Issue #46

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Issue 46—April 13, 1977 to May 31, 1977

Introduction

In this issue, we see Krishnaji go through his first-ever invasive medical procedure, and, for the editor of this account, it is grueling, although Krishnaji deals with it all in a very matter-of-fact way. Again, we see Mary doing everything she possibly can to take care of him and ensure everything goes well. At the end of this procedure, and as a result of it, Krishnaji has a “dialogue with death” which he dictates to Mary. While a version of this was published by Mary Lutyens in Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfillment; the full version is in this issue, and as it is also in the full context of all that was going on with Krishnaji, as he described it and as Mary witnessed it, that “dialogue with death” is much more powerful, and more poignant. This full context, the daily minutiae of Krishnaji’s and Mary’s lives, has increased value when it frames the extraordinary.


 

The Memoirs of Mary Zimbalist: Issue #46

Mary: Well, I believe we begin our discussion today on April thirteenth, 1977. ‘Krishnaji said I must be watchful after he gives blood too, and that I should tell the Lilliefelts about this. Charles Moore and Bart Phelps came at 9:30 a.m. with a mockup of the way to link the present cottage with the new wing. Krishnaji was pleased with it, liked the sample of gray roofing, etcetera. While I went on with the architects, Krishnaji talked to Mark Lee about problems with teachers. Krishnaji stayed in bed, but had the Lilliefelts, Mark, Alan, Evelyne, and me in at 11 a.m. to talk about teachers’ salaries and other dissatisfactions; said they must understand that what is being done is the main thing. Then, suddenly, he asked me if I could tell them’—that’s the assembled people—‘what he had told me, and went on to say that he has always lived with a very thin line between living and dying; that he mustn’t “slip away” in the hospital; that he has told me what to do. They were in tears. When others had left, he called the Lilliefelts back, and talked to them a little more about it.’

Krishnaji in the Oak Grove

Krishnaji in the Oak Grove

Scott: It would be good to just clarify something. Can you go back to the beginning of that one?

M: Mm, hm.

S: Where you mention talking to the teachers about salaries.

M: Mm.

S: It’s not clear if Krishnaji is saying they must understand, meaning the teachers must understand, or that the trustees must understand.

M: Well, he’s talking, let’s see how it reads. [M reads.] Hm. I think that the teachers were objecting to the salaries.

S: Yes, well, that’s understandable. So, go on.

M: ‘Said they must understand that what is being done is the main thing.’

S: Alright, they meaning the teachers must understand, or the trustees must understand that what’s being done is the main thing?

M: I don’t know which he meant. I would guess the teachers.

S: Okay, alright.

M: April fourteenth. ‘Krishnaji held the fourth public discussions in the Grove on thought, intelligence,

Krishnaji in the Oak Grove

Krishnaji in the Oak Grove

etcetera. He was marvelously clear. The audience contributed nothing. Cynthia Wood was at lunch at Arya Vihara. Krishnaji gave her a treatment. At 4 p.m., Krishnaji gave a taped interview to Donald Ingram Smith for Australian Radio. Zelma Wilson presented plans for school buildings.’

The next day, ‘At 3 p.m., Evelyne organized a tea for the helpers at the public talks and discussions. At 4 p.m., Krishnaji, Erna, Theo, Ruth, Alan, and I went to see the things in the archives about which Krishnaji had written to Rajagopal: manuscripts, letters, etcetera. Austin Bee admitted us. Rajagopal quickly appeared. He said that he didn’t know where Krishnamurti’s manuscripts are and all the other material is his personal property. Krishnaji left. The rest of us stayed and talked to Rajagopal. Before Krishnaji walked out, I asked him if I could look again at the two first photographs I had found in an album apparently put together by Nitya, as the writing underneath is his. These were photographs of “Krishna aged about 5,” it says.’ [S chuckles.] ‘And then, “Krishna’s mother,” a separate photo. Krishnaji looked at them, and then left. This drew Rajagopal’s interest, who peered at them, and said that he hadn’t seen them in a long time. I said it was a pity, that they were beginning to fade, and would eventually disappear, that they really should be re-photographed as quickly as possible. Rajagopal said yes, maybe they should, but wouldn’t it be very expensive. I said I, or we, would be glad to pay for them. What about our sending a photographer? Alan Hooker’s brother-in-law is a professional and can do the job. Rajagopal said alright. There was a lot of questions backwards and forwards. With nothing to lose, I asked Rajagopal what he planned to do with all the material he claimed was his after his death? I didn’t expect him to tell me, but wanted to hear what he would say. “You’ll find out after I’m gone.” Alan Kishbaugh and I were walking out with Rajagopal behind us, when I opened the door of the closet in the hall, so that Alan could see the Bourdelle [1] head of Krishnaji done in 1927 to 1928. As we admired it, Rajagopal said, “I suppose that ought to be in your school.” I said, “It should indeed.” And he said we could take it, surprisingly. We went back to the cottage, and in the evening, Krishnaji dictated a very pointed and strong letter to Rajagopal.’

Now, it doesn’t say in this, but I remember thinking that Rajagopal is going to change his mind about that if we don’t act quickly.

S: About what?

M: The statue.

S: The Bourdelle. Right. So, you took it right away?

M: I got Alan Kishbaugh to go back and get it is my recollection. I don’t seem to have noted it here. That’s how we got it.

S: Right.

M: And it’s over in the library now.

S: Yes.

