Sunday, 3 June, 2007


ALTHOUGH THE DOCTRINE Sri Bhagavan taught never

varied, the way of teaching varies according to the character

and understanding of the questioner. During the years on the hill, records were kept of the experiences of some of the devotees and of the expositions they received, and a few of these are given below. Indeed, it may be said that the experiences of his devotees constitute the biography of Sri Bhagavan, since he himself was established in the immutability beyond events and experiences.


Sivaprakasam Pillai was one of the intellectuals among the devotees. He had taken philosophy at the university and had already pondered over the mysteries of Being. In 1900 he was appointed to

a post in the Revenue Department in South Arcot District. Two years later his work took him to Tiruvannamalai and he heard of the young Swami on the Hill. He was captivated at the very first visit and became a devotee. He put fourteen questions and, since the Swami was still maintaining silence, both questions and answers were in writing. The answer to the first question was written by the Swami on a slate and immediately copied out by Sivaprakasam Pillai. The other thirteen were written out later from memory but checked by Sri Bhagavan before being published.

SP: Swami, who am I? And how is salvation to be attained?

B: By incessant inward enquiry `Who am I??' you will know

yourself and thereby attain salvation.

SP: Who am I?

B: The real I or Self is not the body, nor any of the five senses,

nor the sense-objects, nor the organs of action, nor the prana [?] (breath or vital force), nor the mind, nor even the deep sleep state where there is no cognisance of these.

SP: If I am none of these what else am I?

B: After rejecting each of these and saying `this I am not', that

which alone remains is the `I', and that is Consciousness.

SP: What is the nature of that Consciousness?

B: It is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss) in which

there is not even the slightest trace of the I-thought. This is also called Mouna [?] (Silence) or Atma (Self ). That is the only thing that is. If the trinity of world, ego and God are considered as separate entities they are mere illusions like the appearance of silver in mother of pearl. God, ego and world are really Siva swarupa [?] (the Form of Siva) or Atma swarupa [?] (the form of the Spirit).

SP: How are we to realize that Real?

B: When the things seen disappear the true nature of the seer

or subject appears.

SP: Is it not possible to realize That while still seeing external


B: No, because the seer and the seen are like the rope and the

appearance of a serpent therein. Until you get rid of the appearance of a serpent you cannot see that what exists is only the rope.

SP: When will external objects vanish?

B: If the mind, which is the cause of all thoughts and activities,

vanishes, external objects will also vanish.

SP: What is the nature of the mind?

B: The mind is only thoughts. It is a form of energy. It manifests

itself as the world. When the mind sinks into the Self then the Self is realized; when the mind issues forth the world appears and the Self is not realized.

SP: How will the mind vanish?

B: Only through the enquiry `Who am I?' Though this enquiry

also is a mental operation, it destroys all mental operations, including itself, just as the stick with which the funeral pyre is stirred is itself reduced to ashes after the pyre and corpses have been burnt. Only then comes Realization of the Self. The I-thought is destroyed, breath and the other signs of vitality subside. The ego and the prana [?] (breath or vital force) have a common source. Whatever you do, do without egoism, that is without the feeling `I am doing this'. When a man reaches that state even his own wife will appear to him as the Universal Mother. True Bhakti [?] (devotion) is surrender of the ego to the Self.

SP: Are there no other ways of destroying the mind?

B: There is no other adequate method except Self-enquiry. If the

mind is lulled by other means it stays quiet for a little while and then springs up again and resumes its former activity.

SP: But when will all the instincts and tendencies (vasanas [?]),

such as that to self-preservation, be subdued in us?

B: The more you withdraw into the Self, the more these

tendencies wither, and finally they drop off.

SP: Is it really possible to root out all these tendencies that have

soaked into our minds through many births?

B: Never yield room in your mind for such doubts, but dive

into the Self with firm resolve. If the mind is constantly directed to the Self by this enquiry it is eventually dissolved and transformed into the Self. When you feel any doubt do not try to elucidate it but to know who it is to whom the doubt occurs.

SP: How long should one go on with this enquiry?

B: As long as there is the least trace of tendencies in your

mind to cause thoughts. So long as the enemy occupy a citadel they will keep on making sorties. If you kill each one as he comes out, the citadel will fall to you in the end. Similarly, each time a thought rears its head crush it with this enquiry. To crush out all thoughts at their source is called vairagya [?] (dispassion). So vichara [?] (Self- enquiry) continues to be necessary until the Self is realized. What is required is continuous and uninterrupted remembrance of the Self.

SP: Is not this world and what takes place therein the result of

God's will? And if so why should God will thus?

B: God has no purpose. He is not bound by any action. The

world's activities cannot affect Him. Take the analogy of the sun. The sun rises without desire, purpose or effort, but as soon as it rises numerous activities take place on earth: the lens placed in its rays produces fire in its focus, the lotus bud opens, water evaporates, and every living creature enters upon activity, maintains it, and finally drops it. But the sun is not affected by any such activity, as it merely acts according to its nature, by fixed laws, without any purpose, and is only a witness. So it is with God. Or

take the analogy of space or ether. Earth, water, fire and air are all in it and have their modifications in it, yet none of these affects ether or space. It is the same with God. God has no desire or purpose in His acts of creation, maintenance destruction, withdrawal and salvation to which beings are subjected. As the beings reap the fruit of their actions in accordance with His laws, the responsibility is theirs, not God's. God is not bound by any actions.

