Eleanor Pauline Noye

My Pilgrimage to Sri Ramanasramam

By Eleanor Pauline Noye

In the 1930s, Eleanor Pauline Noye began her spiral descent into despair, ill health and hopelessness. Throughout these difficult years she clung to an inexplicable faith that in India she would be restored to her former self. In spite of ill health and depression, she embarked on a journey that brought her face to face with her "Lord of Love" Upon arriving in the Ashrama in 1939 she was caught in the web of the Master's love, regained her health, peace of mind and soared into the eternal expanse of freedom and joy. On her first visit to India she stayed at the Ashrama for ten months; subsequently, she made a second trip, arriving several months before the Master's Mahanirvana in 1950. Her joy of being with the Master, walking amidst a crowd of devotees directly behind him, is captured in the Archival Films. She kept in touch with the Ashrama from her California residence till her last days, in the mid 1970s.

Crisis in Life

A few years ago I reached a crisis in my life. After years of anguish and sleepless nights, I was in a critical condition. When things seemed darkest I had an unusual feeling that I should go away. I discussed it with my twin, Betty, and decided to take a trip around the world. After making the reservation I became very ill and had to cancel it. One obstacle after another presented itself until it seemed as though I were not to go, and being so ill I did not care if I went or not. Still there always seemed to be something urging me to go and my sister also felt that I should. After a few weeks of rest I felt better and made reservations on another ship that was to sail a month later, but when the time arrived for sailing I was still not able to leave my bed. The boat sailed from San Francisco through the Panama Canal reaching New Orleans a month later. The steamship agent suggested my going there by train, which takes three days instead of one month, hoping I would feel better in the meantime.

I had a very trying trip to New Orleans, and upon arriving I collapsed and was taken to a Christian Science practitioner's home, where they put me to bed and took care of me. They thought I was in no condition to take a long trip, but I felt as though I must. I could not turn back. Fortunately the boat was two weeks late; otherwise I would not have been able to sail. The steamship agent said, "You do not look very well. If the Captain sees you I am afraid he will not take you, as we do not carry a physician." However, finally he agreed to my going but said, "Do not let the Captain see you until we are out at sea." Though outward conditions were very dark, I went, knowing that God would take care of me. I felt as though I were led and if I had not followed that inner voice which prompted me I would never have had the blessed experience of finding the happiest part of my life in the presence of Bhagavan Sri Ramana.
I Want To Find Myself

The doctor who vaccinated me before I left, knew that I was not well. He said, "Why are you taking the trip?" I replied, "I want to find myself." I was seeking something I had not found -- Peace. Somehow my mind would always turn to India, especially during those days when I was in bed.

We sailed from New Orleans to Cape Town, South Africa, a three weeks' trip without a stop. Providence was with me again, for had the boat stopped, I believe, I would have returned home. But God had other plans for me. I was torn between conflicting emotions and became worse again. My prayers seemed of no avail. I would have the most dreadful nightmares and wake up crying. Icould not bear it any longer; so I sent a radiogram to the doctor: "Need help in every way, especially at night. Cold much worse; filled with fear. Will write from Cape Town." I don't know what I was afraid of, but my mind was never at peace. I felt better for a while but found it necessary to send a second cable. Therefore, had the boat stopped on its way to Cape Town, I should have disembarked and returned home. But Providence has always the upper hand. When we reached Cape Town, I felt much better; but as I did not like that ship I disembarked at Durban, South Africa, where I spent one month waiting for another boat.
Arriving in India

As we approached India I decided to get off at Madras, instead of going on to Calcutta, where the ship would be in dry-dock for two weeks. The people on board gave all sorts of reasons why I should not get off at Madras. It was very difficult to leave them; nevertheless I did, so they took me to the Connemara Hotel, saying it was not safe to stop at a second-rate hotel because of the food, etc. After my friends had gone I felt lost and went to my room and, with tears in my eyes, prayed for guidance. All night the heat was intense, so the next morning I asked the proprietor if he could suggest a cooler place. He said the hill station Kodaikanal was lovely and cool. So I made my plans to leave Madras immediately. Motoring there, I found it to be a charming place. The very first day I met two Hindu brothers and I asked them if they knew any Seers? I have no explanation to offer as to why I put that question. I anticipated nothing. They said they knew of one at Tiruvannamalai, Sri Ramana Maharshi. "People come from far and near to see Him. He left home," they said, "when he was twelve-years old and never went to school. He is the greatest Seer in India. It is difficult to find one that is genuine." This is what they told me about Bhagavan; of course, these facts are not accurate.

I decided to leave for Tiruvannamalai the next day.

My friends helped me in every way, told me to buy somebedding, etc., but did not tell me that it was the custom to take a gift to the Holy Man; in fact I knew nothing aboutlife at an Ashram. When I left Madras I had no idea I would have this experience, but was eager to go, and feltas though something momentous was about to happen.

When I told the guests in the hotel my plans, they said it was not safe to go alone, as the place (the Ashram) was in a jungle, and I would not endure the hardships and humidity, as I had been in India only a few days and was not acclimatized. An English official and his wife insisted upon getting all the details in order to keep track of me. I bought a ticket for Madura as my friends told me to see the temples there, but I decided not to go to Madura, as I was anxious to reach my destination. So I left the car at Kodaikanal Road and took the train for Tiruvannamalai.
At the Ashram

After arriving there I engaged a bullock cart to take me to the Ashram, where I was greeted by some of the inmates, including Niranjanananda Swami, brother of Sri Bhagavan. They told me that Sri Bhagavan was on the hill, but would be in the hall shortly, and graciously invited me to have my breakfast. My heart throbbed with expectation as I was taken to the hall. As I entered it I felt the atmosphere was filled with Sri Bhagavan's purity and blessedness. One feels a breath of the Divine in the Sage's presence. He was sitting on a couch, clad only in a loincloth, surrounded by His devotees. When He smiled it was as though the gates of Heaven were thrown open. I have never seen eyes more alight with Divine Illumination -- they shine like stars. He greeted me very tenderly and made some enquiries about me, which put me at ease. His look of Love and Compassionwas a benediction that went straight to my heart. I was immediately drawn to Him. His greatness and kindness is all embracing. One feels such an uplifting influence in His Saintly Presence and cannot help but sense His extraordinary spirituality. It is not necessary for Him to talk. His silent influence of Love and Light is more potent than words could ever be. I did not know what manner of man I expected to find. But once I saw Him, I said to myself, `Surely,there is no one like Sri Bhagavan!' I do not think there is another like Him on earth today. To see Him is to love Him. After spending the morning with Him, I had lunch at eleven o'clock and rested until 2 P.M.. Then I returned to the hall. As I looked upon Sri Bhagavan's serene face and into His eyes, which beamed with mercy, my soul was stirred. He knew how much I needed Him, while He looked straight into my heart. Every one who comes to Him is blessed; the inner Peace, which is His, is radiated to all. A beautiful sight are the little children, kneeling before the Master as He blesses them and smiles so tenderly, sometimes taking one in His arms, reminding me of the painting, "Christ Blessing the Children." Later I walked around the grounds, talked to the devotees. At seven o'clock I had a light meal; then I had the opportunity to say just a few words to Sri Bhagavan about my journey. Some time later I went to the Traveller's Bungalow, as ladies are not allowed to stay in the Ashram at night.

I would like to say here, that the one reason why I had been in such a rundown condition was that I had not slept well for years, although I had been taking medicine, which never gave me any relief. Although I said nothing to Sri Bhagavan about this, the amazing thing was that I slept soundly the first night and thereafter without taking any medicine, though I lacked the many comforts I had been accustomed to. I received "the Medicine of all medicines, the unfailing grace of the Lord, whose name is Heart." I arose next morning, feeling refreshed, as though I were born anew. Soon after, one afternoon, as I was standing by the gate, Sri Bhagavan stopped, while on His way to the Hillside, and asked me if I had more peace. His loving solicitude made me feel quite at home; and when He smiled, my joy knew no bounds.

During those sacred hours with the Master I unconsciously absorbed the Truth, which He embodies; it filled all my being. My love blossomed into deep devotion and I was filled with ineffable peace. The things which seemed so vital before were no longer of any importance. I could see things in their correct perspective; the heartaches of yesterday and thoughts of tomorrow faded into oblivion. Here, in the Ashram, far away from the noise and confusion of the busy highways, silence reigns. It is broken only by the bleating of the sheep and goats and the songs of the birds and the shepherd's song as he takes his flockshome to rest. Time seems to stand still in this peaceful, sacred retreat, amidst the beauties of nature, with its lovely flower gardens and beautiful pools, which are surrounded by knarred oak-like trees, that greet you like old friends. It is so primitive, but therein lies its charm. It is truly the Holy Land. The air is permeated with His peace and love. Looking upon eternal Arunachala, `The Hill of Light,' one is filled with awe and is overwhelmed by a great Spiritual Power. Everything is vibrant and speaks to us in Silence. On full-moon night it is especially inspiring to go around the hill. In this deep silence and quietude one readily hears the voice of God. In the inspiring words of the Master from the Five Hymns to Arunachala: "Only to convey by Silence Thy Transcendent State Thou standest as a Hill, shining from heaven to earth." One may also say with the Psalmist, "Be Still And Know That I Am God." These were among the first words spoken to me by Sri Bhagavan and the last ones before I left for America. I had always loved to meditate upon them, but now they seemed to take on a new meaning and filled my heart with bliss. I had been at the Ashram for two months, then made arrangements to sail one month later. I wanted to know more about India before going home. So I reluctantly made plans to leave the place. I had grown to love it and was very sad during those last days. Bhagavan said, "I will always be with you, wherever you go."

When the last day arrived I could not stop crying. Therefore, I did not go to the hall but sat by the pool. In the afternoon when I sat before Bhagavan, He smiled and said, "She has been crying all day; she does not want to leave Me." He was so sweet and tender. Later I went to Him for His blessing; the pain of parting was almost more than I could bear; with tears in my eyes I knelt in deepest reverence and devotion before my Beloved Master. May He always be my Father, Mother and God; and may I always be His child, and whatever I do, may it be in His Name!

I then said goodbye to the devotees who had been so kind to me. As I drove to the station in the little cart, my heart grew heavy because I was leaving my Bhagavan, but I had so very much to be thankful for, having had the privilege of spending two months in His presence and been blessed beyond measure. Indeed, I was not the same person who had come to Him two months earlier. When I reached Madras I wanted to return to Bhagavan, I really did not want to tour India; nevertheless I went from Madras to Srinagar in Kashmir, then to Calcutta (wherefrom I expected to sail for America). I had a pleasant trip, stopped at many interesting places along the way and was led to many people who were helpful and kind. What I would like to bring out is the way in which I was guided and protected. I had some blessed experiences, also two breathtaking ones on the train, and on one occasion I narrowly escaped death. It was the hottest season of the year, yet I felt no ill effects. A physician who was stopping at the same hotel in Agra said it was miraculousthe way I traveled in the heat; he had seen strong Hindus drop like flies owing to the heat, which did not seem to bother me. I could hear Bhagavan's words: "I will always be with you, wherever you go." His dear face was always before me, no matter what I was doing. His presence filled all my heart. My eyes were filled with tears many times as I thought of returning to America without seeing Him again. One day I seemed to hear Him say, `Come back to Me again'. During the time I was separated from the Master my love and faith had deepened, and I decided to return to Him as soon as possible.

Returning to the Master

I changed my plans. Instead of going back to America by the next boat, I took the train, leaving Calcutta for Tiruvannamalai. Queer to say, I felt as though I were going home! The tender way Bhagavan greeted me, as I stood before him, will live in my heart always. I wept with joy knowing I was thrice blessed in being able to return to him. As I basked in his Eternal Sunshine in those silent hours of communion I was filled with his Grace.

It is a privilege to have some meals with the Master; to eat the food that he has handled is in itself a blessing. He would rise at dawn and help cut the vegetables, very often helping also to prepare special dishes that were delicious. The devotees prepared special food for me, and it was wholesome and good. Bhagavan was always considerate to everyone, he wanted to be sure there was plenty of everything; and the rich and poor received the same kind attention, as also the animals; no distinction was ever shown. One day I saw Bhagavan stoop down and pick up three grains of rice. That simple act taught me much more than what I could have learnt by studying ten volumes on domestic economy which is so essential in present day life but is so difficult to practise. Each day brought new lessons and Blessings. He grew nearer and dearer to me as time passed and my only wish was to be by his side.

Silent Adoration

The monsoon was on, the air was fresh and clean and all the earth seemed radiant. Whenever it rained Bhagavan's attendants put a white cloth on his chest to protect his body from the cold weather. He looked like a sweet child wearing a bib, and with all his wisdom and greatness one is struck by his childlike nature. At other times he looks like the King of kings; His poise and dignity are outstanding. When some times at night he would throw a shawl over his head, he looked like the Madonna. I would stand outside in silent adoration. Again, at other times he looked like a devoted father, smiling upon his children. I loved to watch him as he walked up the hill, just when the sun was setting. And it was my greatest delight when I could go with him.

One morning I picked a lovely rose; my first thought was to give it to the Master. A devotee said, "What a beautiful rose!"

I replied, "Yes, it is for Bhagavan." I sat in the hall, wondering if I should give it to him. After a few minutes I laid it on the small footstool near his sofa, and he said, "What is that?"

I replied, "Only a rose."

He said, "Give it to me." He took the rose and touched it to his forehead and cheeks. I was so deeply touched, I wept.

The 1939 Jayanti

I had the great privilege of being at the Ashram in 1939 for Sri Bhagavan's birthday celebration when, as on such occasions, thousands of people were fed. He is, indeed, a friend of the poor. A special leaf-covered shelter is erected for the occasion, so that many devotees who come for the celebration may sit in the presence of Bhagavan. One can never forget the Master as he sits there on his couch so majestically, amidst garlands of flowers, surrounded by his loving devotees, who are so happy to be with him at that time. It is a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for everyone, even the animals.

As I walked along that night and looked at Arunachala, so silent, I was held spellbound by the beautiful sight. The brightest star in the heavens shone directly above its peak, like a great Beacon Light to tell us, as it were: "This is the Holy Land, the abode of Bhagavan, the Lord of the Universe, whose greatness and spiritual power have drawn men from the remote parts of the earth, who come and kneel down and worship him, singing songs of adoration and praise to proclaim his glory."

Lord of Love

When I left America I longed for Peace; there was a yearning in my heart that would not let me rest. Here at the feet of the Lord of Love, peace and happiness garlanded me and enriched my being. I know that Bhagavan led me to this haven of rest. In the words of Sri Bhagavan himself:

To quote a letter from the Ashram: "So then, Sri Bhagavan will guide you at every step; for, has he not guided you even before you knew you were really in search of him?"

Leaving the Ashram

I had been planning to leave the Ashram for five months, but each time I thought I was going, something unforeseen presented itself. It was not his will that I should go. Bhagavan says, "Your plans are of no avail." I did not want to go but felt I should. My twin sister wrote several times and said there were matters which needed my attention; and she was very ill, although I did not know it at the time, somehow I sensed it. That was probably the reason why I felt I should leave.

As the time to leave drew near I was very sad; I knew this time I would really go. It had been eight months since I returned to the Ashram for the second time! Those last days I spent with the Master were blissful. He was so kind and tender, and when he smiled at me, tears would fill my eyes. I wondered how I could ever leave the place. When the day of parting came, I could not stop crying. In the morning, I walked on the Hill with Bhagavan and some other devotees; then again in the afternoon, when we had our pictures taken with him. As I walked down the Hill with him for the last time he alone knew what was in my heart.

Just before I left I went to him for his blessing and wept at his feet, as my heart overflowed with adoration and love. He is dearer to me than life itself. May I consecrate my life to him! Then I said good-bye to the devotees in the Ashram, who were invariably kind to me.

I have tried in my humble way to tell about the wonderful experience I had when I was at Sri Ramanasramam with the Enlightened One, but mere words can never express the peace and joy one feels in his Presence; it must be experienced. There, one truly has a glimpse of the Eternal.

As I am writing this article in 1946 (six years after I left the Ashram), I would like to say that I have felt the Master's Presence more and more with the passage of time, just as he said I would. My devotion and faith have grown through the years and will never be shaken under any circumstances. I am very happy to say that I shall be returning soon to my Beloved Master. I hear his call!

Needless to say this was the most blessed experience of my life, my stay at the feet of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the Lord of Love and Compassion. May I be worthy of the many blessings and the great Love he has so graciously bestowed upon me!


Oh Lord of Love, Who dwells within my heart!
May I sing Thy Praise through all Eternity,
Thou, the Adorable One, the All compassionate,
Whose Loving smile illumines all the world,
Who art tender as a mother and strong as a father,
Thou, whose sublime life is an inspiring sermon,
Fill me with Thy Presence, Beloved Master,
with the Nectar of Thy Grace;
May Thy great Love and Light fill my heart to the full.
Resting secure in Thy Presence
And knowing whence cometh Peace, Guidance and Strength,
May I always listen;
for, in the Silence I hear Thy Voice,
The Voice of God.
Eleanor Pauline Noye, California