Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Invisible Man: Special Guest Memoir by Louis Brawley

Welcome to another offering in our Guest Teaching Series.  This is the fifteenth installment in a groundbreaking string of posts that's caught the interest and imagination of seekers and teachers around the world.  On a personal note, let me say that editing this series continues to be an extraordinary broadening process for me.  It's been my great fortune to become friends with numerous teachers in Europe, North America, and Australia.  Ours is a generous and loving community; I've found support and encouragement at every turn.  I look forward to hosting material from more countries and new continents as we go forward.  Thank you for your interest.

LOUIS BRAWLEY didn't want me to call this week's entry a "teaching".  I think it has something to do with humility.  I suspect his teacher would have approved.  Ever mindful of being the polite host, I agreed to modify the header if he'd agree to do what he does so well: write.  I'll post a link to my 5-Star Amazon review of his extraordinary memoir of his days with U.G. Krishnamurti, Goner: The Final Travels of U. G. Krishnamurti, published a littler earlier this year by our friends at Non-Duality Press, Julian and Catherine Noyce.  They are tireless servants of this teaching we all share, and they sent me Louis' book to see if I might be interested in reviewing it.  I was.

GONER is more about U.G. Krishnamurti, whom I have elsewhere termed "The Hunter S. Thompson of Gurus", than it is about Louis Brawley.  "Goner" was the phrase U.G. used most often about those people who hung around him, so Louis himself certainly qualifies as a goner.  His book is a travel log and spiritual documentary, at times almost an homage, but there is not a lick of boo hoo sentimentality in it.  That's smart thinking on Louis' part, because there's little doubt in my mind that U.G. would come back and kick his butt if he overheard his American travel-buddy getting sappy.  U.G. was nothing if not feisty, like an angel toting a tire iron.  His friend, Louis Brawley is a big, knockabout sort of New Yorker, self-deprecating to a fault, yet with a artist's fine sensibility, and a mystic's intuitive insight.  For five years these two odd humans were fellow adventurers, gonzo buccaneers careening through the weirdness that is Planet Earth.  U. G. died in the spring of 2007, leaving one of the strangest and most colorful legacies in the history of Nonduality.

IN THE BOOK, Louis' role is as that of a stand-in for us: a (somewhat) average person in an altogether amazing situation; a situation peopled by the mercurial U. G., and a band of the deepest, sweetest, nuttiest group of seekers you ever had the pleasure to meet and spend time with.  The whole thing is a grand affair on wheels and sofas.  Louis is so funny: I nearly cried laughing over his romantic pinings and self-seen shortcomings.  I didn't feel superior to one bit of it; I felt just like Louis felt, and that's the power of his pen and eye.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY told Scott Fitzgerald that 1930's Paris in all its splendor, wonder, and decadence, was a moveable feast.  So was U. G. Krishnamurti.  He was, to my mind, something like an electromagnetic force, or ambulatory gravitational field that caused whatever roomful of people he was in to drop their normal patterns and behave more in accordance with truth.  Not glossed over truth--gutter truth; truth truth.  I don't mean he was a genie.  I mean he was a whirling tornado who pierced trees with straw and tore down cathedrals while leaving a puppy and a fragile tea cup unharmed.  U. G. took no prisoners and minced no works, but he nonetheless had friends and followers--and lord, those financial supporters!--all around the globe.  His was a hot white light that burned furiously, but somehow helped to purify whatever it burned, wherever it burned it.

I READ THE INTRODUCTION to a book the other day that bears an anonymous mention here.  This opening passage was written by the book's editor, who is also a friend and follower of the book's author.  The editor was selling his teacher to us with the zeal of a Jehovah's Witness on your doorstep.  It was okay for him to do, I've done it, and in a sense it was sweet.  But then midway through his pitch he branched off into declarations of his own blazing enlightenment--meaning the editor's--and all the kind of stuff that made me close own eyes and say a silent prayer in gratitude that this time, thank God, it wasn't me showing my sleepy ass in public.  I've been there and done that, and it isn't pretty.  It was just the kind of thing you write when you have a good intellectual understanding of this teaching, but little actual experience of it. That writer was making his teacher--and by association himself--out to be very, very special people.

