|[an error occurred while processing this directive]
email address is editor
is always a happy day when David Godman publishes
a new book, and he recently published two. This
interview is our way of celebrating.
note: I'm a huge fan of David Godman's work. He
is best known for his book Be As You Are
which is the most valuable single volume ever
written about Ramana Maharshi. In addition, he
is the author (or editor or ghost-writer or compiler,
his role defies categorization) of the most informative
biographies of self-realized people that I have
ever seen. David lives in Tiruvannamalai, India,
and I live in New York, so this interview was
conducted by e-mail.
have just brought out two new books on Ramana
Maharshi. Can you tell me something about them?
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
that had never appeared in English before. I also
found some good material in English that had never
been published before.
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.
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.
made you decide to take this particular approach
to Sri Ramana?
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
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 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.'
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.
new books are called
The Power of the Presence
volumes one and two. (A
third volume is on its way.)
TO BUY THEM
Published by David Godman (2000).
To be announced.
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 favourites 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
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
we backtrack a little? Can you tell me something
about your own background
some details of
your family and how you came to be interested in
I was born in 1953 in Stoke-on-Trent, a British
city of about 300,000, located about halfway between
Birmingham and Manchester. My father was a schoolmaster
and my mother was a physiotherapist who specialised
in treating physically handicapped children. Both
of my parents are dead. I have one sister who
is a year older than me. She is a former professional
mountaineer who now teaches mountain and wilderness
skills and occasionally leads groups to exotic
and inaccessible places. My younger sister, now
43, teaches in a college in England, although
nowadays she apparently spends most of her time
monitoring the competence of other teachers, which
I assume doesn't make her very popular.
I was educated at local schools and in 1972 won
a place at Oxford University, where I did very
little academic work, but had an enormous amount
of fun. Sometime in my second year there I found
myself getting more and more interested in eastern
spiritual traditions. I seemed to have an insatiable
hunger for knowledge about them that resulted
in massive bookstore bills, which I couldn't really
afford, but not much satisfaction. Then, one day,
I took home a copy of Arthur Osborne's The
Teachings of Ramana Maharshi in his own Words.
Reading Ramana's words for the first time
completely silenced me. My mind stopped asking
questions, and it abandoned its search for spiritual
information. It somehow knew that it had found
what it was looking for.
I have to explain this properly. It wasn't that
I had found a new set of ideas that I believed
in. It was more of an experience in which I was
pulled into a state of silence. In that silent
space I knew directly and intuitively what Ramana's
words were hinting and pointing at. Because this
state itself was the answer to all my questions,
and any other questions I might come up with,
the interest in finding solutions anywhere else
dropped away. I suppose I must have read the book
in an afternoon, but by the time I put it down
it had completely transformed the way I viewed
myself and the world.
The experiences I was having made me understand
how invalid were the academic techniques of acquiring
and evaluating knowledge. I could see that the
whole of academia was based on some sort of reductionism:
separating something big into its little component
parts, and then deriving conclusions about how
the "big something" really worked. It's
a reasonable approach for comprehending mechanical
things, such as a car engine, but I understood
and knew by direct experience that
it was a futile way of gaining an understanding
of oneself and the world we appear to be in. When
I went through my academic textbooks after having
these experiences, there was such a massive resistance
both to their contents and to the assumptions
that lay behind them, I knew I could no longer
even read them, much less study them in order
to pass exams. It wasn't an intellectual judgement
on their irrelevance, it was more of a visceral
disgust that physically prevented me from reading
more than a few lines. I dropped out in my final
year at Oxford, went to Ireland with my Ramana
books and spent about six months reading Ramana's
teachings and practising his technique of self-enquiry.
I had just inherited a small amount from my grandmother
so I didn't need to work that year. I rented a
small house in a rural area, grew my own food
and spent most of my time meditating.
This was 1975. At the end of that year my landlady
reclaimed her house and I went to Israel. I wanted
to go somewhere sunny and warm for the winter,
and then return to Ireland the following spring.
