Guha with Manoj and Kishor (right)

 

6.1.15

New Jersey

Manoj, Guha, Kishor, Radhika and I are with Guha at his home this evening. Since Guha’s house number is 42 we usually refer to it as 42.

Manoj (as he prepares to return to Cochin in a few days): How can I get a piece of you when I’m back home?

Guha: You don’t need it, that’s why you don’t get it. It’s all complete at the inception.

A little later:

G: Remembrance is always in terms of thoughts and memories. U.G. made it clear that there was nothing in my memory that had any importance to the energy I was dealing with… I could trash in one second everything. The powerful energy beating through your guts like there’s no tomorrow burns everything. Dead bodies (saints, sages) are just ideas, images. If I know those ideas don’t match the way life is functioning, then they are useless.

He added, “When you do not try to control your environment then you are free, you are symbiotically connected with life.”

Turning to Radhika, “You are not interested in what I’m trying to convey.” She argues how he is so sure of that. He replies, “Everything about you (or anyone else) tells me that. What you are interested in is to earn money, earn fame, seek pleasure, etc. Whether you sit here or go home it makes no difference; might as well earn money. If you are really honest you will ask yourself what is your interest?”

Radhika retorts, “You wouldn’t engage with somebody if you didn’t think they were really interested in what you have to say.” Guha laughingly tells her, “What a clever mind you have and what a beautiful justification!”

Guha continues talking. I hear phrases like power of delusion having no limits, doing seva, worshiping images, becoming a bonded slave, emancipation, subject specific functional reality and so on. And then this, “Your concern is how your core conflict is addressed by your system. Thought and logical thinking have no meaning for the freedom you are seeking. U.G. used to say even a dog knows how to go back home to his master. At the end of the day, you will find yourself on your two little feet which are sooooo strongly grounded.”

Now he’s talking to Rina on the phone. Guha says there are snake-like swellings around her neck at times. Many years ago while she was visiting Africa a mamba snake walked over her feet. Locals believe it is very rare that someone can come out alive after such an incident. This led Shujaat, the jokester in Guha court, to call her Mambadevi. Moreover, Rina hails from Mumbai whose patron deity is Mumbadevi. So the name has stuck.

Radhika: Explain what you mean by there’s no such thing as truth.

G: Thought cannot capture the living moments of life. That is the only truth. Everything else is just an idea, a concept. We have accepted certain things as truth, that’s all. For example, we have divided time into B.C. and A.D. Can you call that truth? Everything is like that.

Manoj keeps butting in while Radhika and Guha are discussing life issues in earnest. Radhika gets annoyed and remonstrates him, “Manoj, stop it. Aap kyon hamesha damroo bajate rahte ho?” (Why are you are always playing the damru (a small two-headed drum))?

M: When I say I see you (Guha) is that the truth?

G: No, it is not. Can you call it truth? Then you have to get down to semantics. Who is looking, who is seen, etc. Can you look at anything without having an idea about it?

M: I have no way of looking at you except through the knowledge I have about you. How true is the Vedic statement, “Brahma satya, jagat mithya?” (Brahman is truth, manifest universe is false)

G: Jagat is what is (in front of you). Any idea you have about jagat is maya.

Guha and U.G. always attributed maya to measurement. I ask him to elaborate on that.

Guha: In physics everything that we want to know is with respect to something. For example, if I want to know how far it is from here to there, you have to compare. What does it mean when I say from here to there; in terms of what? So we invent a unit called foot or a meter. Then you give a definition. So it’s a comparison. First, you define something and then compare this with that which you define. It is a state of comparison. All experiences are with respect to what you already know, what you feel. That’s why the word maya came from measurement. It is not illusion. How do you say I am perceiving without using something that you already understand? In the same way, you have some unit of understanding the way you have been conditioned from childhood to say things. Since childhood you see something and mom told you that is red; you have already been given that word and the meaning, so you match it, just the way you measure.

Every experience is a state of measurement.  That’s maya. Now you do that so spontaneously because it is all set up. The moment you want to tell about your experience it is with respect to your conditioning….Anything you experience has to have a measurement. That’s why what you see is an absolute necessity for the organism. What you think you are seeing, without that measurement, without that illusory aspect of your knowledge, you cannot know. So what you think you are seeing, what you think you have experienced, what you think you have dreamed are all under the name of maya. All relationships too (fall under that), sorry. It’s a measurement. I cannot exist without this measurement. If you say ‘I’, it has no meaning. I am R, R, N, K. Thinking cannot produce, thinking cannot progress without that object.

