Guha in Cochin
A bright, sunshiny day in Cochin, Kerala
– Photo by Julie Thayer

2-26-15

Cochin, 6 am

What a lovely morning. As the dawn is breaking, the living room, where Guha, Julie and I are seated, is bathed in a soft, serene light. This is our first day in Cochin, a new town, a new place for all three of us. As we sip our morning cuppa, I feel upbeat and full of excitement – this is my golden time to be spending almost three weeks with Guha under the same roof. Can’t tell you how lucky I feel. Guha looks fresh as a daisy although he as well as Julie and I did not sleep a wink last night. He’s been getting non-stop text messages and calls from Rina and Radhika (popularly known as R & R) in the US since three in the morning. Anyway, Manoj, Sanjiv and Kishor have just arrived, raring to ask Guha some serious philosophical and fundamental questions. Guha is all charged up:

  • Utopia does not exist
  • There’s nobody running the show
  • How do I solve the problem? Waiting for an answer is not going to work. There is no how. Nature never asks such questions
  • You can never, never capture it
  • I don’t have a mission. Mission means what? You think you have found something which will save, enrich the humanity
  • To my utter dismay I found that there is nothing there that is representative of me
  • The authority that came out of the social context is the wrong authority
  • We are all unique but not special

Everyone is listening with rapt attention. Now Guha is elaborating on his pet topic – “subject specific functional reality”. Guha has coined this term. He says that each and every person on the planet is endowed with uniqueness. That is to say everybody’s system is uniquely poised or organized so that we look at life through our own distinct “filter”, and react or respond to any given situation in a particular way. This is our functional reality and that is all there is. Guha categorically says, “There is no such thing as ultimate or absolute reality.”

Julie and U.G. Krishnamurti in 1989
Julie and U.G. Krishnamurti in 1989

While these discussions are going on, Julie is in la la land. The minute Guha starts talking, she invariably goes into “yoga nidra”. I have been observing this phenomenon day in day out ever since I met both of them but it never fails to amaze me. Julie Clark Thayer needs no introduction to fans, friends and followers of U.G. Krishnamurti. From the day she met U.G. it was love at first sight for her and was with him off and on for the next 25 years. For the first two years, when Julie was travelling with U.G., she kept a journal in which she gives a no-holds-barred account of her struggles trying to align with U.G. Krishnamurti’s exalted state and the powerful impact of his presence. After reading about her trials and tribulations in Travels with U.G. Krishnamurti, one is reminded of the Upanishadic warning: The path to salvation is narrow and as difficult to walk as a razor’s edge. Freely available on the web, the diary has become a sort of spiritual bestseller. Since U.G.’s death in 2007, she has been a close friend to Guha and travels extensively with him.

ramanaThe human mind has a tendency to compare and contrast and after reading Julie’s diary I am tempted to juxtapose her relationship to U.G., the “roaring sage”, with that of Suri Nagamma’s to Ramana Maharshi, the sage of Arunachala. Even though the time, place and context differ vastly, these two “love stories” captivate me. Suri Nagamma, like Julie, adored her guru, Ramana Maharshi from the very first time she met him. Born in 1902 in a small village in south India, Suri Nagamma had a tragic life. She lost both her parents before she was ten.  At the age of eleven, she got married but in a year’s time, she was widowed. Initially, she was in a shock but slowly she learnt to read and write. As years went by, she immersed herself in scriptures and longed to be with a real guru.

Eventually, she came to Bhagawan in 1941 and never left. In those days, women devotees were not allowed to live in the ashram so she chose to live nearby on her own. From 1945 onwards she started writing letters to her brother regularly, who was living elsewhere, describing to him day to day life with Ramana in the ashram. Those letters were compiled in the famed book Letters from Sri Ramanasramam. Suri Nagamma had surrendered her life to Bhagawan and Bhagawan in turn was very kind and affectionate towards her, like a father to a daughter, as recounted by her in the Letters. Both these women found their salvation in their gurus.

Guha is still talking but I’m not paying much attention. Just feel happy to be here.  We flew here last night from
Mumbai. Manoj and Vidya, who invited Guha, live in a town called Maradu, about 45-minute drive from Cochin airport. The apartment I share with Guha and Julie is on 13th floor, right next door to Manoj’s flat. It is big, airy, nicely furnished, and comes with a fully equipped kitchen. The living room and the bedrooms have long balconies, offering wonderful, panoramic views. Just look out and you will get 360 degree views of peaceful backwaters with a few fishermen in their little round boats, a big fishing net-like contraption I’ve never seen before, and lush greenery. You will also see cute bungalows, big and small, few high rises sprinkled here and there and the highway not too far away. Very pretty.