Sri Bhagavan's saying that the true nature of him who sees appears only when the things seen disappear is not to be taken literally as stipulating unawareness of the physical world. That would be a state of formless trance or nirvikalpa samadhi [?]; what is meant is that they cease to appear real and are seen as mere forms assumed by the Self. This is made clear by the example of the rope and the serpent that follows. It is a traditional example, used also by Sri Shankara. A man sees a coiled rope in the dusk and mistakes it for a serpent and is therefore frightened. When day dawns he sees that it was only a rope and that his fear was groundless. The Reality of Being is the rope, the illusion of a serpent that frightened him is the objective world.

The statement that to crush out thoughts at their source is

vairagya [?] also requires elucidation. The meaning of vairagya [?] is dispassion, detachment, equanimity. Sivaprakasam Pillai's question as to when the instincts and latent tendencies in a man could be subdued shows that it was vairagya [?] that he felt the need to strive after. Sri Bhagavan was, in effect, telling him that vichara [?] or Self-enquiry is the shortest road to vairagya [?]. Passion and attachment are in the mind; therefore when the mind is controlled they are subdued, and that is vairagya [?].

These answers were later expanded and arranged in book form as `Who Am I?' perhaps the most widely appreciated prose exposition by Sri Bhagavan.

By 1910 Sivaprakasam Pillai already found government service irksome and an impediment to sadhana [?] or spiritual quest. He was sufficiently well-to-do to lead the life of a householder without earning, so he resigned from service. Three years later he was faced with the real decision, whether his resignation meant withdrawal from the life of the world or whether he was merely renouncing what was irksome and retaining what was pleasant. His wife died and he had to decide whether to marry again or to take up the life of a sadhu. He was still barely middle aged and there was a girl he was strongly attracted to. But then the question of money also arose if he was to marry again and to set up a new household.

He shrank at first from asking Sri Bhagavan about such matters, perhaps realising in his heart what the reply would be; so he tried to obtain an answer in another way. He wrote out four questions on a piece of paper.

1. What am I to do to escape all sorrows and cares on earth? 2. Shall I get married to the girl I am thinking of? 3. If not, why not? 4. If the marriage is to come off, how is the necessary

money to be raised?

With this he proceeded to a temple of Vighneswara, the aspect of God to which he had been wont to pray from childhood. He placed the paper before the idol and kept vigil all night, praying that the answer might appear written on the paper or that he might receive some sign or vision.

Nothing happened and he had now no other recourse but to approach the Swami. He went to Virupaksha Cave but still shrank from putting the questions. Day after day he postponed doing so. Even though Sri Bhagavan never encouraged anyone to renounce home life, that did not mean that he would encourage one whom destiny itself had set free to go back deliberately for a second dose. Sivaprakasam Pillai gradually felt

the answer borne in upon him from the sight of the Swami's own life in its serene purity, utterly indifferent to women, utterly unconcerned about money. The date he had fixed for his departure arrived with the questions still unasked. There were many people about that day, so that even if he had still wished to put his questions he could not without making them public. He sat gazing on the Swami, and as he gazed he suddenly beheld a halo of dazzling light about his head and a golden child emerging from his head and then re-entering. Was it a living reply that the progeny is not of the flesh but of the Spirit? A flood of ecstasy came over him. The strain of his long period of doubt and indecision was broken and he sobbed in pure relief.

It is an illustration of the great normality that prevailed around Sri Bhagavan that when Sivaprakasam Pillai told the other devotees what had happened some of them laughed or were incredulous and some suspected that he had taken a drug. Although many instances of visions and unusual occurrences could be culled, they would be spread out very thinly over the fifty and more years of Sri Bhagavan's manifestation among us.

Overcome with joy, Sivaprakasam Pillai gave up all thought of leaving that day. The next evening, as he sat before Sri Bhagavan, he again had a vision. This time Bhagavan's body shone like the morning sun and round him a halo as of full moons. Then again he saw the entire body covered with sacred ashes and the eyes glowing with compassion. Again two days later he had a vision, this time as though the body of Sri Bhagavan was of pure crystal. He was overwhelmed and feared to leave lest the joy surging in his heart should cease. Eventually he returned to his village, the unasked questions answered. He spent the rest of his life in celibacy and austerity. All these experiences he described in a Tamil poem. He also wrote other poems in praise of Sri Bhagavan, some of which are still sung by the devotees.


Not all comers understood the silent upadesa [?] (instruction) of Sri Bhagavan. Natesa Mudaliar did eventually but it took him a long time. He was an elementary school teacher when he read Vivekananda and became fired with eagerness to renounce the world and find a Guru. Friends told him of the Swami on Arunachala Hill but added that it was well-nigh hopeless to seek upadesa [?] (guidance) of him. Nevertheless, Mudaliar decided to try. It was in 1918 and Sri Bhagavan was already at Skandashram. Mudaliar went there and sat before him, but Sri Bhagavan remained silent and Mudaliar, not presuming to speak first, came away disappointed.

Having failed in this attempt, he travelled about visiting other Swamis but found none in whom he felt the Divine Presence and to whom he could surrender. After two years' fruitless search he wrote a long letter to Sri Bhagavan imploring him not to be selfishly indifferent to the fate of longing souls and asking permission to come again, since his first visit had been ineffective. A month passed with no reply. Then he sent a registered letter, acknowledgement due, and this time he wrote: "However many rebirths I have to go through, I am determined to receive upadesa [?] from you and you alone. So you will have to be reborn for that purpose if you give me up in this life as too unprepared or immature to receive your upadesa [?]. I swear to this."

