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Issue 1 – 1944 to April 1965  

Introduction to Issue 1

This is very much the start of we knew not what. What Mary and I did know was that we both had a very profound affection for Krishnaji[1], and a great love of his “teachings,” which was the name used to designate his work. We also knew that no one since Krishnaji’s brother (who died in 1925) had known Krishnaji as well as Mary. I knew Krishnaji much less well, but still well enough to be asked by him to accompany him on some of his travels, and to be next to him when he died.

 When this first discussion took place, I was the principal of The Brockwood Krishnamurti Educational Centre in England, the only school he had founded in Europe. After Krishnaji’s death, Mary maintained the apartment she had always occupied while Krishnaji was alive, and she would spend about half of the year at Brockwood. The discussions, of which this is the first, initially took place in the kitchen of her apartment. Even after I left Brockwood to go to Oxford, I would return for weekends during those months she was there, and we would meet in her kitchen with my tape recorder to continue our discussions.

It is important for the reader of these transcripts to understand that this is a record of conversations between two people who had a love of each other (Mary was very much a second mother to me, and I was, she said, the son she never had) and a profound affection for, not just Krishnaji’s work, but also for the man that Krishnaji was. For well over ten years after Krishnaji died, I found that I was still mentally collecting funny things to tell him; as getting Krishnaji to laugh was one of my delights. So it is important for the reader to understand that the nature of these discussions is not that of a serious exposition, but rather that of two dear friends enjoying discussing together something that was deeply meaningful and delightful for them both.

I considered nothing too trivial to ask Mary about, so I asked many questions that some readers may find trivial. I felt that Mary’s perception of all of the characters in Krishnaji’s life was worth knowing, so some readers may feel some of my questions are gossipy. I would ask endless questions about what she and Krishnaji did in various places, so I’m sure many readers may feel that some information I am pulling from Mary is of no importance to Krishnaji’s teachings. This conclusion would be true, but these small daily things were part of what it was like for Mary to be in Krishnaji’s presence. Also, my working assumption was always that it is easy to cut things out later, but impossible to fill things in when the source of information is gone as, indeed, it now is. So, if the reader wishes to skip over or dismiss the trivial, the personal, and the mundane for only what was extraordinary and special about Krishnamurti, then they are welcome to do so, and I will applaud them for it; such a reader is a better editor than I.

The editing of this material has been as light as possible, but still more than half of the material has been removed. There has been, and will continue to be, an attempt to avoid hurting the feelings of anyone who could be hurt by reading what Mary or Krishnaji said about them.

Mary had not consulted her diaries before we started this first discussion, and she didn’t even keep diaries for the first years that are covered in this material. She did keep diaries from the 1960s onward, so that when she refers to needing to refresh her memory or look things up before we continue, she is saying that she will read her diaries prior to our subsequent session. Nevertheless, her memories are very sharp from the beginning of her contact with Krishnamurti, as this period had an enormous impact on her on her.


The Memoirs of Mary Zimbalist: Issue 1

 

Scott: I’m going to ask you all about your meetings with Krishnaji, or your time with Krishnaji, and lots of details.

Mary: As you long as you ask the questions, I’ll respond in some way. So where do you want to begin?

S: Well, start with the first contact that you had, which I know was in the ‘40s; even the first time you saw him, or anything.

M: Yes, it was in 1944, during the war. It’s preceded by that anecdote, which, if you want me to retell it, is about how I heard about him?

S: Absolutely.

M: Alright, it goes like this: I had a friend who was a doctor, a regular medical doctor, but he was very interested in all kinds of psychiatric things, and so was I. So, whenever I went in for a flu shot, or whatever it was, we’d wind up discussing the brain or the mind and how it worked and such. Well, one day, in the spring of 1944 (I think it was, yes), I went into his office for some medical reason, and he said, “Oh, come in. Come in. I have something I want to tell you.” He proceeded to tell me about a friend of his, a psychiatrist, who had learned that he had some fatal form of heart disease. On learning this, he had up and left his family, his friends, and everything in Chicago where he lived, and said, “I’m going to California to learn how to die from a man named Krishnamurti,” which doubtless startled everybody. My doctor friend was very curious, so he went to see his friend, the dying doctor, and of course, he meets Krishnamurti.

That was on a weekend, and I happened to come in on the Monday afterward, and he said to me, “I’ve met this extraordinary man, who knows more about the human mind than anyone I’ve ever heard of.” Well, of course, I was all ears at this description. And then there was a pause for about, I don’t remember, but say a month or two or maybe three when I heard (and I forget how I heard, but I did) that this Krishnamurti was going to resume giving talks in Ojai[2]. As we all know by now, during the war he was in Ojai because he happened to be there when the war broke out, and he couldn’t travel. So he simply led a quiet life in Ojai, and didn’t talk publicly at all. However, now that the war was winding down, it was decided that he would speak again. Well, I thought I wanted to see what this was about, so I drove up to Ojai from LA (I’d never been there before), found the place where he was to talk, and heard the talk—the first talk.

The war hadn’t yet ended, and I remember dimly that there were gas restrictions, and I had to figure out if I could get to Ojai on the gas I had. Anyway, I went. I remember quite vividly his coming into the Oak Grove[3]; his dignity and his quiet, and his doing what we later came to see so often: his looking around before he spoke. And then his speaking; being struck by his voice, which was partly English but not quite English-English. He had an English accent but with his own intonation. I found the talk and his manner of giving it very impressive, but it was all strange to me in a way. So, afterward, I went and bought some of the booklets, the things that we have come to call “The Verbatim Talks,” those little pamphlets. I took them home, and started to read. I found that, because of my background in psychoanalysis, I argued with him down the page. I couldn’t advance in these things. I kept thinking, why does he say that? This went on for a couple of days, but luckily it dawned on me, somehow, that I should just go and listen to what he said and not argue through these written things.

S: Now, let me go back to that talk at the Oak Grove. Was he talking in the same place in the Oak Grove as he did in subsequent years?

