"During the Fall of 1946, Robert Adams arrived by train to the town of Tiruvannamalai, a few miles from Arunachala Mountain, where lay Ramanashram and his future teacher, Ramana Maharshi. He took a bullock cart to the Ashram, was admitted, and stayed the night. Early the next day while walking back from the mountain, towards the Ashram, he spotted Ramana walking down the path towards him. An electrifying energy coursed through his body, and the last of what men call an ego left him."
BIOGRAPHY OF A SAGE, Edward Muzika
The American so cited in the above quote, Robert Adams, in the Fall of 1946 was marking the end of a long line of westerners that started in 1911 who visited or studied under the grace and light of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Thirty-five years before Adams, the first in that line, an Englishman by the name of Frank H. Humphreys, serving as the Assistant Supervisor of Police in Vellore, India, visited that same venerated holy man, who eventually would become known as the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, at the cave he inhabited on the holy hill Arunachala. In the process Humphreys became Ramana's first western devotee or disciple. In 1913 he published a series of articles in The International Psychic Gazette outlining his interactions with the Maharshi, putting into place, albeit to a limited audience, the first ripples of Ramana in the western press.
Following Humphreys' 1911 visit, a small smattering of westerners, almost all if not all, unrelated to coming across Humphreys articles, happened upon Ramana. Probably the most noted was a largely anonymous young American world traveler seeking answers to life who visited the ashram in 1928 --- eventually staying two years --- having done so after having met and receiving advice from another venerated Indian holy man, Swami Ramdas. Ramdas and the traveler met in a temple in Madura and after hearing the traveler's story, suggested he go see Ramana saying, "He will give you what you are looking for." Which the traveler did. However, it wasn't until after a British author named Paul Brunton visited Ramana in January 1931, then having his book A Search in Secret India published in 1934 that attempted to exalt the full spiritual magnitude of Sri Ramana that he began spiraling upwards toward the level of fame he holds today. After Brunton's book a constant stream of people, including a slew of westerners, inundated the ashram to sit in Ramana's presence, pay respect, or seek his grace as for example M. A. Piggott, although not so, said in most Ramana annals as being his first western woman devotee.
With his ever widening popularity, along with the good came an ever increasing outflow of disinformation. Although Ramana himself was unconcerned, having no real interest in such things one way or the other, a growing cadre of inner circle protectorates began ensuring the flow of information met their view of how the Maharshi should be preceived --- thus, in effect, creating a semi-power base that could if they were to so chose, the ability to discern who was or was not a disciple by supporting or advocating or eliminating or deleting.
Before Ramana's rise to fame, when he lived in the caves on Arunachala and in the early years of the ashram there was no control of information and what happened just happened, there was no one to say what should be said or stop it.
The aforementioned anonymous young American that visited the ashram in 1928, stayed two years, well before any controlled flow of information was put into place, let alone thought of. He was also the same person that British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham, chronicled the life of sixteen years later in the book The Razor's Edge. The anonymous American, conincidently enough, even though Maugham's book became a worldwide best seller, continued to remain anonymous because of Maugham's use of the cover-name Larry Darrell instead of his real-life real name as well as the thinly veiled Ramana-like holy man presented under the disguise of Sri Ganesha. The Darrell character was, however, one-and-the-same person that became my Mentor in things Zen and spiritual during my last years of high school and a few years thereafter.(see)
Interestingly enough, in my mentor's case, it didn't matter much if there was any formal or even informal information sanctions in place because the natural order of things took care of it. That hasn't stopped critics, skeptics, or guardians of the gate from pointing out there is little or scant evidence of him or anybody like him --- a Larry Darrell-like character for example --- having stayed at or visiting the ashram for any length of time in the first place. Those who lean in such a direction refute any claim that he WAS at the ashram, thus undermining that he did. It is pointed out that almost everything that ever happened to, about, or around Sri Ramana and the ashram was written down or recorded in some fashion. Yet, except for what Maugham has to say and perhaps myself, little else if anything, shows up anywhere that seems applicable to my mentor. Often cited as an example is Guy Hague, an American that visited the ashram in 1938. Hague shows up in photos with the Maharshi, on film, is mentioned in the official ashrama publication and is featured prominently in the book Here Lies the Heart by Mercedes De Acosta, who also visited the ashram in 1938. There is none of that for my mentor or a Darrell-like character.
You have to remember, when my mentor first visited the ashrama the Bhagavan had only just come down from Arunachala by a few years and located himself at the foot of the sacred mountain not far from Yama Lingam, the third of the cardinal point lingams. Until then he had been secluded in a small cave about 600 feet above and behind the present day ashrama called Virupaksa Cave for sixteen years (1899-1916) followed by another six years in Skandasramam Cave (1916-1922), about 200 feet above that. During all that time he was attended to by very few people and little was recorded by anybody until well after the fact --- especially aimed toward a western audience --- except possibly for the articles by Humphreys published in the International Psychic Gazette in England. Up until 1907 Ramana didn't even speak. For the most part, answers to any questions put to him, for example by his three primary devotees prior to that, Sivaprakasam Pillai, Gambhiram Seshier, and Ganipati Muni, were mostly written into the dirt or on a slate, with each answer ereased for the next question. When things did begin to be written down the information was scattered and incomplete, often from memory and usually revolved around the person doing the writing and THEIR experiences and interactions with Ramana and not that of somebody else. In that my mentor didn't write about himself, at least for public consumption or publication, that aspect of recording went undone.
THE ASHRAM DURING MY MENTOR'S STAY 1928-1930
In the early days the ashram wasn't anything like it is now or even how it turned out to be only a few short years after my mentor was there. At the time it was not much more than a mud and thatched hut stuck amongst a bunch of rocks at the foot of the mountain. It wasn't until much later when the ashram was more established with more permanent staff that extensive records began to be kept. By the time Maugham visited the ashrama in 1938 and Guy Hauge arrived for his stay some sixteen years after Ramana came down from the mountain, the place was huge with permanent buildings and offices, an oversize kitchen to feed the multitudes and growing so large that it even had the need for its own dispensary.
MAP AND HISTORY OF THE RAMANA ASHRAM
Construction on the somewhat more conservative Old Hall, the top picture of two below, was started in 1922 and completed in 1928. The foundation for the much larger and more ornate New Hall, the second of the two graphics below, began January 25, 1945 with the cornerstone laid in presence of Bhagavan on June 25th. By February 1949, most of the construction was completed and consecration was set for March 17, 1949. By March 17th, because of his continuing illness, Ramana was too weak to turn the lock, requiring assistance to do so.
THE OLD HALL FINISHED BY MAUGHAM'S 1938 VISIT
THE NEW HALL 10 YEARS AFTER MAUGHAM'S VISIT
As you may recall, only a few days before my mentor showed up at the ashram he had inadvertently bumped into Swami Ramdas on a spiritual pilgrimage one night in the Meenakshi Temple in Madura. Following the Swami's advice the young American traveled to Tiruvannamalai to meet Ramana. The Swami himself had left the auspices and good graces of the Maharshi some years prior after darshan before the Maharshi, followed by days in the caves on the mountain above the ashram. The time period for the Ramdas visit and my mentor was the same, but, unlike my mentor who was not much more than an itinerant traveler, Ramdas was a personage of some repute and status. However, you find very little written or recorded about his visit and stay by the Ramana camp. In the early years almost everything revolving around the meeting between Ramana and Ramdas emanated from books written by Ramdas himself, then later followers as he gathered a cadre' of supporters. In more recent years members on the Ramana side, as Ramdas became more popular, jumped on the wagon extolling his virtures, mostly with all credit and thanks given to Ramana.
Even as late as 1948, two years before Ramana's death, Henri Le Saux, a French Benedictine monk who eventually became known as Swami Abhishiktananda met the Maharshi, was very impressed by him and ended up living for months in the caves above the ashrama as well. Again, as with Ramdas, very little is recorded by the Ramana camp, almost everything coming from the Abhishiktananda side of things.
