Mercedes de Acosta

Mercedes de Acosta, a Spanish American who came to Sri Ramana in 1938, was a Hollywood socialite and scriptwriter for films. Long after meeting Sri Ramana she wrote the book Here Lies the Heart, which was dedicated to: Thou Spiritual Guide - Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and pure being, I have ever known.

A search in Secret India by Paul Brunton had a profound influence on me. In it I learned for the first time about Ramana Maharshi, a great Indian saint and sage. It was as though some emanation of this saint was projected out of the book to me. For days and nights after reading about him I could not think of anything else. I became, as it were, possessed by him. I could not even talk of anything else. Nothing could distract me from the idea that I must go and meet this saint. The whole direction of my life turned towards India. I felt that I would surely go there.

I had very little money, far too little to risk going to India, but something pushed me towards my goal. I went to the steamship company and booked myself one of the cheapest cabins on the S.S.Vitoria.

In Madras I hired a car, and so anxious was I to reach the Ashram that I did not go to bed and travelled by night, arriving about seven O'clock in the morning. I was very tired as I got out of the car in a small square in front of the Arunachaleswara Temple. The driver explained he could take me no further. I turned towards the Ashram in the hot sun along the two miles of dust-covered road to reach the abode of the Sage. As I walked that distance, deeply within myself I knew that I was moving towards the greatest experience of my life.

When I first entered the hall, I perceived Bhagavan at once, sitting in the Buddha posture on his couch in the corner. At the same moment I felt overcome by some strong power in the hall, as if an invisible wind was pushing violently against me. For a moment I felt dizzy. Then I recovered myself. To my great surprise I suddenly heard an American voice calling out to me. 'Hello,come in.' It was the voice of an American named Guy Hague, who had already been with the Maharshi for a year. He came towards me, took my hand, leading me to a place beside him. I was able to look around the hall, but my baze was drawn to Bhagavan, who was sitting absolutely straight looking directly in front of him.

His eyes did not blink or move. Because they seemed so full of light I had the impression they were grey. I learned later that they were brown, although there have been various opinions as to the colour of his eyes. His body was naked except for a loincloth. As he sat there he seemed like a statue, and yet something extraordinary emanated from him. I had a feeling that on some invisible level I was receiving spiritual shocks from him, although his gaze was not directed towards me. He did not seem to be looking at anything, and yet I felt he could see and was conscious of the whole world. Hague whispered, "Bhagavan is in samadhi."

After I had been sitting for sometime, Hague suggested that I go and sit near the Maharshi. He said, "You can never tell when Bhagavan will come out of samadhi. When he does, I am sure he will be pleased to see you."

I moved near Bhagavan, sitting at his feet and facing him. Not long after this Bhagavan opened his eyes. He moved his head and looked directly down at me,his eyes looking into mine. It would be impossible to desribe that moment and I am not going to attempt it. I can only say that at that time I felt my inner being raised to a new level-as if, suddenly, my state of conscioisness was lifted to a much higher degree. Perhaps in that split second I was no longer my human self but the self. Then Bhagavn smiled at me. It seemed to me that I had never before known what a smile was. I said, "I have come a long way to see you."

There was silence. I had stupidly brought a piece of paper on which I had written a number of questions I wanted to ask. I flumbled for it in my pocket, but the questions were already answered by merely being in his presence. There was no need for questions or answers. Nevertheless, I asked, "Tell me, whom shall I follow - what shall I follow ? I have been trying to find this out for years." Again there was silence. After a few minutes, which seemed to me a long time, he spoke, "You are not telling the truth. You are just using words - just talking. You know perfectly well whom to follow. Why do you need me to confirm it?" "You mean I should follow my inner self?" I asked. His response was, "I don't know anything about your inner self. You should follow the Self. There is nothing or no one else to follow.

I asked again, " What about religions,teachers,gurus?" He said, " Yes, if they can help in the quest for the Self. Can a religion, which teaches you to look outside yourself, which promises a heaven and a reward outside yourself, be of help to you? It is only by diving deep into the spiritual Heart that one can find the Self." He placed his right hand on his right breast and continued,"Here lies the Heart, the dynamic, spiritual Heart. It is called hridaya and is located on the right side of the chest and is clearly visible to the inner eye of an adept on the spiritual path. Through meditation you can learn to find the Self in the cave of this Heart."

I said, "Bhagavan, you say that I am to take up the search for the Self by atma vichara, asking myself the question 'Who Am I?' May I ask who are you?" Bhagavan answered, "When you know the self, the 'I', 'You', 'He', and 'She' disappear. They merge together in pure Consciousness."

To write about my experience with Bhagavan, to recapture and record all that he said, or all that his silences implied is trying to put the infinite into an egg cup. On me he had, and still has, a profound influence. I feel it presumptuous to say he changed my life. My life was perhaps not so important as all that. But I definitely saw life differently after I had been in his presence, a presence that just by merely 'being' was sufficient spiritualnourishment for a lifetime.

I sat in the hall with Bhagavan three days and three nights. Sometimes he spoke to me, other times he was silent and I wanted to stay on there with him but finally he told me that I should go back to America. He said,"There will be a great world revolution. Every country and every person will be touched by it. You must return to America. Your destiny is not in India at this time."

Before I bid a sorrowful farewell to Bhagavan, he gave me some verses he had selected from the LYoga Vasistha. These contained the essence for the path of pure life:(i)Steady in the state of fullness, which shines when all desires are given up, and peaceful in the state of freedom in life, act playfully in the world, O Raghava! (ii) Inwardly free from all desires, disappionate and detached, but outwardly active in all directions, act playfully in the world, O Raghava! (iii) Free from egotism, with mind detached as in sleep, pure like the sky, ever untained, act playfully in the world, O Raghava!

When I turned from India, undiscerning people saw very little change in me. But there was a transformation of my entire consciousness. And how could it have been otherwise? I had been in the atmosphere of an egoless, world-detached and completely pure being.

Viswanatha Swami


Viswanatha Swami


MY first darshan of Bhagavan Sri Ramana was in January, 1921 at Skandashram, which is on the eastern slope of Arunachala and looks like the very heart of the majestic Hill. It is a beautiful quiet spot with a few coconut and other trees and a perennial crystal-clear spring. Bhagavan was there as the very core of such natural beauty. I saw in him something quite arresting which clearly distinguished him from all others I had seen. He seemed to live apart from the physical frame, quite detached from it. His look and smile had remarkable spiritual charm. When he spoke, the words seemed to come out of an abyss. One could see immaculate purity and non-attachment in him and his movements. I sensed something very refined, lofty and sacred about him. In his vicinity the mind’s distractions were overpowered by an austere and potent calmness and the unique bliss of peace was directly experienced. This I would call Ramana Lahari, ‘the blissful atmosphere of Ramana’. In this ecstasy of grace one loses one’s sense of separate individuality and there remains something grand and all-pervading, all-devouring. This indeed is the spirit of Arunachala which swallows up the whole universe by its gracious effulgence.

There were about ten devotees living with him there, including his mother and younger brother. One of them was Vallimalai Murugar, who for a while every morning sang the Tamil songs of the Tirupugazh with great fervour. These well-known songs, the remarkable outpourings of the famous devotee, Sri Arunagirinathar, are songs in praise of Subrahmanya. When he sang, Bhagavan used to keep time (tala) by tapping with two small sticks on the two rings of an iron brazier of live coal kept in front of him. Fumes of incense spread out in rolls from the brazier, suffused with the subtle holy atmosphere of Bhagavan. While Bhagavan’s hands were tapping at the brazier thus, his unfathomable look of grace gave one a glimpse of the ‘beyond’ in silence. It was an unforgettable experience.

There was also a devotee from Chidambaram, Subrahmanya Iyer, who often sang with great fervour Tiruvachakam, hymns in praise of Arunachala by Bhagavan, and songs in praise of Bhagavan also. One morning when he began a song with the refrain “Ramana Sadguru, Ramana Sadguru, Ramana Sadguru Rayane,” Bhagavan also joined in the singing. The devotee was amused and began to laugh at Bhagavan himself singing his own praise. He expressed his amusement, and Bhagavan replied, “What is extraordinary about it? Why should one limit Ramana to a form of six feet? Is it not the all-pervading Divinity that you adore when you sing ‘Ramana Sadguru, Ramana Sadguru’? Why should I not also join in the singing?’’ We all felt lifted to Bhagavan’s standpoint. The inmates of the Ashram used to get up at dawn and sing some devotional songs in praise of Arunachala and Bhagavan Ramana before beginning their day’s work. Niranjanananda Swami told Bhagavan that I could recite hymns in Sanskrit, and Bhagavan looked at me expectantly. Seeing that it was impossible to avoid it, I recited a few verses in Sanskrit. When I had finished, Bhagavan gently looked at me and said, “You have learned all this. Not so in my case. I knew nothing, had learned nothing before I came here. Some mysterious power took possession of me and effected a thorough transformation. Whoever knew then what was happening to me? Your father, who was intending in his boyhood to go to the Himalayas for tapas, has become the head of a big family. And I, who knew nothing and planned nothing, have been drawn and kept down here for good! When I left home (in my seventeenth year), I was like a speck swept on by a tremendous flood. I knew not my body or the world, whether it was day or night. It was difficult even to open my eyes; the eyelids seemed to be glued down. My body became a mere skeleton. Visitors pitied my plight as they were not aware how blissful I was. It was after years that I came across the term ‘Brahman’ when I happened to look into some books on Vedanta brought to me. Amused, I said to myself, ‘Is this known as Brahman’!”

