Sunday, September 13, 2009

Introduction and Conclusion to my book "Being"

I am positing in the following two posts the introduction and conclusion to my book "Being". If you have the electronic copy of the book you can append these pages to it. Anyway, you have the whole stuff. I am adding about 40 photos to the book as well as a cover page my wife has designed. Of course, I am looking for a publisher. If any of you know of someone who might be interested in publishing it, please drop a note.


I have always thought a photograph reveals the photographer more than it does the subject. In that sense the following writing is rather autobiographical.

My association with UG, which started in 1981, has been long. He visited me practically once every year since then, till the beginning of 2006, after which time he stopped visiting the US. This book not only tells about my acquaintance and association with UG, but also how he affected me in person, and in my thought and my life in general. It’s hard to pinpoint these things and say definitely this is where UG’s influence stops and my own thinking and life start.

The other influences in my life have been Gora, Chalam and J. Krishnamurti. Yet, there has been a certain ongoing inquiry in my mind ever since I was conscious, namely, “Who am I?” You can say it is that which gave me a core identity and drove my thinking. It is what made me interested in all these people in the first place. After all is said and done, if there is anything called the "I" remaining, it is that which makes me question everything and everyone I have been exposed to, including UG. In my investigations in this book, I combine my skepticism with the critical and analytical skills I have acquired in my study of philosophy.

UG never minded my critical remarks in my essays on him. Once, he read my Introduction in the book No Way Out. When we were talking about it, he asked if I was rethinking my (critical) comments on him. I said, “No, I am not taking any of it back.” Then I remember him saying, “That’s the only way to write.” He did not want people to merely repeat what he said: “What hasn’t helped you can’t help others.” The essays in this book, although they tell of my acquaintance and relationship with UG, do not merely rehash what UG says, nor are they merely an interpretation of UG’s teachings. Even when I am open to someone’s ideas, I always question and test them and add my own investigations to them. It is in that spirit that I hope the reader will look at the following essays.

Almost all the chapters included here are essays I have posted on my blog site for almost two years. For the sake of completion, I have added my paper “Science and Spirituality.” There is a little history behind this essay which was initially read at the Krishnamurti Centenary Conference in Oxford, Ohio. When the organizer of the conference, my friend Professor Rama Rao Pappu, asked me to write about J. Krishnamurti, I told him that I had already written an article about J. Krishnamurti , I would rather write about UG. After some hesitation, he agreed to my proposal.

When I was visiting UG in Corte Madera, California in the beginning of 1995, I mentioned to him that it was possible to put up one of his books on the Internet. Mario Viggiano and Julie Thayer were also present on the occasion. Mario immediately jumped on the idea and said, “Let’s do it!” Thus the UG website was set up in Julie’s and UG’s Mind is a Myth with a picture of his taken by Julie in New Zealand were put up. UG, who had by then read my article “Science and Spirituality,” insisted that it also be put up. Later, I had seen him handing a copy of this article to a visitor or two.

Part 1 of this book consists of articles about how I met UG and an account of some of my meetings with him. I have deliberately avoided giving biographical details about UG as they have been frequently mentioned in books like The Mystique of Enlightenment, UG Krishnamurti, A Life, by Mahesh Bhatt, and The Other Side of Belief by Mukunda Rao. Part 2 of the book comprises a set of articles about UG’s teachings (Chapter 7) as well as his teaching process. Part 3 contains my ruminations about thinking, the self and mental states. Part 4 deals with a couple of academic issues, viz., the mind-body problem and the problem of other minds, as well as my views about meditation, morality and a few moral issues. I can’t say the articles in parts 3 and 4 are all inspired by UG’s teachings, but in some fashion or other, they all have some relationship to them. Only the essays on the mind-body relationship and other minds may be a little abstract to the reader. All others, though they might require careful reading, should be fairly accessible.

My philosophical essays may not impress the professional philosopher and may not seem to advance any current discussion of specific philosophical problems. They certainly are by no means scholarly. I didn’t even provide extensive documentation in my essays. My interest here is to tackle a couple of these problems from a rather commonsense point of view, mostly starting from my own experience. Of course, what I have learned from both Western and Eastern philosophy, as well as what I have learned from UG, does come into play in my explorations. I hope my suggestions to solve those problems are interesting to the professional philosopher as well as to the layman.

