In my boredom I develop all kinds of enthusiasms in the course of a week, a month, a year. New voices emerge and enchant me, the latest of which was the voice of Henry David Thoreau whose Walden I never read because it was required reading. In India this past month, I discovered some information about his life, rather than what he said, that made me want to look more closely at what he had to say. It is extremely rare that a philosopher lives in a way that is as interesting as what he writes. I am not disappointed. His writing has me completely absorbed during endless subway rides but yesterday I finished up the chapter on Reading and it was a little reminder…
“Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit one bridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.”
This passage struck as uncharacteristically idealistic. Thoreau suddenly felt a little claustrophobic. I liked the sentiment, but the mission lost me. There are so many other passages that are light and beautiful and can’t be sorted out. So many bits reminded me of UG, things about do-gooders and how he would run as soon as he sensed someone coming to do him some good. About how the church should be abandoned for the actual house of god, (a necessary figure of speech rather than an airborne father figure), which is in nature, not some stuffy chamber lorded over by a sanctimonious windbag, (priest). The book is a gem, but the passage about reading makes it once again clear to me what was operating in my old friend UG was something quite over the top. (I know, I know, Jakes Krinch said we aren’t supposed to compare, but try not doing that for even five minutes!) The finality in UG’s way of living is where I freshly appreciate him in comparison to every new attraction I encounter in every area of my life. (Again let me apologize, I know, I know, UG said we are all supposed to forget him. Thing is, I only hear this from people that never met him or didn’t listen to him when they did.) Sooner or later in each new acquaintance there is the indication of a boundary, a ridge around the edges of their consciousness, which was absent in UG. This is what makes him so unforgettable to me. He is a field in which I can wander endlessly, were I can breath fresh air, something like my lungs, invisible to me, but nevertheless operating in a way that sustains me.
There is something so spacious in the fact that he never cared whether people listened or not. He knew too well that most people are simply incapable of listening in the first place so that was there. He was speaking from a place that cannot be known, so there was no reason for him to expect that people understand him. In fact the worst-case scenario was to think you understood him! I think he simply had to give it his best while in the company of others to attempt to show people what was actually going on, rather than give them ideas about it or a cure for it. Having done that, there he dropped the matter. As far as I can find, UG never made any blanket statement suggesting a course of action for any group of people. His sole function was to shed light on things precisely as they are, never as they should or could be. In this he was unwavering.
Occasionally some lucky bugger would get a hint or suggestion from UG as to a specific action to be taken in the moment, but this always came in a flash and was directed at a precise need whose means were fully within reach of that individual. The stories of those people are particularly instructive at the most practical level imaginable. I can think of one person I recently met who said he knew UG for over 20 years and the only thing UG ever said to him was, “Sir, do business.” He listened and now he and his wife easily run a healthy prosperous business and he is as genuine a man as I’ve met around UG.
UG never touched speculation, dismissing it immediately if it arose in conversation. This cut off many a conversation since most of our conversation is speculation. People for years came to him, asked his advice, and when he spoke to them, defended themselves or their ideas, (and there is no difference here between a person and an idea, a person in spoken words is nothing but that), attacked him with the universal machinery of speculation. Speculation is the ultimate tool for using imagination to avoid what is in front of you. Our greatness, our sense of progress, the allegations of happiness and love are all speculation if you look closely. We collectively speculate and agree to speculate rather than live. Maybe that’s why the stock market is so successful; its foundation is speculation.
Speaking of speculation, there is the recent matter of Gail Tredwell, upon whom her guru did just that. She recently released a book that must have taken real courage to write, let alone publish, about spending 19 years under the shadow of yet another fake guru. She would never call her a total fake, that’s my take on her. These stories are as numerous as the masses filling the coffers of the endless parade of spiritual clowns out there. I just spent a month in Tiruvannamalai where if you put up a poster, you can get an audience and I guarantee you if you sit there and stare at them in silence for more than ten minutes some of them will have a ‘spiritual experience’. I guarantee this. The more sincere you are, the more you will find them.
Right not the headlines in the Indian news are graced with the tales of another grand dame of modern affections, Mata Amritanandamayi, a.k.a. The Hugging Ma. The hug in our culture is as rampant as it is phony and unavoidable. Try backing away from a hug and see what insult you fling upon your huggee. When asked what he thought of the “Huggy Ma” some years back, UG’s unhesitant reply was “She’s a sex starved bitch.” The evidence in the latest expose-all book called “Holy Hell” will reveal her humanity and be denied by her vast and powerful machinery. Her wealth and power are evident by the fact that already the South Indian police have arrested people for speaking out against her on Facebook. Democrazy? This one knows her stuff at least. ‘Huggy’ claims to no longer have her period but her closest attendant for years tells us that’s just a pose. When it starts there, it never ends. According to her former attendant of 19 years, she diverted her audience’s donations to politicians and her birth family, physically assaults her attendants behind the scenes, and eats like a pig. When asked how she knew this, the woman said, “I delivered the gold and cash to them myself.” If these people were sincere, they would cuff their devotees in clear view of their audience… Where’s the harm in that?
UG took money from some friends and gave it to others and their children in front of everybody. He hit me in front of people, but if there was no audience he left me totally alone. He was silent as the grave when there was no audience. I know this because I sat in that graveyard. I don’t expect people to get the point here if they don’t already agree with me. One thing I constantly struggle with is why to write at all. I know I’m preaching to the converted because none of us are listening anyway. I once told a work colleague about UG and at the end of our conversation he asked me, “So is that your plan, to become a guru?” I knew he hadn’t heard a word I was saying… I’m sure all he heard during our conversation was “Blablabla, I have a guru… blablablabla.” I recently explained to a friend why I was unsuited to having a relationship and didn’t want one. Within hours he showed up with a new date for me. So do we listen? Is the purpose of conversation to really exchange ideas? Its essential for our survival in this snake-pit society, and there is no way of avoiding them, but to expect to actually communicate ideas with people who don’t already share them is pure lunacy, (which makes sense I guess because we live in a societal asylum as it is).
Shakey Jakes Krishnamurti, UG’s mentor and a man he never forgot to insult nearly every day for the rest of his life, was often caught misspeaking in the third person during his talks. You can find it all over the videos on Youtube. “I am not,” pause …” the speaker is not, trying to convince you of anything. “ Why did he bother? Self-effacement is an oxymoron; it would only be possible if in fact there were no self. With UG, there were no missed steps of this sort because he wasn’t trying to get anywhere or convince people of things. “I assert that the only thing there is no other entity other than the first person pronoun ‘I’”. I have listened to hours, hundreds of hours, of his conversations and never do I hear this posturing. UG spoke in the simplest laymen’s terms. He spoke in a way that a child could understand. I suspect children around UG understood more than the adults. This was cured by the training of the adults and the education system, and then puberty and then the pollution of socialization finished off the rest.
Fakes and phonies are always caught out in private, JK’s affairs, Huggy Ma’s nasty behavior, both of their cash hoarding, because they have more work to do, and it’s much harder work than what UG did. Imagine keeping up a front that you are completely selfless to an ever-expanding audience with more money at stake every day. Every day you give satsang to a crowd of hopeful suckers your investment grows and you have more and more to lose! What an enormous pressure must build up. What a drain of energy this would be after while! The great spiritual leader of the 70’s and 80’s, Daffy John, also known as La-Dee-Daa, apparently wept because there were not more people, more followers to appreciate his divinity. Poor bastard! You cannot make this stuff up. Of course the payoff for these fakes is massive, their personal needs will always be met and then some. But a reputation is always in danger of being upended. When UG was accused to screwing around with Parveen Babi, rather than defend his purity his response was, “What more do I want? An old man like me, hanging around with a rich and beautiful Bollywood movie star!”
UG’s life was easy because he had no investment in what people thought of him. For the same reason I like Thoreau and his book Walden. Even with a few shortcomings, he didn’t care what people thought of him. His book is more interesting to read after 150 years than 99% of what has been published in the past 100. Its still fresh, and I’m so glad I ignored it until now so I can enjoy its novelty. Of the news Thoreau said;
“If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, – we never need read of another.”
So why am I going on and on?
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