He alone can be said to have known Sri Ramana, that has had the Ramana experience. And, he that has had that experience will not know him, remaining outside of him. To know Ramana is to be Ramana. To be Ramana is to have plenary experience of non-duality. In the absence of that experience, we can only seek to know him by ‘description’. This itself is not without its value. Through knowledge by description we may succeed in gaining knowledge by identity. It is a sadhana of supreme potency, therefore, to be constantly aware of one’s acquaintance with Sri Ramana.
To meet a sage and be acquainted with him is not an ordinary occurrence. It must be the result of a good stock of merit. I consider myself extremely fortunate, therefore to have had the privilege of meeting the Master, when I was barely eighteen — a privilege which I owe entirely to Sri Swami Rajeswaranandaji Maharaj. As I recall those three days I spent basking in the sunshine of Sri Ramana’s Glorious Presence, I have no word to express the benefit I derived from that experience. To sit before him was itself a deep spiritual education. To look at him was to have one’s mind stilled. To fall within the sphere of his beatific vision was to be inwardly elevated.
The most remarkable feature of the Master that struck even a casual visitor was his beaming face. There was no need, in his case, to frame the head in a halo. Such an enchantingly bright face with a soothing look and never-failing smile, one can never forget having seen it even once. The brightness remained undiminished till the very last day, even when the Master’s body bore the cross of the last illness. A few days before the Mahasamadhi when I went into the room where he lay and touched his feet with my head and quickly saw the condition in which his body was, I was on the point of shedding tears. But immediately I saw his face and he made kind enquiries in his usual inimitable way, all sorrow left without a trace, and there was Eternity looking on and speaking.
Even when I first saw the Master, his head had begun to nod. The shaking head seemed to me to be saying ‘neti, neti‘ (not this, not this). And, all on a sudden the nodding would stop, the vision of the Master would become fixed, and the spirit of silence would envelop everyone present. In the stillness of the Heart, one would realize that the ‘Self is peaceful quiet’ (‘santo yam atma’). Many of those who came with long lists of questions used to depart in silence after sitting for a while in the Master’s presence. When some did put questions to him, they received the replies they deserved. It was evident that many could not even frame their questions properly. In such cases, Sri Ramana himself would help in the framing of questions. When he chose to answer questions or instruct through words, it was a sight for the gods to see. Each sentence was like a text from the Upanishad, so full of meaning that it required calm silent pondering over in order to be understood. Sri Ramana’s answers never remained on the surface. He would straight go to the root of a question and exhibit to the wondering questioner the implications of his own question which he could not even have dreamt of. Not unoften would the Master make a questioner resolve his own doubts. But each time, the supreme Lord would gently guide the seeker to the stage of inner silence where all doubts get dissolved and all questions ceased.
There was no occasion when I experienced the manifestation of supernormal powers sometimes attributed to the Master. He seemed to me to be perfectly normal. It is we that were abnormal by contrast. We have our tensions and mental tangles. As for the Master there was no ruffle — not even the least agitation. The storms of the world never reached him. Sitting or reclining on the coach in the Ashram hall, he appeared to be the still point of a turning world. There was not the least suggestion of his appearing to be other than normal. His mode of referring to his person as ‘I’ and not as ‘this’ was itself significant. He did not want to appear distinct from the rest of us with regard to empirical usage. Yet, there was no doubt about the fact that there was not the least adhyasa present in him. His last illness quite clearly demonstrated this. What complete and utter detachment from the body he manifested in order to teach the world that the body is not the Self!
Having been a student of the Gita from childhood I saw in the Bhagavan a vivid and living commentary on that great scripture. When I was asked to address a meeting held in the local high School during one of my early visits to Tiruvannamalai, this is what I said: “If anyone wants to understand the inner meaning of the Gita, he must come to your town and meet the Maharshi”. In 1948-49, when I was in the United States lecturing on Vedanta, many friends asked me if there was anyone living in India answering to the truth of the Vedanta. My reply invariably used to be ‘Ramana’. On my return to India when I went to the Ashram, the Master expressed a wish that I should give an account of my American visit to the devotees gathered at the evening worship. I repeated to the gathering what exactly I had told American friends; and it was a pleasant experience to find a few Americans there.
The critics of Advaita usually say that the Advaitin is an austere intellectual in whom the wells of feeling have all dried up. Those who have seen the Master will know how unfounded such a criticism is. Sri Ramana was ever brimming with the milk of divine kindness. Even members of the subhuman species had their share of the unbounded love of the Master. He was a consummate artist in life. Anything that he touched became orderly and pleasant. Sweet and firm was his person even as, the sacred Arunachala is. Why should I say ‘was’? Even now he is and ever will be the light that never fades, the sweetness that never surfeits, to those who desire wisdom and eternity.