"Two years later I was down south at a place called Madura. One night in the temple someone touched me on the arm. I turned around and saw a bearded man with long black hair, dressed in nothing but a loincloth, with the staff and the begging bowl of the holy man.
"He asked me what I'd been doing and I told him; he asked me where I was going and I said to Travancore; he told me to go and seeSri Ganesha. 'He will give you what you are looking for.'"
LARRY DARRELL to Somerset Maugham in The Razor's Edge
In ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds I write that in searching back over time and place as to who the holy man may have been talking with the Larry Darrell character that night in the temple, I indicate that for me, all clues point to Swami Ramdas. Ramdas was a highly venerated Swami personally influenced through the direct grace and light of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, stayed in the caves above his ashram, and who had been traveling on pilgrimage, visiting various shrines and temples throughout India at the exact same time as my Mentor.
One of the major substantiating co-factors that convinced me that the holy man in the temple with Darrell that night in Madura was none other than Swami Ramdas is based on a nickname my mentor used regularly in identifying my godfather after the two of them met.
My godfather was quite old, quite frail, and for years it seemed, dying or near dying. He had basically saved my mother and father from going without food and being without a home during the Great Depression of the 1930s. He gave them a place to stay and my father a job --- something my dad never forgot. Inturn my dad named him as godfather over my two brothers and myself.
He had long since fallen on hard times, or at least as long as I could remember, so his role in those days had become not much more than ceremonial in nature. My dad most willingly picked up the tab each month for the small one bedroom house my godfather stayed in. He also paid for all of his food, upkeep, and medical expenses. Part of his upkeep, usually done after school, included my younger brother or myself riding our bikes to his place, which was located off an alley in a quiet section of the beach town where we lived called the avenues, and picking up dirty laundry for our grandmother to wash, shopping for groceries, emptying the trash, and generally keeping the place clean and aired out.
Even though it took away from my free time and goofing off with my buddies, for some reason I never totally begrudged going. To most people, myself included, my godfather was like a second grandfather and family members and friends alike always called him Pop --- except that is, my mentor. For some unknown reason, after the two met he always called him, and most affectionately so, Papa Ramdas. "Are you going to see Papa Ramdas today?" he would ask, or "Did you see Papa Ramdas today?" At the time, my mentor using the name Papa Ramdas meant nothing to me. I just considered it another quirk in a long line of quirks my mentor seemed to have.
However, one day, many years later, I ran across the following in the January 1965 issue of The Mountain Path, Volume One, Issue 2:
"And it came one morning apocalyptically - when, lo, the entire landscape changed: All was Rama, nothing but Rama - wherever Ramdas looked! Everything was ensouled by Rama - vivid, marvellous, rapturous - the trees, the shrubs, the ants, the cows, the cats, the dogs - even inanimate things pulsated with the marvellous presence of the one Rama. And Ramdas danced in joy, like a boy who, when given a lovely present, can't help breaking out into a dance. And so it was with Ramdas: he danced with joy and rushed at a tree in front, which he embraced because it was not a tree but Rama Himself! A man was passing by, Ramdas ran towards him and embraced him, calling out: 'Rama, O Rama!' The man got scared and bolted. But Ramdas gave him chase and dragged him back to his cave. The man noted that Ramdas had not a tooth in his head and so felt a little reassured: at least the loony would not be able to bite him!"
Although the context of the above paragraph was all about the Enlightenment experience of Ramdas, which paralleled almost exactly my own mentor's Awakening experience as he told me (see), what hit me most in an odd sort of way was the final sentence: "The man noted that Ramdas had not a tooth in his head and so felt a little reassured: at least the loony would not be able to bite him!" My godfather didn't have a tooth in his head either. As long as I could remember my godfather was old and all those years he never had any teeth. I Think my mentor called my godfather Papa Ramdas for that exact same reason. Since Ramdas was basically an unknown in America in those days and we didn't have the level of sharing of information that we do now, in my opinion the only way for my mentor to have drawn such an analogy was for he himself to have met or known Ramdas on a personal level.
And he did.
How do I know? Because in 1954 I had just received my first drivers license, which is something a teenager never forgets. You may recall from the above that when I went to tidy up around my godfather's place I rode my bike. It was during those days, before I got a car, that my mentor first met my godfather and started calling him Papa Ramdas. It was only AFTER I received my driver's license, which was several years after my mentor first met my godfather, that he had me drive him from the small southern California beach community where we both lived to the Hollywood/Los Angeles area to see a friend of his, a onetime modern interpretive dancer turned instructor by the name of Ruth St. Denis. She inturn took us to Ramdas, who was visiting the city at the time. Although I have hardly forgotten anything about obtaining my drivers license that year I am unable to recall many of the specifics surrounding my meeting with Ramdas to speak of.
For sure, during the rather short interlude in which I met Ramdas I do not remember my mentor either refering to or calling him "Papa Ramdas." Nor do I remember any sort of a pronounced overbite or lack of teeth on his part --- which does not mean it was not so, only that, until I saw his picture years later did it mean anything. So too, my mentor never really told me one way or the other how he knew Ramdas, how the two of them met, got to be friends, or how he fit into the overall scheme of things relative to my mentor. Describing the meeting Ramdas and myself, on the second page of ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, linked above, I write the following:
"The man he went to see was Swami Ramdas. All I really remember was he was 'old' and I was cold, hence my hands between my knees and looking for the sunlight. For the most part I have never counted the meeting between us as a real meeting --- at least in the classical sense --- because the encounter was so brief. But I did meet him. Ramdas asked me if I had ever been to India, almost as though he knew me or something. When he asked, looking into his eyes I had the strangest feeling come over me. Much later in the scheme of things I came to know why, but at the time I was way to naive to understand or grasp any significance."
Even though, as I mention above, that I do not recall a pronounced overbite or lack of teeth on his part I know the day I saw him he did not have a beard or long black hair. He was, as typically seen, bald and dressed all in white.
Because of the notable visual discrepancies between how I remember Ramdas as well as most photographs of him, and how Maugham describes the holy man in the quote at the top of the page, that is, "...a bearded man with long black hair, dressed in nothing but a loincloth, with the staff and the begging bowl of the holy man..." people question if the holy man could have really been Ramdas. In concert it should be brought to your attention that on the very first page of his novel The Razor's Edge, Maugham writes:
"I have invented nothing. To save embarrassment to people still living I have given to the persons who play a part in this story names of my own contriving, and I have in other ways taken pains to make sure that no one should recognize them."
Maugham goes on to say:
"I have done this for the same reasons as the historians have, to give liveliness and verisimilitude to scenes that would have been ineffective if they had been merely recounted."
Maugham's attempt to cover the identities or rewrite scenes as they transpired with a thin transparency falls short with the holy man in the temple as it did with attempt with Sri Ramana. It IS a recorded fact that Ramdas DID present himself in such a manner as Maugham describes the holy man in the temple during the 1928 period.
In a continuing theme, Maugham writes that immediately following Darrell's arrival in India he departs the ship in Bombay and goes to see the caves at Elephanta, which are located about an hour and a half away from Bombay by boat-launch. While observing the giant stone sculptures a man in a saffron robe strikes up a conversation with him. The man discusses Bhahma, Vishnu, and Siva being the three manifestations of Ultimate Reality. After awhile the man puts the palms of his hands together and with the slightest indication of a bow strolls on. Maugham writes that Darrell had actually met the same man earlier during the voyage to India, only that on board the ship, instead of being in saffron, he always wore a checkered suit.
That night, rather than return to the docks, at least as Maugham writes it, albeit still with an element of truth but not exactly how it unfolded, Darrell travels third-class by train to Benares with, according to Maugham, the man in the checkered suit (see below). Darrell stays in Benares six months. From Benares he travels to a northern Indian capital and is introduced to another person. Later on, in the novel, the other person turns out to be the holy man Darrell eventually meets in the temple in Madura.
All along the way each man has something to tell Darrell about India, Hinduism, and the Absolute --- information that is really intended for the reader to know. Maugham is taking a simple literary device called the novelist's privilege and using a few straight-line sequential facts told to him by the Darrell character in real life, and dividing, scrambling, and puffing them up in order to impart information he wants the reader to know. As quoted above, Maugham writes that while Darrell is in the temple at Madura he was touched on the arm by someone. When he turns around he sees it is a holy man. Maugham goes on to write:
"It was not till he spoke that I recognized him. It was my friend. I was so astounded that I didn't know what to say."
It is the word "friend" in the above sentence that sometimes confuses a lot of people when I bring up the idea that the holy man in the temple that night was Swami Ramdas. If it was a friend of Darrell's, they say, then how could it be Ramdas? Two things are in play here. First, the Darrell character is talking about Ramdas after the fact. That is, at the time Darrell is telling his story to Maugham, Ramdas has long since become a friend, so he calls him a friend even though at the time of Madura, maybe some five years before or so, they may not have been friends in the classical sense. After all, like I write in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT, following Darrell's Awakening experience under the auspices of the Maharshi, but prior to his departure for Europe, he travels to Kanhangad where the present Anandashram is located to seek out, pay homage, and thank Ramdas for sending him to see Ramana. So too, if you read the Swami Ramdas autobiography In Quest of God, linked below, you will find that on his spiritual quest Ramdas calls everybody he meets, no matter who they are or how long he may have known them, as a 'friend.' It could be that such discriptive nomenclature was just common usage in their vernacular.
Secondly, in real life I question if everything unfolded nearly as smoothly as Maugham presents to us --- rearranging events as he says in the quote above "...to give liveliness and verisimilitude to scenes that would have been ineffective..." For one thing, between the time Darrell got off the boat in Bombay and the time he showed up in Madura, THREE years had elapsed. Maugham tells the reader through the narrative of the story that the bank manager in Chicago that handled Darrell's account said every now and then he got a draft from some weird place besides just India, places like China and Burma. My mentor told me himself that in addition to India he had been to China, Japan, and the Philippines. What I am getting at is, IF the holy man in the temple at Madura was Darrell's "friend" like he says in the sentence above, then more than likely it was the same person that spoke to him at Elephanta, that is, similary a holy man (i.e., saffron robe), not the man who Maugham describes as a Minister of Finance living in a red rose city as old as time in a northern capital (in real life, Jaipur the rose-pink capital of Rajasthan). Some would argue that the holy man wearing a saffron robe in Elephanta does not accurately describe Ramdas in that he was invariably dressed in white. With the holy man in the temple at Madura, Maugham either incorporates his "I have in other ways taken pains to make sure that no one should recognize them" thesis OR Darrell's description is accurate. Again, please refer to Footnote . Accordingly, the holy man Darrell went to Benares with was NOT the same person he met in the caves. He may well have met a person of Indian descent on the ship and went with him to Benares by train, but it wasn't the same person in the saffron robe that talked to him at Elephanta. Nor was he, inturn, the person who recognized him enough to attract his attention by touching him on the arm in the temple at Madura either. True, it was three years later so one might ask if they were NOT really friends, or even acquaintances on some formal level, then how would the holy man recognize him if he only met him in passing at Elephanta?
After Ramdas left the Ramana ashram and completed his meditation in the caves of the holy hill to his own satisfaction, he traveled throughout India on foot:
"Following his experience in the caves of Arunachala, Ramdas continued his travels for nearly eight years (1923-1931), travels which took him to many parts of India many times, including the caves of Elephanta, the southern temple city of Madura, the sacred shrines of the Himalayas, the city of Bombay, as well as Mangalore, where he spent three months in the Panch-Pandava Caves at Kadri. It was here that he had his first experience of nirvikalpa samadhi."
It was during that eight year pilgrimage that Ramdas and the Darrell character crossed paths at least twice. Once at Elephanta and a second time three years later in Madura. Unlike Elephanta, which is not a temple in the classical sense, the inner sanctums of the temple at Madura are restricted to Hindus only, but everyone can go anywhere else on the temple grounds. In the novel Darrell says:
"I stayed in Madura for some time. I think it's the only temple in India in which the white man can walk about freely so long as he doesn't enter the holy of holies." (see)
In those years it was highly unusual to find a white man under such circumstances, and most especially so in a temple, and the Darrell character in real life was white --- in other words he stuck out like a sore thumb --- so he would have easily been recognizable and memorable, no matter how "native" he may have gone, particularly so if any such previous meeting had occurred in another sacred place such as Elephanta.
Years later, my mentor, in telling me how he met the person he studied under, said when he was in the south of India he had met a holy man not unlike his teacher and that the holy man told him that he had lived and meditated in a mountain cave near a highly revered teacher. The holy man suggested that it might be beneficial for my mentor to seek out the same teacher, which in fact my mentor did. What he meant by a holy man not unlike his teacher is interpreted as meaning that it was Sri Ramana, known to be Abiding in the Self as was Ramdas.
Why is all this important? As outlined in the opening paragraphs of the Maugham related page titled Razor's Edge Notes, there are four major tangent points in Darrell's and Maugham's life, each as important as the other and of which I am in agreement with, that had to come together for The Razor's Edge to be. They are:
- The Darrell character had to be the right chronological age to participate in the war.
- He had to see his best friend die so he would be driven to go on his spiritual quest.
- He had to meet that specific holy man (Ramdas) in the temple at Madura so he could be sent to see the Maharshi
- He had to cross paths with Maugham at the Cafe Du' Dome in Paris following his Enlightenment in order to tell his story.
All four are covered one way or the other in my offerings and various footnotes. Take away or change any link in the chain and most likely you wouldn't be reading this right now.
In real life my mentor never became what one would call a major personage of sorts, a direction he personally chose for himself. Among Ramdas followers, one of the formost is the great Indian sage Yogi Sri Ramsuratkumar (1918-2001), who, in 1952, Awakened to the Absolute under the grace and light of the Swami.
As for my mentor, in the very beginning on the very first page of The Razor's Edge Maugham writes "The man I am writing about is not famous. It may be that he never will be." Then, after the whole novel unfolds, all the trials and tribulations and all the adventures and misadventures are over, in the closing pages of the book Maugham solidifies his whole thesis and writes of Darrell and his Awakened state, presenting to reader and critic alike, the following:
"He has no desire for fame. To become anything of a public figure would be deeply distasteful to him; and so it may be that he is satisfied to lead his chosen life and be no more than just himself. He is too modest to set himself up as an example to others; but it may be he thinks that a few uncertain souls, drawn to him like moths to a candle, will be brought in time to share his own glowing belief that ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the life of the spirit, and that by himself following with selflessness and renunciation the path of perfection he will serve as well as if he wrote books or addressed multitudes."
IN QUEST OF GOD
SWAMI RAMDAS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
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
ON THE RAZOR'S
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
RECOUNTING A YOUNG BOY'S NEARLY INSTANT TRANSFORMATION INTO THE ABSOLUTE DURING HIS ONLY DARSHAN WITH THE MAHARSHI
THE RAZOR'S EDGE: TRUE OR FALSE?
WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM
WHEN INFINITIES COLLIDE
THE WANDERLING'S GODFATHER:
Prior to my godfather living in the little place provided by my father on the avenues in south Redondo he lived in a house almost straight up from the pier and a little north in central Redondo Beach owned my my Stepmother, or ex-stepmother as the case may have been by then. When my dad and stepmother divorced my godfather moved.
My stepmother was very wealthy and hired people to take care of everything. She did the same when she and my dad married. She brought in my Uncle to oversee me and our godfather to oversee my older brother. She also hired a number of fulltime around the clock nannies to take care of my younger brother. It worked out really good for my younger brother and myself, not so hot for my older brother.
