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faqs :: PB - Recollections of Him
7. Others' recollections of PB
A Columbus Ohio Student - Memories of PB:
I also remember that his actions were unpredictable - a true individual. When I delivered some turtleneck shirts to him in pastel colors, I noted that the sender had said he wouldn't like them. He said mildly, "how would she know what I like?"
PB wearing a beret and leaning against the wall in his apartment in Montreaux. (He said he often wore the beret indoors because his head got cold.) Sometimes his poses were so picturesque it was as if they were carefully arranged and indelible.
The first time I saw him he was standing beside the waterfall near the hotel where I was staying, wearing a light green cotton suit. A small man in an unorthodox wrinkled suit etched its place in my mind in a way that a neatly pressed dark blue outfit wouldn't have.
Having tea with PB in a Moroccan restaurant. He ordered the tea and a few minutes later ran into the kitchen to tell the waiter not to put sugar in it. (He said they put in too much.) When the tea came he squatted on the bench to show me how they drank tea in Morocco. That picture makes me smile.
PB was authentic, not contrived. He gave the impression he was genuinely interested in the conversation. He was so interesting to speak with, not mentally tired, but enthusiastically alert. I wondered if he was being kind since our small talk couldn't be that interesting to him. He always had something to add but it was as if he were discovering it too. (Shankaracharaya had this same quality of freshness.) He gave me a stack of newspapers for reading material in my hotel room. They were published years before in England by the Theosophical Society and I found myself telling him about the articles. He knew the background of the information and corrected erroneous statements. He even asked me to bring in a particular article so he could read it.
He asked for some ideas about how to rearrange his living/dining room so the sunlight didn't fade the upholstery. This was amusing in itself because I am - or used to be - an inveterate furniture mover. I am not able to explain exactly why but I often sense that furniture in a room is not placed right for that particular time. (I didn't know about Feng Shui) When I suggested switching the two areas, his attitude was open and interested. I found myself thinking it wasn't going to work and suggested we might draw it out to scale on paper to see if things would fit. He said, "not necessary, we are not professionals, let's see how it works." He seemed interested and curious. Was this the quality of enthusiasm he later applied to Anthony and related it to the word for spirit in Greek? When he was in Columbus he conducted some of his interviews with people in the Witter's dining room. He frequently moved the furniture before the next person came in. Sometimes the chair he sat in was on the left, sometimes the right.
The most special memory is of the benign smile on his face when meditating. He suggested we have a quiet moment together and something told me to open my eyes. He had the most benign smile on his face. I am now reminded of the excerpt in Vol. 15 -Why the Buddha Smiled.
An Ithaca New York Student - Furniture and PB:
You wrote: When he was in Columbus he conducted his interviews with people in the Witter's dining room. He frequently moved the furniture before the next person came in. Sometimes the chair he sat in was on their left, sometimes their right.
The first time I met him he offered me a choice of places to sit: either in a rather stiff-looking chair or on a reddish sofa (now in the Library). As I started toward the sofa he gently suggested that it really wasn't that comfortable. I was obtuse and ridiculously young and so sat on the sofa anyway. He was right. The incident stands in my mind as Rohrshach moment, a highlighted metaphor for the choices I've so often made.
Another time, a few years later, a close friend and I were with PB for a week in Zurich. On Xmas Eve he took us with him to a long-time friend's apartment. She sang for us, unforgettably, in that small space, with full operatic beauty and vigor, and then we all had a go at Xmas carols. At some point, some neighbors who had met PB before telephoned saying they wanted to drop by. PB spent the few minutes before they arrived shifting chairs and deciding who should sit where. It was clear he didn't want the visitors sitting right next to him, so arrayed the rest of us around him such that they were forced to sit across the room.
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