Dilip Kumar Roy


By Sri Dilip Kumar Roy

(Shri Aurobindo Ashram)

It has been said that only a Christ could understand a Christ. And it is true. So I have felt I am essentially an anadhikari - that is to say, I have not a shadow of right to write about the message or philosophy of a Sage of the type of Maharshi Ramana. For an ego-bound soul can hardly be expected to write anything worth while about an ego-emancipated soul, such as the great Maharshi is. So I hesitated when I was asked to write something on a figure which shines to-day as one of the few light-houses in this global darkness which is the shadow of our primary ignorance of just the things that matter, or, shall I say, the one thing that matters: the last clue to Immortality? Put it whatever way we will, Sri Ramana Maharshi stands out as one of the great Guides to the Harbour for which we all hanker - from prince to pauper - tossed incessantly on the bursting crests of our new-foaming ego. Go where we will, we find men are puppets ultimately of desires in some form or other, gross or subtle. We hear doctrines preached by doctrinaires of life and operations recommended by surgeons of the soul to say nothing of panaceas advocated by politicians and scientists, artists and philosophers. But in vain. The soul thirsts to be rid of the curse of suffering, the badge of all sentient life. To put in the language of the Upanishad, to lay hold of the final remedy for the ills of life we appeal in vain to the mantravit instead of the Atmavit.

Mantravit, in modern English would correspond, roundly, to those who possess scientific knowledge. But only the Atmavit, the Sage, can take us beyond the frontiers of darkness, he being by definition the Treasurer of the House of Light, the Light of Self in full swing, stripped finally from the veils of the individual ego. So Narada who went to Sanatkumara approached him as a mantravit must approach an Atmavit. To his question about the riddle of the universe Sanatkumara’s answer comes to this, that, in the last analysis, the motive of all terrestrial action is to attain happiness; so the searchlight of enquiry must be focussed on the secret of happiness. Whereupon Narada wanted to be enlightened again. It was only then that the great Atmavit told the mantravit that nothing short of the Infinite will give the key to Happiness - only That which is in its nature inexhaustible, has the power to deliver the goods, nothing cribbed and cabined, can be a boon-giver of the supreme Happiness our soul hungers for,the deathless Bliss, the cloudless Light.”

Narada was convinced, because the one who talked to him about Bhuma, the Infinite, did know what he was talking about. But when we, the modern Naradas, want to be so convinced we seldom find an Acharya who is an indweller of the Mansion of the Infinite. That is why we remain for ever unhappy disciples of the mantravits, the men of science or, in the last resort, spoon-fed
children of philosophers and poets, because these satisfy us perhaps a wee bit more. Nevertheless, a time must come when we have all to sigh in chorus with the great alankaric Ananda Bardhanacharya who, after having dealt with all the thrills that art and philosophy can supply sang dolefully: 

Which may be translated somewhat as follows: 

We scanned life with the poet’s scrutiny
And thrilled in Beauty’s little flickerings,
Then searched with rushlights of philosophy
And roared: “Now stands revealed the core of things,”
Till O thou Vast, couched in the Primal Ocean,
Our hearts surmised in deep world-weariness:
We missed Thy highest boonthe heart’s devotion
To Thee, a bliss of everlasting Grace.

In recent times how often have we not overheard this muffled cry in truth-seekers who approach the lesser fry lusty with their gospel of sonorous ‘isms till in the end we find ourselves groping in the same labyrinth of semi-darkness. But fortunately for us, the ancient tradition of Sagehood is still continued in our land of hoary wisdom, be it by ever so small a number. And when one meets one of these one discovers that even old words acquire a new ring, when for example one hears a Ramana Maharshi exclaim before Arunachala Shiva: Thou mad’st me mad to cure me finally Of madness for this world of fantasy. The words are moving because of the love the great Sage bore for Shiva, the Lord of his heart, the Lord to whom his surrender was so total, so unconditional. What can be more moving than a love which was free and yet so compelling that it made him sing:

As a spider thou wouldst watch me, Lord,

To trap me in thy web of Grace

Till now when I’m enmeshed thou com’st

And feed’st on me, O Blessedness!

