t lend itself to any objective treatment. UG has been credited with telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, precognition, psycho kinesis, and miracle healing, and the seeing of ghosts and departed spirits. I personally had several experiences when I felt that he knew not only my thoughts, but the current state of my body. He seemed to be able to forestall coming dangers and prevent them from happening. And more often than not people claimed that their lives were saved either from a serious illness or an accident either by UG being next to them on the scene or by their thinking of (or praying to) him. Unfortunately there is no way to objectively assess any of this, for we simply lack the tools. I just mention this to complete the picture.

UG sometimes joked around asking someone who was saying goodbye, “You want some energy transmission?” and then would shake his hand. There were times, when he would say, “I have powers, you know.” At other times, he would say, “How would I know?” or “There are no powers.” But I do know that he had his ways of taking care of people through his physical touch: He would, for instance, have Nataraj sit next to him and shake his hand frequently.[13] Nataraj credits him with not only knowing what was going on inside him, but with “saving his life.” I have heard others who said similar things about UG.

Sadly, however, I must report of at least one instance in which a friend of mine who was severely ill and hoped for a miracle from UG which never came. Eventually he died. In fact, UG told him more than once to go to a hospital, see a doctor and get himself tested. It was just in such contexts UG would say, “There are no miracles, go to a doctor!”

Of course, he never followed his own advice: he always believed that pain is a healer and given a chance the body has the power to heal itself. (He would, however, add the caveat: “If it cannot, it will go gracefully.”) In his later years, he never visited a doctor or went to a hospital. But he wouldn’t advice others to do the same, he said.

Conclusion: UG always attacked conventional morality, religion and politics. He said that our legal, political and moral systems are all corrupt. He did not believe in any moral rules; but he said that one who is not moral can never be immoral, will never do anything to hurt others.

But he kept warning us not to be fooled by appearances; yet we don’t and can’t know what the reality of UG is. We can’t but feel that we are somehow affected by having been around him. I have seen people who would even kill themselves for him. He has touched them, in their minds, as no one else in their lives has touched them.

UG sometimes made what seemed like scientific statement. But immediately he would add disclaimers like, “One day scientists will confirm it (viz., that consciousness is everywhere, for instance),” “I am not a scientist,” and such.

For UG freedom of the will is a myth. You can never be free from the conditioning. Still UG encouraged people to make money or to be successful at this or that.

UG tells all these gloom and doom stories and yet he says that things cannot be any the different from what they are because of the way we are and we live. So there is nothing you can do. So, you ask, “then should we or shouldn’t we do such and such? Should we or shouldn’t we meditate?” None of that follows. You cannot derive any ‘directive’ from what he says.

UG would use anything and everything in front of him as a tool for his teaching process and then simply discard it and walk away. He didn’t have a specific means or method of teaching. He said once, long ago, “I could as well be reading out the numbers from a telephone book, it would have the same effect.”

And you can’t grasp his teaching in your hand and say “this is what I got from UG.” You don’t always know what you have got!

UG himself said repeatedly that people who listened to him over the years may not find any such thing as ‘enlightenment,’ for, according to him, there is no such thing, but will find their burdens lessened. He meant the mental baggage we carry from our past. And I know many a friend who has been listening to UG who would attest to that.

I remarked to UG once how his teaching was such ‘sweet poison’ to people. He asked, “Why is it sweet?” I said because it represented the end of a search and that was why people are so fascinated by it. It’s easy to be fascinated. In my opinion, there is no substitute to abandoning all that and returning one’s own state, helpless though it may seem.

* * *

[1] Although the following is based mostly on specific instances, however, I have not, except occasionally, made references to specific names lest anyone might take it personally.

[2] When Mahesh was writing his biography, UG himself said, “After the Calamity, there is no biography to write.” There are only isolated instances with no connecting link between them.

[3] A few times when I was alone with UG, he would describe something to me, whether it be his current state of the body or the senses or some way of looking at things such as the tree in front of you being only two-dimensional. I couldn’t always make sense of what he said. Sometimes I would interpret it and he would either agree or keep silent.

[4] Once he remarked: “I am trying to sever all your connections so that you could be related to everything around you.”

[5] That man was critical of UG for allowing all “these Rajneeshis to gather around him and sit in meditation with closed eyes.” He was obviously missing the UG discussions from previous times, because now UG was going along with them and sitting quietly himself. UG yelled at him in reply: “They too are people like you. You have your background and they have theirs!” Then the man timidly said, “I see your point, UG.”

[6] UG’s pet answer on such occasions was, “You can pack up and leave!”

[7] He would ask that people be called on the phone and told that there was going to be “no shop today.”

[8] Louis even wrote a humorous song about UG’s driving instructions and sang it with the young girls, Shilpa, Sumedha and Claire: “Don’t go left, don’t go right, go straight!”

[9] I was just leaving UG after a visit to him in Chennai. UG too was schedule leave the country the next day. While everyone was listening, I asked him where he was going to go the next day. He said he didn’t know: “First, I’ll go to Singapore. I have four tickets with me, one to go to Australia, one to China and Japan, one to go to Europe and one to go the US. I’ll decide which way to go after I arrive in Singapore.” That’s UG for you!

I know many occasions when his decisions, particularly about travel, were based on tossing a coin!

[10] Mahesh later quit both his drinking and smoking when he was aghast at how his little baby daughter shunned away from the strong smell of smoke and drink when he drew close to her. He never touched either habit again. UG always praised Mahesh about that. “If you quit a habit, it should be like that; at once, not promising or practicing to quit little by little,” he would say.

[11] Most of his life, UG ate very small meals, often a piece of idli with some spice powder and chutney or upma or rice flakes, while he is in India; or about half a cup of oatmeal with heavy cream and frozen pineapple juice, or a piece of bread with butter and some soup, or couscous with frozen broccoli or spinach added to it (with a little curry powder for taste), or bread and some European cheese, and other small meals, while he was in the West. Of late, friends always brought packages of Leonidas chocolates; they, as well as Swiss Lindt milk chocolates, were freely passed around in gatherings. He himself used to make extremely simple but quick and delicious meals and feed people at times. He always asked a few friends to come early in the morning for coffee and breakfast.

[12] Division in consciousness, which constitutes ‘UG’ and what he experiences.

[13] At other times, he would ask him to sing Beethoven, read astrological signs, cook or go on car rides.