C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar


Sir C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E., LL.D.

It is natural to believe in great men: and in the language of Emerson the search after the great is the dream of youth and the most serious occupation of manhood. The same philosopher dealing with representative men insisted that in order best to fulfil his functions, the great man must be related to us and our life should receive from him some promise of expansion. He added that there are persons who, either by their character or by their actions, answer questions which we have not the skill to put.

Outlining the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Romain Rolland emphasises that the first qualification for knowing, judging, and even for condemning a religion or a philosophy, is to have made experiments for oneself in that field; and in this connection it cannot be forgotten that even many persons who sincerely think that they are free from all religious beliefs actually live, as has been stated, “immersed in a state of super-rational consciousness which some term socialism, others communism, others again nationalism or humanitarianism”.

The test that has been suggested for passing a verdict in this matter has been thus expressed: If one turns fearlessly towards the search for truth at all costs and prepared for any sacrifice, he should be called religious. For, religion is definitely the faith in an end to human efforts higher than the individual life or even the life of the existing society.

In India, as Swami Vivekananda has asserted, all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence. For nearly four thousand years what Romain Rolland calls the tree of vision has renewed itself tirelessly; all kinds of fruits ripen upon its boughs at the same time; always side by side are found all kinds of godheads from the lowest to the highest, to the unnamable and the boundless One. India has also produced throughout the ages a series of pathfinders or universal souls. The tree of vision has been aptly described in the Upanishads and in the Gita as the Eternal Asvattha, whose roots are in the sky and whose branches pervade the earth.

The world abounds with scriptures, revelations and philosophies all of which seek to expound the truth; but although this truth is one and eternal, it expresses itself in time and through the mind of man; and therefore, as Sri Aurobindo has stated, every scripture and revelation contains two elements, one temporary, perishable, belonging to the ideas of the period and the country in which it was produced; the other applicable to all ages and countries.

I have deliberately adverted, by way of introduction, to Swami Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo Ghosh as men whose lives and teachings afford both an analogy and a contrast to the life-work of Ramana Maharshi. It is a daring task that I have attempted in discussing one with whom I have not come in direct contact and of whom all I have learnt is through his teachings, and conversations with those who have been profoundly influenced by him. Sankara in his Viveka-Choodamani claims that there are three things which are rare and due to the Grace of God, namely, to be born a human being, to long for liberation and to obtain counsel from a perfected sage. Not only in our scriptures but right through the ages, the Guru and the Sishya are pre-ordained for each other and one seeks the other out, as Socrates did Plato. My only explanation and position is that such a call is essential and cannot be anticipated or forced.

The Maharshi’s life is without many outward incidents but it is a life dedicated from the beginning to realisation and an insistent and absorbed search directed to vairagya and Godquest, Renunciation, realisation and the power that comes from both, seem to have been the prerogatives of the Maharshi from his early youth. The Hindu ideal has always been in favour of teaching through life and not so much through words and the Maharshi is described as being always in Sahaja Samadhi, an uninterrupted state of realisation, being able to attend to any work that turns up without feeling disturbed or distracted. As is stated of Dakshinamurti, it is said of Maharshi that he teaches more by silence than by sermons.

India has never committed the mistake of an overstressing of the reality of the world and its phenomena and strata, and the West is fast arriving at the same conclusion. Sir James Jeans says with reference to Einstein’s theories: “We find that space means nothing apart from our perception of objects and time means nothing apart from our experience of events. Space begins to appear as a fiction created by our minds.” “Matter,” in the language of Bertrand Russell, “has become as ghostly as anything in a spiritualist seance”. This consciousness, now fortified by the researches of physical and chemical science, has been the fundamental concept of Indian religious teachers who have always regarded the world as unreal and ever-changing. In order to illustrate Maharshi’s catholic approach towards the great problems in life, let me quote two questions and answers set out in the Maharshi’s Gospel, Book I. “D. How does a Grihastha fare in the scheme of moksha? Should he not necessarily become a mendicant in order to attain Liberation?