I worked on a kibbutz on the Dead Sea and while
I was there decided I could have a quick trip
to India and Ramanasramam before I went back to
Ireland. I figured out the costs and realised
I couldn't afford it unless another £200 appeared
from somewhere. I decided that if Bhagavan wanted
me to go to India, he would send me the money.
Within a week I received a letter from my grandmother's
lawyer saying that he had just found some shares
that she owned, and that my share of them would
be £200. I came to India, expecting to stay six
weeks, and have been here more or less ever since.
always wondered about your name. Is Godman your
birth name or did you change it?
my family name. I never had any desire to take a
new name, and no one has ever tried to give me one.
said that you spent six months practicing self-inquiry
based on your reading of Sri Ramana's books. Were
you able to get a good understanding of the method
from your reading? I ask because this seems to be
difficult for most people. Did you need to modify
your understanding later when you went to Sri Ramanasramam?
I did find it hard to practise self-inquiry merely
by reading books simply because I did not have access
to much material. I had at that time only managed
to find Arthur Osborne's three books on Ramana.
Though they explained most aspects of the teachings
quite well, I don't think that Osborne had a good
understanding of self-inquiry. He seemed to think
that concentrating on the heart center on the right
side of the chest while doing self-inquiry was an
integral part of the process. When I later read
Bhagavan's answers in books such as Talks with
Sri Ramana Maharshi and Day by Day with Bhagavan,
I realised that he specifically advised against
this particular practice. Overall, though, I got
a good grounding from these books. I had a passion
to follow the practice and a deep faith in Bhagavan.
I think that this elicited grace from Bhagavan and
kept me on the right path. If the attitude is right
and if the practice is intense enough, it doesn't
really what you do when you meditate. The purity
of intent and purpose carries you to the right place.
If someone wants to learn
self-inquiry, what should they read?
don't know what book I would recommend to new people
who want to start self-inquiry. Be As You Are
is certainly a good start since it was designed
for Westerners who have had no previous exposure
to Bhagavan and his teachings. There is also a book
by Sadhu Om: The Path of Sri Ramana Part One.
It is a little dogmatic in places but it covers
all the basic points well. Self-inquiry is a bit
like swimming or riding a bicycle. You don't learn
it from books. You learn it by doing it again and
again till you get it right.
you briefly describe what your life has been like
in Tiruvannamalai? What work have you done at Sri
spent my first 18 months just meditating, practising
self-enquiry and occasionally walking round Arunachala.
In 1978 I began to do voluntary work for Sri Ramanasramam.
I looked after their library from 1978 to 1985,
I edited their magazine for a short period of
time, and from 1985 onwards I did research for
my various books. In the later 1980s and early
90s I also devoted a considerable amount of time
to looking after Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma's
garden. They bought land in Tiruvannamalai in
1988 and I ended up helping to develop it. In
1993 I went to Lucknow and spent four years with
Papaji, where I wrote Nothing Ever Happened.
Since my return to Tiruvannamalai in 1997 I have
been writing and researching new books on Ramana.
have you supported yourself in India all these years?
didn't. Grace supported me. I have found that
if you give all your time to God and his work,
then he looks after you. I came here with $500
in 1976. I didn't earn money for twenty years,
but I always had enough to live on. Until I left
Lucknow I gave the proceeds from all my books
to the various organisations that supported me
while I was writing them.
I first came to Arunachala I fell in love with
the place and wanted to stay as long as I could.
I knew I didn't have much money, but I wanted
to make it last as long as possible. There was
a meter ticking away in my head: I have so much
money, I am spending so much per day, and that
means I have so many more days here. Those numbers,
those equations were there all the time. Then,
one day, as I was doing pradakshina of Arunachala,
it all dropped away. It wasn't a mental decision.
I stopped walking, turned and faced the hill.
I knew in that moment that whatever power had
brought me here would keep me here until its purpose
was finished, and that when it was time to go,
it wouldn't matter if I was a millionaire or not,
I would have to leave. From then on I stopped
caring about money. In the period that I was worrying
about money, all I did was spend. When I stopped
caring, complete strangers would come up to me
and give me money. Whenever I needed money, money
just appeared out of nowhere.
you give me an example of how this worked?
