It was in 1934 that I had the privilege of meeting the great sage of Tiruvannamalai. It was a long cherished desire of mine to have a look at Sri Ramana Maharshi and study a jivanmukta – for such was the descriptive term with which he was referred to by the general public.
It was about ten o’clock in the morning when I entered the large hall in which the Maharshi was. The hall was full of devotees. I made my prostrations and stood up and found the Maharshi completely unconcerned. I was even afraid whether I had disturbed the intense silence that filled the whole atmosphere along with the aroma of burning incense. I silently moved away to one side of the hall and sat quiet, watching the Maharshi. Now and then visitors entered the hall, some with fruits, etc., made their prostrations, and silently went out or sat with others. The attendants took away the offerings. The Maharshi did not ask the devotees any questions as to who they were, what they were or about their welfare. Nor did the attendants introduce them to him. The devotees too silently found for themselves a place in the hall where they would sit and quietly watch the Maharshi or be meditating with closed eyes. An attendant once brought to him some newspapers which he went on reading. Another brought some proofs for correction and he sat up and returned them corrected. He again relapsed into a state of all-significant look, in a reclining posture. All these went on silently till about 12 o’clock when the bell rang for lunch.
After we had all returned to the hall and the Maharshi got seated on his cot, some attendant introduced me to him as coming from the Ramakrishna Ashram, Mysore. The Maharshi asked me if I had any news of Swami Siddheswarananda who had gone to Paris to start a centre of the Ramakrishna Mission there. It so happened that I had a letter of his in my pocket which I handed over to him.
The Maharshi went through the letter and expressed his surprise at the fact that few Frenchmen living so near England knew English.
The Maharshi enjoyed the humorous episode mentioned in the letter which arose on account of this language difficulty. Swami Siddheswaranandaji’s hosts did not know English. At meals when his hosts brought him wine, he said no. They asked him what he would take. He said milk. They brought him water and then soda. He again said that it was not what he wanted. They were puzzled. Then the Swami resorted to a gesture of imitation of milking the cow. The hosts immediately understood and the difficulty was got over. The Maharshi enjoyed this immensely and recited the incident in Tamil and Telugu to the audience in the hall with great glee.
After some time I asked permission to put a few questions about samadhi, God realization, etc. In those days, the Maharshi used to give only short replies and that too, long after the question was put to him, so I was told. But in my case he appeared to have made an exception and explained at length. The Maharshi repeated his replies in Tamil and Telugu and sometimes in Malayalam for the benefit of the others in the hall. The hall was, again as usual, filled with silence. The Maharshi again relapsed into his wonted silence and sublime look.
It was time for me to depart. I got up and prostrated and told the Maharshi that I would now take leave. He seemed to say ‘yes’ by his look and I came away with the satisfaction of having had the privilege of contacting one who was reputed to be a perfected Soul.
The silence which the Maharshi was steeped in pervaded me and still haunts my soul even after twenty years.