Maugham himself writes that Darrell did not stay at the ashram continuously. He had met a man that was a forestry officer and devotee of Ramana who would spend a few days at a time at the ashram. According to Maugham the forestry officer gave Darrell a key to a secluded forest service bungalow that was a two-day journey by bus followed by a long hike high into the mountains. Maugham describes it as a log cabin with nothing but a trestle bed, a couple of chairs, a table, and "not a living soul within twenty miles." My mentor pretty much agreed in principle with Maugham regarding the two-day bus ride and cabin story, relating it was an "isolated cabin" and a "forester's hut" and confirming the same or similar basic interior furnishings. The cabin was not completely of logs however, but made of at least some "irregular flat stones." The two-day journey by bus and hike into the mountains indicates two things: one, his Enlightenment experience, interestingly enough, did NOT occur on Arunachala, in the caves, or at the ashram like one might expect; and two, he was gone a good deal or at least part of the time. Taking into consideration the fact that he was at the ashram early on in its history along with the example of what little was recorded even of two such highly regarded individuals as Swami Ramdas and Swami Abhishiktananda by the Ramana contingent, plus adding the fact that my mentor was gone a lot, it could easily be that mention of him could go unrecorded, especially if you factor in that, except for a very short stop offering his thanks and bidding farewell to the Maharshi, he left the ashram immediately after his Awakening. Even though there is a ton of information out there regarding the traveler's visit to the ashram as well as a world wide best selling book outlining same, to this day, he is nowhere mentioned by the guardians of the gate of things Ramana.
At the top of the page it is mentioned that in Fall of 1946 an 18 year old American named Robert Adams, who was eventually to become a deeply spiritual person and teacher in his own right and considered by many to be in direct lineage of Sri Ramana, visited the ashram. Adams was said to have had a self-enlightenment experience sometime around age 14 or 15, with no real knowledge of what it meant. Through friends or study he somehow came to the conclusion that it might be spiritual in nature, so Adams, at age 17 and one year before going to India, seeking answers, went to the temple of Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship near San Diego with the idea of possibly becoming a monk with the order. He had been there a few months when a young boy was brought in by a man with a beard to see Yogananda. The young boy had been to India a year or so earlier and returned with what the man with the beard said was an odd perception of the world, a perception that was not too dissimilar to what Adams' recognized as his own.
For the man with the beard the meetings with the highly regarded yogis bore no fruit. However, years later Adams crossed paths with that same young boy in adulthood and told him he recognized him as having seen him at the Fellowship. He also said right after seeing him, rather than becoming a monk, he himself went to India and stayed at the ashram, or at least the caves above the ashram, for three years studying under Ramana's grace and light.
Ten years before Adams arrival at the ashram, was of course the previously mentioned American Guy Hague as well as the same young boy as discussed above, also an American, who arrived at the ashram two years before Adams, staying several months. Hague has long passed, but the boy, now fully grown into adulthood is still alive and well and living in America today and is Ramana's last American disciple and perhaps his last western disciple who met him in the flesh. His story is well chronicled by longtime Ramana adherent and follower C.R. Rajamani (see below).
In 1981, in a series of 54 interviews with westerners on their search for spiritual fulfilment in India titled New Lives, Malcolm Tillis personally talked with Lucia Osborne, the widow of Arthur Osborne and a highly eminent person in her own right, in her home near the Ramana ashram. In that interview, given the number 34 in his book, the following is recorded as to have transpired between the two:
TILLIS: I was just thinking that you must be Bhagavan's last living Western disciple who knew him in the flesh.
LUCIA: The last? Oh yes, perhaps I am.
The Tillis interview was in 1981, sixteen years BEFORE Robert Adams death in 1997, yet Tillis, in the phrasing of his question, seems to be of the opinion that Ms Osborne WAS the last living Western disciple who knew (Ramana) in the flesh. There in no thought, mention, or question of Adams, nor any of the boy that had been written about by Rajamani. That same boy is now a grown man and still alive living in America and was a close childhood friend of Lucia Osborne's son during the time the boy was at the ashram. So much so, that years later when her son reached adulthood, even in a sizeable crowd and across the room, he was still able to recognize the boy as a grown man.
The interesting part of it all is that a man of a high level of Spiritual Attainment, an American and highly respected and decorated WWII and Korean War veteran by the name of William Samuel, contacted Lucia Osborne's son, Adam Osborne, in an attempt to arrange a meeting with his father Arthur (i.e., Ms Osborne's husband), an effort of which is summed up in the following paragraph from the source so cited:
"Osborne told me that sometime prior to his father's death a man by the name of William Samuel had contacted him in the U.S. and expressed an interest in meeting his father. In their conversation Samuel told him that he and Osborne (the younger) had met at Ramana's ashram in India in 1944 and that during his stay, on the full moon of which he thought was April of that year, he, Osborne and another young boy and a few other people including his mother, circumabulated Arunachala. Osborne emphasized the younger boy aspect with me specifically because Samuel thought, Osborne guessed, that the other boy (me) was his brother --- a twin brother --- because of our age, size, body build and look-alike curly haired mop tops."(source)
So, here is Samuel, who himself had attainted a highly exalted spiritual Awakening during the throes of the Korean War as so described by him personally in A Soldier's Story, telling Adam Osborne that he saw Osborne as a young boy along with another young boy and a few other people including his mother participating in Giri Valam --- circumabulation of the holy hill, Arunachala --- yet in 1981 she pretty much agrees with Tillis that she is the last living Western disciple who knew Ramana in the flesh, even though the young boy, now well into adulthood is still alive, William Samuel's death wasn't until 1996 and Robert Adams wasn't until 1997.
It is not known how many times during her years at the ashram Ms Osborne participated in Giri Valam, it may have been many or few. One would think though, that most of the early stage circumabulations would have remained notable in some fashion --- especially so if they were few and her then young son accompanied her. As to the query by Tillis and Ms Osborne's reply, while it is true one could question if Samuel was a disciple of Ramana in the classical sense, having visited the ashram for only a week, two at the most, it has always been clear that her son Adam Osborne was not a disciple. So said, from a mother's perspective, while discounting Samuel, in her mind she may have simply cast both boys, that is, her son and the other young boy, together into the same non-disciple pot. However, in the boy's case, unlike her son, it was known through the works of C.R. Rajamani and the scribes at the ashram that he had been in meditation sessions and darshan in the old hall as it has been recorded that:
"Within an hour of his face-to-face meeting with Sri Bhagavan, his mental barriers were reduced to nothingness."
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI and the Last American Darshan
What is really odd, at least as I view it relative to Ms Osborne, regards another western disciple, a woman by the name of Jean Dunn from California. Although it is unclear as to when-to-when Dunn lived in Tiruvannamalai, it is a given by most who knew her well that she lived there sometime prior to and following Ramana's death. During that time there is an understanding she sat before the Maharshi in Darshan. If so, Ms Osborne most certainly would have been at least somewhat aware of Dunn, a westerner, especially so her being a white American female and frequent visitor to the ashram in the latter years of Ramana's life. A few years after Dunn's return to the U.S., during a couple of my trips to northern California to see Adam Osborne in the early mid-1980s, I caught up with Jean Dunn at her single-wide mobile home in Vacaville, a small spread-out community in the central valley about half way between San Francisco on the coast and Sacramento, the state capitol.
During our get togethers, even though Dunn is said to have sat before Ramana in Darshan at one time or the other and I mentioned that I had as well, she really didn't elaborate much on the Maharshi or her ties with him. Some of the dates she has personally cited in interviews and such relative to she and Ramana, because of inconsistencies, do not always mesh easily with facts typically found circulating around her background (for example, dates she gave to Malcolm Tillis for Interview #50 as found in New Lives, previously linked) --- which, along with others like the Tillis interview, raises questions.
However, in the overall scheme of things, Dunn, who died in 1996, is most notably known as a disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj. She was born in 1921. Ramana died in 1950, making her in her mid to late 20s for her time under Ramana, say starting around 1948 or so, the same time Robert Adams was there. Apparently she had been back and forth to the U.S. a few times, but by her own account she left India the last time on April 24, 1981, two years before her guru Nisargadatta passed. It has been reported ad infinitum that Nisargadatta acknowledged Dunn as having realized her True Nature. In a somewhat different scenario it has been reported that instead she Self-realized in the United States following her last departure from India, with the event actually having unfolded AFTER Nisargadatta died.
To show how protective keepers of the Ramana flame can be, take for example the highly respected and very pro-Ramana author David Godman who put together a small book about Annamalai Swami. The Swami was a former Ramana attendant and confidant that had Awakened to the Absolute through the grace and light of the Maharshi. The book contained transcripts of actual conversations between Annamalai and various seekers he met with at his ashram during the final months of his life. In it Godman included a few comments that came up regarding Sri Ramana's younger brother, Nagasundaram --- popularly known as Chinnaswami (the Younger Swami). The people at Ramana Ashram insisted the parts of the book related to Chinnaswami be expunged. Annamalai Swami agreed to a few of their requests but refused to delete others.
