Called Away from Ramana Ashram

In 1947 the British government, under pressure from the Muslims, decided that after Independence India would be partitioned. The areas with a Muslim majority would form the new state of Pakistan; the leftover territory would be the new, independent India. In the northwest, the border ran roughly north-south and was located to the east of Lahore. This meant that my family would find themselves in Pakistan after Independence, which was scheduled to occur in August.

In the months preceding Independence many Muslims from India migrated to the embryonic state of Pakistan. At the same time, many Hindus who were living in areas that would be in Pakistan left to live in India. Feelings ran high in both communities. Hindus trying to leave Pakistan were attacked, robbed and even killed by Muslims, while Muslims trying to leave India were subjected to the same treatment by Hindus. The violence escalated to the point where whole trainloads of Hindus leaving Pakistan were hijacked and gunned down by Muslims, while, in the other direction, Hindus were attacking trains of fleeing Muslims and murdering all the occupants. I knew nothing about all this because I never bothered to read newspapers or listen to the radio.

In July, 1947, a month before Independence, Devaraja Mudaliar, the compiler of Day by Day with Bhagavan, approached me and asked me which part of the Punjab I came from. When I told him that I came from a town many miles to the west of Lahore, he informed me about the forthcoming Partition, stressing that my family and my father’s house were going to end up in Pakistan.

‘Where are all the members of your family at the moment?’ he asked.

‘So far as I know,’ I answered, for I didn’t have much contact with them, ‘they are all still in my home town. None of them is living in a place that will be in India.’

‘Then why don’t you go and fetch them?’ he asked. ‘It is not safe for them to stay there.’ He told me about the massacres that were going on and insisted that it was my duty to look after my family by taking them to a safe place. He even suggested that I bring them to Tiruvannamalai.

‘I’m not going,’ I told him. ‘I cannot leave the company of the Maharshi.’

This was not an excuse; I felt it was quite literally true. I had reached a stage in my relationship with the Maharshi where I loved him so much, I couldn’t take my eyes off him or contemplate the thought of going to the other end of the country for an indefinite period.”

David: The extent of Papaji’s attachment can be gauged from a story he told me in 1994.

For most of the Maharshi’s life access to him was unrestricted. Devotees could walk in and see him at any time. But towards the end of his life, when large crowds were coming to the ashram every day, he was given several rest periods during which no one was allowed in the hall with him. I found it hard to be away from his presence, so when the doors to the hall were locked, I used to sit outside the window and stare inside. The Maharshi’s couch was positioned in such a way that it wasn’t visible from the window, but when he moved a little or stretched out it was sometimes possible to catch a glimpse of a foot or an elbow. The prospect of such a glimpse kept me glued to the window for hours at a time. Usually I would see nothing, but occasionally I would be rewarded by a brief sight of one of his limbs moving. The prospect of getting such a darshan was enough to keep me by the window all day. I even slept there at night. I was so in love with his form, I didn’t want to miss the slightest chance of viewing even a small part of it.

When I was allowed in the hall, my attention would always be on his face. I couldn’t look at anything else. Sometimes his eyes would be half-open, ibut most of the time they would be wide-open and empty. I have never seen eyes like his in any other living being. On only one occasion during this period did he look directly back at me. He looked straight into my eyes, eye meeting eye, like a lover looking into the eyes of his beloved. My whole body shook and vibrated. I did not feel the presence of the body at all. Tears were falling from my eyes, and my throat was choked. For hours I could not speak to anyone.”

David: Having failed to convince Papaji to leave, Devaraja Mudaliar took the matter to the Maharshi.

That day, as we accompanied the Maharshi on his evening walk outside the ashram, Devaraja Mudaliar turned to him and said, ‘Poonja’s family seems to be stranded in western Punjab. He doesn’t want to go there. Nor does he seem interested in trying to get them out. Independence is less than a month away. If he does not go now, it may be too late.’

The Maharshi agreed with him that my place was with my family. He told me, ‘There will be a lot of trouble in the area you come from. Why don’t you go there at once? Why don’t you go and bring your family out?’

Though this amounted to an order, I was still hesitant. Ever since the day the Maharshi had shown me who I am, I had felt great love for him and great attachment to him. I genuinely felt that I didn’t have any relationship in the world other than the one I had with him. I attempted to explain my position to the Maharshi.

‘That old life was only a dream,’ I said. ‘I dreamed I had a wife and a family. When I met you, you ended my dream. I have no family any more. I only have you.’

The Maharshi countered by saying, ‘But if you know that your family is a dream, what difference does it make if you remain in that dream and do your duty? Why are you afraid of going if it is only a dream?’

I then explained the main reason for my reluctance to go. ‘I am far too attached to your physical form. I cannot leave you. I love you so much I cannot take my eyes off you. How can I leave?’

‘I am with you wherever you are,’ was his answer.

From the way he spoke to me I could see that he was determined that I should go. His last statement was, in effect, a benediction for my forthcoming trip and for my future life in general.

I immediately understood the deep significance of his remark. The ‘I’ which was my Master’s real nature was also my own inner reality. How could I ever be away from that ‘I’? It was my own Self, and both my Master and I knew that nothing else exists.

I accepted his decision. I prostrated before him and for the first and only time in my life I touched his feet as an act of veneration, love and respect. He didn’t normally let anyone touch his feet, but this was a special occasion and he made no objection. Before I rose I collected some of the dust from beneath his feet and put it in my pocket to keep as a sacred memento. I also asked for his blessings because I had an intuition that this was our final parting. I somehow knew I would never see him again.

Excerpt From Nothing Ever Happened Volume One, pages 156-159
By David Godman