Subject ‘I’ cannot exist without any object. So the object is really creating the subject. Sometimes thinking about yourself itself IS the object. You need food for your thought. What is thought? I am good, I am bad, I am suffering, I’m happy, I want this, I want that, I want to see myself in such and such image. So you are thinking about yourself. To continue this ‘I’ it needs some measurement, a connection. This has been going on since childhood and has become such an automation that you don’t have to do a thing. Gaddi apne aap chal rahi hai. Tel kaun de raha hai? (The train is running by itself. Who is giving it fuel?) Your energy. Reality doesn’t exist. It’s a functional reality of the social structure.

6.2.15

Guha is regaling us with anecdotes about his friends this afternoon. His innocent, child-like enactments interlaced with animated gestures evoke lots of laughter and conjure up vivid images in my mind. I still remember his impersonation of a drunken character a few weeks ago – he jumped off his seat, swaying and staggering as if trying to balance himself on deck of a ship on stormy seas, then plopping right back in his seat with a thump! I was so thrilled watching his performance that I requested him to repeat it to which he readily obliged. And when he is really charged up about something then he can shout the roof down like a ferocious tiger; that’s when I want to hide under the sofa. The energy field around Guha is very intense. At times we are doubled up with laughter or we are completely knocked out.  I have also observed a very strange phenomenon – when I am around Guha for a prolonged time, I feel happy, joyous and bubbly in the beginning but as the day wears on I feel my mind slowing down with no more energy to ask questions or participate in discussions. I am content just to sit there and soak it all in. Sometimes I fall asleep listening to him, his voice sounding like a soothing lullaby transporting me to la la land. By the time I reach home, I am emotionally spent and feel drained out or have the blues for no reason. But I digress. Let’s hear the stories.

Balaram reading his poem (Photo by Kishor Chopda)

Balaram first came to meet Guha in 2010 with his friend Ramakrishna who happened to be Guha’s childhood buddy. Now retired, he worked as a motor mechanic for Hindustan Motors in Hind Motor, Guha’s hometown outside Kolkata in West Bengal. I found him a very jovial, down to earth and modest person. After the meeting, Balaram was suddenly inspired to write a poem in praise of Guha. Balaram does not have a literary background and had never penned a verse in his entire life. Anyway, in his paean he used the word “Prajapati” to describe Guha. (In Sanskrit the term means “Lord of Humanity or People” but in Bengali it also means a butterfly.) Then he thought to himself that since he was a novice at writing poetry, he must get an expert to analyze it. So he approached a friend who was a literary critic and this expert advised him to replace the word “Prajapati” with “Dhruv Tara” (Pole Star) as he felt the former was too grand a word to describe Guha. Balaram reluctantly did as he was told and headed home. When he reached home, he was flabbergasted to find his entire bedroom filled with tiny butterflies! Seeing those insects fluttering all around him, he got terrified and started trembling. In fear and trepidation he phoned Ramakrishna and narrated the entire tale to him. After listening to Balaram’s “horror” story, Ramakrishna advised him to reinstate “Prajapati” immediately.

Here is the Bengali transliteration and the English translation of “Prajapati” – I took the liberty to give it the tile “Prajapati”. I found this simple, child-like sentiment very touching.

Gobhir moner bhitar hotey likhlam prothom dekhaar onubhuti.

Sokoler majhkhane tumi holey ek projapoti.

Kato maanusher korey thaako tumi sadgoti.

Ei biswas aachhe sakal maanush jaatir

Aamraa haa korey sabaai bosey khaali bhaabi

Ekbar tumi ki chhnuye jaabe naaki

Naa chhuleo antorer bhetor ekta asha jaage

Tumi to royechho amader sakoler majhkhane

Eo kom noy tomar kaache paoa

Sudhu jaoar samoy diye jeo santona.

 

Prajapati

These are the words deep from my heart, a feeling when I first met you.

You are the PRAJAPATI amongst us, true.

You have done for so many the right things

People from all nations believe this.

We are overwhelmed yet waiting with our jaws open by the thought

That perhaps you will touch us all.