M: Yes.

S: Exactly the same place?

M: Exactly.

S: Was he on a platform, or in a chair on the ground?

M: No, he was speaking, in those days, standing up, I think on the ground and not on a platform.

S: Was the audience sitting on the ground or on chairs?

M: On the ground, I think. There may have been some chairs. I don’t remember. I sat on the ground, and most people sat on the ground, as I remember it.

S: How many people were in the audience, do you think?

M: Oh, there were quite a few. I don’t remember it as being different from what I remember much later. Probably a thousand, several hundred, at least. It wasn’t as full as it could’ve been, but it was a goodly crowd.

S: Where did they park their cars?

M: In the fields, where they parked later. That was always there. The whole set-up was the same, except that they had the tables with the books, or the pamphlets for sale, and books, a few books. One of the people who was selling the books was a Mrs. Vigeveno. I bought the pamphlet from her. She and her husband had an art gallery in Westwood in Los Angeles, where I had gone to look at pictures at some point. I don’t know whether she knew my name, but she recognized me from having come into the gallery, and, so, when I bought the little pamphlets, she asked, “Are you interested?” Anyway, I continued to go to the rest of those talks. That was my first sight of Krishnaji.

Now the relevance of Mrs. Vigeveno in the story is that sometime later that year I had a telephone call, I think from her, and I don’t know whether I’d been into the gallery and seen her again, but I was invited to join a discussion group at their gallery (their gallery was part of their house) once a week with a small group of people. So, I went, and I think there were probably a dozen or fifteen people, maybe a few more. Some of the people there I already knew, two couples I knew, plus the Vigevenos, whom I knew but just very casually. Rajagopal[4] was at those discussions, and it was said that Krishnamurti might come, and indeed, he eventually did come. I attended all of that.

S: How many meetings were there like that?

M: I don’t remember, but there were two sets of these meetings. I can’t remember now whether Krishnamurti came to the first set or only the second set, but I was in both. I also remember that I got my husband Sam[5] invited and he went, but he didn’t see what it was. He was curious in what interested me, and he only went out of that curiosity.

S: These sets, was there like a month between the sets, or a week?

M: I don’t remember.

S: So when Krishnaji was present, you then had a chance to actually talk directly with him?

M: Yes, they were discussions. Two of the people, whom I knew quite well, were there and had attended the talks too, a couple.

S: What were their names?

M: Their names are Eisner. They lived down near where I lived, down the street, and Betty Eisner, the wife, and I had both worked in the hospitals together during the war, as nurses’ aides, and we used to share the ride, so we became friends. Later on, at some point, they invited me and both Rajagopal and Krishnamurti to lunch. I only remember Krishnaji going once, but I sat next to him, and I remember that he was very shy. This comes a little bit later. I’m not telling this in proper sequence.

While the talks were going on, I heard somehow that you could request an interview with Krishnaji—he would meet people individually. So I wrote, and in due course I got a reply saying that, if I could come on such and such date at such and such a time to such and such a place, I would have an appointment with Mr. Krishnamurti. The address for the meeting was a house in Hollywood, not Ojai. So I went, rang the bell, and the door was opened by Mr. Krishnamurti. [S chuckles.] And I remember very vividly the way he sort of bowed. He had beautiful, very formal manners. “Good morning, Madame,” he said.

S: Of course.

M: In I went and apparently there wasn’t anyone else in the house. I don’t know. It was very quiet. We went to a sort of sitting room.

S: Whose house was this?

M: I later found out that it was a house that belonged to Mrs. Zalk or something like that, the sister of Rosalind Rajagopal[6]; but the house functioned as a townhouse for all of them. This is  where Krishnaji saw people in Los Angeles. It was on Beachwood Drive, I remember, an old part of Hollywood. Anyway, Krishnaji sat there and didn’t say anything. So I felt it behooved me to say why I was there, and why I had come. I told him a little bit about myself, and was approaching the questions that I had intended to ask him when he asked me some questions. I don’t remember the back and forth of it. I only remember that it was a different order of any discussion of anything psychological or indeed any other kind of discussion I had ever had. When I came out I felt as though my head had been opened up and everything inside had been operated on. It was terribly moving. I remember also that he took me (but I saw it happen many times to other people) so far into my own, what do you want to call it, mind or consciousness or level of understanding that it was…well…I wept copiously. I mean, it was so deep, it touched something so deep inside me that it made me cry. I’ve seen so many people go through that when they come out of talking to Krishnaji.

S: Yes. Yes.

M: In fact, it happened to me in other interviews later on. Anyway, I went to all the talks of that year, and after the first talk, I really just listened. I’d caught on that you shouldn’t keep going on about what you think, but just go and listen. And, well, it became the thing that has interested me most centrally for the rest of my life.

S: Now, this interview you had was during those discussions in the gallery?

M: It was before the discussions. I’ve told this badly.

S: No, no, it doesn’t matter the sequence. It doesn’t have to be in sequence.

M: The sequence is that I hear him speak, I argue with the pamphlets, I go back to hear him speak. From then on, I just listened, and it sank in.

S: Right. And then you had the interview.

M: Yes, and then I was in the small group discussions.

S: So that by the time you got to the small group discussions, Krishnaji already had some contact with you.

M: Yes, but he never gave any sign that he’d ever seen me before. Many years later, in Saanen[7], he once said to me, “Did I ever know you in California, [chuckles] or meet you in California?” And of course, this meeting, which was such an overwhelming milestone in my life [S laughing now], he, of course, had no recollection of! I remember laughing because it seemed, well, it pleased me so much. It was right, was in character for him not to remember. It seemed like, of course, he shouldn’t remember all these people who, like me, would come and pour out their probably tedious questions to him.

S: Yes. Do you remember what the questions were that you had for him then?

M: No. No, I don’t. I don’t remember.

S: So all this took place in 1944?

