It is difficult to date the origins of yoga with exactness. The ancient Hindus did not care much to keep exact historical records, for time had far less importance among them than it does with us.
The most historic description of one such rope trick appears to be that of Ibn Batutah, an Arab or Moorish Sheikh of Tangiers, in the Volume of Travels, in the middle of the fourteenth century. The first recorded mention of this trick in India is in the ancient shastras and sutras. Shankaracharya, over a thousand years ago, in his great work Vedanta Sutra, has given not only reference but also an excellent explanation of this feat, in Sutra 17: "the illusory juggler who climbs up the rope and disappears differs from the real jugglers who stand on the ground," and so on. From this it is clear that the trick was well known in this mysterious land over a thousand years ago.
Has it occurred to any Western mind that the yogi's legs are coiled up beneath and around him as if his lower body were a snake?
In the field of Indian writing, study the best texts, usually the ancient ones, along with some excellent modern ones. Disregard those twentieth-century authors who pour out torrents of rhetoric, much of it mere verbiage.
They look at life as if from a distance, unaffected by it intellectually, unmoved by it emotionally, unconcerned with it personally. They seem bloodless creatures, these figures held out to us as ideal by Hindu religio-philosophic texts.
The term "pure consciousness" has been used in these books, but it is an unfortunate one, as it was taken over from the Sanskrit. It gives rise to objections which would not appear if the term "Mind" (or, as a variant, "The Overself") were used in its place, with consciousness existing as a potential of Mind, just as dream can exist as a potential of deep sleep.
Sanskrit study: Here a fresh difficulty arose. The decipherment of those texts involved a knowledge of such subtle shades of verbal meaning as only those who had spent a whole lifetime poring over them could possess. For the language in which they were inscribed--highly technical Sanskrit--was the most developed and therefore the most difficult of all ancient cultural tongues. Such a knowledge was possessed only by the respected class of men called Pundits. These erudite scholars were usually apprenticed to Sanskrit learning and literature almost from their infant days, with the result that its numerous nuances of significance were mastered by the time they reached early middle age. The simplicity of their lives, their great devotion to financially unprofitable studies, and their unique services in preserving the classic lore for ages by remarkable feats of memory, saving thousands of manuscripts from destruction by intolerant invaders, had always excited my admiration and respect.
Mahopanishad IV.2: "By the word Samadhi is denoted only the knowledge of Reality and not mere silent existence which burns the straw of desires."
It was one of my teachers, Professor Hiriyanna, who, in an article written in the Tamil language, gave the following explanation: "The knowledge of the true self, Atman, acquired by study, can be transformed into direct experience. The former is called mediate knowledge and the latter is called immediate--by the practice of dhyana or meditation, which signifies constant dwelling upon the nature of the true self until it becomes an immediate certainty."
In the statement "Tat Tvam Asi" (That art Thou) we must observe that the existence of "That" is put first, while the "Thou" is identified with it only later. This is significant.
"Not by avoidance of activity, nor by renunciation either, may freedom of the soul be gained, or perfectness; only by constant service of the world may the great peace of Brahma be attained."--Bhagavad Gita
We must not fear to test the ancient knowledge, and, so far as it is sound, it will survive. We must explore the newer knowledge and not turn timidly from its unfamiliar paths. We must wed ancient wisdom to modern. It is absurd to follow either blindly. That in many ways the men of thousands of years ago thought and felt differently from us is undeniable. Take even such a wonderfully inspired work as the Bhagavad Gita, from which so many millions (including myself) for so many centuries have drawn light and hope and peace. Yet it does not hesitate to insist upon even the most spiritually advanced men offering to the Gods sacrifices of animals birds and cakes upon altar fires. Which of us Westerners would derive inward joy and emotional uplift from watching, as I have watched in North India, a number of screaming goats stabbed and flung on blazing flames? Let us not mislead ourselves in this matter.