Even if not, hope arises from within,

That you are nonetheless there amongst us,

Even this is not a small thing to get.

Please give a little solace when you leave us.

(Translated from Bengali by Ramakrishna Chatterjee)

Guha with Balaram and friends in Kolkata

Once Balaram was travelling to his village because his sister-in-law had filed a court case related to their ancestral property and he had been summoned by the police to sign some important documents. He was deeply perturbed since he did not want to sign but could see no way out. On the train journey, to keep himself from thinking dire thoughts, he took out and started reading Guha’s Bengali book 14 Days in Palm Springs with U.G. For Balaram, that little booklet was his Bible. It so happened that by the time he reached his village he got the news that the lady who had been giving him trouble had just passed away.

Taposh is a teacher and a poet who is a friend of Guha’s friend-cum-relative Swapan Babu who is also a teacher and a poet. In fact, when Luna Tarlo (another close friend of Guha from New York who is an author) was introduced to Swapan Babu, she was so impressed by his talent that she named him Edgar Allen Poe. Anyway, when Taposh came to meet Guha with his pal Partho, the former was mourning the death of his girl friend who had succumbed to cancer recently. Overcome with grief and sadness he was going through severe depression, was unable to write or work and would barely talk to anyone. He did not utter a single word to Guha when they were introduced but went and sat in a corner, sullen and silent. After some time, while everyone was engrossed in a philosophical discussion, Taposh suddenly sprang to his feet and said loudly, “I will eat something now!” Later, when they were taking leave, Guha gifted him a Swarovski pen. That night as he was holding the pen in his hand, Taposh said, he felt a burning sensation in his hand and then and there began writing poetry. Before dawn he had completed three whole poems and within three months he had written one hundred verses. To his amazement, he even won a prestigious literary award for those poems. I think after meeting Guha his pent-up emotions were released and he was back on track in a short time. Later, he met his current wife and now they are happily settled in Jalpaiguri in North Bengal.

In his ancestral home in Hind Motor, Guha’s brother had rented out a portion of the house to a young couple. They were very eager to meet Guha having heard about him from his brother. Soon after when Guha was in Hind Motor they tried inviting him to their home several times but Guha kept refusing. However, when they earnestly pleaded with him once more, Guha gave in. As soon as he entered their quarters, he was amazed to recognize it as the room in which he had spent his childhood. After the pleasantries, the lady of the house proceeded to narrate their sad story to him. They had been married for seven years and had not begot any children. They wanted Guha to bless them with a child, perhaps thinking Guha was a “guru” who could do some magic. Guha thought to himself, Oh my god, what have I got myself into! Anyway, he urged the couple to consult a doctor right away. He asserted that medical science had progressed by leaps and bounds in the last decade and surely advances in modern medical technology would help her to conceive. What a practical advice he gave instead of some spiritual mumbo jumbo that would have put them on a merry-go-round of false hopes. Whether he performed any magic or not only Guha knows but the following year when he was back in Hind Motor he saw the couple beaming and the lady proudly holding up her bundle of joy for Guha to admire.

6.3.15

Today I am home, running errands, cooking and spending time with my son Agastya. He is starting his summer job soon in New York City and after that will head back to college in Baltimore for his final year as an engineering student. This is a good opportunity for both of us to go shopping; he needs shirts, jackets, shoes and sundry other items. Later, newlyweds Jaime and Laszlo will join us for dinner. Jamie is a dear friend from my previous work place, the only good thing to come out of a nasty job. This is the first time they are coming after their wedding last April. They both love Indian food so busy making spicy, yummy dishes.

Now it’s late at night and dinner, dishes done I’m sitting snug in my little corner making a to-be list for myself. I am determined to be free of all the emotional baggage I’ve been carrying for so long. I told Guha that if at all I want something, it is to be free – free from emotional bondage. He totally agrees. Here’s the ambitious list:

  • Reign in my emotions before they get out of hand
  • Not to be encumbered anymore by my need for security
  • Break free from old patterns
  • Be emotionally, mentally strong and stop trying to seek strength from my relationships.

6.4.15

At 42

Julie, Radhika, Kishor and Manoj are here. We are talking about Arunachala and Tiruvannamalai. Guha looks at me and says, “Your faith in Arunachala Shiva (Ramana) is strengthening and fortifying the sense of self, the ‘I’ in you. If anyone can’t understand that they haven’t understood how the mechanism of mind works.”

As all close friends of Guha know, Manoj and I are always locking horns over anything and everything related to Guha. This started in 2014 when I was in Cochin and has been continuing ever since. He thinks I want exclusive attention from Guha (he’s right) and feels it is his right and duty to prevent me, in particular, and others in general, from monopolizing Guha (he’s wrong). Sometimes it is just light bantering, trading barbs, sometimes it can get nasty, like today. It happened like this: Guha and I were discussing something and Manoj kept interrupting Guha so I got a little annoyed and asked him to stop acting like a “chaprasi”. Actually and factually I meant to use the term “darwan”, meaning a doorman or gate keeper (for Guha) but in my agitation, I inadvertently used the word “chaprasi” which means a peon in Hindi. Guha gently chided me saying “chaprasi” could be a little demeaning. However, not to be outdone, Manoj’s swift rejoinder was if he was a “chaprasi”, I was a racist B-I-T-C-H! The sheer vehemence in his voice when he uttered the word BITCH was a little disturbing and also a new experience since this was the first time in my life I was called a bitch to my face. But why should I feel crestfallen?  Reacting to compliments or condemnations only strengthens my sense of identity, right Guha? I make a resolve not to indulge in these slanging matches that drain precious energy. Kamal had warned me a couple of days ago to refrain from these saying, “It’s not very healthy, (to indulge in these verbal duels) as beyond a point it is an intolerable waste of energy.”

6.6.15

I have said it before and I say it again – the one thing I truly want is the freedom to be totally free from being emotionally dependent on anybody, how much ever I may love them. That’s what I truly, truly want. I tell Guha it’s not a good feeling to be weak and be a slave to someone else’s desires and whims. Guha again agrees with me.

Yesterday, we were driving up and down on Route 1. After some time we stopped for an evening cuppa at a Starbucks. While Guha and I were talking, Manoj again kept butting in and passed some remarks like I needed a new head and how I was always lost. This time I kept quiet. Later, Guha pulled me aside and said, “Don’t let anyone come between you and me in your head. Do you understand? In your head. Anyone can say or do anything. That doesn’t make any difference.”

6.7.15

New York City

We drove to Ansonia this morning and after a quick lunch we are now heading to Brooklyn where we have been invited by a U.G. friend, Louis Brawley to an exhibition of his paintings. Julie has some other commitment so she won’t be joining us. Matt, Guha, Radhika and I are in Matt’s car followed by Shujaat, Kishor and Manoj in Shujaat’s car. I hear Guha and Matt talking softly in the front: “When you do not use anybody to please yourself, then you are free.” We cruise slowly through the city, cross over a bridge (not sure which one) and soon we are in Brooklyn. We are on a busy, noisy, almost straight-line road which I was told was Broadway Avenue. Later, I got an earful from Louis, “I was about to give you a lecture about Broadway, that it is never called Broadway Avenue, but as it turns out, it is an avenue but no one ever calls it Broadway Avenue, but simply Broadway. I think that’s a habit that comes from the Manhattan Broadway usage.” Broadway is humming with shoppers and pedestrians, cars whizzing by blaring loud music, and the subway trains roaring overhead on elevated tracks. There is an abundance of pawn shops, thrift shops, smoke shops, consignment shops, clothing stores, shoe shops, restaurants and cafes lining both sides of Broadway. Names like Fat Albert, Urban Jungle and Super Runners catch my eye as we speed along. This place reminds me of Colaba district in Mumbai, home to the famed Gateway of India monument on the waterfront. The main Colaba area is choc-a-bloc with rows of restaurants, high-end boutiques, shops of all hues and street vendors hawking trinkets, housewares, footwear and cheap clothing. It is one of the oldest shopping and tourist spots in Mumbai where you can find foreigners and locals alike hanging out in the iconic Leopold or Mondegar cafes or roaming the streets hunting for bargains.