I volunteered to look after Lakshmana Swamy's
land in the late 80s, I had about $20 to my name.
Somebody in Canada whom I had spoken to for about
ten minutes two years before got out of bed and
suddenly felt that he should give me some money.
He sent me $1,000, which was enough to get the
garden going. I lived like that for years. When
you work for Gurus, God pays the bills. That's
my experience anyway.
was Papaji who encouraged me to start working
for myself. He himself was a householder who spent
decades supporting his family. He generally wouldn't
let anyone give up his or her worldly life until
retirement age, which in India is around fifty-five.
When I started work on Nothing Ever Happened,
I assumed that all the proceeds would go to him,
or to some organisation that was promoting his
teachings. At some point during the research though,
he let me know that he wanted me to accept royalties
from the sale of the book.
I am not supported by any institution, so I publish
my own books and live off the proceeds, which
I have to say are minimal. I can live fairly comfortably
in a third world country such as India, but if
I tried to live in America on what I earn from
my books, I would be several thousand dollars
a year below the poverty line.
effect do you feel in the presence of Arunachala?
brought me here in the same way it brought Ramana
here. And it has kept me here for most of the
last 25 years. I have occasionally left to be
with teachers in other places: Nisargadatta Maharaj
in Bombay, Lakshmana Swamy in Andhra Pradesh,
Papaji in Lucknow, but Arunachala has always brought
me back here afterwards. It's my spiritual centre
of gravity. I can make an effort to be somewhere
else if I feel I would spiritually benefit from
it, but when I stop making that effort, the natural
pull of Arunachala brings me back here again.
It's the only place in the world that I feel truly
has been attracting people for well over 1,500
years. Ramana liked to quote a saint of about
500 years ago who wrote in one of his verses,
'Arunachala, you draw to yourself all those who
are rich in jnana tapas.' Jnana tapas can be translated
as the extreme efforts made by those who are in
search of liberation.
are dozens of teachers nowadays who tour the world
touting their experiences and their teachings.
Many of them trace their lineage back to Ramana
Maharshi, via Papaji. And where did Ramana Maharshi's
power and authority come from? From Arunachala,
his own Guru and God. He explicitly stated that
it was the power of Arunachala that brought about
his own Self-realisation. He wrote poems extolling
its greatness, and in the last fifty-four years
if his life, he never moved more than a mile and
a half away from its base. So, it is the power
of Arunachala that is the true source of the power
that now appears as 'advaita messengers' all over
me, this is the world's great power spot. Arunachala
has brought about the liberation of several advanced
seekers in the past few centuries, and its radiant
power remains even today as a beacon for those
who want to find out who they really are.
there been living people whom you regarded as your
Gurus, or who had an especially strong impact on
think the four key spiritual figures would be
Lakshmana Swamy, Saradamma, Nisargadatta Maharaj
and Papaji. I have to include Ramana Maharshi
on this list, even though I never met him while
he was alive. I feel him as strongly as I have
felt any other teacher. The Self that took the
form of Ramana Maharshi is my Guru. He lit the
lamp of enlightenment in the Heart of a few of
his devotees, and when I sit in the presence of
these beings I am receiving the lustre, the light
of Ramana Maharshi through them. So I will not
say that my Guru has a particular form. I will
say that the light of Arunachala became manifest
in Ramana, and through him it was passed on to
Lakshmana Swamy, Papaji and Saradamma. When I
bask in their light, I am basking in the living,
transmitting light of Arunachala Ramana.
does not belong to this lineage, but he was an
enormously beneficial presence in my life in the
late 1970s and early 80s. I used to go and see
him as often as I could. He repeatedly told me
'You are consciousness' and on a few rare, glorious
occasions I understood what he was talking about.
He was not simply giving me information, he was
instead describing my own state, my own experience
in that moment. That was his technique. He would
talk endlessly about the Self until you suddenly
realised directly, "Yes, this is what I am
you used any practices in addition to those associated
with Sri Ramana?