AS IT HAPPENS, I've shared email and talked to that editor's teacher myself.  And oh yes, that guy the editor was bragging so hard on is indeed wide awake, I promise you that.  (Meaning, of course, that Awakeness is consciously functioning through him.)  But that teacher is not special; he's not special at all and would never claim to be.  I should be so unspecial!  He is average.  He is plain and ordinary.  He is, in fact, utterly transparent.  The less special the apparent person, the clearer the vehicle, as it were, and the better that truth can shine though it.  It's never about the teacher, folks; it's always about the Teacher.  These human bodies--and those of our teachers--live and die with the regularity and import of houseflies.  We come and go within That which does not come and go, and even Methuselah was here only for the blink of a cosmic--or geologic--eye.  If anyone remembers Fredness twenty years after I'm dead it'll be because my wife has great genes and a good memory, not because I've left any sort of mark on the surface of history.  I could care less about leaving any sort of mark on the surface of history. Being involved right now is all that matters.  In fact, it's all there is.

U. G. KRISHNAMURTI knew all this in spades. Through Louis, he makes these precise points time and again within the splendid pages of Goner, just as he did between the covers called his body's birth and death.  Louis Brawley knows all this, too.  It's why he tells us the unvarnished truth about his beloved teacher and friend--and himself.  It's a take it or leave it proposition, and there's no investment in which way you go.  He's not about to make either one of them into anything they're not, because he knows there's no need to do so, and no point in doing so.  What Is is always good enough, and when it comes to teachers, the less there is the better they are!  It's why Louis insisted this article not be denoted a "teaching".  And it's exactly why he titled this article what he titled it.

AND NOW . . .

The Invisible Man
Louis Brawley

AGREEING OR DISAGREEING had absolutely no place in my interactions with U.G. Krishnamurti. Teaching or not teaching was irrelevant. There came a time when I saw that there was nothing there to argue with, no entity promoting or defending any idea, rather it was life attacking all ideas as false. After that happened I was thrown back on the idea of control, supposed to spring from will and understanding. I can testify that my understandings were totally, utterly useless, what he called “empty words and empty phrases”.  Around U.G. this fact hit me with all the force and indifference of nature. Usually it came in the form of one of his 'blasts'. Before I met him I’d heard the expression 'blast' used to describe one of his rants. I assumed it was an exaggeration until I witnessed it for the first time. One evening we were sitting around while U.G. was talking to Mario about his job. The two were sitting face-to-face discussing Mario’s affairs after he'd just arrived after a long day of work and a six-hour drive from Cologne to Gstaad.  U.G. teased him quite a bit then suddenly an angry tone ripped into the exchange like a sudden tide, taking us all by surprise and focusing all of us on one point like a hot poker. Mario’s face turned red with the force of it. Because of his dynamic energy, the effect was like sitting inside a thunderstorm as we sat watching. It went on intensifying until it seemed unbearable, then suddenly it broke and he patted Mario on the arm after telling him to “Getoutofhere!” gently as a lamb. Later Mario told me he knew exactly why it happened and was grateful for it.
AFTER A LONG OBSESSION with the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti, I discovered the books of U.G. Krishnamurti. When what U.G. said started to sink in I knew I was dealing with something far more immediate. His was the expression of a man who had touched life directly, rather than through ideas or practice. There was never a question of his talking from a platform to a crowd or charging for that service. 'Shop closed! No wares to sell!' he repeated to friends over the years, while making himself available free of charge to whomever made it to his door. His time was spent in a one-on-one attack on the false "ideation" in others, his closest friends. The intimacy of his company was so immediate that when one of his 'blasts' was directed at me for the first time it felt like death. It must have been the death of the familiar, because nothing he ever did threatened my life. On the contrary, whatever he did, if there was an effect, it was to make me feel less invested in bullshit.  Sometimes it looks like all U.G. did was knock the wind out of my pretentious ideas about things every waking minute of the day for the five years I knew him. It was more refreshing than I can describe, and painful at times in exactly the way healing is painful.  
WHAT BECAME CLEAR as I ‘hung around’ U.G. was that my body is operating just fine with no problems, and this was the case no thanks to my ideas about it. Rather, the stress these ideas put on my body is the only problem I have. I am absolutely at the mercy of life, yet I carry on as though I have a say in it. As I understand it now, any and every idea at my disposal has come to me from society. I do not own a single one.  Over thousands of years of human existence the ideas used by society to impose fictions like ‘happiness’ on us get more and more predominant, causing increasingly unnatural stress. Handy for doing a job or getting to a train on time, thought is a great tool, but what idiot cooked up this idea of happiness? A very clever one indeed because this classic model of self-improvement sets up the dynamic for a business of human exploitation in the name of spirituality that has been thriving for thousands of years. U.G. was serious when he called it criminal to partake in a business like this where the goods cannot be delivered but the ass of the exploiter is covered with the idea of ‘faith’. In nature if something doesn’t work, it dies. There is no place in the natural order for faith, which operates only when there is uncertainty in the area of results. With happiness, or better yet, permanent happiness known as ‘enlightenment’, when the practice doesn’t produce results we are instructed to have faith or work harder rather than question the teachers. So we pay them and blame ourselves for not having enough faith or working hard enough. What a racket!

