PROF. B. L. Atreya, M.A., D. Litt.
(Professor of Philosophy & Psycholog y, Benares Hindu University.)

A saint is as great a necessity of human society as a great scientist, a great thinker and a great leader, - nay even greater. For a scientist discovers the secrets of life and of the universe; a thinker tries to understand the meaning and purpose of existence; and a leader tries to shape and transform humanity or a portion of it according to his own notions of what is ought to be; whereas a saint is one who makes whole-hearted effort to realise in himself, in his own life, the highest and furthest possibilities of human life, which in a natural course of evolution may take centuries to actualize. A saint is a man perfected, a fulfilled hope of humanity, a successful experiment in human sublimation, and a source of inspiration and guidance to the travellers on the path to perfection. He is the embodiment of the highest values of humanity, an indubitable indication that ideals can be made real, that man can be what he ought to be, here and now. His life is a measure of man’s manhood, when it is lived in the midst of humanity and not in sanctified seclusion. It is a practical solution of the various puzzles of life, provided it is a comprehensive one. Considered from various points of view, a saint is the greatest asset of human society. A perfected being, he is the eternal beacon-light to the sadhakas all the world over.
I have read the biographies of many a saint, seen a number of them and have come in contact with some. I have had the privilege of being at the Ashrama of Sri Ramana Maharshi for a short time in March 1940 and since then in correspondence with him.1 He made a deep impression upon my mind, a mind that has been moulded by a study of scientific and philosophic writing of the East as well as of the West. The greatest peculiarity and merit of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s life is that although he has moulded and perfected his personality on the lines of Advaita Vedanta, a purely Indian way of Self-Realization, he is highly appreciated and resorted to by Western seekers and by those Indians who have been educated on Western lines. One of the reasons for this fact may be that some English and French writers2 happened to praise him highly in their books. But the fact remains to be explained why these Western seekers were themselves so well impressed by the Maharshi. Mere publicity does not in the least establish the greatness of saints, although it may make them known, as in the case of Jesus Christ, to wider public. Ramana Maharshi’s greatness is more deeply founded. It is based on his actual living by the creed of the Advaita Vedanta which holds that Reality is One without a second, that everything in this universe is but that Reality which is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. True to his creed, he regards nothing alien, none as other, no event as undesirable. For him the ideal is the real and the real is the ideal. He has no other relation with anybody but that of Love. He thinks as much of others as he thinks of himself. Love, affection, kindness, mercy etc. which are expressions of one and the same thing, and the feeling of unity with all, ever flow from him. This is the secret of Maharshi’s
unique greatness and consequent popularity. The whole of humanity owes its homage to this great Sage amidst us.