lovingly called UG by his friends and admirers all over the
world, is no more. The end came on March 22, 2007 at 2.30 pm
in an apartment built for him by his friends Lucia, Anita and
Giovanni in their villa in Vallecrosia, Italy. As per UGs
advice, with no rituals or funeral rites, the cremation was
carried out the next day at 2.45 pm, in Vallecrosia, Italy.
He was eighty-eight years old. UG is survived by his erstwhile
family, comprising his two daughters, Usha and Bharati, and
their respective families and his son, Kumar and his family.
But his actual family is much larger than that, extending over
the entire globe and consisting of numerous friends
to whom he has been closer than their own families and indeed
their own selves.
before, UG had a fall and injured himself. This was the second
such occurrence in two years. He did not want such an incident
to occur once again which would make him further dependent on
his friends for his daily maintenance. So he refused medical
or other external intervention. He decided to let his body take
its own natural course. He was confined to bed and his consumption
of food and water became infrequent and then ceased altogether.
Its time to go, he declared, joined his palms
in namaste, thanked his friends and advised them to return to
their places. Only his longtime friends, the filmmaker, Mahesh
Bhatt, Larry and Susan Morris, and few other friends stayed
back to guard his body and do whatever was necessary when the
end came. UG did not die of any disease, although he suffered
from cardio-spasm for many years, which became quite
severe in the last days of his life.
UG did not
show the slightest signs of worry or fear about death or concern
for his body even at the end of his life. He did not leave any
specific instructions as to how to dispose of his dead body.
You can throw it on the garbage heap, as far as I am concerned,
he often would say.
to questions on death, UG said, Life and death cannot
be separated. When what you call clinical death takes place,
the body breaks itself into its constituent elements and that
provides the basis for the continuity of life. In that sense
the body is immortal.
UG was born on 9 July 1918, in a Telugu-speaking Brahmin family
in Masulipatam, a coastal town in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
He lost his mother when he was seven days old and was brought
up by his maternal grandfather, who was a noted, wealthy lawyer
and a prominent member of the Theosophical Society. UG grew
up in a peculiar milieu of Theosophy and orthodox Hindu religious
beliefs and practices. Even as a boy he was a rebel yet brutally
honest with whatever he did.
He did his
schooling in the town of Gudivada and then his B.A. Honours
Course in Philosophy and Psychology at Madras University. But
the study of the various philosophical systems and Western psychology
made very little impression on him. Where is this mind
these chaps have been talking about? he once asked his
Psychology teacher. It was something extraordinary coming from
a student who was hardly twenty years old, particularly when
Freuds ideas were considered to be the last word on human
14 and 21 years of age, UG spent seven years off and on with
Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh practicing yoga and meditation.
He had various mystical visions and experiences there, but he
questioned their validity as he thought that he could recognize
them only on the basis of his prior knowledge he already had
when UG was 21 years of age, he went and met Sri Ramana Maharshi
and asked him, This thing called moksha, can you give
it to me? Ramana reply, I can give it, but can you
take it? struck him like a thunderbolt and
set him up on a relentless search for truth that ended at the
age of 49 with a totally unforeseen result.
the university, UG joined the Theosophical Society as a lecturer
and toured the country giving talks on Theosophy. Even after
his marriage to Kusuma Kumari in 1943, he continued to work
with the Theosophical Society and gave lectures in European
countries, until, in 1953, he realized that what he was doing
was not something true to his real self and quit the post in
disgust. After that, he met J. Krishnamurti, who was by then
famous as an unconventional spiritual teacher. For two years,
he met him now and again and got into fierce discussions on
spiritual matters, but later on, he was to reject JKs
philosophy, calling it a bogus chartered journey.
period, UG also underwent a life-altering, mystical experience,
what he sometimes called a death experience. But
he brushed it all aside as of no importance and
moved on, further probing and testing and questioning every
experience until he came into his own.
UG went to America with his family to get medical treatment
for his sons polio condition. When his resources began
to diminish, he took to lecturing for a fee. He gave talks on
the major religions and philosophies of the world and soon came
to be recognized as a fine teacher from India. But, as it happened
before, at the end of the second year, he lost interest in lecturing
and then the inevitable happened. His seventeen years of marriage
came to an end. His wife returned to India with the children.
And UG drifted from one thing to another. After his aimless
wanderings in London and Paris, like a dry leaf blown here,
there and everywhere, he landed in Geneva and at last found
refuge in Valentine de Kervens chalet in Saanen. By then
incredible experiences had started to happen to him and his
body was like rice chaff burning inside. It was
a prelude to his clinical death on his forty-ninth
birthday (in 1967) and the beginning of the most incredible
bodily changes and experiences that would catapult him into
a state that is difficult to understand within the framework
of our hitherto known mystical or enlightenment traditions.
For seven days, seven bewildering physical changes took place
and he landed in what he calls the Natural State.
