The Way It Is

We may roughly discern about three phases in UG’s life and ‘teaching’. First, from 1967 to almost late 70s, his approach may be termed as raw, soft, tender and obliging. During this time, the bodily changes in UG were still going on and it was to take another three years for these changes to settle down and let the body fall into a rhythm all its own. The reader will know that these conversations (from 1967-71) are a classic example of that phase, wherein we find UG, referring, though cautiously, to other Sages and their teachings and to certain religious texts approvingly. This was, in a sense, a different UG, unedited UG, who was ‘open’ and persuasive, taking along, or leading the listeners, ever so sympathetically and caringly, on a journey into the exploration of the functioning of the mind and the body, pointing out the irrelevancies of methods and techniques for ‘self-realization’, the unnatural state and its problems, the natural state as a physiological state of being and how it could impact or change the world consciousness and so on.

Second, during 1980s and 90s, he was literally a sage in rage. His words were deep and explosive and cathartic. He was like fire that burned everything into a heap of ash so that a new beginning could be made, without the touch of sorrow. This was also the time when he decided to go ‘public’ by way of giving TV interviews and radio talks in order to reach out to people in the wider world, who may be interested and honest and ready to ‘die’ in order to see things as they are. Some of the statements he made during these days were at once subversive and stunning:

‘Love is war. Love and hate spring from the same source. Cause and effect are the shibboleths of confused minds. Mind is a myth. Feeling too is a thought. Thought is your enemy. Man is memory. Charity is vulgar. Mutual terror, not love will save mankind. Attending Church and going to a bar for a drink are identical. There is nothing inside you but fear. God, Soul, love, happiness, the unconscious, reincarnation and death are non-existent figments of our rich imagination. Freud is the fraud of the 20th century, while J Krishnamurti is its greatest phoney…’

He was like a machine gun that went off every time we tossed a question at him. It was like skeet shooting. He exploded every myth, every frame of thought, challenging the very foundation of human culture. And finally, and invariably, after rejecting and dismissing every idea, he would point out: ‘My interest is not to knock off what others have said, but to knock off what I am saying. More precisely, I am trying to stop what you are making out of what I am saying. This is why my talking sounds contradictory to others. I am forced by the nature of your listening to always negate the first statement with another statement. Then the second statement is negated by a third, and so on. My aim is not some comfy dialectical thesis, but the total negation of everything that can be expressed. Anything you try to make out of my statements is not it.’

It was during this phase that people would call him, especially in the media, a sage in rage, a cosmic naxalite, anti-guru and so on, and this image of him as a raging sage somehow got overemphasized and sort of fixed even in the minds of UG admirers, not to speak of the media and those who had only a vague idea of who he was and his teaching. It only showed, how difficult it was, caught up as we are in a dualistic mode of thinking and being, to understand the non-dual truth (advaya, there is no two) he was trying to convey. The fact, however, is that, like the Buddha, he was merciless yet compassionate. Like the Buddha who knocked off all narratives as mere mental constructs and are a hindrance to come into the state of nirvana, UG, by exploding all our ideas and ideals, not merely pulled the carpet from under our feet, but destroyed the very, apparently secure but false ground on which we stood. He would not allow us to cling to any lie, because a lie is a lie and it falsified our lives. The truth, howsoever hard, shattering and shocking, had to be brought to us.

The last ten years before his death may be characterized as the phase of playfulness and laughter. During this period, he rarely engaged in ‘serious’ conversations; rather, he started to do something else other than answer tiresome questions, for all questions (except in the technical area, which is something else) were variations of basically the same question revolving around the idea of ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ which, nonetheless, amounted to the same ‘becoming’ process, that is, seeking continuity of the self. So there used to be long stretches of utter silence: embarrassing, even exasperating; also, mercifully, a great relief from the burden of knowing. And then he would start playing his enigmatic funny little ‘games’, or invite friends to sing, dance, or share jokes. And the space would explode with laughter: funny, silly, dark, and apocalyptic! At last freed from the tyranny of knowledge, beauty, goodness, truth, and God, we would all mock and laugh at everything, mock heroes and lovers, thinkers and politicians, scientists and thieves, kings and sages, including UG and ourselves!

A caveat is in order here. The different phases we tend to see in UG’s life is our own reading or interpretation of things, and it could easily change when viewed from a different perspective. And all perspectives, we know, are informed by our expectations or wishes. However, the essential thrust in his approach was always the same. One, he described the way we functioned in the unnatural state, caught in a world of opposites, constantly struggling to become something other than what we are, and in search of non-existent gods and goals. How we all are thinking and functioning in a ‘thought sphere’ just as we all share the same atmosphere for breathing. How and why we have no freedom of action, unless and until the self comes to an end; and why the self, which is self-protective and fascist in nature, is not the instrument to help us to live in harmony with the life around us. Two, preferring the term natural state over against enlightenment, he insisted that whatever transformation he had gone through was within the structure of the human body and not in the mind at all. And he described the natural state as a pure and simple physical and physiological state of being. It is the state of ‘primordial awareness without primitivism’, or the ‘undivided state of consciousness’, where all desires and fear, and the search for happiness and pleasure, God and truth, have come to an end. It is an acausal state of ‘not-knowing’. And he never tired of pointing out that ‘this is the way you, stripped of the machinations of thought, are also functioning.’

