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Memories of PB


Visiting PB in Montreaux
I 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.  PB mildly said, “How would she know what I like?”

I remember seeing 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.  The memory of that image makes me smile.

PB was authentic, not contrived.  He gave the impression that he was genuinely interested in the conversation at hand.  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 that made it seem as if he was discovering too.  (His Holiness Chandrasekharendra Shankaracarya had this same quality of freshness.)

PB 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.

Arranging Furniture with PB
PB 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.  (At the time I was with PB, 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 Damiani and related to the word for spirit (œnqouj) 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.

Meditating with PB
The most special memory is of the benign smile on his face when he meditated.  He suggested that 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 Volume 15 of The Notebooks: Why the Buddha Smiled.