Saturday, 11 March 2017

" You might fall! But your elbows and knees will put you back on your two feet" - UG

The completely resigned look, hands loosely hanging by the side.
The first ever spiritual literature I came across in my teenage life was The Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami Yogananda. The mystique of the Yogi's extraordinary life set me on the path of a relentless search  thereafter that tormented me for almost three decades.

After reading the book, a spiritual 'primer' of sorts, I was 'hooked' to the idea or possibility of the 'other world'! I began to look for even more juicy, spiritual stuff - more mysterious, more mystical! Then the inevitable happened, like millions of others, I too got onto the bandwagon of the famous spiritual master-disciple duo from Bengal, the fiery Swami Vivekananda and  his sagely guru, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. 

The abundant Ramakrishna - Vivekananda literature consumed years and years of my youthful life. At one time, I was doing yoga for three hours continuously everyday and meditating for several hours inducing in myself a false sense of 'spiritual high'. Their life stories were 'spiritually' seductive! They had a tremendous impact on my young, vulnerable mind. 

Many mystical experiences, events later, I got puffed up with spiritual pride! Inwardly, there was the dichotomy that was tearing me up and reminding me that I was still a human with clay feet. I could never reconcile my gross and mundane existence with all its carnal inclinations with the archetypal 'life of the spirit' that I was trying to impersonate. This to me was a festering open wound.

Looking back, I can only say that all those spiritual books succeeded only in creating the illusion of a spiritual 'journey' inside of me, where there was really none! 


Even as the disillusionment of my 'spiritual life' hit me hard, and I struggled hard to break free, destiny turned a sharp corner and landed me at the door step of another remarkable and fascinating character, J Krishnamurti. 

I could relate to JK like many others of my time. I too had been thoroughly disillusioned by the archaic traditions and practices, dogmas and doctrines and was hankering for a new, dynamic and refreshing interpretation of Truth or Reality, and that too in a language that I could easily understand and assimilate. 

JK fit the role of the new age teacher perfectly. His fabulous lingo helped him to become the spin doctor of what was to be the new age philosophy, a paradigm shift in looking at the world and at oneself. 

This delightful, intellectual odyssey with JK lasted a full three years, bang in the middle of my graduation program wrecking my student life as it were. This was also the time when I narrowly missed the opportunity of meeting up with JK in Rishi Valley, Madanapalle. This was just a few days before his final departure to the US! The opportunity was hijacked by a well meaning friend who wanted me to focus on my examination that was scheduled incidentally on the same days!

Then it suddenly happened! 

After a feverish spell with JK for days , months and years on end, one fine morning, he got flushed out of my system all of a sudden! After breathing in and breathing out JK every waking moment for years, it suddenly dawned on me that all those 'intellectual' journeys with JK were 'actually and factually' far removed from 'real' life journeys. His 'on the couch' journeys appeared fruitless and burdensome. In that rare moment of truth, I was finished with the man, once and for all.

I celebrated my freedom from the intellectual tyranny of the First and Last Freedom by gifting away all JK books, videos and audio tapes.

JK's emphasis on 'depsychologising' the mind ironically had its opposite effect ! His intellectual trips, the 'unchartered journeys' had reduced me into an 'arm chair philosopher' and a parrot who endlessly and mindlessly repeated JK phrases.


With JK now behind me, and very much left to my own devices, I once again started picking up pieces of my own shattered life in right earnest. For a change, I wanted to become an entrepreneur and establish a small scale industry.

But Life had its own plans.

In the mid-80s however, for the first time, after 'walking out' on JK, there appeared in my life a flesh and blood 'guru' in the form of the late Rayaru a k a GR Nagaraja Rao ( an avadhoot , a spiritual guide ) who fascinated me no end with his practical approach, his 'monstrous' energy and incredible insights into life. 

Rayaru was a great devotee of Sri Raghavendra Swami ( a famous, celebrated saint from the  South of India who lived in the 17th Century). It was my brother who insisted that I should meet Rayaru and arranged for our rendezvous, just after my graduation.

Rayaru was unusual! He seemed to practically live on air, skipping food most of the time. On the other hand, he guzzled pots of coffee, day and night and chewed on betel leaf non-stop! He was a 'sleepless wonder' holding discussions with people at all hours of the day and night! He answered the description of a 'biological freak.'

Rayaru's remarkable observations on life sometimes came pretty close to that of JK's or even UG's. I did mention to him at one time that if only he knew English, he would have been as famous as JK ( At that time, I was yet to meet the man called UG ). 

Rayaru was a human dynamo! He relentlessly moved about visiting towns and villages, covering hundreds of miles every day, playing the role of a spiritual guide and mentor to his followers and devotees. I found him sincere in his intentions at the time. He was working day and night to help and guide people from all walks of life, instilling courage and confidence in them and guiding those who were 'stuck' in life.  

Having gotten over the traditional mindset during my brush with JK, I was finding myself constantly at loggerheads with this traditional man. I had given up on meditation and stayed away from temples and religious places. On the other hand, I enjoyed a great rapport with him and in fact I accompanied him on many of his frequent trips and was privy to how he impacted people who were really suffering in life. 

Rayaru was with me exclusively on and off for almost three years before gathering a sizable following. In a sudden departure from his vagabond life, he decided to establish a 'mutt' ( ashram) and settle down in a tiny hamlet, East of Nandi Hills near Bangalore. This in a way was the defining moment in our relationship.

Crowds had now started gathering around him in huge numbers and somewhere along  I could sense his secret ambition to establish the spiritual centre. I thoroughly detested the idea and vociferously objected to him and others who were now keen on putting up the infrastructure. This became a bone of contention between the two of us.

But my relationship with this strange man made me discover many hitherto unknown dimensions of life.


One incident that still stands out in my memory.

On a late summer evening he turned up at my bachelor pad. He appeared tired that day and wanted to sleep on the terrace and I laid out his mattress for him and went back to my business of preparing for a lecture the next day! After a while I slept off inside the room, keeping the door open, just in case he wanted to use the restroom anytime during the night.

The pitter-patter sound of rain drops on my window panes woke me up rudely  from my slumber. The clock showed 1 30 am.

I suddenly recollected that Rayaru was sleeping outside on the terrace. I ran out quickly to find him still on the bed. The rain now was beginning to gather pace! As I shook him up, a strange thing happened! His body, like a log of wood, rolled off towards the parapet wall. I was shocked and ran over and quickly checked his breath and pulse, found out that both were missing! He was taller and heftier than me, there was no way I could carry him back into the room on my own! It was a God forsaken hour to look for any outside help. I didn't have any phone line either to call my friends! I quickly rolled him back onto his mattress like timber and ran back into my room. I found a thick plastic sheet to cover him up, I was only hoping that the rain would cease soon!

All through the episode, I strongly felt that this was some kind of a 'yogic' thing, that indeed he was alive but possibly had turned off his vital breath as yogis do and should be lying there in some kind of deep hibernation or 'yoga nidra.' 

Even if he were indeed dead, there was absolutely nothing that I could do at that godforsaken hour!  The whole world was sleeping! I was all alone and helpless ! Something deep inside of me told me that indeed nothing could go wrong and I went back into my room and very soon fell asleep.

Sounds in the kitchen woke me up to a bright and sunny morning. Rain the previous night appeared like a far away dream! Rayaru was preparing the 'bed coffee' and greeted me cheerfully. I couldn't hold back my surprise, " Rayare! What happened ? Where were you early this morning? What mischief were you up to? I checked your pulse and breath, you appeared dead to me!" He dismissed me with, " Hey! I just don't know what you are talking about . Stop playing the 'detective', huh! Here, enjoy your morning coffee." He dodged all my attempts to seek an answer to my puzzle. 

What happened that night still remains a mystery to me!


