Arjuna (John Hogue) remembers the morning he was responsible for making a grim and serious mystic J. Krishnamurti laugh like a luminous child of light.
Jiddu Krishnamurti spent most of his adult life as a globe-trotting wandering teacher – some would say an Anti-Guru’s Guru – speaking to gatherings large and small, completely having dropped the Theosophist movement to form his own foundation. He regularly appeared each year for longer discourse events at what had been former Theosophist centers in Ojai, California; Saanen, Switzerland; and the Krishnamurti School at Brockwood Park, UK. He spoke at various Krishnamurti non-profit schools around the world and back at Adyar in South India where his journey from being the world-teacher apparent to loner Anti-Guru’s Guru began.
He also frequently spoke in the teaming Indian metropolis of Mumbai. There, during the 1970s he was often faced with large numbers of Osho’s orange and red-clad disciples in the packed audiences, many sitting up in the front rows. Osho had encouraged his sannyasins to attend Krishnamurti’s discourses which was not hard to do as Mumbai was just 110 kilometers from Pune, where we had our Ashram.
I didn’t get my chance to sit before Krishnamurti as a sannyasin in my first trip to the Pune Ashram in the early 1980s; my turn came later that spring of 1981.
After I had returned to America, it arose in me to go very early on a long drive from San Pedro, California, to Ojai where Krishnamurti was speaking that morning. Gathering up the largest picnic blanket I had, I drove off in my little red station wagon on a 2,5 hour drive northwest to picturesque Ojai Valley in Ventura County.
Arriving there, dressed in my long maroon cotton robe and wearing the mala with Osho’s locket, I immediately went to the discourse area named Oak Grove and unfurled the big fluffy blanket on the grass exactly in front of Krishnamurti’s low, colorful mat-covered platform where a folding chair had been placed. I then began hunting for any arriving sannyasins similarly clad in the colors of sunset with malas, cheerfully saying, “We’re going to sit right in front of Krishnamurti.” I managed to crowd twelve sannyasins in two rows on that blanket.
We sat and waited for him to come. Behind our blanket gathered many people upon a low sloping hill shaped like a natural amphitheater with oak trees shading much of it. This is where the majority of around 1,000 people would either lay down their blankets or bums on cool grass for the talk. I could see other sunset-colored folk scattered throughout the growing assembly.
A little too much time.
I could hear regular participants in the daily discourse remark that Krishnamurti was late, wondering if something happened to him. The time was May 1981, close to his 86th birthday on May 12th. Sitting next to me was a sannyasin in a long orange skirt and flowing blouse, tied to the waist by a cloth belt. Both blouse and skirt more yellow than the prescribed orange, it matched her golden hair well.
Because of what happened next I don’t wish to mention her name to protect the beloved guilty one. I’ll call her, the ‘Golden Girl’ with curly blond locks like Goldie Locks in the fairy tale.
Speaking of tail, the Golden Girl’s tail bone and bottom were going asleep waiting for the great, now late, Krishnamurti. She needed to rearrange her position requiring in her innocence of the surroundings a rather large lifting of her tent-like skirt facing the empty meadow beyond two old oaks in the foreground. So uplifted was her a’dressed skirt that I could clearly see our Golden Girl had delightful, slightly reddish, Rhine-Golden maiden hair. (Wagner’s Rhine maidens would have admiringly sang, Hiya-ta-HO! If they enjoyed my view).
As much as any Scorpio-born Wagnerian could enjoy the skirted curtain rising operatically displaying the bare naked Rhine maiden moment, I was having an equally, bad Scorpionic premonitory feeling.
I sensed somebody was watching. Somebody not happy.
I said to Osho’s Golden Girl disciple, “Please lower your dress. If Krishnamurti is coming to the talk he’s going to walk right through those… – I turned to see a little Indian man – …trees.”
The distinguished little Indian man, a shock of snowy white hair combed over his bald pate was J. Krishnamurti, impeccably dressed I recall in shades of medium to dark gray in Western slacks, sleeveless sweater, light long-sleeved summer shirt and wearing sneakers. His eyes were bugging out in horror, looking straight up the innocently opened legs at the terminus of the Golden Girl’s Rhine maiden snatch.
It is hard to describe how he looked so horrified about that – made harder in later years when I discovered how sexually unrepressed and healthy he actually was, reading his talks on sex and love. I came to know that he had in fact first-hand and thorough experience having sex and making “love.” A lot of it. He had mutually enjoyed a very long and secret love affair with American-born Rosalind Williams during the time she was married to D. Rajagopal, the director of Krishnamurti’s Happy Valley School in Ojai. The affair lasted more than 25 years. ²
Krishnamurti was leaning over looking from behind the broad trunk of the oak to our right. He stepped out in profile and looked up from the maiden hair into the sky letting out a long, exasperated, and head-to-toe total sigh. Then, gathering his energy and composure, he settled, standing upright.
He walked out from between the two oaks the epitome of a very stern Victorian-era Indian school master. Master Krishnamurti of this school for proper girls and boys, “was not amused.” Not “happy” in the happy Ojai valley was he.
He left the two oaks before the open field and slowly advanced towards us and the podium from just behind it, a little to our right. He mounted the low, rug-covered platform heading for his little chair right before us; I wasn’t sure whether he was advancing to be guillotined or was about to play executioner for the 12 of us.
Part martyr, part executioner, Krishnamurti reached his chair, sat down, an assistant affixed a mike on his sweater collar and left. He sat there with knees together tight and with stiff upper lip he regarded the palms of his open hands.
The small school master of big energy then suddenly looked up at the miscreants all decked out in colors of the sun, mostly red – Krishnamurti, born a Taurus (Bull) was seeing only red!
He witheringly yet intimately regarded each and every one of us one at a time with his careful, glowering distain. Then, back to the contemplation of his palms he went for long and endless moments making the atmosphere heavy with his view of our offense as it became deeply silent.
He looked up over us at the general audience for only a moment to pointedly, severely say in his high and refined voice thick with an upper-class cultured British accent, “This… is not a Joke.”
“This is a very serious endeavor… I am not a guru, you are not followers…
We are in this investigation into the problem together…”
He began to speak to us, the gang of 12. His discourse started with his usual theme against “non-sectarian GOO-roos,” that no one from the outside can show you or give ‘it’ to you. You can only find enlightenment yourselves, only by looking deep inside beyond the mind. Beyond thinking is that fact of the observer and the observed being one. He then began a long and detailed journey negating a list of all the ways why he was “not a guru.”
There were so many little things he did that were like Osho. The way he looked at people with transparent but beautifully aware eyes. The way he floated as he walked. That childlike turn of the head with a little after bob. There was a white light around him that he forcibly did not want people to imbibe, especially the few who recognized it.
He was quite severe about that.
Looking right at me as I began to close my eyes and be bathed by it, he hissed in a demeaning tone, like it was an invisible slap, “And I’m not a drug…!”
It was a surprise to see the light around such an angry – even at times abusive – little school master, a dark scolding bathed in light he did not want us to take in.
Paradoxically, he was giving our little band all of his attention and we drank it all up, hits and all, smiling lovingly back. We often nodded in agreement about what he saw was stupid and wrong about us following a guru, but there was that certain something he couldn’t quite understand about us. It somehow upset his serenity. That we had something too, maybe not fully come to awareness yet, but he was at odds with we oddities with malas dressed in shades of red.
Nothing he said was untrue about us. It was like, “Yeah, we’re everything you’ve said. We agree with you…” And there was this gap for him to deal with, this puzzlement caused by us becoming more serene under his intensifying, scathing critique.
He didn’t understand our surrender…
It reminded me of Osho’s Zen stories where the Zen master one day would castigate his disciples for meditating, that it was completely stupid, useless. Being with a guru was a waste of time. They were failures! Fools! Just give up, get up, and leave!
Some disciples used it as an excuse to escape the Zen master. Other disciples would smile and go back to meditating.
The master was quietly pleased about that.
The gang of 12 on my picnic blanket got the full-spectrum Krishnamurti experience. He put his entire energy for 20 minutes talking only to us. He literally shut out the other 1,000 people attending. That is what many a sannyasin scattered in that crowd told me afterwards. I was also made aware that many of the regular followers were feeling left out. That what was going on had never happened before in their experience sitting with Krishnamurti.
He finished his list of reasons, coming at last to the climax. He looked up from us, now bringing everybody else in, saying, “And that is why I am not a GOO-roo!”
Then Krishnamurti made this totally rude and dismissively sweeping gesture with his hand and arm directed to the 12, like we were an outrageous and idiotic example why he would never be a guru of such riff-raff.
He gestured and rolled his eyes, thunderously yelling: “THAAAAAANK!! GOD!!!!”
The tension building for 20 minutes broke. All 12 of us found ourselves bowled over by his lion-roared declaration, rolling on our backs in great gales of laughter.
It was a happening; spontaneous, full of joy.
Krishnamurti was completely shocked and surprised by our reaction. He drew a luminous BLANK! The knees on the chair unlocked. His posture became childlike, relaxed. He leaned over us, curious, looking at us with wide and innocent eyes of wonder. The meanness, the Victorian anal-retentive school teacher, his issue about gurus – for the moment at least — GONE.
As we laughed and rolled around on the blanket and the grass, I was told later that every other sannyasin scattered throughout the 1,000 people behind us also spontaneously did the same to the utter shock and bewilderment of the regular Krishnamurti crowd.
