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