A few days later Sri Bhagavan appeared to him in a dream and said: "Do not think continually of me. You must first obtain the Grace of God Maheswara, the Lord of the Bull. First meditate on him and secure his Grace. My help will follow as a matter of course." He had a picture in his house of God Maheswara riding upon a bull and he took this as a support for meditation. A few days later he received an answer to his letter, "The Maharshi does not reply to letters; you can come and see him in person."

He wrote once more to make sure that the letter was written at Sri Bhagavan's bidding and then set out for Tiruvannamalai. Following the course prescribed in his dream, he went first to the great temple in town, where he had darshan [?] (enjoyed the presence) of Lord Arunachaleswar and spent the night. A Brahmin whom he met there tried to dissuade him from his purpose. "Now listen, I have spent sixteen years near Ramana Maharshi trying in vain to obtain his Anugraham [?] (Grace). He is indifferent to everything. Even if you break your head there, he will not be interested to ask why. Since it is impossible to obtain his Grace there is no point in your visiting him."

This is a remarkable illustration of the understanding that

Sri Bhagavan required of his devotees. Where those whose hearts were open would find him more solicitous than a mother and some would tremble with awe, one who judged by outward signs would find none. Natesa Mudaliar was not the sort of man to be put off. Since he insisted on going, the other told him: "Anyhow, you can find out in this way whether you will have the good luck to obtain his Grace. There is a Swami on the Hill by the name of Seshadri who mixes with none and generally drives away people who try to approach him. It you can obtain some mark of favour from him it will be a good augury for success."

Next morning Mudaliar set out with J.V. Subrahmanya

Iyer, a colleague in his profession, in quest of the elusive Seshadri Swami. After much searching they saw him and, to Mudaliar's relief and astonishment, he himself approached them. Without needing to be told their errand, he addressed Mudaliar: "My poor child! Why are you grieved and anxious? What is Jnana [?] (Knowledge)? After the mind rejects objects, one after another, as transient and unreal, That which survives this elimination is Jnana [?]. That is God. Everything is That and That alone. It is folly to run hither and thither in the belief that Jnana [?] can be attained only by going to a hill or a cave. Go without fear."

Thus did he give not his upadesa [?] (instruction) but that of Sri Bhagavan, in the very words Bhagavan might have used.

Buoyed up by this propitious augury, they proceeded up the hillside to Skandashram. It was about noon when they arrived. For five or six hours Mudaliar sat before Sri Bhagavan and no word passed between them; then the evening meal was ready and Sri Bhagavan rose to go out. J.V.S. Iyer said to him, "This is the man who wrote those letters." Sri Bhagavan thereupon looked fixedly at him and then turned and went out, still without speaking.

Month after month Mudaliar came back for a day and sat there, mutely imploring, but Sri Bhagavan never spoke to him, nor did he presume to speak first. After a full year had elapsed in this way he could endure it no longer and at last he said, "I wish to learn and experience what your Grace is, as people differ in their accounts of it."

Sri Bhagavan replied: "I am always giving my Grace. If you can't apprehend it what am I to do?"

Even now Mudaliar did not understand the silent upadesa [?]

(guidance); he was still confused as to what path he should follow. Shortly afterwards Sri Bhagavan appeared to him in a dream and said: "Let your vision be unified and withdrawn from objects, both external and internal. Thus, as differences disappear you will progress." Mudaliar understood this to apply to his physical sight and replied: "This does not seem to me the right way. If such a superior person as you gives me advice like this who will give me true advice?" However, Sri Bhagavan assured him that it was the right way.

The next development Mudaliar himself has described: "I followed this dream upadesa [?] for a while, then I had another dream. This time Sri Bhagavan appeared to me while my father was standing by and asked, pointing to my father, "Who is this?" With some hesitation about the philosophical accuracy of the answer I replied, "My father". Maharshi smiled at me significantly and I added, "My

answer is in accordance with common parlance but not with philosophy", because I remembered that I was not the body. Maharshi drew me to him and placed his palm first on my head and then on my right breast, pressing his finger over the nipple. It was rather painful, but as it was his Grace I endured it quietly. I did not know then why he pressed the right breast instead of the left"1

Thus, having failed to receive the silent initiation, he was given, even though in a dream, the initiation by touch.

He was one of those whose eagerness and desire to make every effort drove them to the idea of renouncing home life and going forth as a penniless wanderer. As in other cases, Sri Bhagavan discouraged this. "Just as you avoid the cares of home life when you are here, go home and try to be equally unconcerned and unaffected there." Mudaliar still lacked the full reliance and conviction of a disciple towards his Guru and he made the renunciation despite Sri Bhagavan's clear injunction. He found, as Sri Bhagavan had predicted, that the difficulties on his path grew greater, not less, and after a few years returned to his family and took up work again. After this his devotion deepened. He composed Tamil poems in praise of Sri Bhagavan. And at last he received, more fully than most others, the verbal instructions that he had so longed for, for it was he who was the recipient of a large part of the expositions contained in A Catechism of Instruction in which is most beautifully set forth the doctrine of the Guru and his Grace.