“M. Why do you think you are a Grihastha? Similar thoughts that you are a Sannyasin will haunt you, even if you go out as a Sannyasin. Whether you continue in the household or renounce it and go to the forest, your mind haunts you. The ego is the source of thought. It creates the body and the world, and it makes you think of being the Grihastha. If you renounce, it will only substitute the thought of Sannyasa for that of Grihastha, and the environment of the forest for that of the household. But the mental obstacles are always there for you. They even increase greatly in the new surroundings. It is no help to change the environment. The one obstacle is the mind; it must be got over whether in the home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest, why not in the home? Therefore, why change the environment? Your efforts can be made even now, whatever be the environment. “D. Is it possible to enjoy Samadhi while busy in worldly work? "M. The feeling ‘I work’ is the hindrance. Ask yourself ‘Who works?’ Remember who you are. Then the work will not bind you; it will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce; your effort is the bondage. What is destined to happen will happen. If you are destined not to work, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it; if you are destined to work, you will not be able to avoid it: You will be forced to engage yourself in it. So, leave it to the Higher Power; you cannot renounce or retain as you choose.”

It is a remarkable proof of the unifying faculty of the Maharshi’s personality that he had gathered around him men of varying equipment and experience as Aksharajna, B. V. Narasimha Swami, Grant Duff and Suddhananda Bharathi. In the book entitled Self-Realisation - Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi Narasimha Swami has furnished an absorbingly interesting pen-picture of his daily life, his remarkable encounter with thieves and his sympathy for and brotherliness towards men and animals alike. The Maharshi has sedulously avoided publicity and controversies, social or religious. Many persons who have visited the Ashram have recounted their experiences, one of which is typical. Pascaline Mallet in her book Turn Eastwards speaks of a central figure, whose serene strength and perfect poise seem to fill the whole place with unutterable peace. Paul Brunton speaks in his A Search in Secret India of a silent figure on a couch and his strange reception, ostensibly characterised by indifference. Let me quote his own words: “My initial bewilderment, my perplexity at being totally ignored, slowly fade away as this strange fascination begins to grip me more firmly. But aware of the silent, resistless change which is taking place within my mind. One by one, the questions which I prepared in the train with such meticulous accuracy drop away. For it does not now seem to matter whether they are asked or not, and it does not matter whether I solve the problems, which have hitherto troubled me. I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest. “How small seem those questions which I have asked myself with such frequency! How petty grows the panorama of the lost years! I perceive with sudden clarity that the intellect creates its own problems and then makes itself miserable trying to solve them. This is indeed a novel concept to enter the mind of one who has hitherto placed such high value upon intellect.”

The Maharshi has not written much; but what he has told us in his “Ulladu Narpadu or Sad-Vidya” is a pithy synopsis of what is usually termed Vedantic teaching. Translating the Swamiji’s “Five Hymns to Sri Arunachala”, Grant Duff positively avers that he felt that he was in direct contact with one who had passed beyond the boundaries of the senses and was merged in the Absolute of his true self. The Hymns are the efflorescence of the mystic urge and the Maharshi speaks of a Heart which is different from the physical one but whose secrets have to be learnt in order to discard that “self which is the aggregate of sense impressions.” It has always been one of the fundamentals of Hindu life and faith that those who wish to be free must, in the language of the Gita, seek and reverently question those who have seen the truth and freed themselves. Speaking of the necessity of a Guru, the Maharshi himself was asked by some
one as to whether the belief in the necessity of a Guru is correct. He gave the following reply: “So long as one thinks of himself as little - laghu, he must take hold of the greatthe Guru; he must not however look upon the Guru as a person; the Sage is never other than the real Self of the disciple. When that Self is realised then there is neither Guru nor disciple”. The question arose because the Sage himself had had no Guru,at least no outer Guru. On another occasion the Sage said: “A teacher would be needed if one has to learn something new; but this is a case of unlearning”.

On another occasion the Sage said: “When camphor burns, no residue is left. The mind must be like camphor; it must melt away and be wholly consumed by the earnest resolve to find and be the real Self; by this resolve the ‘Who am I?’ Quest becomes efficacious. When the mind is thus consumed, when no trace of it as mind is leftit has become resolved into the Self.”

Being asked how one can find his Guru the Sage said: “By intense meditation.”

One of his disciples, Vasishtha Ganapati Muni, has given the Sanscrit redaction of Sri Ramana Gita, which embodies the fundamentals of the Sage’s Teachings; and various collections have been published both in Tamil and in Sanscrit, outlining his teaching and precepts. All of them are characterised by directness of approach and facility of expression that comes from Enlightenment. Loving disciples have gathered and collected every saying of his. His daily life and the calm that characterises it, and that is diffused by it in his environment have been actually described as matters of daily experience. One like me, who has up to now, not experienced personal contact with this remarkable personage, can only say that all that he has learnt of and read about him, furnishes proof that we are face to face with one of those beings who having embarked on the eternal quest of the human soul has not only attained the peace of realisation but is able to communicate that peace to those around him.