Thing is, my older brother hated our stepmother and made her life as miserable as possible. He remembered our real mother and our family and would not accept our stepmother in any role --- plus she interfered with his relationship with our father. He wanted him exclusively and and did not like the fact that she took basically all my dad's time. Our godfather was one of the few people other than my dad who had the ablility to "control" my older brother after our mother died. The following paragraph regarding my godfather is from the source so cited:
"As much as everyone in our immediate family loved him and as much as my father had interceded in trying to help him, over the years he continually turned toward the bottle, becoming a heavy drinker and an even heavier gambler. When he wasn't passed out or on the verge of passing out he was constantly playing the horses and betting on boxing matches or other sporting events, most often through a bookie and usually with money he didn't have. Because of same, one of mobster Mickey Cohen's so-called seven dwarfs stopped my godfather on the street one day threatening his life right in front of my older brother telling him that if he did not come through with a large amount of cash he owed he would 'end up in Santa Monica bay swimming with the sharks.' My stepmother was aware of my godfather's gambling habit but did not realize it had got so out of hand. She also felt it was way out of line for someone as high up on the food chain as one of the seven dwarfs to be running errands for Cohen, let alone threatening someone's life in front of a young boy. Thinking it might somehow be personal she contacted Jack Dragna, the Los Angeles don, and asked him to request Cohen, who my stepmother did not know, to lay off, she would take care of any debts incurred. Cohen agreed if my stepmother paid the money to him personally. Which she did. Through mutual agreement Cohen cut off our godfather's credit line, my stepmother sent him packing and then sent my older brother off to the military academy."(source)
Jack Dragna, who was connected to the Chicago mob and Mickey Cohen, who was connected more closely to the New York side of things, did not get along appreciably well. To ensure that Cohen got the message that Dragna did not want any additional or continuing problems regarding the incident, he had mob heavyweight Johnny Roselli join my stepmother for the payoff of my godfather's debt. Cohen sent flowers to my stepmother the next day. My stepmother had a friend, or at least a close business associate named Brenda Allen, who was the top "madam" in Los Angeles at the time. Cohen knew that Allen and my stepmother were close. He told Allen he felt slighted that my stepmother would be compelled to show up with Roselli, although he thought that in her doing so, it most likely was not of her own making.
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE
Their Life and Times Together
In the text above, regarding how Ramdas may or may not have presented himself in how he dressed I write:
"Maugham describes the holy man in the quote at the top of the page (as) '...a bearded man with long black hair, dressed in nothing but a loincloth, with the staff and the begging bowl of the holy man...' --- and it is not known if Ramdas ever presented himself in such a manner as Maugham describes the holy man in the temple during the 1928 period or any other time for that matter."
It should be noted that Vijayananda (Adolphe Jacques Weintrob), a French doctor who at age 37, met Swami Ramdas in the Autumn of 1952. In In the Steps of the Yogis (First Edition 1978), Part III: Sages and Yogis of Contemporary India, Chapter III, Ramdas, Vijayananda writes, from a personal conversations with Ramdas himself, says the following:
"Ramdas was once a Sannyassi (a monk) and used to wear the orange robe. 'I had a beard and long hair like you,' he told me one day. But now he dresses simply in a white dhoti, 'like everybody else,' for he has transcended the monastic state and has become an ativarnashrami (one who has risen above social castes and stages of existence)."
As well, on the cover of his book In Quest of God Ramdas is depicted in a saffron robe --- which more or less should substantiate such attire.
A reader of my works with the name Ken Jaegers tells me there a photo of Ramdas found in an Anandashram publication titled "With My Master" that was probably taken sometime in the early 1930's, just when the Larry Darrell character was in India and Ramdas was on his pilgrimage, clearly showing Ramdas with a full beard and long hair --- albeit gray and not black.
In the Holy Order of Sannyasa, the two lifestyles of Hindu renunciates are described as follows:
- Some among them are sadhus, anchorites living in the seclusion of distant caves and remote forests or wandering as homeless mendicants, itinerant pilgrims to the holy sanctuaries of Saivism.
- Others dwell as cenobites, assembled with their brothers, often in the ashrama, aadheenam or matha of their satguru, but always under the guru's aegis, serving together in fulfillment of a common mission. These devotees, when initiated into the Holy Order of Sannyasa, don the Saffron Robes and thereby bind themselves to a universal body of Hindu renunciates.(source)
Copyright © 1990, Christopher Tadgell
The History of Architecture in India
Phaidon Press, Limited, Singapore
The dimensions of the outside wall of the Meenakshi Temple complex is 847 by 792 feet. The temple has 12 large gopurams, or gates. The main entrance is on the eastern side of the temple. There are four huge gopurams with beautifully painted colored statues on the outer wall. The southern tower, built in the 16th century, is the largest one and is 170 feet high with a 108 by 67 foot base. It has over 1,500 sculptures on it. There are two huge yalis, which are like a combined lion and elephant, on both sides of the tower.
The inner sanctums are restricted to Hindus only, but everyone can go anywhere else on the temple grounds. About the temple Maugham has Larry Darrell say, "I stayed in Madura for some time. I think it's the only temple in India in which the white man can walk about freely so long as he doesn't enter the holy of holies. At nightfall it is packed with people. Men, women, and children." It is interesting to visit the temple both during the day and at night, as the dark corridors, with lamps burning here and there, are very impressive.
The following is found in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, page two:
"In his novel Maugham pretty much focuses on Larry's travels in Europe and India. However, in the spring of 1931 Larry's former fiancee' Isabel mentions she knew the bank manager in Chicago that handled his account and he told her '...that every now and then he got a draft from some queer place. China, Burma, India.' My mentor told me he had been to China, Japan, and the Philippines, even mentioning he had a son in the Philippines. Also, when I was at the house of the dowager I saw an intricately hand carved glass-covered wood coffee table he brought back from Japan that he gave her, that had been at one time, a lid to a trunk. It is my belief it was during his travels to Japan in his continuing search for the truth that the then twenty-three year-old met the thirty-eight year-oldYasutani Hakuun Roshi."
The page on Father Ensheim, the Benedictine monk Darrell met in Europe and who inturn, using the Hemis Manuscripts as a ploy, suggested Darrell go to India to find what he was seeking, goes into some depth as to Darrell's travels during the three year or so period he was in Asia before he showed up at the ashram of the Maharshi. There is a footnote on the bottom of the page titled The Missing Years of The Razor's Edge that explores even further how long Darrell actually went missing and his itinerary during those years.
As stated, Ramdas was on a spiritual pilgrimage throughout India, traveling the width and breadth of the country, top to bottom, side to side from 1922 until 1931. In the process of his travels, one of the many holy places Ramdas sought out and stayed was a small cave in Himalayas overlooking the upper reaches of the Ganges River called Arundhati's Cave, also called 'the Jesus Cave' because through legend it is said Jesus of Nazareth stayed there for a time in meditation during his so called 'missing years of the bible.' In the book, In The Vision of God, by Ramdas, the following is found:
"It was on the fifth day, maybe after midnight; the nights were pitch dark. Ramdas usually sat up the whole night in the cave. The cave was suddenly lit up by a strange light. Ramdas saw seated before him, on the floor about three or four feet from him, the figure of a man. His face was dazzling with a heavenly splendor. The features were fine, regular and beautiful. There was a short, black, glossy beard and moustache on the face. The lips were crimson red, revealing milk-white, lustrous teeth. Soft shining black curls flowed down his shoulders. He wore a long, dark, chocolate colored robe or gown with wide, loose sleeves. What fascinated Ramdas were his eyes. They were scintillating like twin stars. The rays they were emitting were filled with tenderness, love and compassion. Ramdas gazed on them, charmed and delighted. It struck him: “This is Jesus Christ.” There was another beside him, but Ramdas’ eyes were not for him, although he was aware of his presence. He might be a disciple. Now Christ’s lips moved. He was speaking. Ramdas listened, but could not make out what he said. The tongue sounded strange and unknown to him. For perhaps a minute he spoke; then the vision vanished, while the glow of light remained in the cave for some minutes more. Ramdas was completely immersed in ecstasy and only came to external consciousness after broad daylight."
My mentor, out of pure conincidence, during his travels, stayed at the 'Jesus cave' as well, although he reported no such experiences as Ramdas. If it was before or after Ramdas' visit is not known, however, to my knowledge they did not meet or bump into each other there in the classical sense.
JESUS IN INDIA: PROS AND CONS
BHARATI KRISNA TIRTHA
The following quote below, from the source so cited, speaking specifically of Sri Ramana Maharshi's western disciples and even more specifically of my mentor:
"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."(source)
In 1923, six years before he met the American traveler in the temple in Madura, 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, by Ramdas, it is written that during the meeting between the two, Ramdas only spent about five minutes infront of the Maharshi. In the two volume biography on Ramdas, The Life Devine, recalling his experiences at Tiruvannamalai Ramdas presents:
"(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."
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 Pulyan's Teacher, the unknown woman that was instrumental in the full and complete spiritual transformation of Alfred Pulyan, 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.
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
- WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM
Good biography. Lots of Maugham graphics, from early childhood to late adult.
- W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A BIOGRAPHY
- MAUGHAM IN INDIA
- LITERARY AMBULANCE DRIVERS
Everybody knows Hemingway drove an ambulance during WWI, nobody knows Maugham did.
- THE ART COLLECTION OF W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE: