Posted: 10 July 2013 at 5:03pm
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FACE TO FACE WITH SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI
Enchanting and Uplifting Reminiscences of peoples encounters with the master
Dr. Paul Brunton (1898-1981), a British journalist, attracted by
Indian mysticism first visited India in 1930. Author of eleven
books, he has emphasized the value and importance of the Self
within us. He is generally considered as having introduced
meditation to the West. He once wrote: "Sri Ramana was a spiritual
torch carried to the waiting souls in the West. I was only the
unimportant 'link-boy', the humble carrier." The Paul Brunton
Philosophic Foundation, New York, has posthumously published
his post-1952 writings (the year when his last book The Spiritual
Crisis of Man was published), in 16 volumes. He was awarded a
doctorate in philosophy by the Roosevelt College, USA.
During his first visit, among many saints and yogis, Brunton
also met Sri Ramana. He stayed for a few weeks in an improvised
shelter very close to Sri Ramana's Ashram.The number
of full-time devotees being limited at that time, Brunton had
ample opportunity of observing the Maharshi at close quarters
and interacting with him. He provides a dispassionate, illuminating
and intimate account of the Maharshi's divinity and its
14 Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi
impact in his A Search in Secret India published from London in
1934. In his inimitable way he says:
There is something in this man which holds my attention as steel
filings are held by a magnet. I cannot turn my gaze away from him. I
become aware of a silent, resistless change, which is taking place within
my mind. One by one, the questions which I prepared with such meticulous
accuracy drop away. I know only that a steady river of quietness seems
to be flowing near me; that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches
of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at
some rest. I perceive with sudden clarity that intellect creates its own
problems and then makes itself miserable trying to solve them. This is
indeed a novel concept to enter the mind of one who has hitherto placed
such high value upon intellect.
I surrender myself to the steadily deepening sense of restfulness.
The passage of time now provokes no irritation, because the chains of
mind-made problems are being broken and thrown away. And then, little
by little, a question takes the field of consciousness. Does this man, the
Maharshi, emanate the perfume of spiritual peace as the flower emanates
fragrance from its petals? I begin to wonder whether by some radioactivity
of the soul, some unknown telepathic process, the stillness which invades
the troubled water of my soul really comes from him.The peace
The Maharshi turns and looks down into my face; I, in turn, gaze
expectantly up at him. I become aware of a mysterious change taking
place with great rapidity in my heart and mind. The old motives which
have lured me on begin to desert me. The urgent desires which have sent
my feet hither and thither vanish with incredible swiftness. The dislikes,
misunderstandings, coldness and selfishness which have marked my dealings
with many of my fellows collapse into the abyss of nothingness. An
untellable peace falls upon me and I know that there is nothing
further that I shall ask from life.
The Sage seems to carry something of great moment to me, yet I
cannot easily determine its precise nature. It is intangible, imponderable,
perhaps spiritual. Each time I think of him a peculiar sensation pierces me
and causes my heart to throb with vague but lofty expectations.
I look at the Sage. He sits there on Olympian heights and watches
the panorama of life as one apart. There is a mysterious property in this
man which differentiates him from all others I have met.
He remains mysteriously aloof even when surrounded by his own
devotees, men who have loved him and lived near him for years. Sometimes
I catch myself wishing that he would be a little more human, a little more
susceptible to what seems so normal to us.
Why is it that under his strange glance I invariably experience a
peculiar expectancy, as though some stupendous revelation will soon be
made to me? This man has freed himself from all problems, and no
woe can touch him.
The Sage seems to speak not as a philosopher, not as a pandit
trying to explain his own doctrine, but rather out of the depth of his
I am not religious but I can no more resist the feeling of increasing
awe which begins to grip my mind than a bee can resist a flower in all its
luscious bloom. The [Maharshi's] hall is becoming pervaded with a subtle,
intangible and indefinable power which affects me deeply. I feel, without
doubt and without hesitation, that the centre of this mysterious power is no
other than the Maharshi himself.
His eyes shine with astonishing brilliance. Strange sensation begins
to arise in me. Those lustrous orbs seem to be peering into the inmost
recesses of my soul. In a peculiar way, I feel aware of everything he can
see in my heart. His mysterious glance penetrates my thoughts, my emotions
and my desires; I am helpless before it.
