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.
-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 2: India > # 413