In The Presence of Krishnamurti is a project to present Mary Zimbalist's memoirs of her time with J. Krishnamurti as recounted to me, Scott H. Forbes. The material is available as a subscription service from www.inthepresenceofk.org.
Mary first met Krishnamurti in 1944, and then not again until 1963. In 1964, she started to do small things for him, and eventually became his assistant, his confidante, and his closest friend; the closest, it has been said, since Nitya (Krishnamurti's brother), who died in 1925. For most of the last twenty-two years of Krishnamurti's life, Mary traveled with him, helping to arrange his talks and public appearances, arranging his interviews, helping oversee the publishing of his work, and taking care of all the small things needed for daily life. During this period of Krishnamurti's life, the only exception to Mary's constant accompaniment was on some of his trips to India. Krishnamurti felt India was not healthy for Mary, so he asked her to accompany him only every other year.
One of the many blessings of Mary being the person closest to Krishnamurti is that she kept daily diaries. In fact, she kept two kinds of diaries: one was a small daily diary that she would fill in every night before going to sleep; and the second was a larger diary that she would write in whenever there was something she felt needed greater exposition and detail than her daily diary would allow. As these contain many details that were personal to her life, to Krishnamurti's life, and to the lives of members of her family and others, Mary left instruction that her diaries be burned after her death. She later amended that request to specify that her diaries be burned after her memoirs were completed.
Krishnamurti asked Mary many times, and especially at the end of his life, to write about what it was like to be with him. And, after working on this project for many years now, I can see the wisdom of that request. While there are several people who have written biographies of Krishnamurti, there is no one who has known the minute detail of daily life with him, no one who was as close to Krishnamurti and was so much his confidante, and no one who had recorded those details every day. Mary's presentation, while not covering the whole of his ninety years, still manages to capture more of him, or more of his presence, than any other word picture available to us. To be in Krishnamurti's presence for even a few minutes gave one a better sense of him than any of his biographies (as good as several of them are). Similarly, the details Mary observed, and the strange esoteric events of his existence that he related to her, give us a sense of Krishnamurti that is unparalleled.
Soon after Krishnamurti died on the 17th of February 1986, Mary started writing the book Krishnamurti had asked her to write, and she worked on it for the rest of her life.
In 1994, after eight years of watching Mary work very diligently and carefully on her manuscript, I began to get worried. She was then seventy-nine years old, had had several health issues, and had only covered a fraction of her material. I was the principal of the Brockwood Park Krishnamurti Educational Centre at the time, and Mary continued to come to Brockwood from May until November, keeping to much the same schedule she had when Krishnamurti was alive. Mary had always been very dear to me, so it was only natural that I would want to do something to help her with her monumental task. I suggested to her the only thing I could think of that might help: that we sit down with an audio recorder and discuss our memories of Krishnamurti.
What followed astonished and delighted me. At first she would discuss her memories, usually with her diaries open in front of her. This she soon changed to actually reading out her diary entries, and I would ask questions. As I knew so many of the places where she and Krishnamurti regularly traveled, I could ask fairly informed questions, and she would answer. It became almost a game between us, with me asking the most detailed questions I could think of, and Mary trying to pull the answers to them from her excellent memory. And, of course, we delighted in telling each other our stories of Krishnamurti. The person who has done most of the transcribing of these recordings has repeated to me several times that there is a great deal of joy and laughter in these discussions.
Some of the reason the recordings took so long to complete is that Mary and I were initially not in the same country for more than five or six months of the year. But, there is also the simple truth that Mary and I were not in any hurry to complete our exchanges - we so delighted in reliving our moments with Krishnamurti. When she was at Brockwood and I was at Oxford, I would come to Brockwood for many of the weekends. When we were both living in California, I would drive down to Ojai from northern California where I lived, spending several days at a time to continue the project. Later, when I moved to Oregon, I would fly down to California to see her about once a month. These recorded discussions with Mary continued until 2007, less than a year before Mary died. There are over 100 tapes of between one-and-a-half to two hours in length each - somewhere between 200 and 175 hours of recordings.
Over the years of these recordings, it became clear that Mary was relieved knowing that all she had to say about "what it was like to be with K" was not going to be lost, and that she was keeping her promise to Krishnamurti to present her experiences of him to the world. I eventually had these audio tapes transcribed by someone I knew I could trust, but who had only volunteer time to give to the project. There are over 5,000 pages of transcription-the equivalent of twenty 250 page books.
This project is called In the Presence of Krishnamurti because that was the title Mary wanted to give to the book she was writing.
The original thought was to edit all the material down from these discussions to around 250 pages - a reasonable book length. However, as I came to realize that the final page count for all the transcribing would be over 5,000 pages, it troubled me that a normal sized book would mean losing at least ninety-four percent of the material. Losing so much unique material doesn't seem correct.
For some people, many of the small details of Krishnamurti's life will reveal things that are important to their understanding of both him and his teachings, because he actually lived his teachings, and the living of those teachings is revealed in the details. Many other people who were part of Krishnamurti's life, or who had loved ones who were part of his life, will enjoy the details, and see themselves or their loved ones anew in their relationships with Krishnamurti. Almost every time Krishnamurti had an interview with someone, or had lunch with someone, or went on a walk with someone, Mary recorded his or her name. So, this is the most detailed and intimate historic record we have of any period of Krishnamurti's life.
Also, for some, it would be a pity to have only the written word. Mary's voice conveys more than the mere content of the words. Her wonderful voice, with all its passion, dedication, and integrity communicates the joy, inspiration, and awe she felt while in the presence of Krishnamurti. People should have a chance to hear some of this if they so desire.
Many people would also like to see what there is of the manuscript she worked on for so many years. It is indeed only a first rough draft, and it only covers part of her time with Krishnamurti, but she writes beautifully and with great intensity. This should not just sit in some archives.
Would anyone who is really interested in Krishnamurti not want all of this? Of course, a normal book-sized version must eventually be produced, but can something else be done for all those passionate inquirers who want to know, as much as possible, "what it was like to be with K"?
This project attempts to give any who want it the fullest possible version of this material. It runs as a subscription service. Every week, subscribers are given access to between twenty and thirty pages of these interviews with Mary. Each subscription will generally contain links to audio clips of the actual recordings of Mary when there is something particularly moving, or where her telling of it seems especially poignant, as well as photos (mostly taken by Mary). There are also links to Krishnaji's talks and discussions generously provided by the Krishnamurti Foundations. There will eventually be access to the manuscript that Mary wrote, but never completed.
There are several reasons to make this project a subscription service, and anyone interested in knowing them may inquire.
A minimum of material is edited out, but it seems right to be explicit about such editing. Mary wanted to avoid hurting people, so any material that might do that is removed. Also, Mary and I often told each other the same story multiple times, and one telling of each story should be sufficient.
Anyone interested in Mary's memoirs may go to www.inthepresenceofk.org/store to subscribe to In the Presence of Krishnamurti: The Memoirs of Mary Zimbalist. Here you will have different options for subscribing to the memoirs and you will also see how you can access the issues you have purchased.
Money raised from subscriptions to In the Presence of Krishnamurti: The Memoirs of Mary Zimbalist will fund Holistic Education, Inc.'s (a 501(c)3 organization) "Krishnamurti Education Research Project," and links to more information on that project are located on the main website.
Scott H. Forbes