Altogether outstanding among the devotees was Ganapati

Sastri, known also as Ganapati Muni (i.e. `the Sage Ganapati') and given the honorific title of Kavyakanta (one who has poetry in his throat i.e, an extempore poet) for his pre-eminence in Sanskrit extempore verse disputation. He was a man of towering ability

that would have placed him in the very forefront of modern writers and scholars had he had the ambition and that would have made him a great Spiritual Master had he totally lacked ambition, but he fell between the two. Too much turned to God to seek success or fame, he was nevertheless too anxious to aid and uplift mankind to escape from the I-am-the-doer illusion.

At the time of his birth in 1878 (one year before that of

Sri Bhagavan) his father was at Benares before an image of the God Ganapati and beheld a vision of a child running up to him from the God; therefore he named his child Ganapati. For the first five years of his life Ganapati was dumb and subject to epileptic fits and seemed anything but a promising child. Then he was cured, it seems, by branding with a red-hot iron, and immediately began to display his marvellous ability. By the age of ten he had written Sanskrit verse and prepared an astrological almanac besides mastering several Kavyas (Sanskrit works) and grammars. At fourteen he had mastered the Panchakavyas and the chief books on Sanskrit prosody and rhetoric, read the Ramayana and Mahabharata and some of the Puranas. He could already speak and write fluent Sanskrit. Like Sri Bhagavan, he had a phenomenal memory. Whatever he read or heard, he remembered and, again like Sri Bhagavan, he had the ability of ashtavadhana, that is of giving his attention to a number of different things at the same time.

The stories of the ancient Rishis fired him with emulation and from the age of eighteen, shortly after his marriage, he began travelling about India, visiting sacred places, repeating mantras (sacred phrases) and performing tapas [?] (asceticism). In 1900 he attended a meeting of Sanskrit pandits at Nadiya in Bengal, where his extraordinary facility in impromptu versification and brilliant philosophic disputation won him the title of Kavyakanta already referred to. In 1903 he came to Tiruvannamalai and twice visited the Brahmana Swami on the Hill. For awhile he took a job as

school teacher in Vellore, a few hours railway journey from Tiruvannamalai, and there he gathered round him a group of disciples who were to develop their Sakti (power or energy) by the use of mantras to such an extent that the subtle influence would permeate and uplift the whole nation, if not all mankind.

The life of a teacher could not hold him for long. By 1907 he was back again in Tiruvannamalai. But by now doubts began to oppress him. He was approaching middle age and with all his brilliance and vast learning and all his mantras and tapas [?] he had not attained success as yet either with God or the world. He felt that he had come to a dead end. On the ninth day of the Kartikai festival he suddenly remembered the Swami on the Hill. Surely he must have the answer. As soon as the impulse came he acted on it. In the heat of the afternoon sun he climbed the hill to Virupaksha Cave. The Swami was sitting alone on the veranda of the cave. Sastri fell on his face before him and clasped his feet with outstretched hands. In a voice quivering with emotion, he said: "All that has to be read I have read; even Vedanta Sastra I have fully understood; I have performed japa [?] (invocation) to my heart's content; yet have I not up to this time understood what tapas [?] is. Therefore I have sought refuge at your feet. Pray enlighten me as to the nature of tapas [?]."

The Swami turned his silent gaze upon him for some fifteen minutes and then replied: "If one watches whence the notion `I' arises, the mind is absorbed into That; that is tapas [?]. When a mantra is repeated, if one watches the Source from which the mantra sound is produced the mind is absorbed in That; that is tapas [?]."

It was not so much the words spoken that filled him with joy as the Grace radiating from the Swami. With the exuberant vitality that he put into everything, he wrote to friends of the upadesa [?] he had received and began composing praises of the Swami in Sanskrit verse. He learned from Palaniswami that the Swami's

name had been Venkataramana and declared that henceforth he must be known as Bhagavan Sri Ramana and as the Maharshi. The name `Ramana' immediately came into use; so also did the title Maharshi (Maha-Rishi, the Great Rishi). It long remained customary to refer to him in speech and writing as `the Maharshi'. However, the practice gradually prevailed among the devotees of addressing him in the third person as `Bhagavan', which means `the Divine' or simply `God'. He himself usually spoke impersonally, avoiding the use of the word `I'. For instance, he did not actually say, "I did not know when the sun rose or when it set," as quoted in Chapter Five, but "Who knew when the sun rose or when it set?" Sometimes also he referred to his body as `this'. Only in making a statement in which the word `God' would be appropriate did he say `Bhagavan' and speak in the third person. For instance, when my daughter was going back to school and he was asked to remember her while she was away, the reply was, "If Kitty remembers Bhagavan, Bhagavan will remember Kitty."

Ganapati Sastri also liked to refer to Sri Bhagavan as a manifestation of Lord Subrahmanya; however in this the devotees rightly refused to follow him, feeling that to regard Sri Bhagavan as a manifestation of any one divine aspect was to attempt to limit the illimitable. Nor did Sri Bhagavan countenance the identification. A visitor once said to him, "If Bhagavan is an avatar of Subrahmanya, as some people say, why does he not tell us so openly instead of leaving us to guess?"

And he replied, "What is an avatar? An avatar is only a manifestation of one aspect of God, whereas a Jnani [?] is God Himself."

