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Papaji’s first meeting with Ramana Maharshi

By David Godman

Page 2

This article is reprinted from Nothing Ever Happened, Vol. 1.

Framji said, ‘No, no, you are mistaken. He has not moved out of this town in the last forty-eight years. It is either a case of mistaken identity or somehow, through his power, he managed to manifest himself in the Punjab while his physical body was still here. Some girl from America came here once and told a similar story. These things do happen occasionally. Are you sure that you have not made a mistake?’

‘No,’ I answered, absolutely sure of myself. ‘I recognise the man. I have not made a mistake.’

‘In that case,’ he responded, ‘please stay. I will introduce you to the manager and he will give you a place to stay.’

I went along with his suggestion merely because my curiosity had been aroused. Something strange had happened and I wanted to find out exactly what it was. It was my intention to confront the Maharshi in private and ask for an explanation of his strange behaviour.

I soon discovered, though, that he never gave private interviews, so I decided instead that I would try to see him when the big room in which he saw visitors was relatively empty.

H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji) in 1950

Papaji in 1950, six years after the events described here.

I ate lunch in the ashram. At the conclusion of the meal the Maharshi went back to his room with his attendant. No one else followed him. I didn’t know that there was an unofficial rule that visitors should not go to see him between 11.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. The manager had decided that the Maharshi needed to rest for a few hours after lunch, but since the Maharshi would not go along with a rule which prevented people from coming to see him, a compromise was reached. His doors would remain open but all visitors and devotees were actively discouraged from going to see him during those hours. Not knowing this, I followed the Maharshi into his room, thinking that this was the best time to have a private interview.

The Maharshi’s attendant, a man called Krishnaswami, tried to dissuade me. ‘Not now,’ he said. ‘Come back at 2.30.’ The Maharshi overheard the exchange and told Krishnaswami that I could come in and see him.

I approached him in a belligerent way. ‘Are you the man who came to see me at my house in the Punjab?’ I demanded. The Maharshi remained silent.

I tried again. ‘Did you come to my house and tell me to come here? Are you the man who sent me here?’ Again the Maharshi made no comment.

Since he was unwilling to answer either of these questions, I moved on to the main purpose of my visit.

‘Have you seen God?’ I asked. ‘And if you have, can you enable me to see him? I am willing to pay any price, even my life, but your part of the bargain is that you must show me God.’

‘No,’ he answered. ‘I cannot show you God or enable you to see God because God is not an object that can be seen. God is the subject. He is the seer. Don’t concern yourself with objects that can be seen. Find out who the seer is.’ He also added, ‘You alone are God,’ as if to rebuke me for looking for a God who was outside and apart from me.

His words did not impress me. They seemed to me to be yet one more excuse to add to the long list of those I had heard from swamis all over the country. He had promised to show me God, yet now he was trying to tell me that not only could he not show me God, no one else could either. I would have dismissed him and his words without a second thought had it not been for an experience I had immediately after he had told me to find out who this ‘I’ was who wanted to see God. At the conclusion of his words he looked at me, and as he gazed into my eyes, my whole body began to tremble and shake. A thrill of nervous energy shot through my body. My nerve endings felt as if they were dancing and my hair stood on end. Within me I became aware of the spiritual Heart. This is not the physical heart. It is, rather, the source and support of all that exists. Within the Heart I saw or felt something like a closed bud. It was very shiny and bluish. With the Maharshi looking at me, and with myself in a state of inner silence, I felt this bud open and bloom. I use the word ‘bud’, but this is not an exact description. It would be more correct to say that something that felt bud-like opened and bloomed within me in the Heart. And when I say ‘Heart’ I don’t mean that the flowering was located in a particular place in the body. This Heart, this Heart of my Heart, was neither inside the body nor out of it. I can’t give a more exact description of what happened. All I can say is that in the Maharshi’s presence, and under his gaze, the Heart opened and bloomed. It was an extraordinary experience, one that I had never had before. I had not come looking for any kind of experience, so it totally surprised me when it happened.

Sri Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi.

I [David Godman] have only heard Papaji speak once about this remarkable experience. It was in response to the following question I asked him:

‘Ramana Maharshi sometimes said that there is a very small hole in the spiritual Heart. He said that in the sahaja [natural, fully realised] state it is open, but in other states it is closed. Did your Heart open in this way in Bhagavan’s [the Maharshi’s] presence? Bhagavan also once said, in describing the realisation process, that “the downward-facing Heart becomes upward-facing and remains as That”. Did you have any experience akin to this?’

Papaji continues:

Though I had had an immensely powerful experience in the presence of the Maharshi, his statement, ‘You alone are God,’ and his advice to ‘find out who the seer is’ did not have a strong appeal for me. My inclination to seek a God outside me was not dispelled either by his words or by the experience I had had with him.

I thought to myself, ‘It is not good to be chocolate. I want to taste chocolate.’ I wanted to remain separate from God so that I could enjoy the bliss of union with Him.

When the devotees came in that afternoon, I viewed them all with the rather prejudiced eye of a fanatical Krishna bhakta. So far as I could see, they were just sitting quietly, doing nothing. I thought to myself, ‘No one here seems to be chanting the name of God. Not a single person has a mala [rosary] to do japa with. How can they consider themselves to be good devotees?’ My views on religious practice were rather limited. All these people may have been meditating, but so far as I was concerned, they were wasting their time.

I transferred my critical gaze to the Maharshi and similar thoughts arose.

‘This man should be setting a good example to his followers. He is sitting silently, not giving any talks about God. He doesn’t appear to be chanting the name of God himself, or focusing his attention on Him in any way. These disciples are sitting around being lazy because the Master himself is sitting there doing nothing. How can this man show me God when he himself shows no interest in Him?’

With thoughts like these floating around in my mind, it was not long before I generated a feeling of disgust for both the Maharshi and the people who surrounded him. I still had some time before I had to report for duty in Madras, but I didn’t want to spend it with all these spiritually lazy people in the ashram. I took off to the other side of Arunachala, a few kilometres away, found a nice quiet spot in the forest on the northern side of the hill, and settled down there to do my Krishna japa, alone and undisturbed.

I stayed there for about a week, immersed in my devotional practices. Krishna would often appear before me, and we spent a lot of time playing together. At the end of that period I felt that it was time to go back to Madras to make preparations for my new job. On my way out of town I paid another visit to the ashram, partly to say goodbye, and partly to tell the Maharshi that I didn’t need his assistance for seeing God because I had been seeing Him every day through my own efforts.

Copyright © 1998 Avadhuta Foundation. This article is reprinted from Nothing Ever Happened, Vol. 1. Used by permission.

David Godman (b. 1953) has written many books about Sri Ramana Maharshi, his disciples, and related subjects. He was the librarian at Sri Ramanasramam for eight years.

Related pages on this site

Recommended Books

David Godman, Nothing Ever Happened

Nothing Ever Happened

By David Godman

This massive three-volume biography of H.W.L. Poonja, widely known as Papaji, is one of the most comprehensive attempts ever made to document the life and teachings of a self-realized person. Papaji was a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi. He is largely responsible for the satsang movement in the West because he helped hundreds of Westerners attain glimpses of the Self and then sent them home to teach.


See it on Amazon.

This page was published on September 23, 2001 and last revised on May 25, 2017.


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