Needless to say, I have to use my thinking and logical skills to present my understanding of the issues presented here. I don’t know if it is possible to arrive at a totally consistent theory about them or fit them into a coherent and meaningful picture. Indeed, the reader may find that in several places my conclusions are hesitant and tentative. I may seem to be expressing doubts about my own previous conclusions or debating with myself. That’s why I would like to call this book a “work in progress.”

My aim in this book is to approach some issues without presupposing any religious or spiritual beliefs, taking a commonsense point of view and remaining always within the sphere of the known. The book should also demonstrate how I have translated, as best as I can, what I have understood or learned from UG into my own life. Standing on such a ground of experience I have tried to chip away, as it were, bit by bit, at some of the concepts in understanding oneself (contrary to UG’s rejection of the very idea of understanding oneself). Of course, you can never know the unknown. But what has been considered mystical or mysterious before could, at least to a minor degree, be unraveled. In my opinion, that was indeed what UG was trying to achieve as well, as the title of the book Mystique of Enlightenment indicates.

You may find it difficult to draw a clear line separating between what UG said from my own analysis and investigation. That’s in the nature of things. I never separated myself from UG. Just like in life, I consider my work as an extension of his teachings.

My central concern when I discuss moral issues is always to find out how I can relate to these subjects and what difference they would make in my life or my reader’s life.

Thanks to Wendy Moorty for her meticulous editorial help for both the text and the photographs. She has also designed the cover page.

Several photographs from the collections of Wendy Moorty, Lisa Toronto and Julie Thayer have been used in this book. My thanks to all three for letting me include them here.

Narayana Moorty

Seaside, California
September, 2009


[The following is the concluding chapter to my book Being.]

UG’s Relationship with Me: What is my relationship to UG? Was he a friend, or was he a master or a teacher? I have been interested in the teachers I mentioned in my Introduction (Gora, Chalam, J. Krishnamurti and UG) primarily because they helped me in my own investigations. Their teachings spurred me to make advances in my thinking and ways of living and thus to various degrees have become an integral part of my intellectual life as well as my living. Gora, Chalam and UG all became my friends as well. Yet, I never hesitated to criticize them, especially Gora and UG. This applies to J. Krishnamurti as well. In other words, I never submitted myself totally to any of them; I didn’t implicitly obey them nor did I uncritically accept what they said. I have the greatest regard for UG as well as unbounded affection. So, my unqualified answer to my question is that regardless of an occasional skirmish or two between us, UG was my friend as well as my teacher.

Main Conclusion of this Book: The main conclusion that might emerge from the different essays in this book is that release (I am deliberately desisting from using the term “enlightenment”), while being total, sudden, final and acausal in someone like UG (and I can think of others), might also be piecemeal, relative and provisional in others.

UG’s Teachings: Once, during a conversation, UG vehemently denied that there is any such thing as relative freedom. In fact, he at times even denied (although I doubt if he had meant it) that there is any such thing as enlightenment. UG also often said that you cannot strive for “enlightenment” or total freedom: “You do not choose it; it chooses you.” Nevertheless, he laid down some necessary conditions: the mind must be stultified to the point that all desire must be burned away and all movement in any direction must stop. Yet, this, in his view, is not an effect you can aim at or try to achieve. This may be so. Yet the problem remains that the mind’s nature is to seek, if not to seek goals, at least to seek to avoid pain. As long as the mind is operating, it keeps seeking for this or that. The question is whether one can give up seeking ultimate goals such as what UG might call “permanent happiness,” “nirvana” and what not. That’s why UG always said you don’t really give up anything.

My Approach: I might want to opt for shutting life down, renouncing everything that I am and all that I have, say my house, relationships, property, food (when I am hungry I will find out where to get food), and so on. I could just walk away from everything. But would I be free from the goal of shutting life down? As UG says, it’s the goal you have to be free from. But could you? Giving up the goal still presupposes a reason for giving up the goal, which is the goal itself. Thus it becomes a game we play with ourselves. (As UG said, “the negative approach is a positive approach.”

My discussions in the book should have shown that while there are persistent goals (or attachments), there are also moments when we can just simply surrender to the inability to let the goals go. That effortlessness, to my mind, lets you become detached from the goal itself. So, the moral of the lesson here is not just to try to let things go, but to discover in oneself a place where there are no goals and surrender yourself to the prospect of living without any goal. Once we see the state of mind where there are no goals of whatever kind (including being free or enlightened), then I think stepping out of the process of striving for goals is not such a hard thing to do.

