Uppaluri Gopala Krishnamurti (July 9, 1918 – March 22, 2007), known as U.G. Krishnamurti, was an Indian thinker who said that there is no “enlightenment”. Although necessary for day to day functioning of the individual, in terms of the Ultimate Reality or Truth he rejected the very basis of thought and in doing so negated all systems of thought and knowledge in reference to It.
“Tell them that there is nothing to understand.”
He was unrelated to his contemporary Jiddu Krishnamurti, although the two men had a number of meetings. To avoid confusion he was usually referred to as “U.G”.
Early life and India
U.G was born on July 9, 1918 in Machilipatnam, a town in coastal Andhra Pradesh, India, and raised in the nearby town of Gudivada. His mother died seven days after he was born, and he was brought up by his maternal grandfather, a wealthy Brahmin lawyer, who was also involved in the Theosophical Society. U.G. also became a member of the Theosophical Society during his teenage years.
During the same period of his life, U.G. reportedly practiced all kinds of austerities and apparently sought moksha or spiritual enlightenment. To that end, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, he undertook all kinds of spiritual exercise, determined to find out whether moksha was possible. Wanting to achieve that state, he had also resolved to prove that if there were people who have thus “realized” themselves, they could not be hypocritical. As part of this endeavor, he searched for a person who was an embodiment of such “realization”.
He spent seven summers in the Himalayas with Swami Sivananda studying yoga and practicing meditation. During his twenties, U.G. began attending the University of Madras, studying psychology, philosophy, mysticism, and the sciences, but never completed a degree, having determined that the answers of the West – to what he considered were essential questions – were no better than those of the East.
In 1939, at age 21, U.G. met with renowned spiritual teacher Ramana Maharshi. U.G. related that he asked Ramana, “This thing called moksha, can you give it to me?” – to which Ramana Maharshi purportedly replied, “I can give it, but can you take it?”. This answer completely altered U.G.’s perceptions of the “spiritual path” and its practitioners, and he never again sought the counsel of “those religious people”. Later, U.G. would say that Maharshi’s answer – which he perceived as “arrogant” – put him “back on track”.
In 1941, he began working for the Theosophical Society, in C.W. Leadbeater’s library. Shortly after, he began an international lecture tour on behalf of the Society, visiting Norway, Belgium, Germany and the United States. Returning to India, he married a Brahmin woman named Kusuma Kumari in 1943, at age 25.
From 1947 to 1953, U.G. regularly attended talks given by Jiddu Krishnamurti in Madras, India, eventually beginning a direct dialogue with him in 1953. U.G. related that the two had almost daily discussions for a while, which he asserted were not providing satisfactory answers to his questions. Finally, their meetings came to a halt. He described part of the final discussion:
“And then, towards the end, I insisted, “Come on, is there anything behind the abstractions you are throwing at me?” And that chappie said, “You have no way of knowing it for yourself”. Finish – that was the end of our relationship, you see – “If I have no way of knowing it, you have no way of communicating it. What the hell are we doing? I’ve wasted seven years. Goodbye, I don’t want to see you again”. Then I walked out.” After the break-up with Jiddu Krishnamurti, U.G. continued travelling, still lecturing. At about the same time he claims to have been “puzzled” by the continuing appearance of certain psychic powers. In 1955, U.G. and his family went to the United States to seek medical treatment for his eldest son, and stayed there for 5 years.
He ultimately separated from his family and went to London where he lived. While sitting one day in Hyde Park, he was confronted by a police officer who threatened to lock him up if he didn’t leave the park. Down to his last five pence, he made his way to the Ramakrishna Mission of London where the residing Swami gave him money for a hotel room for the night. The following day, U.G. began working for the Ramakrishna Mission, an arrangement that lasted for a period of three months. Before leaving the mission he left a letter for the residing Swamiji telling him that he had become a new man.
About this time, Jiddu Krishnamurti was in London and the two Krishnamurtis renewed their acquaintance. Jiddu tried to advise U.G. on his recent marital troubles, but U.G. didn’t want his help. Jiddu eventually persuaded him to attend a few talks he was giving in London, which U.G. did, but found himself bored listening to him.
In 1961, U.G. put an end to his relationship with his wife. Their marriage had been a largely unhappy affair, and by that time he described himself as being “detached” from his family, emotionally as well as physically. He then left London and spent three months living in Paris, using funds he had obtained by selling his unused return ticket to India, during which time he ate a different variety of cheese each day. Down to his last 150 francs, he went to Geneva.
