SEARCH IN SECRET INDIA
[a book by Paul Brunton] had a profound influence on
me. In it I learned for the first time about Ramana
Maharshi, a great Indian saint and sage. It was as though
some emanation of this saint was projected out of the
book to me. For days and nights after reading about
him I could not think of anything else. I became, as
it were, possessed by him. I could not even talk of
anything else. Nothing could distract me from the idea
that I must go and meet this saint. From this time on,
although I ceased to speak too much about it, the whole
direction of my life turned toward India and away from
Hollywood. I felt that I would surely go there, although
there was nothing at this time to indicate that I would.
Nevertheless, I felt I would meet the Maharshi and that
this meeting would be the greatest experience of my
had very little money, far too little to risk going
to India, but something pushed me towards it. I went
to the steamship company and booked myself one of the
cheapest cabins on an Indian ship, the S. S. Victoria,
sailing from Genoa to Bombay toward the beginning of
October. In the meantime I flew to Dublin to see my
had booked passage to Ceylon intending from there to
cross over to southern India and go directly to Tiruvannamalai,
where Ramana Maharshi lived. But when the ship called
at Bombay, Norina Matchabelli came on board to see me
with a message from Meher Baba saying that Consuelo
[a lady traveling companion who was a follower of Meher
Baba] and I must get off the ship and come to see him
in Ahmednagar, about two hours from Bombay. I did not
want to do this as my real purpose in India was to see
the Maharshi, and I was impatient to get to him.
author had met Meher Baba in California and for some
time evinced considerable respect for him. However,
her faith in him waned prior to coming to India, and
once there, it all but evaporated. At Meher Baba's request-one
of the few she consented to-she first made a tour of
India, delaying her visit to the Maharshi.]
Madras I hired a car, and so anxious was I to arrive
in Tiruvannamalai that I did not go to bed and traveled
by night, arriving about seven o'clock in the morning
after driving almost eleven hours. I was very tired
as I got out of the car in a small square in front of
the temple [Arunachaleswara Temple]. The driver explained
he could take me no farther. I turned toward the hill
of Arunachala and hurried in the hot sun along the dust-covered
road to the abode about two miles from town where the
Sage dwelt. As I ran those two miles, deeply within
myself I knew that I was running toward the greatest
experience of my life.
dazed and filled with emotion, I first entered the hall,
I did not quite know what to do. Coming from strong
sunlight into the somewhat darkened hall, it was, at
first, difficult to see; nevertheless, I perceived Bhagavan
at once, sitting in the Buddha posture on his couch
in the corner. At the same moment I felt overcome by
some strong power in the hall, as if an invisible wind
was pushing violently against me. For a moment I felt
dizzy. Then I recovered myself. To my great surprise
I suddenly heard an American voice calling out to me,
"Hello, come in." It was the voice of an American named
Guy Hague, who originally came from Long Beach, California.
He told me later that he had been honorably discharged
from the American Navy in the Philippines and had then
worked his way to India, taking up the study of yoga
when he reached Bombay. Then he heard about Sri Ramana
Maharshi and, feeling greatly drawn to him, decided
to go to Tiruvannamalai. When I met him he had already
been with the Maharshi for a year, sitting uninterruptedly
day and night in the hall with the sage.
rose from where he was sitting against the wall and
came toward me, taking my hand and leading me back to
a place beside him against the wall. He did not at first
speak to me, allowing me to pull myself together. I
was able to look around the hall, but my gaze was drawn
to Bhagavan, who was sitting absolutely straight in
the Buddha posture looking directly in front of him.
His eyes did not blink or in any way move. Because they
seemed so full of light I had the impression they were
gray. I learned later that they were brown, although
there have been various opinions as to the color of
his eyes. His body was naked except for a loincloth.