THE CAPACITY TO IMAGINE not only a world of happiness, (as seen in every romantic movie), but selves to inhabit it, (as imagined in our non-existent heads), has been made possible by a series of grunts and noises that the human animal has been making probably since shortly after we stood on two legs. There is no way to get at the origins of this dynamic survival tool and no need. What good would that information do us? If the simple spacing of sounds is the source of language, how can any language claim to be sacred? This is the height of pretense. If nothing else, we are animals of dangerous pretense. Unlike most animals, we kill each other and other creatures over these supposedly sacred noises. Humans are animals of the most violent nature mixed with the capacity for unparalleled compassion; mixed up critters for sure, eager to be freed, but deathly afraid of freedom from our sacred words, terrified to see them for what they are. God, enlightenment, love, hate are all noise attached to images attached to feelings, accepted by us without examining their source. We are a collection of these noises held together by the fear that if we let them go or question their validity we will lose out on the promised banquet that never seems to materialize.
U.G. USED TO SAY, “If you saw something for once in your life that would finish you!” What does that mean? It means that if we slow down and see what we are doing, there is a threat that we might see through these idiotic ideas and stand on our own, and that would be the end of the societal bullshitter. We are now so used to this parallel universe of word-noise that we walk through the real one without seeing it because all our words have made it invisible. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that the whole thing started as the grunting of one animal to another, exactly like a dog or a pig or a horse or a cow. “I am just a dog barking here, that is all.” U.G. said, and he meant it. That is why the man U.G. who resided beyond words just like the rest of us, but without the belief in them, will remain for the most part invisible in the pantheon of spirituality. After the ‘calamity’ [which is how U.G. referred to his awakening] he spent his life explaining how the business of words and ideas, spiritual, political and otherwise, have been leading us down a path to total destruction. 

PROPERLY USED, words are fantastic for gathering food, clothing and shelter, and thought is an absolute necessity for our survival. So what am I supposed to do when I know that all the words at my disposal for solving this dilemma of alienation or whatever my supposed problem is, including ‘consciousness’ and ‘meaning’, ‘insight’ and ‘enlightenment’, are included in the category of fantasy and imagination? Where does this lead me? U.G. saw that train coming before it rounded the bend. “That question ‘how?’ should be eliminated from the language!” Indeed for escaping this mess or worse, solving it, it goes into the same category. Useless. So any answer provided falls into the category of noise that will only suffice to keep the general racket of noise going more and more.
WITH NO SOLUTION, is it possible to leave it alone, or is this going to go on and on in an empty ritual of question and answer forever? Who knows? Having met a man who somehow lost the capacity to believe in the illusory meanings and images attached to the entirety of the vocabulary installed in him from childhood, how do I explain the impact of our meeting?  The effect of witnessing him daily was physical. Like a dog on a leash seeing another dog across a busy highway running free without a leash there was an instant primordial recognition from which language was completely excluded. U.G. was a functional human being who acted with total clarity and a living vitality familiar to me as one dog to another, one life form to another. Yet there were only a handful of people around at any given time.  “Why is that?” I used to wonder, so one day I asked him “U.G., what you are is so amazing. Why are there not more people around you?” His reply, like all his replies, was simple, unhesitant and clear,  “If I wanted to be famous I would have to sell something. I simply refused.”
I COUNT MYSELF insanely fortunate to have run alongside that wild barking dog for five years. The only difference between us is that I haven’t chewed off my leash yet. 
* * * * *

Louis' Webpage 1 (writing):

Louis' Webpage 2 (art):

On Facebook:

Louis writing about Goner:

U. G. Krishnamurti's "Swan Song" (Dictated to Louis by U. G.):

Louis on You Tube with U. G.:  

U. G. Krishnamurti on Wikipedia:

Housekeeping Notes:

Let me welcome Lithuania as country number 79 to join the ever-expanding Awakening Clarity family. Readers there now join others around the world who are helping to awaken Clarity where they are, which is always exactly Here, exactly Now.

And let me thank my beautiful wife, Betsy Hackett-Davis, for bringing me the season's first gardenia blossom while I wrote this on Wednesday night.  What could be better than a gleaming white star from Heaven hand-delivered by an angel?