It was a cellular revolution, a full-scale biological mutation.
UG gave his first public talk at the Indian Institute of World
Culture, Bangalore. He never again gave any public talk. But
he did not/could not stop people from meeting and talking to
him. He responded to their queries and answered their questions
in the way only he could. He usually stayed with friends or
in small rented apartments, but never stayed in one place for
more than six months. He gave no lectures or discourses. He
had no organization, no office, no secretary, and no fixed address.
Despite his endless repetition that he had no message
for mankind, ironically yet naturally thousands of people
the world-over felt otherwise and flocked to see and listen
to his anti-teaching. The first book, The Mystique
of EnlightenmentThe unrational ideas of a man called UG,
put together by Rodney Arms, appeared in 1982. In 1986, he went
public and gave his first TV interview, which was soon to be
followed by several TV and radio interviews the world over.
And UG made publishing history by not allowing copyright on
any of his books saying, My teaching, if that is the word
you want to use, has no copyright. You are free to reproduce,
distribute, interpret, misinterpret, distort, garble, do what
you like, even claim authorship, without my consent or the permission
In the last
seven years during his stay in Bangalore, he rarely engaged
in serious conversations; rather he started to do something
else other than answer tiresome questions, for he found all
questions (except in the technical area, which is something
else) were variations of basically the same question revolving
around the ideas of being and becoming.
There used to be long stretches of utter silence. It used to
be embarrassing; also a tremendous relief from the burden of
knowing. And then UG would start playing his enigmatic little
games, or invite friends to sing, dance, or share
jokes. And the room 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!
this UG? What kind of person was he? He was the most enigmatic
person you could ever meet at once kind and cruel, most
loving yet stern, constantly talking about money, seeming to
extract it from friends, yet most generous in giving;
seemingly abusive and punishing, yet showering affection on
the same person the next moment; utterly carefree, yet worrying
about what might happen to the person in front of him; directing
people to act in specific ways, yet instantly accepting of any
outcome; demonstrating the most incisive logic, yet making utterly
contradictory statements. For a man who complained that we are
constantly preoccupied with something other than what is happening
at the moment, he endlessly talked about himself and his past.
One could never fathom UGs true intentions behind his
statements or actions.
to our questions came straight like arrows, unsettling our minds.
He was well-known for striking down not only the edifices we
have so carefully built in our own minds but the foundations
of human thought as a whole. UG was truly enigmatic, subversive
and revolutionary, and totally fearless.
a unique energy with UG: in speech or in stillness it was constant
and vibrant, and had a profound effect on those who were around
this be told: when UG rejected the notion of soul or atman and
declared that our search for permanence was the cause of our
suffering, he sounded like the Buddha; when he blasted all spiritual
discourses as poppycock and thrashed the spiritual
masters as misguided fools, we thought of the fiery
and abusive words of the great 9th century mystic of China,
Rinzai Gigen, who declared, I have no dharma to give
There is no Buddha, no Dharma, no training and no realization
When he spoke of affection as thuds
felt in the spot where the thymus gland is located, we related
it to Sri Ramanas declaration that the true heart
is located on the right side of the chest. Likewise we sometimes
connected his radical statements to certain expressions or declarations
in the Avadhuta Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, the Upanishads and Zen
Koans, or compared them with the teachings of J. Krishnamurti,
Nisargadatta Maharaj and even the post-modern deconstructionists.
We could go on thus, making such connections and comparisons,
but that did not help us to get a handle on the mystery that
that enigma, is no more. Once, a couple of years back, when
Mahesh Bhatt had asked him, UG, how would you like to
be remembered? UG had said, After I am dead and
gone, nothing of me must remain inside of you or outside of
you. I can certainly do a lot to see that no establishment or
institution of any kind mushrooms around me whilst I am alive.
But how do I stop all you guys from enshrining me in your brains?
I have no
teaching. There is nothing to preserve. Teaching implies something
that can be used to bring about change. Sorry, there is no teaching
here, just disjointed, disconnected sentences. What is there
is only your interpretation, nothing else. For this reason there
is not now nor will there ever be any kind of copyright for
whatever I am saying. I have no claims.
no teaching of mine, and never shall be one. "Teaching"
is not the word for it. A teaching implies a method or a system,
a technique or a new way of thinking to be applied in order
to bring about a transformation in your way of life. What I
am saying is outside the field of teachability; it is simply
a description of the way I am functioning. It is just a description
of the natural state of man -- this is the way you, stripped
of the machinations of thought, are also functioning.
My teaching, if that is the word you want to use, has no copyright.
You are free to reproduce, distribute, interpret, misinterpret,
distort, garble, do what you like, even claim authorship, without
my consent or the permission of anybody.
is to point out to you that you can walk, and please throw away
all those crutches. If you are really handicapped, I wouldnt
advise you to do any such thing. But you are made to feel by
other people that you are handicapped so that they could sell
you those crutches. Throw them away and you can walk. Thats
all that I can say. If I fall.... - that is your
fear. Put the crutches away, and you are not going to fall.
me an enlightened man -- I detest that term -- they
cant find any other word to describe the way I am functioning.
At the same time, I point out that there is no such thing as
enlightenment at all. I say that because all my life Ive
searched and wanted to be an enlightened man, and I discovered
that there is no such thing as enlightenment at all, and so
the question whether a particular person is enlightened or not
doesnt arise. I dont give a hoot for a sixth-century-BC
Buddha, let alone all the other claimants we have in our midst.
They are a bunch of exploiters, thriving on the gullibility
of the people. There is no power outside of man. Man has created
God out of fear. So the problem is fear and not God.
state is not the state of a self-realized God-realized man,
it is not a thing to be achieved or attained, it is not a thing
to be willed into existence; it is there -- it is the living
state. This state is just the functional activity of life. By
'life' I do not mean something abstract; it is the life of the
senses, functioning naturally without the interference of thought.
Thought is an interloper, which thrusts itself into the affairs
of the senses. It has a profit motive: thought directs the activity
of the senses to get something out of them, and uses them to
give continuity to itself.
God is the
ultimate pleasure, uninterrupted happiness. No such thing exists.
Your wanting something that does not exist is the root of your
problem. Transformation, moksha, liberation, and all that stuff
are just variations on the same theme: permanent happiness.
experiences, all your meditations, all your prayer, all that
you do, is self-centred. It is strengthening the self, adding
momentum, gathering momentum, so it is taking you in the opposite
direction. Whatever you do to be free from the self also is
a self-centred activity.
nothing there, only your relative, experiential data, your truth.
There is no such thing as objective truth at all. There is nothing
which exists outside or independent of our minds.
thought is not yours or mine. It is our common inheritance.
There is no such thing as your mind and my mind (it is in that
sense mind is a myth). There is only mind, the totality of all
that has been known, felt and experienced by man, handed down
from generation to generation. We are all thinking and functioning
in that thought sphere just as we all share the same atmosphere
been told that you should practice desirelessness. You have
practiced desirelessness for thirty or forty years, but still
desires are there. So something must be wrong somewhere. Nothing
can be wrong with desire; something must be wrong with the one
who has told you to practice desirelessness. This (desire) is
a reality; that (desirelessness) is false it is falsifying
you. Desire is there. Desire as such cant be wrong, cant
be false, because it is there.
is basically violent, because thought is violent. Anything that
is born out of thought is destructive. You may cover it up with
all wonderful and romantic phrases: Love thy neighbour
as thyself. Dont forget that in the name of Love
thy neighbour as thyself millions and millions of people
have died, more than in all the recent wars put together. But
we now have come to a point where we can realize that violence
is not the answer, that it is not the way to solve human problems.
So, terror seems to be the only way. I am not talking of terrorists
blowing up churches, temples, and all that kind of thing, but
the terror that if you try to destroy your neighbour you will
possibly destroy yourself. That realization has to come down
to the level of the common man.
problem is the solution. Your problems continue because of the
false solutions you have invented. If the answers are not there,
the questions cannot be there. They are interdependent; your
problems and solutions go together. Because you want to use
certain answers to end your problems, those problems continue.
The numerous solutions offered by all these holy people, the
psychologists, the politicians, are not really solutions at
all. That is obvious. They can only exhort you to try harder,
practice more meditations, cultivate humility, stand on your
head, and more and more of the same. That is all they can do.
If you brushed aside your hope, fear, and naiveté
and treated these fellows like businessmen, you would see that
they do not deliver the goods, and never will. But you go on
and on buying these bogus wares offered up by the experts.
I can never
sit on a platform and talk. It is too artificial. It is a waste
of time to sit and discuss things in hypothetical or abstract
terms. An angry man does not sit and talk and converse pleasantly
about anger; he is too angry. So dont tell me that you
are in crisis, that you are angry. Why talk of anger? You live
and die in the hope that someday, somehow, you will no longer
be angry. You are burdened with hope, and if this life seems
hopeless, you invent the next life. There are no lives to come.
My interest is not to knock off what others have said (that
is too easy) 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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
is the one who leaves a mess behind him in this world.
have promised roses but you end up with only thorns.
the pub or the temple is exactly the same; it is quick fix.
has no independent existence. You are a squatter there.
sex go together. If God goes sex goes, too.
however extraordinary they may be are in the area of sensuality.
be anything other than what he is. Whatever he is, he will create
a society that mirrors him.
hate are not opposite ends of the same spectrum; they are one
and the same thing. They are much closer than kissing cousins.
a social role, so do prostitutes.
the models of Jesus, Buddha, or Krishna we have destroyed the
possibility of nature throwing up unique individuals.
be more interesting to learn from children, than try to teach
them how to behave, how to live and how to function.