In the main text as well as Footnote  there is a brief mention of an Englishwoman by the name of M.A.Piggott who is invariably said to be the first western woman devotee or disciple of Sri Ramana. Although not so, she did in fact visit the ashram in the early to mid 1930s. Of that visit she herself in her own writings recounts the following:
"Is it necessary for spiritual attainment to have a guru or spiritual teacher?"
The Maharshi ordered a certain treatise to be read, in which it was stated that as in all physical and intellectual training a teacher or instructor is sought, so in matters spiritual the same principle holds good.
"And," he added, "it is hard for a man to arrive at the goal without the aid of such a one."
I turned to him. "But you had no guru?"
A rustle of shocked horror ran through the hall. But the Maharshi was not in the least disturbed by my audacious remark. On the contrary, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. Then he threw back his head and gave a joyous, wholehearted laugh. It endeared me to him as nothing else could. A saint who can turn the laugh against himself is a saint indeed.
In the January/February 2015 Vol.25 No.1 edition of the Maharshi Newsletter, edited by Dennis Hartel and Dr. Anil K. Sharma, they write:
"It is curious why Mrs. Piggott's counter question to Bhagavan and the reaction to it in the hall was not recorded in Talks. Maybe the recorder was absent, or perhaps the counter question was not deemed sufficiently respectful to be worthy of recording."
The comments by the two newsletter editors as to what Piggott said and Ramana's response as being "not deemed sufficiently respectful to be worthy of recording" pretty much sums it up. Those who did the recording of events at the ashram edited everything even before it was written for posterity. If they didn't like somebody or something, they just turned their backs and ignored it.
As mentioned above, in 1934, British author and self-described mystic Paul Brunton, after spending years in India under the auspices of a number of teachers, gurus and other spiritual notables including Sri Ramama Maharshi, had a book published titled A Search In Secret India. Over the next few years the book made both he and Ramana famous, Brunton rich, and spread Ramana's word and spiritual philosophy throughout the western world. Brunton, who died in 1981, was highly praised in the 1930s and 1940s, being considered a top dog and major mover in things spiritul India-wise --- however nowdays, even though he still has his supporters and followers, Brunton is either unheard of or fallen into disfavor.
Unrelated to any disfavor that may have come upon him in later years, in earlier years, after being a highly regarded member of the Ramana hierarchy, right after his book was published Brunton got banned from the ashram. Brunton said the ban was because of his 1941 book, Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga considered by some as being critical of Sri Ramana.
In reality such was not the case. Brunton was actually banned in March of 1939, two years before the Hidden Yoga book was published because, it has been said, he did not have permission to write about Ramana in the first place and secondly, he had not given any profits from the Secret India book to the ashram --- the ban primarily formulated and enforced under the dictates of Ramana's brother.
According to Godman the original version of the manuscript for the book Talks With Ramana Maharshi, first published in three volumes beginning in 1935 up through 1939, but now done so in one, contained a record of Brunton getting banned in March, 1939. However, the whole subject surrounding Brunton being banned was deleted prior to publication and does not appear in any of the printed versions. Godman has published the original transcripts that show the undeleted version on pages 191-94 in his "Living by the Words of Bhagavan." There is an excellent breakdown of all the facts surrounding the controversy found in a treatise by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen titled Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi (Part 3) that step-by-step breaks down the conflict that arose between the two and is a must read for anybody so interested in becoming familiar with the kind of petty non-spiritual intrigue that can abound and fester regardless of the high moral intent.
Still, it is the keepers of the flame that determine who is and who isn't an official disciple. Claiming to be a disciple over and over sometimes takes on a life of its own and makes it seem to be so to outsiders.
There is another westerner, an American, Richard Hittleman, who at one time sported a fairly high profile but is little known today except possibly in certain small, mostly yoga themed circles --- never however, in Ramana circles. He was what I would call an other side of the coin type guy continually said to be a disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and who, because of an alleged Ramana connection, began teaching the physical aspects of hatha yoga in New York City in 1950. On July 2, 1961 Hittleman had one of the first televised programs dedicated exclusively to yoga. According to reports, up to and since his death in 1991 more than 8,000,000 copies of his yoga books, under more than 20 different titles have been sold. The thing is, what little reports there are, when they do, point to Hittleman's so-called study under Ramana as not occurring until he was age 22. In that he was born in 1927 that would make his study not even starting until 1949. By 1949, except for Sri Lakshmana Swamy who had studied under Ramana for years as well as Robert Adams and possibly Jean Dunn who arrived a few years before, for all practical purposes Ramana was not available for any depth of Darshan in that he was in such a state of poor health. By the end of March 1950 he was to weak too even be taken to the meditation hall, let alone go under his own power or receive devotees. Matter of fact, one whole complete full year before, on March 17, 1949, when the consecration was set for the New Hall, because of his continuing illness, Ramana was too weak to turn the lock, requiring assistance to do so. If Hittleman began teaching yoga in New York in 1950 as has been reported, it didn't give him much quality time under Ramana. Even though Hittleman shows up self-proclaimed as a disciple and because of it has been reported over and over in the western press and media as one, it is still hard to find a whiff of Hittleman listed anywhere in the official ashram records. There are many like that. At the bottom of The Last American Darshan I write:
"The question is often asked, since my original visit as a young boy have I returned to the ashram? The answer is yes, twice. On my first return the visit was recorded and as such can be found in at least one authorized ashram related publication. Since that first return, traveling in the general area for unrelated reasons, I slipped onto the ashram grounds anonymously amongst a group of visiting tourists or devotees on pilgrimage to partake of the myriad of fragrances, sounds, and the light and dark of the shadows as the sun transited the sky. I could easily see young Adam Osborne and myself, barefoot, running across the dusty dirt covered common area."(see)
The Ramana ashram was always easily accessible, almost anybody could walk into and out of it at any time of the day without hindrance. Depending on the time of year sometimes the hall was crowded, sometimes it wasn't. In any case, I suppose a person could just walk in, sit before the Maharshi, and claim to have studied under him. After all, Swami Ramdas was only in Ramama's presence for five minutes and pages and pages have been published about his connection --- although it must be said, for Ramdas there was a more-or-less formal introduction, at least of the ashram kind, which has blanketed the Ramdas visit with much more long term credibility.
In reference to C.R. Rajamani cited above, the most respected Professor Laxmi Narain, compiled and edited a book entitled "Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Enchanting and Uplifting Reminiscences of 160 persons" (Sri Ramana Kendram, 2005). Narain recently revised and updated his book by including an additional 40 face-to-face meetings with Ramana. Within those additional 40 face-to-face meetings, Rajamani's account of the young boy is now, and most rightfully so, included.
You can read the revised edition by going to the PDF online version of Laxmi Narain's book using the link below. Although all 200-plus meetings with the Maharshi are no doubt worth reading, for the specific one relating to the young boy, refer to Number 179, page 384, titled C.R. Rajamani:
FACE TO FACE WITH SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI
Enchanting and Uplifting Reminiscences of 202 Persons
AND NOW THIS:
As the title indicates the main emphasis of this paper concentrates on Sri Ramana's western disciples. So said, as might determined, within the context of what is written one might argue not all western disciples are represented. Please note that I have incorporated links to sites that have a number of westerners listed that taken together with what I have presented will fill in most if any gaps. Now, while it is true not all 54 interviews by Malcolm Tillis in New Lives above, are related to Ramana exclusively, many are. In Laxmi Narain's interviews with 202 people all are Ramana related, but not all are westerners. Again, those so found in this and the above so mentioned sources will cover most known western disciples, especially if combined with those listed in The Human Gospel of Ramana Maharshi as found in Footnote  below.
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL
THE AWAKENING EXPERIENCE IN THE MODERN ERA
IN THE WAY OF ENLIGHTENMENT: The Ten Fetters of Buddhism
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
When Humphreys returned to his native England he came into contact with the editor or the International Psychic Gazette, Felicia Scatcherd, telling her of his experiences with Ramana. Inturn, in three issues of the Gazette, May, June, and July 1913, she printed Humphreys impressions describing Ramana and his instructions. In 1925 the articles from the three issues were compiled into a limited run, limited release booklet. In 1931 the articles found their way into two chapters of Ramana's early biography by B.V. Narasimha Swami, SELF REALIZATION: The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Eventually they were put into a stand alone book titled Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi listing Humphreys as the sole author. See:
A NON-DISCIPLE DISCIPLE:
Which brings us to the first western woman to be cradled under the wing of the Maharshi.