Then he shocked them further.
He now was like a luminous, wide-eyed kid, a little rascal, gazing in innocent wonder at the red rolling dozen at his feet, joining in with our laughter, hiding his mouth not too well with his right hand, purring in his high voice, the little microphone on his collar catching it for all to hear: “Hee hee, heh, heh… hee hee…”
And then the magic was gone. We’d had our laugh and took back our places before him. He moved on speaking to us and the general audience in simple, intellectually refined language. Recess over, come back to class.
Another shock was coming.
Krishnamurti back to his normal delivery seemed to be a little out of sorts, a little sour, like a kindly but poor sport after being the target of a very public practical joke – some lingering grumpiness growing.
Suddenly he just broke off talking; glancing at his watch he said a bit pained and flatly, “I know the talk was supposed to last 45 more minutes but I don’t want to talk anymore.”
The assistant sprung up to take the microphone off his sweater. Krishnamurti got up, turned and walked off the platform a lot like Osho would do, gone from his attention of all of us and totally attentive to the next moment walking back through the two oak trees, across the grass to the compound. The way he walked was just like Osho, full of silently sweet, deepening emptiness and grace.
I went to Ojai two more times in that spring of 1981. The second time I brought my mother. She would become a disciple of Osho named Ma Dhyan Vipassana in August 1981. We arrived later than my first time round but we were still in the front row, about ten people down from Krishnamurti’s right. At one point in the talk he was looking at us all with luminous, easy eyes. He looked at me kindly for a moment and then turned his eyes away. But suddenly he swung his head back and shot a stern look at me in mala and maroon robe.
Krishnamurti had recognized the ring leader of the Osho sannyasin picnic blanket party from a few days before. He gave me his version of “Guru stare stripping you spiritually naked” – the most profound nakedness you can ever experience – just the way Osho used to sometimes unexpectedly do.
Osho, however, wasn’t stern, just an intense, pure emptiness. If you didn’t meet that emptiness with emptiness, the mind could turn his empty mirror of a face into whatever the mind wanted to express.
J. Krishnamurti lived another four years and nine months, peacefully dying in his bedroom in the same compound in Ojai, halfway through his 91st year, in February 1986. Osho had this to say about Krishnamurti’s growing frustration in his final days about his teaching not reaching people:
Krishnamurti failed because he could not touch the human heart; he could only reach the human head. The heart needs some different approaches. This is where I have differed with him all my life: unless the human heart is reached, you can go on repeating parrot-like, beautiful words – they don’t mean anything. Whatever Krishnamurti was saying is true, but he could not manage to relate it to your heart. In other words, what I am saying is that J. Krishnamurti was a great philosopher but he could not become a master. He could not help people, prepare people for a new life, a new orientation.
But still I love him, because amongst the philosophers he comes the closest to the mystic way of life.
He himself avoided the mystic way, bypassed it, and that is the reason for his failure. But he is the only one amongst the modern contemporary thinkers who comes very close, almost on the boundary line of mysticism, and stops there. Perhaps he’s afraid that if he talks about mysticism people will start falling into old patterns, old traditions, old philosophies of mysticism. That fear prevents him from entering. But that fear also prevents other people from entering into the mysteries of life. ²
Three years later, I was sitting in our nightly meeting with Osho in Buddha Hall in Pune, India, when Osho added further observations:
Krishnamurti, a man who struggled for ninety years – his last words have some great meaning. One of my friends was present there. Krishnamurti lamented, he lamented his whole life. He lamented that ‘people have taken me as an entertainment. They come to listen to me….’
The reason was that Krishnamurti only talked, but never gave any devices in which whatever he was talking about became an experience. It was totally his fault. Whatever he was saying was absolutely right, but he was not creating the right climate, the right milieu in which it could become a seed. Of course he was very much disappointed with humanity, and that there was not a single person who had become enlightened through his teachings. His teachings have all the seeds, but he never prepared the ground. ³
I saw the process firsthand on that morning at Ojai. But despite the tragic failure of his lifetime effort, my favorite memory of Jiddu Krishnamurti was that unguarded childlike moment of laughter we provoked and the serene way he emptied himself of his intellectualism. For a moment, he released himself of any care about the 12 of us, and all the others on the slope shaded by the oaks. And when he took his unscheduled early leave of us he walked away completely in Aloneness across that grass field in Ojai where the lawn and the laughing purple Californian mountains were one with him, understanding him.
¹ Life in the Shadow of Krishnamurti by Radha Rajagopal Sloss, daughter of Rosalind Rajagopal nee Williams
² Osho, Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries, Ch 25
³ Osho, Rinzai: Master of the Irrational, Ch 5