M: ’44 and into ’45. I couldn’t tell you whether it lapsed into winter ’45 or whether it was…I would imagine that the interview was in ’45, but I’m not sure; it doesn’t matter. Anyway, he then went off to India, as we now know, there were no more talks in Ojai for some time. He obviously spoke in India and probably Europe, but I didn’t attend any of those.

S: Did you keep reading his books?

M: Yes, I kept reading. I got on the mailing list. Sam wasn’t interested, so I just went on reading on my own. Then, there’s a big gap in all this, because I didn’t really hear him speak again until 1960.

S: Where could you get the books?

M: From Krishnamurti Writings[8]. They sent little postcards out when there was a new book. You got the postcard, you ordered what the card advertised, and you got it.

S: So you didn’t hear Krishnaji again until 1960?

M: Yes, he came back in 1960, and began a series of talks in, I think, June.

S: Mary, I don’t know if you want to include your personal life in this narrative, but I think it’s relevant—the things that had happened to you in those intervening years. Sam had died in that time, and you had all of that.

M: Sam died at the end of 1958. I had just left him in Rome because the picture, Ben-Hur, wasn’t finished, but I needed to come back and start rebuilding our house which had burned down. I was going back to join him in Rome for Christmas, but we needed to get the house going, make the contract with the builder, and do all of those things. Ten days after I got back to Malibu, and signed the contract, got the building started, Sam died suddenly of a massive heart attack. I don’t want to go on about that, but it was as though, I don’t know, my life had ended too, somehow. It was very strange…this is very personal, but I will say it…I had the feeling that as I was still alive, there was something that I had to do, and in some strange way, I felt I was doing it for him and for me—as though, there was something that I had to learn, and don’t ask me how, but I could somehow do it for him too. I…it isn’t a logical thing.

S: No, I understand.

M: It was a very profound feeling. I remember feeling that very night I learned of his death, that there’s something I’ve got to do. I felt that I had to find out what all this was about. That was the only important thing to me: what lay beyond life and death, and what are we all doing with our lives, and why do we go so wrong? All the questions that …probably we all have about our lives when we come into contact with something that is as serious as Krishnaji’s teachings, or as serious as someone dying in your life that is really a crisis. The answer to that was that I had to go back and listen to what Krishnamurti had to say. It wasn’t running to Krishnamurti for some kind of a refuge or enlightenment or solace. It was that I had to understand what he was talking about because I felt instinctively and profoundly that what he was talking about had to do with reality and truth, and that that was the whole point of my still being alive. It was the only thing that I wanted to do, was interested in. It was the only reason for anything to me at that point.

But I also had a very strong feeling in the weeks and months that followed that I mustn’t run away from something; that I mustn’t go to anyone to solve a problem, or to somehow make me feel better in some way. I mustn’t run away from what’s happened, but rather come to terms with what happened in my own life. In other words, don’t go to anything with self-motive.

S: Yes, I understand.

Click below to hear Mary.

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M: I felt that intensely, strongly. So I didn’t make any attempt or even think of going to see him, and then suddenly he came back in 1960. This was about 18 months after Sam was gone. I went to the talks. I also wrote and asked for an interview. He was to give eight talks, but he only gave four. At the end of the fourth he announced that he regretted that that would be the last talk. For reasons of health, he had to stop. In the meantime, he had given or okayed to whoever handled it, a certain number of interviews, and mine was among them, fortunately.

So, I was called to go on a certain, again, time and date and place, but it was in Ojai this time, at the Vigeveno’s house. He again greeted me very formally. There was no reference to my ever having seen him before. We talked for a very long time, and it was all about death. And again, it’s not repeatable, but the thing at the end of it…well, I was able to tell him that I had seen for myself that when people are in a state of grief, it’s very often self-pity. They’re feeling, why did this happen to me? Why have I lost something? And I thought that was false and repellent, and I didn’t feel that way. I felt I had seen that very clearly, and I was able to tell him this. I remember his nodding, and I could tell, or his manner showed that he saw that I saw that, and that he didn’t have to go through that with me so he could go on from there. The sort of conclusion of this, to put it very simply, was his statement, which I understood at the time and have since; “You must die every day to everything. Only then are you really living.” I understood that it doesn’t mean that you brush your life under the rug and forget everything. It doesn’t alter what you feel, or the feeling of loss, if you’ve lost someone you loved, it doesn’t alter that, that sense of loving them, or indeed, remembering them. But it’s the factor of dependence, it’s the factor of egotism, it’s the factor of me and the whole thing. You have to die to that and only then, otherwise, well, as we now know from his teaching, that you mustn’t carry the whole shadow of the past and react to that. It was the most profound experience of listening to Krishnaji that I’ve ever had. It meant a great deal. After that, he left Ojai, I guess. I didn’t know what was happening. But, I determined then that I would hear him again and follow what he was saying seriously.

Click below to hear Mary.

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Now, what I didn’t know was that he wouldn’t come back to Ojai. I assumed that he would return because he’d resumed talking in Ojai, but he didn’t. In those days I didn’t want to go back to Europe because that’s where I’d been with Sam. I just wanted to be quiet and to think about all these things.

So it wasn’t until 1961 that I realized he wasn’t going to come back to speak in Ojai.

S: Why wasn’t he speaking in America?

M: Well, it turns out later that it was the Rajagopal problem. He didn’t come back because of that.

S: He came back to Ojai.

M: He came back to Ojai only that once.

S: And he didn’t give any more public talks?

M: No, no. He gave the public talks in 1963 and he didn’t give any more public talks. He  spoke in Europe.

S: He didn’t even speak in New York or Chicago or any place?

M: No, not in this country, not for several years. Finally, I thought, well, if I want to hear the man speak, go where he’s speaking. I was going to go in the winter of ’63, but Filomena[9] was ill, and I couldn’t leave her. So, the first time I went to where he was speaking, which was Saanen, Switzerland, was in the summer of ’64. I determined that summer that I would follow the whole tour; do this really thoroughly that next year. I would start wherever he spoke in Europe, which turned out to be London, and that I would go on to Saanen and to India—do the whole year, which is what I did.

