Papaji Meets Ramana

When all his attempts to find a Master who could show him God had failed, he returned to his family in Lyalpur. Soon afterwards he received a visit that was to change his life.

Shortly after my return a sadhu appeared at our door, asking for food. I invited him in, offered him some food and asked him the question that was uppermost in my mind. ‘Can you show me God? If not, do you know of anyone who can?’

Much to my surprise he gave me a positive answer. ‘Yes, I know a person who can show you God. If you go and see that man, everything will be all right for you. His name is Ramana Maharshi.

Not having heard of him before, I asked where he lived and was told, ‘Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai’. Since I had never heard of the place either, I asked him for directions to get there.

He gave me detailed instructions: ‘Take a train to Madras. When you get to Madras, go to Egmore station. That is where the metre gauge trains leave from. Take a train from there to a place called Villupuram. You have to change trains there. Then catch a train from there to Tiruvannamalai.’

I wrote all these details down with mixed feelings. I was very happy to hear that there was at least one man in India who could show me God, but I also knew that I had no means of getting to see him. I had spent all the money I had saved from my spell in the army on my unsuccessful pilgrimage, and I knew that my father would not give me any assistance. He disapproved of my spiritual trips, feeling, with some justification, that I should be devoting my time instead to supporting my family.

When I told my father that I wanted to go to the South to see yet one more swami, he exploded with anger.

‘What about your wife and children?’ he demanded. ‘Was it not enough to leave the army that you must now rush to the other end of India, indulging in your mad search for spiritual adventures?’

Obviously, no help would be forthcoming from that quarter.

Shortly afterwards I went into town and happened to meet one of my old friends. He was running a tea stall.

‘I haven’t seen you for a long time,’ he remarked. ‘I heard a story that you resigned your commission in the army.’

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I have given it up for good.’

‘So what are you doing now?’ he enquired.”

‘Nothing,’ I answered. ‘I am looking for some sort of job.’

‘Well, sit down,’ he said. ‘I will give you some milk to drink. Since you are not employed at the moment, you don’t need to pay.’

I sat down and began to glance through a newspaper that was lying on one of the tables. Having just been reminded of my unemployed state, I turned to the page that listed all the job advertisements. One vacancy seemed to be tailor-made for me: ‘Ex-army officer required in Madras.’ The British army was looking for an ex-officer to manage all the stores in a canteen that was being run for British servicemen. I looked for the address to apply to and found that the contractor who had placed the advertisement was based in Peshawar, a nearby city. I sent my application there, along with a photo of myself in army uniform, and was immediately engaged. Not only that, the contractor gave me money to get to Madras and told me that I need not report for duty for one month. I thus got money to go to the Maharshi and an opportunity to spend time in his presence before I reported for work.

It was 1944 and I was thirty-one years of age.

I followed the sadhu’s advice and travelled by train to Tiruvannamalai. On disembarking there I discovered that the Maharshi’s ashram was about three kilometres away, on the other side of the town, so I engaged a bullock cart to take me and my belongings there. As soon as we reached the ashram, I jumped out of the cart, put my bags in the men’s dormitory, and went off to look for this man who could show me God. I peeped in through his window and saw, sitting on a sofa inside, the same man who had visited my house in the Punjab. I was disgusted.

‘This man is a fraud,’ I said to myself. ‘He appears in my house in the Punjab, tells me to go to Tiruvannamalai, then hops on the train so that he can get there before me.’

I was so annoyed with him I decided that I wouldn’t even go into the hall where he was sitting. Mentally adding him to the long list of frauds I had met on my first pilgrimage around India, I turned on my heels and went off to collect my bags.

As I was preparing to leave on the same cart that had brought me to the ashram, one of the residents accosted me and asked, ‘Aren’t you from the North? You look like a North Indian.’

I found out later that he was called Framji and that he owned a cinema in Madras.

‘Yes, I am,’ I replied.

‘Haven’t you just arrived?’ he asked, noting that I was making preparations to leave. ‘Aren’t you going to stay here for at least a couple of days?’

I told him the story of how I had come to be in Tiruvannamalai, and concluded by saying, ‘This man has been travelling around the country, advertising himself. I don’t want to see him. I came here because he said there was a man here who could show me God. If this man really does have the capacity to show me God, why did he not do it in my house in the Punjab when he came to see me? Why did he make me come all this way? I am not interested in seeing such a man.’

Framji said, ‘No, no, you are mistaken. He has not moved out of this town in the last forty-eight years. It is either a case of mistaken identity or somehow, through his power, he managed to manifest himself in the Punjab while his physical body was still here. Some girl from America came here once and told a similar story. These things do happen occasionally. Are you sure that you have not made a mistake?’

‘No,’ I answered, absolutely sure of myself. ‘I recognise the man. I have not made a mistake.’

‘In that case,’ he responded, ‘please stay. “please stay. I will introduce you to the manager and he will give you a place to stay.’

I went along with his suggestion merely because my curiosity had been aroused. Something strange had happened and I wanted to find out exactly what it was. It was my intention to confront the Maharshi in private and ask for an explanation of his strange behaviour.

I soon discovered, though, that he never gave private interviews, so I decided instead that I would try to see him when the big room in which he saw visitors was relatively empty.

I ate lunch in the ashram. At the conclusion of the meal the Maharshi went back to his room with his attendant. No one else followed him. I didn’t know that there was an unofficial rule that visitors should not go to see him between 11.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. The manager had decided that the Maharshi needed to rest for a few hours after lunch, but since the Maharshi would not go along with a rule which prevented people from coming to see him, a compromise was reached. His doors would remain open but all visitors and devotees were actively discouraged from going to see him during those hours. Not knowing this, I followed the Maharshi into his room, thinking that this was the best time to have a private interview.

The Maharshi’s attendant, a man called Krishnaswami, tried to dissuade me. ‘Not now,’ he said. ‘Come back at 2.30.’ The Maharshi overheard the exchange and told Krishnaswami that I could come in and see him.

I approached him in a belligerent way. ‘Are you the man who came to see me at my house in the Punjab?’ I demanded. The Maharshi remained silent.

I tried again. ‘Did you come to my house and tell me to come here? Are you the man who sent me here?’ Again the Maharshi made no comment.

Since he was unwilling to answer either of these questions, I moved on to the main purpose of my visit.

‘Have you seen God?’ I asked. ‘And if you have, can you enable me to see Him? I am willing to pay any price, even my life, but your part of the bargain is that you must show me God.’

‘No,’ he answered, ‘I cannot show you God or enable you to see God because God is not an object that can be seen. God is the subject. He is the seer. Don’t concern yourself with objects that can be seen. Find out who the seer is.’ He also added, ‘You alone are God,’ as if to rebuke me for looking for a God who was outside and apart from me.

His words did not impress me. They seemed to me to be yet one more excuse to add to the long list of those I had heard from swamis all over the country. He had promised to show me God, yet now he was trying to tell me that not only could he not show me God, no one else could either. I would have dismissed him and his words without a second thought had it not been for an experience I had immediately after he had told me to find out who this ‘I’ was who wanted to see God. At the conclusion of his words he looked at me, and as he gazed into my eyes, my whole body began to tremble and shake. A thrill of nervous energy shot through my body. My nerve endings felt as if they were dancing and my hair stood on end. Within me I became aware of the spiritual Heart. This is not the physical heart. It is, rather, the source and support of all that exists. Within the Heart I saw or felt something like a closed bud. It was very shiny and bluish. With the Maharshi looking at at me, and with myself in a state of inner silence, I felt this bud open and bloom. I use the word ‘bud’, but this is not an exact description. It would be more correct to say that something that felt bud-like opened and bloomed within me in the Heart. And when I say ‘Heart’ I don’t mean that the flowering was located in a particular place in the body. This Heart, this Heart of my Heart, was neither inside the body nor out of it. I can’t give a more exact description of what happened. All I can say is that in the Maharshi’s presence, and under his gaze, the Heart opened and bloomed. It was an extraordinary experience, one that I had never had before. I had not come looking for any kind of experience, so it totally surprised me when it happened.

Excerpt from Nothing Ever Happened Volume One, pages 101-106
By David Godman