My dissent and fierce opposition to the idea of Rayaru founding a 'mutt' was causing strain in our relationship. He obviously started gravitating towards those who were in favour of the new mutt. I arranged for a new accommodation for some of our common friends who lived with me at the time in a posh locality in Bangalore and Rayaru moved into the new home along with them. I happily continued staying in my small 'terrace' flat and carried on independently just like before.

A couple or so years before the end of my relationship with Rayaru, I had chanced upon UG's book, Shanta Kelkar's , Sage and the Housewife.

Having by then traversed the whole spiritual landscape - from Swami Paramahans Yogananda, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna, J K to Rayaru, I was thoroughly disillusioned about all things spiritual and also completely devastated.


After almost half a dozen years with Rayaru from '86 to '92, for the first time, I met up with the man called UG on the 10th of July 1992. 

My life was to change for ever, rather my notion of 'change' was to cease for ever!

When I saw UG, my whole being resonated and there was a gut feeling that this was the Total Man or Real Man that I was always looking for all my life!

In UG, for the first time, I witnessed the boldness and authenticity of a man who walked the talk! His simplicity and honesty were a delight to behold. His refusal to own up his extraordinary intelligence endeared me to him even more! What made him stand apart was that he wanted nothing from you or me or anyone. He remained fiercely independent, allowing no relationship to take root, allowing no build up of any sort, giving no one the baton to propagate his work! He was uncompromising to a fault, nothing came in his way of stating the naked truth - no relationship, no power, no authority, no familiarity, none whatsoever could check him! He didn't embellish his words, he uttered the naked truth regardless of how you felt or received it - you could take it or leave it!

After having personally gone through the whole hog of the spiritual milieu by now, my rebellious spirit was raging to break free from the cultural and intellectual tyranny of social environment. 

UG held the key! 

UG's outbursts had the effect of a real dynamite that could blast the bedrock of our cherished heritage and and shatter the very foundations of intellect and culture.  

Meeting UG was indeed the turning point of my life.

At my first meeting, he pointedly questioned me about the basis for any dependence, spiritual or psychological, " They say God helps those who help themselves, if you could help yourself, then why do you need God?" and further drilled, " Sir, I rejected all kinds of authorities, I was heretical to the tip of my toes! I walked on my own! What can happen? You might fall! So what? Your elbows and knees will then put you back on your two feet. It is important to stand on your two feet, howsoever shaky they may be, rather than borrow crutches however attractive or strong!"


Shortly after bouncing into UG, I increasingly found myself at crossroads with Rayaru. Things began to precipitate in a way leading to bitterness on his part. He detested my refusal to tow his line and be part of his spiritual entourage. A guru is lost without his followers! With redoubled zeal, he started recruiting a great number of followers to his camp and was keen on propagating his legacy.

Just a few months after meeting up with UG, there ensued a public show down between myself and the erstwhile guru when I defied his command to attend a ceremony at his village! He had enough of me and my defiance, he flared up and began shouting at me right in the middle of a crowded street in the metro. Strangely all through this flare-up, I felt great calmness and composure!  Inside of me, there was great stillness and silence even as he was raging against me and throwing mouthfuls right in the middle of an amused city crowd that stopped and watched the entire spectacle. Oh boy, was he upset! 

Once we reached our apartment, I calmly spoke for the first time, drawing his attention to his possessive attitude, he wanted to own me like a coat or a shirt and I told him that it would not happen, that even my own dad had given up on me. 

We had finally parted ways, the relationship simply fell apart. I did meet him a few times thereafter but there was no warming up like before. 

It was all over. 

I was lucky to have met UG who had steeled my backbone. I surprisingly began to discover enormous strength in my own independence.

A few years later when I sat listening to UG blasting away gurus in Chandrasekhar Babu's house, I suddenly fell into a reverie about Rayaru, UG suddenly turned to me and exploded, " No looking back in life sir! You just move on!"


“ I am a White Brahmin, of purest ray serene! ” - UG

I just recall this one-off anecdote. UG and Mahesh Bhatt had just returned to Parekhji’s place after their lunch at the Oberoi...