S: So, in ’64 you heard him in Saanen?

M: ’64 I heard him in Saanen, and that summer I had another interview.

S: Was that the first year that he spoke in Saanen?

M: No, he spoke, I think, in ’63.

S: Was that when he spoke in the Landhaus[10]?

M: Maybe. Probably.

S: But ’64 was the first year there was a tent like a geodesic dome?

M: The geodesic dome. Yes. It was nice, that tent.

S: Where did you stay?

M: I didn’t know where to stay, so I consulted Fodor’s Travel Guide and found there was a place called L’Ermitage Hotel, and I thought I liked the sound of that. So I booked rooms at the Ermitage.[11]

S: Mmmm [laughing]. Not very much like a hermitage.

M: No! [Laughs.] I remember landing in Geneva, renting a little tiny car, a Hertz car or Avis, Hertz I think it was, and driving along the lake with a map, figuring how to get up to this place called Saanen. It was strange to be back in Europe. I hadn’t been in Switzerland before, but to be suddenly driving along in the middle of Europe by myself.  I’d come to London before that. I remember seeing the Frys[12] in London, and then, there I was driving along the lake and up to Saanen to the L’Ermitage Hotel [chuckle]. Then the talks started. I remember that he took questions at the end of each talk, and I wanted to ask a question but somehow it didn’t work out, and the talks ended. At the end of each talk, Krishnaji used to stand over where Vanda[13], who was driving him in those days, used to park her car under some trees, back toward where the Boy Scout place was. He would stand under the tree and talk to a few people who would come up and shake his hands, as they always did after the talks. So, I went up to him and said, “Mr. Krishnamurti, I’m Mary Zimbalist, and you won’t remember me, but I’ve talked to you before in Ojai, and I wanted to ask you about…so and so.” He replied, “Yes, yes, ask that tomorrow.” So, I thanked him and walked away. [S chuckles.] Of course, the next day, the talk went off in a totally different direction, [S laughs] and my question had no relevance to what he was saying! So I didn’t ask it. Again, I hoped to have an interview, but I was shy about asking and I didn’t know how to go about it there. However, there was a friend, in those days, of his and Vanda’s and Frances’[14], a lovely man who I don’t think you knew: Pietro Cragnolini. Did you ever meet Cragnolini?

S: No.

M: Well, Cragnolini was a funny man; very, very Italian, and he’d known Krishnaji from the Ommen[15] days. He used to tell me tall tales of what really went on [S laughs] at Ommen, people going in and out of the wrong tents in the middle of the night [S laughs], sleeping in the woods, all these stories. I used to walk with him, or lunch with him sometimes, and he caught on what I wanted: he asked, “Do you want an interview?” and I said, “Oh yes, but I’m hesitant to ask.” He said, “Don’t worry about it,” and [laughs] the next day, this was on a Sunday or a Monday, I had an appointment on Wednesday at 3 o’clock at Chalet Tannegg[16]. So, I went to Chalet Tannegg. And again, Krishnaji opened the door and took me into the living room.

In those days, instead of that dreadful big brown couch that you will remember, there was a black leather one, and he sat at one end and I sat at the other end, and we talked.

S: Describe where the couch was.

M: Well, it was facing the window, in front of that side-board. It was black leather and sort of shiny. It was an improvement on the one that replaced it. [S laughs.] I also remember Krishnaji’s eyes, and I thought it looked like a cataract was developing in his eyes, and I remember thinking—horrible! He’s going to lose his vision, which, of course, he never did. But his eyes were sort of cloudy.

I was seated about the distance between you and me at the moment, which is what, about  four feet, and I was bothered by his eye. But, my diagnosis was luckily very poor.

I remember what I was asking him then. I was telling him that I was really tormented by the disturbances in the world that were going on (I’ve forgotten what they were then, but as usual, there were dreadful things happening) and to the degree that I was not a free, enlightened, psychologically clear person, I was responsible for all that human evil, really. I felt that I had to do something about it, the whole thing. I felt a terrible burden of this. He sort of brushed that aside. He didn’t feel that was really the root of it. He said, “You take all these things very seriously,” and I said, “Yes, I do.” He went on from there, but I remember that question was what I’d come to ask him.

S: Do you remember in what way he went on to talk, or what he went on to talk about?

M: Not too well. No. Not to report, except that it somehow unhooked me from this thing.

What I think he was saying was that I was displacing onto the state of the world, that my responsibility was myself, and I shouldn’t feel all this other burden of everybody’s insanities.

Another nice thing in those days was that Cragnolini sometimes used to walk with Krishnaji. One day, Cragnolini asked, “Would you like to come on a walk? I’m walking with Krishnaji this afternoon. You come too.” And I said, “Well, if it’s alright, yes, of course, I’d like to.” I remember that we walked towards Lauenen, on the road to Lauenen.

S: Did you walk through the woods to the Lauenen Road?

M: Yes. And I remember we walked way up. We didn’t walk as far as Lauenen, but quite a ways, and I was looking for chamois. Did you ever a see a chamois[17]? I was looking for one, hoping to see one. We all talked very easily, I don’t remember about what, but it wasn’t strange at all. As the talks were ending, he said to me on one of these walks…

S: Oh, so you went on several of the walks?

M: Yes, I went on several. He asked, “Are you going to stay after the talks? Will you be here, or are you leaving after the talks?” I said that I had intended to leave. He replied, “Well, we’re holding a small discussion after the talks, and if you’d like to be part of it, you are welcome.” So I naturally changed my plans, and stayed on. He had about 30 people, roughly, in that meeting, and again it was at Tannegg. By this time, I’d met Vanda, and I’ve forgotten now, but I can look it up, whether she had invited me for lunch. I’d also met Alain Naudé, who had just come to the talks, but he was going to go to India. He was very serious about it all, and he sort of was acting as a kind of assistant. For instance, he was the one who called me up and told me when to come to Tannegg for the meeting, and things like that. He already had started to do things to assist Vanda, for Krishnaji.