The Bhagavad Gita's references to the hidden teaching are as follows: XVIII, 75: it is called "the ultimate mystery"; IX, 2: "the royal secret"; IX, 1: "a profound secret"; XVIII, 63: "profounder than profundity itself"; IX, 1: "profound beyond measure"; XVIII, 64: "the profoundest secret of all."
Although revered by Hindus as the very word of God, the Bhagavad Gita is replete with contradiction. It laments trivialities such as the overlapping of varnas (caste). It ardently advocates a study of Gita as a sure way to salvation, but what this way is is never clear and has been the subject of endless disputatious commentary. The idea of "absolute action" absolved from all relevance to an end or aim is a Gospel in a vacuum. One Hindu scholar holds that Gita is a hotch-potch of various mutually incompatible doctrines (see The Hindu World by Benjamin Walker.)
Those stately scripts, the Upanishads, hold the essence of India's wisdom.
In Mandukya Upanishad, the phrase "on account of the shortness of time" refers to the arguments made by the ancient Indian equivalent of the contemporary "Personalist" school of philosophy. The sentence ending "within the contracted space of the body" should be understood also as a temporary lapse from its own standpoint for the sake of overcoming an opponent by using his own beliefs, which, incidentally, is an old habit of the ancient Indian writers. The comment that one cannot confine an idea within the spatial limits of another idea is quite correct. It is amusing to note that Mandukya disposes of the theosophical "astral travelling" as usually understood, but does not prevent the ideas of other persons and places appearing to one's mind--but both time and space are themselves mental. "Travelling" is therefore illusory but the "appearances" may actually occur.
The illusion of the snake and the rope, as mentioned in the Mandukya Upanishad, is not one that can really arise when the truth of nonduality is perceived, because then both snake and rope are known as mind. For it is the mind that will tell you of their existence and it is only mind again that will tell you of mind's existence. Therefore, do what you will, you can never get beyond Mind. The possibility of an infinite regression does not arise.
The Mandukya Upanishad is not usually recommended for study to Western people. The book is too archaic for modern minds, for one thing, and a number of its arguments were written to refute the arguments of other Indian schools of thought existing at the time, some of which have now disappeared. Consequently these references are sometimes obsolete and often drearily uninteresting. However, for those few who are familiar with this kind of literature, its study is not difficult.
Chandogya Upanishad: "Mind is the self--he who meditates on Mind as Brahman, he is, as it were, Lord and Master so far as Mind reaches."
It may be that the early Indian priests practised interpolation of their sacred texts as freely as the later Christian priests did of theirs; at this late date the point is beyond correct knowledge. But when the whole of the last chapter of the most respected book of the Brahmin way of life, Laws of Manu, informs us that a man who steals a piece of linen will be reborn a frog, the reasonable mind must begin to wonder. Yet the same book contains many rules which are as eminently rational as this statement is silly.
"Let him not wish for death, let him not wish for life, let him wait for the time, as a servant for his wages. Rejoicing in the Supreme Self, sitting indifferent, refraining from sensual delights, with himself for his only friend, let him wander here on earth, aiming at liberation."--The Sannyasi, from Laws of Manu
Professor S.C. Roy: It would be wrong to class Manu with the Rishees. He is regarded as an ethical teacher and law formulator--not as a God-realized man.
"The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom know that which is, is kin to that which is not." This sentence from India's oldest Bible, the Rig Veda, supports philosophy's award of the highest status to sahaja.
An ancient Indian script itself boldly announces the truth. Says the Shiva-Gita 13, 32: "Liberation is not in a special place, nor does one need to travel to some other town or country in order to obtain it."
"If, O king, anybody could secure success from Renunciation, then mountains and trees would surely obtain it. These latter always lead lives of Renunciation. They do not harm anyone, they do not lead a life of worldliness and are all Brahmacharins. Behold, the world moves on with every creature on it acting according to its nature, therefore, one should act. The man shorn of action can never attain success."--Mahabharata
Mahabharata Santi Parva. CXCI, 31: "The wise hold that righteousness is essentially an attitude of mind."
Bhagavata Purana: "How can the mind drunk with divine thought have other thoughts? Why a thousand words?"
