We are now moving on to yet another compound and Mr.
N. is telling me about a Frenchwoman living alone up the Sacred Hill near Ramana’s
former Ashram. He says we must go to see her — well — maybe tomorrow.
For the moment we are to see a stately English woman
who as we arrive is entertaining most lavishly her daily visitor. He will only
eat directly from her hands and is rather particular as to what is offered.
She is introducing me to him, but he is not too interested. Polite peacocks
can’t eat and say at the same time: How do you do?
I went to South Africa at the age of 6 and spent most
of my life there although I was born in England. Then by accident I found my
way to Australia in 1963, and just as accidentally found my way to India ten
years later. Two friends were going to India, and over a tea table they said:
Why not come along? Just as casually I said: I will! Within two weeks I was
in India without any plans or desire to be here. I didn’t even have an
interest in India. But since then I have lived here practically all the time.
Here in the Ashram?
At first I was at the Theosophical Society at Adyar, but a
friend brought me here, and that’s how I heard about Ramana Maharshi.
But what made you want
to stay on?
That’s difficult to answer. These things are preordained. Looking through
my life I see I had no control over anything that happened — one thing
lead to another in a sort of sequence. So coming here was also inevitable. I
feel there must have been a strong link with Ramana somewhere in the past because
circumstances took me round India and I have met, sometimes unintentionally,
many gurus and teachers and they never made
an impact. When I came here, I knew I was home.
What is it that attracted
you to Bhagavan’s teachings?
The utter simplicity. I suppose most of us realize there’s something beyond
our mind and reasoning. Bhagavan showed it so clearly that I
immediately responded to his teaching and knew it was the basic Truth, that
I as an ego didn’t exist.
You haven’t felt
the lack of his physical presence a disadvantage? Most of us seem to need a
No, not at all. Don’t misunderstand this, but if one is ready for advaita
— non-dualism — you no longer need the physical guru. You have to externalize God until
you can internalize Him — the same with the guru. Your own guru isn’t in the body, so you’ll
understand what I mean (she had asked).
That’s true, but
I knew him personally; I could ask him questions… he taught me personally.
To me, Bhagavan is the universal Self, so he’s
no different from me. Well — perhaps I should say he’s not outside
me. His presence is very, very powerful.
Yes, I understand all
that. How is your day spent?
So many people ask what on earth I do all day. All I know is that there’s
not enough time to do it. There’s always a turn-over of interesting people,
many making enquiries; so as they think I’m an old-timer here they seem
to think I know more than they might know. This leads to interesting conversations,
and I learn a great deal. Then I read. Recently I helped type a book from manuscript.
Occasionally I help in the library when the librarian is away. There’s
always something to do.
Can you say something
about your spiritual practice?
Well — I find it almost impossible to meditate. Only recently have I come
to realize what people mean by meditation; a mental process to control the mind.
I instinctively felt that wasn’t the answer to meditation. Bhagavan’s way of asking: Who am
I? — stills the mind, and in my estimation, is true meditation.
You don’t sit in
any formal position for this?
I find I can’t — physically I can’t because I can’t
get up from the ground. I think of meditation as a constant awareness. To sit
controlling the mind for a certain length of time is contrary to what I believe.
Bhagavan’s direct instructions
were so simple — just to ask — Who am I? And to find I am non-existent.
Bhagavan answered his visitors’
questions at their own level but gave no specific instructions. That is the
beauty of this Ashram — it’s not an organization, it’s not
a place where you’re told to do this and not that. It is left to you.
There are no rules and regulations. The books are available, the meditation
room is available, the atmosphere is available — but no one will tell
you what to do.
Can you say something
about the benefits of this path?
A feeling of inner peace. One’s sense of values have altered. The tempo
slackens. One is no longer dashing about looking for gurus or teachings. There is freedom
from anxiety. One is able to accept one’s destiny, knowing the destiny
of the body isn’t the reality.
Was it hard to give up
your family for Ashram life?
That question is not applicable… I have no family. I was free.
Have you met any teachers
here who you consider realized?
Only one have I sought out: Nisargadatta Maharaj, who lives in Bombay. He is not
so well known, but many from this Ashram are attracted to him (See Interview
50 with Jean Dunn). There seems to be a link between him and Ramana Maharshi,
although his personality is different. He is a simple little man living in a
slum who until recently smoked cigarettes non-stop. He now has cancer of the
throat, so his smoking days are over. When one is in his presence one knows
this is a realized soul. The advantage is that one sees in front of one the
reality, not theory, not conjecture — this is what a realized soul is
about. It’s a tremendous experience. His teachings are not unlike Bhagavan’s. In a way he enlarges
on them. But it’s his presence that inspires. I visit him regularly.
You said you have found
inner peace: can you say anything to those still looking for it?
The obvious answer is what the teachers themselves have said. One wrote a book
on Hinduism and said there are four legitimate
aims and we all have those aims to some degree with emphasis on one. The first
aim is to enjoy yourself. When you are tired of that, the aim is ambition —
you want to be the manager, the captain of the ship. When you become bored with
that, the aim is to become a philanthropist — you want to save the world.
When you discover the world cannot be saved, and no one wants to be helped,
you discover the only person you can help is yourself. This sounds selfish but
it’s completely logical. All teachers tell us we are to work on ourselves
because we are the world, the universe. The individual makes the universe. And
one perfected individual in the world does more good than all the philanthropists
put together. So each individual must work on himself. That’s all that
can be done.