I discovered soon after, that this and his staff were
absolutely his only possessions. His body seemed firm
and as if tanned by the sun, although I found that the
only exercise he ever took was a twenty-minute walk
every afternoon at five o'clock when he walked on the
hill and sometimes greeted yogis who came to prostrate
themselves at his feet.
was a strict vegetarian, but he only ate what was placed
before him and he never expressed a desire for any kind
of food. As he sat there he seemed like a statue, and
yet something extraordinary emanated from him. I had
a feeling that on some invisible level I was receiving
spiritual shocks from him, although his gaze was not
directed toward me. He did not seem to be looking at
anything, and yet I felt he could see and was conscious
of the whole world.
is in samadhi," Guy Hague said.
looked around. Squatting on the floor or sitting in
the Buddha posture or lying prostrate face down, a number
of Indians prayed-some of them reciting their mantras
out loud. Several small monkeys came into the hall and
approached Bhagavan. They climbed onto his couch and
broke the stillness with their gay chatter. He loved
animals and any kind was respected and welcomed by him
in the ashram. They were treated as equals of humans
and always addressed by their names. Sick animals were
brought to Bhagavan and kept by him on his couch or
on the floor beside him until they were well. Many animals
had died in his arms. When I was there he had a much-loved
cow who wandered in and out of the hall, and often lay
down beside him and licked his hand. He loved to tell
stories about the goodness of animals. It was remarkable
that none of the animals ever fought or attacked each
I had been sitting several hours in the hall listening
to the mantras of the Indians and the incessant droning
of flies, and lost in a sort of inner world, Guy Hague
suggested that I go and sit near the Maharshi. He said,
"You can never tell when Bhagavan will come out of samadhi.
When he does, I am sure he will be pleased to see you,
and it will be beneficial for you, at this moment, to
be sitting near him."
moved near Bhagavan, sitting at his feet and facing
him. Guy was right. Not long after this Bhagavan opened
his eyes. He moved his head and looked directly down
at me, his eyes looking into mine. It would be impossible
to describe this moment and I am not going to attempt
it. I can only say that at this second I felt my inner
being raised to a new level-as if, suddenly, my state
of consciousness was lifted to a much higher degree.
Perhaps in this split second I was no longer my human
self but the Self. Then Bhagavan smiled at me. It seemed
to me that I had never before known what a smile was.
I said, "I have come a long way to see you."
was silence. I had stupidly brought a piece of paper
on which I had written a number of questions I wanted
to ask him. I fumbled for it in my pocket, but the questions
were already answered by merely being in his presence.
There was no need for questions or answers. Nevertheless,
my dull intellect expressed one.
me, whom shall I follow-what shall I follow? I have
been trying to find this out for years by seeking in
religions, in philosophies, in teachings." Again there
was silence. After a few minutes, which seemed to me
a long time, he spoke.
are not telling the truth. You are just using words-just
talking. You know perfectly well whom to follow. Why
do you need me to confirm it?"
mean I should follow my inner self?" I asked.
don't know anything about your inner self. You should
follow the Self. There is nothing or no one else to
asked again, "What about religions, teachers, gurus?"
they can help in the quest of the Self. But can they
help? Can religion, which teaches you to look outside
yourself, which promises a heaven and a reward outside
yourself, can this help you? It is only by diving deep
into the spiritual Heart that one can find the Self."
He placed his right hand on his right breast and continued,
"Here lies the Heart, the dynamic, spiritual Heart.
It is called Hridaya and is located on the right side
of the chest and is clearly visible to the inner eye
of an adept on the spiritual path. Through meditation
you can learn to find the Self in the cave of this Heart."
is a strange thing but when I was very young, Ignacio
Zuloaga said to me, "All great people function with
the heart." He placed his hand over my physical heart
and continued, "See, here lies the heart. Always remember
to think with it, to feel with it, and above all, to
judge with it."
the Enlightened One raised the counsel to a higher level.
He said, "Find the Self in the real Heart."
just at the right moment in my life, showed me the way.
People would say to Bhagavan, "I would like to find
God." His answer was: "Find the Self first and then
you won't have to worry about God." And once a man said
to him, "I don't know whether to be a Catholic or a
asked him, "What are you now?"
answered, "I am a Catholic."
then said, "Go home and be a good Catholic and then
you will know whether you should be a Buddhist or not."
pointed out to me that the real Self is timeless. "But,"
he said, "in spite of ignorance, no man takes seriously
the fact of death. He may see death around him, but
he still does not believe that he will die. He believes,
or rather, feels, in some strange way that death is
not for him. Only when the body is threatened does he
fall a victim to the fear of death. Every man believes
himself to be eternal, and this is actually the truth.
This truth asserts itself in spite of man's ignorant
belief that the body is the Self."
asked him how to pray for other people. He answered,
"If you are abiding within the Self, there are no other
people. You and I are the same. When I pray for you
I pray for myself and when I pray for myself I pray
for you. Real prayer is to abide within the Self. This
is the meaning of Tat Twam Asi-That Thou Art. There
can be no separation in the Self. There is no need for
prayer for yourself or any person other than to abide
within the Self."
said, "Bhagavan, you say that I am to take up the search
for the Self by Atma Vichara, asking myself the question
Who Am I? May I ask who are you?" Bhagavan answered,
"When you know the Self, the 'I' 'You' 'He' and 'She'
disappear. They merge together in pure Consciousness."
one time what I thought were some evil-looking priests
who had come from the temple, I remarked on them to
Bhagavan. He said, "What do you mean by evil? I do not
know the difference between what you call good and evil.
To me they are both the same thing-just the opposite
sides of the coin." I should have known this. Bhagavan
was, of course, beyond duality. He was beyond love and
hatred, beyond good and evil, and beyond all pairs of
write of this experience with Bhagavan, to recapture
and record all that he said, or all that his silences
implied, is like trying to put the infinite into an
egg cup. One small chapter cannot in any way do him
justice or give an impression of his enlightenment,
and I do not think that I am far enough spiritually
advanced-if at all-to try to interpret his supreme knowledge.
On me he had, and still has, a profound influence. I
feel it presumptuous to say he changed my life. My life
was perhaps not so important as all this. But I definitely
saw life differently after I had been in his presence,
a presence that just by merely "being" was sufficient
spiritual nourishment for a lifetime. It may have been
that when I returned from India, undiscerning people
saw very little change in me. But there was a change-a
transformation of my entire consciousness. And how could
it have been otherwise? I had been in the atmosphere
of an egoless, world-detached, and completely pure being.
sat in the hall with Bhagavan three days and three nights.
Sometimes he spoke to me; other times he was silent
and I did not interrupt his silence. Often he was in
samadhi. I wanted to stay on there with him but finally
he told me that I should go back to America. He said,
"There will be what will be called a 'war,' but which,
in reality, will be a great world revolution. Every
country and every person will be touched by it. You
must return to America. Your destiny is not in India
at this time." Before leaving the ashram, Bhagavan gave
me some verses he had selected from the Yoga Vasishta.
He said they contained the essence for the path of a
in the state of fullness, which shines when all desires
are given up, and peaceful in the state of freedom in
life, act playfully in the world, O Raghava!"
free from all desires, dispassionate and detached, but
outwardly active in all directions, act playfully in
the world, O Raghava!"
from egoism, with mind detached as in sleep, pure like
the sky, ever untainted, act playfully in the world,
yourself nobly with kindly tenderness, outwardly conforming
to conventions, but inwardly renouncing all, act playfully
in the world, O Raghava!"
unattached at heart but for all appearance acting as
with attachment, inwardly cool but outwardly full of
fervour, act playfully in the world, O Raghava!"
sorrowfully said farewell to Bhagavan. As I was leaving
he said, "You will return here again." I wonder. Since
his physical presence has gone I wonder if I shall.
Yet often I feel the pull of Arunachala as though it
were drawing me back. I feel the pull of that sacred
hill of which he was so much a part and where his mortal
body lies buried.
BEFORE LEAVING THE ASHRAM I wrote down several questions
for Guy Hague to ask Bhagavan that I had not had a chance
to ask myself. I had been bothered by the fact that
so many saints and enlightened people had been ill and
suffering physically. I asked, "Should they not have
perfect bodies and why do they not cure themselves?"
In Europe I got a letter from Guy saying he had discussed
my question with Bhagavan. He wrote: "Bhagavan told
me to tell you that the spiritually perfect person need
not necessarily have a perfect body. The reason, as
he explained it, is very simple.
see, the ego, the body and the mind are the same thing.
The spiritually perfect person, like Bhagavan, is above
these three things. Consequently he has.. no body to
heal, neither a mind-or ego-to heal it with. He is beyond
all this because it is illusion. He is living in Reality.
Christian Scientists can take the mind and heal the
body-for they are the same thing. American Indians heal,
too, in this manner. It is faith healing.
if the spiritually perfect person is sick in body it
is because the body is working out its karma. Bhagavan
gave an illustration of karma, which he says is like
an electric fan and must just run its course, only gradually
ceasing even after it has been turned off. He says the
mind is born into illusion and builds a body and a world
to suit it-that is, a world that it has earned and deserves
(by its karma). Bhagavan, knowing the body and the mind
to be illusion, cannot experience any bodily ailment
or discomfort. We make him suffer pain, loss of weight,
etc. It is in our minds, not his. He is actually bodiless,
though you and I cannot realize this as a fact."
In another letter Guy answered my questions, which led
to others. He wrote down my questions and Bhagavan's
Question: Is reincarnation a fact? Bhagavan: You are
incarnated now, aren't you? Then you will be so again.
But as the body is illusion then the illusion will repeat
itself and keep on repeating itself until you find the
Question: What is death and what is birth? Bhagavan:
Only the body has death and birth, and it (the body)
is illusion. There is, in Reality, neither birth nor
Question: How much time may elapse between death and
rebirth? Bhagavan: Perhaps one is reborn within a year,
three years or thousands of years. Who can say? Anyway
what is time? Time does not exist.
Question: Why have we no memory of past lives? Bhagavan:
Memory is a faculty of the mind and part of the illusion.
Why do you want to remember other lives that are also
illusions? If you abide within the Self, there is no
past or future and not even a present since the Self
is out of time-timeless.
Question: Are the world, the mind, ego and the body
all the same thing? Bhagavan: Yes. They are one and
the same thing. The mind and the ego are one thing,
but there is no word to explain this. You see, the world
cannot exist without the mind, the mind cannot exist
without what we call the ego (itself, really) and the
ego cannot exist without a body.
Question: Then when we leave this body, that is when
the ego leaves it, will it (the ego) immediately grasp
another body? Bhagavan: Oh, yes, it must. It cannot
exist without a body.
Question: What sort of a body will it grasp then? Bhagavan:
Either a physical body or a subtle-mental body.
Question: Do you call this present physical body the
gross body? Bhagavan: Only to distinguish it-to set
it apart in conversation. It is really a subtle-mental
Question: What causes us to be reborn? Bhagavan: Desires.
Your unfulfilled desires bring you back. And in each
case-in each body-as your desires are fulfilled, you
create new ones. You must conquer desire to be absorbed
into the One and thus end rebirth.
Question: Can sex change in rebirth? Bhagavan: Oh, surely.
We have all been both sexes many times.
Question: Is it possible to sin? Bhagavan: Having a
body, which creates illusion, is the only sin, and the
body is our only hell. But it is right that we observe
moral laws. The discussion of sin is too difficult for
a few lines.
Question: Does one who has realized the Self lose the
sense of "I"? Bhagavan: Absolutely.
Question: Then to you there is no difference between
yourself and myself, that man over there, my servant-are
all the same? Bhagavan: All are the same, including
Question: But the monkeys are not people. Are they not
different? Bhagavan: They are exactly the same as people.
All creatures are the same in One Consciousness.
Question: Do we lose our individuality when we merge
into the Self? Bhagavan: There is no individuality in
the Self. The Self is One-Supreme.
Question: Then individuality and identity are lost?
Bhagavan: You don't retain them in deep sleep, do you?
Question: But we retain them from one birth to another,
don't we? Bhagavan: Oh, yes. The "I" thought (the ego)
will recur again, only each time you identify with it
a different body and different surroundings around the
body. The effects of past acts (karma) will continue
to control the new body just as they did the old one.
It is karma that has given you this particular body
and placed it in a particular family, race, sex, surroundings
and so forth. Bhagavan added, "These questions are good,
but tell de Acosta (he always called me de Acosta) she
must not become too intellectual about these things.
It is better just to meditate and have no thought. Let
the mind rest quietly on the Self in the cave of the
Spiritual Heart. Soon this will become natural and then
there will be no need for questions. Do not imagine
that this means being inactive. Silence is the only
real activity." Then Guy added, "Bhagavan says to tell
you that he sends you his blessings."