Early Swiss period
After two weeks in Geneva, U.G. was unable to pay his hotel bill and sought refuge at the Indian Consulate. He was listless, without hope, and described himself as “finished” – he requested that he be sent back to India, which the consular authorities refused to do at the state’s expense. A consulate employee in her sixties named Valentine de Kerven offered UG shelter. Valentine and U.G. became good friends, and she provided him with a home in Switzerland.
For the next few years, the questions regarding the subject of enlightenment – or anything else – did not interest him, and he did nothing to further his enquiry. But by 1967, U.G. was again concerned with the subject of enlightenment, wanting to know what that state was, which sages such as Siddhārtha Gautama purportedly attained. Hearing that Jiddu Krishnamurti was giving a talk in Saanen, U.G. decided to attend. During the talk, Jiddu was describing his own state and U.G. thought that it referred to him (U.G.). He explained it as follows:
“When I Iistened to him, something funny happened to me – a peculiar kind of feeling that he was describing my state and not his state. Why did I want to know his state? He was describing something, some movements, some awareness, some silence – “In that silence there is no mind; there is action” – all kinds of things. So, I am in that state. What the hell have I been doing these thirty or forty years, listening to all these people and struggling, wanting to understand his state or the state of somebody else, Buddha or Jesus? I am in that state. Now I am in that state. So, then I walked out of the tent and never looked back.” He continues:
“Then – very strange – that question “What is that state?” transformed itself into another question “How do I know that I am in that state, the state of Buddha, the state I very much wanted and demanded from everybody? I am in that state, but how do I know?””
The next day U.G. was again pondering the question “How do I know I am in that state?” with no answer forthcoming. He later recounted that on suddenly realizing the question had no answer, there was an unexpected physical, as well as psychological, reaction. It seemed to him like “a sudden explosion inside, blasting, as it were, every cell, every nerve and every gland in my body.” Afterwards, he started experiencing what he called “the calamity”, a series of bizarre physiological transformations that took place over the course of a week, affecting each one of his senses, and finally resulting in a deathlike experience. He described it this way:
“I call it calamity because from the point of view of one who thinks this is something fantastic, blissful and full of beatitude, love, or ecstasy, this is physical torture; this is a calamity from that point of view. Not a calamity to me but a calamity to those who have an image that something marvelous is going to happen.” Upon the eighth day:
“Then, on the eighth day I was sitting on the sofa and suddenly there was an outburst of tremendous energy – tremendous energy shaking the whole body, and along with the body, the sofa, the chalet and the whole universe, as it were – shaking, vibrating. You can’t create that movement at all. It was sudden. Whether it was coming from outside or inside, from below or above, I don’t know – I couldn’t locate the spot; it was all over. It lasted for hours and hours. I couldn’t bear it but there was nothing I could do to stop it; there was a total helplessness. This went on and on, day after day, day after day.”
“The energy that is operating there does not feel the limitations of the body; it is not interested; it has its own momentum. It is a very painful thing. It is not that ecstatic, blissful beatitude and all that rubbish – stuff and nonsense! – it is really a painful thing.”
U.G. could not, and did not, explain the provenance of the calamity experiences. In response to questions, he maintained that it happened “in spite of” his pre-occupation with – and search for – enlightenment. He also maintained that the calamity had nothing to do with his life up to that point, or with his upbringing. Several times he described the calamity happening to him as a matter of chance, and he insisted that he could not possibly, in any way, impart that experience to anybody else.
According to U.G., his life-story can be separated into the pre- and post-calamity parts. Describing his post-calamity life, he claimed to be functioning permanently in what he called “the natural state”: A state of spontaneous, purely physical, sensory existence, characterized by discontinuity – though not absence – of thought.
After his calamity experience, U.G. often travelled to countries around the world, declining to hold formal discussions yet talking freely to visitors and those that sought him out. He gave his only formal post-calamity public talk in India, in 1972.
“Nagaraj who was sitting quietly all this time said, “U.G., what exactly are you trying to put across?” U.G. replied, “Depends on you, not on me. This you don’t seem to understand. You are the only medium through which I can express myself.””