"Most anchorites strive only for themselves, and therefore fail; but those who truly know, engage themselves in service of the world."--Bhagavatam
"The Bliss-Attainment of a yogi is Maya," wrote Sri Samartha Ramadas, in his Sanskrit text Atmaram.
Kamakoti Peeta's Shankara does not shake hands when parting. He merely raises one open hand upward in front of him, with palm facing the other person, as if in blessing.
"My body is Thy temple," wrote Shankaracharya in a prayer to Shiva.
Shankaracharya: Some of His Holiness' teachings and sermons have been translated into English. His explanations throw fresh light on several details of Hinduism. He patiently goes through point after point to reveal the rational side to modern minds.
But all these are secondary compared with His Holiness's own person. He exhibits in himself the qualities of a knower of Brahman, the attributes of a holy Rishee. Those who come into his presence, suitably prepared by previous aspiration or faith, may feel his power, even see his light and experience his grace. Hinduism has been misunderstood by many Westerners; the knowledge of His Holiness and the work of Mahadevan can correct their views so that they can see why it has survived so long.
Sri Ramana was a Pure Channel for a Higher Power [Essay written for publication in The Mountain Path--Ed.]
The organizers of this meeting to commemorate Sri Ramana Maharshi's anniversary have asked me to take part in it. I have no official connection with the movement associated with his name, and for many years have preferred to remain silent. But their kindly insistence has overcome this reluctance.
Forty years have passed since I walked into his abode and saw the Maharshi half-reclining, half-sitting on a tigerskin-covered couch. After such a long period most memories of the past become somewhat faded, if they do not lose their existence altogether. But I can truthfully declare that, in his case, nothing of the kind has happened. On the contrary, his face, expression, figure, and surroundings are as vivid now as they were then. What is even more important to me is that--at least during my daily periods of meditation--the feeling of his radiant presence is as actual and as immediate today as it was on that first day.
So powerful an impression could not have been made, nor continued through the numerous vicissitudes of an incarnation which has taken me around the world, if the Maharshi had been an ordinary yogi--much less an ordinary man. I have met dozens of yogis, in their Eastern and Western varieties, and many exceptional persons. Whatever status is assigned to him by his followers, or whatever indifference is shown to him by others, my own position is independent and unbiased. It is based upon our private talks in those early days when such things were still possible, before fame brought crowds; upon observations of, and conversations with, those who were around him; upon his historical record; and finally upon my own personal experiences, whatever they are worth.
Upon all this evidence one fact is incontrovertibly clear--that he was a pure channel for a Higher Power.
This capacity of his to put his own self-consciousness aside and to let himself be suffused by this Power is not to be confounded with what is commonly called, in the West, spiritualistic mediumship. For no spirit of a departed person ever spoke through him: on the contrary, the silence which fell upon us at such times was both extraordinary and exquisite. No physical phenomena of an occult kind was ever witnessed then; nothing at all happened outwardly. But those who were not steeped too far in materialism to recognize what was happening within him and within themselves at the time, or those who were not congealed too stiffly in suspicion or criticism to be passive and sensitive intuitively, felt a distinct and strange change in the mental atmosphere. It was uplifting and inspiring: for the time being it pushed them out of their little selves, even if only partially.
This change came every day, and mostly during the evening periods when the Maharshi fell into a deep contemplation. No one dared to speak then and all conversations were brought to an end. A grave sacredness permeated the entire scene and evoked homage, reverence, even awe. But before the sun's departure brought about this remarkable transformation, and for most of the day, the Maharshi behaved, ate, and spoke like a perfectly normal human being.
That there was some kind of a participation in a wordless divine play during those evenings--each to the extent of his own response--was the feeling with which some of us arose when it all ended. That the Maharshi was the principal actor was true enough on the visible plane. But there was something more . . .
In his own teachings Sri Ramana Maharshi often quoted, whether in association or confirmation, the writings of the first Shankaracharya, who lived more than a thousand years ago. He considered them unquestionably authoritative. He even translated some of them from one Indian language to another.