S: Who else do you remember from that summer?

M: Well, I remember various people. Iris Tree was there. You never knew Iris. Iris had known Krishnaji for years. She and her husband Ledebur, when the war started ending, they went and lived in Ojai. She was an actress then, and she started a theater in Ojai. They used to see Krishnaji quite a lot. I also knew her from New York. It was she who took me up to Tannegg for the first time to call on Vanda—that’s how I met Vanda.

S: Tell me other people.

M: Vimala Thakhar was in the discussion, and I remember—because I had the car—that I was asked to go pick her up, which I did, as she was in Saanen, too. After Iris left, because Iris was not in the discussion, she had rented rooms from two little old old-maid sisters who had nursed Madame Curie. They were Swiss, and they were both trained nurses, you know, infirmiéres, and the big thing in their lives was that they had nursed Madame Curie. They were both in their 90s, I think. They owned Chalet Charmeuse, which was later taken over by the Palace Hotel. Now it’s flats, but it was an old-fashioned chalet, and Iris had a room. I was getting pretty fed up being up in Schonried, where I had become the oldest living inhabitant. Hotel guests came and went and I was still in the dining room. [S laughs heartily.] That was where the waiter who had given me food all summer, and to whom I talked in French because I didn’t know German, and at the end of the summer, I said to him in French, “What nationality are you?” because I knew he wasn’t French-speaking naturally. He said, “I’m Irish” [hearty laughter]. He had a summer job! He hadn’t told me. Anyway, I hated being in a hotel that long. I’ve always disliked hotels. So, I took the room that Iris gave up. It was just a very old-fashioned chalet, very nice. I bought yogurt, and put it out on the window-sill to keep it cold all night. It also had the advantage of being just down the hill from Tannegg.

S: Tell me about Vimala Takhar. What was she like in those days?

M: Well, she was already obnoxious. She was already saying, “Where do you live?” When I told her where I lived, she made it up in her mind that she’d come to visit me, and that I would put her up during her coming tour of the west coast. I was not going to have that at all. She was already Vimala Takhar! [S chuckles.]

So, who else? People like the Suarès were there. I think Marcelle Bondoneau[18] was there.

S: You can’t remember anyone else?

M: No.

S: Okay. How many meetings were there that these 30 people came to?

M: I think there were, hmmm…I could look it up. I have a record of all this. By this time, I kept a little engagement book, and I wrote down all this.

S: Where did Krishnaji sit in the Tannegg living room? On that L-bench on the end, that corner bench?

M: No. He sat on a chair but he sat at the other end of the room, the dining room end.

S: The dining room end?

M: Yes. And we sat in rows in chairs.

After these discussions, I flew home.

S: But, wait a minute. Sorry. I keep interrupting here.

M: That’s fine.

S: Did you go to lunch at Tannegg?

M: I think I did, a couple of times. I’m not too clear about that.

S: Who did you get to know most during that summer in Saanen? Cragnolini?

M: Cragnolini and Frances, and, of course, Iris, whom I already knew. That’s about all. I didn’t, you know, seek people out. I didn’t sit around and talk after the talks. I didn’t want to speak to anybody!

S: Yes, I’ve always had that feeling, too. I wanted silence after a talk.

M: I didn’t want to discuss any of this with anybody there. So, I went off by myself, walked a lot, climbed the mountains, and I played the recorder in those days. I went and sat on the airfield in my car, played my recorder till the police would come over and stop me. [Both chuckle.] Then I went back to California.

S: Did you fly right from Geneva? Or did you come back to London?

M: No, I didn’t go back to London. I flew to New York from Geneva, as far as I recall.

S: Where did you stay in London when you came over?

M: There was a woman called Mrs. Martinez, who had a house in Eaton Place, where she took bed and breakfast guests. It was the beginning of the days of bed and breakfast, but she only took people that were friends of friends. A person just didn’t ring the bell and get in. My mother had stayed there because an English friend of hers told her about it. She’d stayed there, and so I went. It was ideal because you had your own door key to come into the house at night, and there was a butler who brought you breakfast on a big heavy tray.

S: Marvelous.

M: Yes, that was very nice, a room and bath. Wasn’t expensive. It was perfect. I stayed there several times.

So, the next bit in this story, is that Rajagopal comes into the picture now, because while these meetings were going on in Chalet Tannegg, some of the people, including myself, wanted to hear the recordings of the meetings. So, I said to Alain, “So many of us would like to hear the tapes of our discussions, or read a transcript that I would be delighted to pay some secretary to transcribe it for some of us, if that’s allowed.” Word came back from Krishnamurti via Alain that, “Mr. Krishnamurti does not have the right to give that permission, only Mr. Rajagopal does,” which rather took me aback.

S: I’ll bet!

M: It did. [Both laugh.] So, when I got back to California and…

S: Sorry, but who was making the recordings?

M: Alain. It was the following summer that Alain found out about Nagras[19].

S: So anyway, you got back to California?

M: I called up Rajagopal and said, “Look here, I was in this discussion group, and I know you have the tape…” Oh, by the way, the tape had to be sent the same day it was made, it had to go right from the recorder into the mail to Rajagopal. So, I knew he had the tapes, and I said, “I’d like to hear them.” Well, such a to-do went on. “Well, you see everyone wants to hear them, and I can’t possibly let everybody hear them, so no, well…” he went on shilly-shallying back and forth about this. Finally, he said, “Well, if you can come up to Ojai,…did you make notes?’

“Yes, I made notes.”

“Well, you bring your notes, and you can hear one tape, and you can choose the tape, but you must bring your notes.” And [chuckles], it had to be a day when the Vigevenos, who lived next door, would not be in Ojai, because he didn’t want them to know that I was allowed to hear a tape. And, not only did I have to come when they were away, but I had to park my car so that it would not be visible to them next door.

S: So, you already figured out that you’re dealing with someone very strange here!