This message greatly comforted me.
On my way back to Europe my boat stopped at Port Said.
I landed there and motored across the desert to Cairo
where I stayed three days and then caught the ship again
when it docked at Alexandria.
In Cairo I stayed at the old famous Shepherd Hotel.
I spent one day in the museum seeing the Tut Ankh Amon
collection, and the second day I rode out by camel to
see the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid. When I reached
the Pyramid it was nearly sunset. There was no one around
except my own dragoman and one or two Arabs sleeping
against their kneeling camels. I decided to climb to
the top of the Pyramid. Although it towered above me,
tapering off into the sky, and looked terribly high,
I did not realize how high it was until I started climbing.
I started out briskly but after a certain distance I
grew tired and my pace slackened. The steps of the Pyramid
are very narrow and eroded, but I was determined to
reach the top. Thoroughly exhausted, I finally did.
The sun had already gone down. I turned and looked down
the steep and awesome slope of the Pyramid. Suddenly
I was overcome by the most frightful vertigo. My head
swam and I felt that I was going to plunge to my death.
I crouched on the narrow steps and clung to the top
of the Pyramid so fiercely that my nails broke against
the stone and my fingers bled. I could not bring myself
to look down again. An agonizing fear took hold of me.
I felt cold sweat pouring over my face, neck and back.
I became hysterical. What was I to do? I knew if I let
go I would fall, but I also knew I could not hold on
much longer. I closed my eyes. I remembered what the
Maharshi said-to dive deep into the Spiritual Heart.
I summoned every faculty and all power within me and
concentrated on the Heart. Suddenly I saw it, like a
great light in my mind's eye. In the center I saw the
Maharshi's face smiling at me. Instantly I felt calm.
I turned and looked down. Far below I saw a man waving
at me. I loosened one hand and held it over my head,
then I waved back. The man began calling someone else.
Another man ran to him. Swiftly they began to climb.
They climbed expertly and fast but it seemed hours to
me. Probably it took them about thirty-five minutes
to reach me. One man had a rope. He tied it around my
waist and gently stroked my face. He mumbled some words
that I could not understand, but I knew they were kind
words to encourage me. Between them, each one holding
the rope as though we were mountain climbing, we began
to descend. Eventually we reached the bottom safely.
Some time after this I was told by an enlightened person
that climbing the Great Pyramid was considered in ancient
Egypt one of the "fear tests" which students had to
pass in order to be initiated into the great religious
mysteries. Aspirants were required to climb to the very
top of the Pyramid, and if on reaching the top of it
he or she could conquer fear, this particular test was
Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi died on April Fourteenth, 1950.
He had said, "I am going away? Where could I go? I am
here." By the word "here" he did not imply any limitation.
He meant rather, that the Self 'is'. There is no going,
or coming, or changing in that which is changeless and
Universal. I should not have regarded his death as a
blow. How could I lose him? How can one lose anyone?
How can one lose that which is Eternal? It is only in
the first shock, and gripped in the illusion of death,
that one grieves for the physical presence. Yet, millions
in India mourned the Maharshi. A long article about
his death in the New York Times ended with, "Here in
India, where thousands of so-called holy men claim close
tune with the infinite, it is said that the most remarkable
thing about Ramana Maharshi was that he never claimed
anything remarkable for himself, yet became one of the
most loved and respected of all."
de Acosta was born in 1898 and died in 1968.
Quoted on the website Mr.
with permission from The Maharshi, Vol. 4 Nos.
5 and 6 (Sept./Oct. and Nov./Dec. 1994), which in turn
reprinted it from Here Lies the Heart, De Acosta's
autobiography published in 1960. Copyright 1960 Mercedes
De Acosta; other copyrights may also apply.
information about The Maharshi, click
of Mercedes De Acosta
On the website of Celebrity Page by Laurence
Main page on this website for Ramana Maharshi.
With Sri Ramana Maharshi
De Acosta's visit with Ramana is mentioned
in this book in the entry for 15th December, 1938.
page was published on Realization.org on February 10, 2000
and last revised on September 10, 2001.