Not for nothing does Ananda Bardhan sigh that we who have not yet known what is this heart’s devotion to the Lord of the heart may never win even a glimpse of it through art and philosophy and science and what not.

But how few indeed are the Atmavit Masters who can testify to a truth so convincing and yet unconvincing because it sounds so incredible almost too good to be true. For have we not wandered far from the “Heaven which was our home” trailing not “clouds of glory” but rather exhalations of a sea of blood which we have taken such enormous pains to replenish with our greed and science of ignorance and egoism!

I say this with some vehemence because just after the War, in 1945, I saw the Maharshi for the first time face to face. It was a memorable evening for me. I may as well write about my impressions of his personality since I am incompetent to write about his unsurpassed greatness. My apology at the start was not inspired by that hateful humbug, conventional modesty. It is a sincere confession of a recent realisation of mine that the likes of us can at best write hymns on such God-lovers but never attempt seriously to appraise their consciousness with ours, even when these God-lovers assure us that all men are essentially sustained by the same Divinity. One who has only peered at the stars through lenses however marvellous had better confess at the start that the astronomer can divine but an infinitesimal part of the truth about the stars. And men like the Maharshi are, if anything, even remoter from us than the sidereal zones, for they haunt worlds beyond all time and space where shine “no suns nor moons nor stars,” as hymned by the Vedic Sages.

I was a guest of the Asram and my comforts were attended to by so many kind friends, among whom I must mention my dear friend Dr. Mahamad Hafiz Syed. It is no mean tribute to the magnetism of the Maharshi that a man of the type of Dr. M. H. Syed should have settled in Tiruvannamalai after his retirement from academic life. But let me cut short these details about the charming personalities I met there (like Mrs. Taleyarkhan) in order to be able to devote more space to my impressions of the Maharshi himself.

I entered the hall with a strange feeling of diffidence. Had I not heard from ever so many that though the Maharshi was great (not one who met him even once ever denied him this tribute), he was a Jnani (man of Knowledge) of the orthodox type as against a Bhakta (a Devotee)? But when I met him for the first time on that memorable evening somehow it was borne home upon me even against appearances that the rumour was unwarranted. For the Maharshi’s face was so kind, I may even add, soft with a shade of pensiveness. Here may be it’s our eyes that often impart to a face what we see in ourselves, but my point in recording this first impression of mine is that I saw something I had not bargained for. That is, I did not see a man inaccessible to creatures of sorrow, and yet I felt with Paul Brunton that “he did not belong to us, the human race, so much as he belonged to nature, to the solitary peak that rose abruptly behind the hermitage, to the rough tract of jungle which sketched away into distant forests, and to the impenetrable sky which filled all space.” But then - and here again steps in the incorrigible Lady Paradox — he managed somehow to communicate something through his star pensive luminous gaze wherewith he greeted me from time to time, almost fortuitously as it were! I wondered if it was this language which put me at once at my ease. For born and bred in the atmosphere of expression, I have still a soft corner left in my heart for the much-maligned art of expression as against the much-extolled science of silence. I have never yet been fully persuaded that silence was so flawless as it is claimed by all and sundry. I do not deny the value of silence. But - at least so it seems to me still - if silence was as unalloyedly golden why did the Supreme create this world of name and form so vocal and radiant with loveliness? Furthermore, silence if it be all that its advocates claim it is must communicate its message through a code of its own. And that is what I verified once again at the feet of the Maharshi. To exploit here what the Maharshi said once that “the Egoless State is not one of indolence, but of intense activity,”6 I thought (I don’t dare to use the word ‘felt’) that his silence in any case was not of an amorphous brand, which brings me to a talk I had with him the next morning. I may as well put it on paper here.