In the temple of Chingleput I interviewed His Holiness the Shankaracharya of Kamakoti Peetam, a linear successor of the first Guru. When the meeting was concluded, but before I left, I took the chance to ask a personal question. A disciple of the Maharshi had come to me and wanted to take me to his Guru. None of those I asked could tell me anything about him, nor had even heard of him. I was undecided whether to make the journey or not.
His Holiness immediately urged me to go, and promised satisfaction. He is still alive and still active in the religious world of Southern India. In my humble belief, he embodies the same high quality of Consciousness which the Maharshi did. The belief is shared by Professor T.M.P. Mahadevan, who was present as an eighteen-year-old student during my first meeting with the Maharshi, and who has ever since remained a devotee of both Mahatmas. He is now Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Madras.[Professor Mahadevan has since deceased, in October of 1983.--Ed.]
Sometimes, as I looked at the figure on the couch, I wondered if he would ever come to England. If so, how would he be dressed, how would he behave in those teeming London streets, how eat, live, and work? But he was uninterested in travelling and so he never came, not in the physical body: what did come was his spirit and mind, which have awakened sufficient interest among the English to make this meeting possible.
Again and again he gave us this teaching, that the real Maharshi was not the body which people saw; it was the inner being. Those who never made the journey to India during his lifetime may take comfort in this thought: that it is possible to invoke his presence wherever they are, and to feel its reality in the heart.
Ramana Maharshi was one of those few men who make their appearance on this earth from time to time and who are unique, themselves alone--not copies of anyone else--and who contribute something to the world's spiritual welfare that no one else has contributed in quite the same way.
For much of each day the Maharshi was an unspectacular person. But when the pentecostal light touched his mind and radiated from his eyes, he became not merely a different, but a superior being. There was something almost supernatural about this change. It was plain for anyone to see that he was animated by some power, being, or presence other than his usual self. Yet it did not last and could not last. The light departed again, and he himself fell back into ordinariness.
Sri Ramana Maharshi is certainly more than a mystic and well worthy of being honoured as a sage. He knows the Real.
There are few men of whom one may write with assured conviction that their integrity was unchallengeable and their truthfulness absolute, but Ramana Maharshi was unquestionably one of them.
Ramana Maharshi: Sometimes one felt in the presence of a visitor from another planet, at other times with a being of another species.
The white loincloth which Ramana Maharshi usually wore served him for most of the year, except during the cooler nights of the mild South Indian winter, when he added a shawl. He had few other possessions. I remember a fountain pen, the old-fashioned liquid ink filling-with-a-glass-syringe type. With this he did his writing. There was also a hollowed-out coconut shell or gourd painted black, in which he carried water for ablutions. He had little more and did not seem to want anything else. The most impressive physical feature about him was the strange look that came over his eyes during meditation, and he usually meditated with open eyes. If they looked directly at you, the power behind them seemed quite penetrative; but most often they seemed to be looking into space, somewhat aside from you, but very fixed, indrawn and abstracted, and yet aware.
When Ramana Maharshi was displeased with anyone, he kept his eyes averted and looked to one side of or away from that person. It was as though he did not want, even by accident, let alone purposely, to meet his glance and give him darshan.
When he went into these meditative abstractions, the expression in his eyes and even face changed markedly. The eyes shone strangely, mystically, and testified, so far as any bodily organ could, to awareness of the Reality behind this world-dream.
Gazing upon this man whose viewless eyes are gazing upon infinity, I thought of Aristotle's daring advice,"Let us live as if we were immortal." Here was someone who had never heard of Aristotle, but who was following this counsel to the last letter.
Some of these Oriental hermits spoke with such verbal economy that one despaired of getting a satisfactory conversation with them. Ramana Maharshi was one of them. Others were so loquacious that their words tumbled over one another. Many of the lesser hermits belonged to this category.
When a non-Hindu--that is, a Christian or Muhammedan--fell into a huddle on the tiled floor before him, touching it with his forehead, the Maharshi was obviously embarrassed . . . but only out of his kindly considerateness for the other man. For he knew that prostration before another man was alien to the custom and attitude of the Christian or Muhammedan.
The name Sri Maharshi is an honourific one, his real name being Venkataraman.
The Maharshi was fond of his dog Chakki. I noticed during my travels that several yogis--not the wandering kind, of course--kept dogs. But never once did I see one who kept a cat. One yogi told me that the yogis abhor cats as belonging to some unclean psychic influence.
There is hardly a posture which has not been used by someone somewhere for meditation. In the Rietberg Museum at Zurich there is an unusual marble twelfth-century figure of a meditating Chinese Buddhist monk. His head and neck are twisted quite askew towards the left side, the left elbow rests on the top of his left knee, the left palm supports his left cheek. This is exactly the position into which Ramana Maharshi eventually moved and in which he long remained after the memorable interview at our first meeting. In later years he took it up again occasionally.
Restricted as he voluntarily was to the couch, the Maharshi varied his position on it at different times of the day. Sometimes his was a recumbent figure, sometimes a seated one. He sat, reclined, squatted, leaned forwards or backwards. Sometimes he assumed the pose of chin cupped in his hands which always reminded me faintly of Rodin's sculpture The Thinker.
The Maharshi said to us after the magistrate from Madras had departed that he had been able to give unhesitating answers because the thinking process was not working, because something other than intellect was using his mind.
There was hardly a period of the day or night when Sri Ramana Maharshi was not on display. Contrast this with the attitude of the guru that Professor Medard Boss, the psychiatrist, found in India who avoided seekers and hid from them. Ramana would not, could not, leave Arunachala, the hill, so he had to take what came with it, the devotees. The place chosen was no longer his own; the time belonged to them. He was reluctant to stay but far more reluctant to leave. His was truly a surrendered life.
The Maharshi was condemned--or self-condemned if you like--to live in public all day and all night. This is not the sort of life we would wish to have and certainly not the sort, as he once told me, that he had expected when he moved to Arunachala as a youth.
Arunachala, South India's sacred mountain, is identified in Hindu mythology with Shiva, the patron God of the Yogis, who is said to have appeared in the night on its summit in ancient times in the ruddy vesture of a flame. The present writer has himself seen a vast luminous cloud move slowly and softly around the hill at night, glowing with a weird phosphorescence, when no moon or starlight was present and for which no natural force could have been responsible.
The Greeks regarded their Acropolis as a sacred hill, just as the Hindus still regard their Arunachala. But whereas they put their most shapely building, the Parthenon, on top, with its symmetry and dignity, its graceful Doric pillars and stately ruined temples, the Hindus put nothing at all except a burning beacon, and that only once a year.
I turned my head to gaze meditatively through the hermitage window. The rising slope of a spur belonging to the Mountain of the Holy Beacon came into sight, its craggy face shimmering in ripples of misty heat.
One of the sacred eighteen Puranas of the Hindus calls Arunachala Hill "the southern Kailas." Parvati, the erring wife of Shiva, was sent from her home in Kailas to make penance at Arunachala, and there I have seen her statue in a little temple on the hillside with several huge stone guards, guarding the approach to her, to protect her while she is absorbed in meditation.
We sat in that sultry hall, enduring the late-afternoon heat, in various stages of dress and undress--men with resplendent long coats from the North buttoned all the way down and collars encircling the neck, men from local Southern villages in nothing but a loincloth, men in shirt and skirt, men in monk's robe leaving one shoulder exposed. Every shade of skin from almost white to ebony black could be seen. And in accord with the local custom that shoes should not be brought into a house, should be left on the verandah, all were barefooted. All sat facing the light brown figure half-reclining on a long couch housed in a corner of the oblong-shaped hall.
Meals were served at Ramanashram on enormously large flat banana tree leaves.
Ramana Maharshi's alleged deathbed statement that he would be more active in the ashram after death can now be traced to its true form. He was fond of reading biographies of saints and mystics, both Western and Eastern. In The Life of Catherine of Siena, her own dying last will and testament, Catherine says: "I promise you [the disciples] that I shall be with you always, and be of much more use to you on the other side than I ever could be here on earth, for then I shall have left the darkness behind me and move in the eternal light." Note her use of the words "on earth" which, in the quoted words, was surely the Maharshi's meaning too. The belief that Maharshi's ghost is now more active at the ashram than was the living Maharshi himself contradicts his own teaching as I heard it from his lips and as it is even stated in print in an ashram publication, Golden Jubilee Souvenir, page 209. Here he expressly declares, "The idea that he [the guru] is outside, is ignorant." That belief is certainly based on the idea that the real Maharshi was tied to a particular place outside his body. By the light of his lifetime's gospel, it is mere superstition.
Ramana Maharshi ended his life in a tragic illness--cancer--which brought consternation to his ashramic disciples. They trotted out their various theories on the religio-mystic level to account for the personal and public tragedy, for the unequal equation which allotted so much suffering to so much sanctity.
The notion that anyone can take on the burden of someone else's guilt, or karma, is itself a negation of the law of karma. This must apply to Ramana Maharshi no less than to the common man.
On Ramana Maharshi: That he made contrary statements at times must be admitted, but he would probably have justified this by the need to adopt a point of view on a level accessible to the person to whom he was talking. When Italian planes flew low over Ethiopian towns and machine-gunned undefended citizens on the streets, the news was brought one morning by a visitor from Madras; we all looked at M. to watch his reaction. He simply said, "The sage who knows the truth that the Self is indestructible will remain unaffected even if five million people are killed in his presence. Remember the advice of Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield when disheartened by the thought of the impending slaughter of relatives on the opposing side." And yet, as against this, I heard him utter on another occasion words which were the exact duplicate of those written by the artist Van Gogh in a letter to his brother: "I am not made of stone," in reference to some situation, implying that human feeling was certainly there.
It was a noteworthy feature of many, if not most, of Ramana Maharshi's answers that they were seldom direct and often evasive. This was because he tried to divert the questioner to the one fundamental need--to know the Overself--whereupon all questions would collapse or find their own answers.
The Maharshi demonstrated the truth of Lao Tzu's counsel concerning the advantages of lying low if one rests one's life on the Overself. Never once did he push his own name and fame, but his worth came to world recognition. Never once did he ask for a roof over his head, but others provided it for him.
Ramana Maharshi tells his questioners to know the Self but he does not tell them how they can do so.
I asked Ramana Maharshi this question: "Is it permissible for a man to engage in teaching his spiritual knowledge however imperfect both he and his knowledge may be?" The mystic of Arunachala answered: "Yes, if the destiny allotted to him for this birth be such."
The translations of his sayings are mostly my free interpretations based on work done with learned Tamil pundits, not literal recordings. The strange exotic idiom of the Tamil language does not give itself to easy understanding by a Westerner unless this is done.
Heinrich Zimmer, the Jungian, wrote in German a book based on Maharshi's teaching. He had to gather his materials from other books, of which very few existed at that time, and from correspondence, as he never went to India and consequently never talked to Maharshi.
A visitor, Lebanese by birth, Egyptian by upbringing, and French by marriage, complained to me that the Maharshi was a phenomenon. She recognized and admitted his greatness but she had come to India in search of a guru to guide her, not someone to be looked at from a distance while he sat in isolation like a solitary mountain peak.
"Every kind of Sadhana except that of Atma-Vichara presupposes the retention of the mind as the instrument for carrying on the Sadhana, and without the mind it cannot be practised. The ego may take different and subtler forms at the different stages of one's practice, but is itself never destroyed. . . . The attempt to destroy the ego or the mind through Sadhanas other than Atma-Vichara is just like the thief turning out a policeman to catch the thief, that is himself. Atma-Vichara alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists, and enables one to realize the pure, undifferentiated Being of the Self or the Absolute. Having realized the Self, nothing remains to be known, because it is perfect Bliss, it is the All."--Sri Ramana Maharshi
Excerpt from Maharshi's Talks: "Even the thought of saving the [sick] child is a sankalpa (wish), and one who has any sankalpa is no Gnani. In fact, any such thought is unnecessary. The moment the Gnani's eye falls upon a thing, there starts the automatic divine activity which itself leads to the highest good."
"The prophet of God," wrote Gildas, the Druid prophet, "will know God does nothing but what should be, in the manner it should be, at the time and in the order it should be." And on this same point, Ramana Maharshi declared, "God is perfection. His work also is perfection, but it appears to you--you see it--as imperfection!"
A remark once made by Ramana Maharshi reminded me of Tagore's extraordinary statement in his poem Vairagya. A pilgrim goes in quest of God after leaving home. The more he travels, the farther he goes from his house, the more he puts himself farther from the object of his pilgrimage. In the end, God cries, "Alas! Where is my worshipper going, forsaking me?"
Ramana Maharshi: One night in the spring of 1950, at the very moment that a flaring starry body flashed across the sky and hovered over the Hill of the Holy Beacon, there passed out of his aged body the spirit of the dying Maharshi. He was the one Indian mystic who inspired me most, the one Indian sage whom I revered most, and his power was such that both Governor-General and ragged coolie sat together at his feet with the feeling that they were in a divine presence. Certain factors combined to keep us apart during the last ten years of his life, but the inner telepathic contact and close spiritual affinity between us remained--and remains--vivid and unbroken. Last year he sent me this final message through a visiting friend: "When heart speaks to heart, what is there to say?"
Let there be no misunderstanding about my connection with Ramana Maharshi. My appreciation and reverence for him remain as great as ever. I still consider him one of the few enlightened seers of modern centuries. I did during his lifetime adopt the outward attitude of an independent student. However, my inner connection with the living mind which manifested as Ramana Maharshi remains unbroken.
Although I have not been a rigid follower of the Maharshi and for that reason have been either admired or criticized for the wrong reasons, I have accepted the fundamental rightness of his teachings and the perfect authenticity of his experience.
Although outwardly I ceased to be a literary and articulate link with Ramana Maharshi, inwardly I myself never ceased to be linked with him.
I need not have taken his sentences down on paper, for I wrote them on my mind.
It was partly out of deference to his noble character, his exalted mind, and partly because of my unbroken if unknown link with Ramana Maharshi that I kept such a silence for such a long time. Except for a very few friends, it will not be understood.
The criticisms of Ramana Maharshi are deeply regretted: they were occasioned more by events in the history of the ashram than by his own self. It is not possible to make an appropriate amendment, although I had planned to make one in the next book which I hoped to write. But alas! such a book was never completed.
When the Maharshi was asked by the financial secretary of the government of Mysore, "Is Paul Brunton's Secret Path useful for us Indians as well as the Westerners?" he replied: "Yes--for all."
My deference to the dead master's status and reverence for his worth are great and unshakeable. His pure life was an inspiration and an influence but it was not an example to imitate in all matters.
The evil forces seek to impede such work and will use both those who openly disavow faith as well as those who claim to have it but show little sign of its works. During my years of absence in the Orient one of those unfortunate human instruments published the statement that I had started a lawsuit against Ramana Maharshi! This assertion was utterly false in every way, as well as completely impossible, for the inner contact between Maharshi and myself remained always unbroken, while the outer relationship remained always of the friendliest. Indeed, on my side I made it a habit of annually expressing my affection and respect through some visiting friend or in a written message, and on his side never a year passed without his enquiring kindly after my welfare through these friends. Before he died he sent me a special message: "When heart speaks to heart, what is there to say?" Many years have passed since this stupid lie was printed, but my reaction to it, as well as to other lies emanating from the same source and sedulously circulated, remains a silent one. Such a mixture of evil and vulgarity deserves and can be met only with contempt.
I hold and feel with Gautama of blessed fame that my duty is to extend ungrudging compassion to those that wrong me and to return the protection of benevolent pity for their malicious attacks. I have no enemy. I know that all creatures are of the same divine element as myself, and to those who in their blindness do not see it I bear no resentment. The truth is at once my solace and my strength. All are my tutors, none enemies. May all men share in the peace of true enlightenment!
Although I cannot identify myself with these acknowledged followers of Ramana Maharshi, since I refuse to identify myself with any sect-in-the-making such as they are now creating, I welcome the appearance of every new book about him or his teaching. And I know that the misrepresentation of some part of his doctrine must be the price paid for all that is authentically told us by these followers, since they cannot help either the limitations of their spiritual vision or the ulterior motivation of their interpretations. Let this be regretted, as I must; nevertheless I look sympathetically to the good amid all this, to the benefit of truth and inspiration borne to mankind along with it.
Reply to Critique of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga in Light Journal, London: The reviewer has mixed up the M with the M in Theos Bernard's book. They are two separate persons. He has also poured scorn on my statements that I had sufficiently repaid Maharshi, and so on. Just as his first critique was based on his own mistake, so his second critique was based on his own misunderstanding. I did not mean that M was seeking repayment or had any desire for publicity. Anyone who, like me, knows M knows also that to attribute these things to him would have been absurd. I meant rather that in giving this publicity to M I did what I considered to be my duty to M and to the public. If later destiny dismissed me from his service, that was because the task allotted me in connection with him had been fulfilled and she had other tasks for me in view.
My published words showed this veneration I always felt, and feel, for Ramana Maharshi. If later the technical difference between mystic and philosopher was completely withdrawn from print where the reference was to the Maharshi--thus finally getting done what had been sought for so many years against real frustrating difficulties in other quarters--I am happy it was done during my lifetime. But final humbling and full amendment will come later still, at the hour dictated by fate.
But I began to understand why the world's scriptures are well packed with marvels. Sensible men today adopt a critical attitude and refuse to swallow half the wonders which are tacked on to a religious message. The additions have undoubtedly been made by over-devout followers. It was highly instructive to me to watch how a similar group of legends was already forming itself around the Maharshi's name during his own lifetime. What amazing wonders will not spring up after he is gone! It is necessary for me to describe things as I find them, not as I would like them to be, and I regret to record that I gathered a crop of stories which were the result of worship that cared more for adulation of a personality than regard for truth. There is a right channel and a wrong channel for the guru-worship which prevails among Indian devotees, and foolish ascriptions to the gurus of non-existent miracles is unfortunately quite a common thing all over the country. Fortunately my inner insistence on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth put all these tales into the crucible of investigation whence few emerged.
Sri Maharshi is unquestionably a great saint and an adept in yoga. But this must not lead me or others to confuse the issue. The claims of truth press irresistibly on me and I will continue to follow the elusive goddess even though she were to lead me into a deserted wilderness where I must walk utterly alone. Time has opened my eyes to the fact that the states of mystical ecstasy, however delightful to experience, are not necessarily always tokens of truth.
I write all this with reluctance, because I would rather refrain from the slightest criticism of one whom I admire and esteem so greatly and whose teaching I accept so wholeheartedly on all other points, but my remarks are intended to be purely impersonal, as though I were writing of someone who lived hundreds of years ago and whom I had never had the privilege of meeting and of having been treated as one of his own disciples, even to the point of being initiated.
The chapter on Jesus in Discover Yourself explains that He had to go through the growing pains of spiritual ripening, as had every adept who wanted to serve. Where this desire to serve is absent (as in the highest type of mystic, such as Ramana Maharshi) illumination often comes fully and suddenly; but then it is only mystical.
For the sage the suffering of others is his; for the yogi it is not. The Maharshi was an adept in mysticism--that is, yoga--but his idea of truth needs to be disputed. He says that the sage can watch with indifference the slaughter of millions of people in battle. That is quite true of the yogi but it will never be true of those who have sacrificed every future nirvanic beatitude to return to earth until all are saved; they alone are entitled to the term sage; nor can they do otherwise, for they have found the unity of all human beings. They would never have returned if they did not feel for others.
The Maharshi's body lies buried in an Indian grave but his teaching lives inside the minds of all who can perceive its truth.