M: Very, but then I knew this from before, because he’d been at the Eisner’s at other times than that one luncheon. He’d been there for dinner when I was there for dinner a couple times, and I caught on quickly that he was…well, frankly, I thought he had a drinking problem.

S: That’s what I’ve heard.

M: Yes. And the reason I thought so was that he made such a to-do about whether to have a drink or not before dinner, which they very naturally offered him. He would say, “Well, I don’t know. Do you think I should? Probably I shouldn’t. Well, I suppose I could.” He went on and on, and I thought, you know, “Just say yes or no, but what’s all this fuss about?” I thought something was going on there.

S: This is interesting. [Both chuckle.] So this was back at the Eisner’s, in Malibu?

M: Not in Malibu. This was back in the ’44 days, when I was living in Los Angeles. They lived down the street from me in Los Angeles.

S: Did he go on like this with Krishnaji present?

M: No, Krishnaji wasn’t there for dinner, only for lunch. This was, I think, at night. Also, he knew other friends I knew, so I saw the trail of this man around town, leading his own life.

S: Well, tell me. [Laughter.]

M: Well, I could tell that he had a sort of teasing, flirtatious way, not towards me, but toward another woman who was all excited by him. He sort of made himself the center of attention, not by coy behavior, but in a way that drew attention to his every reaction. So, I knew he was a bit neurotic, but this nonsense over the tape was something. Oh, I was asked for lunch too. So, we had lunch, and then I could listen to the tape.

S: What was that lunch like?

M: Fruit juice and salad or something.

S: But what was the conversation and the atmosphere?

M: Sort of fidgety. So, Rajagopal, his wife, and I sat solemnly in the living room. It was in sort of an alcove. We ate on a table in a corner of the living room, and then we moved to another area where he had a tape recorder. I had to hand over my marvelous notes. I could make notes of listening to the tape, but I had to give him copies of those notes too.

S: So you had to give your notes over that you’d made in Saanen?

M: Yes. And also the notes I was going to make then—what for, I can’t imagine. So, I listened to the tape. They both sat there and listened with me. I suddenly figured out why he was letting me near the tape: he had recognized some of the voices of people he knew on the tape, but he didn’t recognize others, and he wanted me to identify them. That’s why all this performance went on.

S: You’re still talking about the fall of ’64 when this happened, because this took place when you got back to California, almost immediately.

M: Yes. By this time I was living in Malibu, and naturally I wanted to know when and where future talks were going to be held. So I called him up and he said casually that he didn’t know. I thought that was very odd. He said, “You must write to Mrs. Mary Cadogan in London.” So I wrote to Mrs. Mary Cadogan, and I got back a letter that said that since I was coming from so far away, that she would tell me where the talks were and when, but I must please not tell anyone else where they were, including my family, or why I was going to London. I thought this is [S chuckles] crazy—these are public talks. But, I wasn’t going to argue as I wanted to hear them.

When the spring came, I returned to London, went back to Mrs. Martinez and went out to Wimbledon where the talks were being held. The talks were in the Boy Scouts’ Hall in Wimbledon, which was a very small hall. I’ve asked Mary about this since, and she agrees that the hall was very small. I didn’t understand why such a small hall was rented, but, you see, Rajagopal was really trying to damp down all this; printing these little booklets which were only sent out to those on the mailing list, and nobody knew anything, It was all kept as a big, dark secret. He made mysteries out of everything, and of course, he was like the Svengali[20] behind the whole thing.

S: Of course.

M: He was pulling the wires on this whole thing. Anyway, I went and afterward when Krishnaji stood outside, I went up to him this time. Alain was there and Krishnaji seemed to recognize me and he was charming. We chatted a bit.

I think Alain eventually called me up and said that they’d like me to come for lunch at the house in Wimbledon. That was one of those dreadful rented houses in Wimbledon…

S: That Anneke[21] and Doris[22] had found [chuckling] and were cooking and doing everything?

M: Yes. [Chuckles.] It was really awful to put Krishnaji up in those dreadful houses, but they did. So I went. I had again rented a little tiny car to get out there. So, we had lunch. I was the only guest with the two women, Alain, and Krishnaji. He was full of the questions about “What is the American mind?” as he used to say. “What’s happening in America?” Well, as it happened, I had gone on the March to Selma, from Selma to Montgomery[23] with Martin Luther King. I thought that would interest him, because that was big news in America at that point. He was very interested, and I described the whole thing in quite some detail: how it came about, and what happened, and all of it. He listened with great interest to that. He walked me out to the car afterward with Alain, and he said, “Perhaps we could go to a cinema.”

I, of course, replied, “Yes!” Then he said, “Well, you decide.” So I went off, thinking, “What in the world!” [S chuckles heartily.] “What do I take this man to? A cinema? What would he like?”

S: Of course.

M: So I stared at the newspaper and pondered and finally decided that My Fair Lady was playing and that that would be a good movie and suitable [S chuckling]. Anyway, that’s what I decided. So, either I called Alain or he called me, I don’t know what, but I told him my choice, and Alain said, “Oh, Krishnaji has changed his mind by now. He doesn’t want to go to the cinema. He wants to go for a drive in the country. So could you choose a place and drive us to the country.” So, I was back to [laughter] my problem. I didn’t know where to go. I wasn’t that familiar—I’d spent two winters in London, but I hadn’t gone driving in the country [S laughing], especially with the aim of something that would please a man named Krishnamurti. So I did some research.

I heard about Wisley, the royal horticultural gardens at Wisley, and I thought maybe that would be a place. So, I did a dry run. I went out and cased Wisley [laughs] and decided, yes, that it was really beautiful and perhaps he’d like that. I remember that I got a better car than the one I was driving, and I went to the house [laughs] in Wimbledon. Doris came out in that very Doris-way, and she said “Now, be sure you have him back here” [S chuckles]…“by 6 o’clock. He has an appointment at 6 o’clock. It is very important that he be here in time for that.”

“Yes, yes, Ms. Pratt. I will.” [S chuckles, then M does too.]

So, in we get, in the car. Krishnaji looked happy, pleased.