A Tamil friend of mine, Sri Nilakantha, once told me - in Ernakulam, last year - when we were discussing the Maharshi that he had once spent a night with the Maharshi in the same room. In the morning, he told me, the Maharshi started washing and peeling vegetables, etc. to get them ready for cooking. He seemed so simply happy about it that Nilakantha was a little surprised.

“But What about the world, Maharshi?” he blurted out.

“World!” Maharshi gave him a compassionate look tinctured with irony.

“About the seething humanity, sweating and suffering,” Nilakantha explained. “What is the solution of so much suffering in the world?”

“Have you found out the solution about your own self ’s suffering that you are so keen to solve the world’s?”

Nilakantha could not pursue his query any further. But his mind gave him no rest and he resumed: “But you are so silent!”


“I mean .... I have heard that you often say silence is more powerful than speech. Do you really mean it?” “I do,” the Maharshi nodded. “And I say that Vivekananda was perfectly right when he said that if you thought a good thought in a cave it would have repercussions in the whole world.”

I related this to the Maharshi and asked him if the report was true. He smiled and nodded. Then he said in Tamil which one of his disciples translated into English for me: “Silence is eternal speech and it is speech that interrupts that language.” And he asked a disciple to fetch his little booklet entitled “Maharshi’s Gospel” and it was read out to me:

“That State which transcends speech and thought is Mouna (Silence); it is meditation without mental activity. Subjugation of the mind is meditation: deep meditation is eternal speech. Silence is ever speaking; it is perennial flow of language. It is interrupted by speaking; for words obstruct this mute language.”

The questioner had then asked why he did not go about and preach his truth to the world at large, whereupon he had answered:

“How do you know I am not doing it? Does preaching consist in mounting a platform and haranguing the people around? Preaching is simple communication of Knowledge; it can really be done in silence only. What do you think of a man who listens to a sermon for an hour and goes away without having been impressed by it so as to change his life? Compare him with another who sits near a holy Presence and goes away after some time with his outlook on life totally changed. Which is the better, to preach loudly without effect or to sit silently sending out inner force?”

Maharshi’s alertness to the mischief of language is highly enjoyable. Apropos of something I had asked him, my Tamil interpreter was translating for my benefit; he said: “Maharshi wants to tell you that when one becomes one with God”

Maharshi at once pounced upon him and was voluble enough in all conscience. After the reprimand the dragoman turned to me with a wry face.

“Maharshi halted me,” he said, “to tell you that it is through just such monkey-tricks of our human language that the kernel meaning of one’s say is often entirely crushed out. For, he told me, that the phrase about becoming one with God makes no meaning at all since we are willy-nilly, one with God always, and can’t be anything but God even if we try desperately to. So, how can one become what one always is?”

We roared heartily.

Maharshi has a fund of humour, another feature which endeared him so much to me. I feel tempted to give a few instances.

My friend A.... (a man of rare sincerity) told me in his lovely cottage at Tiruvannamalai that once he had complained that he had not gained anything from the Maharshi, whereupon he had quickly replied: “But that is because you never lost anything.”

Of course for the likes of us such saying must sound a little cryptic, to say the least. For when all is said and done the fact remains that we do feel we are long-suffering mortals and very often anything but gainers in life’s dreadful chafferings. But that is precisely why we are not entitled to
air our views on his philosophy moulded in the burning crucible of his realisations. Not for nothing does he so tirelessly harp on the comedy of discussing eruditely about tweedledums and tweedledees of the lore of the spirit without having any basic experience of what one is so verbose about. He is reported as having said that there is no practical difference between an atheist and a deist except in the field of sadhana; in other words, the only thing that does make a difference crystallizes out through a process of self-purification. His quoted words are: “What is the use of asserting or denying that there is the real Self (other than the bodies), that it is with form, that it is one, and so on? All these disputes are in the realm of ignorance.”