In the annals of ashram lore an English woman by the name of M.A.Piggott is invariably cited or given credit as being the first western woman devotee or disciple to have visited Ramana at the ashram --- the years given in some cases as 1932-1933, others after being influenced by Brunton's book published in 1934. However, as you will see below, her being the FIRST western woman devotee or disciple is not actually the case, having been preceded to the ashram by an American woman in 1929-1930 bracket.
During the first half of last century, unrelated to anything Ramana, there was a man of great spiritual prowess living in the United States named Alfred Pulyan (1896-1966). Pulyan was said to be an "American Zen Master" without the Zen nor the Buddhism, yet Enlightened in the Finality of the Absolute in the same tradition as in the spiritual Awakenings attributed to the ancient classical masters. However, as with what is often found in history it was HIS teacher who was actually responsible for his transformation. Although in things Pulyan she gets no applause or recognition, she does inspire a great deal of interest as well as an unending liturgy of curiosity for many because of her role in his Awakening and the fact that to this day she, a female Ramana without a mountain or a following, remains facetiously unknown.
While it is true Pulyan was not a disciple or follower of Sri Ramana, nor is it known if he ever claimed to be in his lineage, his unheralded teacher has been reported to have been at the ashram and studied under the Bhagavan during the same years as my mentor after a translocation visit by Ramana. Thus, although her presence at the ashram was reported in the same annals of ashram lore as M.A.Piggott, it was done so in a rather obscure manner by a long time Ramana devotee Framji Dorabji. Even though the fact remains that she was there and duly recorded after a fashion, because of her own outlook and disposition, being there never took traction.
In personal conversations with me she did not disassociate herself from any connections to Ramana, but, in reality, she never truly embraced the Ramana type non-dualistic school of Hindu philosophy, Advaita Vedanta, at a very high level, chosing instead Zen and the precepts of Direct Transmission as her route to Enlightenment and what she advocated. Even so, according to herself and Ramana devotee Framji Dorabji, who shows up on page 677 in The Human Gospel of Ramana Maharshi, this American girl was there at the ashram under the invitation of and auspices of Sri Ramana himself, yet her name never shows up on any list of devotees or disciples, western or otherwise.
It could be that the subject of translocation is too much of a hot button subject to introduce related to traditional devotees, OR if you are not on the approved list as the keepers of the flame see it, you don't exist. See:
It should be made clear the flow of information did ease up somewhat for the better in 1907 when Ramana decided to talk after years of silence following an interaction with Ganapati Muni.(see) That incident, added to his Second Death Experience five years later in 1912, which, as written by Peter Holleran in the Lost Years" of Ramana Maharshi, "seemed to mark his complete return to normal outward activity." Holleran writes, as found in the Second Death Experience link above:
"In 1912, when he was thirty-two, he (the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi) went through a lesser-known second death experience which seemed to mark his complete return to normal outward activity. He remarked numerous times that the current of the self he had realized at aged sixteen had never changed, but while this new experience may not have upstaged his previous realization it did serve to reintegrate him with his bodily vehicle and with life."
After that second death experience Ramana was found to be much more at ease in everyday circumstances and began to increasingly associate with followers, seekers and disciples that sought him out or gathered around him. It was, however, with that increase in openess, and what was perceived by some of those around him as being an almost waiting to be exploited, child-like naivete of the Bhagavan, that the guardians of the gate --- perhaps initially viewing it as a good thing --- began circling the wagons.
For a complete rundown on the accuracy and authenticity of Ramana's writings and dialogues and how some of his early writings --- as well as later ones --- came about, written, or edited, with or without his grace, please go to the following by David Godman by clicking HERE. See also:
In a biography of sorts of Adams by a former student, friend, and person in his own right, Edward Muzika, it is written that by age seven Adams was experiencing Siddhis that involved Ramana. According to Muzika, on more than one occasion, Adams, in his pre-teen years, was confronted by a man with white hair and white beard that "spoke to him in a language he could not understand." Muzika, speaking of Adams, goes on to say:
Years later, after his awakening experience, he was looking through a book on the teachings of Ramana Maharshi when he saw that sage's picture. "I was shocked!" he said, "The hair on my head and neck stood straight up. The little man who had lectured me all those years was Ramana!"
The way the information has been laid out regarding Adams he must have seen the picture of Ramana before he went to India. That is to say, somewhere between his early through pre-teen years where he was 'confronted with a man with white hair and white beard' and the time he made his decision to go to the Fellowship in search of answers, he must have come across the book that had the picture of Sri Ramana in it. Realizing the man in the picture was the same man that showed up in his visitations, and learning the man was from India, Adams, like my uncle taking me, rather than go to India first, may have sought out Paramahansa Yogananda at the Self-Realization Fellowship near San Diego not because he knew him or was familiar with his works, but for no other reason than he was one of the highest profile people in the Eastern spiritual movement that had taken root on the west coast during and following World War II.
How Muzika presents it, Yogananda WOULD NOT ALLOW Adams to become a monk at the Fellowship. Adams is reported as saying Yogananda couldn't wait to get rid of him because he kept asking why he (i.e., Yogananda) constantly emphasized practices, mantras, affirmations and healing techniques that missed the point of Self-realization --- a point, by the way, that I am in full agreement with.(see) Muzika has written because of the nature of Adams' spontaneous Awakening, along with his visitations by the white haired man who Adams learned was Ramana AND Yogananda's own devotional relationship with Ramana, Yogananda TOLD Adams to go to Ramana.
How devotional Yogananda's devotional relationship actually was is open to debate because in 1946 when Yogananda released his lengthy tome on his life titled Autobiography of A Yogi the meeting between he and Sri Ramana was conspicously absent. It is my opinion, Adams, realizing he wasn't going to find the answers he was looking for under the auspices of Yogananda, on and of his own volition, both wisely and intuitively, made the decison to go to Ramana. For more please see Footnote  on the Robert Adams website.
As to the meeting between Yogananda and Ramana that was fully bypassed and totally left out of the book Autobiography of A Yogi by Yogananda and linked to below, the Ramana side shows up in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, 106 & 107.
Yogananda discusess his side of the meeting with a long time disciple, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters), who inturn offers follow-up comments of his own in a book titled Conversations With Yogananda: Stories, Sayings, and Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda (2004).
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI
The following quote is from William Samuel's own hand as found in his book The Awareness of Self-Discovery:
"Some years ago I was honored to be the first American student of a renowned teacher in India. For fourteen days a group of us sat at the feet of this 'Master,' during which time he spoke not one word not so much as a grunt until the final day when he bade us farewell and assured us we had learned much.
"And to my surprise, I had. It took months before the seeds of those silent days began to sprout one by one, revealing that there are indeed many things for which the uptight, recondite babble of books and teachers is more hindrance than a help."
As to Samuel and the quote above, many feel he is alluding to the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Mahsrshi. However, in that he doesn't directly say so, the quote has generated a certain amount of confusion concerning any interaction he may or may not of had between himself and Sri Ramana. The confusion stems from two easily reconciled inconsistencies. First, Samuel's public silence on the subject relative to he and Ramana related to any meeting or none at all between the two which creates a sort of background-void on it having happened; and secondly, the complete opposite with my release of his contact with Adam Osborne as told to me by Osborne. As I have presented in the main text above, according to Osborne, Samuel told him that he and Osborne had participated in Giri Valam of Arunachala when Osborne was a young boy, telling him the circumabulation occurred on the night of the full moon in April of 1944.
Nowhere in any of the books, works, writings, or public talks by Samuel is there any record of he himself personally stating any sort of interaction or contact with Ramana, in the flesh or otherwise that I have been able to ferret out. Second-party releases through private conversations seem to come across somewhat differently. In that Samuel was attempting to contact Osborne's father it is a given that he told Osborne of the April 1944 incident sometime prior to 1970, the year Osborne's father, Arthur, died. Inturn it wasn't until circa 1983 that Osborne told me about Samuel and any comments thereof. In so saying, upwards of 15 years or so may have elapsed between the time Osborne received the information from Samuel and I became privy to it. Throughout the whole of that 15 year period Osborne never mentioned the incident to anybody until he told me because it didn't really involve anybody else except he and I. Even then for me personally, William Samuel was NOT the primary importance in Osborne's story one way or the other as much as the timing of the circumambulation --- i.e., the night of the full moon in April of 1944. For me, for the first time in my life I got an actual fixed date as to when I was at the ashram. By pure coincidence, by my release of the story, for those who were or are more interested in William Samuel, it also pinpointed Samuel's exact whereabouts as well. So said, as I went around making it a big deal about me, Samuel was lost in the process.
