The Beginning

What I am trying to recapture took place fifty years back, many aspects are quite vague and hazy but some of them are very distinct and clear. The first thing that I can recollect is that a complete blank prevailed; I did not know anything at all. I cannot describe that state except for saying that it was total oblivion, no sound, no light, no colors, nothing! From conception to that stage it was almost three years and till then everything went along on its own, there was no question of any volition on my part. I was told that during this period I had some illnesses, mishaps and injuries, they must have been troublesome and painful as they are now, but at that time, I did know at all. Then quite suddenly, quite spontaneously, without any effort on my part, one day I instantaneously came to know ‘I am’, I had a sense of ‘being’, I felt that ‘I am’. All that I knew that ‘I am’. When? Where? How? All this I did not know. Quite simultaneously along with this feeling there was space as well, it was indoors, probably a room. There was a side platform, some sort of settee, above which was a large rectangular space, a window from which light was coming in. Probably the time was somewhere around eight or nine in the morning. All this I can describe now, at that moment I did not know anything apart from seeing only light, space and objects. That was my first ‘knowing’ and soon I was back into ‘not-knowing’. These two states, that of knowing, or ‘I am’ and not-knowing or ‘I am not’ was all there was. There weren’t the waking, deep sleep or dreaming states which I acquired much later. The descriptions that follow are now of this state only, which is ‘I am’ and ‘I am not’ and I do not know exactly how long this period lasted, probably a year or so. Please remember, I can make these descriptions now with my sense of language well developed and of course, my memory which I feel is reasonably good. To begin with I remember this girl and that small boy who was always dressed up like a girl. I played a lot with the girl, we ran and ran and laughed a lot. We were probably of the same age and we were living in a valley, there were lots of hills around. We ran along the streams and then there was this bridge over a stream, we used to go below the bridge and play. One day we were running around completely naked, splashing water in the stream which was rather shallow. All this never made any sense then but still it was a carefree life with great fun and there were no demands or desires whatsoever. Once while running around the lanes on the small hillocks that were closer to us we encountered a not very old man strolling around in a pyjama-kurta and a jacket. He gazed at us intensely and then gave a broad smile, just patted our heads and went on. Then there was this large banyan tree where lots and lots people used to come and make a lot of noise. When we went there these people would catch us, cuddle us, kiss us and there was a lot of laughter.

I used to go to a hall where other children came as well. A dark, bald man in a white lungi and shirt used to take us to the banks of small streams and tell us to gather pebbles of different shapes. A fat lady was in charge of serving food to us in a dining hall that was behind our house. Large groups of us children we were taken to the top of a hill and made to watch the sunset in complete silence, here sometimes I again saw the same pleasant looking not so old man whom we had met on the hillocks, his silence appeared quite different and he was unusually calm. I remember once the girl and I managed to enter a big hall where a lot of people were listening to the same man who was talking softly on a platform. We were very restless; we began fidgeting, giggling and creating quite a commotion. I just ran towards the man on the platform and stood looking at him, the girl poking me from behind made me laugh. The audience was distracted, the talk disturbed and there was this Englishman in the front row who glared at us annoyedly.
Just then quite suddenly the man caught hold of me and sat me up in his lap, I became absolutely still, calm and quiet, he then continued with his talk. I very distinctly remember that python in the cage and the rabbits next door and how the python swallowed one of the rabbits by wriggling through a hole between the cages. I also remember how the villagers had brought the python tied to a large pole which was held by two of them at the two ends.
 Now the random memories:
1. Moonlight dinners in large numbers
2. Travel by moon light in bullock carts
3. Village festivals and fairs with decorated cattle
4. Seeing jaggery being made
5. Peeping in the dancing huts
6. The injured boy being carried on Diwali day I have two distinct memories of injuries; one was of my head hitting the tap below which I was bathing. The second injury I remember is of a metal cot falling on the tips of my fingers causing cuts over there. The scars of these injuries are still there on my body, the memory of the event is also there but there is no memory of the pain.
 I can now add much more information about then from what my parents told me.
The place was Rishi Valley School in Madanapally district, Andhra Pradesh in India, where my father was working as Music teacher. The girl friend was Rekha, the daughter of a lady next door who worked in the school. The calm, not so old man whom we encountered, was J.Krishnamurti, the banyan tree was in fact a famous theatre in the school. The bald man in lungi was one Mr,Raju, the fat lady who conducted food services was one Rama bai. The evening activity on the hillock was called ‘Asthachal’; the Englishman who got annoyed was Gordon Pearce, the then principal of the school. What were the most remarkable features about this period? First of all, I did not know at all who or where I was, nor who my parents were. I did not know that there was something called birth and death. I had no body awareness at all, because I did know what or when I ate, or that there was pain when I was injured. The only two things that I very clearly remember are that either ‘I was’ or ‘I was not’ a state of knowing (‘I am’) and not knowing (‘I am not’). I had no sense of time at all nor did I know of the waking, deep sleep or dream states or that there was anything such as daily routine or the cycle of morning, afternoon, evening and night.

Above all, which is the most outstanding feature of this state was the total absence of any verbalization in the form of the spoken word or language. There may have been some stray words in Marathi, my mother tongue, English or Telugu, but I have no memory of them at all and it can hardly be called a genuine meaningful linguistic expression. The states of knowing (‘I am’) or not-knowing (‘I am not’) were completely non-verbal and they occurred quite spontaneously without my having any control over them, the question of volition did not occur at all. These two states may also be said to be those of ignorance (not-knowing) and knowledge (knowing).
Pradeep Apte