About a year after his meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapati

Sastri experienced a remarkable outflow of his Grace. While he was sitting in meditation in the temple of Ganapati at Tiruvothiyur he felt distracted and longed intensely for the presence and guidance of Sri Bhagavan. At that moment Sri Bhagavan entered the temple. Ganapati Sastri prostrated himself

before him and, as he was about to rise, he felt Sri Bhagavan's hand upon his head and a terrifically vital force coursing through his body from the touch, so that he also received Grace by touch from the Master.

Speaking about this incident in later years, Sri Bhagavan said: "One day, some years ago I was lying down and awake when I distinctly felt my body rise higher and higher. I could see the physical objects below growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared and all around me was a limitless expanse of dazzling light. After some time I felt the body slowly descend and the physical objects below began to appear. I was so fully aware of this incident that I finally concluded that it must be by such means that Siddhas (Sages with powers) travel over vast distances in a short time and appear and disappear in such a mysterious manner. While the body thus descended to the ground it occurred to me that I was at Tiruvothiyur though I had never seen the place before. I found myself on a highroad and walked along it. At some distance from the roadside was a temple of Ganapati and I entered it."

This incident is very characteristic of Sri Bhagavan. It is characteristic that the distress or devotion of one of his people should call forth an involuntary response and intervention in a form that can only be called miraculous, and it is also characteristic that Sri Bhagavan, with all powers at his feet, should be no more interested to use powers of the subtle than of the physical world, and when some such thing happened in response to the appeal of a devotee should say with the simplicity of a child, "I suppose that is what Siddhas do."

It was just this indifference that Ganapati Sastri failed to attain. He asked once, "Is seeking the source of the I-thought sufficient for the attainment of all my aims or is mantra dhyana (incantation) needed?" Always the same: his aims, his ambitions, the regeneration of the country, the revitalisation of religion.

Sri Bhagavan replied curtly, "The former will suffice." And when Sastri continued about his aims and ideals he added: "It will be better if you throw the entire burden on the Lord. He will carry all the burdens and you will be free from them. He will do his part."

In 1917 Ganapati Sastri and other devotees put a number of questions to Sri Bhagavan and the questions and answers have been recorded in a book entitled Sri Ramana Gita, more erudite and doctrinal than most of the books. Characteristically, one of the questions that Ganapati Sastri asked was whether someone who attained Jnana (Self-realization), as it were, by the way while seeking some specific powers would find his original desires fulfilled. And nowhere is Sri Bhagavan's swift and subtle humour better illustrated than in the reply he gave, "If the Yogi, though starting upon Yoga for the fulfilment of his desires, gained Knowledge in the meantime he would not be unduly elated even though his desires were likewise fulfilled."

About 1934 Ganapati Sastri settled down in the village of

Nimpura near Kharagpur with a group of followers and from then until his death some two years later devoted himself wholly to tapas [?] (asceticism). Sri Bhagavan was asked once, after Sastri's death, whether he could have attained Realization during this life, and he replied: "How could he? His sankalpas [?] (inherent tendencies) were too strong."


The first Western devotee of Sri Bhagavan was already grounded in occultism when he came to India in 1911. He was only twenty-one and had come to take up a post in the Police service at Vellore. He engaged a tutor, one Narasimhayya, to teach him Telugu and in the very first lesson asked him whether he could procure a book in English on Hindu astrology. It was a strange request from a white sahib, but Narasimhayya

assented and got him one from a library. The next day Humphreys asked an even more astonishing question, "Do you know any Mahatma here?"

Narasimhayya answered briefly that he did not. This did not save him from embarrassment for long, for the next day Humphreys said: "Did you tell me yesterday that you don't know any Mahatma? Well, I saw your Guru this morning just before I woke from sleep. He sat by my side and said something which, however, I did not understand."

As Narasimhayya still seemed unconvinced, Humphreys continued, "The first man from Vellore whom I met at Bombay was you." Narasimhayya began to protest that he had never been to Bombay, but Humphreys explained that as soon as he arrived there he had been taken to hospital in a high fever. In order to gain some relief from pain, he had directed his mind to Vellore, where he should have proceeded immediately on landing but for his illness. He travelled to Vellore in his astral body and saw Narasimhayya there.

Narasimhayya replied simply that he did not know what an astral body was, or any body but a physical one. However, in order to test the truth of the dream he next day left a bundle of photographs on Humphreys' table before going to give a lesson to another police officer. Humphreys looked through them and immediately picked out that of Ganapati Sastri. "There!" he exclaimed when his teacher returned. "That is your Guru."

Narasimhayya admitted that it was. After this Humphreys again fell sick and had to leave for Ootacamund to recuperate. It was several months before he returned to Vellore. When he did, he again surprised Narasimhayya, this time by sketching a mountain cave he had seen in a dream, with a stream running in front of it and a Sage standing in the entrance. It could only be Virupaksha. Narasimhayya now told him about Sri Bhagavan. Humphreys was introduced to Ganapati Sastri and conceived

great respect for him, and the same month, November 1911, all three of them set out on a visit to Tiruvannamalai.

Humphreys' first impression of the terrific silence of Sri

Bhagavan has been quoted already in an earlier chapter. In the same letter from which it is taken he also wrote: "The most touching sight was the number of tiny children, up to about seven years of age, who climb the hill all on their own to come and sit near the Maharshi, even though he may not speak a word nor even look at them for days together. They do not play but just sit there quietly, in perfect contentment."

Like Ganapati Sastri, Humphreys was eager to help the world.

H: Master, can I help the world?

B: Help yourself and you will help the world.