2-27-15

Pathways of life are not full of roses

Last night, like the night before, I could not get any sleep although we had a hectic day and I was tired.  It was very hot and humid even though the fan was whirring at top speed overhead all night. In the morning when all three of us are having our first tea/coffee of the day I ask Guha: “If I am having physical discomfort like feeling very hot or very cold is it due to conditioning?” Guha’s reply immediately put my mind back in equilibrium, “The best way to resolve the issue is to eliminate all mental movements that produce highs or lows; what remains is the result of reality.Then you can find a proper remedy.”

Bubu arrived last evening from Kolkata. He is a singer by profession and has known Guha for many years. He did not tell any of his friends or family that he has traveled here to be with Guha. Guha forbade him to divulge his whereabouts to anyone in Kolkata, including Bubu’s wife. She is under the belief that her husband is in Cochin for a singing assignment. Guha does not want a certain someone to get the whiff of his arrival in India. As for Manoj, he is a U.G. “goner”. Although he never met U.G. he has been listening to U.G.’s talks for many years. U.G. audios and videos are freely available on YouTube. U.G. seems to have taken such deep roots inside his system that he even talks and behaves like U.G.! Manoj met Guha in Kolkata when the latter was there a few months ago. He was so enamored by Guha that he cancelled his plans to go back home to Delhi and traveled with Guha to Mumbai from Kolkata instead. Recently, he and his family have relocated to Cochin. Sanjiv too is a U.G. follower. He lives in Mumbai and is the proprietor of an interior decorating firm. He met Guha for the first time when the latter was in Mumbai. Both Manoj and Sanjiv stumbled upon Guha’s website while looking for U.G. material online. Kishor is a friend of Sanjiv and a seeker for many years. He spent one year in close association with Ranjit Maharaj who was the brother disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj. Incidentally, Ranjit Maharaj passed away within a year after Kishor met him. Kishor had not even heard of Guha till Sanjiv introduced them. Then, on the spur of the moment he decided to join us. That’s how we are all gathered here.

Guha with friends during a morning walk in Cochin
Guha with friends during a morning walk in Cochin

This morning we want to explore the neighborhood so all of us – Guha and his boys’ club, as he calls them, (Bubu, Manoj, Sanjiv and Kishor), Julie and I decide to go for a walk. We traverse through the tiny village close by which is lined with little houses on both sides. There is hardly any space for us to walk and I notice many local folks, young and old, giving us a curious look. They look modest and unassuming but I am sure they are all highly educated because Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India. In fact, nursing remains one of the top professions for women here who have found lucrative careers in Gulf countries. The village is soon left behind and we are now in the open. There are abundant coconut and palm trees, mango trees, banana groves, even a few drumsticks trees. We follow the dirt road and reach the river bank. The sun is shining bright, the water is calm and peaceful and I see a few fishermen in their tiny boats trying to catch some fish. The scene looks very picturesque and charming to me.

The first thing, as usual, Julie wants to take pictures so we have a photo shoot. Photography is Julie’s passion and she never misses an opportunity to click. A professional photographer, she has published many volumes of her photographs. She has literally taken thousands of pictures of U.G., Guha and friends. Some of her photos of U.G. were so phenomenal that they have been used on book covers.

After the photo session Guha looks at me and laughingly says he will row me in a canoe in the waters, if I want. He knows I am not too fond of being in water and can’t swim. I jokingly reply, “Why don’t you walk across the water, like Jesus did?”

Guha: “I can take you across the river by this boat; I don’t need to walk on the water. As for Jesus walking on water, U.G. would say, ‘It was fortunate for Jesus that the water was only knee deep and unfortunate for the humanity.’”

I declined the offer saying I would not enjoy the ride.

Pat came the reply: “Pathways of life are not full of roses!”

Face to to face with a ‘live wire’

It is 10.15 am now. We are back home. I consider living with Guha and Julie my home, sweet home. I was so thrilled when Guha invited me to go with him to Cochin and even offered to share his and Julie’s apartment with me. How could I refuse? Truly, it is a dream come true for me. We eat our breakfast and go next door. Guha is talking to Manoj. Julie is asleep. Bubu is taking videos/photos (including some selfies :), probably to send them to his family) and Sanjiv and Kishor are soaking it all in. Plenty of laughter and joviality in Guha’s energy field. That’s his trademark. Now he’s getting serious:

  • I’ll sing my song and go. I’m ready now.
  • The system knows this thought will not serve any useful purpose, so it will not allow it to have any impact on the system.
  • The so called choice we think we have is not a choice at all. Our conditioning is sorting information inside us (and throwing out subjective interpretations of that information).
  • When you pose the most difficult challenge to your brain it becomes obsessed with finding a solution and brings out its own unique resolution.
  • Belief structure: How the belief forms from the fantastic perceptive capacity of this organism. If you don’t do that you are dead.
  • When the competition for mere survival is so fierce, so hard to get, the intention which has an imaginative faculty, gives life to what is illusory.
  • Nobody has any power unless you give power to them.
  • What is luck? Why not me? The world is going to run out of resources very soon. Every single tree will be your furniture. The image-making faculty called the will is the problem maker, not the problem solver. You say I accept that I have an infesting wound inside me that has to be taken care of now. But that acceptance of yours has no punch. You still have hope. You can’t even accept something small like unknowability (of the way life moves).

Suddenly, my heart misses a beat and I get that sinking feeling again. I have heard these things coming out of Guha’s mouth ad nauseum since I’ve known him but the words are not hitting home. The brain is still wired in the same way; same old worries, tensions, stresses hold me hostage.Is there no way out? Listening to Guha I have understood that the deep conditioning brought about by the social authority has been ingrained in me since I was an innocent, “not knowing” child. Systematically, social values, created by society to maintain the status quo were introduced to me, forcing me to live a life that is unnatural to my very being. This in turn created tremendous conflict within, almost gagging me with untold pain and suffering. In my mind, I picture Guha telling me unequivocally – THERE IS NO WAY OUT! All you can do is be aware. The sense of self, the “I” which is seeking relief, IS the cause of all problems. So, back to square one.

For over a decade I tried so hard to seek relief from these conflicts – bhakti, mantra, japa, meditation and so on, with Ramana Maharshi and his path of self-enquiry being my last stop, but to no avail. When Ramana entered my life, he brought with him peace and tranquility. I truly and wholeheartedly loved Ramana. I still do, but there is a subtle difference.Now I love the essence called Ramana; the attachment to the form somehow dropped off.  I had many vivid dreams of Bhagwan (on those, later) and he came to me at a time when I had reached the nadir of my suffering. He gave me such sweet love and succor. But as I practiced self-enquiry I seemed to be hitting a wall every time and kept blaming myself that it was because I lacked devotion, dedication or concentration. The ‘I’ was very much alive and all the wonderful “spiritual” experiences I was having did not change me in any way at any level. Truth be told these practices were not addressing my innermost conflicts at all and I could not bring myself to discuss these things with any of my friends in the Ramana group. I was afraid they would tell me that I lacked faith and devotion or that Bhagwan would bestow his grace on me if I persisted with my self-enquiry. I was getting desperate…

Then about a couple of years ago an elderly gentleman came to one of the Ramana satsangs I was hosting. He was very erudite and talked passionately about Ramana and Nisargadatta Maharaj.  In fact,he had seen Ramana when he visited Ramanasram as a boy in the 1940s. Also,he had been with Nisargadatta Maharaj in Mumbai for ten years till the latter passed away in 1981. I was very impressed and invited him again the following week. In the hope that he would be able to resolve my issues, I told him about my hitting dead-end every time I tried to pursue self-enquiry as taught by Ramana Maharshi. He listened without interrupting and finally said this was natural and all sadhakas (aspirants) went through this phase. But in the very next breath he  casually asked me if I had read U.G. Krishnamurti. He had also met U.G. a few times in Mumbai. I said not really but I was not interested because I had heard that he had made derogatory remarks about Ramana. He replied, “No, no it’s not like that,” but did not elaborate.

I continued with my practices with renewed determination till about a month later, out of curiosity, I searched for U.G. material on the web and came across a comprehensive website of books on U.G and his “teachings”. Tentatively, I started reading The Mystique of Enlightenment. To say that the book blew my mind would be a euphemism. All my spiritual citadels came crashing down and I realized that my spiritual ambitions, goals and aspirations amounted to a big zero. No value at all. It was devastating but at the same time kind of unburdening. Over the next couple of months I devoured all books and videos on U.G. I was totally mesmerized by him. In one of the books I came across the name of Guha who, it was stated, had undergone physical transformation after coming in contact with U.G. I also learned that he lived in New Jersey, where I live too. I was intrigued and excited that I could finally come face to face with a “live wire”, a living, self-realized person for the first time in my life. All my previous gurus were dead and gone long ago. I Googled his name and the rest, as they say, is history!

Preface

Part II: You Say Just the Way You See

Part III: A Pilot’s Tale

Part IV: A Collection of Nuclei

Part V: There Is No You

Part VI:The Tiger Is Out

Part VII: Thoughts Drain Life’s Energy

Part VIII: Caught In A Web of Love

Part IX: Never In Past And Never In Future

Part X: Butterflies Are Free

Part XI: Sun Breaks Through Nimbus Clouds

Part XII: Love Goes Toward Love

  1. Richard Mwangi

    Having thoroughly enjoyed reading these reflections and reminiscences on Guha, UG and references to other Sages and friends, I am convinced that a compilation of these writings would be highly sought after, owing to the engaging style of delivery that is highly descriptive and unabashedly yet charmingly personal.

    Please keep writing.

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