At first, his disconcerting gaze troubles me; I become vaguely
uneasy. I feel he has perceived pages that belong to a past, which I have
forgotten. He knows it all, I am certain. I am powerless to escape; somehow,
I do not want to, either.
I become aware that he is definitely linking my own mind with
his, that he is provoking my heart into that state of starry calm, which he
seems perpetually to enjoy. In this extraordinary peace, I find a sense
of exaltation and lightness. Time seems to stand still. My heart is
released from its burden of care. Never again, I feel, shall the bitterness
of anger and the melancholy of unsatisfied desire afflict me. My mind is
submerged in that of the Maharshi and wisdom is now at its perihelion.
What is this man's gaze but a thaumaturgic wand, which evokes a hidden
world of unexpected splendour before my profane eyes?
I have sometimes asked myself why these disciples have been
staying around the Sage for years with few conversations, fewer comforts
and no external activities to attract them. Now I begin to understand –
not by thought but by lightning like illuminations – that through all those
years they have been receiving a deep and silent reward.
16 Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi
Hitherto, everyone in the hall has been hushed to a death-like
stillness. At length, someone quietly rises and passes out. He is followed
by another, and then another, until all have gone. I am alone with the
Maharshi! Never before has this happened. His eyes begin to change;
they narrow down to pinpoints. The effect is curiously like the 'stopping
down' in the focus of a camera lens. There comes a tremendous increase
in the intense gleam which shines between the lids, now almost closed.
Suddenly, my body seems to disappear, and we are both out in space! It is
a crucial moment. I hesitate – and decide to break the enchanter's spell.
Decision brings power and once again I am back in the flesh, back in the
hall. No word passes from him to me. I collect my faculties, look at the
clock, and rise quietly. The hour of departure has arrived. I bow my head
in farewell and depart.
The following relates to Brunton's second visit and stay near Sri
Ramana, a few months later:
Whatever I am doing I never fail to become gradually aware of
the mysterious atmosphere of the place, of the benign radiation which
steadily percolates into my brain. I enjoy an ineffable tranquility merely
by sitting for a while in the neighbourhood of the Maharshi. By
careful observation and frequent analysis, I arrive in time at the complete
certitude that reciprocal inter-influence arises whenever our presences
neighbour each other. The thing is most suitable. But it is quite unmistakable.
A force greater than my rationalistic mind awes me until it ends by
The realisation forces itself through my wonderment that all
my questions are moves in an endless game, the play of thoughts which
possess no limit to their extent; that somewhere within me there is a
well of certitude which can provide me all waters of truth I require;
and that it will be better to cease my questioning and attempt to realise
the tremendous potencies of my own spiritual nature. So I remain silent
I am perfectly aware that the sublime realisation which has
suddenly fallen upon me is nothing else than a spreading ripple of telepathic
radiation from this mysterious and imperturbable man.
The Maharshi once told me, "The greatest error of a man is to
think that he is weak by nature, evil by nature. Every man is divine and
strong in his real nature. What are weak and evil are his habits, his desires
and thoughts, but not himself." His words came as an invigorating tonic.
They refresh and inspire me. From another man's lips, from some lesser
and feeble soul, I would refuse to accept them at such worth and would
persist in refuting them. But an inward monitor assures me that the Sage
speaks out of the depth of a great and authentic spiritual experience and
not as some theorizing philosopher on the thin stilts of speculation.
Not a few Western minds will inevitably consider that the life of
the Maharshi is a wasted one. But perhaps it may be good for us to have
a few men who are apart from our world of unending activity, and survey
it for us from afar. It may also be that a jungle Sage, with self lying
conquered at his feet, is not inferior to a worldly fool who is blown hither
and thither by every circumstance.
Day after day brings fresh indications of the greatness of
this man. His silence and reserve are habitual. One can easily count
up the number of words he uses in a single day.
I am learning to see that the Maharshi's way of helping others is
through unobstrusive, silent and steady outpouring of healing vibrations
into troubled souls. Science will one day be required to account for this
mysterious telepathic process.
It is clear that his mere presence provides many with
spiritual assurance, emotional felicity and, most paradoxical of all,
renewed faith in their creed. For the Sage treats all creeds alike, and honours
Jesus no less than Krishna.
During daily meditation in the potent neighbourhood of the Sage, I
have learnt how to carry my thoughts inwards to an ever-deepening point.
Again and again, I become conscious that he is drawing my mind into his
own atmosphere during these periods of quiet repose. And it is at such
times that one begins to understand why the silences of this man are more
significant than his utterances.
There are moments when I feel this power of his so greatly
that I know that he has only to issue the most disturbing command
and I will readily obey it. But the Maharshi is the last person in the
world to place his followers in the chain of servile obedience, and
allows everyone the utmost freedom of action. In this respect he is
quite refreshingly different from most of the teachers and yogis I
have met in India.
The gist of his message is: "Pursue the enquiry, 'Who am I?'
relentlessly. Analyse your entire personality. Try to find out where the 'I'
thought begins. Go on with your meditations. Keep turning your attention
within. One day the wheel of thought will slow down and an intuition will
mysteriously arise. Follow that intuition, let your thinking stop and it will
eventually lead you to the goal."
18 Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi
I struggle daily with my thoughts and cut away slowly into the
inner recesses of the mind. In the helpful proximity of the Maharshi, my
meditations and self-soliloquies become increasingly less tiring and more
effective. A strong expectancy and a sense of being guided inspire my
constantly repeated efforts.There are strange hours when I am clearly
conscious of the unseen power of the Sage being powerfully impacted on
my mentality, with the result that I penetrate a little deeper still into the
shrouded border land of being, which surrounds the human mind.
I study him intently and gradually come to see in him the child of a
remote past when the discovery of spiritual truth was reckoned of no less
value than is the discovery of a gold mine today. It dawns upon me with
increasing force that, in this quiet and obscure corner of South India, I
have been led to one of the last of India's spiritual supermen.
The serene figure of this living Sage brings the legendary figure of
this country's ancient rishis nearer to me. One senses that the most
wonderful part of this man is withheld. His deepest soul, which one
instinctively recognises as being loaded with rich wisdom, eludes one. At
times he still remains curiously aloof, and at other times the kindly benediction
of his interior grace binds me to him with hoops of steel. I learn to submit
to the enigma of his personality, and to accept him as I find him.
I like him greatly because he is so simple and modest, when
an atmosphere of authentic greatness lies so palpably around him;
because he makes no claim to occult powers and hierophantic knowledge
to impress the mystery-loving nature of his countrymen, and also because
he is so totally without any traces of pretension and he strongly resists
every effort to canonize him during his lifetime.
It seems to me that the presence of men like the Maharshi ensures
the continuity down history of a divine message from regions not easily
accessible to us all. It seems to me, further, that one must accept the fact
that such a sage comes to reveal something to us, not to argue anything
with us. At any rate, his teachings make a strong appeal to me.
He brings no supernatural power and demands no blind faith. He
avoids the dark and debatable waters of wizardry, in which so many
promising voyages have ended in shipwreck. He simply puts forward a
way of self-analysis which can be practised irrespective of any ancient or
modern theories and beliefs which one may hold, a way that will finally
lead man to true self-understanding.
Again and again, I am aware that the Maharshi's mind is imparting
something to my own, though no words may be passing between us.
Spiritually my life is nearing its peak.
I enter the hall and straight away assume my regular meditation
posture. An intense interiorization of consciousness comes with the closing
of eyes. The Maharshi's seated form floats in a vivid manner before my
mind's eye. Then the picture disappears leaving me with nothing more than
a strongly felt sense of his intimate presence.
Tonight I flash swiftly to a pin-point of concentration. Some new
and powerful force comes into dynamic action within my inner world and
bears me inwards with resistless speed. In the next stage, I stand apart
from the intellect, conscious that it is thinking, and watch thoughts with a
weird detachment. The power to think, which has hitherto been a matter
for merely ordinary pride, now becomes a thing from which to escape, for
I perceive with startling clarity that I have been its unconscious captive.
It is strange enough to be able to stand aside and watch the very
action of the brain as though it were someone else's and to see how thoughts
take their rise and then die, but it is stranger still to realise intuitively that
one is about to penetrate into the mysteries which hide in the innermost
recesses of man's soul. I feel like some Columbus about to land on an
Finally it happens. Thought is extinguished like a snuffed candle.
The mind takes its rise in a transcendental source. I remain perfectly calm
and fully aware of who I am and what is occurring.Yet my sense of
awareness has been drawn out of the narrow confines of the separate
personality; it has turned into something sublimely all embracing. Self still
exists, but it is a changed, radiant self. With it arrives an amazing new
sense of absolute freedom, for thought is like a loom-shuttle which always
is going to and fro, and to be freed from its tyrannical motion is to step out
of prison into the open air.
I find myself outside the rim of world consciousness. The planet,
which has so far harboured me, disappears. I am in the midst of an ocean
of blazing light. The latter, I feel rather than think, is the primeval stuff out
of which worlds are created, the first state of matter. It stretches away into
untellable infinite space, incredibly alive.
I, the new I, rest in the lap of holy bliss. I have drunk the Platonic
Cup of Lethe, so that yesterday's bitter memories and tomorrow's anxious
cares have disappeared completely. I have attained a divine liberty and an
almost indescribable felicity. My arms embrace all creation with profound
sympathy, for I understand in the deepest possible way that to know all is
not merely to pardon all, but to love all. My heart is remoulded in rapture.
20 Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi
With the fall of dusk I take my farewells of everyone except
the Maharshi. I feel quietly content because my battle for spiritual
certitude has been won, and because I have won it without sacrificing
my dearly held rationalism for a blind credulity. Yet when the Maharshi
comes to the courtyard with me a little later, my contentment suddenly
This man has strangely conquered me and it deeply affects my
feelings to leave him. He has grappled me to his own soul with unseen
hooks that are harder than steel, although he has sought only to restore a
man to himself, to set him free and not to enslave him. He has taken me
into the benign presence of my spiritual self and helped me, dull Westerner
that I am, to translate a meaningless term into a living and blissful
experience. My adventure in self-metamorphosis is now over.
The following are a few of the many anecdotes recorded in A Search
in Secret India:
(i) Among the strangely diversified company of human beings
who pass through the hermitage, a pariah stumbles into the hall in some
great agony of soul or circumstances and pours out his tribulation at the
Maharshi's feet. The Sage does not reply, for his silence and reserve are
habitual. Instead he gazes quietly at the suffering man, whose cries
gradually diminish until he leaves the hall two hours later a more serene
and stronger man.
(ii) A cultured Brahmin, college-bred, arrives with questions. One
can never be certain whether the Sage will make a verbal response or
not, for often he is eloquent enough without opening his lips. But
today he is in a communicative mood and a few of his terse phrases,
packed with profound meanings as they usually are, open many vistas of
thought for the visitor.
(iii) A peasant and his family have travelled over some hundred
miles to pay a silent homage to the Sage. He is totally illiterate, knows little
beyond his daily work, his religious rites and ancestral superstitions. He sits
on the floor quietly after having prostrated himself three times. The family
stays for a few hours, hardly speaking, and gaze in reverence at the
Maharshi. It is clear that the Maharshi's mere presence provides
them with spiritual assurance and emotional felicity.
(iv) A large group of visitors and devotees are in the hall when
someone arrives with the news that a certain man, whose criminal reputation
is a byword in the town, is dead. Immediately, there is some discussion
about him, and as is the wont of human nature, various people get engaged
in recalling some of his crimes and the more dastardly phases of his
character. When the discussion appears to have ended, the Maharshi opens
his mouth for the first time and quietly observes, "Yes, but he kept himself
very clean, for he bathed two or three times a day!"
Brunton records in his second book The Secret Path:
In the Maharshi I discovered the last remnants of that 'Mystic
East' about which most of us often hear, but which few of us ever find. I
met an unusual man who quickly earned my humble veneration. For although
he belonged by tradition to the class of Wise Men of the East, a class
which has largely disappeared from the modern world, he avoided all record
of his existence and disdained efforts to give him publicity.
