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Nothing Existed Except the Eyes of the Maharshi by N.R. Krishnamurti Aiyer. Oct. 29, 2001

Who Are You? An Interview With Papaji by Jeff Greenwald. Oct. 24, 2001

An Interview with Byron Katie by Sunny Massad. Oct. 23, 2001

An Interview with Douglas Harding by Kriben Pillay. Oct. 21, 2001

The Nectar of Immortality by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Oct. 18, 2001

The Power of the Presence Part Two by David Godman. Oct. 15, 2001

The Quintessence of My Teaching
by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Oct. 3, 2001

Interview With David Godman. Sept. 28, 2001

The Power of the Presence Part One by David Godman. Sept. 28, 2001

Nothing Ever Happened Volume 1 by David Godman. Sept. 23, 2001

Collision with the Infinite by Suzanne Segal. Sept. 22, 2001

Lilly of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star by Charlie Hopkins. August 9, 2001

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Our email address is editor @realization.org.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org.


 INTERVIEW
 

An Interview with
David Godman

The man who wrote Be As You Are talks about his life, his work, and his two new books.

David Godman is best known for his anthology of Ramana Maharshi's writings, Be As You Are, which has become the standard single-volume reference on the great sage's teachings. But few people know that David has written nine other books, and each one is equally remarkable in its own way. Two of these books have just come out, providing a good excuse for an interview. Since David lives in Tiruvannamalai and the editor of this website lives in New York, the interview was conducted by e-mail.


You have just brought out two new books on Ramana Maharshi. Can you tell me something about them?

In the late 1980s I began to collect first-person accounts by people who had spent time with Ramana Maharshi. It was my intention to make an anthology of accounts that hadn't been published before. To find original material I did extensive research on books that had appeared in various Indian languages but not in English. I also found some good material written in English that had never been published.

At some point during this research I went to see Annamalai Swami, a devotee of Sri Ramana who had moved intimately with him for many years. His account proved to be so interesting and so long, I ended up doing a whole book just about him. Then I went to Lucknow to interview Papaji. His story fascinated me so much, I spent four years in Lucknow and eventually wrote a massive 1,200 page biography. The original project got put on the back burner, and I only came back to it about a year ago.

I have changed my original criteria. I am now using some material that has been published before. However, since most of this material is rarely sold outside India, I think non-Indian readers of these books, even devotees of Sri Ramana, will find that most of the material is new to them.

What made you decide to take this particular approach to Sri Ramana?

Sri Ramana is all things to all people. There is no standard Ramana Maharshi who is the same for all people. People who approached him brought their minds with them, and Bhagavan, being a non-person with no mind of his own, magnified and reflected back all this incoming mental energy. So, different people saw him and experienced him in many different ways.

If I wanted to write about Sri Ramana myself, I would have to put my own editorial overlay on top of all these differing experiences and impressions. So, I thought, "Let people speak for themselves. Let people explain who their particular Ramana is."

 

David's new books are called
The Power of the Presence
parts one and two. (A third volume is on its way.)
Click here for more information including where to buy.



  FOR MORE INFO SEE  

Our main reference page on David Godman.
Our main reference page on Ramana Maharshi.


There is a fictional detective, Hercule Poirot, who appears in many of Agatha Christie's books. In one story, when he was completely stuck, he just started talking to everyone who was involved, and spent many hours just listening to what they had to say. Poirot's theory was, "If you let people talk about themselves for long enough, sooner or later they give themselves away."

This was my approach. I didn't want to edit or shorten anyone's story. On the contrary, I wanted to make it as detailed as possible. So, I just let them talk and say what they wanted to say. If you give someone thirty pages to talk or write about their relationship with Sri Ramana, they have to reveal who they are in a very intimate way. This was my aim: to have a gallery of intimate portraits of Sri Ramana, each one drawn lovingly by a person who had a personal and very unique perspective on this great being.

 
Sri Ramana Maharshi

Could you describe one of your favorite sections from either of these books?    

When I made the first drafts of some of these chapters back in the 1980s, I circulated copies to all my friends in Tiruvannamalai. I asked everyone to give marks out of ten on how interesting they found each account. Some chapters that were given ten by one person would get zero from someone else. This illustrates what I was just saying: everyone has a different idea of who Sri Ramana is, and because people relate to him in different ways, they react differently to stories about him. My favorites were not so popular with many of my friends.

It's fashionable nowadays to be very positive about one's spiritual experiences. People like to jump up and down and exclaim, "I'm free! I'm free!" I prefer the refreshing honesty of a devotee, Sivaprakasam Pillai, who, after fifty years of being with Sri Ramana, was still lamenting about his faults and his lack of progress. This is the person who first got Bhagavan to record his teachings on self-enquiry in 1901. I admired his honesty, his humility and his integrity in admitting that he still couldn't control his mind. I also enjoyed some of the teachings of Sri Ramana that were recorded by Sadhu Natanananda, whose account also proved to be not too popular with my friends. This is an extract that I particularly liked:

 
Be As You Are, edited by David Godman.

A certain lady who had a lot of devotion performed a traditional ritual for worshipping sages whenever she came into Bhagavan's presence to have darshan. She would prostrate to Bhagavan, touch his feet and then put the hands that had touched Bhagavan's feet on her eyes.

After noticing that she did this daily, Bhagavan told her one day, 'Only the Supreme Self, which is ever shining in your heart as the reality, is the Sadguru. The pure awareness, which is shining as the inward illumination "I", is his gracious feet. The contact with these [inner holy feet] alone can give you true redemption. Joining the eye of reflected conciousness [chitabhasa], which is your sense of individuality [jiva bodha], to those holy feet, which are the real conciousness, is the union of the feet and the head that is the real significance of the word "asi" ["are", as in the mahavakya "You are That"]. As these inner holy feet can be held naturally and unceasingly, hereafter, with an inward-turned mind, cling to that inner awareness that is your own real nature. This alone is the proper way for the removal of bondage and the attainment of the supreme truth.'

I appreciate and applaud anyone who has devotion to Bhagavan's form, but at the same time I love the purity of Bhagavan's advaitic response to this woman.

 

 
To see a longer excerpt from The Power of the Presence Part One, click here.
 

Photo of Sri Ramana Maharshi copyright Sri Ramanasramam and others. Used by permission.


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This page was published on September 28, 2001 and
last revised on October 15, 2001.


Copyright 2001 Realization.org