Understanding U.G. Krishnamurti: An Interview with Mark Whitwell, Part 1

Mark Whitwell
12 min readOct 27, 2022
Mark Whitwell and UG Krishnamurti
Precious memories of time spent with UG. Notice how he is draped over the chair. He was like a cat. Absolutely at ease in the natural state of life. Nothing in particular going on, everything going on. Unbound from mind | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Mark Whitwell interviewed by Andy Raba

I recently met with my teacher Mark Whitwell to discuss his friendship with UG Krishnamurti (1918–2007) — one of the most enigmatic spiritual figures of modern times. The interview took place at his house on Waiheke Island where Mark had just discovered a collection of photographs in an old suitcase. The photographs captured time spent with UG between 2000 and 2007 in various parts of Australia and Switzerland. Mark first met UG in 1973 and remained close to him until his death in Vallecrosia, Italy at age 89. We talked over the course of three late-afternoon meetings of around two hours each.

Uppaluri Gopala Krishnamurti (UG) was born in Machillipatnam, South India. His mother died seven days after giving birth, apparently knowing that she was giving birth to a special son. She organised for him to be raised by her father who was deeply involved in the Theosophical society.

As a young man, UG was inculcated into the religious search for ‘moksa,’ or enlightenment. Later in his life he remarked that he had had no other framework for understanding the purpose of a human life. He studied with Swami Sivananda for seven years in the Himalayas and visited sages such as Ramana Maharshi. UG then spent many years as a student and fan of J. Krishnamurti — the world leader of Theosophy.

Mark Whitwell UG Krishnamurti
UG had predicted that there would be and had to be a catastrophic event for humanity for the mind of humanity to come into alignment with the forces, intelligence and intrinsic harmonies of life on Earth and the natural state. “It is not love that will bring us together but fear.” | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

In his 49th year, UG’s search came to an end. Not because he found what he was looking for, but because he realised that it was the search itself that was obstructing the inherent intelligence of his natural life. He saw that the cultural demand that each person must seek for a future realization was an active denial of the intelligence, beauty, harmony and power that was already present in him and in everybody. The search, and all abstractions of culture that point towards a future ideal state, left his system.

No longer bound by the mental limit of presuming he was second to anybody (or above anybody), an “explosion” of life erupted in him, leaving him in what he called ‘the natural state’ — a state where thought-based seeking no longer controlled and interfered with the natural functioning and inherent peace of his body-mind. UG lived and travelled the world in that state for the rest of his life.

Mark Whitwell and UG Krishnamurti
UG ensured that Yoga is ONLY each person’s participation in the Given Reality, power, intelligence, beauty, intrinsic harmony and not AT ALL a search for a future result or socially prescribed idealism that only obstructs body and mind | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

UG was acknowledged by the religious leaders of Hindu India as a jivamukti (a liberated being), although he would blast that language because it creates the idea that everyone else is not yet free, not yet realized. When people came to visit him he would bluntly demolish their hopeful search, “It is ridiculous to ask for something that you already have.”

There are others who say that UG was the avatar — the entrance of the divine into the world in bodily form; a figure like Krishna, Christ, or Buddha. The avatar who enters the world for the sake of all beings so that all people can feel that all circumstances and all conditions are the divine. The name Krishnamurti itself means the form (murti) of Krishna.

UG would say that if you’re looking for something you are looking because you think you don’t have it. The looking implies the absence. So the looking is the problem. The looking has been put in you. All the while you are in the arms of Mother Nature. You are in the natural state. The point is: stop looking, start living | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Mark Whitwell’s life as a teacher represents the integration of UG Krishnamurti’s realization into the physical wisdom tradition of Yoga — the sublime practices of whole-body breathing that Mark and many others learnt from Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar.

The result of this collaboration is a gift for the world: a model of the teacher-student relationship in the presumption of a spiritual hierarchy is demolished; a Yoga in which all traces of seeking for a future result, a future perfection, have been removed; and the for-everybody practice of asana and pranayama as each person’s direction participation in the extreme intelligence, beauty, power, and harmony that is every body’s natural state. In UG’s words, “Yoga is making love with life.”

I asked Mark to share a few stories about his life with the wonderful UG Krishnamurti.

Part One

Mark Whitwell UG Krishnamurti TKV Desikachar
TKV Desikachar and UG Krishnamurti at Tirumalai Krishnamacharya’s Sannidhi site: Photograph by Mark Whitwell

Interviewer: When did you first meet UG?

Mark Whitwell: 1973 in Bangalore. By that point, U.G. had been studying and doing Yoga with Krishnamacharya for three and half years. So he was well known in the circles of people around Krishnamacharya, Desikachar and J. Krishnamurti. I naturally heard about him from my teachers.