The world wants its great men to measure their lives by its puny
foot-rule. But no rule has yet been devised which will take their full height,
for such men, if they are really worth their name, derive their greatness, not
from themselves but from another source. And that source stretches far
away into the Infinite. Such sages dwell outwardly apart, keeping alive the
divine secrets, which life and fate have conspired to confide in their care.
The Maharshi interested me much despite the fact that his wisdom
was not of a kind which is easily apparent and despite the strong reserve
which encircled him. He broke his habitual silence only to answer questions
upon such recondite topics as the nature of man's soul, the mystery of
God, the strange powers which lie unused in the human mind, and so on,
but when he did venture to speak I used to sit enthralled as I listened to his
soft voice and inspiration gleamed in those luminous eyes. Each phrase
that fell from his lips seemed to contain some precious fragment of
In the presence of the Maharshi one felt security and inward
peace. The spiritual radiations that emanated from him were allpenetrating.
I learnt to recognise in his person the sublime truths which
he taught, while I was no less hushed into reverence by his incredibly
sainted atmosphere. He possessed a deific personality which defies
description. I might have taken shorthand notes of the discourse of the
Sage, I might even print the record of his speech; but the most important
part of his utterances, the subtle and silent flavour of spirituality which
emanated from him, can never be reported.
One could not forget that wonderful pregnant smile of his, with its
hint of wisdom and peace won from suffering and experience. He was
22 Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi
the most understanding man I have ever known; you could be
sure always of some word from him that would smooth your way a
little, and that word always verified what your deepest feeling told
The words of the Maharshi flame out in my memory like
beacon lights. "I pluck golden fruits from rare meetings with wise men",
wrote trans-Atlantic Emerson in his diary, and it is certain that I plucked
whole basketfuls during my talks with this man. Our best philosophers of
Europe could not hold a candle to him.
Brunton writes in his fourth book A Message from Arunachala:
I found my own good fortune and needed no other, for I
discovered one of the last of India's spiritual supermen, the
Illuminated Sage of Tiruvannamalai. I 'sat at his feet', as the ancient Indian
phrase of pupilship poetically terms it, and thereby learned, through a
dynamic experience, of what divine and deathless stuff man is really made.
What higher fortune than that can we, pitiful mortals, require?
He sat as immobile as a rock in the ocean, cross-legged in
meditation. We foolishly imagine that such a man has failed to put up with
the bustling procession of life; it never occurs to us that he may have far
The Maharshi said, "Suffering turns men towards their creator."
Such simple words – yet what a whole philosophy is congealed within
the phrase. You may think them to be platitudinous, and they would be,
did they not derive from a man who knew what he was talking about
because he ascended to spiritual regions beyond our ken, to
regions where God is.
The following is from The Note Books of Paul Brunton (vol.10):
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. Face to face with the Maharshi,
sometimes one felt in the presence of a visitor from another planet, at
other times with a being of another species.
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 one who might not have heard of Aristotle, but who
was following this counsel to the last letter.
The following is from The Silent Power: 1
(i) A Pure Channel for a Higher Power: Forty years have
passed since I walked into his abode and saw the Maharshi half-reclining,
half-sitting on a 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 this 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 has been an ordinary yogi. I have met
dozens of yogis, in their Eastern and Western varieties, and many exceptional
persons. Whatever status is assigned to the Maharshi by his followers, 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 conversation with those who were around
him; upon his historical record; and finally upon my own personal
experiences. Upon all the evidence one fact is incontrovertibly clear
that he was a pure channel for a Higher Power.
No physical phenomenon of an occult kind was ever witnessed
then; nothing at all happened outwardly. But those who were not steeped
too far in materialism to recognise 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
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.
(ii) A Spiritual Torch: Since the day when I first found him,
absorbed in the mysterious trance of samadhi, I have travelled in many
lands but always my thoughts turned towards Tiruvannamalai as the
Muhammedan turns his face during prayer towards Mecca. I knew that
somewhere in the wilderness of this world there was a sacred place for
At the Sage's feet, I picked up a spiritual torch and carried it to
waiting souls in the lands of the West. They welcomed the light with
eagerness. There should be no virtue to be accredited to me for that, for
whatsoever benefit has accrued to Western seekers comes from the torch
which was lit by the Maharshi himself. I was only the unimportant 'link boy'
the humble carrier.