His unorthodox non-message/philosophy and the often uncompromising, direct style of its presentation, generated a measure of notoriety and sharply divided opinions. At the extremes, some people considered him enlightened,[who?] while others considered him nothing more than a charlatan. The clamor increased as books and articles about U.G. and his newly expounded philosophy continued appearing.
Several of his group discussions and interviews have been published in books, and/or are carried verbatim in various websites. There is also a variety of audio and video documents available online.
On March 22, 2007 U.G. Krishnamurti died at Vallecrosia in Italy. He had slipped and injured himself, and was bedridden for seven weeks before his death. Three friends, including long term devotee Mahesh Bhatt were by his side when he died. In February 2007 he had dictated his final speech, “My Swan Song”.
He had asked that no rituals or funeral rites be conducted upon his death; also, he did not leave instructions on how to dispose of his body. U.G.’s body was cremated by Bhatt the next day. True to his own philosophy, U.G. did not want to be remembered after his death.
“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”.
“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.”
U.G. emphasized the impossibility and non-necessity of any human change, radical or mundane. These assertions, he stated, cannot be considered as a “teaching”, that is, something intended to be used to bring about a change. He insisted that the body and its actions are already perfect, and he considered attempts to change or mold the body as violations of the peace and the harmony that is already there. The psyche or self or mind, an entity which he denied as having any being, is composed of nothing but the “demand” to bring about change in the world, in itself, or in both. Furthermore, human self-consciousness is not a thing, but a movement, one characterized by “perpetual malcontent” and a “fascist insistence” on its own importance and survival.
U.G. denied the existence of an individual mind. However, he accepted the concept of a world mind, which according to him contained the accumulation of the totality of man’s knowledge and experience. He also used ‘thought sphere'(atmosphere of thoughts) synonymously with the term ‘world mind’. He stated that human beings inhabit this thought realm or thought sphere and that the human brain acts like an antenna, picking and choosing thoughts according to its needs. U.G. held all human experience to be the result of this process of thought. The self-consciousness or ‘I’ in human beings is born out the need to give oneself continuity through the constant utilization of thought. When this continuity is broken, even for a split second, its hold on the body is broken and the body falls into its natural rhythm. Thought also falls into its natural place – then it can no longer interfere or influence the working of the human body. In the absence of any continuity the arising thoughts combust.He stated that we inhabit a thought realm. When the continuity of thought is broken, even for a split second, its hold on the body is broken and the body falls into its natural rhythm. Thought also falls into its natural place – then it can no longer interfere or influence the working of the human body. In the absence of any continuity the arising thoughts combust.
In its natural state, the senses of the body take on independent existences (uncoordinated by any ‘inner self’) and the ductless glands (that correspond to the locations of the Hindu chakras) become reactivated. UG described how it is the pineal gland (Ajna Chakra) that takes over the functioning of the body in the natural state, as opposed to thought.
U.G. also maintained that the reason people came to him (and to gurus), was in order to find solutions for their everyday real problems, and/or for solutions to a fabricated problem, namely, the search for spirituality and enlightenment. He insisted that this search is caused by the cultural environment, which demands conformity of individuals as it simultaneously places within them the desire to be special – the achievement of enlightenment thus viewed as a crowning expression of an individual’s “specialness” and uniqueness. Consequently, the desire for enlightenment is exploited by gurus, spiritual teachers, and other “sellers of shoddy goods”, who pretend to offer various ways to reach that goal. According to U.G., all these facilitators never deliver, and cannot ever deliver, since the goal itself (i.e. enlightenment), is unreachable.
“Man is just a memory. You understand things around you by the help of the knowledge that was put in you. You perhaps need the artist to explain his modern art, but you don’t need anybody’s help to understand a flower. You can deal with anything, you can do anything if you do not waste your energy trying to achieve imaginary goals.”
The articulation of his insights, at least in public, did not begin until U.G. was well into middle age. According to U.G., despite his lifelong efforts to bring about spiritual enlightenment, he underwent a life-altering series of bodily experiences, which he collectively referred to as the “calamity”. (See sections below).
According to U.G., “The so called self-realization is the discovery for yourself and by yourself that there is no self to discover. That will be a very shocking thing because it’s going to blast every nerve, every cell, even the cells in the marrow of your bones.”
“I am not anti-rational, just unrational. You may infer a rational meaning in what I say or do, but it is your doing, not mine.”