UG had spent seventeen years in the company of JK, following him around as a student and as a fan. Even before that he worked alongside JK as his colleague in the Theosophical society. Both would travel the world giving philosophical talks. When JK left theosophy, which is another curious matter because he never really left and they never really left him, it then became an informal association of people. And UG was in that informal gathering for years and years.

At a certain point though, UG realised that he was in what he called the “social dynamic of disempowerment.” JK was the superior perfected person on the stage which implied that everybody else was not perfect. The dynamic was creating the thought pattern of trying to get realised. Realising that it was an impossible and even an insane situation, UG walked out of it at age 49. But he continued to be associated with the group and the gatherings wherever they occurred.

It strikes me as pretty brave to stay associated but still be on the side and speaking what he felt, rather than just sloping off, but he did do that. He was known as the other “Krishnamurti.”

Mark Whitwell and UG Krishnamurti
UG was an unusual dude. Being with him was like being with a cat. He was absolutely natural and present. No social strategies. Taken in Palm Springs, California UG had just been demonstrating how Prana has its own perfect intelligence and movement. How yoga is each person’s perfect participation in the natural movement of Prana. Not an imposition or manipulation of Prana | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Click here for free access to the Heart of Yoga Teaching Standards, a set of principles you can use to judge whether a teacher is teaching in an empowering or disempowering way.

Interviewer: Why was he known as that?

Mark Whitwell: Krishnamurti number two. Not the main act. Sort of a second.

Anyway, I met him because they were all very close. Krishnamacharya and Desikachar had been teaching JK. I never spent time with JK personally but I was in the crowd. He was a very prominent force in Desikachar’s life. It was all that stuff about JK told Desikachar not to become “one more monkey,” and “don’t become a guru.” He always told him to spend as much time studying with his father as he could. And to gather that knowledge. And that inspired Desikachar to get focused and to become a good student. He said that JK helped me become a better student of my father, because JK demonstrated the qualities of a good student.

Interviewer: Did you immediately like him?

Mark Whitwell: Yes! There was an attractiveness there and a bright energy. He was wearing white and giving a very raging talk. Not angry, but very feisty.

Interviewer: What was Desikachar’s friendship with UG like?

Mark Whitwell: And Desikachar too. Desikachar would get so excited and happy whenever UG came to Madras. He would be hanging by the phone and waiting for the call, like “When’s UG coming!” I knew he was somebody special and Desikachar knew that too. I remember one time Desikachar placed one hand over UG’s chest and another on his back and was following him around the room like that. UG rarely let people do things like that.

If you asked Desikachar if he had a guru he would always say his father. I would never say it, but I quietly thought that the actual guru function in his life was UG. It’s so wild because the very name Krishnamurti means “the form of Krishna.” And there are some who would consider UG to be the avatar, like Krishna. I feel like he was the very meaning of the word acharya: the scholar, the scholar of Krishna; whereas the actual guru function was UG.

Mark Whitwell UG Krishnamurti
U.G. pointed out that this is a disaster for mankind because the perfect person implies that you are not perfect. U.G. would point out that your body is an extreme intelligence. This is the universe arising. The power of life is this body. So, there is no such thing as the perfect person, as if you’re not! | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Interviewer: For those who don’t know can you clarify what you mean when you say the guru function?

Mark Whitwell: The guru is one who is unobstructed in mind or body from the power of creation. In relationship to such a person, then pure life, prior to concepts, is transmitted. UG was felt to be that for people, but he would always blast any idea of him being a special person. Because the way the mind relates to the idea of guru (or avatar) creates seeking, and the identity of the one is who not special, not perfect, not yet realized. The model of the perfect person implies that everybody else is not perfect. UG spent his life saying that we are DOOMED in that model. But he would also say that this problem is “thought-created” and it’s not really there. What is there is the perfect intelligence, beauty, and harmony of Reality arising as each person. This is why we talk about UG being the end of the road. He is in the cul de sac of spiritual life. There’s nowhere else to go. The search is over.

Interviewer: Where you a spiritual seeker looking for enlightenment when you first met UG?

Mark Whitwell: Totally. It’s the world of my society, the world of my father. The idea that life is a conscientious struggle towards a future ideal that you haven’t attained yet. In his case it was all about academic success and having a worthy career. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. Except that it is the only understanding that is given to us. In that struggle you soon get tired, sick and then die. And people say that you were a good man and that you worked hard for your community. Or that you were a bad man and were irresponsible. But nobody says he enjoyed the beauty of his own Reality, as Reality Itself.

You could say that what UG brought through was avataric because he initiated in the world the concept of living collectively in and as Reality Itself and the beautiful structures of Reality that are already existing: the beautiful, spiralling forms of Mother Nature. He lived in a natural way and transmitted what it means to no longer treat the earth as something to own, manipulate, or exploit for some future ideal. “Man’s idea of heaven has created a hell out of this abundant paradise” he often said.

Humanity has to come to that realisation now collectively, or we will just go on destroying the planet in the presumption that we are separate from the Cosmos and that there is somewhere amazing to get to.

Mark Whitwell UG Krishnamurti
Krishnamacharya said, “U.G. Krishnamurti is the greatest living yogi I have known.” Which is an extraordinary statement coming from a man who is deeply informed of Vedic culture | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Interviewer: Did UG inspire hope for the future in you?

Mark Whitwell: Yes. “The only hope is hopelessness.” To become free of the struggles of civilization’s hopeful paths towards a future happiness. UG took that statement to the nth degree. He didn’t give a shit about the tormented hopeless world that humanity has created. It was not the point to try and correct it. He would say that humanity has a problem but the universe doesn’t. And the universe is correcting it. So that’s dawned on me to not even be troubled about the tormented world; or to be troubled but also free of it at the same time.

I remember once hanging out with UG in a house in Switzerland and he opened up the microwave after using it and two cockroaches crawled out. He joked that this was proof that after the nuclear holocaust life would keep on living. Cockroaches would become the dominant species and life will keep churning on.

Interviewer: It’s curious to me thinking about this indifference to the “tormented world” because of hearing about the stories of how caring and helpful UG was with people. And how very much involved you are with people in helping them overcome restrictions in their lives and to live naturally.

Mark Whitwell: That’s a beautiful observation. UG said, “If you stop trying to change yourself you will stop trying to change the world.” And then, he said, all of your energy is freed up to be put to useful ends. Many times I saw him hone in on people and begin to advise them on the directions and real circumstances of their lives: do this, do that, get a lawyer, talk to your ex, etcetera. He was very practical with people. The minute he decided that he had to die he put his shoes by the door, folded his jacket, cut up his credit card, and he lay there for eight days not talking food or water until he died. There was a great order in his life in that he would handle circumstance and not dissociated from the demands of the survival. He was in the world, but not of the world.

Mark Whitwell UG Krishnamurti
“The tremendous intelligence of the body is no match for all that we have gathered & acquired through our intellect” -UG Krishnamurti | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Interviewer: When people discover UG on youtube or through his books they often describe becoming bamboozled. There are points where it seems impossible to bridge the gap between the usual acculturated mind and the place where UG was coming from. Can you speak about how one can interpret this guy?

Mark Whitwell: I’ve been thinking a lot about UG and the metaphor that comes to mind is that he is the end of the road — how the abstractions of culture ended in him and how he ended those abstractions in those around him. It’s a very interesting matter. He is so radical. I get that humanity developed culture because it could and it did, but culture relative to the place from where UG lived was an abstraction. Culture is attention captured in abstract ideas that are thought-created. Humanity is dissociated from Reality and living in their thoughts.

The most glamorous manifestation of this abstraction is what we call culture and there are priesthoods of culture, those who have attained success within it. We honour, the artists, the businesspeople, the priests, the architects. We glamourise them as if they have a relationship to Truth and even mistaking them to be pointing to Truth in their work. But it’s all an abstraction.

Somehow all of that fell out of UG and left him as Life Itself, as a functioning organism, an animal state no different from any other animal. No longer arrogantly abstractly defining himself over against other species. That’s hard to understand when you are in the culture; like, what on earth is he talking about? It’s hard to understand where he was actually coming from and people often say that when they start looking into UG, they feel collapsed and hopeless.

Mark Whitwell UG Krishnamurti
To be yourself requires extraordinary intelligence. You are blessed with that intelligence; nobody need give it to you, nobody can take it away from you. He or she who lets that express itself in its own way is a natural man or woman. — UG Krishnamurti. My friend UG was always freeing people from the stranglehold of culture, from the demand that they be something other than what and who they are | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

But when they get it they feel this liberation from all ideas, all concepts, all thinking, and all matters of progress towards some ideal. For most people though it’s just an impossible idea. A friend was saying to me recently that her last boyfriend just could not relate to her statement that there was nothing to change: I am Reality Itself, unfolding as my whole body, it is a perfect intelligence, it is a perfect harmony, it is The Beauty. There is nothing to change. There is nothing to be liberated from. Where does the demand to change oneself come from? The demand to change comes from the statements of culture. And in UG’s case culture stopped in him at 49 years old.

Interviewer: For no apparent reason?

Mark Whitwell: Yeah, for no apparent reason. Except he had built a bonfire and thrown himself into it. The intensity of his enquiry collapsed and left him with nothing. So there’s that and then there’s the endless stories of what it was to be hanging around with UG.

Continued in Part Two…

Mark Whitwell UG Krishnamurti
UG showed me that a true guru is ‘no more than a friend and no less.’ | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga



Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.