Atmananda was a young, accomplished Austrian musician whose interest in Theosophy first took her on a visit to India in 1925 at the age of twenty-one. She later became an ardent follower of J. Krishnamurti and returned to India in 1935 to teach at the Krishnamurti School near Benares. By 1942 she became despondent and left the school in search of a means to assuage the inner crisis that had engulfed her. This brought her to the Maharshi from whom she sought clarity, peace and direction. From the excerpts of her diary below it is apparent that during her six-week stay in Tiruvannamalai she was granted that, and more.

The diaries of Atmananda were edited by Ram Alexander and published by Indica Books under the title "Death Must Die". The book contains the intimate story of a sincere seeker who ultimately finds her way to peace and security under the loving guidance of Anandamayi Ma. Atmananda died in Benares in 1985 and at her funeral was given the utmost honor and respect accorded a sanyasini of the highest order.

Ramanashram, Tiruvannamalai,

17 May 1942

I left Benares on the 10th May. As the train approached Tiruvannamalai, I suddenly felt blissfully happy, thinking, 'Now all struggle is over, there will be only peace. The prodigal son has returned to his father's house.' After some time this passed.
Upon arriving, my first reaction was to run away. The ashramites and the prostrations and adoration of the Guru seem all mad to me.

I wrote a letter to Ramana Maharshi asking him to straighten the twists in me. In his presence there is a deep peace, the same that I have felt ever since I decided to come here.

26 May, 1942

At about 12.30 a. m. I woke up and had a strange experience, which I cannot put into words. It was not imagination and seemed beyond the mind altogether, but I was wide awake. I realized a fiery 'being' of terrific power without form of any kind and I understood what it is that one worships and why people prostrate in front of the Maharshi. It has nothing to do with him as I see him daily, but it seemed to be simultaneously him, God and also myself. What I usually call myself was ridiculous at that moment, so petty and insignificant as was also the body of the Maharshi. I could not imagine that I would ever be the same hereafter. This state was very real. I was wide awake for hours and it persisted for sometime....

31 May, 1942

Questions for Ramana:

(1) If the mind seems utterly confused and muddled, what is the first step in order to get clear?

(2) In one of the books of your dialogues you say that such thoughts as "Is this a good thing to do or is that" should not be allowed. How can one live and decide without such considerations?

(3) At times I am completely at peace and at other times all restlessness. There seems no connection at all between these two conditions. Why is that?

3 June, 1942

Answer for question No. 2: "If you surrender to the Supreme Will, there will be no question of decision or choice."

Question: But I don't know the Supreme Will. I do not know to whom to surrender. How do I know the Supreme? I may deceive myself.

Answer: It is the mind that deceives itself. At least you must admit that you exist. Either you accept the Supreme or at least enquire into the true nature of your self. Who are you? Knowing or not knowing belongs to the mind and therefore all your so called 'knowledge' is really ignorance. You identify yourself with the mind and that is the cause of the confusion. Enquire more deeply into the true nature of your individuality (i.e., Who is it that possesses a mind?). In fact, if you perceive that the mind does not exist at all, then it will vanish along with the confusion, and what truly is will stand revealed. When you look at your reflection in the water and believe it to be an accurate representation of yourself, then you are troubled when the movement of the water disturbs the reflection. But when you realize that this has no reality to it, then your worries cease. You cannot get rid of your shadow, but you need not believe that it is who you really are.

Question: I feel as if I were two and not one.

Answer: No, there is only the Self, there cannot be two. But if you focus only on the form of the bangle, you may forget that it is made of gold. Yet the form of the bangle is dependent on the gold. It cannot exist without it and ceases to exist when the gold is melted down; but the gold itself remains constant. By deluding yourself into identifying solely with the mind, you deny your true Self. This is worse than suicide, because in suicide you only kill the body; but here you are murdering the Self. Seek the Self and the ego will vanish.
By solving one mind-created problem you only create new ones. When you cut off one leaf, four new ones sprout out. Only by killing the root of the tree, can you prevent the leaves from growing.

17 June 1942

Question: When I asked you how to solve the problems of life, you said "Self surrender." How can one surrender without danger until Self realization has been achieved, as the mind may create its own God to surrender to? The most cruel things in the world are done in the name of God.

Maharshi: The mind and all of its creations come from the same source. Self-enquiry and Self-surrender are the same. As you proceed in Self-enquiry you automatically surrender (as you become nearer to the Divine Source). The person that surrenders to a mind-created God will have to bear the consequences of his actions and suffer for them. But even the thought of God, however false, will take you to the Supreme Truth of the Self ultimately. The man who has realized, knows that the thought of a separate God is utterly false. But until then one cannot help it. When you are totally still, you are the Self. When we think, we are forgetting God. Self-enquiry leads back to Him (who is none other than the Self).

Question: Ultimately, but it may take a long time!

Maharshi: There is no time. You may have it even now.
Someone else's question: If the Self is one, why is it necessary to approach a Guru?

Maharshi: In reality it is not necessary, but because we are dreaming on the physical plane, the presence of the realized man is necessary to wake us up - to remind us of ourselves. When the proud elephant dreams that a lion comes, he gets a shock and wakes up suddenly. As we are all dreaming, the help of the Guru, within this dream, is necessary in order to force us to wake up. The eyes of the Guru disperse the dream.

Question: The physical eyes?

Maharshi: There are only 'eyes', not physical or otherwise.
Miss Merston's question: From where does the 'resolve' come to start the Self-enquiry?

Maharshi: From the mind, like all other thoughts. But by having only one single thought, this thought finally also gets absorbed. You need not follow your thoughts; the more you think the more thoughts there will be. But rather take each thought back to its source. That is surrender and enquiry at the same time.

Questioner: Why are you unable to refuse when others prevail on you for this or that? Are you not free of karma and therefore able to do as you like?

Maharshi: There are three types of karma:
(1) Made by one's own actions and desires.
(2) Inevitable karma like Government - world circumstances beyond your personal control.
(3) The karma of others taken on himself by the man who is free of his own karma.

Questioner: Is it like Christ, who suffers for the sins of others?

Maharshi: Yes. There is no freedom, it [freedom] is merely a word (i.e., even Christ or the realised saint still must fulfill his destiny outwardly, although inwardly he is fully liberated).

Yesterday my old agony of restlessness returned, and with it my fear…. I had back ache, head ache and tummy ache and utter misery. This in turn made me resentful at feeling somewhat bound. But this morning I suddenly got back my peace after deciding to talk to Bhagavan and to ask him why I can't get rid of my egotistical resistance. As I asked him the question tears came. The answer was: "Take the resistance into your heart and keep it there."

I have to do everything from the heart. Let the heart see, hear, think, speak, eat, sleep - everything - and not do anything else. Though I do not know the Lord of my Heart, whoever He is, I must surrender to Him and leave all else. It is very difficult to do in practice…. I shall take Him into my heart and will clear this problem by the time I leave. That is the real reason for my visit.

I feel that I could have gotten much more out of this place if I could have let go of more my judgmental ego.

From the Ashtavakra Gita:

"When the mind is freed from such pairs of opposites as 'this is done' and 'this is not done' it becomes indifferent to religious merit, worldly prosperity, desire for sensual enjoyment and for liberation.

"The one who abhors sense objects avoids them, and one who covets them becomes attached to them. But he who does not accept or reject, is neither unattached nor attached.

"He who has an egoistic feeling even towards liberation and considers even the body as his own is neither an jnani nor a yogi. He only suffers misery."

27 June 1942

Upon reading King Janaka's story in the Ashtavakra Gita about how the Rishi Ashtavakra taught him Self-realisation after Janaka had accepted him as his Guru and surrendered completely to him, a sudden surrender to the Maharshi arose in me spontaneously and his outer form vanished.

I feel more and more that Madras (which is so much closer to Ramana) will be better for me to live in than Delhi. The company of the Wise, whilst we are yet ignorant, is the most precious thing to seek.

Rajghat, 3 July 1942

On the 28th of June, the last day at Tiruvannamalai, I wanted to know how I should live after leaving there. The answer came in the form of an experience in which the Maharshi's head suddenly seemed to go inside me and he said: "You, ego, get out. I am now dictator here and whatever I tell you, you have to do. Not a breath without my order. I am your Self until you have realised It." To my own surprise I loved the dictator. That is what I have always wanted. I am going to cling to him every moment and I shan't rest till he has absorbed the last atom of me. Then I shall again be where I want to be...

In the train my thoughts stayed in Tiruvannamalai. When the train crossed the bridge, Mother Ganges told me a secret: You will not always be with the Maharshi.

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter