PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION
The pages that follow contain first-hand experiences of a hundred and sixty (160) individuals, including twenty eight foreigners from across the globe, who visited / interacted with Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950). Some of these persons also had an opportunity to serve / live with him. The book provides a comprehensive, not exhaustive, record of such experiences. The figure 160 is the extent to which we could go!
The number of beneficiaries of the Maharshi’s grace while he was in the mortal frame is very large, but the limitation as usual was lack of inclination and inspiration of the individuals to record the event. We are indeed grateful to the chroniclers for leaving behind a record of experiences of their visits / stay at the Ashram.
The reminiscences tell us about the Maharshi’s philosophy, his teachings and his love for all living beings, including animals and plants. They reveal how sincere aspirants felt the impact of the irresistible light of the Maharshi’s eyes which penetrated their inner being, and also how the peace and bliss got transmitted through celestial vibrations released by the Maharshi’s presence.
Many write-ups in the book bring out the Maharshi as a perfect being, notwithstanding the overpowering and debilitating vrittis (tendencies) inherent in human beings. This is indeed unique, as even our avatars could not always transcend the constraints of their physical form. Many descriptions in the text make us feel that the jivanmukta (emancipated while yet in the physical body) and the sthitaprajna (a person of steadfast wisdom) as envisoned in our scriptures, are not mere concepts but the reality authenticated by the Maharshi.
The encomiums showered upon the Maharshi by the contibutors make the reader recall Einstein’s historic tribute to Mahatma Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.“
The reader of these pages will discover that spirituality is not something vague and uncertain but substantial and proven as got manifested in the Maharshi.
The text offers an insight into the myriad dimensions of the life at the Maharshi’s ashrams on the Arunachala hill and in its vicinity. It also helps us to understand the Maharshl’s philosophy, which is to achieve Self-realisation through persistent and intensive introspection on the basic question – Who am I? It is essentially the same approach as enunciated by celebrated Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 B.C.) – “Man know thyself. The unexamined life is not worth living.”“
The reminiscences presented here have no particular order and are independent of each other. They begin with the chronicler’s brief biographical sketch, which sounds limited in many cases due to lack of information. This is because many devotees have chosen the tradition of underplaying the self.
. The views and experiences of the chroniclers have at places been edited to make the presentation incisive and precise.
Some sentences in the text signifying the exalted state of the Maharshi are in bold face, at our instance. The word ‘Ashram’ when it refers to Sri Ramanasramam, is with capital ‘A’.
. Many chroniclers have reverently referred to Sri Ramana aS The text is almost wholly based on the publications of Sri Rama-nasramam,Tiruvannamalai; Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bangalore; and David Godman’s three-part The Power Of The Presence – Transforming Encounters with Sri Ramana Maharshi. We feel deeply indebted to these sources for their permission to use the material.
Glossary at the end is intended to explain non-English, italicised words. It also contains brief notes on important Sanskrit and Tamil works referred to in the text. References of the Sources of Material Used furnish details of source in each case. This is followed by Alphabetical List of Contributors.
Index is preceded by a collection of Accolades Showered upon Sri Ramana, which seem to defy all laudations and extolments.
I am grateful to Padma Vibhushan awardee Dr. T.N. Chaturvedi, Governor of Karnataka and formerly Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, for acceding to my request to write the Foreword.
I am thankful to Dr. V. Ramadas Murthy for his meticulous proof reading, and to Smt. Lalitha Krithivasan, Sri V. Krithivasan, Sri N.S. Ramamohan, Sri P.S. Sundaram, Sri C.R.P. Setty, Prof. Shiv K. Kumar,
Prof. M. Sivaramakrishna, Sri David Godman, Sri J. Jayaraman, Dr. Sushma Narayan and others for their help in the preparation of this book.
I sincerely thank Sri N.S. Ramamohan and Smt. Uma Sudhakar Rayilla – self-effacing and sincere devotees of our Kendram, Sri Nrupender Rao, Chairman, Pennar Industries Ltd., Hyderabad, and my daughter Dr. Sushma Narayan, a paediatrician in Delhi, for funding the production cost of the book. Thanks are due to them all the more because they would not have liked to be identified.
The printing cost of the book is an offering to Sri Ramana by my former student Sri Vijay R. Raghavan of Sai Security Printers Ltd., New Delhi, who deserves my sincere thanks.
The photographs in the book are an offering to Sri Ramana from my son-in-law Sri Sanjiv Narayan, for which I am thankful to him.
This book is a humble offering at the feet of Sri Ramana Maharshi on his 125th jayanti, which is also the Silver Jubilee Year of Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad.
1. Chinnaswami alias Niranjananandaswami was sarvadhikari (chief manager) of Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai from 1928 to 1953. At present, the chief of the Ashram is called ‘President’. Sri Ramana Maharshi, who attained mahanirvana in April 1950, continues to be the sole spiritual head.
2. The Mountain Path is being published quarterly by Sri Ramanasramam, since 1964. The journal The Call Divine, devoted to Sri Ramana Maharshi, published from Bombay, first appeared in 1952 and ceased publication in 1975.
3. David Godman, a Britisher who made Tiruvannamalai his home in 1976, has made substantial and valuable contribution to Sri Ramana literature.
PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION
The addition of 42 reminiscences takes the total to 202 (101+101). The effort is to have a comprehensive collection of the impressions, feelings, and experiences of those who had the privilege of being in the vicinity of Sri Ramana – the Maharshi.
The chroniclers added in this edition include Sri C. Rajagopalachari (no.192) and Sri Apa B. Pant (no.199). They later served as Governor-General of India, and India’s High Commissioner in U.K., respectively. Sri Shankarlal Banker (no.167), a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, regularly communicated his elevating experiences to the Mahatma. Of the five foreigners – one each was from U.K. (no.173), France (no.175) and Poland (no.194). The two from U.S.A. (nos. 163 & 198), stayed at the Ashram for three years, and one of them (Sri Robert Adams) devoted himself to preach Sri Ramana’s philosophy back home.
The reminiscences provide an insight into the spiritual height of the twentieth century maharshi, who was self-obliteration personified, and who spoke through silence. A British journalist records, “I like him greatly because he is so simple and modest, when an atmosphere of authentic greatness lies so palpably around him.” (P. 18) One can easily count up the number of words he uses in a single day.” (P. 17)
As before, the reminiscences have no particular order and are independent of each other. While retaining the original contents, the matter has been edited as necessary.
My thanks are due to many for their willing help and support. In particular, I am indebted to Smt. Lalitha Krithivasan, Sri V. Krithivasan, Sri P.S. Sundaram, Prof. M. Sivaramakrishna, Sri T.V. Chandramouli, Sri David Godman, Sri G. Srihari Rao, Sri Ramamani, Sri J. Jayaraman, Sri N.S. Ramamohan and Sri V.S. Ramanan.
I am beholden to my former student Sri Vijay R. Raghavan whose Sai Security Printers at Faridabad, has been considering the printing cost as an offering to the Maharshi.