H: I wish to help the world. Shall I not be helpful?

B: Yes, helping yourself you help the world. You are in the world,

you are the world. You are not different from the world, nor is the world different from you.

H: (after a pause) Master, can I perform miracles as Sri Krishna

and Jesus did before?

B: Did any of them, when he performed them, feel that it was

he who was performing a miracle?

H: No, Master.

It was not long before Humphreys repeated his visit.

"I went by motorcycle and climbed up to the cave.

The Sage smiled when he saw me but was not in the least surprised. We went in and before we sat down he asked me a question private to myself, of which he knew. Evidently he recognised me the moment he had seen me. Everyone who comes to him is an open book, and a single glance suffices to reveal to him its contents.

`You have not yet had any food,' he said, `and are hungry.'

"I admitted that it was so and he immediately called in a chela [?] (disciple) to bring me food -- rice, ghee, fruit, etc., eaten with the fingers, as Indians do not use spoons. Though I have practised eating this way I lack dexterity. So he gave me a coconut spoon to eat with, smiling and talking between whiles. You can imagine nothing more beautiful than his smile. I had coconut milk to drink, whitish, like cow's milk, and delicious, to which he had himself added a few grains of sugar.

"When I had finished I was still hungry and he knew it and ordered more. He knows everything, and when others pressed me to eat fruit when I had had enough he stopped them at once.

"I had to apologise for my way of drinking. He only said, `Never mind'. The Hindus are particular about this. They never sip nor touch the vessel with their lips but pour the liquid straight in. Thus many can drink from the same cup without fear of infection.

"Whilst I was eating he was relating my past history to others, and accurately too. Yet he had seen me but once before and many hundreds in between. He simply turned on, as it were, clairvoyance, even as we would refer to an encyclopaedia. I sat for about three hours listening to his teaching.

"Later on I was thirsty, for it had been a hot ride, but

I would not have shown it for worlds. Yet he knew and told a chela [?] to bring me some lemonade.

"At last I had to go, so bowed, as we do, and went outside the cave to put on my boots. He came outside too and said I might come to see him again.

"It is strange what a change it makes in one to have been in his Presence!"

There is no doubt that anyone who sat before Sri Bhagavan was an open book to him; nevertheless Humphreys was probably wrong about the clairvoyance. Although Sri Bhagavan saw through people in order to help and guide them, he did not use any such powers on the human plane. His memory for faces was as phenomenal as for books. Of all the thousands who came, he never forgot a devotee who had once visited him. Even though one returned years later he would be recognised. Nor did he forget the life story of a devotee, and Narasimhayya must have spoken to him about Humphreys. When any matter was best not talked about he showed the utmost discretion, but in general he had the simplicity and disingenuousness of a child and, like a child, would talk about somebody before his face, quite unembarrassed and without causing embarrassment. As for the food and drink, Sri Bhagavan was not only considerate but incredibly observant and would see whether a guest was satisfied.

Thaumaturgic powers began to manifest themselves in

Humphreys, but Sri Bhagavan warned him not to indulge them, and he was strong enough to resist the temptation. Indeed, under the influence of Sri Bhagavan, he soon lost all his interest in the occult.

Moreover, he outgrew the fallacy, almost universal in the

West and increasingly common in the modern East, that it is possible to help mankind only by outer activity. He had been told that by helping oneself one helps the world; this dictum which the laissez faire school falsely supposed to be true economically is in fact true spiritually, since spiritually the wealth of one does not detract from that of others but increases it. Just as he had seen Sri Bhagavan at his very first meeting as a "motionless corpse from which God is radiating terrifically," so everyone, according to his capacity, is a broadcasting station of invisible influences. Insofar as anyone is in a state of harmony and free from egoism he is inevitably and involuntarily emitting harmony, whether he is

outwardly active or not; and insofar as his own nature is turbulent and his ego strong he is emitting disharmony even though he may outwardly be performing service.

Although Humphreys never stayed with Sri Bhagavan and only visited him a few times, he imbibed his teaching and received his Grace. A synopsis that he sent to a friend in English was published later in the International Psychic Gazette and remains an excellent presentation of the teaching.

"A Master is one who has meditated solely on God, has flung his whole personality into the sea of God, and drowned and forgotten it there, till he becomes only the instrument of God, and when his mouth opens it speaks God's words without effort or forethought; and when he raises a hand, God flows again through that, to work a miracle.

"Do not think too much of psychical phenomena and such things. Their number is legion; and once faith in the psychical thing is established in the heart of a seeker, such phenomena have done their work. Clairvoyance, clairaudience, and such things are not worth having, when so much far greater illumination and peace are possible without them than with them. The Master takes on these powers as a form of self-sacrifice!

"The idea that a Master is simply one who has attained power over the various occult senses by long practice and prayer or anything of the kind, is absolutely false. No Master ever cared a rap for occult powers, for he has no need for them in his daily life.

"The phenomena we see are curious and surprising -- but the most marvellous of all we do not realize, and that is that one, and only one illimitable force is responsible for:

(a) All the phenomena we see; and (b) The act of seeing them.

