Review of The Krishnamurti Retreat (Pepper Tree Retreat), Ojai, California

Review of The Krishnamurti Retreat (Pepper Tree Retreat), Ojai, California

By Reza Ganjavi

Also see: Why Executive Director of KFA Jaap Sluijter Is A Disgrace To Krishnamurti 

Terrible Management

Terrible management whose style I believe has nothing to do with the spirit of Krishnamurti which was a great philosopher, author, educator. Checkin experience was torturous as the Jaap Sluijter tried to bully me into accepting even additional rules than what's already in their LONG list of rules or else he said he'll give me a refund which I definitely interpreted as a threat as effectively he was saying if you don't agree with even more rules than is already in the crazily long list of rules they have they'll refuse my reservation -- and that's weeks after they confirmed my reservation and I made travel plans. And that's when I have NEVER broken any of their rules after decades of visiting the place (that was before Jaap Sluijter's time but already things went rough because Mark Lee also had what I perceived to be a egotistic, dictatorial style of running the place).

Yes this is weeks after I made the reservation -- they were well aware of it as evidenced by the welcome email they sent -- and I made plans based on this. Very very unprofessional and cruel and insensitive and unintelligent and indecent and unreasonable -- FAR from Krishnamurti's values which attracted me to his teachings.

And mind you in all my years of visit there I have never -- NEVER -- broken a single rule of the place. But they don't like people who speak their mind in total civility and respect for others. I believe they have no respect for freedom of speech based on what I have heard and seen them do including their librarian who said nobody from outside the foundation can comment about the work of the foundation. This is just an example of how dogmatic and pathetic this place is. This led to other sagas -- assault & battery of totally peaceful visitor on their property I suppose to provoke in order to have something against the person so they can get rid of him because they don't like the fact that he: exercises his freedom of speech in a totally legal moral and ethical way. And other sagas which make this place so contrary to the spirit of their great founder whom I deeply respect.

These things tells me a lot about how the management of this place and the KFA (Krishnamurti Foundation America) where I can no longer smell the perfume of Krishnamurti's great work, the freedom, love, beauty, responsibility, transparency, depth, clarity, rationality, logic, communication, understanding, goodness, intelligence, integrity, decency, and those other great values which made K so fresh and appealing to people like me.

Instead I believe the place has turned disgusting based on what I have experienced with people who are in key positions like Mark Lee and Jaap Sluijter. Based on what I have witnessed, heard, and experienced with KFA, I believe the place has turned into a mundane, mediocre, dictatorial, stiff, brutal, dull, dogmatic, fanatic, contradictory, reckless, egotistic, hypocritical, boring organization.

Aside from this terrible experience during check-in, the other staff were friendly and nice. Except one who was asking me about the timing of my visit to the factory outlet (which luckily was before I arrive there and not during otherwise perhaps it totally felt like a gotcha question of her trying to find something against me because the place has demonstrated a disgusting talent for image making which Krishnamurti himself warned greatly about.

So if I have to choose a retreat I will always choose a different spot because I can't stand the spirit that Jaap Sluijter has promoted in the place. This includes, In my opinion, their reckless handling of Krishnamurti's work by sponsoring Vedic chants and bringing speakers like Ravi Ravindra, and so on. In my opinion, KFA doesn't seem to care about not diluting Krishnamurti which was expressly against his wish.

Also visitors beware: the long list of rules also apply to the public gatherings and if you happen to step over the line the dictator might get upset and take extremely unreasonable action WITHOUT WARNING -- you likely will not get a second chance -- and then, good luck trying to find out specifics about the charges they may fabricate against you to justify their extreme action! I've been a victim of one case of this and it ain't fun. There's no Krishnamurti in this place as far as I am concerned. His books are there and the land they own but their attitude as far as I have seen heard experienced and of others I have heard of directly who have had bitter experiences with this place, does not lead me to believe that spirit of Krishnamurti which I felt when I met him in person and when I read over 80 books of his, is sadly not present.



Terrible checkin experience

I am writing a review of Peppertree retreat not based on its philosophical background or my sentiments towards the founder (which is very positive), but rather as compared to other places I've stayed during my extensive travels -- I care a lot about how well a place is managed as much as how clean and quiet it is. Management sets the tone on how a guest is treated.

