Skip to main content

February 2018 – A Search in Secret India

Originally published in 1935, A Search in Secret India remains a classic for spiritual seekers all over the world. It is experiencing a rise in popularity today as both Western readers and modern Indians seek to know more about the sacred teachings of the past. Indeed, Paul Brunton’s writings opened the door for Western seekers to learn about Indian mysticism. Sir Francis Younghusband writes in the Forward to the book: “…for in India, as everywhere else, there is much spurious spirituality through which a way must be forced before the true can be found… Spirituality at its finest and purest is what he (Brunton) wanted. And this he found at last.”

PB’s search makes fascinating reading as we accompany him through little known byways of the India of the time. His descriptive language recreates colorful personalities and landscapes for the reader while his interviews remain independently objective as he listens and questions Yogis, holy men, faqueers, and sages. PB writes on page 61, “… I want reliable evidence; better still, something personal, something to which I can testify for my own satisfaction.”

After exhaustive travel and inquiries PB is beset with a persistent Yogi who knows of his searches. This man, Subramanya Iyer, insists that PB go with him to Arunachala, the Hill of the Holy Beacon to meet his master, who, he says, is the wisest man in India. Somewhat skeptical, PB declines, but later he meets a Hindu writer, who tells him the great masters have all but disappeared. He adds “Yet I firmly believe that some exist in retirement, in lonely forests perhaps, but unless you devote a whole lifetime to the search, you will find them with the greatest difficulty.” (p. 120.) The writer, Venkataramani, encourages PB to meet Shri Shankara Acharya, the spiritual head of South India, who is staying nearby for one day. “We regard him as a master of the highest spiritual attainment. But he is not a Yogi. He is the Primate of the Southern Hindu world, a true saint and great religious philosopher.” (p. 121.)

Surprisingly, PB is granted an audience with Shri Shankara, the first given to a Westerner. Part of their exchange bears relevance today as PB asks about the current world situation and how it could be improved. Finally, PB asks: “Can you direct me to such a master, one who you know can give me proofs of the reality of higher Yoga?” (p. 130) Shri Shankara tells him of the Maharshi whose abode is Arunachala. He extracts a promise that PB will go there. PB receives a parting message from Shri Shankara: “You shall always remember me, and I shall always remember you.” (p.131) Subrahmanya Iyer is waiting to lead PB to the encounter with the little-known sage, Ramana Maharshi.

This concludes the first half of this eteaching. The next continues with PB’s visit to the Maharshi and the Hill of the Holy Beacon (Chapters XIII and XV.) We encourage all to read and re-read the inspired writings about the encounter.