When I was a young boy there was was an older boy down the street that had an afternoon paper route. To me, at the time, he seemed really cool, delivered his papers using an even cooler motorized Whizzer bike and, unlike myself and most of my own age friends, always had money to spend. In those days, because of my mother's illness followed later by her death, I was sent to live with a foster couple --- an arrangement that ended dismally in that I ran away from home the first chance I got. After that I stayed with my grandmother for a short time before joining my Uncle, eventually to be supported by my Stepmother, her ever watchful eye, and at that stage of her life, buckets full of money.
By the time I came under the auspices of my uncle and the memory of the few months with my grandmother and the foster couple faded into the background it was edging toward the last third of summer. Every afternoon during that period of my life, if my uncle allowed it, I would go over to the boy's house and help fold papers, drink Bireley's grape or orange, and just hang out until he left on his route.
During the summer of that year the newspaper had a contest that offered a free one week trip to Catalina Island, all expenses paid, for selling the most subscriptions. The boy won and during the first part of September 1946, a few weeks before school started, he went, taking me along with him after convincing his boss how much work I had done.
Early one morning we were dropped off at the Wilmington boat terminal south of Los Angeles, sailing the twenty-six miles to Catalina on the Great White Steamer, newly refurbished in July from war duty. They put us up in a sort of tent-like village about two blocks behind the main street and straight up from the pier in the little town of Avalon. There really wasn't much adult supervision and for the most part we pretty much got to do whatever we wanted. One of the things we did was take the inland motor tour. The tour used sort of antique pre-war busses built a little like a cross between a wooden station wagon and a stagecoach. Halfway through the trip we came to a place high in the mountains called Eagles Nest Lodge that was at one time used as a stage stop. It was closed and run-down, dilapidated actually, not having been used for a long time. The tour bus stopped and we all got out to stretch our legs and in the process my friend and I wandered off exploring. Next thing we knew the bus was gone and we were stranded miles from town. Figuring another tour bus would be along any time we just went about our business exploring. Hours went by at first without us really noticing, but eventually the sun started to set and the sky began getting dark and the air cold. We decided to hole up in some old stable like building and wait for morning.
As might be expected I didn't sleep well that night. It was uncomfortable and cold, and I kept rolling over and over. In the middle of the night I noticed a light coming from the the old stage stop building. My friend and I had tried the doors and windows and had been unsuccessful in finding a way in. To my knowlege no one had come by since the bus left so it seemed odd there would be any kind of a light coming from inside. I tried to wake my friend to no avail, so I got up and walked over to the building myself, cleaned the glass as much as I could with the sleeve of my shirt and peered in.
I could just barely see two men sitting cross-legged on the heavy planked wooden floor in the dim light emanating from an old lantern placed on the floor between them. One man, barefoot, was dressed all in black, the other, an older man, sort of dark skinned with short-cropped white hair and beard, was nearly naked and barefoot as well, wearing only what I would now call a loincloth. I tried the door and this time, unlike earlier, it wasn't locked. As I pushed the door open there was a sudden whoosh of a thick cold-yet-warm tomb-like blast of air that blew right past me toward the outside that I felt on my face and most distinctly so across both my cheeks and ears. In the process the light blew out and the room darkened.
Moments before when I had been outside looking through the dirty glass windows I had noticed a small box of matches on the floor near the lantern, so in the dark on my hands and knees, I started fumbling around until I found them. When I finally got the lantern lit neither man was there. As I turned, still on my knees and holding the lantern high in an attempt to illuminate the room as much as I could with a turning sweep of dim light, I clearly saw the dark-skinned man standing in the open doorway no more than a few feet away, facing me and holding, although not actually leaning on, a down to the ground half-his-height bamboo staff. As though an electric current was passing through me he looked right into my eyes with an intensely piercing gaze, eyes shining with an astonishing brilliance --- and somehow TIME SEEMED TO SLOW --- maybe even stopping altogether.(see) From far away I felt myself losing balance, all the while trying to brace myself with one arm while trying to hold the lantern high with the other. I weighed a ton and could barely move. In ultra slow motion the light, moving now at such an overwhelmingly reduced rate I could hear it, flickered and nearly went out. Then, just as the lantern reached the top arc of its swing and stilled to start back, the light rekindled itself. In that waffer-thin edge-on membrane of darkness the man was gone.
As my ability to move flowed hurriedly back into my body and I regained a more typical sense of my surroundings I bolted out of the building, running at top speed all the way back to where my friend still lay asleep, and again tried to wake him and again to no avail. After a while my heart stopped pounding and as the night slowly slipped toward dawn my eyes began to get heavy. I tried to stay awake thinking the men might come back, but they never did. I blew out the lantern and dozed off. In the morning I told my friend what happened and he looked at me like I was crazy. We walked over to the building and just like the day before it was locked up tight. He said I must have been dreaming, but inside I could see the box of matches on the floor just where I left them, plus I still had the lantern.
In the four years or so my uncle and I were together, during of which the incident on Catalina Island transpired, we spent a lot of time traveling in and about some very isolated sections of the desert southwest interacting with the indigenous populations thereof because of various "art" related ties he had with them. In the process of those travels time passed and the incident at the stage stop eventually faded from my thoughts.
One day my uncle came to me and told me he would be returning to New Mexico on a permanent basis only this time I would not be going, but would instead, be staying with a foster couple in an arrangement set up not by him, but my father.
Eight years after the stage stop, a period of time which encompassed my inability to stay with a string of foster couples --- including running away from home on more than one occasion --- found me as a teenager in high school, living along the coast in a Southern California beach community under the auspices of my grandmother. During those high school years, as I have presented in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, a sort of unusual single older man moved into the house next door. He was always barefoot, aways dressed in dark clothes, and always walked wherever he went. Eventually, as neighbors, at least on a hello basis, he got to know my grandmother, who I was living with at the time. One morning he stopped and told her he intended to refinish some wood in his house and wondered if he might hire me to help. A few days later, after discussing it with my grandmother and then my dad, I started.
All went well until one day after work I discovered I left my wallet in his house and went back to retrieve it. Letting myself through the still open front door I found the man sitting crosslegged with his eyes closed on the otherwise bare living room floor in front of a candle, naked. In ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds I tell how the next day it was all resolved, how he mixed two iced teas, put his hand on my shoulder guiding me out on the front porch, and pretty much telling me all about himself, meditation, India and such things.
What I didn't tell in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT is just prior to going outside to the porch he stopped for a few seconds and searched through a stack of books sitting parallel along the floor against the wall. There he found a small, almost pamphlet size book, well worn and crudely made, that had been published in India and handed it to me. The name of the book, which I really didn't have time to absorb because I dropped it from my hands in a sort of stunned disbelief, was titled Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Frank H. Humphreys. Although my thoughts and feelings would eventually open and morph through it's passage, at that very specific moment in time --- and for years afterwards --- I was sure I had never heard of a Bhagavan, a Sri Ramana, or a Maharshi. Even so, I immediately grasped why he thought the book should be important, and it wasn't who wrote it or what was inside, but what was outside. Outside, on the cover, was a picture of the EXACT same man I saw that night in the old stage stop atop Catalina, short-cropped white hair and beard, walking stick and all. As a shuttering cold chill engulfed my body it dawned on me as well, after seeing the photograph on the cover, that the other man, the man in the dark clothes I caught only a fleeting glimpse of some eight years before, was the same man now sitting on the floor of the porch next to me. Both had been at the stage stop that night, the man sitting next to me AND the man on the cover.
The reason I didn't say anything to the readers is because often times people new along the path are uncomfortable with such stories and quite frankly, Sri Ramana supporters don't like to hear it.- Many Ramana supporters even express surprise when I remind them of well documented similar circumstances surrounding such high-powered spiritual adepts as Ganapathi Muni and Paul Brunton (see more on this below) as well as the low key and little known Ramana adherent, Robert Adams. In the weight of such circumstances, transpiring as they have, it may be easy for some to simply blow off myself or possibly even Adams as being weird, but Muni and Brunton are somewhat more difficult.
Even as the man next door became my Mentor and spritual guide in things Zen I never said a word to him about the incident nor were any needed. However, a friend of his, that I only identify as the "dowager" in my writings, mainly because to this day I am unable to recall her name, although we always called her Mrs. "somebody," told me several months later what she could remember and knew about the man next door and the man I saw on the cover of the pamphlet. She told me the white-bearded man was a Spiritual Guide called a Bhagavan or Maharshi, a teacher of sorts, and that the man next door had studied under him at a place called an ashram in the south of India between the wars. She said that before the two met, the bearded man had lived alone in a cave on the side of a mountain for twenty years. She also told me that prior to buying the house next to mine the man himself had been living a semi-ascetic lifestyle on one of the Channel Islands off the coast of California for seven years, having gone to the island in September 1946 on the occasion of his holy man's Golden Anniversary. Later research revealed that devotees of the Maharshi gathered at the Ramana ashram in September 1946 for a great celebration honoring the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival at Tiruvannamali, the same time as the experience I had that night at the stage stop. The only thing I didn't know at the time, nor did the dowager seem to express or reveal to me, was that the Maharshi had NEVER left India in his life. Matter of fact he never left Tiruvannamalai after he arrived that September morning fifty years before, and in later years, years that encompassed the exact same time as my experience at the stage stop, he never even left the ashram.
TRANSLOCATION AND BILOCATION:
It should be brought forth that the above experience involving Sri Ramana was not totally unique. Although it is true that throughout his life the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi never exhibited even the slightest interest in Siddhis, occult abilities, or psychic powers to outsiders, he did have a number of recorded fully conscious bilocation experiences he rarely discussed wherein he was translocated from his ashram in a matter of minutes to the presence of others many, many miles away.
One of the earliest devotees of Sri Ramana was a great Sanskrit scholar and savant by the name of Ganapati Muni, known throughout India for his powerful Siddhis and through his ability known to bring down or stop the rains or even destroy a whole town. About a year after his first meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapathi Muni experienced a remarkable outflow of Ramana's Grace. While he was sitting in meditation in the temple of Ganapati at Tiruvottiyur he felt distracted and longed intensely for the presence and guidance of the Bhagavan. At that moment Sri Ramana entered the temple. Ganapathi prostrated himself before him and, as he was about to rise, he felt the Maharshi's hand upon his head and a terrifically vital force coursing through his body from the touch; so that he also received Grace by touch from the Master. Speaking about this incident in later years, not Ganapathi Muni, but the Enlightened sage HIMSELF Sri Ramana Maharshi said:
"One day, some years ago, I was lying down and awake when I distinctly felt my body rise higher and higher. I could see the physical objects below growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared and all around me was a limitless expanse of dazzling light. After some time I felt the body slowly descend and the physical objects below began to appear. I was so fully aware of this incident that I finally concluded that it must be by such means that Sages using the powers of Siddhis travel over vast distances in a short time and Appear and Disappear in such a mysterious manner. While the body thus descended to the ground it occurred to me that I was at Tiruvottiyur though I had never seen the place before. I found myself on a highroad and walked along it. At some distance from the roadside was a temple of Ganapati and I entered it." (source)
The most interesting part of all of the above is that unlike almost every case that you come across that discusses similar bilocation or translocation experiences, it is NOT onesided. That is, BOTH parties involved, Sri Ramana and Ganapathi Muni, each, in separate stories, reported seeing each other.
