KRISHNAMURTI: PREPARING TO LEAVE
by Scott H. Forbes
This is an account of the last nine months of J. Krishnamurti’s life. He was called Krishnaji by those who knew him, and he will be called that from here on because I knew him. Through almost all of this period, I was with Krishnaji from six to eight hours a day, during which I made almost daily detailed notes of what was occurring, as it seemed obvious they were momentous and I wanted an accurate record for later reflection.
None of us had any idea that these were the last nine months of Krishnaji’s life. After Krishnaji died, Mary Lutyens, who was asked by Krishnaji to write his biography, came to know of my notes and asked me to write them up for her final volume on his life.[i] The “write-up” I created for her was not actually written but was instead dictated into a tape recorder from my assembled notes. These recordings were then transcribed and, with no editing, sent off to Mary Lutyens. She told me at the time of reading them that I should publish my account, but “don’t change a word.” I tried over the last thirty-one years to read the transcript, but I never succeeded. Whenever I tried, the transcript so forcefully threw me back to the times and places described that I always put them aside after a few pages.
As I approached my seventieth year, I wondered if I should follow Mary Lutyens’ advice or let this account disappear with me. To answer this, about a year ago, I sent the transcript to two friends whose interest in Krishnaji is long-standing, who are both writers, and whose views I trust. They have convinced me that the material is important and that it should be made public.
My reluctance to do this partly stems from the emotional difficulty of doing it, but also because Krishnaji never asked me to write about him. In fact, there were only two people Krishnaji asked to write about him: Mary Lutyens, who wrote three excellent sequential biographies and their summaries,[ii] and Mary Zimbalist, who Krishnaji asked to write about what it was like to be with him. In the Presence of Krishnamurti: The Memoirs of Mary Zimbalist[iii] and In the Presence of Krishnamurti: Mary’s Unfinished Book[iv] are Mary’s exhaustive and comprehensive presentations of being with Krishnaji from 1965 until his death in 1986. The many other books about Krishnaji that have appeared are mostly written by people who knew him very little or not at all.
Despite Krishnaji never asking me to write about him and my having refrained from doing so for decades, there are good reasons to try. Firstly, for many of us, Krishnaji was singular—there is no one else we have known or even known about like him. Secondly, he had an importance and seemed to be in contact with or represent something of greater importance than anything else we have known. Thirdly, conveying what Krishnaji was seems undoable. This singular, most important thing, which is impossible to convey, makes attempting to do so feel like a responsibility.
There is also the matter of “the man from Seattle.” For many years, Krishnaji would pose to the staff of the school he started in England—The Brockwood Park Krishnamurti Educational Centre—a question about how we would describe to someone from someplace remote (like Seattle, for example) what Krishnaji was like or what it was like to work with him as we did. Usually, good discussions would follow, and I always thought the question of “the man from Seattle” was just a rhetorical device; I never thought anyone would actually ask me those questions. Of course, I was very wrong, and part of my reason for writing this book is to respond adequately to “the man from Seattle.”
Another reason for my finally writing this account is in response to my imagining that old cliché of visiting someone no longer living on the astral or whatever plane, and that I was to so visit Krishnaji. I imagine he would ask me very pointedly and intensely, “So, you had all that intense and prolonged contact with K” (which is what he usually called himself), “and you listened to the Teachings coming directly from him for all those years. What have you done with it? Where is the impact in your life and from your life to the rest of the world, and how are you passing on that extraordinary privilege you had and which countless people wish they could have but now can’t?” The rightness of this question shakes me and must be answered.
As this is my account, I have thought a great deal about my role in it. None of us sees all sides of everything that happens, even when it happens in front of us. And even what we do see, if it is not written down immediately, is subject to that most falsifying of all instruments: memory. The accuracy of memory drastically diminishes over time and also after every re-remembering of the event. This is not my opinion—this is brain science. So, as some of us who had been with or around Krishnamurti fondly remember over and over again our experiences, we make them less accurate with each remembrance until they are only our own creations. They are not facts. But as this account is from two contemporaneously written sources (my notes checked against Mary’s diaries), these is some basis for hope that if the reader were able to go back in time, they would see what they are reading. Consequently, for the serious student of Krishnaji’s Teachings, this account may serve to contextualize the public talks and private discussions during this important period.
This account also benefits from being edited now. As I have been completely outside all Krishnamurti organizations for more than two decades now, I have no one to protect, nothing to promote, no organizational agenda, and nothing to achieve. This, of course, does not provide immunity from self-deception, but it means any hidden motives in this account (which I have tried to avoid) are psychological and personal, and I hope by being scrupulously honest, the reader will see these easily and dismiss them. More protection for the integrity of this account might come from the deep and abiding love I have of Krishnaji and his Teachings, as these create an absolute and unconditional imperative: to present Krishnaji as fully and as honestly as possible.
The greatest part of this text was dictated in 1986, soon after Krishnaji’s death. Only very slight editing has been done to convert it from spoken text to written text—nothing has been added. However, thirty-one years have passed, and I continue to be as dedicated a student of Krishnaji’s Teachings as I have ever been, and my life’s experiences have added to my observations of thirty-one years ago. These additions I have noted as footnotes and appendices to the original text. In this way, the integrity of the original material as a primary source has been preserved while things helpful to understanding the original material have been added. The sixty-nine-year-old Scott H. Forbes has tried to elucidate the thirty-seven-year-old Scott H. Forbes.
For readers unfamiliar with Krishnaji’s remarkable life, this account will reveal many things that are unusual. There can be criticism that this account presents such things without any attempt at explanation. But an honest account must present what is not understood, especially as Krishnaji himself was so much more than I ever understood or that I ever anticipate understanding. Consequently, trying to “manage” his image, “clean up” his history, or “filter out” potentially unattractive or confusing elements in his life is arrogant and laughably absurd. There is an imperative to simply report as fully and truthfully as possible, acknowledging my flaws and limitations, the effects of which, I hope, my love for Krishnaji and his Teachings will partly mitigate.
A great deal of consideration has gone into whether to use people’s real names in this text, to give everybody an alias, or just to use initials. It has never been my wish to hurt anyone’s feelings, but everyone I have consulted on this matter has said the same thing: We all have to live with the truths of our pasts, and no one benefits from obfuscating, denying, or fictionalizing their lives. The readers of this text also do not benefit from being treated as though they can’t understand human foibles, flaws, and mistakes. The readers are also not served if they are seen as rushing into judgement without compassion for the challenges we all faced during this time. None of us were wise, no matter how much we wanted to be. None of us were without our limitations, conditionings, and egocentricities.
[i] Lutyens, Mary Lutyens, M. (1988). Krishnamurti: The Open Door.
[ii] Lutyens, M. (1975). Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening.
, Lutyens, M. (1983). Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfilment.
, Lutyens, M. (1988). Krishnamurti: The Open Door.
, Lutyens, M. (1990). Krishnamurti: His Life and Death.
[iii] This extensive memoir is available on the internet at inthepresenceofk.org
[iv] In The Presence of Krishnamurti: Mary’s Unfinished Book is available on Kindle.