Swami Tapasyananda, pre-monistic Balakrishna Menon (1904-91), was a post graduate and an erudite scholar. His translations include the Gita, Adhyatma Ramayana, Saundarya Lahari and many more. He was head of Ramakrishna Mission, Madras, for two decades.
The Maharshi impressed me as a rare type of man. He simply seems to exist, without waiting for anything, without being anxious about anything. [This reminded the Swami of the Gita where the Lord says about Himself, “Nor do these actions bind me. Like one unconcerned, I remain unattached to these actions.” XI. 9]
The only activity of the Ashram in which he seems to take interest is cooking. He cuts vegetables and prepares some of the dishes for the day. Spicing and other processes of the culinary art are performed under his directions.
Another point that struck me is his silence. When I asked him to tell me something of spirituality, the first thing he said was that silence is the highest teaching! His idea is that the ‘Advaitin has no position to state, no siddhantas [theories] to propound.’ He regrets that these days even advaita has become a siddhanta, whereas it is really not meant to be so. When I asked him about a book that I purchased in the depot there, how far the ideas stated therein are his teachings, he said, it was very difficult to state that, as he had no definite teaching.
He told me that he has absolutely no inclination to write a book; but due to entreaties of some people he has written some verses, and also added that he is often troubled by men who take a fancy to translate them into this language or that, and ask him about the faithfulness of the translation.
Mostly, the Maharshi remains silent. People come, make prostrations, sit before him for some minutes or hours and then go away, perhaps without exchanging even a single word! I have got my own doubt whether people benefit by this teaching through silence. Yet people come from long distances to hear this dumb eloquence and go Backsatisfied.
Though he speaks but little, it is very instructive to watch his face and eyes. There is nothing very prepossessing about his personality, but there is a beam of intelligence and unruffled calmness in his eyes, which are unique. His body is almost motionless except when he occasionally changes his position or wipes his sweat in that hot place. I was carefully observing his face; I found him seldom winking and never yawning. I say this to show that I am sufficiently satisfied that the absence of activity in him is not due to inertness.
I stayed at the Ashram for three days. The Maharshi talked with me very kindly and quite freely on several questions I asked him. Although his manner of replying was not so impressive as I expected, his thoughts are always clear, concise and free from all ideas of narrowness. I am convinced that he is a sweet and lovable person who is indifferent to all things about him, who has no end of his own to gain, who is always alert even when he seems to be most deeply absorbed, and who may be said to be perfectly free from greed and vanity. In seeing him I do believe I have seen a unique personage – a jnani, a perfect sage.