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…..UG loves to put all usual revered symbols and concepts (and money too) in the same basket and have a good laugh at man’s illusion in worshipping them as gods, although these gods have never, and will never, deliver the promised goods.

‘We should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh,’ declares Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.

With UG you can have several laughs—keep laughing, if you can—at all ‘truths’ humanity holds dear to itself with the fond hope that they would eventually usher in the much-sought-after freedom and happiness without the touch of sorrow.

‘Comedy’ says Lee Siegel, ‘challenges notions of meaning, strives to undermine all hermeneutics and epistemologies, and exposes the ambiguities inherent in any knowing and feeling. In the world of comedy, absurdity itself is the logos. The senselessness of the universe makes comic sense. Laughter expresses the comic understanding that nothing is ever really understood.’ In other words, hasya or comic rasa mocks heroes and lovers, saints and sages. It delivers us from the tyranny of beauty, goodness, truth, and God.

The nirguna poets, the poets of non-dualism, use the technique of metaphor, oxymoron and paradox in their poetry only to turn language topsy-turvy, and try to break rather than construct ideas and images. Names and forms create illusions, yet they use names and forms to demolish them. Apparently, one might think that UG too uses language in the style of these mystic-poets. But that is not so. The mystic-poets, like the deconstructionists today, deconstruct symbols, images and ideas, but they are not finished with the language, not finished with the need to express the inexpressible. There is still that agony, that sense of separation or incompleteness.

With UG, there is nothing to express, for all expressions are false, even to say something is false, is false. There is only rejection, wholly and totally, and there is laughter. There is in him the delightful giggle of Krishna, the drinker of milk, and the attahasa or apocalyptic laughter of Siva, the drinker of poison.

Everything is laughed at and laughed away and at the end of it all what one is left with is emptiness! A considerable number of men and women show up everyday, and keep grinning, giggling, roaring with laughter from morning till late evening. It seems they come there more in anticipation of having a good dose of laughter rather than to be instructed on the right way of living, or the path to liberation. Perhaps, to them, a dose of laughter is more liberating than a bagful of profound ideas.

Actually, profound or spiritual ideas are an anathema there, to be ridiculed and laughed at. Swearwords are the order of the day. One is welcomed not with grace, tenderness or compassion, but with a barrage of swearwords and laughter. UG says jokingly that he learnt to them from Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. It is said that Ramakrishna often swore in his freewheeling conversations with people, and that he laughed a lot, reeling off jokes that inspired much laughter. ‘Laughter was for him,’ writes Lee Siegel, ‘a mirthful expression of freedom-in-bondage, detachment without disinterest, and transcendence-in-being.’

‘Excremental imagery abounds in comedy,’ declares Lee Siegel.  And true enough, UG’s talk is full not only of swearwords, but also disgustingly delightful references to shit, and sex, too. Since we are all shitters from birth to death and are born as a result of sexual intercourse, about which we always appear to be embarrassed and ashamed, the laughter that UG inspires and provokes with his ‘shit and sex talk’ does truly relieve us of that embarrassment and help us realize our humanness. Pray, what else can you be?!

Sometimes, UG refers to our memory (knowledge or data bank) as a ‘shit box’, saying: ‘There are ideas in your stomach… you eat ideas… it doesn’t come out down there but from your mouth as oral shit… There is nothing more to it…’

One evening last September, a charming young director of a hugely successful musical film happened to be present. Somehow the talk veered towards music, and UG suddenly said, ‘When we go to the toilet sometimes we make sound, there is more melody in that sound than all your music put together.’

We all laughed heartily. The film director laughed, too. But I could not say if it was a nervous reaction or one of good humour.

Reference to sex also pervade his talk, particularly when he picks on gods, the messiahs and famous people. The sacred becomes profane, holiness a pile of shit, the virgin birth a dirty joke. Sankara, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed are dismissed in a way that the believers wouldn’t want to hear, even in their dirtiest dreams. ‘God is the ultimate pleasure,’ he would quip. ‘If sex has to go, God has to go first.’ Thus, constantly it seems, he is trying to free us from the ‘burden of the cultural garbage-sack, the dead refuse of the past,’ from the tyranny of religious values and God.

There have been occasions when we have joked and laughed at UG, too. From the heights of Kailash, as Siegel would say, everything becomes comical. What is not generally known is that Sanskrit texts, as much as folk literatures, are full of subversive, comical stories and remarks that provoke laughter at everything we hold dear, at every established, dominant value or idea, at everything considered holy and divine. We laugh at the great triumvirate of Hinduism: Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma; we laugh at the sages as much as the kings, at the so-called idiots or fools as well as the wise ones. And we realize we are actually laughing at ourselves, for we are all that we laugh at, including the gods.

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For more read

The Other Side of Belief: Interpreting U.G.Krishnamurti
The Other Side of Belief: Interpreting U.G.Krishnamurti