Guha and Louis

Louis’ apartment-cum-studio is right on Broadway on top of a Chinese restaurant. Most of the occupants in the building are artists/writers like him. For some unknown reason they call the building “Hotel”. Today is Open Studio Day at the Hotel and residents have thrown their doors open to art aficionados to showcase their talent. It seems Brooklyn is fast becoming the go-to place to buy art. This weekend alone there are over 700 listings of art shows. I go around the room admiring Louis’ work. Although I don’t understand art, I like what I see; Louis’ paintings have an esoteric feel. If I had the money, I would have bought a couple. In the background I hear the subway train screeching by every few minutes since his apartment is on level with the tracks. I should call him Saint Louis for enduring this racket day in day out! Louis’ candid confession: “…my ‘saintly’ life bearing the racket beneath the roaring M train… the fact is that roaring is a perfect metaphor for the most un-saintly racket in my head… so maybe it’s helpful.”

Matthew and Louis at the exhibition

U.G. had a huge impact on Louis whose widely popular book Goner: The Final Travels of U.G. Krishnamurti  “represents my encounter with one of the most unique and elusive figures outside of any school of thought”. As for his paintings, he admits, “The ideas for most of my work (oil and watercolor) these days come from an obsession with painting, literature, extended exposure to Indian philosophies, and a man called U.G. Krishnamurti…..”  U.G. always discouraged him to paint saying he was a “horrible painter” but a great writer; however, I admire him for both his talents. Louis is also a close friend of Guha and his entire family. I meet him from time to time either at Guha’s or in the city. I will always be thankful to him for encouraging and helping me to get this journal off ground.

Back at Ansonia, Guha, Radhika and I are having evening tea/coffee. Guha says everyone is reading the English translation of 14 Days in Palm Springs. I tell him I didn’t have the translation so I hadn’t read it yet. He replies I am not interested in reading it. I do admit I am not motivated to read anything nowadays. He further adds just like the dream I had, I am wishy washy, that I don’t seem to be interested. Then he turns the knife, saying maybe I have a different calling. I keep quiet, as no answer is forthcoming. After all, what can I say? Although many times I feel his attacks are unjust, perhaps he can enlighten me on this one and tell me what my calling is. I myself don’t know, Guha.

Last night I had dream in which Guha was sitting in my TV room on the couch underneath the window. The lights above the TV were on but the room appeared dark. Guha asked me to turn on the lights above him. I flipped the switch but nothing happened. No light. Next I tried the kitchen light. Same thing. Then somehow I found myself in the garage, opening the box where all the switches are housed trying to see if any of them had tripped. At that point I woke up. Later, I narrated the dream to Guha. He said the dream was wishy washy, had no energy.

6.8.15

As soon as I wake up I ask him (via text) when I could see him. His answer, “You don’t mean it!” When I read that something seemed to snap inside me and tears started rolling down my cheeks. The mind went into frenzy and all sorts of horrible thoughts reared their ugly heads. I am fed up trying to defend myself every time that I DO mean what I say. I’m not going to call him! I’ll go retire in a corner alone and swear not to ever hob nob with anybody. I’m done! Of course, I don’t mean all that. After a while, the storm passes and calm prevails. I write to Guha, “I am saying I want to meet you, you are saying I don’t. I have no way of defending your statement. In my hearts of heart I know I’m not lying. You tell me what you want me to do and I’ll respect that.” He replies, “Okay, thank you dear.” After that it is all sugar and spice and everything nice! He even called and spoke to me at length. He said I must one-pointedly gravitate towards that which addresses my core well-being. He gave an analogy of a waterfall in a jungle where all kinds of animals gather to drink water. Even if there are ugly, dangerous animals there we still have to devise a way to get to the water. I get the point. The day wears on. I’m happy; I’m talking to K for hours. We both feel the need to stay connected. He was in Chicago last few days and has just returned to Delhi.

6.10.15

Early morning I had another dream – this time with a venomous snake in it. I see a greenish, blackish snake with big fangs at a distance. There are two others with me but can’t remember who they are. One of them could have been Agastya. Anyway, we are huddled together in fright, with our eyes fixed on the serpent waiting to see which way it will go. To my dismay, I see it slithering towards us. I panic and close my eyes tightly waiting to feel the sting. But the sting never happens. In the next frame the snake is hiding under some piece of furniture in my room in our Babulnath house in Mumbai where I grew up. We are trying to locate the snake again but can’t find it and then I wake up.

I tell Guha about the dream. He listens closely and says, “Next time it is going to bite you.”

 

Preface

Part I: A Big Zero

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 XI: Sun Breaks Through Nimbus Clouds

Part XII: Love Goes Toward Love

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