Papaji Searches for an Answer
Excerpt from Nothing Ever Happened Volume One
By David Godman
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David: “A few years ago I asked Papaji for a list of all the swamis he went to during his quest for a teacher who could show him God. He wrote out the following names and included the places where he met them:
1. Swami Purshottamanandaji, Vasishta Guha, near Rishikesh.
2. Swami Krishnananda, Devaprayag [the confluence of the Ganga and Alaknanda rivers].
3. The Sankaracharya of Joshi Math.
4. The Sankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth.
5. Swami Vidya Tirtha, the Sankaracharya of Sringeri Math.”
6 .Satchitananda, Tapovan Ashram, Nasik, Maharashtra.
7. An unknown saint at Pandharpur, Maharashtra.
8. A Vaishnava saint at Vrindavan.
9. Swami Sivananda, Rishikesh.
Papaji’s visit to Purushottamananda also seems to have taken place in the early 1930s. He has never talked about their meeting except to say that he knew this swami because he used to come from Rishikesh to Papaji’s home town once a year for a function organised by a group called ‘Sanatan Dharma’.
It seems that he met most of the teachers on this list during a major pilgrimage he undertook after resigning his commission in the army. When he speaks of this journey, he never gives details. He merely mentions that he asked each teacher, ‘Have you seen God, and if you have, can you show Him to me?’ None was able to do so.
Only one encounter seems to have stuck in his mind: a visit to the ashram of Swami Sivananda, sometime between April and September 1942, when he was still training to be an officer at the Indian Military Academy.
I went from place to place, teacher to teacher, ashram to ashram, centre to centre, looking for someone who could show me God. I covered the whole country, north to south, east to west, but no one satisfied me. It was a very serious quest, but wherever I went people would make fun of me.
I would stand in front of the swami at each place and ask, ‘Have you seen God? And if you have, can you show Him to me?’
The ones who didn’t laugh at me would tell me to sit with them and do some kind of practice. They would say, ‘You can’t see God without meditating on Him for some time. Stay here, join our group, chant His name and maybe one day He will appear before you.’
I wasn’t satisfied with this answer. I thought, ‘God is like the sun. I don’t need any practice to see Him. I just need someone who can point my head in the right direction, or someone who can remove the cataract from my eyes so that He immediately becomes apparent to me. My God is all love, all grace, all majesty. Why should He hide Himself from me?’
When I was training at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun, I heard about a man in Rishikesh who had many disciples. His name was Swami Sivananda. The following Sunday, an official holiday at the academy, I travelled the forty miles to Rishikesh to see if this swami was willing to show me God. I had my army uniform on, which probably didn’t make a good impression on all the swamis I found meditating there. Also, I had something of a superiority complex in those days. I didn’t even take my boots off when I walked in to see him.
I went up to him and asked him my usual question: ‘Have you seen God, and if you have, can you show Him to me?’
He didn’t answer me but my question and my attitude seemed to upset some of the people who were sitting there.
‘How can you walk in here and demand something like this?’ one of them asked. ‘Some of us have been sitting here meditating for forty years. Our beards have gone grey in our constant search for God. Do you think He will show Himself to someone who walks in with muddy boots and demands an instant darshan?’
‘This is a very simple piece of business,’ I replied. ‘If I go to a shop and ask for a bag of rice, the owner gives it to me. I pay for it and walk out. Then the business is finished. If the shop owner has the product I want, he does not make me sit.’
‘Seeing God is very important to me. In fact, it is the most important thing in my life. I am prepared to pay any price for it. If your swami can show me God, I will give him my life. He can take my life, or he can have me serve him till the day he dies. If he has what I want, he should give it to me. If he doesn’t have it, he should tell me so that I don’t waste any more time here. Now, has your swami seen God, and if he has, is he willing to show Him to me?’
This speech made them all very angry. There were about five hundred people there. They pushed me out of the hall and wouldn’t let me back in.