William Samuel died in 1996. Prior to his death, a long time close friend and confidant, a woman by the name of Sandy Jones, was made Samuel's literary executor with full rights to all his works. Apparently it was through Jones, at least in her written works and most likely from conversations with Samuel, that word of Samuel's interaction with Ramana surfaced publicly. In a book written by William Samuel himself and published in 1970 titled The Awareness of Self-Discovery, Samuel did write, as shown in the quote at the top of the footnote, albeit somewhat ambiguous and making no reference to Ramana, that he did meet with a teacher of note in India.
Not only is there is no indication in the quote who the renowned teacher was, there is no mention if his visit to India was before, during or after completion of his World War II service duties and/or having received his discharge, which would most likely would have occurred circa 1945 or 1946. The quote simply indicates Samuel's having had a two week stay in India with a guru he says later became world famous and that he was the first American to visit and sit in silence with him. Threrein lies the rub relative to Ramana. The first American known to have visited Ramana was in 1928, and after that there were several prior to 1945-46 era including the well documented and difficult to dispute visit and stay at the ashram by the American Guy Hague in 1938.
After taking into consideration what Osborne told me I think the quote contains more than just a mere kernal of truth, it is just seeped with a misinterpreted run-on of facts. The quote below, attributed to author and Ramana supporter Anil Sharma of Sydney, Australia, and of which at onetime appeared in one of Sharma's works --- but of which has been somewhat difficult to locate the original source --- is much more accurate and almost parallels exactly what Osborne related to me:
"William visited Sri. Ramana Maharshi and was with him for about a week. When he was about 21 years of age in 1944 when he visited India while serving as an infantry captain in the US army during the second world war in China. When William left he realized that he had gained tremendous insight of Awareness."(source)
Notice Sharma, unlike what Samuel himself wrote, states first thing and flat-out that Samuel visited Ramana. He then goes on to say the visit occurred while Samuel was SERVING as an infantry captain during the war, not afterward as a civilian. Osborne told me of Samuel and the circumambulation of Arunachala years before the above quote came to my attention and more than likely before it even existed. How Sharma became privy to what has been presented much clearer in the second quote, which for me personally so closely parallels what Samuel told Osborne and what Osborne told me, that I am of the opinion Samuel may have repeated it in some fashion --- albeit not relating it to Osborne most likely. How it fell into Sharma's hands is not known. The two quotes do come to me from two entirely separated sources, both credible in their own right, so I have to run with it.(see)
Getting back to Sri Ramana for a moment and what Samuel wrote. If Ramana is removed from the equation, and it seems he must be because it is known he had American disciples prior to any visit by Samuel, except for Sri H.W.L. Poonja, who had only just met the Maharshi in 1944 himself, and possibly four or five others, there were very few Indian gurus of any note that became famous after the 1945 era --- especially any that are known to have had any American disciple(s) before becoming famous. Even so, I do get into the names and backgrounds of the best candidates in a footnote lower down the page.(see)
Sandy Jones, formerly of Colorado, currently resides in Ojai, California and runs her own Art Gallery.
One week or not, it should be pointed out that the highly esteemed holy man Swami Ramdas, mentioned in the main text above as being the person most responsible for sending my mentor to Ramana in the first place, and who is almost always mentioned in the same breath as being a direct disciple or in the lineage of Sri Ramana, was himself only in the presence of the Maharshi for five minutes.
In late 1922 or early 1923, six years before Ramdas and my mentor met in the temple in Madura, Ramdas showed up at the then newly constructed Ramana ashram --- which at the time, if you recall from the photo in the main text above, was not much more than a crude thatched-stick mudhut. Ramana himself had only just come down to the ashram from his 23 year self-imposed life style sequestered in the caves of Arunachala. In the Introduction to the book, Essential Swami Ramdas, by Ramdas himself, it is written that during the meeting between the two, Ramdas only spent about five minutes infront of the Maharshi.
Immediately following the meeting Ramdas climbed up to a cave on the side of Arunachala and stayed in basic seclusion 20 days where it is said his complete transformation occurred. For more see Footnote  of the Ramdas page linked above as well as Footnote  on this page.
It is not always the time in such things, but the intent.
ENLIGHTENMENT AND KARMA
It is oft said that Jean Dunn spent time with Ramana Maharshi before his death in 1950. In the book NEW LIVES: 54 Interviews With Westerners On Their Search for Spiritual Fulfilment in India by Malcolm Tillis, linked in the main text above, Number 50 is an interview with Jean Dunn said by Tillis to have occurred in a Bombay restaurant February 19, 1981. Tillis records Dunn, who was born in 1921, as saying the following:
"I am just a normal person of 59 who has been searching all her life, until ten years ago, when she heard of Ramana Maharshi. She visited his Ashram, went back to the States, then returned to India where she has been living for the past four years. Two years ago she met Nisargadatta Maharaj, and he became her guru."
Tillis says the interview was done on February 19, 1981. Dunn says in the quote "until ten years ago, when she heard of Ramana Maharshi." Ten years previous would make it 1971. Ramana died in 1950.
In an interview with Dunn attributed to The Inner Directions Journal, of which I do not have a publication date but does contain within its text extracts from Dunn's personal journal, with the last entry being in April of 1981 --- making the publication date for the article sometime after that:
IDJ: Was your introduction to spiritual life through Ramana Maharshi or were there other influences before Ramana?
Jean Dunn: Well, yes. That's a long story. I was interested in Joel Goldsmith. All my life, it seems I have been searching for something. We all are searching but usually in the wrong places; it does lead us on.
IDJ: Did Joel mention Ramana Maharshi's name to you?
Jean: No. I was told that he was preparing to visit India when he died.
NOTE: Goldsmith died in 1964.
IDJ: When did you first hear about Nisargadatta Maharaj?
Jean: About one year before I first saw him. I was staying in Sri Ramanasramam (the Ashram of Ramana Maharshi), and friends were regularly going to see him (Maharaj) in Bombay. I felt there was no need to see anyone else since the Maharshi was my teacher. I put off the trip twice. The third time friends came and asked me to go, I agreed. So I did, and that was it.(source)
Dunn's designated successor, one Joan Brown also known as Ngeton, of Maui, Hawaii, has the following on one of the pages of her website:
"Jean Dunn lived in India a number of years before she met Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. During those years she lived at Tiruvannamalai as a devotee of Ramana Maharshi. In 1977, after numerous invitations to go to meet the great sage Nisargadatta, she made the trip from southern India to Bombay and met her Guru."(source)
There is no argument that untold numbers of devotees, spiritual travelers and seekers along the path have received deep and heartfelt inspiration from going to, visiting, and being at the Ramana ashram and in the presence of the holy mountain Arunachala no matter when it was done. What is usually taken from the works of Dunn and proffered by followers is, not only did she do all of the above, but so too she studied under Ramana in the flesh not unlike Robert Adams, which most likely, although nowhere in any of her works or interviews specifically present such a scenario, would have been done during a period post war through to April 14, 1950.
See also footnoted further down on this page the following regarding Nisargadatta.
"Within an hour of his face-to-face meeting with Sri Bhagavan, his mental barriers were reduced to nothingness."
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI and the Last American Darshan
In that I always advocate one's mind being ripe making time in a sense irrelevant, and with me going on about the short time, if any, Hittleman had studying under the Maharshi, implying in an offhand sort of way, especially considering the circumstances, that his claim of having done so is basically BS, the question is, how much time does one need in order to make such a claim as Hittleman valid? Higher up in a more formal way the Sutras breaks down those so receptive into four categories, in Sanskrit called in descending order with the most ripe on top: Ugghatitannu, Vipancitannu, Neyya, and Padaparama.
Ugghatitannu: an individual who encounters a Buddha in person and who is capable of attaining the Noble Path and Noble Truth through the mere hearing of a short discourse.
Vipancitannu: an individual who can attain the Paths and the Fruition states only when a discourse is expounded to him at some considerable length.
Neyya: an individual who does not have the capability of attaining the Paths and the Fruition states through the hearing of either a short or a long discourse but who must make a study of the teachings and practise the provisions contained therein for days, months or years in order that he may attain the Paths and the Fruition states.
Padaparama: one whose highest attainment is the text. An individual who, though he encounters the Buddha-teaching or Buddha-doctrine (Buddha Sasana) and puts forth the utmost possible effort in both the study and practice of the Dhamma, cannot attain the Paths and the Fruition states within this lifetime. All that he can do is accumulate habits and potential. Such a person cannot obtain release from Samsara.