From the moment I first encountered Bhagavan and
his teachings in the 1970s I have never found myself
attracted to any other teachings or practices.
lot of Westerners are interested in Ramana Maharshi,
but I often think they misunderstand him. What are
the most common misconceptions about Ramana Maharshi
am not sure how much understanding there is of
Ramana Maharshi and his teachings in the West.
He is an iconic figure to a vast number of people
who are following some sort of spiritual path.
I think that for many people he epitomises all
that is best in the Hindu Guru tradition, but
having said that, I think that very few people
know much about him, and even fewer have a good
grasp of his teachings. Not many people read books
about him nowadays I know that from trying
to sell my own - and even fewer would profess
themselves to be his devotee. I find there is
very little interest in his teachings even among
the people who come to visit Ramanasramam. Nowadays,
many of the people who come are spiritual tourists,
pilgrims who just travel round India, checking
out all the various ashrams and teachers.
twenty years I met a foreigner here who had come
to the ashram for advice on how to do self-enquiry
properly. For several days he couldn't find anyone
who was practising it, even in Ramanasramam. The
people he asked in the ashram office just told
him to buy the ashram's publications and find
out from them how to do it. Eventually, he had
what he thought was a bright idea. He stood outside
the door of the meditation hall at Ramanasramam,
the place where Sri Ramana lived for over twenty
years, and asked everyone who came out how to
do self-enquiry. It transpired that none of the
people inside were doing self-enquiry. They came
out one by one and said, "I was doing japa,"
or "I was doing vispassana," or "I
was doing Tibetan visualisations."
can there be misunderstandings among people who
have never even bothered to find out the teachings
in the first place, or put them into practice?
think that some people who are now teaching in the
West are creating misunderstandings about his teachings.
Many of these people seem to confuse glimpses of
non-duality and feelings of relative selflessness
with self-realisation. Since a number of these people
trace their lineage back to Sri Ramana, people project
the ideas of these new teachers onto Sri Ramana.
are Sri Ramana's teachings? If you ask people
who have become acquainted with his life and work,
you might get several answers such as "advaita"
or "self-enquiry." I don't think Sri
Ramana's teachings were either a belief system
or a philosophy, such as advaita, or a practice,
such as self-inquiry.
Sri Ramana himself would say that his principal
teaching was silence, by which he meant the wordless
radiation of power and grace that he emanated
all the time. The words he spoke, he said, were
for the people who didn't understand these real
teachings. Everything he said was therefore a
kind of second-level teaching for people who were
incapable of dissolving their sense of 'I' in
his powerful presence. You may understand his
words, or at least think that you do, but if you
think that these words constitute his teachings,
then you have really misunderstood him.
are some aspects of his spoken teachings that appear
to be unique. For example, his reference to the
heart center on the right side of the chest. He
said that this was the source of the "I"
and the place in the body where the sense of "I"
had to return in order for realization to take place.
People who talk about his teachings in the West
rarely seem to mention this ipoint.
didn't mention it much either. On a few occasions
when he was asked about it, he said it was more
important to have the experience of the Self, rather
than locate it in some part of the body. It is true
that no teacher who came before him ever mentioned
this, but I would not say that this is a major aspect
of his teachings. Nor would I say that is necessary
to have this knowledge in order to have an experience
of the Self.
did you choose the subjects for your three biographical
two of the three cases the subjects chose me. When
I went to Lakshmana Swamy's ashram in the early
1980s, he asked me to write a brief biography of
Saradamma, a project that eventually turned into
a book-length account of both of them. A few years
later, when I wrote a fifty-page account of Papaji's
experiences with Ramana, intending to use it in
a book about Ramana's disciples, Papaji liked it
so much, he invited me back to Lucknow to do a complete
biography on him. As for the third biography, I
approached Annamalai Swami in the late 1980s, hoping
to interview him in order to get enough material
for a chapter in the same book that was going to
feature Papaji's account. His story turned out to
be so engrossing, so detailed, so unlike anything
I had come across in the existing Ramana literature,
it soon expanded into a book-length project.
these people seem to be self-realised. Did you pick
them for this reason? How did you know that they
The simple answer is that no one who is not a
jnani can really tell who is in that state, and
I would not claim to be in that state myself.
Ramana told people that the peace one feels in
the presence of such beings is a good indication
that one is in the presence of an enlightened
being, but this is a sign not a proof.
When I first went to see Lakshmana Swamy in the
late 1970s, I did not go there with any intention
of evaluating him. But as soon as I looked into
his eyes, something inside me said, 'This man
is a jnani.' Nothing has ever caused me to doubt
that first impression. I don't know how I came
to that conclusion because I had never had that
kind of thought before with anybody else. Something
inside me just knew. Up till the time I first
met him, I had been meditating intensively for
most of the day for a period of about eighteen
months. My mind was fairly quiet most of the time
and I really felt that I was making good progress
on the road to Self-realisation. However, within
a few seconds of being looked at by Lakshmana
Swamy, I was in a state of stillness and peace
that was way beyond anything that I had experienced
through my own efforts. That one darshan effectively
demonstrated to me the need for a human Guru,
and it also demonstrated to me that there were
still people alive in the Ramana lineage who seemed
to have the same power and presence that I had
read about in so many Ramanasramam books. Since
that day a large portion of my life and energy
has been devoted to serving such beings and writing
about their life and teachings.
is Self-realisation? The terms "glimpse"
and "waking-up experience" appear in
Nothing Ever Happened. Did you invent these
terms? What is the relationship between a glimpse
or waking-up experience and Self-realization?
would say that Self-realisation is what remains
when the mind irrevocably dies in the Heart. The
Heart is not a particular place in the body. It
is the formless Self, the source and origin of
all manifestation. Self-realisation is permanent
and irreversible. I also suspect that it is quite
rare. Many people have had glimpses or temporary
experiences of a state of being in which the mind,
the individual 'I', temporarily stops functioning,
but I don't think that there are many people in
the world in whom the 'I' has died.
used to say, 'What comes and goes is not real.
If you have had an experience that came and went,
it was not an experience of the Self because the
Self never comes and goes.'
think this is an interesting comment. If it is
true, it means that most waking-up experiences
are merely new states of mind. It is only when
the mind dies completely, never to rise again,
that the Self really shines as one's own natural
terms 'glimpses' and 'waking-up experiences' that
you refer to are temporary. They come and they
go because the 'I' itself has not been permanently
eradicated. A powerful Guru may be able to give
a glimpse of the Self to just about anyone, but
it is not within his power to make it stick. If
the person has a mind that is full of desires,
those desires will eventually rise again and cover
up the glimpse.
Westerners tend to have an exaggerated idea of
the significance of these preliminary experiences?
these temporary no-mind states are being experienced,
their importance can be greatly exaggerated by
people who think that they have attained permanent
enlightenment. But in most cases the feeling of
self-importance vanishes along with the experience.
think you quote Papaji as saying that he met only
two Self-realized people in his entire life, Sri
Ramana and a Spanish priest. But he also met Nisargadatta
Maharaj. Does this mean that he didn't think Maharaj
was Self-realized? Can you shed any light on this?
I first talked to Papaji in1992, I asked him how
many jnanis he had met in his life. He scratched
his head and came up with three names: Ramana
Maharshi, a Sufi pir he met in Madras and Tiruvannamalai,
and a wandering mahatma who lived in the forests
between Tiruvannamalai and Bangalore. When I got
to know him better, he would sometimes add names
to the list, and Nisargadatta Maharaj was one
of them. He went to see him many times in the
1970s and was very impressed with him. J. Krishnamurti
also made the list, although Papaji didn't think
much of him as a teacher. The Spanish priest never
appeared on his list. Papaji said he was the best
Christian he had ever met, but he never said he
list might expand or contract according to his
mood or memory, but it never exceeded seven. These
were all people he had met on his travels. What
I found curious about this was that he never ever
included any of his own disciples on this master
list, an omission that might lead one to infer
that none of his disciples had actually attained
the final sahaja or natural state of the jnani.
This is both interesting and paradoxical since
many of his disciples were told very categorically
by him, 'You are enlightened. You are free.' When
I wrote his biography, I recovered several thousand
letters Papaji had written to devotees all over
the world. I would say that at least fifty of
them could produce a hand-written letter from
Papaji congratulating them on their enlightenment.
the vast majority of cases these experiences were
temporary. I often wondered why Papaji was so
enthusiastic about these temporary experiences,
and many other people felt the same way. Lots
of people asked him about this, but I don't know
anyone who got a straight answer, including me.
When I asked him about this phenomenon, he said
that he lived in the silence and that when silence
spoke, it always said the most appropriate thing,
even though it might not be factually accurate.
He added, 'I have spent all my life in that silence.
I have learned to trust what it says.'
in this statement is a recognition that Papaji
is sometimes telling people that they are enlightened
when he can see clearly that they are not. He
trusted the source of these statements, but he
could never give a good explanation of why the
silence was making him say these things.
a question from a reader which I pass along to
you: "Papaji says that the only thing that
needs to be done is to stop all effort. When this
happens, there is quiet and a sense of egolessness.
But in that state, it is possible to ask 'Who
Am I?' and find an observer whose source is yet
to be found. In other words, in that state, it
seems that self-inquiry is still needed. Does
this mean that Papaji is teaching something different
from Ramana Maharshi? What is the connection between
this effortless state and the state of abiding
in the heart?"
Papaji said in satsang, "Make no effort,"
he was trying to put the person in front of him
into a state of no-mind in which no effort is
necessary or possible, since the "I"
has temporarily gone. He is not trying to put
the person in a halfway stage in which further
effort is needed.
is a paradox for you. Ramana Maharshi realized
the Self without any effort, without being interested
in it, and without any practice, and then spent
the rest of his life telling people that they
must make continuous effort up till the moment
of enlightenment. Papaji spent a quarter of a
century doing japa and meditation prior to his
climactic meetings with Ramana, but when he began
teaching, he always insisted that no effort was
necessary to realize the Self.
attitude to self-enquiry was, "Do it once
and do it properly." Ramana's was, do it
intensively and continuously until realization
dawns. Although you could never get Papaji to
admit that there were differences between his
teachings and those of his Guru, they clearly
didn't agree on the question of effort.
With regard to the question of the difference
between the effortless state and the state of
abiding in the Heart, I would refer to Lakshmana
Swamy. He agrees with Ramana that hard, continuous
effort is needed up till the moment of realisation.
He also says that by effort the mind can reach
the effortless thought-free state, but no further.
If that state has been achieved, and if one has
the good fortune to be with a realised Guru, then
the power of the Self will pull the mind into
the Heart and destroy it. In the effortless state,
mind is still there, but when one abides in the
Heart it is gone.
conceded that meditation and effort had a limited
use. He would sometimes say that intense meditation
would earn the punyas or spiritual merit necessary
to have the opportunity to sit with a realised
being. Once that has happened, effort is no longer
necessary. In fact, it is counter-productive.
When one meets the Guru, the power of the Self
that is present in an enlightened being's satsang
takes over and gives the results and experiences
that the mind is ready for.
this probably appears to be confusing and contradictory.
The teachers I have written about disagree profoundly
on the question of effort and its role in Self-realization,
but they all agree that being in the presence
of a realized being is the greatest aid to enlightenment.
I can say from my own experience that when one
is in the presence of such beings, mind drops
away of its own accord.
his book Relaxing Into Clear Seeing, Arjuna
Nick Ardagh says, "In the past few years,
there has been a dramatic increase in the ease
with which Self-realization can occur. Indeed,
a kind of 'epidemic' has begun in the West whereby
the awakened view is becoming increasingly available."
It seems to me that Arjuna is referring here to
glimpses, not Self-realization, and I wonder if
they are any more common today than they have
been in India for millennia. Perhaps the real
difference is that Indians didn't regard these
glimpses as particularly unusual or worth noting.
What's your opinion?
don't think that there is an epidemic of Self-realization
in the West or anywhere else. I think full realization
is a rare phenomenon. There are certainly more
people who think that they have realised the Self,
but I think that they are deluding themselves.
to some Western advaita teachers who claim to
follow Sri Ramana's teachings, Self-realization
is a two-part process. First, there is an awakening,
a temporary experience of non-duality and egolessness.
The second step is to stabilize the experience
of this awakening, or in other words, make it
when I read about Mathru Sri Sarada in your book
No Mind I Am The Self, I seem to
get a completely different picture. In her case,
a permanent awakening experience may have been
necessary, but by itself was not sufficient. For
her, Self-realization happened only when her mind
descended into her heart center and dissolved
permanently. I get the impression that she could
have remained in the "awakened state"
indefinitely without this descent into the heart.
you comment on this?
egolessness is there, there is no one left who
can stabilize or lose the experience. These experiences
come and go. They go because the vasanas of the
mind reassert themselves. When they arise and
take over, you resume the practice again. This
is the classic prescription of the Gita,
and it is also what Ramana taught. Stay awake,
stay mindful, and whenever you catch the mind
straying, take it back to its source.
regards Mathru Sri Sarada, I think you are referring
to the experience she had just before she realised
the Self. She felt that her mind had died because
she was temporarily abiding in the Heart, but
her Guru, Lakshmana Swamy, could see that her
"I" was not dead, which meant that this
was a temporary experience. She was talking about
her experiences and genuinely felt that her "I"
was dead, but it was not a real, permanent awakening.
few minutes later, with the help of her Guru,
the "I" went back to its source and
died forever. There was no fully awakened state
prior to this experience. The final death of the
"I" in the Heart was necessary to complete
the realization process
you name any people who are teaching today who
could hide behind my earlier statement and say
that I am not qualified to say who is enlightened
and who is not. That is true, but I have absolute
faith that Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma are in
that state. I don't want to make comments about
plans do you have for future books and other works?
I am working on a third volume of The Power
of the Presence, and I hope to see it published
in a few months. After that, I have a project
to translate and publish some of Muruganar's poetry
from Tamil into English. He recorded many of Bhagavan's
teaching statements in short Tamil verses, and
most of them have never been translated. This
will be a major undertaking that may take a year
or two. I also hope to get back to working on
Papaji in the near future. I particularly want
to edit the Lucknow satsang dialogues from the
early 1990s. That's a big job, though, and would
probably take years.I recently volunteered to
make a book of all Sadhu Natanananda's writings
on Bhagavan for Ramanasramam. I will fit that
in between all my other projects.
When I sit down in front of my screen in the
morning I often have no idea what I will be working
on ten minutes later. I might look at something
I have edited recently, move on to something else,
and then find another chapter of another book
that suddenly grabs my attention and interest.
Or I might switch the machine off and go outside
and do some gardening instead.
I have come to the conclusion that Bhagavan brought
me to Tiruvannamalai to write about him and his
disciples. I have learned this the hard way. I
went back to England twenty years ago, hoping
to earn enough money to come back to India and
not do any work here. Nobody was willing to hire
me to do anything. I even flunked an interview
for picking up litter in the London zoo. But as
soon as I had the idea of writing a book about
Bhagavan, everything fell into place. Though I
had never written anything in my life, I was given
a contract by a major publisher and sent back
to India to write about him. That's how Be
As You Are came into existence.
A few years before that I gave up editing the
Ramanasramam magazine and went to Andhra Pradesh
to be with Lakshmana Swamy. My intention was just
to meditate there. I had had enough of writing,
but within a few weeks of my arrival he asked
me to write No Mind I am the Self.
Whenever I do work on Bhagavan or his disciples,
everything goes well. Whenever I try to do something
else, so many problems come up, nothing ever gets
accomplished or completed.
Having learned this from experience, I have now
surrendered to this destiny. I enjoy the work,
and many, many people seem to appreciate the books.
I asked Papaji years ago whether writing all these
books on Bhagavan was a distraction for the mind.
He replied, "Any association with Bhagavan
is a blessing." I took that as an instruction
to carry on with the work.
page was published on September 28, 2001.