Ethel Merston, a French devotee, came to Sri Ramana in 1939. She settled down near Sri Ramanasramam for many years before and after Sri Ramana’s mahanirvana. She wrote about her meetings with Sri Ramana in The Call Divine.
In 1937-38, a small group of seekers in Paris was discussing teachings of J.Krishnamurti and others. All of us had read Brunton’s A Search in Secret India [No.1]. One of us – Pascaline Mallet [No.75] had visited the Ashram and been much impressed. Pascaline had asked me to help her to translate ‘Who am I?“ into French. The book made a deep impression on me. We were curious to see the great man so eulogized by Brunton.
Bhagavan drew me to Tiruvannamalai in 1939. It took me a few moments after entering his hall to know that I was in the presence of the greatest teacher I have ever met. From the first moment in his presence he made me feel at home, and the peace in that little hall drew me as nothing had before. We had planned to stay for two days. When finally I had to leave, I knew that sometime I should return. The return came two years later and from then on for five consecutive years, I visited the Ashram each summer to sit in Bhagavan’s presence.Then in 1944 with my work in North India coming to an end, I came to live permanently near him.
In the early days, the women sat on either side of the entrance, facing the couch, while the men sat down on the other side at the foot of the couch. Every kind of caste, creed and nationality came for darshan.To each and everyone, from maharaja to sweeper, Bhagavan was the same gentle twinkling-eyed friend. Newcomers including me, would begin by asking him questions, but soon found no necessity to voice them; in one way or another, without asking, the questions would be answered and problems solved.
Once I had been mulling over a problem for three days without finding the solution. The fourth day, while sitting opposite to Bhagavan, and still harassed by the problem, Bhagavan suddenly turned his eyes upon me. After a moment, he asked one of his attendants to find him a certain book of puranic stories; he turned over the pages until, finding the passage he wanted, he handed over the book to one of the men who knew English and told him to read the story aloud. That story gave me the answer to my problem.
He taught each seeker as suited his need. He was clairvoyant and could read our thoughts. Of psychic powers, I saw him use none, beyond conveying thoughts silently and so powerfully that the vibrations would sometimes roll in waves down the hall almost hurting one by the force with which they impinged on the body, not only of the recipient, for whom the thought was meant, but on many of us sitting there.
Bhagavan’s gaze was spellbinding. Once an elderly sannyasi entered the hall. Bhagavan, who was reading, dropped his book immediately and looked straight up at the man who took two strides forward and stood near Bhagavan’s feet, returning his gaze. There was such love and joy in Bhagavan’s gaze that one could almost hear him say, “So you have come at last, my beloved brother.”The two went on gazing at each other, without a word spoken aloud, but I could literally feel them speaking to each other, the flow of the current going Backand forth between them. They talked thus voicelessly for some ten or fifteen minutes, then suddenly the sannyasi dropped to the floor and passed into samadhi for the next two hours. Bhagavan quietly took up his book again and went on, remaining as though nothing had happened, as doubtless indeed for him it had not. But for us it was an unforgettable experience.
Quite apart from solving our problems, or helping us to do so, just to sit in Bhagavan’s presence was to realize or get a feeling of what true relaxation and a quiet mind might mean. It did not mean shutting oneself away, isolating oneself, on the contrary, it meant being with all, yet remaining within, being in the world and yet not of it.
During the last years of Bhagavan’s life, we learned many lessons from him. But one, which he never ceased to hammer into us was that he was not the body, the body might go, but he would not go. He always was and always would be there with us, as now. I saw only three people cry as we spent the night keeping vigil of the corpse. We just knew that Bhagavan had not gone, so why cry for him, or rather, cry for a non-existent loss? We who knew him in the body are not the only ones to feel his presence. Even after he left the body, people in England who never knew him in the flesh, have told me that after reading about him, they have had the experience of his actual presence near them, even of his touch, ready with his grace to help.