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H. W. L.  POONJA

MEETING  RAMANA



Let there be peace and love among all beings of the universe. OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

"Bhagavan was always silent. Quietness is everyone's true nature."


. W. L.  Poonja discovered Ramana Maharshi in a remarkable manner. One morning, in 1944, while he was sitting on his veranda in North India [now part of Pakistan], a wandering mendicant appeared before him. Papaji brought him some fruit and invited him to eat a meal at his home. He asked the mendicant if he knew anyone who could help him see God.


He had already left his career in the Army and was devoting himself to sacred repetition and the performance of religious rituals. These efforts, aimed at experiencing God, had so far been fruitless. The mendicant advised him to visit the sage Ramana Maharshi in South India and there his desire would be fulfilled. Poonja noted down the address and though he had no money for the trip at the time, was still determined to go. A friend showed him a newspaper which contained a job offer for an ex-military officer in the city of Madras. He procured the job and also visited Ramana Maharshi. Entering the hall in which Ramana stayed, Poonja found the Maharshi seated on a couch. He left immediately, unimpressed, because the person on the couch was the very same mendicant who had come to his home in the North. Poonja mentioned to someone that the person called Ramana Maharshi was a fraud, that he had come to his house and arrogantly given him his own address. He was then taken to Ramana's brother, the manager of the Ashram, who explained to Poonja that Ramana Maharshi had never left the town of Tiruvannamalai since his arrival almost fifty years earlier!


Question: When and under what circumstances did you first visit Ramana Maharshi?

Papaji: I was looking for a Guru who could show me how to attain enlightenment. So, one day in 1944, I was sitting in my house in Lyalpur when a sadhu approached. I invited him in, "Come and sit down and have lunch with me." The sadhu sat down and I asked him, "Have you met any person who can give me a teaching in Self-realisation?" He said, "Yes, there is Ramana Maharshi in the South, in Tiruvannamalai. You can note down his address and go to him." Then he went away.

I decided not to tell my wife or my parents what had happened. I went out to the town. I had no funds as I had spent everything in my search for a Guru and my father would not give me any money. When I was walking in the town an old friend called out to me – we had done physical exercises together. "You have not been seen around here. I heard that you had joined the army and since then we have not seen you." I sat down with him and saw a Punjab newspaper, the Old Tribune, lying in his shop on the table. Immediately my eye went to the wanted advertisements. There was an opening at the Cheshire Army Regiment in Peshawar. They we looking for an ex-army officer to work in their CBI store in Madras to supply army supplies to a British regiment there. So I applied and they sent me money to cover my first class ticket, and gave me one month's time to report. Under these circumstances I have gone there.

Question: What was your state of mind and inner experience when you initially entered the Maharshi's presence?

Papaji: When I contacted the Maharshi in the hall, I asked him a question: "Can you give me the experience of enlightenment?" He kept quiet. Again I asked him, and again he kept quiet. So, I was not very much impressed with him not speaking to me.




Question: Did the Maharshi give you a specific teaching directly?

Papaji: It was a very direct teaching, not indirectly, through the senses or any sign. He didn't speak a word. So, by this I mean, a direct teaching from Heart to Heart, without any word. This is the direct teaching.

Question: How did it act upon you at that time of you life?

Papaji: So, it worked very well, because I had never seen any teacher who could speak directly from Heart to Heart. Everybody speaks through words, or reads some scripture, but he didn't do either of these.

Question: What happened to you when you entered? What was inside you?

Papaji: I felt some vibration in my Heart and then my doubts disappeared. So, this was the first time I met this kind of teacher. All others, they speak. He doesn't speak.

Question: Are Ramana's teachings direct and accessible to all seekers?

Papaji: No, it's not available to all seekers. He's of no use for any seeker who has not previously prepared himself for millions of incarnations. It is of no use. But then a man who has been working for enlightenment for many, many life times, can be eligible to understand him. I have in the Nirvan Sutra that Buddha had previously spent 253 lifetimes being with the teachers. And, finally he understood that enlightenment was attained by keeping quiet. He went to Bodhgaya, sat under a tree, and discovered enlightenment. After that he got up and went for five days around that bodhi tree in appreciation of what he had received. Ananda, his disciple, came and asked him, "What did you get? How did you get it?" He kept quiet. He didn't speak at all.

Question: Can you speak about the path of Self-enquiry and how it is practised?

Papaji: Yes. Self-enquiry is the enquiry into your own Self, seeking the source of the enquiry itself. Follow the "I"-thought back to its Source and return to that unknown place where it begins.

Question: So, it's something that happens all the time?

Papaji: No, only once. When you arrive there, then you will know that this is the place which gives you happiness and peace. You will naturally keep quiet, knowing that this is the source of "I" and of all the beings that appear in the universe. When you keep quiet you will realise that you have always been That. There are no words here.

Question: How does self-surrender compliment the practice of Self-enquiry?

Papaji: So, self-surrender means surrendering your ego to the Self. It doesn't mean that you have to surrender to someone else. Surrender your ego to the Self and then you will keep quiet.

Question: Is it the same as surrendering your ego to the unknown? Is the Self like the unknown?

Papaji: Self is unknown. It cannot be known by any person. If it can be known, it becomes an object. It's not an object, neither a subject. Therefore, it is called "unknown". Nobody knows it, you see.

Question: How would you describe the Maharshi to someone who never met him?

Papaji: I would say to someone to see the Maharshi as their own Self. Then you will know who Maharshi is. He lives within your own Heart. And the Self will speak to you directly, not indirectly. You will be satisfied because your doubts will be removed from something unknown inside your own Heart. If you cannot understand, then He will take another form of a person to speak to you directly by word. But, if you understand, then there is no need for any person to tell you.

Question: Has the Maharshi's physical demise made a difference in the guidance that is available to seekers following the path he laid down?

Papaji: It doesn't make any difference whether he is alive or whether he is no more now. It doesn't make any difference, because it is not the form or the person that gives you satisfaction. And for those who want to seek the path that he laid, it is always there. That is, to keep quiet and find out who you are, and find out what is the source of this universe and from where does it come. So, this will give you satisfaction.

Question: Could you describe the place where Ramana Maharshi lived at the foot of Arunachala?

Papaji: Definitely. The ashram is there and is a place that many people visit. Traditionally in India, the place where a realised man has tread is sanctified. That land itself is very sacred for those who seek, and it attracts seekers from all over the world. Like in Ramanasramam, the master is no longer there, but people from all over the world are going there and they get peace of mind, and it will continue like this.

Question: What advice would you give a person who is just starting out in spiritual life, specifically regarding the application of the teachings of Ramana?

Papaji: Ramana has no teaching at all. He only pulls you from outside, from the senses which are attracted with other things. He attracts you from inside, from within your own Self, so that you will know your own Self. This attraction is not through words or any statements given in the Upanishads.

Question: What role does the Guru play in the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi?

Papaji: The Guru plays the part to teach you once that the Self is within your own Heart and that you have not to find it anywhere else. This is the role of the Guru: to stop your search for your Self anywhere else, outside of your own Heart. So, this is the role of the Guru. That is very important, you see. You are your own Guru and not someone who is outside, who teaches you. And this can only be known by one who has really understood it, not by anyone else. Guru is within you and the Self is that Guru, not known, not outside of any man. So, you will keep quiet. You know that, "I am the Guru and the Self is the Guru itself, and there is no difference between the Self and the Guru." You will stop your search outside and get abiding peace within your own Self. This has to be practised and not just listened to or read somewhere.

Question: Does the practice come naturally by itself, or does the individual have to do something?

Papaji: No, no, you have not to do anything.

Question: So, the practice comes by itself?

Papaji: Yes. It is very clear inside. When you have no doubt, there is peace. Then why would you want anything else from anywhere?

Question: The Maharshi spoke of returning to the Source. What is the easiest way to return to this Source and abide in It?

Papaji: The easiest way to return to the Source is to watch the mind. Check it so that it is not attracted to anything outside, and if you keep quiet, a thought will come: "Where is my Source?" Don't go outside, but keep quiet. In this quietness, the mind will automatically return to its Source. Having returned there, the mind is lost and there is no mind now to search for the light or wisdom anywhere else. And there will be a tremendous fountain of peace. All doubts are cleared and you will keep quiet, not by tongue, but through your Heart. Your ego is absolutely finished. This is called peace and returning to the Source.



Question: If you were to sum up the legacy of Ramana Maharshi in a few words, what would you say?

Papaji: I will only say, "Go to Ramana Maharshi himself, directly, not even in Tiruvannamalai, nor any form of the Maharshi. Return to formlessness, which is your own Self." This advice I will give you, and this will be available anywhere, in any part of the world. Just keep quiet.

Question: Could you explain how the Maharshi's potent silence helped the seeker to see the transience of the mind and taste his true nature?

Papaji: The Maharshi was always silent and taught through silence. This is everyone's true nature, to keep quiet. In silence, your mind is unable to attach itself to any person, any object, any concept or to any other teaching. Maintain absolute quietness. In that quietness, one feels very happy and peaceful. [laughs]

Question: Would you share with us several stories you have of the Maharshi?

Papaji: This story alone is enough, that he appeared to me at my own house in Punjab. I was very thirsty for someone to give me guidance to be free, and the circumstances appeared to be helping me with my quest. The Self helps every seeker like this.

So, when I arrived at the railway station in Tiruvannamalai, I got down and booked a bullock cart, which was the local transportation. I went to the ashram, and left all my baggage outside. I was going to start my work in Madras so I had all my bedding with me. I left it outside and went into the hall where a man was sitting. As soon as I saw this man I recognised that it was the same man who had given me the address in Punjab. I became very angry with him. I didn't go to see him. I didn't even enter the hall. I just went to find another cart to go back to the railway station. There was a Parsi man there; his name was Thromji, and he was the owner of the Vallington Cinema Group which had cinemas all over India. Later on we became friends. He came to me and said, "You seem to be a North Indian." "Yes, I am," I replied. "Then how is it that you have just arrived and now you are going back?" I told him, "This man is a fraud! He met me just fifteen days ago in Punjab and he gave me his own address that he is a God-realised man. If he had to give me a teaching, he could very well have given it to me there, in Punjab. Why did he give me his own address here in Tiruvannamalai? " "No, no," he said. It's not possible. You are making a mistake." I said, "How can I make a mistake? I am not mad. He is the same man. I am quite fit, both in body and mind. I cannot make such a mistake. In only fifteen days I cannot forget. He is the same man."

He said, "No. This man has not moved from this place in fifty years. You can ask anyone. Either you have seen someone else and you are mistaking the identity, or this man must have appeared to you through his own power to help you. We have heard of some three or four instances. So come with me, I will introduce you to the manager of this ashram and you can stay in the guest house." So he took me and insisted that I went there, and they give me a place to stay.

Then I went inside. He was not speaking to anybody. Everybody was quiet, but something was going on in this silence. For the first time I saw this happening without talking. Something was there; some vibration was there which was entering into my heart. After about ten minutes there was a bell for lunch. Maharshi got up, everybody got up – there were maybe fifteen or twenty people there – and we all went in the hall to take lunch together. Then Maharshi went back to his hall alone; no one else followed him. After lunch Maharshi took rest, and then people came again in the hall at 2:30 PM. I never knew this rule. So seeing him alone I went in straight away, but as I was going in the attendant stopped me. He said, "You come back at 2:30 PM." Maharshi was looking and he signalled me to come in.

I went inside and asked him, "It was you wasn't it, who saw me and gave me your own address in Punjab?" He kept quiet. "If it was you why didn't you tell me? I wanted to see God. Why you didn't do it there, and why have you called me here? I have come here and you don't speak with me. I do not understand." Still he was silent. I said, "I do not understand your silence. Please speak to me." Still he was silent. Still he was silent, so I was not very happy.

I was in love with Lord Krishna since my boyhood. It was a constant force in my life. So I said, "OK, this place is very nice, I like this place. This mountain is very beautiful, there are forests, there are monkeys, there are peacocks. I will live here. I will go to the forest and stay there." I went to the forest. I had a month before I had to join my duties and I had used up only five days. So I went to the other side of the hill for some time, knowing I could join my duties later on and knowing I was in a good place.

Then the time came for me to go, so I decided to go and prostrate before him and then to leave. There was some attraction to him, even though I may not have liked him at first. He was there again, and once again he was alone. Very few people went to see him, very few. He asked me, "Why didn't you come for so many days?" I was very proud. I said, "I have been playing with my God." "Very good, very well." He said. "You have been playing with God?" "Yes, I was. I have always been." "Do you see him now? Do you see him now?" "Not now," I said. "Not now. When I have vision I see him, sometimes in the night also. When I have vision I see him, not always. That's why I want to see him always."

Then he said, "God does not appear and disappear."

For the first time I heard this: "God is Reality itself. God doesn't disappear. He is appearance itself. So what appears and disappears is only mental, is only imagination." I didn't like this philosophy that I was hearing. "Krishna appeared and disappeared. And the seer is still here, he who has seen Krishna is still here. Find out who the seer is."

I had never been confronted at any time by anyone with this question before. Neither the living saints nor any of the past saints I had heard about could confront you like this, with this question: "Find out who the seer is. Find out who you are. That does not disappear. It is always there, whether you are awake or dreaming or asleep. This seer is always there. Now you tell me who this seer is."

No answer came for this question but I had an experience to find out the source of "I". It worked it my case. On my first trip to the Guru I found it. Actually the seer was always there; the source of "I" was always there. He simply asked me to, "Find out who the seer is." That's what he said. In his presence I experienced the seer, what it was. It was so quick. My body was vibrating and became One. I did not understand this tremendous bliss, this tremendous happiness, this beauty, in just an instant.

This teaching is the ultimate teaching, which I try to present to you every day. I don't think any other teaching is worth striving for except to discover your own Self. Later on, if you need anything else you may go in search of it. Here and now find out who you are. This is the ultimate Reality, this is the ultimate teaching. I don't think any other teaching can surpass this teaching. Know your Self and then know the rest, if it is needed. This false appearance will disappear in the recognition of your own Self. This false appearance will not show up again when the Real is revealed to you. That has no form and no name; That has no geographical location anywhere, neither inside nor outside. This is Eternal rest. Each of you is already in This. The only impediment is your preoccupation with something else, with something unreal. That is the only hindrance. Otherwise this freedom, this wisdom, this beauty, this love is always inviting you. You only have to turn your attention within your own Self and you see that you have always been free. This is your own nature.

There is no need to seek, no need to hunt It down anywhere else. It is already here. You only have to abandon the notion that, "I am bound. I am suffering. I am born. I have to die." This is simply a notion that you have entertained somehow, due to your unmindfulness. Any notion will immediately disappear when you want it to, when you need it to. And when you desire freedom, instantly freedom is here. You do not need to go and search for It – it is not an object to search for. It is your very inner nature. It is very close, closer even than your breath. When something is closer and nearer than the breath what effort do you need to meet it? It is so near, so dear, so intimate to you, but you are lost in fulfilling your desires with those things or people which are not worth making friends with. They appear and disappear – they are not permanent, they are not real. So what is the use of that hunt which is not abiding, which is not living, which is not Eternal, which is disturbing? It's not wise to purchase disturbance for nothing. If you are a good buyer you will make a bargain for those things which do not disappear. That will be the real diamond, and having that you will not see your poverty.

I went away to Madras and joined my duty. They gave me a very good bungalow and a car. Every Saturday we had half day of work, and Sunday was a full day off. So I started coming every weekend for a day and a half. Whenever I got holidays I went there for some months. Then the partitioning of India was going to take place and some friends living permanently in the ashram asked me which part of Punjab I belonged to, to the West or East? I said: "West, other side of the river." "Do you know that place is now Pakistan?" I was not reading any papers, nor interested in politics. I never knew anything. He asked me, "What about your family?" I said, "Everybody is in Punjab, in West Punjab. Nobody is in India except myself." He said, "Why don't you go and take care of them?" I said, "No, it's over now; my connection with my family is over. After seeing this man, I have no connection whatsoever with anybody."

He told Maharshi what I had said. So as I was going on my evening walk, Maharshi was there with a few people. He asked Maharshi about my situation, that India was going to be partitioned and my family was in Pakistan. Maharshi asked me, "Why don't you go?" And I said, "It was a dream. It was a dream; I had a wife, I had children and I had parents, I have relations. It was a dream. My dream is over now." "Oh, very good if your dream is over. A dream is a dream, so why are you are afraid of a dream? If you know it is a dream go and see the dream then."

I saw he was winning a point and I wouldn't allow it. So I said, "No. Now I am physically attached to you, I have physical attachment. I cannot leave you. I want to stay with you. I'll let anything happen, whatever it is. I can't save anybody."

Then he looked at me and said, "I am with you wherever you are." These are the words in my mind. They helped me even when I left. There was no trouble for any of my family. I brought them back to Lucknow in August of 1947. There was no trouble. There was trouble all around but it was very safe for us. The Guru, the master helps everywhere.

There are many such stories concerning the Maharshi. Once, he appeared in a vision to a woman living in Hyderabad. She was very sick and the doctor said that she is going to die. She was lying in her deathbed, but she had a strong urge to go and see Ramana Maharshi before she died. So, somehow, someone came and put some medicine in her mouth, and she slowly recovered. Then, soon after, she went to Tiruvannamalai and saw that the Maharshi was the same person who gave her the medicine. [laughs]

There is another story concerning a woman in California who wanted to see him. She had no money and wondered how she could ever travel to India, to an unknown country. So, one day, when she returned home, a pile of money was lying on her table. [laughs] These things often happen, but only to those who are very serious and who have been working for freedom for many, many incarnations. For them the Self works, maybe in the form of a person, a friend or whatever it may be. This is how the help comes, but one has to be very seriously in search of his or her own Self. It works very well. So, the best advice I give is that instead of going to any Guru, stay where you are, in your house, anywhere, and just check your mind so that you have no other desire for anything except to know who you are. And this often happens in many cases here in satsang. [laughs] Many others have written to me, saying that "You appeared to me in a dream and you gave me answers to all my questions, and my doubts have vanished. Now I am happy." So, this is how it works when you only desire freedom. OM.

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