In the case of Ganapathi Muni, considering his extent of his spiritual background, one might be more favorably disposed toward the prospect of a bilocation or translocation experience between he and Ramana. However, translocation between Ramana and Americans? Questionable. Even so, as questionable as it may seem, I can still speak to at least two additional cases involving Americans visited by Ramana other than myself.
One is Robert Adams, previously cited. In a biography of sorts of Adams by Edward Muzika, a former student who became a close friend, writes that by age seven Adams was experiencing Siddhis that involved Ramana. 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 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!"(source)
The second American involves the teacher of a man known to have great spiritual prowess that lived in the United States named Alfred Pulyan (1896-1966). He 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.
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, the unheralded teacher that was responsible for his spiritual transformation has been reported to have been at the ashram and studied under the Bhagavan after a translocation visit by Ramana with her presence at the ashram reported in a rather obscure manner by a long time Ramana devotee Framji Dorabji. According to herself and Ramana devotee Dorabji, this American girl was there at the ashram under the invitation of and auspices of Sri Ramana himself. Speaking of the spiritual notable found in Footnote  and his experience with Ramana and translocation, Dorabji mentions Pulyan's teacher as shown in the following quote:
"Framji said, 'No, no, you are mistaken. He has not moved out of this town in the last forty-eight years. It is either a case of mistaken identity or somehow, through his power, he managed to manifest himself in the Punjab while his physical body was still here. Some girl from America came here once and told a similar story. These things do happen occasionally.'"
The Human Gospel of Ramana Maharshi, page 677
The "some girl from America who was there once and told a similar story" was Pulyan's Teacher.
INTENSELY PIERCING GAZE:
In another interesting set of events, albeit not involving bilocation or translocation, but instead, paralleling my equally important experience regarding the intensely piercing gaze I received from the man in the doorway at the stage stop, Ramana biographer Arthur Osborne, the father of Adam Osborne, who I knew as a young boy, in his book Ramana Maharshi And The Path of Self-Knowledge (York Beach: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995, pages 144-145) writes:
Ramana would turn to the devotee, his eyes fixed upon him with blazing intentness. The luminosity, the power of his eyes pierced into one, breaking down the thought-process. Sometimes it was as though an electric current was passing through one, a vast peace, a flood of light. One devotee has described it: "Suddenly Bhagavan turned his luminous, transparent eyes on me. Before that I could not stand his gaze for long. Now I looked straight back into those terrible, wonderful eyes, how long I could not tell. They held me in a sort of vibration distinctly audible to me"
In the process of his research, British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham was caught up in the outflow of an eye contact sequence related to Ramana and his novel The Razor's Edge. To wit, the following:
The eye contact sequences may not seem like much to the casual purveyor of the Maugham novel --- and to my knowledge NEVER brought up or thought of as having any sort of import by most critics and reviewers of The Razor's Edge. However, I consider Maugham's observations and his attempts to clarify his own inner thoughts and feelings on the matter --- inturn so both he himself as well as the reader will have a better understanding of Larry Darrell and his Enlightenment --- to be of major importance, especially so because of my own personal experiences in similar areas. Nowhere in any of Maugham's works, plays, novels, or shortstories, does it show up that he he spent so much time emphasizing and presenting a similar sort of circumstance to the reader. It was not until he met with the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi personally in India did it get resolved. Up to that point he labored over it and over it, and for me, in the end, it is the single most important event --- or string of events --- that grabbed Maugham and sent him on his journey to India and meet with and talk to the Maharshi.(source)
A few months later, unrelated to Maugham's above visit to see the Maharshi, a woman by the name of Mercedes De Acosta was driven by a deeply inner need to visit Sri Ramana as well. After she had been sitting in the meditation hall for several hours a fellow American, Guy Hague, who many people have said was the real life role model for the Larry Darrell character in William Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, suggested she go and sit closer to the Maharshi. He said, "You can never tell when Bhagavan will come out of Samadhi. When he does, I am sure he will be pleased to see you, and it will be beneficial for you, at this moment, to be sitting near him."
Although she didn't faint as Maugham did in the Maharshi's presence, in her book Here Lies the Heart she related the following, similar and equally strong eye contact experience:
I moved near Bhagavan, sitting at his feet and facing him. Not long after this Bhagavan opened his eyes. He moved his head and looked directly down at me, his eyes looking into mine. It would be impossible to describe this moment and I am not going to attempt it. I can only say that at this second I felt my inner being raised to a new level--as if, suddenly, my state of consciousness was lifted to a much higher degree. Perhaps in this split second I was no longer my human self but the Self.
THE MAN IN THE DOORWAY:
In a much deeper attempt to underline the truth behind any conjecture I may have as to WHO the person was standing in the doorway that night at the stage stop with the intensely piercing gaze peering down at me, that is, the nuts and bolts of it all, for me:
- TIME SEEMED TO SLOW maybe even stopping altogether
- as though an electric current was passing through me
AND --- although I am somehow innately able to sense somewhere inside myself as to WHY the incident at the stage stop transpired and included ME specifically, I am not totally able to make clear or clarify for the reader to understand at the same level --- nor am I remotely able to clarify for the reader HOW it happened (except possibly the seemingly spiritual related examples and results of similar circumstances befalling others I have given earlier as reported by Osborne, Maugham, Castaneda, and De Acosta and related to Ramana, et al from the above). In an attempt at clarification for those who may be so interested I re-present the following, afterwhich is presented a section entitled THE WHY OF RAMANA'S VISIT that takes into consideration perhaps the most viable answer:
"As a shuttering cold chill engulfed my body it dawned on me as well, after seeing the photograph on the cover, that the other man, the man in the dark clothes I caught only a fleeting glimpse of some eight years before, was the same man now sitting on the floor of the porch next to me. Both had been at the stage stop that night, the man sitting next to me AND the man on the cover."
Because of the nature of the previously mentioned small, almost pamphlet size book and the contents contained therein, it was without a doubt that the photograph of the man depicted on the cover was that of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. So too, because of the demeanor, actions and looks of the man in the doorway at the stage stop that night it was without a doubt that the person was the one and the same person depicted on the cover. In my mind that person in the doorway was none other than the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. If it was all simply some sort of a mind-trick of some kind and nothing else, in the end, then the question I would ask is, in that the next morning the door was still locked as it was the day before AND the open box of matches could clearly be seen sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, why or how did I end up having an actual real life physical object --- the lantern --- from the event of the previous night in my possession?
Besides the impact of physical aspect of the lantern on the conventionial plane confirming the event of the night before there stands unsaid a deeper spiritual aspect of the significance of the lamp as well. In the Platform Sutra the relationship is explained in terms of the "lamp-and-light" metaphor:
"It is comparable to the lamp and the light that it gives forth. If there is lamp there is light. If there is light there is lamp. The lamp is the substance of the light. The light is the function of the lamp. Although in name two, in substance they are not two."
The nonduality of the rays of the sun from the sun has been spoken of in the Lankavatara Sutra. In the Platform Sutra the "lamp-and-light" imagery is used to show both the means and the end. The mind is luminous and all illuminating. Enlightenment is only the mind (lamp) allowed to shine forth by itself (light). The mind is none other than its own Enlightenment.
THE WHY OF RAMANA'S VISIT:
In the footsteps of De Acosta's 1938 visit to the ashram mentioned above and her fleeting "split second" Darshan experience of the Absolute sitting before the Maharshi, within the passage of just a few years time another remarkable eye contact sequence unfolded --- and again an American, only this time a young boy. Of that experience there is a quote attributed to Ramana advocate and follower C.R. Rajamani that goes like:
"A mere spark has ignited his spiritual fire. So, that casual look was a spark of tremendous power."
All that was required was a mere spark to ignite a spiritual fire within --- and that mere spark was a casual look from Ramana. In doing so, this young American boy so mentioned by Rajamani, without any formal religious background or training, according to Ramana himself and the scribes recording it, was Enlightened to the same degree as found in the spiritual Awakenings attributed to the ancient classical masters. That is why, years later, the seeming disappearance of THAT SPECIFIC Enlightenment experience induced the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi to appear before the boy. Ramana was not about to let any spiritual traveler, little boy or otherwise, slip back into the day-to-day quagmire of the Samsara world. Especially so after, through Ramana's grace, the young boy, from a mere spark, had ignited a spiritual fire --- and in that same spiritual traveler, have had all his mental barriers reduced to nothingness. The outcome of that meeting, as it relates to us here, from SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI And The Last American Darshan, emoting an answer to WHY, is describe thus:
"Even though the stage stop was thousands upon thousands of miles away from India, Ramana was there. What he was doing was replicating what happened considerably less than a few years before at the ashram, only now a super-concentrated effort on his part to bring about or re-insitgate the Experience. On my own accord, in the darkness, I sought out and found the matches and struck the flame. The "spark that ignited my spiritual fire" is mirrored in the spark of the match held to the light-generating properties innate to reasons of the lantern. I was holding the lantern high above my head, the lantern emitting a dim light --- or more accurately the room was so big and filled with darkness relative to that first small flame that the darkness simply absorbed the light --- giving the impression of a dimly lit room. The dimly lit room was me, the lantern and the light were one, the light intended to illuminate the room (me). With a turning sweep of dim light, at the top of the arc the light flickered and went out. I clearly saw the dark-skinned man standing in the open doorway and then, in that waffer-thin edge-on membrane of darkness he was gone. That membrane of darkness was when I entered the blackout period, and the man, Ramana, was gone --- gone from any memory. The light rekindled itself. That is, Ramana returned through the use of Siddhis to the stage stop to rekindle the lost light. Next to him was the man who was to become my Mentor, there to ensure Ramana's efforts were not lost." (source)
That is why, in what was for all practical purposes a classical case of resurrection, Ramana interceded at the stage stop and implemented the use of, for him, the rarely used supernormal perceptual states known in Sanskrit as Siddhis. In the preamble to "The Guru" by David Godman, speaking of the words of Sri Ramana, Godman says:
"Just as the prey that has fallen into the jaws of a tiger cannot escape, so those who have come under the glance of the Guruís grace will surely be saved and will never be forsaken."
THE ZEN MASTER:
Ramana wasn't the only one that interceded on my behalf. The broader arc of 'why' was discussed above, but Ramana himself did so because of what I would liken to sort of being pushed by a certain spiritual laden personal responsibility --- although there are those who would question Ramana, as an Enlightened being, because of a certain inherent dualism, manifesting any sort of personal responsibility, spiritual laden or otherwise. So said, however, it was under Ramana's watch so to speak, i.e., his grace, that the following was able to be written:
"Ramana was not about to let any spiritual traveler, little boy or otherwise, slip back into the day-to-day quagmire of the Samsara world. Especially so after, through Ramana's grace, the young boy, from a mere spark, had ignited a spiritual fire --- and in that same spiritual traveler, have had all his mental barriers reduced to nothingness."
Pushed by a personal responsibility --- explained by any other phrase or term notwithstanding --- in the whole scheme of things, especially in Ramana's case and any possible relationship to me, gives off an aroma of something not learned, but being ingrained or permeated higher up by something bigger and much more spiritual, possibly god-like in nature. If personal responsibility at that level was the why of the interceding, how is it that Ramana knew, that is, knew to such a point that interceding within two years of me leaving the ashram as a young boy was a necessity?
The fact is, even IF all of the events were blanketed by something higher up spiritually, it was not just through the high level connection of Ramana's spiritual being, but also because he himself actually witnessed first hand and in the flesh the withering away of the totality of his endeavors. That knowing was brought about by the efforts of another deeply spiritual person, a Zen master in an ancient monastery strewn in ruins along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and beyond the reach of time. A Zen master who compelled himself even as Ramana did, to pull back the veil in hope of full dissipation of the fog that masks reality. In 1964, eight or so years after being handed the pamphlet size book, high in the shadows of the Himalayas, it was all cleared up. Please see:
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
NOTE: If you have not read any of the attending Footnotes so linked, please do so by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.
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.
AWAKENED TEACHERS FORUM
THE BHAGAVAN SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI
AT THE FEET OF THE BHAGAVAN
WHEN INFINITIES COLLIDE
ON THE RAZOR'S
The years that encompassed my mother being ill, her eventually dying, and for several years thereafter, unfolded for me on a somewhat hectic scale. Sometimes I stayed at one place for a while, other times I was transfered back and forth, going beween foster parents, guardians, relatives and shirttale relatives --- and never on even blocks of years or on even-times starting or finishing school. In my writings I have a tendency to break the changes down in much smoother blocks of time than what actually happened inorder to make it easier for the reader to make sense of it all.
Basically, months before my mother's death I was sent to live with a foster couple that immediatedly took me to India. When I returned I was left with my grandmother on my father's side in Pennsylvania then sent to my grandmother on my mother's side in California. From there I was placed in the care of another foster couple. It was under the care of that foster couple I ran away from home. I ended up missing enough days of school that someone from the school came to see why I was no longer attending. The couple told the school people they had not seen me for sometime and did not know where I was. The school inturn called my grandmother, the emergency contact listed on their paperwork. My grandmother came looking for me and eventually, months later, located me in my old hometown of Redondo Beach, California, staying with a World War II ex-Marine taxi driver that had fought his way up through all the islands in all the major battles in the Pacific from Guadalcanal northward.
My grandmother, except possibly for the taxi driver and I having breakfast almost every morning at the Happy Hour Cafe owned by the infamous Fifie Malouf and maybe him visiting a "friend" there once in awhile in the afternoon in one of her apartments while I waited in the cafe, quickly assessed the ex-Marine as an otherwise honorable enough man, thanked him for overseeing my well-being, then took me back with her, only to be sent to live with my younger brother and bounced between my grandmother, my to-be-stepmother, and uncle until turned over to him on a more or less permanent basis.
The following is how I met the paperboy from the source so cited:
"I had been living at my stepmother's compound only a short time when one day I noticed the boy that delivered the afternoon newspaper was hand-pushing his heavily ladden bike back in the opposite direction he usually went. Seems he had been several blocks into the route when he ran over some object that punctured the rear tire. Since he had something like a 100 papers in dual bags over the handlebars and rear wheel, plus the bike was a motorized Whizzer, he was reluctant to just leave it sitting, so he was pushing it home to repair the puncture. I told him I could wait with the bike if he liked and he could just run home and get the repair stuff. Thinking it wasn't a bad idea he did just that. After that, every afternoon that my uncle allowed it I would go to the boy's house and help fold papers and just hang out until he left on his route. "(source)
Over the years there has been some controversy regarding the book Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Frank H. Humphreys that I say was handed to me by my mentor and almost as quickly dropped because of the picture on the cover was the same person I saw at the stage stop years before (i.e., the Maharshi). The controversy arises because of a potential conflict in when contemporary versions of Humphreys' book was first printed and became commercially available to the public and the seemingly much earlier time in the mid-1950s that my mentor handed me the book. The following is all that I had written about the book until now:
"What I didn't tell in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT is just prior to going outside to the porch he stopped for a few seconds and searched through a stack of books sitting parallel along the floor against the wall. There he found a small, almost pamphlet size book, well worn and crudely made, that had been published in India and handed it to me. The name of the book, which I really didn't have time to absorb because I dropped it from my hands in a sort of stunned disbelief, was titled Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Frank H. Humphreys."
In the Prefatory Note of the 1999 version of the Glimpses book, so cited below as the source, the following appears:
"When Humphreys visited Sri Ramana Maharshi in 1911, he conveyed to Felicia Scatcherd, who was then editing the International Psychic Gazette, London, his impressions of Sri Maharshi and His instructions. These were compiled into a booklet in 1925."(source)
Where my mentor got the copy of the book he had or how long he had it I never learned. However, what I presented in the paragraph above contains all the clues about the book except possibly where and when he got it. First off, the copy he handed me was like no other copy of Humphreys' book that I have seen since. The one he handed me was pamphlet-like, well worn and crudely made, and had been published, or at least, printed in India.
I do not specifically recall the title of the book printed on the cover as actually beeing Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi per se'. As you can see in the paragraph I state I really didn't have time to absorb the name of the book. Although I remember no date I did, however, absorb the fact that the book was printed in India and that the author was a man named Humphreys. Why I remembered the book was printed in India was because it was poorly made and reminded me of the quality of books I used to see around as a teenager now-and-again called Tijuana Bibles, and, since at the time I WAS a teenager in high school when I was handed the book, I specifically looked to see where it was made.(see)
As for the author being Humphreys I recalled his name because at the time there was a comic book character that showed up in Joe Palooka comics named Humphrey that rode a tricycle type contraption that had an outhouse on the back. For some reason, because of that, I always remembered the name Humphrey.
From those remembrances I was able to put together enough info to call the book I saw Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi AFTER reading a 'real' copy years later. The book my mentor had was a compilation of articles actually copied from the Gazette then simply reprinted in their original newspaper-like format that Humphreys first published in The International Psychic Gazette in May 1913 (pp 295ff), June 1913 (pp 327ff) and July 1913 (pp 357ff) --- the exact same source used years later for the 'real' book. Who put together the copy my mentor had or how many were printed and distributed I don't know, but I do know it had a picture of Sri Ramana Maharshi on the front and when I saw it I dropped it from my hands.
As to the Maharshi being described as having a beard, it is well known that he was shaved every month on Purnima (full moon). In the 1946 period we are talking about here Purnima fell on Tuesday, August 12, with next full moon falling Friday, September 11. That means on September 1, 1946, Ramana was 2/3rds of his way into his beard growth, hence the statement short-cropped white hair and beard
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.
Another very strong example comes from the book Conversations with Yogananda (2004) wherein a major follower of Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship is curious as to why Yogananda, in his book Autobiography of a Yogi (1946) did not include amongst all of his meetings during his travels in India with saints, gurus, sadhus, et al, his meeting with the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. The follower, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters ), the author of Conversations with Yogananda, in Number 196, writes that a brother disciple, a monk from Bengali, India, Debi Mukherjee, related to him what Yogananda said:
"Ramana Maharshi's brother[who was known, among the 'ashramites,' as something of a martinet], tried to engage me in argument. Ramana Maharshi saw him and shook his head a little sternly, saying, 'Come away from there.'"
Seekers along the path, especially so westerners who are interested basically in meditation or possibly learning the Way of Enlightenment a la Advaita Vedanta (the non-dualistic school of Hindu philosophy), via Buddhism, and/or Zen outside the tradition, are often uncomfortable when such concepts as the ability to fly or translocation are introduced into the mix --- although both flying and translocation maintain a rare but high profile in the history of the aforementioned philosophies or religions.(see) When I write about such things as the Incident at Supai, it is bad enough, but translocation of gurus thousands of miles from India to America is too much for a lot of people. However it is not without precedent.
Sri H. W. L. Poonja (1910-1997), also known as Poonjaji or Papaji, was a longtime disciple, devotee, follower and advocate of the even more so venerated Indian holy man Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. In 1944, before he met Ramana, at his home in the Punjab a sadu appeared at his front door and advised him, if he was serious about seeking "god" to go the the ashram of Ramana Maharshi. The sadu gave Poonja explict directions on how to get there and of which Poonja duly followed. When Poonja went into the meditation hall the person sitting in samadhi that everybody was gathered around was the SAME sadhu who had visited his home. Disgusted, he turned around to leave when he was stopped by a devotee. Poonja told him the Maharshi was a fraud because he was the same man that told him to come to the ashram if he was seeking "god." The devotee responded to Poonja with the following:
"No, no, you are mistaken. He has not moved out of this town in the last forty-eight years. It is ei≠ther a case of mistaken identity or somehow, through his power, he managed to manifest himself in the Punjab while his physical body was still here."
The devotee told Poonja that Ramana had not moved out of the town in the last forty-eight years, yet here he was at the home of Poonja in Punjab located in the far reaches of India.
To underline the difference between physical travel and translocation, the following is from the source so cited:
"And where did Ramana Maharshi's power and authority come from? From Arunachala, his own Guru and God. He explicitly stated that it was the power of Arunachala that brought about his own Self-realization. He wrote poems extolling its greatness, and in the last 54 years if his life, he never moved more than a mile and a half away(physically) from its base."
David Godman in An Interview With David Godman
The original intent of the above quote by Godman, taken in context, was written by him to point out that the holy hill of Arunachala was Ramana's guru. In the process Godman, in showing the importance of the hill in Ramana's life, includes that 'in the last 54 years of Ramana's life he NEVER moved more than a mile and a half away from the base of Arunachala.' Within that quote, presented in brackets and out of font, is the word physically --- and all that it implies --- added by me. The reason is because of the seeming contrast as found in the main body of the text above where I write:
"That is why, years later, the seeming disappearance of THAT SPECIFIC Enlightenment experience induced the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi to appear before the boy thousands and thousands of miles away from India and the ashram using bilocation or translocation implemented through the rarely used, by Ramana, supernormal perceptual states known in Sanskrit as Siddhis."
Siddhi induced translocations and/or bilocations experiences, which often boderline psychic powers or occult abilities to westerners, and carried out by by Ramana involving Ganipathi Muni, Paul Brunton, Robert Adams and the Wanderling, can be found in the above main text as well as attending footnotes and websites related to each (go to Google, type in the individual names along with the word Wanderling). Footnote  as found on the Last American Darshan has additional coverage as well.
The question is often asked, since the time of the translocation visit by Ramana at the stage stop, 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.
In a recap of the above it should be brought to the attention of the reader that initially the incident as it transpired at the stage stop bore no specific relevance to anything Sri Ramana because WHO Sri Ramana was --- or that he even existed --- was an unknown to me consciously at the time. That is to say, even though I had met and personally interacted with Sri Ramana at the ashram only a few years before, ON THE SURFACE the man in the doorway bore no significance being Sri Ramana because at that period in my life I was unable to recall anything about him from my everyday thoughts one way or the other.
It must be stated however, that other things were at work. Somewhere hidden deeply below the surface of my day-to-day Samsara mind-patterns was an unconsciously and unable-to-be-fully-grasped shadow-like footprint imprinted almost echo-like across a residual background-base of another state --- another state hidden from view behind a thickly drawn veil of black.
The covering over of that other state was set into motion by a Mara induced series of events beyond my control that included the unexpected (at least by me) death of my mother sometime well before the time I started kindergarten. Being taken to India by a couple from another country without the approval or authorization of my father even before the death of my mother, albeit with the unintended privilege of meeting Sri Ramana Maharshi in the process. My return from India and death of my mother was followed almost immediately by the suicide of a dear and close relative from the blast of a shotgun he stuck in his mouth --- and of which, within minutes of the aftermath, I personally stumbled upon --- followed even more quickly by an auto accident wherein I was rendered unconscious and found wandering in the middle of the desert all alone. The cumulative effect of all those events on my child's mind initiated a two year-plus blackout period of any memory, a collapse of thought reaching from my mother's death forward to the end of that two year period. The blackout period, as I have chosen to call it, is elaborated more thoroughly in:
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
It was not until I was handed the pamphlet that I became aware of the outside existance of someone who looked like the person at the stage stop and that apparently, that SOMEONE, was a person of notoriety. It was sometime later before I learned the person at the stage stop was Sri Ramana --- and even later than that before I learned Sri Ramana had NEVER left India in his life.
In that all of the events unfolded in a series of small steps, and except for a lingering curiosity regarding the existance of the lantern, I was really not much more than a young teenage boy at the time and not versed in such things, basically just going along with the situation enveloped by the circumstances as they flowed forward. I never thought of them --- nor did I have an on the surface background to think of them --- in other than coventional terms. It was only after all the facts came together that the event took on any sort of spiritual significance.
The above is all well and good, but, however, for many people the question still remains why or how did I end up having an actual real life physical object --- the lantern --- from the event of the previous night in my possession as put forward in the following quote as found in the main text above:
"(B)ecause of the demeanor, actions and looks of the man in the doorway at the stage stop that night it was without a doubt that the person was the one and the same person depicted on the cover. In my mind that person in the doorway was none other than the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. If it was all simply some sort of a mind-trick of some kind and nothing else, in the end, then the question I would ask is, in that the next morning the door was still locked as it was the day before AND the open box of matches could clearly be seen sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, why or how did I end up having an actual real life physical object --- the lantern --- from the event of the previous night in my possession?
If it was all simply some sort of a mind-trick of some kind and nothing else as asked in the above quote, again I ask as others have, why or how did I end up having an actual real life physical object --- the lantern --- from the event of the previous night in my possession?
The answer can be found in The Zen-man Flies, especially so by scrolling down the page to the section titled Proof One and Proof Two.
THE LAMP AND THE LIGHT METAPHOR
"An individual that knows Dharma can be compared to a lamp that lights up the darkness. One who is close will see clearly, while those further away will see less clearly. After a period of time the lamp's light may go out or be extinguished, but then, from time to time, the lamp will be relit, again providing illumination."
LUANGPOR TEEAN: An Interview With An Awakened Master, The Lamplight #44
In things spiritual the lamp is truly an ancient symbol, cited by many as going back to, or possibly even before, the parting words of the Buddha: "Be a lamp unto thyself" --- the basis for the Ch'an idea of the Transmission of the Lamp.
In the Platform Sutra the relationship between Ch'an and Wisdom is explained in terms of the "lamp-and-light" metaphor. It is comparable to the lamp and the light that it gives forth. If there is lamp, there is light. If there is light, there is lamp. The lamp is the substance, t'i, of the light. The light is the function, yung, of the lamp. Although in name two, in substance they are not two. In Chapter IV, Samadhi and Prajna, of the Platform Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch of Ch'an Buddhism, Hui Neng, is quoted as saying:
"Learned Audience, to what are Samadhi and Prajna analogous? They are analogous to a lamp and its light. With the lamp, there is light. Without it, it would be darkness. The lamp is the quintessence of the light and the light is the expression of the lamp. In name they are two things, but in substance they are one and the same. It is the same case with Samadhi and Prajna."
The substance-function, t'i-yung, logic was present already in the "water-and-wave" metaphor in the Awakening of Faith. The nonduality of the rays of the sun from the sun has been spoken of by the Lankavatara Sutra. In the Platform Sutra, however, the "lamp-and-light" imagery is used to show Ch'an as both the means and the end. The mind is luminous and all illuminating. Enlightenment is only the mind (lamp) allowed to shine forth by itself (light). The mind is none other than its own Enlightenment. (Shen-hsiu)
In a somewhat further clarification of the light lamp analogy, but closer to those as seen in layman's terms, Frank H. Humphreys, the Bhagavan Sri Ramana's first western disciple --- and mentioned in the above text previously --- writes:
Take a piece of glass, paint colours and forms on it, and put into a magic lantern, turn on a white light, and the colours and forms painted on the glass are reproduced on the screen. If that light were not turned on, you would not see the colours of the slide on the screen.
So is it with an ordinary man. His mind is like the screen. On it shines the light, dulled and changed because he has allowed the many-sided world to stand in the way of the Light (God). He sees only the effects of Light (God) instead of the Light (God), and his mind reflects the effects he sees just as the screen reflects the colours on the glass. Take away the prism and the colours vanish, absorbed back into the white light from whence they came. Take away the colours from the slide and the light shines clearly through. Take away our sight the world of effects we see, and let us look only into the causes, and we shall see the Light (God).
Over the years I have been questioned repeatedly about my source THE GURU. Apparently in searches, the people so asking have been unable to find any record of it. I do not recall specifically what or where I originally became privy to the quote, but most likely it was some hard copy somewhere because the source was not linked to --- that is, until now. I have gone back to rectify the situation for those who may be so interested by offering the following:
The quote so cited by me, as I have stated, was used by David Godman in the preamble to THE GURU. The quote originally showed up as an answer to a question posed to Sri Ramana in a question-answer session by one Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai around 1902. The results of that question-answer session were eventually put together in book form titled Who Am I? - (Nan Yar?), translated by Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan from the original Tamil. In Who Am I? - (Nan Yar?) is a series of 28 questions of which the quote I have cited is in response to question number 20 which goes like:
20. Is it not possible for God and the Guru to effect the release of a soul?
God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they will not by themselves take the soul to the state of release. In truth, God and the Guru are not different. Just as the prey which has fallen into the jaws of a tiger has no escape, so those who have come within the ambit of the Guru's gracious look will be saved by the Guru and will not get lost; yet, each one should by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release. One can know oneself only with one's own eye of knowledge, and not with somebody else's. Does he who is Rama require the help of a mirror to know that he is Rama?(source)
THE GURU with preamble by David Godman so cited by me as my source for the quote, although a stand-alone publication, is in itself a modification of Chapter Four of The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in His Own Words, edited by Arthur Osborne and of which Chapter Four of the book, starting on page 91, is titled "The Guru." On page 107 the same quote is presented in context, albeit footnoted to have been sourced from Who Am I? - (Nan Yar?). To see the stand-alone version of THE GURU with preamble by David Godman, click HERE.
Every now and then someone comes forward and takes issue with --- or opines --- that Ramana would NOT have had, from his highly Enlightened state, as nearly a vested interest in MY overall well being relative to me at the level, or any level for that fact, as I have put forth in the above.
Sri Ramana was Awakened to the Absolute following what has been called his First Death Experience at age 17. Most people take it from there that he was thus then a fully Enlightened being and that was it, moving to the caves of the holy hill Arunachala then to his ashram in later years, eventually becoming the sage he came to be known by all.
However, what most people don't realize is that some fifteen years following that initial death experience, in 1912 at age 32, Ramana had a little known and little talked about Second Death Experience. That second death experience, even though Ramana was known and admired as a fully Enlightened being, did however, even though fully Enlightened --- and this may seem an oxymoron --- modifiy his long standing approach to obscurity and life. Ramana's second death experience seemingly opened the door for or an embracing of family and outsiders that previously had not manifested itself in Ramana's previous outward actions. To wit:
This new experience may not have upstaged his previous realization (but) it did serve to reintegrate him with his bodily vehicle and with life.
After this he was more at ease in everyday circumstances, and began to increasingly associate with those seekers who gathered around him.
As time plays out you can see the difference between Ramana's first death experience and his later 1912 second expericence. Within weeks of Ramana's arrival in Tiruvannamalai his mother and her oldest son visited Ramana and tried to convince Ramana to return home, all to no avail. Sometime shortly thereafter Ramana went up the hill to live in Virupaksa Cave. He stayed there sixteen years (1899-1916), then moved to Skandasramam Cave, a little higher up the hill (1916-1922).
Soon after Ramana's mother return home her eldest son died. Two years later, Ramana's younger brother, Nagasundaram, paid a brief visit. Ramana's mother visited a second time then a third. During the third visit she fell ill for several weeks with symptoms of typhoid. Ramana himself nursed her back to health and she returned home.
Not long after her return from that third trip, the wife of her youngest son died. Following the death of her son's wife, early in 1916, a mutual decision was made between mother and son to join Ramana in Tiruvannamalai, she resolving to spend the rest of her life with Ramana. In the process, after arrival, she received intense spiritual training, donned the ochre robe, and took charge of the Ashrama kitchen. Ramana's younger brother became a sannyasin taking the name Niranjanananda, albeit affectionately called among Ramana devotees Chinnaswami (the Younger Swami).
In 1920 the health of Ramana's mother began to deteriorate. For two years Ramana tended her with care and affection, spending many sleepless nights sitting up with her. She died on May 19, 1922. Her body was taken down the hill and interred. While the ceremonies were being performed, Ramana himself stood silently looking on. Chinnaswami took up residence near the tomb and Ramana, who continued to remain at Skandasramam, visited the tomb daily. Then, about six months after his mother's death, Ramana came down from the caves where he had lived those twenty plus years one last time --- to STAY at the tomb with her, and in doing so, the Ramana Ashram was born, being built from the ground up around him.
Here is Ramana, fully and totally Awakened to the Absolute, spending sleepless nights sitting up with his sick mother. Then when she died, moving down from his caves, this after over twenty years, to be near her tomb. Little wonder he might manifest some concern over my plight.
Somewhat removed from the above, but cast within a similar theme, Sri Ramana was faced with many day-to-day Samsara world confrontations, some way less holy and less spiritual in nature than others, such as being taken to court and lawsuits:
In the main text above, I mention Ramana adherent Robert Adams (1928-1997). Adams was said to have had a self-enlightenment experience sometime around age 14 or 15, with no real knowledge of what it meant. He somehow came to the conclusion that it might be spiritual in nature, so at age 17, seeking answers, he went to the temple of Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship near San Diego, entertaining the possibility of becoming a monk with the order and finding answers.
Around the same time Adams was out seeking answers I returned from India, ending up staying with my grandmother for a period of time. Knowing my personality before I left and knowing me after I returned she became concerned with what she considered a seemingly askew perspective on things. In turn, because of her concerns, she contacted my uncle to see if he had any idea where my father was. Almost immediately my uncle came out to assist, the first of several trips before he actually remained on a permanent basis.
Even though he was not worried about my behavior at the level my grandmother seemed to be, he agreed her concerns carried a certain high amount of validity. My uncle was aware I had been to India, but at the time he didn't know I had been in the presence of a prominent Indian holy man. Even so, my uncle, through pure gut intuition and a long time running association with Native American spiritual elders of the desert southwest, felt my behavior carried a deep ring of spirituality to it. He searched around for someone who might have answers and in the process, like Adams, came across Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship. He took me to see Yogananda not because he knew him or was familiar with his works, but because he was one of two high profile personalities in the Eastern spiritual movement that had taken root on the west coast during and following World War II.
As far as my uncle was concerned, his whole life he felt the meetings with the highly regarded yogi bore no fruit. However, some 40 years later Adams and I just happened to cross paths one day. He said me he recognized me because he had seen me many years previously at the temple of Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship near San Diego. Apparently Adams' two months time at the Fellowship coincided with the time my uncle took me in to see Yogananda. In the process Adams learned I had been to India a year or so earlier and returned with what my uncle said was 'an odd perception of the world,' a perception that was not too dissimilar to what Adams' recognized as his own.
It was shortly after that Adams made his way to India himself and the ashram of Sri Ramana.