"Do not fix your attention on all these changing things of life, death and phenomena. Do not think of even the actual act of seeing or perceiving them, but only of that which sees all these things -- that which is responsible for it all. This will seem nearly impossible at first, but by degrees the result will be felt. It takes years of steady, daily practice, and that is how a Master is made. Give a quarter of an hour a day for this practice. Try to keep the mind unshakenly fixed on That which sees. It is inside yourself. Do not expect to find that `That' is something definite on which the mind can be fixed easily; it will not be so. Though it takes years to find that `That', the result of this concentration will be seen in four or five months' time -- in all sorts of unconscious clairvoyance, in peace of mind, in power to deal with troubles, in power all round, yet always unconscious power.1

"I have given you this teaching in the same words as the Master gives to intimate chelas. From now onwards, let your whole thought in meditation be not on the act of seeing, nor on what you see, but immovably on That which Sees.

"One gets no reward for Attainment. Then one understands that one does not want a reward. As Krishna says, `Ye have the right to work, but not to the fruits thereof.' Perfect attainment is simply worship, and worship is attainment.

"If you sit down and realize that you think only by virtue of the one Life, and that the mind, animated by the one Life into the act of thinking, is a part of the whole which is God, then you argue your mind out of existence as a separate entity; and the result is that mind and body, physically (so to speak) disappear; and the only thing that remains is Be-ing, which is at once existence and non- existence and not explainable in words or ideas.

"A Master cannot help being perpetually in this state with only this difference, that in some, to us incomprehensible, way he can use the mind, body and intellect too, without falling back into the delusion of having separate consciousness.

"It is useless to speculate, useless to try and take a mental or intellectual grasp and work from that. That is only religion, a code for children and for social life, a guide to help us to avoid shocks, so that the inside fire may burn up the nonsense in us, and teach us, a little sooner, common sense, i.e. a knowledge of the delusion of separateness.

"Religion, whether it be Christianity, Buddhism,

Hinduism, Theosophy, or any other kind of `ism' or `sophy' or system, can only take us to the one point where all religions meet and no further.

"That one point where all religions meet is the realization -- in no mystical sense, but in the most worldly and everyday sense, and the more worldly and everyday and practical the better -- of the fact that God is everything, and everything is God.

"From this point begins the work of the practice of this mental comprehension, and all it amounts to is the breaking of a habit. One has to cease calling things `things', and must call them God; and instead of thinking them to be things, must know them to be God; instead of imagining `existence' to be the only thing possible, one must realize that this (phenomenal) existence is only the creation of the mind, that `non-existence' is a necessary sequence if you are going to postulate `existence'.

"The knowledge of things only shows the existence of an organ to cognize. There are no sounds to the deaf, no sights for the blind, and the mind is merely an organ of conception or of appreciation of certain sides of God.

"God is infinite, and therefore existence and non- existence are merely His counterparts. Not that I wish to say that God is made up of definite component parts. It is hard to be comprehensive when talking of God. True knowledge comes from within and not from without. And true knowledge is not `knowing' but `seeing'.

"Realization is nothing but seeing God literally. Our greatest mistake is that we think of God as acting symbolically and allegorically, instead of practically and literally.

"Take a piece of glass, paint colours and forms on it, and put the same into a magic lantern, turn on a little light, and the colours and the forms painted on the glass are reproduced on the screen. If that light were not turned on, you would not see the colours of the slide on the screen.

"How are colours formed? By breaking up white light with a many-sided prism. So it is with a man's character. It is seen when the Light of Life (God) is shining through it, i.e. in a man's actions. If the man is sleeping or dead, you do not see his character. Only when the Light of Life is animating the character and causing it to act in a thousand different ways, in response to its contact with this many-sided world, can you perceive a man's character. If white light had not been broken up and put into forms and shapes on our magic lantern slide, we should never have known that there was a piece of glass in front of the light, for the light would have shone clearly through. In a sense that white light was marred, and had some of its clearness taken from it by having to shine through the colours on the glass.

"So it is with an ordinary man. His mind is like the screen. On it shines light, dulled and changed because he has allowed the many-sided world to stand in the way of the Light (God) and broken it up. He sees only the effects of the Light (God) instead of the Light (God) Himself, and his mind reflects the effects he sees just as the screen reflects the colours on the glass. Take away the prism and the colours vanish, absorbed back into the white light from whence they came. Take away the colours from the slide and the light shines clearly through. Take away from our sight the world of effects we see, and let us look only into the cause, and we shall see the Light (God).

"A Master in meditation, though the eyes and ears be open, fixes his attention so firmly on `That which sees' that he neither sees nor hears, nor has any physical consciousness at all -- nor mental either, but only spiritual.

"We must take away the world, which causes our doubts, which clouds our mind, and the light of God will shine clearly through. How is the world taken away? When, for example, instead of seeing a man you see and say, `This is God animating a body', which body answers, more or less perfectly, to the directions of God, as a ship answers more or less perfectly to her helm.

"What are sins? Why, for example, does a man drink too much? Because he hates the idea of being bound -- bound by the incapacity to drink as much as he wishes. He is striving after liberty in every sin he commits. This striving after liberty is the first instinctive action of God in a man's mind. For God knows that he is not bound. Drinking too much does not give a man liberty, but then the man does not know that he is really seeking liberty. When he realizes that, he sets about seeking the best way to obtain liberty.

"But the man only gains that liberty when he realizes that he was never bound. The I, I, I's who feel so bound are really the illimitable Spirit. I am bound because I know nothing that I do not sense by one of the senses. Whereas I am all the time that which senses in every body in every mind. These bodies and minds are only the tools of the `I', the illimitable Spirit.

"What do I want with the tools who am the tools themselves, as the colours are the White Light?"

Needless to say, police service did not prove congenial to Humphreys. Sri Bhagavan advised him to attend to his service and meditation at the same time. For some years he did so and then he retired. Being already a Catholic and having understood the essential unanimity of all the religions, he saw no need to change but returned to England, where he entered a monastery.


One was often impressed by the tolerance and kindliness of Sri Bhagavan. It was not merely that he recognised the truth of all religions, for that any man of spiritual understanding would do, but if any school or group or ashram was striving to spread spirituality he would show appreciation of the good it was doing, however far its methods might be from his own or its teachings from strict orthodoxy.

Raghavachariar, a government official at Tiruvannamalai, used to visit Sri Bhagavan occasionally. He wanted to ask his opinion of the Theosophical Society but whenever he went he found a crowd of devotees there and he shrank from speaking before them. One day he went determined to submit three questions. This is how he tells of it:

"The questions were: "1. Can you grant me a few minutes for private, personal talk, free from all others?

"2. I should like to have your opinion of the

Theosophical Society, of which I am a member.

"3. Will you please enable me to see your real form if

I am eligible to see it.

"When I went and prostrated and sat in his Presence there was a crowd of not less than thirty persons, but one and all they soon dispersed. So I was alone with him and my first query was thus answered without my stating it. That struck me as noteworthy.

"Then he asked me of his own accord if the book in my hand was the Gita, and if I was a member of the Theosophical Society and remarked, even before I answered his questions, `It is doing good work.' I answered his questions in the affirmative.

"My second question also being thus anticipated, I waited with eager mind for the third. After half an hour I opened my mouth and said, `Just as Arjuna wished to see the form of Sri Krishna and asked for darshan [?] (vision of him), I wish to have a darshan [?] of your real form, if I am eligible.' He was then seated on the pial [?] (dais) with a picture of Dakshinamurti painted on the wall next to him. He silently gazed on, as usual, and I gazed into his eyes. Then his body and also the picture of Dakshinamurti disappeared from my view. There was only empty space, without even a wall, before my eyes. Then a whitish cloud in the outline of the Maharshi and of Dakshinamurti formed before my eyes. Gradually the outline (with silvery lines) of these figures appeared. Then eyes, nose, etc., other details were outlined in lightning-like lines. These gradually broadened till the whole figure of the Sage and

Dakshinamurti became ablaze with very strong and unendurable light. I closed my eyes in consequence. I waited for a few minutes and then saw him and Dakshinamurti in the usual form. I prostrated and came away. For a month thereafter I did not dare to go near him, so great was the impression that the above experience made on me. After a month I went up and saw him standing in front of Skandashram. I told him: `I put a question to you a month back and I had this experience,' narrating the above experience to him. I requested him to explain it. Then, after a pause, he said: `You wanted to see my form; you saw my disappearance; I am formless. So that experience might be the real truth. The further visions may be according to your own conceptions derived from the study of the Bhagavad Gita [?]. But Ganapati Sastri had a similar experience; you may consult him.' I did not in fact consult Sastri. After this Maharshi said, `Find out who the "I" is, the seer or thinker, and his abode'."


A visitor came to Virupaksha, and although he stayed only five days he so obviously had the Grace of Sri Bhagavan that Narasimhaswami, who was collecting material for the biography, Self-Realization, on which a great part of the present work is based, made a point of noting his name and address. There was an elation, a serenity about him, and the radiant eyes of Sri Bhagavan shone on him. Each day he composed a Tamil song in praise of Sri Bhagavan so ecstatic, so spontaneous, so overflowing with joy and devotion, that among all the songs composed, these are of the few that have continued to be sung. Later Narasimhaswami visited Satyamangalam, the town he had named, to collect more

particulars about him, but no such person was known there. It has been pointed out that the name means `Abode of Blessedness' and suggested that the visitor may have been an emissary from some hidden `Abode of Blessedness' come to pay homage to the Sadguru of the age.

One of his songs hails Sri Bhagavan as `Ramana Sadguru'.

Once when it was being sung Sri Bhagavan himself joined in. The devotee who was singing it laughed and said, "This is the first time I have heard anyone singing his own praise."

Sri Bhagavan replied, "Why limit Ramana to these six feet?

Ramana is universal."

One of the five songs is so instinct with the joys of dawn and awakening that one can well believe it may have celebrated the true dawn for him who composed it:

Dawn is rising on the Hill, Sweet Ramana, come! Lord Arunachala, come!

In the bush the koel sings, Dear Master, Ramana, come! Lord of Knowledge, come!

The conch blows, the stars are dim. Sweet Ramana, come! Lord God of Gods, come!

The cocks crow, the birds chirp, It is already time, come! The night has fled, come!

The trumpets blow, the drums beat Gold-bright Ramana, come! Knowledge Awake, come!

The crows caw, it is morn, Snake-decked Lord, come!4 Blue-throated Lord, come!4

Ignorance is fled, the lotuses2 open, Wise Lord Ramana, come! Crown of the Vedas, come!

Unstained by qualities, Lord of Liberation, Gracious Ramana, come! Lord Peace, come!

Sage and Lord, One with Being-Knowledge-Bliss, Lord dancing in joy,3 come!

Love on the summit of Knowledge, Past pleasure, past pain, come! Blissful Silence, come!

Referred Resources:

Sri Ramana Gita

Who am I?

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