Understanding UG Krishnamurti: An Interview with Mark Whitwell, Part 2

Mark Whitwell
9 min readOct 29, 2022

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UG Krishnamurti, Melissa Forbes, and friends at the lighthouse in Byron Bay, Australia. On that day, hundreds of dolphins began surfing the waves beneath the lighthouse. | Mark Whitwell

Introduction to Part 2

Mark Whitwell interview by Andy Raba

UG’s unique siddhi was to pull the rug out from underneath people’s religious seeking. He went about executing this gift in feisty and often outrageous ways. If you go on YouTube, for example, there are many videos of UG in a room yelling at people, refusing to entertain their problems, or simply instructing them to leave. “The fact that you’re here is the problem.”

In 2003, Mark took his friend Ram Dass to visit UG in Palm Springs at a small hotel complex off of Boulevard. He describes how Ram Dass brought to UG many spiritual and philosophical questions about the process of realization.

“What a lot of crap,” UG responded. “If you are trying to get to God, you are denying God. If you are trying to realize Truth, you are denying Truth. Here is God (waves hand). End of story.”

“Whatever I propose,” Ram Dass replied after an afternoon of this, “You shoot out of the sky like skate shooting. “And yet,” he added. “I feel like you wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Ram Dass’ beautiful observation captures something essential about UG’s character.

Where ever UG would go there were signs of natures’ contentment at his presence… the company of a person who is an obvious continuity of the grand patterning of the natural world | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

In this section of the interview, Mark describes how UG’s infamous wrathfulness was in fact the enactment of compassion. Always, UG was ferocious and single in his attack on the stranglehold of abstract thought that was choking humanity. Always, he was exquisitely kind, loving, ordinary, respectful, and generous; always reaching out, always caring. In order to grasp UG, both aspects must be taken together.

Interview: Part 2

Interviewer: You recently discovered a suitcase of photographs in your garage of time you spent with UG a few decades ago. What did it feel like to see those images?

Mark Whitwell: Very pleasant. There’s a transmission in it. The same transmission that was felt in his bodily lifetime. And the same as when you go to places where he used to live. It’s the same transmission of him. I’m telling you there was one group in Australia who believed he was the avatar of our time.

UG would always encourage people not to duplicate him or anybody else. But to have your own unique life | Mark Whitwell

Interviewer: That’s interesting…

Mark Whitwell: Yeah. Every year UG would fly at least twice around the whole world. He had a little circuit he would go on. He would often visit Byron Bay, on the gold coast of Australia, there were a bunch of white people there who considered themselves to be Brahmins. They lived among the sugar cane fields. They were totally unusual people who had been in India for many years and they had decided that UG was the Avatar. So they had a whole devotional thing around him.

UG would submit to them and go and visit once a year for a few days, and they would worship him. One year he rang me up out of the blue and said I’m in Australia would you like to come over and help me with these crazy people. He would then really insist “Hey you gotta come over.” So I went on the basis of that. I think it was a matter of having somebody else to form a triangle so it wasn’t just him and them.

Interviewer: UG didn’t want to have followers, right? But did he ever ask people to spend time with him? Did he give language to his transmission function?

Mark Whitwell: Once he told me I hadn’t been around him enough. He wanted to go to Byron Bay. I said why do you want to go there? “Just so I can say I’ve been there.” We drove down together and lo and behold a large gathering of people had turned up to see him in some room in a guest house. And he talked to them. There were some devotees of Poonjaji and they used to have satsangs where the ‘enlightened’ person would give talks. I asked UG once, “Is this satsang around you that’s happening?” And he said “don’t use that filthy word.”

We would often come to spend time with UG in somebody’s house in small gatherings | Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell: We spent a day up at the lighthouse in Byron and suddenly hundreds of dolphins appeared below us. They were surfing the waves as if in a celebration of UG. I’d never seen such a thing. UG just stood there and watched. He didn’t say anything. He’d just take it and go about his way. Where ever UG would go there were signs of natures’ contentment at his presence… the company of a person who is an obvious continuity of the grand patterning of the natural world

Interviewer: Extraordinary. Do you believe that he was the avatar?

Mark Whitwell: His name is Krishnamurti, which means the form of Krishna. I think it is potentially true. Because if you pay attention to UG in this modern time then the dead framework of defining what life is disintegrates. He is the ending of that. So he is the guru of our time. Certainly if you are in his company and listen to him and understand, then the stranglehold of thought which is defining everything in life with mind, with what he called the framework of dead structures, well that goes. And what’s left is life expressing itself. UG cleared it up. So he is the avatar of the modern time.

What is so brilliant about UG is that he didn’t do any pompous “I am the guru thing” because I think that structure of the guru, the perfect person, has had its day as a cultural mechanism. It worked for a few thousand years, it even created culture, and provided circumstance for humanity to group together in tribal and national masses. Maybe it worked from that perspective and probably in its truest form in the ancient world, it probably worked. Maybe it worked around Christ for the few disciples who were with him. But it did not work after that. The world is not going to turn to some God figure and all bow down. It’s not going to happen. No way. But I think the potential of UG being understood might come through. He doesn’t call for everybody to surrender to a particular guru figure. In fact, he said that that’s the problem itself.

UG and Valentine de Kervan. Valentine looked after UG for many years following his calamity. Later, when she developed Alzheimer’s, UG looked after her and insisted that she was not ill but had attained a state of no mind | Mark Whitwell

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: Did he change as he got older?

Mark Whitwell: At 49 he was in his mid-life. He was extremely vibrant and attractive: male and female combined in the natural state. For most of his life he was strong, fit, vibrant and spoke logically. Then I would say at the age of 70 or something his body began to wither a little bit. And he got more and more ridiculous and more and more outrageous.

I mean there are some talks where he would say some terrible things to people. He’d say, “That bitch thinks she can buy me, buy my attention with her filthy money, that bitch.” He’d talk like this. Another time there were a few Italian men who came to visit and he accused them of being pimps. A lot of it was fun, but sometimes it would be hard to distinguish what was actually nasty shit and what was fun. He got more and more like that and more and more outrageous; more and more illogical; more and more not caring about anything.

Interviewer: Did you take many friends to see him throughout your life?

Mark Whitwell: A few. The most significant was the film director Jane Campion. I met Jane in New York. I was teaching yoga to her and her film crew. The end of her movie project happened to coincide with UG being in Sydney and I asked Jane if she wanted to meet him.

We all met in a hotel room. There were also some Tibetan woman there who were of very high society in Sydney. UG pulled out a crude collage of an elephant having sex with the mother of the Buddha and showed it to these women. Because in Tibetan Buddhism, the Buddha came out of the side of an elephant. These woman were shocked. He would do these things to relieve people of their confinement within the precious gems of culture that we get organised around. Probably it didn’t work that time. Probably they thought he was a dirty old man. Jane stayed very close to him from then on and visited him for many years. In her series Top of the Lake, she based her character GJ off of him. She told me that she would become regenerated in UG’s company and that she was aging backwards since she met him.

“I have views on every damned thing from disease to divinity. But my views are of no more importance than those of the maid cleaning and cooking there.” UG was impeccable at refusing the idea that he was in any way different to anybody else. It was not a gimmick or a platitude — he really saw no difference between himself and others | Mark Whitwell

Interviewer: How did you feel meeting with him?

Mark Whitwell: I’m still regenerating in his company. I am certain he was a true guru, day after day from the age of 49 till he died he was blasting away. He only had one purpose it seemed and that was to liberate people from the stranglehold of knowledge. He had an incredible attractiveness and vibrating energy around him, with him. He would be talking endlessly always the same subject in various forms, and people would go into a slumber, a sleep that wasn’t a sleep, a stupor, that was bodiless and mindless. He called it a “spiritual coma” where you are sort of aware but basically turned off to all circumstance. It used to happen to me and to others quite a bit. It wasn’t intentional. His voice would drone on. He would start talking at 7am in the morning and it wouldn’t finish until 9pm at night. Most of the talk was ridiculous: petty socialisation about who’s coming and who’s going: how was your journey, let’s take tea, where shall we go, I need to shop for a new sweater, or something, and just all sort of crazy apparently superficial talk. Amidst it all he would then delve deep into the stupidity of seeking.

Your constant utilization of thought to give continuity to your separative self is ‘you’. There is nothing there inside you other than that. UG — one serious dude. | Mark Whitwell

Over time I’ve noticed that people don’t really grasp the significance of UG’s life. Rather, people tend to treat him as an object of curiosity. They like to make comment about him, get off on his outrageous statements, and his shock value relative to the normal behaviours of society. But these people were not actually there with him and seeing what he was offering to humanity which was the end of attention trapped in abstract knowledge and the end of seeking for alternative states. He stopped us in our tracks. He was in the Natural State. It was his state but it is also our state. You, me and the mosquitoes, all equally radiant expressions of life.

Interviewer: It’s curious all the superficial talk. Do you think his function was non-verbal as much as verbal?

Mark Whitwell: Mostly non-verbal. Totally.

Interviewer: Do you think the guru function is basically non-verbal?

Mark Whitwell: Yeah. Just being there is the function. And the words are immaterial: dog barking. When I was with Jane Campion and UG and Jane had a boyfriend, I think they split up, but he was a man of note in NZ. He was over in Sydney with Jane and there was a Penguin book of UG quotes and the first quote was “I have no message for Mankind.” And the next one is, “There is no need for a teaching.” (Laughing). And Jane’s boyfriend read this and said, “Wow, now there’s a teaching.” So you know, his very presence is a teaching. Without words.

Continued in Part 3…

“Man’s Heaven has created a hell out of this abundant paradise.” UG. These words from hit me like a tonne of bricks | Mark Whitwell

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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.