“Where are we going?”, he asks.

I said, “Well, I thought perhaps a place called Wisley, the garden.”

“Oh, Wisley!” said he. He knew it. [Both chuckle.] But he hadn’t been there in a long time. “Oh, yes!”

So, off we went to Wisley, and it was a success. We walked around, and I had the feeling that he saw every flower and every tree and every bird and every everything. It was my first experience of that…of his extraordinary…

S: …I know…

M: …seeming perception that he had of…of everything. When we got back in the car, he said, “Oh, let’s drive a little further.” Where to take him now?! [S chuckles.] Luckily, I had been to Box Hill. Have you been past there?

S: No. What’s that?

M: Well, it’s further down the road that, I guess, leads to Petersfield, or…I haven’t seen it lately! Anyway, I knew where it was, which was not too far away. It’s the highest point of Sussex, and you look out at all of southern England. It’s beautiful!

So we went up Box Hill. We got out and looked at the view and it was beautiful, very pleasing. So now it was time to get back for 6 o’clock. We got back on, I guess, the A3, and it was heavy afternoon traffic. Now, I wasn’t used to driving on the left [S laughs], and I certainly was not used to driving the World Teacher. [S laughs more.] And the responsibility was weighing heavily on me, especially in the terrible traffic, and getting there at 6 o’clock. I drove [S chuckles] with absolute concentration, and just I got him back at 6 o’clock.

When he got out, he thanked me. “Thank you, Madame, so much. It was so kind of you.”

I replied, “It was a pleasure, Krishnamurti”—or Krishnaji, he asked me to call him Krishnaji in the Saanen discussions. Before that I’d called him Krishnamurti, and at some point he rather sharply had said to me, “Call me Krishnaji.” I thought I’d made a mistake to use the other word.

Anyway, it was Krishnaji. So I thanked him. And I went back to Mrs. Martinez in Eaton Place. I was due to go out to dinner with friends, and suddenly the enormity of the responsibility [both chuckling] of having the life of this man in my hands as a chauffeur hit me. I started to shake, and I shook so much that I couldn’t go out for dinner. I had to call it off. [S laughs.] A delayed reaction.

S: There is a story that you left out.

M: What?

S: This is the Huntsman[24] story, which I think took place in Saanen when you first met Krishnaji there.

M: Which year was that? That’s right…it was one of the luncheons I was asked to.

S: That must’ve been in ’64 because you didn’t know Krishnaji that well…’64 or ’65?

M: I’ll have to look that one up for you.

S: Well, tell the story anyway.

M: Well, the story is as follows: I was asked to lunch, and the table only holds eight, so I guess we were about eight. I was seated on Krishnaji’s left, and on my other side was Harry.

S: Moorhead?

M: Moorhead.

M: And apparently on Krishnaji’s advice, Harry had gone to Huntsman and bought one suit, and he was wearing it. So, there was conversation about it.

S: Who else was at the luncheon?

M: Well, Vanda, obviously, the hostess, and Alain was there and…

S: Hilda Moorhead?

M: Hilda must’ve been there, that makes two, four, six…that’s about it…I don’t remember, to tell you the truth. But I remember Harry was seated to my left and Krishnaji was at the end of the table, on my right. So when they talked, they were talking across me. At some point, I said to Krishnaji, “I imagine you’re talking about Huntsman, aren’t you”? It was a talk about some wonderful day there. Krishnaji turned quickly to me and said, “Huntsman? What do you know about Huntsman?” [S chuckles.] So I said, “Well, it was my husband’s tailor.” He looked at me studiously [laughing]. Later on, as he again escorted me out to my car politely, opened the door, and I thanked him and so forth. I started the car, and as I backed it around, he stood there and he made a wonderful gesture: he put his finger up to his head, like a little salute, and he said, “Huntsman!” [Both laugh.] I felt that I had swum into this man’s ken via Huntsman. I had an identity. I was a woman who knew about Huntsman—this very important thing. [S chuckles.] And I think that’s what probably established some a sort of…something. [Chuckles.]

S: Yes. That’s important.

M: Yes.

Click below to hear Mary.

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S: Now, Sam had known Huntsman from making the costumes for Beau Brummell or something like that?

M: Oh my god, you have a better memory than I have. Yes. Sam made Beau Brummell in London at the MGM Studio, and the costumes for Beau Brummel were made at Huntsman. Sam, from then on, got his suits at Huntsman. So, this was my identity—the knowledgeable woman: she knows about Huntsman. [Both laugh.]

S: All of these little stories are actually what makes this account come alive, at least to me.

M: Yes. [Both chuckle.] Actually, Huntsman became quite a bond because he came to think that I understood these things, and that I had taste he benefited from.

S: Well, you do!

M: So, he wanted to consult me about these things, as it turned out, the following years. I was forever ferrying him back and forth to Huntsman.

S: Now, this was the following year?

M: Yeah, following year.

S: Ah, but we’re still in ’65, and you’ve just come back shaking from Box Hill.

M: I’ve come back shaking from Box Hill.

S: So, was it that year that you began taking Krishnaji back and forth to Huntsman?

M: I think, yes, because I had a car, you see. They didn’t have any car, and there was no way to get into town from Wimbledon, so I did a lot of taxiing them back and forth. Sometimes just Alain, I’d take him for, I don’t know, a dentist or something, and sometimes Krishnaji. Or, they’d somehow get into town, I don’t know how, and I’d pick them up and take them home.

S: Now, at this time also, your friendship with Alain began to develop, and you began to have a real contact with him.

M: Yes. By this time, 1965, Alain had been hired as Krishnaji’s secretary. Alain became his secretary that winter in India. He’d gone to India in the winter of ’64—’65. In January, Alain wrote me a couple of letters, and then he wrote me that Krishnaji had asked him to be like a secretary, assistant, you know, do things for him. So, that’s what he was doing.

S: Anyway, you’ve come back shaking from your drive. And you think that that summer also you began ferrying Krishnaji back and forth…

M: Yes, in the rented car.