For those who may be so interested there is another way for the Transmission of Spiritual Power NOT usually mentioned called Aparka Marg (sannyasa-vidvat):
Suppose there is a sweet and ripe fruit at the top of a tree. To enjoy the taste of the fruit the ripe fruit falls to the ground just at the exact time as an unsuspecting hungry-being is there. Aparka Marg is the way Realization falls upon the Self.
The Bhagavan Maharshi Sri Ramana would be a prime example as would the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Hui-neng who, as a young boy collecting firewood, experienced Awakening basically out of nowhere. A good modern day example can be found in the opening quote at the top of this footnote.
In 1923, Swami Ramdas showed up at the then newly constructed Ramana ashram, which at the time, was not much more than a crude thatched-stick mudhut. Ramana himself had only just come down to the ashram from his 23 year self-imposed life style sequestered in the caves of Arunachala. In the Introduction to the book, Essential Swami Ramdas (pages xlvii ff), by Ramdas, it is written that during the meeting between the two, Ramdas only spent about five minutes infront of the Maharshi. Ramdas, recalling his experiences at Tiruvannamalai, writes:
"(Ramdas) left Mangalore, as prompted by the Lord, and went about wandering from place to place. In the course of these wanderings, God in His own mysterious way took Ramdas to Tiruvannamalai. Ramdas condition those days was like that of a child, waiting always for the mother's guidance. He had absolutely no sankalpas or plans of any sort. So when a Tamilian sadhu asked Ramdas to accompany him to Tiruvannamalai, Ramdas readily obeyed and simply followed the sadhu. The latter took him to Sri Ramana Maharshi. The very sight of the Maharshi left an indelible impression on Ramdas. Ramana Maharshi stands for nirguna Brahman and Universal Vision. So he poured into Ramdas, the necessary power and grace to obtain this vision.
"When Sri Ramana intently gazed on Ramdas and the eyes of both met, Ramdas felt He was pouring into him His spiritual power and grace in abundance, so much so that Ramdas was thrilled, as His divine light shone on his mind, heart and soul. Sri Ramana's eyes always radiated a splendor, which was simply unique and irresistible a splendor mingled with infinite tenderness, compassion and mercy. The few minutes that Ramdas spent in His holy company meant a momentous impetus in his spiritual career.
"After obtaining Maharshi's darshan, Ramdas went up the Arunachala Hill and remained there in a cave. During his stay in the cave, Ramdas was chanting Ram mantra day and night. He had absolutely no sleep and for food he used to take only a small quantity of boiled rice, which he himself prepared out of the alms he got. After twenty days stay in the cave, in the above manner, one morning Ramdas' eyes were filled with a strange dazzling light and he realized the Presence of the Divine everywhere. This new vision of the Universal gave him such waves of ecstatic Bliss that he started running about here and there on the hill, embracing trees and rocks, shouting in joy 'This is my Ram, this is my Ram!' He could not resist the rising ecstasy. This was his first experience of Universal Vision."(source)
It was after his twenty-day stay in the caves of Arunachala as outlined above that Ramdas went on his nearly eight year pilgrimage (1923-1931), a pilgrimage which took him to many parts of India many times, including the caves of Elephanta where he first met my mentor in 1925 and eventually the southern temple city of Madura where, in 1928, the two met again.
Interestingly enough, just like the unknown woman that was Pulyan's teacher as found in Footnote , who was instrumental in Alfred Pulyan's full and complete spiritual transformation and still to this day goes unheralded, in Ramdas' case the same can be said. Ramdas always gets the credit, but as he was traveling around India it wasn't until he inadvertently bumped into a nobody of a holy man, still to this day anonymous, unknown, unnamed, and unheralded who asked Ramdas to accompany him to Tiruvannamalai did anything happen. Ramdas readily obeyed and simply followed the sadhu. The rest is history.
SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENT AND
VERBAL EXPRESSION TO THAT REALITY
SRI H. W. L. POONJA
"My father only knew that I was taken by the couple to India and it was done so without his consent. Since everybody is either gone or I do not recall them, most of what has come down to me about the incident is from outside sources such as the one by C.R. Rajamani titled Awakens the Child of Theosophists."
The Wanderling, as found in SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI and the Last American Darshan
C.R. Rajamani described in his article his visit to the Sri Ramana ashram and within it's contents, chronicled me being there as well. He was however, not specifically clear as to the exact dates, month or year he was at the ashram, thus then leaving, because of the mitigating circumstances presented in the Last American Darshan, my time being there in limbo as well.
Rajamani did include three general statements in his comments that narrowed down his stay fairly closely. First, he said he went to the Ramana ashram in the early forties (i.e., 1940s) when the Second World War was at its peak. Secondly, he said it may have been December or January because he remembered the season was quite cool. Third, that he learned the boy had come with his parents who were in India for the Theosophical Society's world convention which was usually held at Adyar, Madras.
All three of his his given observations fit perfectly with the timeframe I have been able to work out for myself, of which for me include the date of the Theosophical Society's world convention, the contents of a letter written by the woman of the couple to my father, and the comments of William Samuel to my childhood friend Adam Osborne that mentioned him seeing the two of us at the ashram during the time the full moon in April of 1944.
Nothing could be more specific for setting a date for a given event than knowing it happened during an exact phase of the moon --- especially so if the phase is known to have been a full moon. For Samuel, the fact that a full moon was in the picture was easily recalled because that is the holiest time to participate in Giri Valam, circumabulation of Arunachala --- which, according to what Samuel told Osborne, he did.
In April of 1944 the moon was full on Saturday April 8th. Backtracking from April 1944 to the closest Theosophical Society's world convention would make it the 67th International Convention held December 26 to 31, 1943 at the International Headquarters, Adyar, India. That would put me at the ashram after the convention was over, most likely in the January of 1944 bracket. As for the letter to my father from the woman of the couple, because of events she wrote about that I chronicle in The British Motor Merchant Tulagi I narrowed down our trip home by ship via the Indian Ocean sometime toward the end of May, 1944 and back in the states sometime in June, 1944.
Beyond the fact that all of the above pinpoints for me both personally and specifically when I was at the ashram why is any of it important?
It has to do with the revered Indian holy man and guru Sri H. W. L. Poonja (1910-1997), also known as Poonjaji or Papaji. Except for the somewhat reclusive Sri Lakshmana Swamy, Poonja was one of the foremost disciples, devotee, follower and advocate of the even more so venerated Indian holy man, the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Following the death of Ramana the line of disciples that knew him in the flesh ended. Post-death standard bearers picked up the flag from direct disciples that were willing, creating in a sense a Ramana lineage, albeit morphing into their own image without the direct oversight of Ramana's saintlyhood.
The more modern era guru-based spiritual movements in the west, that is post Swami Prabhavananda of the Southern California Vedanta Society and Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship, that bases itself on Indian traditions is primarily split into two general camps, those that stem from or associated in some fashion with Sri Ramana and the second camp that circles its wagons around Neem Karoli Baba, such as Ram Dass and Bhagavan Das and their followers. It all has to do with how old you were when Ramana died.
Anybody who holds themselves up to be anybody in the present day Advaita Vedanta come Enlightenment movement a la Ramana, but was too young or not born in time to have studied under Ramana in the flesh, had to have at one time bellied up to Poonja, hung on to his coat tails, or put their hat on his rack in some fashion or the other in order to flaunt their credibility.
The second camp, the Neem Karoli Baba folk, except possibly for Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert April 6, 1931, were all too young to have fallen under the Ramana umbrella --- although it is important to note that Albert come Ram Dass was at the right age that he could have met Ramana, but did not travel to India for the first time until 1967, seventeen years after Ramana's death in 1950 (Neem Karoli Baba died September 11, 1973). Ram Dass (Alpert) did pay homage to Sri Ramana in later years as found in the very well received film ABIDE AS THE SELF: The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi and presented in the following YouTube video of the film:
People ask me over and over, in that I was at the Ramana ashram in 1944 and 1944 was the same year Poonja met Ramana, were we there at the same time and did I see or meet Poonja at the ashram? In his biography Poonja states he was 34 years old when he met the Maharshi. Poonja was born October 13, 1910, so to have been 34 years old in 1944 he would have to have been at the ashram AFTER October 10th --- otherwise he would have been 33 years old. As I have so explicitly laid out above regarding my own timeframe at the ashram, I was at sea on the way home by the end of May, 1944, so, to answer the question, I wasn't even at the ashram when Poonja met Ramana.
Did I ever meet Poonja? That is a question for another day.
MORE REGARDING POONJA: PRO OR CON?
Not to play down the strength and importance of Samuel having met and studied under the full grace and light of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in any way, I think behind the scenes there were other things at work.