While a total and final change may be the "real" thing, I can’t just sit there and wait for it. For whatever it is worth, I have to live my life now, facing my problems and working things out, nevertheless not losing sight of what is fundamental in life. I see a gradual evolution (or development, if you will) in this process and it may or may not culminate in a total transformation. For example, it’s a lot easier for me now than before to let go of things and people.

I know such a release is at best relative and provisional and there is no finality about it. Final liberation can only come about when the will in some fashion or other withers away and that unfortunately is not in our hands.

Can I say that I attained some kind of breakthrough, or that I am enlightened? I have absolutely no claims to enlightenment. At times, I feel like that with certain limitations in my present makeup, physical or psychical, it may not possible for me to be anything other than what I am. That doesn’t render what I have been discussing in this book totally useless.

One of the facts of my life is that I too am conditioned like everyone else. UG used to say, “You can never be free from conditioning. Conditioning is intelligence.” I don’t know if these statements are indeed true. But I know that I do react and it may take me some time for those disturbances to run their course. I can see that as long as conditioning operates, one must live in the world of duality. In that sense, UG himself, as far as I know, to the extent he was operating under his own conditioning; he too was subject to duality (as he would say, “’UG’ comes into the picture”).

Method: The whole book may seem to advocate adopting a method, practicing it and thereby trying to progress toward a goal, and so on. It may seem as if I haven’t become free from goals after all. (You might ask, “Or why write this book?”) Also, when I write, what I write must perforce be taken as a method or a “directive”, to use UG’s term.

Take the other side of the picture: If having goals is a problem, and yet UG says that you cannot give up anything (including goals) except in order to gain something in return, then the main question is, why in the hell did he talk about anything at all? Why didn’t he just say what he had to say once and walk away? If UG kept hammering away at these issues, dinning the same thing over and over again into people’s ears, it may be that he was doing it so that it might have the effect eventually of people quitting their goal-seeking and their quests.

UG’s common response to this dilemma was to say that when someone asking him questions, the answers come out of him as if from a machine, automatically. When involved in some discussion or debate, UG often ended the debate by asserting, “It’s two dogs barking at each other.” He claimed that we “interpret” whatever he says or does according to our background, prejudices or predilections. There may be no problem with words, his or others', they being just noises made and everything being mainly an interpretation. This may be a consequences of his non-dual state, but it also has the consequence of his being wrapped up in a bubble of immunity to criticism, challenge or personal involvement. You can either admire him or throw up your hands in despair.

People who heard or read UG often couldn’t help taking what he said as directives either. He knew that. But he kept talking, knowing full well that people would interpret him the way they in fact do. His answer to the problem is to say, “Being exposed to what I say will unburden you.” For instance, UG said to someone who was bothered with a neurotic fear of silence that he should try to change nothing but should merely accept the fear. And the person eventually did find relief by letting his fear be. To my mind, such changes are possible only because people have learned to let things go, especially their goals. That is indeed how their lives become unburdened.

One of the common answers UG gave to people raising their problems in front of him was to say, “There are no problems. You have no problem.” If a person was saying he gets depressed, UG would say, “Be depressed!" or he would say, "Unless you are contrasting it with another state, where is the problem?” Or he would say “You have problems only because you want two things at the same time. If you want just one thing (and are willing to do everything to get it), there is not a thing you cannot get.” When he himself was in a rage, he never looked at it as a problem. He just rode it out. In that sense he never wanted to change the given. He never moved out of his nonduality.

Goals and Lettings Things Go: To come back to my own writing: what I have been trying to do is primarily to agree with what UG says about being disillusioned about goals (my writing should confirm this), yet, at the same time, I am trying to work out the nitty-gritties of it (the actual workings of it). My “letting things go” may sound like I am advocating a method. It’s rather a “non-doing” without any specific goal in mind, done only because one is confronted with a problem or set of problems. You might say that this, i.e., becoming free from a problem, is indeed a goal and is bound to set up a duality in your mind between yourself and the problem you are trying to deal with. I agree, and that’s where I point to the idea of “surrendering to a problem” (including to the inability to give up a goal). In other words, although your intention (or goal) is to solve a problem to begin with, you realize at some point that as long as you are attached to the goal, you cannot truly solve the problem.

Notice that in view of my analysis of mental states, it should be clear that I am not advocating advancing toward some goal. Rather, I am talking about repeatedly letting things go (and this may be telescoped into short moments, meaning that the time it takes will become much shorter). In that sense there is a progress or evolution, but not in any sense of gaining something. In fact, the whole thing will surely backfire if one does it with a view to achieve some result or gain something or attain a state (even if it is just to become free from a problem). If one has in view any solution outside of the problem, that surely would set up a duality and throw one headlong back into the problem.

I am writing more in a spirit of explaining the structure of problems and gaining an insight into them rather than trying to provide a solution or method which can be mechanically applied. Of course, just as with UG, this too can easily be misconstrued as advocating and teaching a certain method, a path, a practice and so on.

To me, what words you use don’t really matter. What matters are the facts: The fact of the matter is that one can be relieved from the burden of one’s past: This can happen by becoming free from specific problems as well as any and all problems, landing in the field of awareness (energy if you will). This "landing" is a function of our ability to relax totally to the point where nothing matters, including living, dying or enlightenment. The contrary side of the picture is that when problems mount up in myself or my mind, I can feel the tension going up. And when I stop caring for the problems or solutions by letting things go (and letting the problems be), I not only relax totally, but the problems disappear; I am then in the field of mere awareness or awareness of the body. The body is itself a surface phenomenon. When the relaxation is deep enough, even the awareness of the body as such merges in the general awareness. I can feel the tension in the head when I am in the middle of a problem and when I let things go, my attention goes back into the spine area in the back of my head, instead of being caught in the top of the head. That relaxes the system and helps the energies flow freely. I hope I have made this clear enough. I don’t need any approval for this from anyone, including UG (he never gave it to anyone, anyway). I am hoping this possibility -- or, ability -- to step out of things can be used by others as well. In that sense, the book is hopefully within the realm of understanding, communication and teachability.

I believe this book is still within the fold of the general teachings of effortlessness, because UG often said that any movement of the mind, in any direction, will make you stray from your natural state. My book explores all the problems involved in trying achieve the natural state while keeping that goal in mind and using various methods. It’s just a way of showing the ultimate futility of effort in this area. Of course, even this can be taken as some kind of positive teaching and offering a method, but unfortunately, nothing that is read or communicated can escape that fate. The human ‘hearing’ mechanism is such that the very hearing creates a goal and looks for a directive.

Thought and Knowledge: The final problem I have to deal with is thought, namely, that all this relaxing is an activity of thought, driven by the motivations of the self. For instance, how do I know when I am totally relaxing or giving up everything? How do I know whether I am in the state of being merely aware of the body? Isn’t the whole enterprise driven by thought? If it is, one cannot be said to be really free of the self as long as there is the self in the background, calculating and conniving. Indeed, I have myself raised such a question to UG: how does he know whether he is free from thought? What told him? Couldn’t one say that the self, and hence knowledge, has been there in the background? UG’s answer was always that he doesn't know and that Life knows itself.
Sometimes he said he knew it now (when he was talking), but didn't know it "then". My answer is somewhat similar to this last answer of UG: although one starts with the motivation of the self, one realizes that as long as there is any motivation to be free one cannot be free. But when one is free, there is an awareness of freedom; and when thought and (knowledge) operate, then one knows that he or she has been free. Of course, such knowledge can bring about further motivation and bondage; but that’s the nature of the case.

Differences: There lies the essential difference between UG and me, however. With UG, the freedom had become permanent and final. (You could say there was a change in his "hardware". The getting rid of motive had become automatic. (That’s the context in which he would say, "thought cannot enter, it will get burnt up every time it enters.") In UG there was a perpetual state of unknowing in which knowledge occasionally entered and created a temporary duality of UG and the other. In me, it’s the freedom that is occasional.

There is something else that is totally different about UG: I felt at times that UG was a mere appearance and that some force or power from another dimension was operating through UG. Thus to my mind UG represents the unknown. We get hints of this when we know that his words and deeds are not what they seem to be and have effects which are unfathomable to our ordinary knowledge and experience. I have no problems with that unknown. To that I totally surrender myself and pay homage. And I have no way to speak of or account for it. I just simply am awed when I sense its presence.

In spite of these differences, I feel that the attempt here is not a totally futile. Although the release that I experience may be only provisional and lacks the finality of the liberation of UG, it shows possibilities of freedom in everyday life.

Despite the differences, I have always felt there is a fundamental unity between UG and me. Underlying us is the unity of life, of existence or what you may call it, as was attested to so many times by my sense of being in the same "field of awareness" when I was around him, where there was (and is) neither UG nor me. I know that some others had similar experiences.