One of the earliest devotees, Sivaprakasam Pillai, has referred to this at the beginning of his brief biography of Bhagavan in Tamil verse (Sri Ramana Charita Ahaval) as, “One who became a knower of Brahman without knowing even the term ‘Brahman’.” Sivaprakasam Pillai used to sit in a corner in Bhagavan’s presence, as the very embodiment of humility. Finding that I knew a bit of Sanskrit, Bhagavan asked me to take down a copy of Sri Ramana Gita and give it to my father. I did so, and it was only after going through it that my father understood Bhagavan. Yet I myself had not studied its contents. It was only at the end of 1922 that I happened to go through the thrilling verses in praise of Bhagavan Ramana and, profoundly moved, I made up my mind to return to Bhagavan for good. Thus, Sri Ramana Gita served to give direction to me in a critical period of my life when I was thinking of dedicating myself solely to the spiritual pursuit.

As it was impossible to get the permission of my father, I left home unknown to anybody and reached Tiruvannamalai on the evening of the 2nd of January, 1923. Hearing that Bhagavan had left Skandashram and was then living in a cottage adjoining his mother’s samadhi on the southern side of Arunachala, I made my way straight to it, after meditating for a while at sunset time. Proceeding round the Hill, I reached the cottage where Bhagavan was then living. Entering it, I saw Bhagavan reclining peacefully on an elevated dais. As I bowed and stood before him, he asked me, “Did you take the permission of your parents to come over here?” I was caught, and I replied that he need not ask me about it since he had himself irresistibly attracted me to his feet. With a smile, Bhagavan advised me to inform my parents of my whereabouts so that they might be somewhat free from anxiety. I wrote to my father the next day and saw his letter to the Ashram enquiring about me the day after.

There was a gathering of devotees there and I came to know that it was for the forty-third birthday celebration of Bhagavan the next day. So I learned that I had come to Bhagavan on the evening of the famous Ardra Darsanam day. Early next morning there was a gathering of devotees – they were sitting before Bhagavan. But my attention was particularly gripped by a radiant personality amidst the gathering. He was, I came to know, Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri. At once I saw that he was not merely a sastri, a learned man, but a poet and a tapaswin. His broad forehead, bright eyes, aquiline nose, charming face and beard, and the melodious ring in his voice – all these proclaimed that he was a rishi to be ranked with the foremost of the Vedic Seers. There was authority, dignity and sweetness in his talk and his eyes sparkled as he spoke. He recited the following verse (sloka) in praise of Bhagavan, which he had just then composed, and explained its import: “It is effulgent Devi Uma sparkling in your eyes dispelling the ignorance of devotees, It is Lakshmi Devi, the consort of lotus-eyed Vishnu, alive in your lotus-face, It is Para Vak Saraswati, the consort of Brahma, dancing in your talk, Great Seer, Ramana, the Teacher of the whole world, How can mortal man praise you adequately?”


AFTER THE DEVOTEES who had gathered for the birthday celebration of Bhagavan left the Ashram, I approached him with my problem: “How am I to rise above my present animal existence? My own efforts in that direction have proved futile and I am convinced that it is only a superior might that could transform me. And that is what has brought me here.” Bhagavan replied with great compassion: “Yes, you are right. It is only on the awakening of a power mightier than the senses and the mind that these can be subdued. If you awaken and nurture the growth of that power within you, everything else will be conquered. One should sustain the current of meditation uninterrupted. Moderation in food and similar restraints will be helpful in maintaining the inner poise.” It was this grace of Bhagavan that gave a start to my spiritual career. A new faith was kindled within me and I found in Bhagavan the strength and support to guide me forever.

Another day, questioned about the problem of brahmacharya, Bhagavan replied: “To live and move in Brahman is real brahmacharya; continence, of course, is very helpful and indispensable to achieve that end. But so long as you identify yourself with the body, you can never escape sex-thought and distraction. It is only when you realise that you are formless Pure Awareness that sex distinction disappears for good and that is brahmacharya, effortless and spontaneous.”

A week after I arrived, I got the permission of Bhagavan to live on madhukari, i.e., begged food. In that context, Bhagavan spoke as follows: “I have experience of it; I lived on such food during my stay at Pavalakkunru to avoid devotees bringing for me special rich food. It is altogether different from professional mendicancy. Here you feel yourself independent and indifferent to everything worldly. It has a purifying effect on the mind.”

Four months after my arrival at Arunachala, my parents came there to have darshan of Bhagavan and take me back home. Though they did not succeed in this latter intention they were somehow consoled by Bhagavan before they returned. He asked them if it was possible to wean one from a course one had taken with all one’s heart and soul. Parents might as a matter of duty try it if it was a wrong course that one had taken. The problem did not arise if the course taken was intrinsically good.

My father was a cousin of Bhagavan, four or five years older than he, and knew him very well as Venkataraman before he left home for Tiruvannamalai. Though he had heard from others about Bhagavan’s spiritual greatness and had also gone through his teaching in Sri Ramana Gita and verses in praise of him by his (scholar-poet) disciple, Ganapati Muni, he was not sure of what his reaction would be on seeing Bhagavan. He decided to go to him with an open mind and see for himself what he was. But the moment he sighted him in the stone mantapa (on the other side of the Ashram), he was overpowered by a sense of genuine A small hillock, a spur of Arunachala on the east. veneration, fell at his feet in adoration and said: “There is nothing of the Venkataraman whom I knew very well in what I see in front of me!” And Bhagavan replied with a smile: “It is long since that fellow disappeared once and for all.”

My father then explained that he had not visited him for so long because he did not have enough of dispassion and non-attachment to approach him. Bhagavan replied, “Is that so? You seem to be obsessed by the delusion that you are going to achieve it in some distant future. But, if you recognise your real nature, the Self, to what is it attached? Dispassion is our very nature.”

As the Ashram cottage was being repaired, Bhagavan stayed in the huge stone mantapa on the other side of the road during daytime and devotees had darshan of him there. Bhagavan used to dine with others under the shade of a huge mango tree within the Ashram premises. The cool, clear water of the Ashram well was kept in big pots at the foot of the tree. We enjoyed the shade of the tree and the grace of Bhagavan which like a cool breeze blew off man’s torments.

As advised by Bhagavan I engaged myself in nonstop japa, day and night, except during hours of sleep. And I studied Sri Ramana Gita in the immediate presence of Bhagavan drinking in the import of every sloka in it. Bhagavan explained to me his own hymns in praise of Arunachala. Even during his morning and evening walks I used to follow him, hearing his explanations of his inspired words. Early one morning there was none else near Bhagavan and he suggested that we both might go round Arunachala and return before others could notice his absence and begin to search for him. He took me by the forest path and suggested that Sankara’s “Hymn in Praise of Dakshinamurti” might be taken up for discussion on the way. And within three hours we reached Pandava Thirtham on the slopes of Arunachala, a little to the east of the Ashram, where he used to bathe on a few former occasions.

I shall not pretend that I understood everything that Bhagavan said in explaining the import of the hymn, but there was the spiritual exhilaration of his company in solitude and that was enough for me.

I had learned by heart, even before coming to Bhagavan, the three vallis of the famous Taittiriya Upanishad, which is being chanted every morning before Bhagavan at his Ashram even today. When I expressed to Bhagavan my aspiration to learn the import of the Upanishad, he directed me to Ganapathi Muni, familiarly known as Nayana, who was then living in the Mango Tree Cave on Arunachala which had been Bhagavan’s summer residence during his stay at the Virupaksha Cave. It was a cool spot under a big mango tree with a spring of crystal-clear water a little above it. I went to the cave and waited at its outer precincts. Within a few minutes Ganapati Muni came out. There was the fragrance of tapas in his presence and in the whole atmosphere. After sitting in silence before him for a few minutes, I asked him for the explanation of a passage in the Taittiriya Upanishad embodying the experience of Sage Trisanku, beginning aham vrikshasya rariva, meaning, ‘I am the Force operating behind the Tree of Existence’.

Nayana gave such a lucid and illuminating explanation of it that I decided that there was no need to ask him further questions; every word coming out of his mouth had scriptural clarity and sanctity. And yet he used to direct to Bhagavan those who went to him, saying: “To learn from him first-hand has a special effect.” And Bhagavan, on his part, used to send those who approached him in connection with traditional worship to Nayana, as he was the authority on the subject. Such was the relationship between the Master and his famous disciple. We have had opportunities of noticing the special regard Bhagavan had for this learned poet-disciple who from his early youth had dedicated his whole life to tapas.


SRI MURUGANAR CAME to Bhagavan during September holidays in 1923. He was then a Tamil Pandit in a Christian girls high school in Madras. He had studied Tirukural with great devotion and was following its teachings in his own life. No wonder he was held in the highest esteem by his pupils as well as by his fellow teachers.

He came to know of Bhagavan Ramana through some devotees in Madras as well as Dandapani Swami, who was his father-in-law. Conditions in his family life also favoured renunciation: yet he continued working, coming to Bhagavan during holidays. He was so keenly devoted to Bhagavan that he used to come direct from his school to Sri Ramanasramam with his coat and turban on and return to Madras only when his school reopened. He was drawn to Mahatma Gandhi, whose saintly life in the midst of worldly activities commanded his respect and esteem. He composed several poems in praise of him as well as national songs in general, which were published by Sri Ramana Padananda in 1943 with the title Sutantara Gitam.

Being a scholar, poet and devotee, he brought to Bhagavan on his first visit, a decad of verses, in Tamil, each stanza ending “...desika Ramana ma deve” (Great Lord and Teacher Ramana!).

During one of his later visits in December he composed a poem beginning, “Annamalai Ramanan...,” in praise of Bhagavan following the pattern of Tiruvembavai of Tiruvachakam. Seeing that, Bhagavan suggested to him that he could compose songs following the themes and plan of Tiruvachakam of Manikkavachakar. Muruganar felt shocked at the idea and exclaimed: “Where is Manikkavachakar and where am I?” But later, he thought it was a prompting from the Master, though gently expressed, and began following the suggestion relying on Bhagavan’s Grace. And the result is the magnificent collection of thrilling songs in Tamil, well-known as Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai, the third edition of which was published by Sri Ramanasramam in 1974. Muruganar has also given us Bhagavan’s teachings in Tamil verse form. The work is known as GuruVachaka Kovai ( English translation by Professor K. Swaminathan as Garland of Guru’s Sayings). There are, moreover, thousands of his verses being arranged and published in several volumes under the title Ramana Jnana Bodham.