Krishnaji in the Oak Grove

Krishnaji in the Oak Grove

M: April sixteenth. ‘Krishnaji gave the fifth talk in the Oak Grove, a profoundly moving one on the meaning of death. There was a huge crowd. Ravi Shankar was there and greeted Krishnaji. Cynthia Wood came to the cottage for Krishnaji’s “treatment” and stayed to lunch with him and me. Alan Kishbaugh and Mark’—oh, here, it does say—‘Alan Kishbaugh and Mark went to get the Bourdelle statue before Rajagopal changed his mind.’

And the seventeenth. ‘Krishnaji gave the sixth talk in Oak Grove, completing the season’s series. Again, there was a huge crowd, including Rajagopal who stared intently and malevolently at Krishnaji, especially as the crowds swarmed around him after the talk. We ate lunch at the Hooker-arranged place, came back and Krishnaji slept while the Lilliefelts and I counted the donations. Krishnaji saw Mr. Mirus at 4 p.m., and then Jan and Elena Dyansky at 4:30 p.m. Krishnaji, Erna, Theo, Evelyne, Alan K., and I walked later.’

April eighteenth, ‘I typed Krishnaji’s letter to Rajagopal and one to Pupul. She has resigned from government service. At 4 p.m., Krishnaji held a meeting at Arya Vihara with the school staff.’

The nineteenth, ‘Elfriede came to Ojai and loaded her car and the Mercedes. After lunch, Krishnaji talked to Erna, Theo, and Fritz about Fritz backing up Mark in school matters with teachers and parents, etcetera. Then, we left Ojai and came home to Malibu. Everything looking lovely, the garden is in flower, a gentle moisture from the ocean, and the peaceful house.’

S: Mary, just this business of backing up Mark. I know that there was eventual trouble not too long after this, between Mark and the parents and teachers. Was this the beginning of this?

M: I would think it was, but I don’t remember exactly; it will come out in these diaries. Krishnaji was always trying to get people to work together.

S: Yes, yes.

M: April twentieth. ‘I spoke to my brother early. They will lunch with us Sunday,’ it says here. They must’ve been going to come out.

S: No, you were on your way to New York.

M: Oh, of course. [M and S chuckle.]

‘I went to town for a haircut, etcetera. But was back in time for lunch with Krishnaji and Alan K. Then, Alan drove Krishnaji and me to Cedars-SinaiHospital, where in their blood bank Krishnaji gave a pint for his own use, should he need it during the operation. A Spanish-speaking doctor was relieved when I read the list of questions to Krishnaji—have you ever had heart trouble, etcetera. They typed his blood; his group is O positive.’

That was meaningful to me because I used to work in the blood blank during the war, and O positive is the most prevalent type.

S: Right.

M: Anybody can accept type O blood, as I remember. ‘An expert nurse inserted the needle in his right arm, and in nine minutes he had given the precious substance into a plastic bag. I sat with him, and we chatted. No strain, or reaction. Kishbaugh, who feels faint’ [both laugh] ‘at the sight of blood had stayed outside.’

S: Yes, I’m sympathetic. I would have, too. [M chuckles again.]

M: ‘Krishnaji stayed for the required ten minutes afterward, drank some pineapple juice I had brought, and then we walked out without trouble for the rather long walk to the car. Alan drove us home. Krishnaji went to bed. He’s taking feosol tablets.’ Those are iron tablets to rebuild the blood. ‘We watched Carter address the Congress on energy. I spoke to Erna. She went with a photographer to the K & R office; and with Rajagopal standing by, the old photographs of Krishnaji as a little boy and his mother were copied for preservation. Krishnaji says he feels no effect of the blood donation.’

The twenty-first, ‘Krishnaji spent the day in bed resting. I did desk work and went over to see Amanda and Phil in the afternoon. A pleasant, mild day at home.’

April twenty-second. ‘I packed. After lunch, we went to Beverly Hills for his appointment with Dr. Hausman.’ That’s the urologist who’s going to do the operation. ‘We went into details of the operation, then Krishnaji had a haircut, and we came home.’

April twenty-third. ‘Alan Kishbaugh came at 7:30 a.m. and drove us to the airport for a 9:15 a.m. TWA flight to New York. It was over an hour late, but Bud and Lindsey were there, unexpectedly, to meet us. I was touched.’ Lindsey is my brother’s son. I don’t think he’s appeared yet in this opus.

S: [chuckles] Only when he was born.

M: [laughs] ‘He drove us to the Ritz Tower. Bud had put food in it, so Krishnaji and I had our supper, and were able to go to bed early.’

April twenty-fourth. ‘We slept late. I spoke to my cousin Lorna at Martha’s Vineyard and then to my stepfather. Krishnaji and I met Bud and Lisa and Lindsey for lunch at the Indian restaurant, Raja, near RadioCity. Krishnaji then rested and I went up to their apartment to go over business things with my brother [2]. I was back in time to make Krishnaji’s and my supper.’

Krishnaji in Malibu

Krishnaji in Malibu

The next day, ‘Krishnaji and I went to an 11 a.m. conference at the Post-Graduate Center for Mental Health on 28th Street. It was the same Shainberg group of psychotherapists, plus David Bohm, and some physicists. Rather wordy going. We went back to the Raja restaurant where Philippa and David lunched with us after having driven down from Connecticut. We then walked over to a Patek place where a new crystal was put in Krishnaji’s watch. Then, we all came back to the RitzTower where Krishnaji took a nap, and Philippa and David and I talked all afternoon until about 6 p.m. Today’s Indian food disagreed with Krishnaji.’

April twenty-sixth. ‘Another session with the Shainberg psychotherapists, a dull group. Jackie Kornfeld attended and gave us a lift back to the RitzTower. Krishnaji and I had lunch in our rooms, and while he took a nap, I did some shopping.’

The next day, ‘Krishnaji and I went to the third psychotherapist conference. After, we went to the Shainberg’s house on 92nd Street for lunch with the Shainbergs and the Bohms. David Shainberg took us around the corner to his office briefly and then Krishnaji and I went for a walk. We went past the Cooper-HewittMuseum, where I nipped in to see the Brighton exhibit, while Krishnaji walked in the museum garden. He found the blossoming trees more beautiful than any museum.’ [Laughs.] He wasn’t interested in exhibits at all. My sister-in-law, Bud’s wife, Lisa, was the head of the Cooper-HewittMuseum, and that’s why I went.

S: Did she start it?

M: She was working in Washington for the Smithsonian, and the Smithsonian took over the Cooper-Hewitt, which used to be in downtown New York, a very old organization, and when the Smithsonian took it over, they moved it up to where it is in this account, and still is, which is the old AndrewCarnegieMansion.

‘We came back to the RitzTower. Bud’s two daughters, Daisy and Toodie, came to see me. Daisy is graduating from Chapin in June and has already been accepted by Johns-Hopkins. My brother came by briefly with business papers.’

April twenty-eighth. ‘Narasimhan came at 9 a.m. to see Krishnaji. He has just returned from India. He saw Mrs. Gandhi who thinks her son Sanjay is innocent and being framed. Civil rights and a free press are now restored in India. We told Narasimhan briefly about Krishnaji’s surgery. At 10:30 a.m., my brother came to say goodbye and lend his car with a chauffeur to go to the airport. We took the noon TWA flight to Los Angeles, where Alan K. met us, and we came home to Malibu on a lovely afternoon. The soft sea wind was clean and healing. After tea, Alan K. left, and Krishnaji and I walked ten laps around the garden. I began to feel good again. This is a blessed place, and coming home to it is an ease and happiness for me. There was a nice letter from Ahalya, and one from Pupul saying the present government refused her resignation and begged her to stay. She will continue for the present.’

April twenty-ninth. ‘It was lovely to wake up in Malibu, exercise, make breakfast slowly, and talk to Amanda. Krishnaji “had an idea,” which turned out to be another letter he dictated to Rajagopal. He said, “I woke up with a strong feeling I should write to Rajagopal because I have not told him directly that he is totally dishonest and corrupt, and the impact might do something to him. That is the reason I am writing.”’

S: You, of course, have a copy of that letter in your files?

M: I think so. I hope so. Yes, I must have. ‘After lunch, we drove into town, Krishnaji questioning me about my learning of Sam’s death, how I had heard, etcetera. He has heard all this before, but doesn’t remember it. What interested him is the question of whether everything in his own life is foreseen and planned, or is it all chance. “I don’t think it is chance.” He said also, “property always brings corruption. Look at Rajagopal.”…“But we need property. I want to talk quietly to the Lilliefelts on how to prevent this in the future. I’ve been thinking about it.” He told me all this in the car and kept talking about it in Cedars-Sinai when he gave his second pint of blood to be kept in case he would need it at surgery. His red cell count was thirty-six, down from forty after the first donation. He gave the pint in five minutes and had no symptoms from the donation.’ I was used to people in the blood bank having reactions from giving. So, I was very aware of this and was watching him.

S: Right.

M: ‘After no more than half an hour, we drove home. He wanted to walk in the garden a bit but was persuaded to go to bed. I read the Rajagopal letter to Erna, who said she agreed with every word of it and thought it should be sent.’

April thirtieth. ‘A lovely, quiet day at home. Krishnaji stayed in bed. We were both relaxed, the quiet pleasures of privacy. He feels no effect from the blood donation.’

The first of May. ‘An exquisite day. Krishnaji stayed in bed again. I made our lunch, and then we read. In the evening we watched the last of Upstairs, Downstairs on TV.’ [Laughs.]

The next day it just says: ‘Home, a quiet day.’

And for May third, there is little more. ‘To town alone on errands. Posted Krishnaji’s letter to Rajagopal to Erna, who will post it in Ojai.’

For May fourth, in very pale writing it says, ‘Cooked in the morning. Alan K. came to lunch. Krishnaji, he, and I went to a movie, Black Sunday, in Westwood. In the evening, we watched the first of Nixon’s TV interviews by David Frost.’ Do you remember those?

S: Yes, I do.

M: The next day is just, ‘Desk work, and to town briefly. Krishnaji rested.’

May sixth, ‘Desk work, home. In the evening, I telephoned Filomena in Rome to wish her a happy birthday. It was her eightieth.’

The next day. ‘Amazingly, it rained. Almost half an inch; light and gentle, but very precious. Krishnaji rested, and I did desk work.’

Krishnaji in Malibu

Krishnaji in Malibu

May eighth. ‘0.65 inches of rain had fallen by early morning, and instead of tapering off, it rained quite heavily on and off all day. Krishnaji did all his exercises thoroughly. Erna and Theo came for an early lunch, and spoke of the immaturity of the present teachers in the school, of Erna’s having written to Cohen’—Cohen is our lawyer—‘about Rajagopal’s flouting the agreement on the archives. She has also written to Rajagopal that she and Krishnaji will go on the seventeenth of May to start an inventory of the archives. Talk got onto a book of Krishnaji’s and Leadbeater’s letters.’

S: Was this a book about Krishnaji and Leadbeater’s letters to each other when he was a boy?

M: I’m not sure. I don’t quite remember if there was a book, or whether somebody had suggested a book, or something.

S: Okay. That’s alright. We’ll go on.

M: ‘Erna asked how she could judge such things? The credibility of people? I pointed out that there is really only one witness who can now talk about it, Krishnaji himself. He said he didn’t really accept his own youthful testimony of seeing masters, etcetera, as reliable. He doesn’t remember it. But apart from that, at that age, he was very young, younger than his numerical age, impressionable, etcetera. We had to interrupt this conversation and be off—the Lilliefelts to a motel near the farmer’s market’—that’s in town, in Los Angeles, near the hospital—‘where they would stay to be able to be at the hospital tomorrow morning. Krishnaji and I drove through occasional downpours of rain to Cedars-Sinai.’

‘We checked in on the eighth floor. Lailee, our doctor, had ordered a private-duty nurse, who was on hand; a nice quiet young woman, sensitive, understanding, African-American. Krishnaji had a “suite” which is a large corner room with a table and a couch. As the couch is too small to sleep on, they provided a room for me next to his. Lailee appeared and talked alone to Krishnaji, taking more medical history. Then, the hospital pre-surgery routine unrolled: blood chemistry, chest X-ray, EKG, clotting rate, urinalysis, etcetera. It made it smoother to have Ms. Mitchell, the private nurse. I talked to the dietician. When Krishnaji arrived, he did whatever he does to make the atmosphere protective in the room, and later he went alone into my room to do the same. “Go in, and see,” he said. I did, and felt immediately strongly a sense of—how to describe it, a sense of presence, an intensity, very quiet but there, perceptible in one’s nerve endings, a perimeter in which there is something alive, vital, strong, and quiet. It is something un-assessable, unprovable. I am aware of possible imagining, but it was clear and felt part of what I have felt increasingly these last days, a strength and calm in which emotion and self isn’t. Krishnaji had said this morning, “the body resists this,” meaning the operation. And I asked how it showed this, and he laughed and said, “I don’t want to go.”’ [Both M and S laugh.] ‘But at hospital in the evening, he said, “It is alright. Can you feel the atmosphere?” I could. Something is strongly around him. I spoke with him, as he had told me weeks ago to be attentive. He said it was not necessary. He had talked to the body. I am only to remind him tomorrow morning to “Be careful while I am in their hands.” Early, the anesthesiologist, who was a woman, a Dr. Stoka, came and described carefully the spinal, examined his back, and discussed normal medication which would be a shot of tranquilizer and belladonna, the latter for a certain, good affect on the blood pressure, etcetera. But, because tranquilizers have never been taken by Krishnaji, he will not have these as part of his wish not to have his consciousness lessened. I talked to Dr. Stoka alone, explaining without going into it too much the good of keeping contact, conversationally with him, during the operation.’ I wanted her to keep him grounded in what was happening outwardly.

S: Yes, I understand.

M: ‘All that seemed well-handled, efficient, and thorough. Cedars-Sinai is an enormous building but because it opened only last June, it has less of a loading of a hospital atmosphere.’ Krishnaji had asked, when I had this little trivial thing in my leg, did I understand that he couldn’t come into the hospital to see me because in hospitals he got a sense of all the suffering that goes on in them.

S: They’re terrible, they’re really terrible.

M: I said to him, I didn’t want him anywhere near the hospital. But this one was just newly built, you see, and Lailee getting that end room that was on the end of a wing that was new and there wasn’t things around it was good; it was at the end of the hall. She was helpful. When Krishnaji had X-rays, we walked there for the exercise, Krishnaji in his nice gray Viyella Charvet robe’—which is in the closet here—‘with a nurse leading the way. And while the technician checked the first X-ray, we walked briefly up and down a very long empty hall for exercise, as we have in airports.’ We used to do that, waiting in airports.

S: Yes. I remember.

M: ‘There was a Rodin reproduction in the hall of the hospital, which Krishnaji liked and stopped to examine, and he recognized a Van Gogh sunflower as we passed by. By 9:30 p.m., he was ready to sleep, had seen the up and down buttons of the hospital bed, and seemed to think everything was well-handled. “It wouldn’t be like this in India,” he said. So, he is ready and feels “All is taken care of.”’

The ninth. ‘As I write this, Krishnaji has just gone into surgery. The operation will be at 7:30 a.m. Neither of us slept too well, but each got up at 5 a.m. Krishnaji did his breathing exercises and some asanas. I spoke to him, “Be attentive. Remember. Be careful.” He said he knew the body was ready and all was alright. He had shaved but not had time for a shower. A boy attendant came with the gurney, and Krishnaji climbed onto it on his own, smiled at me, and I said, “Stia attenta, non dimenticare”’—be attentive, don’t forget. ‘He replied, “Non abbia paura”’—don’t be afraid. ‘I said, “Sto con lei”’—I am with you—‘as he was wheeled off down the hall. I followed to the door of the surgery, saw him raise his head to look at what was ahead as the door closed.’

‘I am writing this later. He is alright and back in his room, large, bright eyes reading his detective story, The Chancellor Manuscript. Erna and Theo came while he was in surgery, then Evelyne later. A private duty male nurse for Krishnaji was able to find out that he would be out of the recovery room by 9:30 a.m., but before that, Dr. Hausman appeared and told Erna, Theo, and me that the operation was a complete success. Krishnaji came through it perfectly, but said that Krishnaji should have had the operation long ago. It will take some time for the bladder to relax and readjust, and Hausman will give him medication for it later. He did not lose much blood and didn’t need the autologous donation. Erna, Theo, and Evelyne came in just to greet him for a matter of seconds and then left. Various testing went on, and Krishnaji kept saying, “They wouldn’t do all this in India, or in England!”’ [Both M and S chuckled.] ‘The thoroughness impressed him. He did the breathing through the bottle to help his lungs exercise. He drank fruit juice all day, was thirsty, said he had some pain and was given Tylenol and codeine. Krishnaji is inclined to go too long without something for pain. Dr. Hausman came in just after noon, and repeated that if he himself were having this operation, he could not want it to go better.’ [Laughs.] ‘Krishnaji is interested to see the surgical instruments.’

Krishnaji in Malibu

Krishnaji in Malibu

‘Alone, he asked me if it were my imagination last night about the room. He said the body had not wanted to go through it; when he went into surgery, it wanted to get up and run. But, he talked to it. The spinal went easily and quickly. The operation actually took fifty-five minutes. The time in recovery was not long. He told me that after quieting the body, he was without thought until he was back in his room. The male nurse, Roger Anderson, was fair, but didn’t seem to affect Krishnaji one way or the other. At Krishnaji’s urging, I went out briefly for a little air and also bought him Newsweek and Time. I took a short nap. Ms. Mitchell came on duty at 3 p.m. We sat for awhile. She went to order Krishnaji’s meals for tomorrow. He wanted spinach and cheesecake. After she left, he took my hand, then had me sit near, but not too near the bed. “This is the danger point. I feel like going off, not fainting, you understand.” I talked quietly to him as he had instructed me, but now he stopped me, “No, no. You mustn’t say anything. You mustn’t interfere. You mustn’t think about anything.” He had me move the chair to the foot of the bed opposite him. His face became inward-turned, slightly hallucinated look. This was interrupted by Lailee coming in to see him. Hausman had left orders for Demarol if needed, and Lailee told the nurse, Ms. Mitchell, to give him a tiny dose, what one would give a child. It was given, and he began to feel a dizziness from it. “Is this normal?” he asked several times. It cut the pain, but soon made him sick to his stomach, and he vomited several times. Hallucinatory look increased. He kept telling the nurse to go and have her supper, which she had had earlier. It was by now a little before 9 p.m. When she was out of the room, he told me, “I felt the body floating and there was a dialogue between death and the body and ‘the Other,’ and death was winning.” He became aware that the nurse had returned to the darkened room, and this seemed to bring him out of the state he had been in. We were able to talk about this in spite of her comings and goings. And he said there was nothing I could do, not to interfere. I pointed out that the nurse’s presence had brought him round. But he said, “It will come again tonight until it is settled.” Soon, he lapsed again into the “off” state and said that since five this morning, so many people have touched the body, and he began to count them, and said, “About ten have touched me.” There was a sense of irritation in all that had been done to him and soon he began to look about as though seeing things, making random gestures, raising his right arm. Then, “Where am I?” Pause. “I have been wounded,” looking about. Then, “Where’s my brother Nitya?” The voice was light, higher, almost that of a boy. Then “I want to join you, Nitya.” And then, “I’m going away.” I had said nothing until this, but at that, I said, “No Krishna. You are going to be well and strong.” After a few seconds, he made a deep-sounding cough, his normal cough, and his voice dropped to its normal level, and he said, “That’s better.” And then, “I’m not going. I’ll join you later, Nitya, much later, another ten years.” Later, he said, “One mustn’t be burdened with the past.” And later, he said, “You and I mustn’t be in an automobile accident, so drive carefully.” And later, “I’m not a philosopher.”’

‘Finally, after about an hour, he seemed to come out of it and spoke directly to me. “I’m all right now.” The nurse had called Dr. Hausman, who said no more Demarol and had her lessen the size of the balloon in the bladder that keeps the catheter in. This lessened the pressure and the pain. After telling me he was alright, he fell asleep, and I felt the assurance that he was through it. I slept on and off in the adjacent room, coming in to check. At 11 p.m., the 11-to-7 nurse came, a young man, nice but not looking too experienced, but he did nothing wrong.’

That was that day. It was strange because it was night and of course, the city lights were outside. It was raining; and the light outside and the rain on the window, it was strange.

S: It’s terribly moving, that whole thing is terribly moving.

M: Is it? I wrote it up for Mary. She put it in the book, more or less. I forget how. I haven’t read that in years.

S: I haven’t either. It wasn’t nearly as moving in Mary’s book, though.

M: Yes. [Pause.] When he said to Nitya that he was coming, that was…

S: Yes, yes.

M: …I had to butt in.

S: Quite right.

M: May tenth. ‘Krishnaji was reading when I came in at 6 a.m. He is much better. No pain. Lailee came in early and so did Hausman. Krishnaji didn’t want solid breakfast, but I made a little muesli and some of his usual food, and he ate it saying “L’appétit vient en mangeant.”’ [Both M and S chuckle.]

S: You better translate that for people.

M: Appetite comes when you eat.

S: Mm.

M: ‘Hausman ordered the glucose IV discontinued and also the saline drip. Krishnaji was able to get up and walk in the room while his bed was made. Hausman had ordered probanthine to relax the muscles but after one tablet, Krishnaji threw it up again, and so all medication was stopped. After Hausman’s visit, Krishnaji dictated to me a dialogue with death as follows:’—and then I have written the whole dictation, which is, at least partly, already in Mary Lutyens’s book. Do you want me to read it here?

S: Yes, why not?

M: Alright, this is his dictation: ‘“It was a minor operation and not worth talking about, though there was considerable pain. While the pain continued, I saw or discovered that the body was almost floating in the air. It may have been an illusion, some kind of hallucination, but a few minutes later, there was the personification—not a person—but the personification of death. Watching this peculiar phenomenon between the body and death, there seemed to be a sort of dialogue between them. Death seemed to be talking to the body with great insistence, and the body reluctantly, not admitting what death wanted. Though there were people in the room, this phenomenon went on, death inviting, the body refusing. It was not a fear of death why the body was denying the demands of death, but it realized it was not responsible for itself, there was another entity that was dominating, much stronger, more vital than death itself. Death was more and more demanding and insisting and so ‘the Other’ interfered. Then there was a conversation or a dialogue between not only the body, but ‘the Other’ and death. So, there were three entities in conversation. He had warned before he went to the hospital that there might be a disassociation with the body and so death might interfere. Though the person was sitting there, and a nurse, it was not a self-deception or kind of hallucination. Lying in the bed he saw the clouds full of rain and the town below stretching for miles. There was spattering of rain on the window pane and he saw clearly the saline solution dripping drop by drop into the organism. One felt very distinctly and clearly that if ‘the Other’ had not interfered, death would have won. This dialogue was expressed in words with thought operating very clearly. There was thunder and lightning and the conversation went on. Since there was no fear at all, neither on the part of the body or ‘the Other’—absolutely no fear—one could converse freely and profoundly. It is always difficult to put a conversation of that kind into words. Strangely, as there was no fear, death was not enchaining the mind to things of the past. What came out of the conversation was very clear. The body in considerable pain and was not apprehensive or anxious and ‘the Other’ was discernibly beyond both. It was as though ‘the Other’ were acting as an umpire, a dangerous game of which the body was not at all aware. Even if it was, there would be no withdrawal from the scene.”’

‘“Death seemed to be always present, like one’s shadow. Being concerned with the whole movement of life, death cannot be invited. That would be suicide, which is utterly foolish. But, death and life, or rather the living, in this peculiar phenomenon that was going on, the three, would never be separate. During this conversation there was no sense of time. Probably the whole dialogue lasted about an hour and the time by the watch did not exist. There were no words used but an immediate insight into what each was saying. Of course, if one is attached to anything—ideas, beliefs, property or person, death would not come to have a conversation with you. Death in the sense of ending is absolute freedom.”’

‘“The quality of conversation was urbane. There was nothing whatsoever of sentiment, emotional extravagance to distort the absolute fact of time coming to an end and the vastness without any border when death is taking part in your daily life. There was the feeling that the body would go on for many years but death and ‘the Other’ would always be together till the organism could no longer be active. There was a great sense of humor among the three of them and one could almost hear the laughter. And the beauty of it was with the clouds and the rain.”’

Listen to Mary speak here.

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‘Here Krishnaji was interrupted by hospital routine. He said he would review it or add to it later. During the day he got up and walked several times, and ate well. I went out and got some fresh cherries, the first of the season, which he said were very, very good. It was odd to be walking around Beverly Hills—unreal besides being with him in this huge hospital. He had some leg cramp in the afternoon. Evelyne came by for a minute. In the evening, he fell asleep naturally around 9 p.m. and slept well. I transferred to a room that connected with his so that no nurse on the 11-to-7 shift was necessary. I came in almost every hour to check, and he was sleeping like a child.’

S: Whew.

M: May eleventh. ‘Krishnaji looked well in the morning and thought a cheese enchilada from the farmer’s market might be nice.’ [Both chuckle.] ‘So, needing exercise and thinking it was closer than it is, I walked there and back with three lunches, one for the nurse, Roger Anderson, and some grapes and cherries. A long walk, but just in time for lunch. I brought it all back. The afternoon was harder on Krishnaji. He had spasms with pain. Dr. Hausman came in the evening and said that Krishnaji was doing well, and had no sooner left than Krishnaji had a bad spasm which Mrs. Mitchell helped relieve, but it was a rough night for him. The floor nurses were not as good, and I can’t remember if I did more than doze.’

May twelfth. ‘Krishnaji’s eighty-second birthday. It began with misery at around 12:30 a.m. with pain, and I couldn’t mention birthdays or indeed anything. Roger Anderson, the morning nurse came, which was a relief. Dr. Hausman appeared and said that Krishnaji could go home tomorrow. Then, Lailee came at noon and felt it was wiser to wait till Saturday, to give Krishnaji more time to get used to things while still here, and more time to rest before moving. Hausman agreed. We had both nurses all day—Roger Anderson from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Jane Mitchell from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.’

May thirteenth. ‘Lailee in just after 9 a.m. to see Krishnaji. I did the morning nursing.’ That means washing his teeth. ‘In the afternoon, Dr. Hausman came and said Krishnaji is fine and can leave tomorrow, prescribed Pyridium to ease the pain of voiding. Then, he told us that the results of the lab test showed on one “chip” a dot of malignancy. He said it was in the center of normal tissue, so it had not spread. It was just beginning and is now out. He said that eighty percent of autopsies of men over eighty show cancer of the prostate, it’s very common, and usually they die of something else. It’s not a swift malignancy. In Krishnaji’s case, it’s as if he hadn’t had it. It is gone. No need for special watching. He will examine Krishnaji when he returns to California next year and said, as he now knows what his bladder is like, he can easily tell how it is. Krishnaji took this in a very matter-of-fact way. Further evidence of a good thing that the operation was done. I, too, felt a lack of alarm at this, which I mention only because it was so marked. Krishnaji had the afternoon nurse, Mrs. Mitchell, who was not really needed, but just to keep a continuity of care until he leaves tomorrow. Evelyne came by with a Sherlock Holmes.’ [Laughs.] ‘The chest doctor came by, says Krishnaji’s bronchitis is minimal and to leave it alone.’

May fourteenth. ‘Lailee came by early. Her evaluation of the lab report tallies with Hausman’s. We were ready to leave early, but Hausman was delayed in coming to sign Krishnaji out. Dr. Stoka, the anesthesiologist, came in to say goodbye, and so did Dr. Shkolnick, the chest man Lailee had called in. He said Krishnaji is doing fine with bronchitis matters. He could take antibiotics, but he is not sure it would help permanently, and there are possible ill effects from antibiotics. So, it is better to leave well enough alone. He then asked Krishnaji about meditation, and Krishnaji gave him a wealth of a reply. Dr. Hausman finally appeared at 12:30 p.m. and signed Krishnaji out. He went in his dressing gown by wheelchair to the car, and so we came blessedly home to Malibu. He is now in his own bed and room, and the sight makes me want to kiss the earth with gratitude. On the drive, he observed everything as though for the first time, missing nothing. We had a late-ish lunch. All is now quiet. Instead of air conditioning, there is a gentle freshness from the sea, the garden smells of flowers and moist leaves; quail call in the canyon.’

May fifteenth. ‘We both slept a lot. There were telephone calls from Alain Naudé and Blanche Mathias and I told both of them about everything including what Krishnaji calls “the dot.”’ That was the…

S: Yes, small malignancy.

M: Yes. ‘And I also told the Lilliefelts and Amanda. Elfriede is off, so I cooked. Krishnaji walked a little in the garden. It is quiet and beautiful, and we played Mozart. The sea makes a sleepy summer sound. Hospitals are anti-life, walls, plastic, food, and air. The grass, sun, and air are healthy, and Krishnaji feels quite “washed out,” but it is, I think, the lassitude of relaxation after all that happened. Here, I too am losing the strain in sleep, as though deprived for a month.’

May sixteenth. ‘I cooked for us. I confirmed the change of our flights to London from May thirty-first to June seventh. I cabled Narayan to postpone the Buddhist conference one week. Amanda came over in the afternoon. Krishnaji slept in. Later, we walked in the garden.’

For May seventeenth there are just two lines. ‘Krishnaji remained in bed resting. I went to town on errands.’

And there not much more for the next day. ‘Home all day. I worked at the desk. We walked in the garden.’

In fact, it seems to have been like this until May twentieth when, ‘we walked in the morning seven times around the garden and the same again in the afternoon. I did letters all day. Krishnaji looked at the photos we copied from the archives of himself “about 5” as Nitya’s writing says underneath. Then, he asked me what the face said. “I wish I could talk to you without words,” he said. “Words distort. There is something I want to convey. I’ve told you about this other face that is sometimes there—there is that and that boy’s face and this…” pointing to his own face. Then, he changed the subject.’

May twenty-first. ‘We were home all day. Krishnaji was in bed, except for a walk in the garden in the morning and afternoon. I did letters. Amanda came over. Fruit was sent from Ojai and a pair of Indian clubs for Krishnaji.’

S: Mm, hm, for exercise.

M: I guess so.

May twenty-second. ‘Alain Naudé, who had been in La Jolla, came here in the afternoon and spent the night.’

The next day. ‘Krishnaji was up for lunch with Alain and me. Afterward, we dropped Alain in Santa Monica to taxi to the airport for his flight to San Francisco. Krishnaji then went to see Dr. Hausman in his office. All is as it should be, but the feeling of weakness, though normal, suggested postponing our departure for Brockwood from June seventh to June fourteenth. On the way home, Krishnaji said, “Why not postpone it till the twenty-first?” I called Narayan to cancel the meeting with Buddhists.’

May twenty-fourth. ‘I had a meeting at 10:30 a.m. at the USG office with Charles Moore and Bart Phelps’—the architects—‘which lasted till 2 p.m. Then I had a fitting, did miscellaneous errands, and was home by 5:30 p.m. Krishnaji had rested all day. Our reservations for London are confirmed for June twenty-first.’

The next day, ‘I telephoned Dorothy at Brockwood about the change of our plans and our arrival on the twenty-first, then I booked flights to Paris and Geneva, and cabled the Plaza Athénée for the rooms from June thirtieth to July first. I was writing letters about all this all day. Krishnaji recommenced his yoga asanas, and did eleven laps around the garden. In the evening we watched the fourth Nixon/Frost interview on TV.’

Nothing really the next day, then for the twenty-seventh it says, ‘Home all day with me doing desk work. Mr. Schwartz brought two samples of carpet and curtain fabrics for Krishnaji to see’—that’s the man who bought those things for us. ‘In the evening we watched a TV interview of Mrs. Lindbergh by Eric Sevareid.’ Huh, that’s interesting.

May twenty-eighth, ‘I cooked all morning. Dr. and Mrs. Hausman came for a 2:20 p.m. lunch and stayed till 5:30.’ I don’t remember that.

Then there’s nothing much until May thirty-first. In the morning, Krishnaji finished dictating the “dialogue with death” which he began the morning after the operation. He did not reread what he has said three weeks ago. He remembered where he had stopped and he said “I would only rewrite it.”’ That he did all the time.

S: I know.

M: Anything that he’d done, he didn’t want to reread because he said he’d only redo it.

S: I know [laughing].

M: I could only ask, “Did you mean this word was that word?”—that’s all I could ask. I couldn’t read him the text. One learns how to cope with this. Talk about somebody living in the moment…

S: I know [laughing].

M: …the moment five minutes ago is long-gone. So, anyway, he dictated, ‘“Of course, it wasn’t death, K, and the body, three separate activities on their own, but it was a humorous whole, moving together without distinction from each other.”

Listen to Mary speak here.

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When in the evening, he did have me reread the whole piece, I pointed that he’d been speaking of death, “the Other,” and the body, and now he referred to death, K, and the body—so he changed that sentence, putting “the Other” in place of “K.” “You know what I mean by ‘the Other,’” he said. I nodded. And he said, “The mind that is inhabited by K.”’ How do you take that?

S: Can you read that again? Because it sounds as though “the Other” is a mind that is inhabited by K?

M: Yes, ‘“…inhabited by K.”’ That means Krishnaji is in that mind?

S: Well, to me…you know, there was this very funny private discussion I had with Krishnaji, which is on one of my private tapes, where Krishnaji talks about “the little K” and “the big K.” And “the big K” is clearly “the Other.” And if you take that to mean the big K, then the Other is the mind which is inhabited by “the little K.” That’s how I would take it.

M: I don’t know how I take it. [S chuckles.] It’s one of those things you don’t think you know easily.

Hmm. ‘“…the mind that is inhabited by K.”’ Anyway. ‘Then he continued the dictation. “Words cannot describe this strange movement that is essentially timeless. Putting this down in black and white on paper is the expression of thought, is the expression through words and so the movement of thought and time. But the movement of death is not of time, so the description is not the described. However cunning thought may try to capture it, death is beyond measure. It was a conversation without word, without thought, and so not of time.” Here, he paused, looking for words, and then said “Don’t look at me.”’

Listen to Mary speak here.

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S: Was that because somehow looking at him interfered with some…process or…

M: I don’t know. I sort of lived all those years and times and events on an instinct not to intrude.

S: I know.

M: I didn’t have a deliberate plan to do this. It was instinctive. I felt it was so unusual to be there, to participate in his life…it wasn’t mine. Do you know what I mean?

S: I know exactly what you mean. I now look back and I wish I’d said, “Why? Or, what do you mean?” But one didn’t at the time. You just didn’t…

M: It was just that way. I could’ve said, “Well, are there masters or not masters? Oh, you know, what is this about?”

S: Yes, or “Why don’t you want me to look at you?” But you didn’t because one had a…

M: I never did.

S: I completely understand that because I felt the same. But was your feeling that your looking at him interfered, or intruded somehow?

M: Well, it says he said that. I didn’t look at him. I mean I wasn’t looking at him, but it was a moment when…if I had looked at him, it would’ve disturbed him. I was writing things.

S: Yes, that’s right. Yes, yes.

M: ‘Then, he continued. “The sound of this conversation was expanding endlessly, and the sound was the same at the beginning and was without end. It was a song without a beginning or an end. Death and life are very close together, like love and death. As love is not remembrance, death has no past. Fear never entered this conversation, for fear is darkness and death is light.”’ That’s strange.

‘When I reread this part to him in the evening, I couldn’t continue for a bit after reading it, on the edge of tears, too moved. Then I went on and finished, and he asked me if I had felt something then. I said I had felt something there, something listening. He said, “I had tears in my eye.” Neither of us had looked at each other. It was, of course, “Death is light” which lifted something in me that was like a rising light.’

‘He finished the dictation. “This dialogue was not illusory or fanciful. It was like a whisper in the wind, but the whisper was very clear and if you listened you could hear it; you would then be part of it. Then we would share it together. But you won’t listen to it as you are too identified with your own body, your own thoughts, your own direction. One must abandon all this to enter the light and love of death.”’ [Pause.]

Listen to Mary speak here.

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S: That’s extraordinary.

M: ‘Charles Moore lunched with us, a likeable man. Among other things, we talked about the atmosphere in houses, and surprisingly, Krishnaji spoke of what he does to make a certain atmosphere when he stays in a new or strange room. He told Charles things done in India that are mysterious—the story of the raving woman, the priest bringing a branch of a certain tree, carrying it around the woman, she quieted a little, then the branch was nailed to a tree and the woman was cured—i.e., the bad was captured out of her into the branch and nailed to a tree; then the holding up the cross in Christian practice—“Only, it doesn’t always work because the priest is not really religious.” And, “You’ve heard of all these?—Well, what I do is none of these.” Then, he smiled and said nothing more. Moore seemed pleased.’ [Both M and S chuckle.] That’s a very, very Krishnaji anecdote. [S laughs again.]

S: Yes, yes.

M: ‘In the evening, we tried to watch a TV of a gala for the Queen of England at Covent Garden. During the ballet, Krishnaji, not a fan at all, kept saying, “Get on with it!” [M laughs.] And when Nureyev and Fontaine did a special ballet by Ashton for the occasion, Hamlet and Ophelia, it looked rather dreary and Krishnaji gave up. I continued in the living room, and it was pretty dull.’ [Both chuckle.]

[The tape ends.]

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Antoine Bourdelle (30 October 1861–1 October 1929) was an important French sculptor and painter who worked with Rodin. The Musée Bourdelle is located on rue Antoine Bourdelle, where several renditions of Krishnaji are available. Back to text.

[2] The frequent mentioning of Mary talking with her brother about business should probably be explained—Bud was a sophisticated stock broker and investor; he oversaw Mary’s investments. Back to text.