This chapter is taken from The Silent Power – Selections from The Mountain Path and The Call Divine
It was at Skandasramam on Arunachala that I first met Bhagavan Ramana (in January 1921). He was standing on the open space in front of the Ashram building facing the entrance as I approached. The very sight of him was thrilling; something very subtle, seemingly with its centre in that body, shone forth unlimited engulfing everything else. Needless to say I felt swallowed up by it. I stayed for a week with Bhagavan in that atmosphere of utter purity and serenity. I heard from him how he came to Arunachala, irresistibly attracted and swept off his feet by a tremendous benevolent force; how he was one with it deep down within his heart almost oblivious of his body and surroundings; and how only later on he gradually regained the use of his senses and mind and was able to look about and commune with others when they approached him.
Subsequently too, when I had come to Bhagavan for good, the effect of his proximity continued the same way and I may say that there was no necessity for any sadhana in particular on my part. Along with a few other inmates I had my share in the work of the Ashram in the elevating company of Bhagavan and I studied his few works, devotional and philosophical, and heard his replies to various questions put by visitors. But the most important thing was the mere Presence, the spiritually uplifting company of Bhagavan. As Bhagavan says in the Supplement to the Reality in Forty Verses: “If one associates with Sages, where is the need for any other rigorous sadhana? No one looks for a fan when there is the pleasant southern breeze.”
The climax of my spiritual experience in the proximity of Bhagavan was during his ‘last’ moments. As I stood in that small room along with a very few others, everything became shadow enveloped by one indivisible Pure Awareness, the one and only ever-present Reality. And so there was not the least feeling of any separation from Bhagavan or the least vestige of sorrow on that account. Not only that, there was a positive ecstasy and elation of spirit which is nothing but the Natural State of the Self.
All those who approached Bhagavan with spiritual earnestness have had this experience of direct contact with the Divine at the very first sight of Bhagavan. Ganapati Muni, the great poet and tapaswin, saw an adept (a Siddha Purusha, a Perfect Being) in Bhagavan, the moment he first beheld him by chance on the Hill in the Ashram of Jataiswami. The scholar became a disciple. Venkataramanier of Satyamangalam saw Bhagavan as a clear manifestation of the all-pervading Supreme Self and sang his five superb Hymns in Praise of Ramana. Humphreys saw Bhagavan as a glowing centre of Divine Radiance. Achyuta Dasa, Narayana Guru and so many others seeing Bhagavan recognised his unique spiritual greatness. Pascaline Mallet, a French lady, who stayed with Bhagavan for a few months sang in a poem in praise of Bhagavan: “One Light, One Life, One Love, shining through Thee, we see.” And Grant Duff (Douglas Ainslee), the cultured scholar and poet, says in his preface to Bhagavan’s Five Hymns to Arunachala: “I was in direct contact with one who had passed beyond the boundaries of the senses and was merged in the Absolute Self. I do not need any proof of the divinity of Ramana Maharshi, just as I do not need any to prove the existence of the Sun.”
What is the secret behind the common experience of Divine Glory which so many intelligent devotees have had in the presence of Bhagavan? Here is the answer given by Ganapati Muni in his remarkable hymn of Forty Verses in Praise of Bhagavan: “Bow down to the holy Guru Ramana who reaching the hidden source of the ego within has effaced all differentiation and shines forth as the One Self of all beings with various mental propensities and who is resplendent as the One Reality transcending the body and the entire world-manifestation.” “I bow to Sri Ramana, the Great Teacher, the remover of all sorrow, who established in the Eternal Abode of Pure Awareness dispels the ignorance of earnest seekers, who though seeing and moving within the world stands as the Supreme Being transcending it.”
Whatever is seen is non-self and the Seer alone is the unchanging Self. When we take to Self-enquiry holding on to this fundamental principle of Vedanta, the physical body, the life-current operating in it and the mind are eliminated as non-self. Even the intellect, the highest known principle in man with its reasoning faculty, has to be discarded as non-self as it is only the faculty of one behind it, claiming it as his. Who is he? He cannot stand by himself and so he disappears. What then remains as the source of the elusive I-sense in us is the ultimate Self, which is ever there as the Ground of all that appears and disappears, of all perception in the waking and dream states and non-perception of anything in deep sleep.
Though the truth of the ultimate Self is explained within a few steps like this, the enveloping power of a mysterious force of darkness known as avarana in Vedanta is such that it gets eradicated only after a vigilant self-enquiry constantly carried on. The inherent tendencies (vasanas) of the mind based on a phantom ego get annihilated only after a continuous earnest attempt to abide at the Heart, the Source. So, Sankara says in his Vivekachudamani that liberation (mukti) is nothing but the complete eradication of the ego with all its vasanas. Bhagavan says in his song on Atma Vidya that Grace is needed for the dawn of jnana as well as earnest aspiration and devotion on the part of the seeker to deserve it. When earnest effort and Grace meet, then there is the achievement of the highest spiritual aspiration of man, viz., spontaneous inherence in the ever-present Self.
The Self is Pure Awareness, unalloyed Awareness itself, whereas the mind is awareness of this and that. The mind cannot stand for a moment without an object, because it is by its very nature a subject-object phenomenon. It disappears when it is divested of objects, unable to stand by itself. And there, the Self, the one indivisible absolute Awareness shines for ever as stated in Sri Ramana Gita (Ch. vii, v.5): “When the ego which is but a phantom of the Self totally disappears, what remains is the real Self alone in all its plenitude and perfection.” This is jnana and this is mukti (liberation).
For one established in it thus, the subject-object phenomena may appear and disappear but he will remain for ever unsullied as Pure Awareness, since nothing has any existence apart from it. This is known as Tanmaya Nishta. Being the Self is Awareness of the Self.
From a relative standpoint, the proximity of such a Sage, normally established in the Self under all circumstances of life, serves as an eye-opener for those in the clutches of delusion and as an invaluable aid supporting them in their spiritual quest.
The operation of the Spiritual Force of such enlightened Ones is not limited to the lifetime of their physical body. It continues for ever and those who think of them, surrender themselves to them, study their life and teachings and try to follow them do get into the ambit of their Grace, non-different from Supreme Divine Grace. This is the experience of so many spiritual aspirants who had not met Bhagavan during his lifetime but devoted themselves to him on hearing of him or coming to know of him somehow or other. The enlightened Ones who are themselves timeless belong to all time and by their very nature shed light on the path of seekers and help them in ever so many ways.
Ultimately one sees that one has no existence apart from Pure Awareness, that there is no world apart from it and that there is no other God than Pure Awareness. Blissful Awareness is the sole Reality. Manifestation as the Many is nothing but its Lila. Every one, in manifestation, has to play his part knowing at heart that it is all nothing but Lila, the only Reality being Absolute Blissful Awareness.