A few years after his coming to Bhagavan his mother passed away and Muruganar came and settled down at the feet of his Master. It was after this that he composed the numerous songs in Sri Ramana Sannidhi Muraias his devotional offering to Bhagavan. Scholars who had worked with Muruganar on the Tamil Lexicon Committee say that Bhagavan Ramana chose a very worthy scholar to sing his glory. Poets worship the Divine through their poetry. That alone is sufficient sadhana for them. They are moulded unawares into the likeness of the object of their worship.

We have to be grateful to Muruganar for making Bhagavan write “Upadesa Undiyar” (The Essence of all Teaching) and “Ulladu Narpadu”(Forty Verses on Existence), which are the most important of Bhagavan’s philosophical works. The beautiful song on “Atma Vidya” was also composed by Bhagavan at Muruganar’s request. Muruganar too chose like me to live independently. We have lived together on the Hill (Arunachala) near the Mango Tree Cave for some months. Ganapati Muni was then residing there. He felt an urge to see Bhagavan every evening and be with him for an hour or two. I used to accompany him. A few months later a room was found for him in the Palakothu flower garden adjoining the Ashram on the west. Bhagavan used to go alone to that side every day after lunch. Sometimes he would visit that room also.

Ganapati Muni once told Bhagavan that he had seen many other forests, but not the one at Arunachala. Bhagavan, who knew very well every inch of Arunachala, offered to take the Muni one day into the interior of the forest. Ganapati Muni could not bear even the slightest heat of the sun on account of a yogic experience he had, known as Kapalabheda (breaking of the skull), and so Bhagavan waited for a cloudy day. Such a day came soon and Bhagavan asked me if it would suit Nayana to go into the forest then. I replied that he would gladly jump at the opportunity and went ahead to his room to inform him of Bhagavan’s intention. In a few minutes Bhagavan came to our room in Palakothu and we three set out. Bhagavan took us through the third forest path. After going for more than a mile, Bhagavan chose a cool and shady spot adjoining a huge rock to rest a bit. As we were sitting there a rustling sound was heard indicating someone was approaching, and in a minute, Muruganar stood before us. Bhagavan put his finger on his nose and asked him with surprise: “How did you come here? Even a forest guard could not have found us here,”and Muruganar replied, “I knew that Bhagavan had promised Nayana to take him into the forest on some suitable day. I also wanted to join the party and was coming to the Ashram earlier than usual. But today, not finding Bhagavan at the Ashram, I proceeded to Palakothu where I found Nayana’sroom locked. I learnt from the watchman Sabhapati that Bhagavan had gone towards the forest with Nayana and Viswanathan. I made my way straight to the forest. Going along the second forest path, I found a footpath going further into the interior. I took the path and straight I arrived here.” Bhagavan replied: “Is there a short cut like that? Weshall return by it.” Nayana patted Muruganar and said: “It is an indication of how you are attuned to Bhagavan by his Grace.” And we returned to the Ashram before 4 p.m. I am thrilled when I recollect my intimate contact with Bhagavan and these two great poet-disciples of his.


ACHYUTHADASA WAS ONE of the earliest to discern Sri Bhagavan’sspiritual greatness. Hewas known as Abboy Naidu before he renounced the world, and was skilled in playing upon the mridangam.

He has composed Tamil kirtanas (songs) of great merit, which are devotional and Advaitic. Having heard about Sri Bhagavan he went to Gurumurtham, the samadhi temple of a sadhu where Sri Bhagavan was living deeply immersed in nirvikalpa samadhi, during the closing years of the Nineteenth Century. He sat in front of Sri Bhagavan and waited. As Sri Bhagavan who was then a young lad, opened his eyes, he paid his respects to him, massaged his feet and exclaimed with great devotional fervour, “One may be a great scholar, an author or composer and everything else in the world, but it is indeed very rare to come across any one actually established in the Self Supreme like you.”

He then announced to his own disciples that there was “something veryrare at Tiruvannamalai,” meaning Sri Bhagavan. Achyuthadasa’s samadhi is at Kannamangalam, a few miles north of Arni, in the North Arcot District of Madras State.

This is an instance of how spiritually-minded people were impressed with Sri Bhagavan’s greatness at the very sight of him, even in his early years at Tiruvannamalai.

Another great man who visited Sri Bhagavan and was greatly impressed was Sri Narayana Guru of Kerala. The latter is well-known in South India as a man of great tapas and a great social and religious reformer. Hevisited Sri Bhagavan when he was living at Skandashram. After paying his respects to Sri Bhagavan he sat silently watching him. People, young and old, paid their respects to him and sat or passed on, while Sri Bhagavan sat silently with unblinking, wide-open eyes. He took no particular notice of anybody. He did not enquire about the whereabouts of anybody. There was no welcome and no permission to go. But all the while he was beaming with blissful joy and the audience was partaking of it. At the invitation of Sri Bhagavan, Sri Narayana Guru took his lunch with him and his devotees, and later took leave of him, saying, “May it be the same way here also”, meaning that he might also be blessed so as to be established in the Self as Sri Bhagavan. Sri Bhagavan gave a gracious smile.

On reaching his place, Sri Narayana Guru wrote five verses in Sanskrit, known as Nivritti Panchakam, and sent it to the Ashram. The theme of the composition is that he alone enjoys the peace of release (moksha) who does not allow his mind to observe or enquire about the differences pertaining to relative (mundane) existence and has risen above all formalities of worldly life. Sri Narayana Guru used to be greatly pleased whenever any of his disciples visited Sri Bhagavan, and used to listen with delight to the details of their visits.

R.Narayana Iyer


By R. Narayana Iyer

I first saw Bhagavan in 1913 at the Virupaksha Cave. But it was in 1936 that I really met him. When I reached the Ashram and entered the hall, Bhagavan pointed at me and said, “He has come from Madras”. I thought myself very fortunate in having been blessed by his attention immediately on my arrival. That evening while sitting in the hall, Bhagavan looked at me intently for about five minutes. It was an extraordinary experience. The experience, the feeling, remained long after I returned home.

I took voluntary retirement from service in order to pursue the spiritual path and shifted my family to Tiruvannamalai so as to be near Bhagavan. One day while trying to meditate in the presence of Bhagavan I just could not fix my thoughts and became restless. In the meantime a boy who used to come daily and give a performance of numberless prostrations gave us a super show that day. Bhagavan rebuked him, “What is the use of your prostrations? Control of the mind is real worship”. Somehow these words had a tremendous effect on me.

There are many instances of Bhagavan’s compassion that have graced my life. My wife died of small pox. On that day it rained in torrents. I was afraid that the cremation would be delayed.

Bhagavan sent some Ashram workers to help me. When Bhagavan was told that the rain was too heavy for the funeral, he said, “Go on with it, never mind the rain”. When the body was taken to the cremation ground, the rain stopped, and when the body was burnt to white ashes, it started raining again! A few days later my daughter was singing in the hall. Suddenly she stopped and then, after a pause she continued.

Bhagavan asked, “Why did you stop in the middle? Was it the grief for your mother? Why do you grieve for her? Is she not with Lord Arunachala”?

In 1942 I had to arrange for the marriage of my daughter. I had a suitable boy in mind, but he raised some objections. Anxiously I showed his letter to Bhagavan, who said, “Don’t worry, it will come off”. Soon afterwards the boy himself came and the marriage was celebrated.

After Bhagavan left the body I spent two years in my village and then came to the Ashram again. There were difficulties in my spiritual practices, but I felt Bhagavan’s guidance very clearly.

I had muscular rheumatism at that time and wrote to my son, who was coming from Madras to bring some medicine. He however forgot. The next day Sundaram’s brother, coming from his village brought the very medicine I wanted. I asked him how he had thought of bringing them. He told me that he saw them in his house unused and that it occurred to him that it might be of some use to me. It dawned on me that it was Bhagavan’s love for us that filled our lives with miracles. On another occasion a nerve in my leg got inflamed. I was all alone and puzzled, when unexpectedly, Sundaram came from his village. When I asked him why he came, he said, “I just felt like coming”. From the very next day I had high fever and Sundaram nursed me for a fortnight. Who could have arranged all this but Bhagavan?

During the years after Bhagavan left his body I felt His continued guidance very clearly. How carefully he watches over every legitimate need of his devotees!


The Great Event

R. Narayana Iyer

The following was written by the author just months after the Maha Nirvana of Sri Bhagavan.

"Before some stars appear, light appears. After they vanish from vision, light alone remains. That is the state of a jnani-his birth and death." These were the words of Sri Bhagavan in a talk about Jnanis. The exact import of the words is as puzzling as the strange phenomenon that passed vividly before our eyes on the 14th April, 1950. It was about a quarter to nine at night. I was sitting in the open space in front of my house facing east. The sky was clear, the air still. A grave and subdued solemnity pervaded the atmosphere as though reflecting the anxiety of so many sincere devotees of the Maharshi who had come to Tiruvannamalai on account of his illness.

Suddenly a bright and luminous body arose from the southern horizon, slowly went up and descended in the north, somewhere on Arunachala Hill. It was not a meteor as it was bigger than what Venus looks to our vision, and its movement was slow. It was so lustrous that at its zenith the light shed by its trail stretched all the way back to the horizon like an arc. The sight dazed me. Instinctively, as it were, I jumped to my feet and ran as fast as I could to the Ashram, a hundred yards off. There was a crowd of people moving about and quite a hustle and bustle. It didn't strike me to enquire of anyone what it was about. Access to the Maharshi was naturally then selective and restricted to a few. I cared not for the Ashram rules and regulations, but like a tethered calf let loose and running to its mother, I took a short cut, jumped into the garden, scaled the parapet and rushed into the room where the Maharshi, Bhagavan, my Ramana, Guru, Father, God in flesh and blood was lying.

