ARCOT DEVARAJA MUDALIAR was one of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s closest direct disciples, one of the very few who was allowed to live in a house of his own on the ashram grounds. He was also a capable lawyer and author of three books. But the most important fact about him for our purposes, because you and I are indirect disciples of Ramana who cannot speak to him directly but must rely on books to learn what he said — is this:
Bhagavan [Ramana] very rarely spoke English and in the 1940s, after the publication of Paul Brunton’s book [A Search in Secret India], many seekers from the west started showing up. Interpreters were required to help them converse with Bhagavan. Devaraja Mudaliar, Munagala Venkataramaiah and many others played the role of translators. Once, Bhagavan made a remark, which not only Mudaliar, but other devotees too have told me about: “All others interpret when I talk, only Devaraja Mudaliar translates exactly what I say.”
(Quoted from Ramana Periya Puranam)
Those sentences were written by V. Ganesan, Ramana’s grandnephew, who lived at the ashram as a child and knew Ramana and most of Ramana’s direct disciples. David Godman, the noted scholar of Ramana’s life and works, corroborates what Ganesan says in this statement from an article on his website:
I have been told that when Devaraja Mudaliar translated for the first time in the early 1940s, Bhagavan beamed with pleasure and said words to the effect, ‘Finally, someone who translates exactly what I say’. I have heard three different versions of this comment from devotees who were with Bhagavan in the 1940s, and this is a summary of the gist of all three of them.
(Quoted from ‘The Authenticity of Bhagavan’s Recorded Teachings’)
Ganesan’s and David’s remarks apply to Mudaliar’s spoken translations (he sat near Ramana in the hall and helped him converse with visitors). Can we assume that Mudaliar’s written translations — his books — are also exceptionally accurate? We can do more than assume. His best known book, Day by Day with Bhagavan, is based on his diaries which were corrected for accuracy by Ramana. Here’s Ganesan again:
Mudaliar’s greatest contribution was from the period of 1945 to 1947, when he noted in a diary everything that transpired in Bhagavan’s presence. This was published by the ashram, as Day by Day with Bhagavan. I have seen the diary covered in a few notebooks. They all had Bhagavan’s handwriting in a few places. Only a small number of pages had corrections; and they were all minimal in nature.
(Quoted from Ramana Periya Puranam)
That is to say, Ramana corrected Mudaliar’s written record of Ramana’s statements for accuracy, but he didn’t need to do much because Mudaliar’s work was very accurate to begin with.
The reason why this is important is that many books about Ramana are not accurate. Much of what people say and write about Ramana’s teaching is wrong. Mudaliar’s books are exceptional and perhaps even unique in their faithful presentation of Ramana’s statements (Muruganar’s books are also accurate but they are poetry not prose). Therefore, if you have a genuine curiosity about Ramana, I urge you to go to the best possible sources of information about him including Mudaliar’s books.
It is worthwhile to recall:
Mudaliar knew Ramana personally for years;
he lived at Ramana’s ashram for years;
Ramana reviewed his writing for accuracy and corrected it where necessary;
Ramana said, “Only Mudaliar translates exactly what I say.”
I’ll leave you with this quotation from Mudaliar’s book Gems from Bhagavan. It makes a very important point which is not stated often enough and which many practitioners of Self-enquiry fail to understand:
Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self.
By Paul Brunton
This book is a galloping adventure story, a sort of spiritual Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it's also an accurate description of spiritual experience and a summary of important spiritual teachings. It was a tremendous best-seller in many countries in the 1930s and 40s, appealing to the general public and not just spiritually-oriented people. The author, a young Englishman, tells the true story of his adventures travelling up and down India looking for a genuine guru. His search ends when he finds Ramana Maharshi. This is the book that made Ramana Maharshi famous outside India. Brunton’s description of Ramana’s teachings is still useful and accurate today. This book is much better written than most spiritual books — it was a general best-seller, not just a spiritual best seller — and it’s a lot of fun to read.
By V. Ganesan
A friend wrote to us:
We have read and re-read Ramana Periya Puranam and every time I read it, tears start to flow down my face. I feel an outpouring of grace whenever I read it. It’s one of the most powerful books that both my husband and I have come across, and I was very happy to see it mentioned in your blog.
This book will probably bring you as close as you can come to knowing what it felt like to be a direct disciple of Ramana at his ashram.
The author is Ramana’s grandnephew. As a boy he spent a lot of time in Ramana’s ashram and got to know many of Ramana’s direct devotees. This book contains biographies and reminiscences of 75 of them. Lots of photos, too.
Ganesan passes on to us teachings which he received from these people, which they in turn received from Ramana.
The subtitle is Inner Journey of 75 Old Devotees.
This book is in the same category as David Godman’s Power of the Presence series, which is also worth reading.
Because of Ganesan’s affectionate personality and, in some cases, because of his personal relationships with the people he writes about, the book is suffused by warmth and love.
It’s a lovely book, but probably only for people who love Ramana, but maybe also for people who are going to start loving Ramana. If you’re one of them, I recommend it.
This page was first published on July 24, 2020, last revised on July 24, 2020, and last republished on October 16, 2020.