Such irony makes a curiously strong impression when aimed at the futility of wordy verbiage, in the realm of the spirit. I had the good fortune of meeting a man of real wisdomSri Gopal Chatterjiwho was heckled by a friend of mine about the nirguna and saguna Brahma and such blood-curdling wizardries. Sri Gopal smiled and said: “My friend, why waste time in such learned discussions when you are being swept away by eddies of Fate and passion? When a man is about to be drowned he should first enquire whether there is a boat near at hand or a safe piece of solid ground and how to get to it. But you are almost breathtaking in your learned disputes. You might just as well ask the whirling rapids to discuss with you why it preferred a liquid state to the solid.”

And withal, place side by side the Maharshi’s celebrated irony: “This Light is the Self, the Infinite Consciousness, of which no one is unaware. No one is an ajnani (ignorant), non-knower of the Self. Not knowing this men wish to become Jnanis (Wise men).” (Maha Yoga, P. X I V )

One is almost reminded of Anatole France who said: “Plus je sonje à la vie humaine, plus je crois qu’ll faut lui donner pour temoins et pour ju’ges l’Ironie et la Pitie’."

What is droll is sentimentality and lachrymose sighing about human suffering. Not for nothing does the Maharshi tease humanitarians with an irony all his own. Paul Brunton has given an instance of this in his book on the Maharshi. He once asked the Sage:

“Will the Maharshi express an opinion about the future of the world?”

“Why do you trouble yourself about the future?” demanded the Sage. “You do not even properly know about the present! Take care of the present; the future will then take care of itself.”

Paul Brunton however did not wince. He pursued: “Will he world soon enter a new era of friendliness and mutual help, or will it go down into chaos and war?” Whereupon the Maharshi rose to the occasion. 

“There is One who governs the world, and it is His lookout to look after the world. He who has given life to the world knows how to look after it also. He bears the burden of the world, not you.”

How simple and yet how elusive! Elusive, because of the human ego of course which swears by action without understanding much about its nature and disconcerting repercussions. And it is just because of a kind of obstinacy in our egoistic intellect, a kink in the mind which refuses to see right, or shall we say, wants to see askew, that we need such ironic comment form great sages like Sri Ramana Maharshi. For it is only vision such as theirs that can serve as compass in our life of storms with their constant retinuethe clouds. But to proceed.

Apropos of humour something rather delectable cropped up on that very evening. My friend Dr. Hafiz put a question:

“Talking of prayer, Maharshi,” he remarked at venture, “I can understand all that is often put forward as the reason of God’s not answering the wrong kind of prayers. But why should He turn a deaf ear to the right sort is what beats me. Look at me. How often have I not prayed that He make me a stronger pedestrian, a purer servantin short, a nobler specimen of humanity? But why aren’t my prayers heard?”

The Maharshi’s eyes twinkled with a childlike merriment as he said: “Because if they had been you wouldn’t have prayed to Him any more.”

We roared. It was exquisite!

Dr. Syed told me of another. Once a snake went over the body of Mahashri. He was unperturbed. When asked whether he felt any reaction of fear, the Maharshi stared, amazed.

“Fear! What on earth for?”

They were astonished at his astonishment, when Dr. Syed asked him about how he had felt exactly.

“Cool,” returned Maharshi with a smile of insouciance.

To cite just one last instance of his quaint humour.

Mrs. Chandrasekhar whom I met at Ramanashram after a long time told me a great deal about him with her beautiful clarity. It was a sheer delight to hear her talk and to notice how much she had profited by the Maharshi’s hallowed contact. Among other items of information she told me this: “Somebody had suggested,” she said, “that as it was getting rather cold the Maharshi should put on a vest and a coat.

Maharshi smiled and said: ‘Our poor soul is all but suffocated under five robust coats - the annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandanamaya. And you have the heart to inflict two more yet?”

On another occasion, said Mrs. Chandrasekhar, somebody asked him why, if all were the one Shiva, did he accept their pranam.

“But why shouldn’t I?” he retorted readily, And he added: “But don’t you know, before they prostrate themselves in  front of this body I prostrate myself before the Shiva in each of them?”

What a beautiful answer and how moving! Yet in how few would it sound so moving? What is there on earth more uplifting than to see the great acting like the common run, claiming no higher cushion of dignity? And how few even among the eminent can in practice accept to be treated like the commonalty?

This thought occurred to me again and again when I sat near to the Maharshi and watched him eat his food with all, like one of the crowd. To me it was indeed fascinating to watch him eat in an abstracted and withal alert moodslowly, cleanly and with such a radiant tranquillity. He never even tolerated that his fellow diners should wait till he finished. Once as I waited thus, he made me a motion with his hand asking me to leave him and wash my hands. The simplicity of such an attitude deeply affected me. And then with what meticulous care he ate! Not a grain of rice was spilt outside his banana-leaf. Nor did he ever take a morsel that he had no use for; lastly, after his food had vanished he scraped his leaf with his fingers till the leaf shone brightly almost like a mirror. Then he rose and slowly moved out to wash his hands as did the others but tolerating no special recoiling movement of reverence, not even the ordinary courtesy of “after you, sir.” His self-obliviousness was enchanting, for me, anyway. To think that a man of his Olympian altitude should hobnob with dwarfs like us and that so naturally, as if it could hardly be otherwise so far as he was concerned. It was not a movement that he had consciously practised to perfection, far less what we mortals dubbed humility. There was nothing forced about any of his movements: no straining after-effect, degnified or sublime. Greatness sat easily on him as beauty on a sunset cloud, albeit with a devastating effect, as often as not. For all our ideas as to how the great should act seem to be dismissed by him with a smile of simple disavowal. I remember how one day Mrs. Chandrasekhar and Hafiz and I chatted on just on his left and gossiped and laughed as though we were by ourselves with no giant among us to reckon with. Mrs. Chandrasekhar was even more at her ease than Ifor, do what I would, I could not quite rise to the occasion as she did. I threw furtive glances at the Parnassian sitting next to us chewing the simple food, the food that was served usnothing more, nothing lessand whenever I appraised him I felt a glow of gratitude to him that made me deaf to whatever we happened to be discussing and laughing about. For we were actually laughing and cracking jokes with each other with him sitting next to us and hearing everything we were saying. This is by no means pure fabrication on my part, for it did happen as simply as it happened that the servants came and ladled out curd or curry on our leaves and then did the same to him. And when he wanted anything he called for it and waited as patiently as we did. There was no show of hurry in the air when he called for anything, forso Mrs. Chandrasekhar told me and I verified with my own witnessing he never smiled on any extra attention, not once. 

One of the disciples told me that as he was ageing somebody had suggested a special diet for him. Whereupon the Maharshi only said, with a smile, that he could consent to accept the special food only on condition that it would be served to all in which case it would cease to be special. What a unique way he had of disclaiming any special attention and what a lovely way at that! And there he sits day after day from dawn to dusk with only about an hour’s rest in the afternoon. The disciples come and ask him questions; he answers if he feels like answering; if not, he makes as if he has not heard; a vessel of embers by his side emits odours of a delicate incense and what not; sometimes he stretches his legs, at other times he sits cross-legged; he looks on often with unseeing eyes though sometimes he fixes his shining orbs just for a few seconds on his interlocutor or a visitor who prostrates himself before him; he gets up at stated times and goes out into the hill and then comes back again and resumes his sitting or reclining posture on his simple divan all the time with nothing but the literal koupin on, the minimum piece of cloth that the ascetics use in our land of proverbial nudenss; he reads a few letters brought to him by a disciple who I was told talks with none save his master; looks at the paper cursorily for a few minutes; sometimes takes up a fan to attend to the embers emitting spirals of aromatic fumes; sometimes he holds his hand, tilted in mid-air in a posture of blessing - this striking posture of his hand, the left hand I think, has been photographed already; occasionally he looks at some monkeys who accost him peering through the window-bars on his right and he smiles on them and asks an attendant to give them some bananas, or sometimes it is peacocks who partake of his hospitality; then come the visitors or the menials or his regular disciples though I heard he owns none as such, still disciples they are even though he seldom gives them a glance unless spoken to first; and last though not least, a baby or two is brought by their parents when the Maharshi’s eyes twinkle merrily almost claiming kinship with these, sometimes he makes faces at them or comic grimaces and they answer too with similar gestures.

This is what I saw with my own eyes day after day during my five days’ stay at the Asram of this unique sage the like of whom I am sure is not to be met within this vast world. I do not say this to make comparisons, (for who am I to compare - have I not confessed at the start to my utter incapacity even to pay any real homage to the greatness of a Jivanmukta, because I cannot persuade myself that an ego-haunted creature can ever really know what it is to cross for good the boundary of the ego, so how can the likes of us with our awful myopia of ignorance and preconceptions presume to appraise a seer who moves slowly in his orbit like a throbless star?) No, I repeat, I do not take up my pen to portray his greatness but only to record the impression this great Non-descript made on me. I have never in my life of varied experiences and wide travelling met a man so utterly indescribable and yet so profoundly moving. I cannot even express why he moved me to my depths with eyes where no soft light of emotion presided, and yet it bathed me when I met his gaze with a peace that I find as unaccountable as it was delectable, to say the least. Unaccountable, because I had gone to see him well on my guard. For though I had heard a lot about his fascination, I have never been by nature partial to extreme gravity of demeanour. Krishna has been my one Ishta, no Shiva with his matchless grandeur of Kailasa for me. (I have never believed in blashphemy, thanks to Krishna who can take a joke.) So I had some hesitation to visit such a cold hard grandeur.

But what I saw was so different. I saw indeed a man who in his exterior was anything but distinguished, far less handsome or captivating, and yet..... how shall I put it ..... he was so compelling, and withal, so disarming! I shall never forget how deeply stirred I was when I saw his austere yet kind face in the light of electric lamps. The disciples sat on the floor in complete silence. I made him my pranam and he gave me a kind but a keen glance, but for a moment only, for he motioned me to take my seat over there. And I obeyed, strangely touched. And then the peace I felt! I was reminded of Paul Brunton’s startled though unvoiced query: “Does this man, the Maharshi, emanate the perfume of spiritual peace as the flower emanates fragrance from its petals?” It was a beautiful question and a cogent one at that. For how few can disengage from their silent self this aroma that baffles description? And it was so beautiful that I realised for the first time what is really meant by the word “sacred”. For wouldn’t a feeling connoted by such a word seem somewhat banal, wouldn’t it even savour of journalism when one went all out to describe it with carefully culled epithets that gave style? I have often wondered if the deepest emotion bordering on the holy could ever lend itself to be translated through any other medium than that of inspired verse and hymn. I had this feeling again that evening and more powerfully, overwhelmingly. And yet I have consented to write in prose about him. Not for nothing the stars twinkle in irony when men make pious resolutions. But it is time to draw to a close. And I can do that best by worshipping the Ganges with her own water, that is, by trying to reproduce a few talks I had with the Maharshi of which I took good care to keep record, as I have been in the habit of doing since my adolescence. For though the Maharshi quoted a famous couplet from Sankara’s hymn to Dakshinamurthi Shiva about the power of the silent commentary of the youthful Guru to resolve all doubts of his ancient disciples , I found his vocal commentary too delightful to be thus dismissed out of hand.

I mentioned that in the book Maha Yoga the writer had quoted it as the Maharshi’s considered opinion that no sage ever contradicted another sage and that revelation told us that all sages were one.

Maharshi kept silent for a litle then, gave me his kind glance and began abruptly just when I had begun to doubt whether he would deem my question worth answering. The gist of what he said was that for different wayfarers different paths seem differently constructed, but when they reach the Goal the perspective changes, and in this ultimate perspective those who have arrived see that the ones who quarrel about the relative merits of the roads are those who have not arrived yet and as such cannot understand this simple fact that it is the Goal that matters from the eternal point of view, not the roads that variously lead you to it. But when these very debaters arrive, then they see, each in his turn, the unwisdom of all such quarrels, because all are one and therefore how can one quarrel with oneself?

“And this oneness is so concretely real,” he said, “if Y wants something from X let us say, then X can hardly decline because in giving to Y, X only gives himself.” 

Although such ideas are rather far from our consciousness yet I quote this because I find the thought too beautiful to be bypassed. Whether a sufficient number of humans will ever realise this (all is the same God) as vividly as the sages do so as to feel no longer any difference between mine and thine is another matter. However, to proceed, again:

“But, Maharshi,” I asked after a hesitant pause, “why is it that the Bhakta (Devotee) so often turns away from a Jnani (man of Knowledge)? For this happens even after they have arrived, doesn’t it?”

Maharshi gave me a beautiful smile. I was reminded of a letter of our great novelist Saratchandra writing about an English philosopher. “The other day,” he wrote to me, “I read Russell’s Outline of Philosophy.... He has no end of compassion for the laymen. Poor things. Let me try to enlighten you somewhat... This kind of compassion permeates every line of his different exegeses. I often marvel at the vast gulf that separates a truly wise man from a charlatan.”

It is so true. For even when I could not fully take in what the Maharshi so indulgently explained to the poor thing that Dilip was, he made me feel how deeply compassionate he was even when he must have been smiling all the time at my foolishness.

“But this is all wrong,” he said. “The premise I mean. For as soon as the Bhakta arrives he finds he is at one with the Jnani. For the Bhakta then becomes Bhakti-swarupa (the essence of Bhakti) even as the Jnani becomes Jnana-swarupa (the essence of Jnana) and the two are one, identical.” And he added that this quarrel between Jnana and Bhakti is championed not by the authentic hierophants of each category but by the spurious specimens, the pseudo-bhaktas and pseudo-jnanis.”

I sang to him more than once. It was a delightful experience; and, naturally, I took it as a great favour. For, though I had for a long time been wanting to have the privilege of offering my humble songs to one so holy, I had felt not a little diffident about evoking any response from a supreme Jnani like him. But I was ravished by his kind glance every time I sang a song and by his bewitching smile. I have seldom seen such a simple smile in one who is so high-born. Bhavabhuti’s famous simile often occurred to me as I thrilled to his tender smile so lavish of compassion:

He’s harder than a thunder of doom
Yet softer than a budding bloom.

We had some discussion about Guruvad also but I will not take the trouble of reproducing it. Suffice it that he disabused my mind of a long-standing notion that he was against Guruvad. What he said about it pithily in the end is however so significant that I cannot help but give it below:

“To put it in a nut-shell,” he wound up, “to some He reveals Himself as an outer Guru, to others as an inner one. But the function of either is the same: the outer Guru pushes you inside while the inner Guru draws you inso that in the end it comes to the same thing. So why then all this wrangling about Guruvad?”

What a moving catholicity added to incredible simplicity! For the Maharshi has not the slightest use for pretentiouness and self-importance, that terrible Macbeth who murders the simple sleep of spiritual peace. He is for no trappings either of speech or of learning. He is a symbol of a child in all its primal unashamed delight of nakedness, the wisdom of nakedness of which his loin-cloth is curiously the outer symbol; the inner was voiced by his prayer to Shiva nearly fifty years ago when he first came (1896) to the Hill of Arunachala to leave it nevermore:

O strip me nude, these earth’s robes now remove
To drape me with the vestures of thy Love.