S: Then, it must’ve been ’64 that you would have had this Huntsman story because…

M: Yes, it has to be.

S: …because in ’65, in England, that was before Saanen.

M: That’s right. Yes, that’s right.

S: So it must’ve been your first contact with Krishnaji in Saanen.

M: Yes. Vanda must’ve asked me for lunch when the Moorheads were there, and the whole Huntsman episode. [Chuckles, then S chuckles too.] Also, the following summer, yoga came into the picture, but I’ll come to that. Anyway, after London came Paris.

S: Were the only talks in London at the Boy Scout place?

M: That year, yes, and with only a small number of people.

S: Who else was there that you remember?

M: I remember sitting behind Dorothy Simmons and Montague[25], and getting quite annoyed at Dorothy. Something about…I’ve forgotten what it was…I thought she looked disagreeable. [Chuckles.] They sat right in front of me, and something about her being was rather brusque about the seat, or I’ve forgotten what. But she was there, and Iris again. I don’t think I knew any of the others.

S: You didn’t know any of the others. Okay.

S: You must’ve met Mary Cadogan?

M: No. I didn’t meet her then. I’ll tell you when I met her. It’s very funny. Again, it’s out of chronological order. There was a woman showing people up and down in the tent in Saanen to seats, dressed in sort of chiffon, and I remember thinking, “That woman thinks she’s Ophelia!” [Laughter.] I was looking for a Mrs. Cadogan—Ragaopal must have given me Mrs. Cadogan’s name, and I decided that Madame De Vidas must be Mrs. Cadogan. She too was showing people around. So I went up to her and said, “Are you Mrs. Cadogan?” And she said, “Oh, non, non!” [Laughter.] She didn’t speak English much. The Ophelia character was Mrs. Cadogan. [S laughs heartily, M chuckles.] But I didn’t see Mrs. Cadogan at the Wimbledon talks, nor at lunch with Anneke and Doris.

S: Do you remember being at Huntsman with Krishnaji in those days?

M: Oh, yes, when I took or picked them up or something. Probably I’d consult. In subsequent years, Alain got suits too. There was much conferring. [S chuckles.] Oh, and then there were shirts, and then there were ties, and then when we got to Paris…

S: Shoes. Of course.

M: We went to Lobb’s in Paris. The shopping was [S chuckles] the daily program when he wasn’t talking. He enjoyed it.

S: Alright. [M laughs.] Is this discussion fun?

M: Yes!

S: Then we’ll continue, and pick up the story where we left off.

 


 FOOTNOTES:-

 

[1] Ji is added to the end of names in India to denote respect and affection. Krishnamurti was called “Krishnaji” by those who knew him. Back to text.

[2] Ojai is a small town about 80 miles north of Los Angeles that was first visited by Krishnamurti and his brother, Nityananda in 1922. Krishnaji lived there, off and on, until his death in 1986. The Krishnamurti Foundation of America is now located there. Back to text.

[3] Land in Ojai purchased for Krishnaji’s work in the 1920s, and where he spoke as late as 1985. Krishnamurti’s only school in America is on that land. Back to text.

[4] Rajagopal was made into the manager of activities surrounding Krishnaji by Krishnaji’s elders when Krishnaji’s brother, who had that role, died in 1925. Back to text.

[5] Sam Zimbalist was a very successful film producer, and the only person to ever posthumously receive an Oscar for Best Picture. Mary received it for him. Back to text.

[6] The wife of Rajagopal. Back to text.

[7] Krishnaji gave public talks in Saanen, Switzerland from 1963 until 1985. Back to text.

[8] Krishnamurti Writings, Inc. was formed around 1945, and eventually became a point of legal contention. Back to text.

[9] Filomena had been Mary’s housekeeper for many years, and had worked for Mary’s aunt since she was young. So, she was like a member of the family to Mary. Back to text.

[10] A hotel in Saanen. Back to text.

[11] This is a point of humor because far from being a place for a hermit, it is a luxury hotel. Back to text.

[12] Friends of Mary and Sam. Christopher Fry was one of the writers Sam had hired for Ben-Hur. Back to text.

[13] Marchese Vanda Scaravelli became a great friend and hostess of Krishnaji’s. She first heard him in 1930, but didn’t meet him until 1937. She was his hostess in Switzerland and in Italy. Back to text.

[14] Frances McCann was a great enthusiast of Krishnaji’s work, and she traveled around the world attending his talks, and frequently contributed to the work of the foundations set up to support the schools he founded. Back to text.

[15] Ommen is a place in Holland where Krishnamurti spoke in the 1920s. Back to text.

[16] Chalet Tannegg was a chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland (next to Saanen, where Krishnaji spoke) which Vanda Scaravelli rented for his accommodation during the talks. Tannegg was also the venue for group discussions that Krishnaji held. Back to text.

[17] An agile goat-antelope found in mountainous regions of Europe. Back to text.

[18] A friend and supporter of Krishnaji’s since the 1920s. Back to text.

[19] Nagra made professional portable tape recorders, which for many years were the best way to record Krishnamurti’s talks. Back to text.

[20] A fictional character from the 1800s who controls other persons or situations for self-serving intent. Back to text.

[21] Anneke Korndorffer was a supporter of Krishnaji’s work since the 1930s, and an organizer of his activities in Holland. Back to text.

[22] Doris Pratt had worked for Krishnaji’s activities since the 1920s, and was the representative of Krishnamurti Writings, Inc. in England. Back to text.

[23] The three marches from Selma in Alabama to Montgomery in Alabama marked a peak and a turning point in the American Civil Rights Movement. Mary told me she marched in a Chanel suit because she wanted people to see that it wasn’t only poor people and students who were supporters of civil rights. Back to text.

[24] Huntsman is a tailor on Savile Row in London. Back to text.

[25] Dorothy Simmons became the first Principal of the Brockwood Park Krishnamurti Education Centre, the only school Krishnamurti Founded in Europe.Back to text.

 

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