This Chapter is taken From The Book ”Guru Ramana Memories and Notes” by S.S.Cohen
The great awe which Sri Bhagavan inspires makes him appear to new visitors too lofty, too majestic for humour, but soon afterwards they realise the fact that refined humour and wit emanate from that divine bliss which all spiritual Masters enjoy in an eminent degree. Their cosmic vision makes them view all phenomena and events as the mere play of the Lord – His Leela, His Cosmic Dance – which is all joy and beauty. But nothing is farther from my mind than to disparage anyone in recording the following dialogues or to exalt them as specimens of his humour: they merely reflect the minds of some visitors, as the serious questions reflect those of the more serious. It is but right that the reader should have a peep into both.
1. THE BELIEVER IN THE IMPERSONAL
Dr. H., of the small group of Americans, who spent a few weeks in the Ashram in February 1936, asked Sri Maharshi if there exists such a thing as a Personal God.
Bhagavan. Yes, Ishvara.
Dr. H. (with astonishment) What? with eyes, nose, ears, etc.? Bh. Yes, if you have them why should not God also have them?
C. When I read in the Kabbala and the Puranas that God has these organs, I laugh.
Bh. Why don’t you laugh at yourself for having them?
2. THE BUSINESS MAN
Sometime afterwards Dr. H. came alone again to the Ashram for a few days’ stay. He had heard of the sanctity of the hill and of the number of disembodied siddhas (saints with psychic powers) who dwell in it in their astral bodies, and who at times were said to appear physically to some privileged persons. On the last night of his stay, he took it into his head to have his fill of the hill with, as he confided later to a friend, the secret hope of coming face to face with one of them. Being ignorant of the difficulty of the ground at night, he continued to roam among the boulders long after dark.
Sri Bhagavan, who in those days kept a watchful eye over newcomers, particularly foreigners, missed him, and, having been told that he had been seen going up late in the evening, he immediately dispatched devotees with gas lamps in search of him. At last the American friend was found and brought down.
He entered the Hall jaded and with clothes wet from the drizzle that had fallen during his jaunt. There was a cane chair – the only one in the Hall – opposite Sri Bhagavan’s sofa. On that chair he sat, and started telling his adventure on the hill. After finishing his story, he turned to Sri Bhagavan and naively said:-
American. Oh, Maharishi, if you give me Self Realisation, how grateful I’ll be to you!
Bhagavan. Eum! Eum!
Am. Indeed I’ll be very happy. Tomorrow I am leaving this place and shall always think of you.
Bh. (gently chuckling) You will never go.
Am. (thinking that Maharshi was going to use siddhis to prevent him from going, he was very scared indeed.) How? I am certainly going. I have urgent work in the United States. My passport is ready, and my passage booked. I made all the necessary arrangements for my return journey. How do you mean I am not going?
Bh. (still chuckling) You will never go, because you never came. It was only the car, the ship, the train, etc., that moved. You did absolutely nothing but sit all the time, till you found yourself here.
Am. (with a sigh of relief ) Oh that!
3. THE PEDAN
On a summer morning a middle-aged Tamilian entered and sat for about half an hour. His restlessness and rolling eyes suggested that he had something weighty on his mind. At last he spoke with an assumed humility, particularly as he chose to speak in English.
Visitor. Swami, we ignorant people read so much, hoping to have an inkling of Truth, but, alas, the more we read the more Truth recedes from our ken. I have read all the Western philosophers from Descartes to Bertrand Russell – they are all useless. But our Rishis differ among themselves. Shankara says, “Go on repeating ‘I am Brahman’ and you become Brahman.” Madhvacharya says that the Soul is ever separated from Brahman. You say “Enquire ‘who am I’ and you will arrive.” Many other teachers gave many other solutions. Is this not puzzling? Which of you is right?
V. (Having waited in vain for about five minutes, he resumed with a mildly raised tone) Swami, which way am I to go?
Bh. (with a gentle wave of the hand) Go the way you came.
4. THE MISSIONARY
A few spick-and-span Europeans entered the Hall one morning, slightly bowed to Bhagavan and sat in the front row. Their leader was immediately recognised as a veteran Missionary, famous for his fiery preachings in YMCAs., Christian colleges, and public halls of towns and cities in India. One of the others was his private secretary. The preacher began with a question to set the ball rolling towards his pet theme. After some answers Bhagavan eventually referred him to the Self as the ultimate reality, without knowing the identity and motive of the questioner. That was excuse enough for the latter to fire a stream of quotations from the Christian scripture with his own interpretations on them.
Fortunately, before he went very far, Major Chadwick who at that time usually meditated there, shouted a challenge from the other end of the Hall in a powerful stentorian voice, which took him completely by surprise and eventually made him think it wise to keep silent and soon afterwards leave the Hall with his party.
5. THE PHILOSOPHER
April, 1943. A young man in his teens, with blushing cheeks and a very soft, timorous voice asked:-
Youth. Swami, can I see God in this life? ……
Bhagavan. (gently smiling) First tell me who is the “I” in your question; who, what, and where God is, and what do you mean by “life”? The youth dropped his eyes and remained silent. An elderly man from the back rushed forward, produced a pencil, wrote a question on a piece of paper and handed it to the Maharshi. Bhagavan read it and smiled broadly. It was a question on Time and Space.
Bhagavan. May I know who is putting this question – Space, yourself, or Time?
Visitor. Of course I.
Bh. Do you know that I?
V. (after a little hesitation) Leave the I-question to the philosophers and answer my question.
Voice. What? Is Time or Space dearer to you than your own self?
Bh. (seeing the visitor nonplussed) All these questions are superfluous. One thing you must bear in mind is that no question can be solved without Self-knowledge. On the realisation of the Self everything becomes clear and all problems are solved.
6. THE SCIENTIST
A fortnight later a science student strolled in.
Student. Science tells us that the atom is made of a nucleus in the centre, with electrons moving round it in the intervening space. Is the relation between God and the Perfect Man the same as these or different? I mean, although God and the Jnani are one unit, yet they preserve their separate identities.
Bh. Who is the Perfect Man?
Student. He who has perfected himself by sadhana.
Bh. So you think yourself imperfect that you ask this question. Will it not then be better for you to perform sadhana and perfect yourself and then you will know what happens? Why bother now about a state which comes only after Perfection. The fact is that you are even now perfect and your supposed imperfection is only your own creation.
2nd April 1937
7. THE SCEPTIC
A very busy Polish journalist came for a few hours this afternoon, within which time he expected to be shown the Truth in the clearest possible manner.
Pole. I have read in your books that one should enquire into the nature of one’s ‘I’ in order to know the Truth, which you call the Self. From biological science I have my own answer to the question of my own identity. What I wish to know is, who are you, you who speak of, and seem to have experienced, the Self? If another man confirms your statement, and so will a million, then there is the probability of the Self.
Bh. Have you no self yourself? Are you then in the region of probabilities, even with regard to your own self?
P. Yes, one cannot be sure of anything; even God cannot be proved with absolute certainty.
Bh. Leave God alone for the present. What of yourself? P. I want confirmation of the Self.
Bh. You seek confirmation of yourself from others? How do you know that others exist?
P. By my senses.
Bh. ‘My’ implies the ‘I’, which owns the senses. You take your existence for granted, at the same time ask others to prove it to you. Similarly you admit the certainty of your senses, which see others, whilst denying all certainty. You see how you contradict yourself. The fact is that there are no others: there is no such a person as ‘you’. Each man, although addressed as ‘you’, styles himself as ‘I’. Even the confirmation you demand from others comes only from the ‘I’. ‘You’ and ‘they’ occur only to the ‘I’, without which they are meaningless.
P. If you are right, what becomes of progress and science?
Bh. Progress and science are meant only for the perceiving mind. For whom is the progress if the mind is absent, say, in deep sleep, or in a swoon? The goal of all progress and science, you admit, is Truth, which is the Pure Intelligence, the substratum Consciousness, from which the thinking mind sprouts, and into which it is ultimately dissolved, when what you call ‘Perfection’, to which science aspires to lead, is attained. This is what we call realisation of the Self, that is, realisation of the source of the mind.