Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – Suzanne Alexandra

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Suzanne Alexandra, born in Paris in 1896, was in the quest for Truth from an early age. When 18, she joined the Theosophical Society. A talented dancer and a doctor, she came to India in 1925 to attend the annual Theosophical convention at Adyar, where she met a Buddhist monk and became a Buddhist nun. Based on a newspaper article she visited Sri Ramana in 1936. After marriage she became Sujata Sen. She ran a free clinic for the poor in Tiruvannamalai for several years.

She was guided to the Maharshi by Raja Iyer, the postmaster of the Ashram. She found the hall decorated and furnished in a simple way. A frieze of blue flowers ran along the walls. A clock hung on the wall facing the devotees. Below it, on a shelf, were a few tin containers. She saw Maharshi take some nuts out of a container for the squirrel that had run to him. Next to the couch was a revolving bookcase and further down two cupboards holding more books and a small store of stationery. No attempt had been made to create a mystical or spiritual background for the Maharshi, yet the setting could not detract from the grandeur of the sage. He was exceptional in just being himself. In every action he did, whether he was correcting a manuscript or reading a letter, there was complete naturalness and absence of pose. This is very rarely seen elsewhere.

The Maharshi ate very frugally. He asked Suzanne whether the food was not too pungent for her. These words of solicitude were the first words he spoke to her^The Maharshi did not give any discourses. He replied to questions put to him, usually very succinctly, as if to let the one word or the few words he said make their way directly into the understanding of the questioner. On the other hand, when a young man struggled to grasp what the Self was, the Maharshi with great patience guided him through his reasoning until at last he got some glimmering of what the Maharshi meant. Apart from these exceptions to silence, there were long quiet moments when the Maharshi said and did nothing, but which were more effective in conveying the transcendent Truth than any lecture or sermon would have been.

The evening session in the hall began with the recitation from the Vedas. As the powerful Sanskrit syllables vibrated in the hall, the Maharshi’s appearance underwent a remarkable change. His expression became austere, his gaze inward. His face appeared translucent as if lit by an inner illumination, whilst the constant slight trembling of the body had now stopped completely. Yet even in this state it was evident that he was not oblivious of his surroundings, and he had an awareness of both the inner and outer reality^ The Maharshi is an Adept of the highest order, a king of Yogis. The splendour of his Realization radiates like a sun. He lifts you far above the world.

When ladies had to leave the Ashram at sun set, Suzanne refused to do so, considering it an act of discrimination, and to register her protest she declared that since she could not stay at the Ashram, she would go and spend the night at the Hill. She climbed the Hill somewhat afraid of the wild animals and found a small cave for her stay. Her anger drove all other thoughts from her mind. It was then that she had a vision of Arunachala as a Hill of Fire, and she saw many worlds existing within the Hill. [Another devotee, S.N. Tandon records a similar experience in The Mountain Path of April 1970.] To protect Suzanne from the wild animals, the Maharshi asked Cohen [No. 37], who knew her when at Adyar, to persuade her to come down. Without further protests she agreed to spend the rest of the night in a hotel room in town.

Suzanne was for long associated with the idea of a Master-Disciple relationship through formal initiation, which was never done by the Maharshi. In 1945, she decided to go to Swami Ramdas [No. 81], to be his shishya (disciple) in a formal way. She sorrowfully mentioned about her departure to the Maharshi, who kept quiet. But then something strange and wonderful happened, for she saw the Maharshi as Dakshinamurthi, the great silent guru. [Refer annexure-V, p. 415] As she would write, “When I was talking to him, his appearance changed and I thought that Dakshinamurthi was sitting before me. In the silence I heard, ‘There is no separation, all gurus are one. They are the indwelling Self of everyone. I shall ever remain as the Jewel shining in the lotus of your heart.'” [In a group photo with the Maharshi, Suzanne can be seen clad as a Buddhist monk. The Mountain Path, Aradhana, 2003.]

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