I saw Sri Bhagavan Ramana for the first time in my life during the memorable night of 10th December, 1949. I had reached the Ramanashram in the evening and a very friendly and helping monk of the Ashram had informed me that I might be able to have darshan of the Maharshi from a distance that very night; and I was waiting with bated breath for this rare privilege. Then, all of a sudden I saw him when he was slowly emerging from the bathroom leaning heavily on the arms of two.
I was simply astounded and thrilled by the vision before me. I saw a tall, lean man in loin cloth; the limbs were well proportioned and well-knit and long; the skin was smooth and glowing and the quivering head was inclined towards the right side. There was a white bandage on the left arm which had been operated upon to remove a tumour. The eyes were neither big nor small but clear, deep and mystical and the clean-cut, handsome face was in perfect repose and serene tranquillity. The intense physical suffering had not touched or intruded upon the sovereign realm of his soul. His eyes shone with kindness and love for all mankind, his face was lit up with a beatific smile of benediction. I saw before me a Yogi of the highest order – a mystic of the supreme realisation, for, he radiated the living presence of divinity within and without. Verily, such persons live and move and have their being in God alone.
The next morning I saw him again. Slowly and with a spirit of high expectancy I entered the spacious hall where he was giving darshan to the gathering. I sat down quietly in one corner after tendering my salutation which he promptly accepted smilingly by nodding his head slightly. I saw around me rows of sitting men and women of different races and religions, of different stations and positions. I saw European, Parsi, Muslim, Hindu gents and ladies sitting calmly in asanas. In a big utensil the incense burnt and suffused the air with a soothing aroma, while the silence was broken by vibrant chanting of holy hymns by a few young ashram brahmacharins.
Almost at the centre of the hall on an elevated, white bed sat the Maharshi. Only a white loin cloth was on his person; his right hand held a fan with which he fanned himself indifferently and infrequently. I saw the same quivering and slightly inclined head and in the clear morning light the mystic lines of his face were deep and sharply drawn. His ever-smiling face was completely free from the ravages of illness which was slowly and steadily ruining the body. His spiritual presence was dynamic and clearly perceptible. It touched and inspired us and simultaneously took us to the high and rare sphere of spirituality. I felt suddenly the presence of a spiritual power which was ambient and edifying and it raised the expectancy of all to a high pitch. The atmosphere of the hall was distinctly attuned to a higher will and power which influenced the entire gathering.
All eyes were fixed on the Maharshi; every soul was raised to a high spiritual level by the nearness and influence of his great personality. I intensely reflected on the unique phenomenon and tried hard to find an answer to this unheard of event. I wanted to know how and by what irresistible force it had been possible for persons – young and old, rich and poor, wise and simple, belonging to different races and religions – to gather at the feet of this great Yogi. I wanted to know how and why the stubborn diversity has transformed into unity here – the persistent dissimilarity, into perfect harmony – the many- ness into oneness!
Suddenly the answer came and I realised that it had been possible solely due to the unifying presence, the realisation of the Maharshi. I realised that the Maharshi was the living embodiment of Advaitic truths of Vedas. He was the complete realisation of the eternal truth of Vedanta – the truths which are ever universal and transcendental, harmonious and cohesive. And he was not only the preacher of truths of unity and oneness, of identity of man and God, of spiritual brotherhood of mankind irrespective of caste or creed, time or clime, race or position, he was the living symbol of these truths – the perfect realisation in real life. That was why his all embracing personality had become the centre of universal truth and the unifying force cementing diverse races and religions into a harmonious concord. That was why hundreds of people of diverse conditions and ways, of different aspirations and hopes had gathered at his feet spontaneously to receive the benediction of peace and contentment, spiritual illumination and the eternal gospels of truths and edifying yogic energy.
A few days later when I left Ramanasramam my heart was full to the brim. But deep within I felt, just as all the ashram people felt, that the Maharshi would shortly cease to grace the earth by his physical presence. For, he was on the verge of departure.
Afterwards, one day we heard over the radio that the sage had laid down his mortal coil on 14th of April, 1950.
He has passed away – but have we known him thoroughly and fully? Our narrow understanding cannot fully comprehend him; his greatness is too vast – too immense to be captured within our mental orbit. Just a part of his spiritual self, a tiny fraction of it is visible to us and we rejoice in the partial vision of him because we are in the dark and bound by the sad limitations of our senses. He has passed away, yet he lives perpetually in the evergreen memory of his thousands of devotees the world over, in his own undying gospels and messages which will continue to uplift, inspire and guide all along the right path towards the right and the highest goal – God-realisation.