There is a great possibility that BOTH Samuel and Sharma's quotes as found in the main text above are accurate as they stand, it is just that they are representing two different venterated Indian holy men on two different occasions at two different times. Rather than trying to mesh the two quotes they should be looked on as being two separate events.
The Indian sub-continent has always been known to be crawling with sadhus, gurus, holy men, and saints. Every temple, cave, forest and blessed river has some. Anybody can put on an orange robe or become an ascetic. However, not all reach the level of Sri Ramana --- in reality or in the eyes of the public --- which doesn't mean they haven't, only that the minons haven't discovered them to such a point that they become famous. In Samuel's specific case we are told that he was the first American to visit and sit in silence with a guru who later became world famous. Now, while I do state India is full of sadhus, gurus, holy men and saints not many of them meet the criteria as set out by Samuel, especially so in the time period we are taking about here regarding Samuel. Once you move out of the having met Sri Ramana Maharshi in 1944 picture into the first American to visit and sit in silence with a guru who later became world famous picture, things become difficult to fulfill.
I have discounted Poonja already in a previous footnote because of not meeting the criteria as well as Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.(see) That basically leaves only four other high profile, or famous post 1945 gurus or holy men that fall into that time period, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), Swami Ramdas (1884-1963), Sri Ramsuratkumar (1918-2001), and Neem Karoli Baba (d. 1973). Ramdas was already famous, plus my mentor, an American, met and knew him from 1925 on. Aurobindo died in 1950. Ramsuratkumar is recorded as not having his Awakening experience until 1952. If Samuel was discharged from the Army in 1946 and called back in for the Korean War in 1950, then not let out of the service until the Korean War was over in July of 1953, that didn't leave much window of opportunity to interact with any of the gurus suggested. Discounting those three, that leaves the fourth, Neem Karoli Baba, mentioned previously above in the footnote on Poonja in conjunction with Ram Dass.
In 1967, Dr. Richard Alpert, a university professor who had been formally dismissed from his academic position at Harvard in 1963 for a number of so-called violations, including the mishandling of research LSD and civilian-based psychedelics, traveled to India and Nepal, a trip that ended up more in the search of and eventual touching of Spiritual Truth than anything else. During his travels he met a highly respected young white American called Bhagavan Das said to be from Laguna Beach, California and born Kermit Michael Riggs, that was fully and deeply ingrained into the spiritual culture of India. Bhagavan Das, a follower of the venerated Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba, after becoming cognizant of Albert's spiritual quest, took him to see him. Neem Karoli Baba, following closely Alpert's struggle, dedication, and advancement along the Path, gave him the name Ram Dass, which means 'servant of God.'
After a year and a half or so in India Alpert returned to the United States and fully immersed as Ram Dass eventually wrote the seminal book Be Here Now, published in 1971. The book, an unqualified success, became a wildly popular best seller and almost a bible in the counter-culture. The success of the Ram Dass book sent thousands of hippie-era wanderers, including for example even Apple computer genius Steve Jobs, to India in the quest for gurus and spiritual Enlightenment. It also escalated the existence of an unknown Indian holy man Neem Karoli Baba, who died in 1973, into the stratosphere, with the unintended consequence, but karma related, inundation by hundreds and hundreds of spiritual seekers.
Most of that inundation of seekers, both known and unknown, rather they be Jobs or Zuckerberg or some other slug of an Inconsequential being because of lack of notoriety or billions in their pockets, without being significantly aware of it, owe their trek or knowledge thereof of Neem Karoli Baba in some manner to the infamous 1950's Beat poet Allen Ginsberg or perhaps maybe to a lesser extent the missing woman of the Beat Movement, Hope Savage, in whose footsteps he followed and who later simply just disappeared or vanished during her travels in India. In March of 1961 Ginsberg, following Hope's long since earlier departure, on extended travels, left the United States, eventually ending up in India in February, 1962. Ginsberg spent the next fifteen months traveling throughout India, leaving May of 1963.
The problem is, nowhere in Be Here Now did Ram Dass identify his guru as being Neem Karoli Baba, only calling him throughout the book as Maharaj-ji, a more or less honorific title for a holy man. Dass writes the reason why in his book, asserting:
" Now in the temple, or around Maharaji, there were eight or nine people. Bhagwan Das and I were the only Westerners. In fact, at no time that I was there did I see any other Westerners. This is clearly not a western scene, and in fact, I was specifically told when returning to the United States that I was not to mention Maharaji's name or where he was, or anything."
Ram Dass held fast to that edict. However, just as it wasn't long before the saint Shri Ganesha in W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge was discovered to be Sri Ramana Maharshi, Maharaj-ji was quickly identified as being Neem Karoli Baba.
NEEM KAROLI BABA
The quote in Footnote  that says Samuel visited Sri Ramana for a week in April of 1944 when he was 21 years old while serving in the US army during WW II and of which, backed up with what Adam Osborne has said, pretty much substantiates Samuel with face-to-face contact with the Maharshi.
The other quote, the one that states Samuel was the first American student of a renowned teacher in India, has a tendency to open up a few questions IF you try to shoehorn the quote around the renowned teacher being Ramana. However, if like I say, we are talking about a second holy man other than Ramana, then it is a completely different situation. And I think that is the case. Samuel met both Ramana and a second holy man, unnamed. He met Ramana in April of 1944 during the WW II. The other holy man is open to question. That is to say, it is not known if it was after the war and before Korea or after his Awakening Experience and the Korean War. So too, it is not known why the lack of naming the second holy man? I can hazard a guess. I think the second holy man was Neem Karoli Baba and Samuel was under the same gag order as Ram Dass --- only in Samuel's case it didn't get out.
During WW II Samuel had fought all along the Chinese-Burma Himalayan border and was familiar with the topography, peoples, and environment. He had already been to the southern part of the sub-continent and by mid-April 1950 Ramana had died. So hugging up along the northern reaches of India most likely seemed the thing to do. In the process he met Neem Karoli Baba, most likely right after his WW II discharge but before the start of the Korean War. According to most Samuel biographers, and I am in agreement, the eight year period between 1952 and 1960 would have been a much more difficult time for him to have done so.
If such is the case, then not only would William Samuel be Neem Karoli Baba's first American disciple, he would most likely be his first western disciple, a combination of distinctions usually given to Bhagavan Das who showed up under Neem Karoli Baba's grace sometime in 1964 or so.
As to Neem Karoli Baba and why Samuel would have any interest in him one way or the other in the first place --- especially to such a extent that if he just didn't just happen to stumble upon him, he would seek him out, is best answered by the quote below. The author of quote as written, albeit previously linked, has recently been discovered to have disappeared into cyber-space, although the general gist of the quote continutes to shows up in a variety of forms as related to Neem Karoli Baba:
"One slightly strange characteristic is that Neem Karoli Baba tended to be the Guru of householders, not sannyasins. This has made his energy and shakti very accessible, despite his mahasamadhi back in 1973. What has gradually been revealed over the years is that he was in fact a householder himself at a very young age and kept up a sweet relationship with his own children."
KERMIT MICHAEL RIGGS
"The Buddha said that neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring us the real happiness of Nirvana. Instead the Buddha emphasized the importance of making individual effort in order to achieve our spiritual goals. He likened it to a man wanting to cross a river; sitting down and praying will not suffice, but he must make the effort to build a raft or a bridge."(source)
Anil Sharma is an author and the website coordinator of the Sydney, Australia based internet site dedicated to all things Ramana he calls a Center of Learning titled Sage Sri Ramana Maharshi, a site that has been online since at least 2007. On his website Sharma has a Devotees of Ramana section offering biographies of devotees, of which one is of Samuel. At onetime, in an earlier version of that biography, the following quote, which I have used as a reference and referred back to Sharma, appeared:
"William visited Sri. Ramana Maharshi and was with him for about a week. When he was about 21 years of age in 1944 when he visited India while serving as an infantry captain in the US army during the second world war in China. When William left he realized that he had gained tremendous insight of Awareness."(source)
Sometime back, checking links like I do on occasion, on an apparently updated biography page wherein most of the page has remained the same, the paragraph above in question morphed into the following:
"In 1944, William Samuel went to India, we calculate that William must have been about 21 years old at the time. It is believed by many that William visited Sri. Ramana Maharshi those years ago. However, this is not certain as William never mentions the name of the Guru directly, but only hints to such."(source)
Please note that the more concrete 'William visited Sri Ramana Maharshi and was with him for about a week' version as found in the first example has been transformed into the somewhat more watered down version found in the most recent example above: 'It is believed by many that William visited Sri Ramana Maharshi those years ago.' Most recently there has been a third metamorphosis or reincarnation of the Samuel biography page, one that more closely reflects what I have presented in:
JAPANESE INVASION OF INDIA
DURING WORLD WAR II
That third Sharma reincarnation, quoted below, although reflecting the larger contents as found in the Japanese Invasion page, in part, almost word-for-word is from the section I wrote on William Samuel as found on my page titled Enlightened Individuals I've Met. I am however, further down the Sharma page, selectively left out as one of the people who participated in Giri Valam on April 8th:
"At some point during those war years, William, the young American infantry captain, was fighting alongside the British and Indian garrisons. In 1944, William�s troops were near the Burmese border holding off the Japanese invasion.
"During that time along the Burmese border, William Samuel, then a 21 year old captain in the U.S. Army and a veteran of three years fighting with the Chinese Nationalist army against the Japanese in China was apparently called over to the India side of things and somehow must have found some much needed rest and reprieve, ending up at Sage Ramana ashram in Tiruvannamalai. Here he stayed for two weeks in April of 1944."(source)
Sharma, perhaps playing a little loose with the source of the material above, is the author of the very well received book on Ramana titled The Practice of Self Enquiry. Why the deemed necessity of change between the three versions nor credit me as the originating source in the last, is not known.
NOTE: If you click the right side of the screen on the The Practice of Self Enquiry page that comes up showing the cover by using the link above, readable PDF-like pages of the full book appear.
WILLIAM SAMUEL & FRIENDS: A SECRET REVEALED
A SOLDIER'S STORY
SHRI NISARGADATTA MAHARAJ:
A number of William Samuel advocates have over time put forth the possibility that his unnamed Indian guru was Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, discussed previously in Footnote  in regards to being the guru of Jean Dunn. Right up there along with Poonja(see) I have eliminated him as a potential candidate because of not fully meeting the criteria as laid out by Samuel.
Nisargadatta's guru was Siddharameshwar Maharaj, who he met in 1933. Siddharameshwar died in 1936, but it wasn't until 1938 that Nisargadatta spontaneously awakened to the Absolute. All attachment, aversion, and delusion ended. Even so, Nisargadatta did not start taking disciples until 1951. Now, while it is true Samuel could have met up with him after the Korean War in 1953 onward, most likely such was not the case. I have a tendency to go along with the William Samuel advocate Jon Shore and his research, who wrote in his bio of Samuel the following, which strongly underlines my feelings on the matter:
"After leaving China, William's quest to study at the fountainheads of the world's ideas took him twice around the globe, into the remotest places, including several years in the Orient and India. In India, William was the first American to visit and sit in silence with a guru who, William tells us, later became world famous. This was a week long stay, but William does not state specifically the name of this guru.(source)
Notice Shore, who has self-reported he had been a guest in Samuel's home in Alabama many times, staying at the little cottage, Woodsong and having long conversations about spirituality, life, love, business, food, physics, ancient civilizations and everything else that came up to be discussed, states that Samuel, after leaving China, traveled in the remotest places including several years in the Orient and India. Later on in the bio at the source so cited he writes that following Korea Samuel returned to home and family.
As for Nisargadatta, for some reason his lineage, leading up to him and following him is pretty well documented. Almost all of his early western disciples were European and the ones' that bear American credentials all followed way late in his life.(see) It was a man of Polish descent, Maurice Frydman, who brought Nisargadatta to the attention of the public eye through the translation and publication of I Am That in 1973, which inturn opened the floodgates of western disciples. Years prior to that, however, in the mid-late 1920s, before Nisargadatta met Siddharameshwar, my mentor caught up with Siddharameshwar as described:
"(M)y Mentor, either before or after his stay at the ashrama of Sri Ramana, and I believe it was before, traveled to Bijapur to meet with an Indian holy man called Siddharameshwar Maharaj. The Maharaj taught that the only way one can reach Final Reality is through what he called Vihangam Marg, the bird's way."(source)
Because of that meeting, noted British author and playwright W. Somerset Maugham, in the process of gathering background material for the book he was writing about my mentor, the following transpired as per the source so cited:
"By February 26, 1938 he(Maugham) was in Calcutta, then Benares, a short boat trip on the Ganges, then on to New Deli arriving there by March 15, 1938. He then returned to Bombay being entertained in a visit to Shi Nisargadatta Maharaj, a disciple of and one of two major followers of, the greatest of the 'unknown' Indian sages, Shri Sadguru Siddharameshwar Maharaj. Siddharameshwar had died in 1936, a year and a half before Maugham arrived in India. Maugham, always the consummate researcher, had hoped to meet both of the Sadguru's major disciples, Sri Nisargadatta and, especially so, Sri Ranjit Maharaj because of a connection known by Ranjit that existed between Siddharameshwar and the person Maugham was to write about in his novel The Razor's Edge, a connection known as Vihangam Marg (the birds' way). A meeting with Sri Ranjit was not to be. However, the writer did meet with Nisargadatta several times in and around his smoke shop that marketed bidis, a handmade country cigarette he sold for a living. Maugham then departed by ship to Naples, Italy March 31, 1938.(source)
Below is a link that will take you to a PDF version of Nisargadatta's book I Am That, the same book I mention above that brought him to the attention of the public eye through the translation and publication of in 1973, which inturn opened the floodgates of western disciples:
I AM THAT
POONJA: PRO OR CON?
In The Last American Darshan, about Poonja, I write:
"(T)he Indian spiritual teacher and guru Sri H. W. L. Poonja (1910-1997), AKA Poonjaji or Papaji. Poonja is considered within religious circles as having been one of the foremost disciples, devotees, followers or advocates of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and his principles. So said, Poonja, who became a master in his own right, is considered to have been the real thing. So too, he was not some mystic saint in some far off place masked in ancient lore either, but a modern day personage."
I then go on to say one could sense within the above quote a certain perfume of praise, and of which I would guess Poonja in regards to himself is OK. So said, I am not championing Poonja per se.' Besides, for me it is not Poonja who surfaces, but his camp followers, which are legion. Without mentioning the Poonja lineage, in regards to one of his followers, Bob Nickel, who I entertained a certain admiration for in how he conducted himself, I wrote:
"Seemingly spiritually spawned under the umbrella of a line of bigtime movers that hog the spotlight mostly for themselves, Nickel went about his teaching in his own way at his own pace. Although he had a book and sold a few DVDs here-and-there he never big-tented his operation pushing ball caps, tee shirts and fountain pens --- nor did he find the need to gather up or surround himself with ever continuing legions of fawning awe-inspired scyophants in jewel encrusted Taj Mahal style ashrams or the devotee-labored rolling hills of a tax exempt vineyard infested retreat."
As for those who footstep in Poonja's tracks --- and mine don't --- with my own leanings paralleling, if not almost duplicating exactly, a man whose published works are accredited to one Pete by name. Although I'm sure not all would agree with my opinion --- or his --- Pete has written one of those rare gems on the internet, a must-read masterpiece in observational insight he calls:
THE POONJA (PAPAJI) CROWD
Anadi, who at one time was Aziz Kristof and known most commonly amongst those spiritual as a non-traditional Advaita Zen master, currently living in India and having done so for many years, wrote the following regarding his meeting with Poonja during his early years as a seeker traversing the sub-continent meeting gurus and such:
"However, as much as seeing India with all its cultural richness and dynamic energy was uplifting, meeting those various teachers was rather disappointing. First I met Poonjaji, who presented himself as a disciple of Ramana Maharishi. I was invited to dinner with him and attended one of his satsangs, which were a mixture of Indian devotion and western hysteria. While there, I wrote him an interesting question. According to his account, when he visited Ramana, he was told that he could stop repeating the name of Krishna (his mantra) because he had already arrived. My question to him was: How can one arrive and not know that one has arrived? Isn't recognition inherent to self-realization? Or does recognition bring this realization to a higher level? Poonjaji did not seem to see the important nature of this question. Rather he appeared to feel personally challenged and reacted with anger. My question was sincere, and because his response was quite rude, I left."(source)
Not too much different than the previously cited Robert Adams when, as a young boy, he visited Yogananda seeking to be a monk with the order, and after being there a short time, became highly disillusioned primarily because of the following:
"Yogananda would not allow Adams to become a monk at the Fellowship. Adams is reported as saying Yogananda couldn't wait to get rid of him because he kept asking why he (i.e., Yogananda) constantly emphasized practices, mantras, affirmations and healing techniques that missed the point of Self-realization."
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN DARRELL'S LIFE OTHER THAN THE MAHARSHI: