W. L. POONJA
was always silent. Quietness is everyone's true
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
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 South Indian 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
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.
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
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
Did the Maharshi give you a specific teaching
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
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
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
Question: Is it the same as surrendering
your ego to the unknown? Is the Self like the
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,
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
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
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
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
Question: Does the practice come naturally
by itself, or does the individual have to do
No, no, you have not to do anything.
Question: So, the practice comes by
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
of the page
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
Question: Could you explain how the
Maharshi's potent silence helped the seeker to see
the transience of the mind and taste his true
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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