Lo! My heart thumped; breath choked. He was no longer in the flesh and blood. He had just breathed his last. As the star descended on the Hill, he had left the body. It was held in padmasana position by the attendants. I touched the body. There was no warmth. In a frenzy I clasped hold of his hand, the mere touch of which used to give the thrill of eternity. Coldness of death froze my nerves. All was over like a dream. Sobs, hymns and chantings filled the air, and my head reeled with dizzy thoughts.

We will no longer see our dear Bhagavan in that beautiful form of molten gold, which charmed and enchanted us for decades! We will no longer see those compassionate eyes that gleamed like twin stars, peered into our innermost depths and dispelled the shadows that blurred our vision and understanding! No more that kind and godly look of Grace that solaced our wearied souls and inspired our depressed hearts in speechless silence with peace unbounded, or that bewitching and enchanting radiant smile that fascinated us and drew us to him, to heights of bliss, far, far above this world. No more could we hear that sweet and ringing voice, the talks of sparkling wit and humour, or those words of profound wisdom from the depths of deep realization which intellect could not fathom! Tears gushed forth from my eyes as from a fountain. "Roll! Roll! You beads of Love, from the fountain of Love to the Ocean of Love!" It is not fruit and flowers, nor sweets and savoury dishes that can be offered at Thy feet any more. The only oblation that would reach Thee are tears of love from that perennial spring that is the core of our Being, of which you are the Source in your disembodied fullness. The Divine Leela is over.

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter

S.Bhanu Sharma

Bhagavan’s Silence

By S. Bhanu Sharma

I came to Bangalore in 1935 with the blessings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana. I was under the care of a Polish engineer, Mr. Maurice Frydman, who was a frequent visitor to the Ashram. In 1937 one of his Dutch friends, Dr. G.H. Mees, a staunch philosopher, came to visit him and was discussing philosophy with him. Dr. Mees said that he had not been able to get clarification on certain points in Indian Philosophy, despite all his efforts. Mr.Frydman suggested that he go and meet Bhagavan and that from him he was sure to get what he wanted.

I was asked to accompany Dr. Mees to introduce him to Bhagavan. Dr.Mees noted down all his questions on a sheet of paper. We arrived at about 8.30 a.m., prostrated before Bhagavan and sat down in the Hall in front of him. Several devotees were putting questions and Bhagavan was answering them. Dr. Mees kept silent, and at 10.45 I reminded him about his questions. He said that he no longer had any doubt on any point and that all of the answers had become clear to him after the darshan of Bhagavan.

Thus was the grace of Bhagavan bestowed on devotees without their asking, when they went to him for his blessings.

Swami Virajananda


By Swami Virajananda

THEY are despondent that Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away. Where can he go, and how”? These words of Sri Bhagavan contain the whole truth of what he is; they are assurance and more than that, they are fact. But how are we to grasp this promise, how to understand this mysterious eternal presence?

Imagine, if you will, an endless sheet of pure light. Call it the Absolute, or Brahman, or That Which Is ... it does not matter. All the names and forms you wish to behold — mountains, rivers, plants, countless beings — see them as if painted on this sheet, some of them completely opaque, so that you cannot see any of the underlying light, some fully transparent, others partly transparent, according to the predominance of the various gunas. Now see in the middle of each being a tiny aperture, as in the lens of a camera. That is the Self, seated in the hearts of all, and it is of course identical with the substratum; the less ego, the more is it open, and the more the light can come through. What an infinite combination of light transparencies and aperture-sizes God has thus made!

How do the sages, the jivanmuktas, look ? There is no question any longer of transparency or darkness, for, being devoid of ego, their aperture has opened until it reached the outline of their shape, so that, except for this outline, the underlying light is all there is. And all that happens when their bodies die is that this outline gets erased. What remains is the light they always were — call it God, or Brahman, or That Which Is. This is why there is no question of Bhagavan going away; this is why he is our very Self.

The Smriti says:
Neither inward nor outward turned consciousness, nor the two together; not an undifferentiated mass of dormant omniscience; neither knowing nor unknowing, because invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, indefinable, its sole essence being the assurance of its own Self; the coming to peaceful rest of all differentiated, relative existence; utterly quiet; peaceful, blissful, without a second: this is Atman, the Self, which is to be realized.

Karin Stegemann


By Karin Stegemann

ALREADY in early childhood 1 felt a deep religious longing. But only after many years of seeking and intense study of religion and philosophy did 1 finally find the answers to my questions in Buddhism. Later on it was the practice of Zen Buddhism in particular which guided me on the path of realization.

In 1952 my husband founded a Buddhist Society in Hamburg, Germany. 1 became his colleague and worked for more than twenty years, my main duty being the editing of a journal. During this time I first saw Sri Ramana Maharshi’s photograph and it made a deep impression on me. 1 also found in the book, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, a dimension of spiritual experience which attracted me as if by magic. From that time onwards this book became my daily spiritual food, and my longing to see the places where the sage had lived grew daily.

The love of Bhagavan was with me most powerfully when sat for meditation. This was immediately after the passing away of my husband. In those days 1 experienced a Being beyond birth and death, and he revealed himself to me as the Sadguru, working from within. Many years had to pass until I was able to arrange everything in such a way that all my activities could go on without me for some time. This set me free for my first pilgrimage to Sri Ramanasramam.

Never in my life was I so happy and so full of deep peace as during that blessed time at the foot of Arunachala! After my return to the West, I expressed my gratefulness in a series of lectures in which 1 showed slides of all the sacred places where the sage had lived in the body and of those who work nowadays in a selfless way to keep the Ashram running and to preserve the atmosphere as it was during his bodily presence.

After a second visit I was certain that Bhagavan is working within us beyond time and space, and that it is only the body which travels from one place to the other. After my first journey there was still the painful dualistic feeling of departing; now it had disappeared. Where is coming and going? In a similar way I experienced that sickness and other difficulties cannot disturb the inner peace, once the wrong identification has dropped off.

To meet the wishes of my friends for a seminar on Bhagavan, I studied anew all available material on the sage, which points to the incomparable greatness of this Enlightened One, who, almost as a child, experienced the true nature of man without any help from outside, without a further development, without falling back into ignorance. After his great experience he remained once and for all the embodiment of the supreme wisdom of India. May his birth centenary remind us to follow gratefully and wholeheartedly the path which he has opened to all.

Sayings of Bhagavan

“What will it be like when one achieves Self-realization?” a devotee asked. “The question is wrong, one does not realize anything new”, said Bhagavan. “I do not get you, Swami”, persisted the devotee. “It is very simple. Now you feel you are in the world. There you feel that the world is in you”, explained Bhagavan.

Robin E.Lagemann


By Robin E. Lagemann

BHAGAVAN alone IS. . . Such a deed, abiding and assured awareness fills the heart with relief and rejoicing.

Awakening from the dream of samsara to find Sri Bhagavan as the Being, the Reality, is relief beyond comprehension — it is so complete. Then, knowing this and realizing through his grace that consciousness surrendered to him can never again be engulfed by samsara makes us rejoice beyond expression. For, with no samsara there is only him to abide with forever. What joy is more complete than that?

Self-realization is the only purpose of human birth, its highest experience and its supreme good. Most wonderful of all is that it is one’s natural state. How simple! But then Sri Bhagavan is simplicity itself. And, if we feel it is lost, Sri Bhagavan reminds us to enquire, “To whom is it lost”? And so, to abide in That is to remain as one IS — without concepts.

Remaining free from concepts means annihilation of thoughts. The enquiry, ‘Who am I’? effectively quells the onrush of ‘I am this or I am that’ which engenders ‘we’ and ‘they’ and the manifold problems arising therefrom. Sri Bhagavan’s method of Selfenquiry causes an abiding interest in the ‘I–am’ which leads to the eternally existing ‘I’ beyond all qualifying concepts. As a result, even that ‘I’, like the stick used to stir the fire which is then itself thrown in, disappears, for as Sri Bhagavan has said, “There really is no such thing as ‘I’”.

What inexpressible relief and restoration of joy it is to know that one is neither this nor that, neither God nor man etc. One only IS.

So, in Him who manifested as Sri Bhagavan Ramana, embodiment of purity and wisdom, personification of the eternal dharma, may we be eternally consumed. Let the Master’s words conclude:

Devotee: Why should Self-enquiry alone be considered the direct means to jnana?

Bhagavan: Because every kind of sadhana except that of Atma Vichara presupposes the retention of the mind as the instrument for carrying out the sadhana, and without the mind it cannot be practised. The ego may take different and subtler forms at different stages of one’s practice, but itself is never destroyed. The attempt to destroy the ego or the mind through sadhanas other than Atma vichara, is just like the thief turning policeman to catch the thief, that is, himself. Atma vichara alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists, and enables one to realize the pure, undifferentiated Being of the Self or the Absolute. Having realized the Self, nothing remains to be known, because it is perfect Bliss, it is All.


The ignorant man, attached to his body, is controlled by the impressions and tendencies created by his past deeds, and is bound by the law of karma. But the wise man, his desires being quenched, is not affected by deeds. He is beyond the law of karma. Since his mind rests in the Atman he is not affected by the conditions which surround him, though he may continue to live in the body and though his senses may move amongst sense objects. For he has realized the vanity of all objects, and in multiplicity sees one infinite Lord. He is like a man who has awakened from sleep and learned that his dream was a dream.

— Srimad Bhagavatam.

Shoshi Shophrony

How Ramana Maharshi Came Into My Life

By Shoshi Shophrony

I was born in Hungary into a warm, loving family. At the age of sixteen I lost my parents and my only sister in the Holocaust. I got married very young, and in 1949 we emigrated to Israel. My husband and I built a new life and a new family.

I began yoga training in 1969 with Swami Venkatesananda. I learned hatha yoga and raja yoga, the spiritual and philosophical part, along with meditation. I loved my teacher very much and he inspired me to become a yoga teacher myself. In the course of time, I left behind the physical part of yoga and concentrated only on the spiritual yogic approach to life with meditation and Self-enquiry.

Dreams that changed my life
One beautiful summer afternoon in 1972 some remarkable things began to happen to me. It began with a dream that was unexpected and surprising. I was lying on the hot sand at the seashore, near Tel Aviv, with my husband and our two sons. I fell asleep and dreamt that I was an Indian boy walking down the street with my Indian mother. I asked her to send me to school, but she explained that we were poor and had no money for school. Suddenly my mother stopped and pointed at an old man walking in the opposite direction. She said to me, “Run my son, run to him, because he can teach you far more than you could ever learn in any school.” And so I did. I ran after the old man. Hearing my heavy breathing, the old man stopped, looked at me with a warm, loving glance and put his hand on my head. And that was it! I woke up finding myself with my family beside the sea, with a very strange feeling about the experience. But as life’s rhythm is so very fast, as we swam, went home, prepared and ate lunch, and talked, the unusual dream began to fade somewhat.

After lunch I went to bed for a siesta and immediately fell asleep. Strangely, the whole dream appeared before me again, exactly as the first time; it was as if I were seeing the same cinema film twice. Now I became tremendously impressed, but hardly understood the dream and what it all meant.

That was the beginning. From that day on I continued to dream about the loving old man without any idea who he might be, and so I referred to him as my old uncle. The man, my old uncle, appeared in my dreams teaching, advising, sometimes reassuring or protecting.

He appeared and reappeared more often around the days of the Yom - Kippur War (October War,1973, Middle East), at which time our elder son, Reuven, served in the army. He had been in great danger together with others, and we worried very much about him and everyone. The news on the radio was exciting and at times terrifying, but in my dreams my old uncle came, comforting and consoling me lovingly. I felt that he intended to protect not only me, but also our son, who was in danger. Indeed, how grateful we felt later on when we heard the story of his escape ‘by chance’ from death.

There was another prominent dream with my old uncle related to my younger son, Rafy, who was sixteen years old at that time. Rafy asked for our permission to buy a small motorcycle. He worked during the summer and had earned the money for it. We didn’t give our permission, explaining how dangerous it would be because of all the crazy drivers on the roads. We asked him to wait two more years, by which time he would be old enough, by Israeli law, to drive our car. Rafy, however, has a very strong will. When his heart is set on something he will not give it up easily. We, the parents, had a serious conflict with him. On the one hand, we knew very well how risky a motorcycle could be for a young boy, while on the other hand, we felt that our veto might be too much interference — that it was his life and not ours.

Once again my old uncle appeared in my dream. The three of us, my uncle, Rafy (holding a motorcycle) and I, stood in the middle of a very busy street in Tel Aviv. My uncle asked me to wait at the side while both of them rode the motorbike in the heavy traffic. They began driving awfully fast and dangerously. I looked at them breathless, quite frightened. After a while they returned wearing broad smiles and my loving uncle said to me: “I took your son into very difficult situations. He is clever, skilful and cautious. You should allow him to buy the motorcycle. Trust him and don’t worry.” When I woke up the next morning I was so happy and felt relieved of a difficult problem. I immediately turned to my husband, and said, “I approve, I approve of the motorcycle.” He was the only one whom I told about my dreams. My enthusiasm inspired and convinced him to also give his blessing concerning the motorcycle. I sincerely believe the dream helped me to remain calm and quiet each time Rafy came home late. Thank God, he never had any accidents. Old Uncle Identified

Nearly two years had past since my first dream on the seashore. One day I visited a library in a yoga center. I stood in front of a bookshelf and randomly picked out one book. I opened it up and nearly fainted! My loving uncle’s beautiful face with a brilliant warm glance was staring at me from a picture on the first page. The name printed at the bottom of it was Sri Ramana Maharshi. The book’s name happened to be Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge, by Arthur Osborne.

I began to read the first lines and found out that the ‘uncle’ from my dreams is one of the greatest spiritual masters of the century! I can’t express in words my feelings at the moment of this new revelation. Suddenly a curtain was lifted from my eyes and a new kind of perception opened up in me.

I felt an enormous thirst to learn each word of Bhagavan, to live thoroughly his teachings and to let them be absorbed in me. As the Direct Path was being revealed through these teachings, I never had any doubt and knew inside my heart that I had found my way, the purpose of life. I became indescribably grateful to Ramana Maharshi and to my fate.

Since then, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi has been holding me by the hand in day-to-day life and showing me the way to Self-realization. His teaching is complete and perfect. His answers to devotees’ questions are the most direct and effective, clearing every doubt or misunderstanding. There is never an unnecessary word, nor is there ever a missing one.

I must confess, that since I found my master and his teachings in many wonderful books, he appears very rarely in my dreams. But from the very first dream I was irresistibly drawn to him; I felt a natural love for Bhagavan. That is something beyond logic: how dreams, books and the radiating visage of my master could so greatly enrich my soul. Previously I had never experienced anything so enlightening; my devotion to Bhagavan is the most important happening in my inner life. I love my family very deeply and I am grateful for the good fortune of their company. Even so, no one can compare this sort of love to the tie which binds me to Bhagavan. That love is happening as if on another sphere. Deep inside me, it plays on like constant background music, as if I were living a double life. So anchored deep inside is he that I feel that there is no distance, nor ever could there be any distance, between Bhagavan and me. He is in my soul.

Visit to the Ashram
It was a great surprise to me in the early 1970s to find out that Sri Ramanasramam had continued to grow, more than twenty years after Bhagavan’s Mahasamadhi. I wrote to the editor of the Mountain Path and was happy to become a life subscriber, and also asked for a list of available books. As I got to know that the Ashram receives visitors, a great longing arose in me to see the places where my master lived.

I wanted to meditate in the Old Hall where his radiation vibrates in the air, to walk on the footpaths of Arunachala where he walked and which he so loved. I longed to be near to His Samadhi.

Unfortunately, I was unable to travel to Bhagavan’s Ashram for many reasons, including family problems and others. The greatest hindrance was the anxiety of my husband. He feared for my safety.At that time there were no diplomatic relations between Israel and India. Afear for my life and security made the decision to undertake the travel more difficult. I didn’t want to travel under these conditions and have my husband worry. I decided to wait until circumstances would come together to make it possible. It happened only after sixteen years of waiting and longing. My husband gave his blessing and let me go.

I arrived at the Ashram in December 1987, in the middle of the night, with a million stars shining in the sky. Immediately a strong feeling that ‘I am home!’ gripped me. In the first days, I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t stop shedding tears of happiness.

By that time I had no more questions; I only needed to learn to strike down the restless mind and to remember to Be, only to Be! Bhagavan’s love had brought me to Arunachala and his Grace continued to guide me to eternal Consciousness. The Ashram manager, Mani, received me very kindly, and I feel grateful to him.

My good fate brought me also to Lucy Ma (Lucy Cornelssen), an indweller devotee, with whom I had corresponded during the following two years until she left her body. Her letters were so wise, loving and instructive, that some parts of them were printed in the Mountain Path magazine in December 1991.

I visited the Ashram two more times, happily enjoying the warm radiant atmosphere of Bhagavan. These days, by Bhagavan’s grace, I don’t feel anymore the need to be there physically, as I feel Ramana Maharshi is with me always.

What have I received from him? Inner peace during the turmoils of life, and infinite love. What have I learned? Anew angle of vision, understanding the truth of the underlying oneness and unity of existence and knowing the Self, the core Being of the whole universe. I owe you all this, dear Bhagavan.

Thank you.


Dennis Hartel

Bhagavan’s Teaching in America

By Dennis Hartel

We young devotees in the West, striving and gasping for a breath of air in the stormy sea of this world, have found not only pure fresh air but a vessel to carry us to the shore of immortality and truth, in the life and teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

To be deposited in what we consider to be HIS Ashrama in the Western Hemisphere, to dedicate our lives to the ideal of the Ashrama, and to have the warm friendship and support of those who have no other ideal, no other goal but to realize the truth as taught by Sri Bhagavan, is for us the greatest gift of grace in which we find an incomparable wealth of inspiration and joy. What more is there for us to do but to strive with all our strength and might to realize the truth of our Master’s teachings. Then only may we be worthy recipients of his grace. Then only may we be called true devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.



By S. Ramakrishna

A trepidation overpowers one while attempting to weave a tiny garland of homage to the immortal sage of Arunachala, Maharshi Sri Ramana, on the occasion of his birth Centenary. The remarks Sri Ramana proffered to his devoted disciples when they planned to celebrate his birthday for the first time in 1912, come back to the mind as a strident warning and severe chastisement: At least on one’s birthday one may mourn his entry into this world (samsara). To glory in it and celebrate it, on the other hand, is like delighting in decorating a corpse. To seek one’s Self and merge in the Self — that is wisdom.

Ye, that wish to celebrate the birthday seek first whence was your birth. That indeed is one’s birthday, when he enters that which transcends birth and death, the Eternal being. Yet, with due deference to the feelings of his devotees, he did not prevent them from celebrating his jayanti year after year. But, as for himself, this celebration was like an inconsequential ripple in the ocean of serenity and silence that he ever was.

In a situation like this, Sri Ramana must have considered two aspects that were involved in the celebrations. Which was his real birthday? Was it not the day when he was well and truly established in the Brahma Stithi — the state of equanimity so eloquently expounded in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita? Such a one is immune from all delusions. But there were the fervent pleadings of the disciples who yearned to utilise his advent for reinforcing in themselves all that they had learnt at his feet and gave them anchorage in life. They also wished to widen the pathway to the blessings of a purposeful life divine to their brethren all over India and the world.

Sri Ramana could easily fathom the sincerity of the intent, and the selflessness of the effort. His attitude was verily that of the jnani of the Bhagavad Gita who participates in the affairs of the world wisely but with total abandon and disinterestedness.

This brings us to the question of the ultimate goal that Sri Ramana always taught — the goal of Self-knowledge, of Selfidentity, which he had actually experienced and achieved. To him, there was the non-dual Brahman and nothing else. This transcendental experience of the non-dual Brahman could be got only through a constant and searching inquiry into oneself — “Who am I?” Self-enquiry, therefore, is the means he taught to reach this goal.

The numerous anecdotes, accounts of various encounters, and the questions and answers that punctuate the life of Sri Ramana reveal beyond doubt his persevering reiteration of the need for Self-enquiry. Sometimes questions seemingly unconnected with the subject elicited from him instructions regarding Self-knowledge.

This search for the true nature of human personality, the meaning and significance of human life on earth, the source of the “Intimations of Immortality” that gifted men receive now and again, has been going on from time immemorial. Perhaps, in the earlier stages, this search was directed outwards but very soon man turned his gaze inwards and looked for an answer not in the depths and distances of Nature but in the innermost recesses of his heart. We have in the Upanishads, the young seeker Nachiketas turning boldly his eyes inwards and seeking from the God of death an answer to the eternal question, “Who am I?” The quintessence of the life and message of Sri Ramana is also the same — relentless quest for “Self knowledge.”

Sri Ramana never consciously did anything to make an impact and to carve out a niche for himself in the annals of history. He shunned all publicity and image building. He never gave discourses, much less went out on lecture-tours. When people went to him and put questions, he answered them in his own simple way, devoid of pontifical solemnity. True, he did some writing, in response to the entreaties of seekers, but they are very few though very precious. Asleep or awake, he was so fully immersed in the bliss of the immortal Self, that he gave no attention to his mortal, transient self. He was totally unassuming and had successfully effaced himself.

Sri Ramana did not found a new cult or a new religion. He did not insist on compliance with any marga, ritual or line of conduct. Neither did he give any new direction or effect any reform within an existing one. But he showed a new path to adherents of all religions — the direct path of erasing the ego ad discovering the Self, by Self-enquiry.

The timeless snows on the Himalayas have been enriching the plains below with nourishing waters for many millennia and will continue to do so for many more. Similarly, in perpetual confirmation of the standing proclamation of the Lord in the Gita, age after age, whenever the waters of spirituality seemed to be ebbing away, rishis and munis have descended on this punyabhumi of ours and made the tide of spirituality rise higher and bathe the low-lying areas of human existence, again and again. Sri Ramana undoubtedly belongs to this parampara of immortal Godmen.

Strange are the ways in which sages and saints keep the stream of spirituality constantly flowing. Some lead a life of incessant activity, while others withdraw into the quietness and the silence of some hallowed place. There, like a dynamo, they generate the power that transforms people from lead to gold. To the superficial eye, pomp and pageantry might appeal, but behind them all there is a vast storehouse — akshayapatra — of inexhaustible power, luminous and strong, serene and silent.

The Vedas themselves point out that the most potent form of sound is inaudible. It is only wen it gets modified into lower forms that it becomes audible speech. So it was with Sri Ramana. This is his uniqueness. Beneath the small quantum of his utterances lies the depth of wisdom beyond one’s gaze and hearing.

Maharshi Sri Ramana is a symbol of serenity and compassion. He will remain for generations to come as a living embodiment of Advaita Vedanta, the ideal of a perfect jivanmukta.

A few days before he cast off his body, the Maharshi proclaimed, “They say that I am dying, but I shall be more alive than before”.

There is no doubt that the message that this Messiah teaches through silence will become more and more eloquent and reverberate with greater power as the eternal wheel of time — kalachakra — turns on and on.

The highest tribute to such greatness is silence.

Silence is golden.


SRI M.S. NAGARAJAN, a staunch devotee of Bhagavan, comes from Mambattu, a village in the Polur Taluk of the North Arcot District of the state of Tamil Nadu. Even as a young boy he used to accompany his parents when they came to TiruvannamaIai for the yearly Deepam festival, at which time and on similar occasions, his father, who was a devotee of Bhagavan, used to take him to the Ashram. Thus he came to know Bhagavan in his childhood. When he was ten years old, his friend, who was a nephew of Echammal, spoke to him about the greatness of Bhagavan. He and this friend used to practise dhyana and yogic asanas (sitting postures) every day in the early morning. In the evening they meditated on Bhagavan. Sri Nagarajan used to have frequent visions of Bhagavan and Lord Murugan in his dreams. At about this time Ranga Rao, an old devotee of Bhagavan, now no more, had set up an ashram at Polur named Indra Ashram, to which other devotees of Bhagavan used to go and talk about Bhagavan and other spiritual matters. In 1930, when Sri Nagarajan was 15 years old Ranga Rao brought him to Sri Ramanansramam. Here he was allotted the work of doing puja, and helping in the bookstall etc. But what he valued most was the privilege of cutting up vegetables and grinding the pulses and coconut gratings for chutney in the kitchen with Bhagavan. But most of the time he was in the hall attending to some minor work or other. He had thus the opportunity of listening to the replies which Bhagavan gave to the questions put to him by visitors and devotees. As a result of this he became a firm believer in the path of Self-enquiry taught by Bhagavan.

At the end of six months Sri Nagarajan went home but soon returned and stayed on for four years. Jobs were offered to him but he was not interested in them since the acceptance of a job would mean parting from Bhagavan. But one day a letter came from his mother informing him that a job had been found for him. This letter came to the hands of Bhagavan along with the Ashram post. After reading it Bhagavan said,“Look here, a job has been found for you. Go and accept it immediately.”Tears came into the eyes of Sri Nagarajan at the thought of parting from Bhagavan. But Bhagavan said again, “You can go on Wednesday and join duty on Thursday.” Unwillingly he left the Ashram. Thereafter he came to the Ashram as often as he could get leave.

While Sri Nagarajan was employed at Sattur from 1955 to 1958 he organised a Ramana Mandali where Bhagavan’s songs like The Marital Garland of Letters were sung and devotees meditated every day. Talks were given periodically at this Mandali — Bhagavan’s Jayanti and Aradhana were also celebrated in a fitting manner. Sri Nagarajan also established a school named Sri Ramana Vidya Mandiram Elementary School at Sattur in memory of Bhagavan.

After holding several important posts in the firm of Burmah Shell, Sri Nagarajan has now retired. Since then he has lived for some time in Tambaram and later joined the Ashram to render his service.

V.Srinivasa Rao


Dr. V. Srinivasa Rao

AMONG THE FOREMOST DEVOTEES, Dr. V. Srinivasa Rao found in Sri Bhagavan the greatest solace and support in his life. He was born in the former native state of Pudukottai and is happily still with us at the age of eighty-seven(in1972). He was intimately associated with the growth of the Ashram for many decades. Childlike by nature and outspoken, his sincerity and frankness gained him easy access and familiarity with Sri Bhagavan who treated him like a pet child.

Born poor and orphaned when hardly four years old, he grew up to be self-reliant. He took his degree in medicine and surgery, and prompted by the good wishes of the doyen of his days, Dr. Singaravelu Mudaliar, he entered Government service. He was medical officer in several district headquarters hospitals and retired in 1940 as the superintendent of the Royapettah Hospital, Madras. After this he spent a good deal of his time in the Ashram in a life of devotion and service to Sri Bhagavan.

To begin with, Dr. Srinivasa Rao had no interest in a spiritual life and seemed more an agnostic, if not a downright atheist. Through the friendship of spiritually highly evolved people like Sri S. Doraiswami Iyer, one of the oldest devotees, he came to Sri Bhagavan. Before taking leave of Sri Bhagavan he asked him, “Will I come again for your darshan?” Sri Bhagavan with a tender and compassionate look patted him on the shoulder saying, “What will happen is sure to happen.” That was all! He felt somehow thrilled in the core of his being by his touch and the gracious reply which strengthened his faith and surrender. Since then remembrance of Sri Bhagavan was constant.

Sri Bhagavan directed his attention specifically to Upadesa Saram among his works and emphasised ekachintana (fixing the mind on one thought — of the One) as essential for the mind to get free of thoughts; and that constant remembrance of God is better than a recital of hymns or silent invocation. On one occasion he told Sri Bhagavan, “It is said that one should contemplate on God Vishnu from head to foot. Is that the correct thing to do?” Sri Bhagavan reminded him, “It is all One from head to foot.” Yet again he discussed the efficacy of Rama Japa and the like and asked Sri Bhagavan, “Why not do Ramana Japa instead of Rama Japa?” to which Sri Bhagavan gave his assent.

After 1940 Srinivasa Rao had the unique opportunity of staying in the proximity of Sri Bhagavan rendering some personal service or other. He treasures the privilege he had of massaging Sri Bhagavan’s limbs and of ministering to him during his bodily ailments as a doctor. His simple but total love and attachment to Sri Bhagavan’s person generated many happy incidents. Once Sri Bhagavan’s knee caps and legs did not function owing to stiffness and Srinivasa Rao with folded hands implored him to permit his massaging for a few days only. Sri Bhagavan would not agree saying, “If allowed to do so you will continue endlessly.” But he beseeched him like a child and Sri Bhagavan yielded but said it would be strictly for ten days. Sri Bhagavan was counting the days and on the last day when Srinivasa Rao was actually massaging his legs Sri T. P. R.’s father who arrived just then, entered the old hall and perceiving the doctor massaging the legs of Sri Bhagavan repeated a Sanskrit sloka and exclaimed, “Oh, Raoji, do not give up what you are doing. You need no other sadhana for your salvation.” Sri Bhagavan burst out laughing and said: “Well, well; I have been counting these days and waiting for this last day and you have come to recommend continuance!” Leaving his massaging, the doctor stepped before Sri Bhagavan and went on doing obeisance imploring Him to listen to the elderly gentleman if not to him. Sri Bhagavan yielded for another ten days!

During the two years preceding Sri Bhagavan’s Maha Nirvana the doctor gave whole-time attention and assistance to Sri Bhagavan’s health and comfort in collaboration with the team of medical men who devoutly rendered service during the last illness.

He happily spent his days remembering Sri Bhagavan and his memorable days with him, and deriving all the solace needed from his writings and utterances, which he revered.



N. O. Mehta

DILIP KUMAR ROY and myself reached Tiruvannamalai at about 7 p.m., 17th February 1949 after a tiresome and dusty journey. Our discerning hostess, a Parsi lady, was rightly more concerned about our having the darshan of Bhagavan, as the Maharshi is universally called there, and consequently we promptly went to the prayer hall.

To our pleasant surprise we found Tiruvannamalai a substantial town with good roads, and electric lighting. The Ashram is one and a half miles beyond the town, just at the foot of the beautiful Arunachala Hill, so sacred and so powerfully evoked in some of the wonderful verses written by the Maharshi years ago. The prayer hall is a nice, clean, fair sized building which could perhaps accommodate 100 to 150 people without difficulty. We went into the hall, but either by habit or by some sort of inhibition or training, we did not prostrate ourselves in the traditional fashion. We only made a deep bow and took our seats. The critical eye noticed the scrupulous cleanliness of the hall, the intensely devout mien of the people and the utter simplicity and grandeur of the entire atmosphere.

Bhagavan himself, lean, of medium height, wheat complexioned, was reclining on a sofa surrounded by a low,folding wooden barrier to keep the fervent worshippers from touching his body. It is on this sofa that the Maharshi spends his time either sitting or reclining whether by day or by night. Close to the couch is an incense burner, which is going on all the time. There is one more burner with incense sticks at the foot of the couch. The purifying fumes are always rising in the air. Sometimes the Maharshi himself is stocking the burner and putting in more and more incense in the bowl. Just on the side of the couch is a high stool with a time piece, a table lamp and a few bottles of medicine. In front of the sofa is a small book case with a few books in English and in Tamil, principally of the Maharshi’s own writing. I counted five wall calendars hung at the odd corners including one containing a portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru.

People were squatting cross legged, some with eyes shut, some eagerly looking at Bhagavan, but all absolutely silent. People were coming in and going out after doing the prostration. All this homage left the Maharshi untouched, or was it only my illusion, for those wonderful eyes seemed to take in everything even though they had a faraway, distant look.

Prayers from the Upanishads were being recited by three young disciples. I felt the magnificent rhythm of the Sanskrit language more powerfully than I have ever felt it before. I immediately realized how the great mantras and the verses of the Vedas and the Upanishads must have sounded in a bygone age at the morning and evening prayers in forest hermitages. The recitation was wonderful, the intonation accomplished and egoless. One was immediately hushed to devout silence. The prayers were wound up with the invocation to Bhagavan Ramana himself.

How is one to describe the atmosphere? I have referred to the trifles because though they attracted my attention on the first evening, they ceased to have any significance the very next morning. All that I felt was, that I was face to face with a Reality which transcended all that I had dreamt of him. Here was a great sage whose darshan was undoubtedly a privilege. I instinctively felt that here was India at its highest, for here was the deepest realization of the Reality transcending all mundane factors and bringing peace which passes all understanding. Let me, however, get along with trifles, for even they may have some usefulness.

At 7.30 p.m. was the evening meal and some thirty to forty people sat down to a simple meal, irrespective of race or rank, with the Maharshi occupying a corner. Rice and curry are served, some pulses and sometimes little vegetable delicacies on a plantain leaf. The Maharshi is the most careful diner of all, for he leaves no particle of surplus food on his platter. Food is served to all servants and masters by the very people who render service to the Maharshi, the same who look after the Ashram and who chant those wonderful verses from the Vedas and the Upanishads at the morning and evening prayers. Here was truly the hermitage of a saint where nothing mattered but an unceasing effort to know and feel the eternal Brahman.

The Maharshi finishes his meal quietly and slowly, but the diners leave the hall as they please, and so far as the Maharshi’s presence for the day is concerned, it is all over with the completion of the evening meal. There is a radio set in a corner of the prayer hall. The Maharshi is interested in everything including the feeding of monkeys, peacocks and squirrels.

After the meal we left the Ashram to go to our accommodation across the road. There are some charming little cottages, which have been built by the people who have been regularly coming to have the darshan of Bhagavan and with some luck one can have one of these cottages. However, the creature comforts to which we were used no longer mattered. We were in a world totally different from the one we had left behind. The values were also different and all that was important now was to get up in time for the morning prayers at 4 a.m. It is difficult to reproduce the atmosphere of the morning prayers. The lights are still on. The Maharshi is holding his hands over the incense burner, the disciples chant the Vedic prayer in a firm and resonant voice. The stately rhythm of these prayers creates an amazing atmosphere of peace and sanctity. For more than forty minutes the recital continues in an unbroken melody and at the conclusion, a few verses are recited in adoration of Bhagavan himself.

The prayers over, there is an hour to get ready for the morning coffee. The low lying Arunachala Hill looks singularly beautiful in the light of the dawn and one is aware of that harmony between man and nature which is so essential to balanced life. As one strolls out of the Ashram one is aware that Tiruvannamalai is a town of sacred memories, of temples small and big, and of graveyards dedicated to the memories of the departed. There are shrines, some modest and some more pretentious, built all around the Hill, but the greatest monument of them all is the superb temple of Arunachalam.

It was interesting to learn that the custom of burial was and still is not uncommon among certain classes of people in the south. Unfortunately however, the memorial stones are scattered on the periphery of the town and are in a state of complete neglect, as is also the case with some beautiful mandapams and temples of all sizes. It could not have been the decline of the devout spirit so much as the weakening and disintegration of economic life which, once so prosperous as to have built the great edifices, is now no longer able even to afford their maintenance. The people are poor because perhaps they have not been able to keep pace with the march of time. In the whole of Tiruvannamalai the living centre is the modest Ashram of Bhagavan, for here the spiritual lamp stays burning, capable of igniting the fires in the hearts of those who are still wanting or are prepared to receive the illumination.

It was fortunate that the next day of our halt at the Ashram was the sacred day of Maha Shivaratri. Very early in the morning crowds of people were on the march around the sacred Hill of Arunachalam and in the Ashram itself worship was continuous for all the twenty four hours. The great temple of Arunachalam was illuminated but the resources of the people were far too attenuated to permit adequate lighting. One day when the people of India are again strong and economically prosperous these temples will perhaps, be revived into centres of inspiration and light, and their vast mandapams might be restored to their proper use and status.

We attended the evening prayers on the eve of our departure. There could be no farewell, for Bhagavan’s presence would never be forgotten. We bade mental farewell to the Ashram for we were going to leave for Pondicherry early next morning. As we were about to leave, a friend said that we could not possibly leave the Ashram without taking the permission of Bhagavan and saying goodbye to him. We therefore repaired to the Ashram to intimate our departure to Bhagavan just as he was going out of the dining hall. We felt like young children going to their elders for a blessing. Our reward, however, was immense, for Bhagavan vouchsafed to us a penetrating glance of immeasurable beatitude which, even now, is one of the most abiding memories of a sacred pilgrimage. It is astonishing how Bhagavan’s presence and his usual, apparently humdrum activities cast such a magic spell over all those who were blessed to come near him.


MY JOY FOUND no limit when I had the darshan of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi on the 8th of June, 1947 at 9.20 a.m. Apart from Ashram inmates, Indians and foreigners, there used to be a stream of visitors both in the morning and the evening. Some visitors, with the permission of the Ashram authority, used to take snapshots of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. In my heart of hearts I was deeply thinking whether I could be so fortunate as to have a photo taken along with Sri Bhagavan. A good and pious idea indeed! But, the question of its fulfilment was entirely left to the entire grace of guru dev.

It so happened that a rich and a pious soul with a band of devotees from Andhra, came to the Arunachala temple and then to Sri Ramanasramam. They had the darshan of Sri Bhagavan in the morning and they arranged for a group photo to be taken along with him in the evening.

Sri Bhagavan stood in front of the small gate towards the eastern side, facing Arunachala Hill. Another devotee and myself were observing all this very keenly from a very respectful distance. One of the devotees seeing Sri Bhagavan standing, had very wisely brought a stool from the Ashram, upon which, gurudev sat. The photo was about to be taken when the sarvadhikari, in hurrying up to the spot, saw me and another devotee standing, and asked us to follow him. We both immediately followed him and joined the group photo. The photo was taken. My happiness was beyond expression. I have a copy of this eventful photo with me. This is how ‘kripa’ of Bhagavan works miraculously.

Bhagavan can be compared to the saptha rishis of the ancient times. Those who came in contact with such a great personality, an embodiment of supreme Self-hood are really blessed. They should consider themselves very fortunate.

Those who lived at Sri Ramanashram knew full well how punctuality used to be observed in every activity of the Ashram. Even breakfast, lunch, tea and supper used to be served precisely at 7a.m., 11a.m., 3p.m., and 7.30p.m., respectively. At the ringing of the bell, Sri Bhagavan would go to the dining hall from the main darshan hall. The devotees would follow him with great reverence. He used to sit in the middle of the dining hall and of all the devotees sitting in rows.

Different varieties of delicious dishes used to be served systematically and briskly by some of the devotees. Every variety, each in small quantity, used to be served to Bhagavan. He used to mix up the food, vegetables, chatnys and other things all into one paste and keep it ready.

When serving was finished Sri Bhagavan used to ask, “Finished?” meaning whether serving was completed. Sarvadhikari replying in the affirmative used to prostrate before him. Sri Bhagavan would then cast a benign glance all round and would nod his head signifying to commence eating. Perfect silence would be prevailing in the dining hall, although the number present would be more than a hundred. Sri Bhagavan would leave the plantain leaf after his meals, in such a clean manner, as it was placed, before meals were served. Not even a particle of rice would be left on it.

The very life of Sri Bhagavan was itself sacred scripture. He was moving Veda and Upanishad. His teachings were through silence. Who could have understood his immutable silence, the very nature of one’s own Self!

J.Suryaprakasa Rao

IN THE YEAR 1946, a friend of mine informed me about the glory of Tiruvannamalai and its sage. The photo of Bhagavan in a smiling posture was secured by me.

It was three years later during May 1949, that I decided to have his darshan. On entering into his presence, the general silence and serenity captivated me. At first I was partly anxious to get near to him and partly timid. I only mentally repeated, “Bhagavan I have come” as though it was a long expected meeting. He looked into my eyes. Even from the distance I could not stand the brilliance of those eyes. I tried to meditate. Presently there was some conversation. A European lady sat there attired in Indian style. After a repeated jingling of her bangles, Bhagavan asked in Telugu smilingly, “What is the matter?” Somebody replied, “She wore bangles”, “Oh I see”, said Bhagavan. He was then looking at some of the correspondence, at the playing of the squirrels, and at the feeding of the white peacock.

In the afternoon, by the time we came, the sitting had already commenced. There was no interruption to the supreme silence. A cultured family of a mother, husband and wife came and offered some tiffin which he took, washed his hands and resumed his inimitable posture. We sat still in silence for some time and took leave after prostrating to Sri Ramana Bhagavan.

Swami Madhavananda

ON ONE OCCASION, probably in 1939, Sri P.M.N. Swamy, a staunch devotee of Bhagavan and secretary of Sri Ramana Satchidananda Mandali, Matunga, went to the Ashram at Tiruvannamalai to have darshan of Bhagavan and stayed for the day there with his wife and nine month old child, Ramanan.

They had their breakfast in the common dining hall in the morning. After finishing they went to wash their hands at the tap outside, leaving the child in the hall. By this time Ramanan crawled away somewhere and could not be seen. The perturbed father called out to the child as ‘Ramana, Ramana’. Bhagavan, who was then passing on his way to the meditation hall immediately responded to the call and the child also was found near the well in the Ashram compound. The response from Bhagavan naturally created a little puzzle in Sri P.M.N. Swamy’s mind because he thought that the call ‘Ramana, Ramana’ intended for his child might have been wrongly interpreted by Bhagavan.

Bhagavan was quick to read Sri Swamy’s mind and told him, “Why do you feel puzzled when I responded to the call? Is there any difference between this Ramana (meaning himself ) and that Ramana (meaning the child)?”

Maurice Frydman


By Maurice Frydman

The religion of the West is based on faith. Faith is the supreme virtue, the very foundation of our religious life. When the mind cannot accept, faith is invoked and we swallow the pill of a dogma. Naturally the pill does not get assimilated and lies like a stone in our mental stomach with the result that our religious life is starved.

Mysticism, the personal contact with the Divine which is the natural flowering of all religious life, is almost entirely unknown to the masses in the West. It is practiced in convents and monasteries, but their influence on the religious attitude of the masses is small.

All verification by personal experience of religious dogmas is postponed till after death. But it is not in the nature of man to take his death seriously, the less his problematic postmortem experiences.

When a Westerner comes to India what strikes him is the businesslike matter-of-fact way in which all religious life is taken here. In India God counts. Divinity is taken into consideration in the everyday life of everybody. All religious statements can be verified by personal experience. In India the belief in God is as firm as our belief in the trans-Atlantic steamboat service, because everybody knows that it can be verified by him who makes the necessary effort.

The other thing that strikes the Westerner in India is the vastness of the religious outlook. Vistas which are opened before his eyes, the peaks of thought on which he is taken, create in him a state of deep astonishment. A new world is opened before him, a world full of interest, full of the most enticing adventures of undreamt possibilities of personal experience. Not the least reason for his astonishment is the possibility of meeting and conversing with people who have climbed the summits of religious life and have direct experience of the Divine.

It was the immense privilege of the writer to meet with a few of such men, but nobody has produced on him a deeper impression than Sri Ramana Maharshi. Meeting him was a turning point in his life. The sublime majesty of the Divine Life stood and moved before him in all its infinite simplicity. The Ultimate had revealed itself as the Immediate. The Supreme had become the Innermost. The undreamt of had become the Actual. The struggle for life was transformed into the Bliss of Life.

The writer must stop here. The actual experience is beyond his power of expression. There are those things which fully deserve the highest praise, the praise of silence.

M. F.: Narada Bhakti Sutras say that the path of devotion is best, as all paths lead to devotion. Cannot the same be said of jnana or yoga or nishkama karma?

M.: Why this differentiation? Jnana is bhakti; vairagya is jnana.

M. F.: To know is to love. If we love, we know more, and vice versa.

M.: Yes.

M. F.: Ashtavakra Gita, Chapter IX, verse 4 says: "Things come by themselves." Does anything come of itself without the operation of some cause behind it?

M.: That which comes to a man without present effort or desire is the result of past efforts or desires -— prarabdha karma. Even a jnani who has no desires has to meet such events, as they are the result of his prarabdha karma.

Some one: "Jnana burns away all karma," says the Bhagavad Gita; so the jnani’s jnana could not leave prarabdha unburned. Is that so?

M.: In the jnani’s view all karma has gone. But in the world’s view, the Jnani’s body is seen subject to some karma and this is attributed to prarabdha.

M. F.: The Ashtavakra Gita says, "The jnani does not remember what he has done or not done." How to understand this?

M.: He is in Brahman, so he does not feel that he is the agent who has acted or not acted.

M. F.: If the jnani is subject to prarabdha, he may have to face desires, which are also a part of prarabdha karma. Desires cloud jnana. How can he then be a jnani?

M.: The desires that float before the jnani do not affect his jnana.

M. F.: The Puranas say that jnanis warred against jnanis. That must be due to prarabdha then?

M.: Yes. Krishna fought against Bhishma.

M. F.: But should not the jnani have vairagya, while it is desire that leads to conflict?

M.: Perfect vairagya is Jnana.

M. F.: How can we judge from the outside whether a man’s vairagya, or surrender, is perfect or complete?

M.: Of perfect vairagya and jnana, who is there outside to judge?

M. F.: Instead of constantly pursuing the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ why not constantly ask ‘Who are you?’

M.: Either enquiry that tends to still the mind is good. But ‘Who am I?’ is the shortest and most direct method. The others lead up to it.

— Condensed from the Sunday Times, January 12, 1936

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter

Pryns Hopkins


Pryns Hopkins

IN AS MUCH AS India is notoriously the most metaphysically minded of all countries, it was natural that I should seek discussions in this field.

Ever since I had read Paul Brunton’s A Search in Secret India, I had been keen to visit Ramana Maharshi, the sage whom Brunton found most impressive of all those he sought out. Soon after my arrival at his Ashram, I bade one of the two men who mainly ministered to him to inquire whether I might ask two questions. Accordingly, I was requested to take my seat in front of the group of visitors and an interpreter sat next to me (although Maharshi usually gets queries directly through English) and was invited to present my question.

The first of these questions was: “If it is true that all the objective world owes its existence to the ego, then how can that ego ever have the experience of surprise as it does, for example, when we stub our toe on an unseen obstacle?”

Sri Bhagavan answered, ‘that the ego is not to be thought of as antecedent to the world of phenomena, but that both rise or fall together. Neither is more real than the other, only the nonempirical Self is more real. By reflecting on the true nature of the Self, one comes at length to undermine the ego and at the same time, material obstacle and stubbed toe are equally unreal and to dwell in the true reality which is beyond them all.’

He then went on to outline that we only know the object at all through sensations derived from it remotely. Moreover, that physicists had now shown that in place of what we thought to be a solid object there are only dancing electrons and protons. I replied that while we had, indeed, direct knowledge only of sensations, we know less, for all that knowledge about the objects which gave rise to the sensations, about which knowledge was checked continually by making predictions, acting on them and seeing them verified or disproved. Furthermore (here I went on to my second query), “If the outer phenomena which I think I perceive have no reality apart from my ego, how is it that someone else also perceived them? For example not only do I lift my foot higher to avoid tripping over that stool yonder, but you also raise your foot higher to avoid tripping over it too. Is it by a mere coincidence that each of us independently has come to the conclusion that a stool is there?”

Sri Maharshi replied that the stool and our two egos were created by one another mutually. While one is asleep, one may dream of a stool and of persons who avoided tripping over it just as persons in waking life did, yet did that prove that the dream stool is any more real. And so we had it back and forth for an hour, with the gathering very amused, for all Hindus seem to enjoy a metaphysical contest.

During that afternoon’s darshan I again had the privilege of an hour’s talk with Maharshi himself. Observing that he had given orders to place a dish of food for his peacock, I asked, “When I return to America would it be good to busy myself with disseminating your books to the people just as you offer this food to the peacocks?” He laughed and answered that if I thought it good it would be good, but otherwise not. I asked whether, quite apart from whatever I thought, it wasn’t useful to have pointed out a way to those who were ripe for a new outlook. He countered with “Who thinks they are ready?’’

The Maharshi went on to say that the essential thing is to divorce our sense of self from what our ego and our body are feeling or doing. We should think “Feelings are going on, this body is acting in such and such a manner”, but never “I feel, I act.” What the body craves or does is not our affair. I then asked, “Have we then no responsibility at all for the behaviour of our ego?”

He replied, “None at all. Let it go its own way like an automaton.”

“But”, I objected, “you have told us that all the animal propensities are attributes of the ego. If when a man attains jivanmukti he ceases to feel responsibility for the behaviour of his ego and body, won’t they run amok completely?” I illustrated my point with the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Maharshi replied, “When you have attained jivanmukti, you will know the answer to those questions. Your task now is not to worry about them but to know the Self.”

But I am forced to doubt the whole theory unless it explains away this discrepancy. “Here before us is the Maharshi who has attained jivanmukti, and so withdrawn from all responsibility for the conduct of his ego and the body we see before us. But though he declares them to be the seat of all evil propensities, his ego and body continue to behave quite decorously instead of running wild. This forces me to suspect that something in the hypothesis is incorrect.”

He answered, “Let the Maharshi deal with that problem if it arises and let Mr. Hopkins deal with who is Mr. Hopkins.”