I gave Peppertreet a 2 star rating because of the entirety of my experience there which included a very bad checkin experience.

Before checking in I was given a lecture about my intention to the tone of, if you don't agree we are happy to provide a refund. Imagine having travelled there and counted on staying at this place and having received several emails and calls welcoming me to the place and then on the day of arrival getting told, if you don't agree with something (which was not even in their written conditions) we give you a refund (and effectively, you can go away) -- not a very welcoming tone to start a stay -- what do you do? Tell them, this is an unacceptable and rude way of treating a guest and go away? I almost felt bullied given the circumstances. You are told you are welcome to stay - then when you make all your plans and show up you're given a hard time and offered a refund if you don't accept something which was a non issue to begin with -- just imaginations (and while alive, the founder spent a lot of time warni ng his listeners about image making)... Pretty mind-boggling.

The well-managed places I've stayed at would never do that -- they would always review the booking and if they see any issues whatsoever they tell you immediately -- or at least they don't send you several emails welcoming you and then last minute after you've made all your plans and showed up to tell you well if you don't agree with this we give you a refund. Not cool to say the least.

And it wasn't like my visit was a surprise. The executive director who did this said he was aware of my reservation -- so there is no excuse for this behavior except for deficiency in management skills. A professional manager would have handled this very differently.

Of course I agreed with it because it was a non issue anyway -- it was completely unnecessary and if management felt it was necessary they should have pointed it out early on -- not the last minute before check in.

A few months earlier I received a set of ground rules, which again was completely unnecessary because I had never broken the rules of the place to begin with in any of my past stays -- and none were ever pointed out because it simply had not happened.

The list of rules were long and mind-boggling. I have never seen any place have so many rules -- and this spirit seems so contradictory to the founder's philosophy of education and specific quotes I can think of relating to this very subject. They must get a lot of weirdos there to have to set up so many rules - or is it more about themselves?!

I respect all rules without even reading them because I am a respectful person and use common sense - and have traveled and stayed at a lot of places and never had a problem with any ground rules, including this place which I've visited for several decades and stayed many times at (before it changed its name to "pepper tree").

Aside from this terrible experience during check-in, the other staff were friendly and nice. Except one who was asking me about the timing of my visit to the factor outlet (which luckily was before I arrive there and not during otherwise perhaps there would be a case made against me that during a retreat he went shopping :-) You never know! I've seen so many things get fabricated out of this place by people who apparently didn't understand or didn't live or ??? the founder's message? But I leave all that behind every time and go afresh -- but what appears to be gotcha questions or the whole checkin experience are not pleasant experiences.

I love the property - the setting - region - rooms - it's really special. Te air conditioned is quite loud - you can even hear other rooms' A/C. Some of the staff seem stressed and caffeinated. When alive, the founder posed a key challenge around this subject!

So the key reason around a 2 star rating is treatment. That's better than last times no-star (or negative) so it's on the mend. Hopefully, next time I'll give them a better rating if I am not subjected to the checkin experience. I don't want to elaborate on this and I hope they don't come back here bringing an excuse because there was no excuse. No matter what - they knew I was coming - if they wanted to impose additional rule which was not in their already extremely extensive set of rules they should have contacted me before. Anyway, their additional rule was silly at best and probably that's why it wasn't written in their long list of rules which I respect, always have respected, and have no problems with. I did accept the new rules too but it was not necessary -- it didn't make a bit of difference in how I behaved because I always behave civilly and respectfully anyway (even when provoked - let's not go there) - so all it did was to create stress -- or maybe it was a last ditch effort to not have me stay because I have in the past at times challenged the way this foundation has run but the bulk of the work of the founder itself was a challenge to tradition so I don't know why challenges are so unwelcome. They have come a long way since saying "nobody from the outside is able to comment about the work of the (public, non-profit!) foundation".

On the other side is the founder with his amazing set of teachings -- if people would really take on his challenges -- and study it deeply -- not a passage here and there as most people do -- but deeply -- and apply it in their daily life...

While there, make sure you buy a couple of books and study it deeply -- and get a few more later too -- there are a lot of hidden gems in the pages...