Maurice Frydman (1900-76), a Polish Jew, was working as a research engineer in France when the then Diwan of Mysore, struck by his originality and drive, brought him to Mysore. He effected improvements in the charkha1 and earned the name ‘Bharatananda’ from Mahatma Gandhi in recognition of his intense love for India. He first met Sri Ramana around 1935.
Just six months after I came to India, I was left alone and had no friends. The person whom I loved died and I had nothing to attract me in life. Quite accidentally, just for fun, I dropped in at Tiruvannamalai. I went direct to the Swami and remained there for two hours. Then I understood that I had met someone, the like of whom I had never met before. I did not then know what was meant by words like the Maharshi and Bhagavan. I had no preconceived ideas and yet I felt that there was something extraordinary in that man. I was told about his teachings but they were far too high for me. I did not understand what they meant but I felt a strong affection for him, just as a dog would have towards his master.
Afterwards, whenever I felt worried, I used to go to the Ashram, and sit in his presence. In the early days I would be asking questions, but later when I began to visit him more and more, discussions with him grew less and less. Then I began to visit him almost every month. I knew no sadhana or dhyana. I would simply sit in his presence. To my questions, the Maharshi would say, “Find out who you are.” I could not make out anything, but all the same I felt happy. Slowly, some change came in me.
Just as the egg grows and hatches only with the aid of the warmth of the mother, I was getting into shape slowly and steadily in his presence. My mind became quieter than before. Previously it was unhappy and dissatisfied, now a kind of security and peace began to be felt spontaneously. I felt that the Maharshi was coming nearer and nearer as time passed. Afterwards I used to think of him whenever I felt unhappy. His affection was always there and as fire melts ice so his affection made my worries melt and my struggle for life got transformed into a blissful life.
It was the immense privilege of the writer to meet a few gigantic spiritual men, but nobody ever produced on him a deeper impression than Ramana Maharshi. In him the sublime majesty of the divine life stood and moved in all simplicity. The ultimate had revealed itself as the immediate, and the undreamt had become the actual.
The burning regret, which many probably share with me, is that full advantage was not taken of those happy and precious days when he was with us physically also – eating, talking, laughing, welcoming all, open to all. The reality was there – in abundance for taking, but we enclosed ourselves in timidity, in false humility, in self-deception and false excuses. We took a cupful when the ocean was at our feet.
In one of his letters to Sri Ramanasramam Frydman wrote:
“The Maharshi is with me not only when I think of him but also when I am not thinking of him. Otherwise, how do I live?” 2
A.R. Natarajan records in his book Timeless in Time:
Frydman was childlike in nature and would put fTank questions with freedom. Once he asked with dramatic gestures, “Why should not the ego be cut down with one stroke and destroyed so as to give supreme bliss to the devotees?” Then Sri Ramana broke out into laughter and asked Frydman to hold out his ego so that he could strike it down. Everyone including Frydman joined in the laugher. “Yes, now I understand”, said Frydman.
S.Bhanu Sharma writes in Ramana Smrti:
In 1935, I happened to work in Bangalore under a Polish engineer, Maurice Frydman, who was a frequent visitor to the Ashram. In 1937, one of his Dutch friends Dr.G.H.Mees [No.2], a scholar, told him that he was not able to get clarification on certain points on Indian philosophy, despite all efforts. Frydman suggested to him to go to Tiruvannamalai and meet Sri Bhagavan, and I was to accompany him in the mission. Dr.Mees noted down all his questions. We arrived at about 8.30 a.m. and sat down in the hall in front of Bhagavan. Several devotees were putting questions and Bhagavan was answering them. Dr.Mees kept silent. At 10.45 a.m. I reminded him about his questions. He said that he no longer had any doubt on any of his points.
G. V. Subbaramayya records in his book Sri Ramana Reminiscences:
Many Western visitors came for the jayanti celebrations of 1936. One of them, Maurice Frydman, a Polish Jew of subtle intellect, plied Bhagavan with ingenious pleas for practical guidance for self-realisation. Bhagavan followed his arguments with keen interest but kept silent all the time. When pressed to say something, Bhagavan quoted from the Bible, “Be still and know that I am God”, and added a rider that the Lord said, “‘know“ and not ‘think‘ that I am God.”
Extracts from Frydman’s poems:
I am at the end of the tether and can’t break the cord All my going ahead is a deceitful dream,
All my thinking not true, all my feeling not pure,
All my doing not right, all my living not clear.
I am tied to myself by myself through myself,
The knot out of reach, I am in your hands.
There is a Heart and a mind, and a body and soul Waiting for you. You will come when you choose, And whatever you like you are welcome to do.
Heavy with the mud of many lands I was flowing lazily,
Making obstacles of myself out of my unholy accumulations. Suddenly I awakened to the freshness of endless beauty,
And felt the eternal environment of endless peace.
My beloved I have found you, and yet never were we separated, Every drop of my being is you and yours is the force of my flow, Never are we apart and yet I always strive after you.
The flow of creation will go on with me or without me,
Only do not make me forget that I am none and that you only exist and create in ever-changing mobility.
1. Reference here is to the spinning wheel used by Mahatma Gandhi, and at his instance by millions of others in India to counter the use of imported cloth.
2. Entry no.74, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Ramanasramam.