[This is part two of a two-part blog.]
The year before Krishnamurti died, his three foundations (America, England, India) had agreed to hold an educational conference with representatives from all his schools worldwide. The conference was held at his 300-acre campus in Rishi Valley, near Bangalore, in the southern portion of the subcontinent. As director of Oak Grove School, I was invited to attend, and the KFA kindly paid for my wife, Vivienne, to accompany me. We were going to be there for six weeks, and the trip represented for me a unique opportunity to observe Krishnamurti in another context and culture altogether.
Krishnamurti was buffered by Mary Zimbalist from too much interaction with the world at large when he was in Ojai. Requests for private meetings with him were channelled through her and were granted only on a case-by-case basis. I had heard that things were different in India, that he was more relaxed and accessible, but I was skeptical of these reports. His relative remoteness in Ojai seemed like an immutable fact, one not vulnerable to changing circumstances.
Vivienne and I arrived in Rishi Valley mid-morning and were ushered into a large room where a teachers meeting was in progress. As soon as the meeting broke up, we were invited into an adjacent, smaller room for tea with Krishnamurti and two or three others. I had attended dozens of teachers meetings with him in Ojai and was never asked to tea after any of them, nor at any other time, for that matter. Not only that, but he then invited us to have breakfast with him the next morning! This would have been inconceivable in Ojai.
Krishnamurti was still in bed at the time we arrived for breakfast, but he was sitting up and expecting us. He motioned for us to sit with him on the bed. Our food was brought out on trays, and we talked while we ate and afterwards. He brought us up to date on all his recent activities and what was planned for the week ahead. The event was casual and friendly. It seemed like something perfectly normal, notwithstanding how impossible it would have been in Ojai.
Over the course of the next six weeks, I had several other opportunities to visit with Krishnamurti without having to navigate a buffer in the form of Mary Zimbalist or anyone else. He was always friendly and welcoming. It allowed my relationship with him to enter into a new key, one more authentic and spontaneous.
I don’t know why he was so different in India. Is it because it was the land of his birth and childhood? Was it due to the absence of Mary Z? Did it reflect some feeling he had about the culture? Or was it something else altogether? I still don’t know.