"Alfred Robert Pulyan was a man of great spiritual prowess, 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."(source)
Alfred Pulyan always receives garlands and deep reverence when it comes to his Awakening and as an Enlightened Being, and, it must be said, well deserved at that. However, in the end, it must also be said that it was HIS teacher that was actually responsible for his transformation. She gets no applause or recognition, BUT she does inspire a great deal of interest as well as an unending liturgy of curiosity for many because of her role in his Awakening and the fact that to this day she, a female Ramana without a mountain or a following, remains facetiously unknown.
The following quote, from the foremost page on Pulyan's life, pretty much sums up who, what, when, and where regarding Pulyan and his teacher:
"Prior to his Awakening he was an unknowing seeker along an unknown path, investigating any and all routes for a solution to his angst, real or imagined. One day in the process of those investigations, he was exploring what he had heard was a new or unique approach to psychotherapy when he came across a young woman that was somehow different from all other people he had ever met. In an intellectual joust on his part he confronted her with all his knowledge of science, philosophers and the like. Like a master swordsman or kung-fu master she blocked and parried each blow, leaving herself unscathed and himself defeated. Although she claimed no teacher or any lineage it was apparent, like Queen Chudala, her Attainment was deep and to reach the same level of Attainment he decided to dedicate any further seeking to be guided under her auspices --- a decision that ended in her becoming Pulyan's Teacher and Pulyan's own Fulfillment."
Years ago I had the good fortune of spending a good part of the summer with Pulyan, his wife, his teacher, and a few fellow compatriots on his compound near the small community of South Kent, Connecticut. Going there was not of my own making but from the urging of my spiritual Mentor. Initially I felt the whole thing would amount to nothing more than a huge waste of time on everybody's part, but as the summer wore on and it came time I had to leave because I was returning to school I didn't want to go. So said, I had all honorable intentions of returning the following summer and pick up where I left off. However, in April of that following year, much to the dismay of all of us involved with him, Pulyan died.
Several years following Pulyan's death found me in the general New England area. By then my Uncle, who I had spent my formative years with as a young boy growing up but had lost contact with as an adult, regained our contact after many, many years apart. Knowing I was traveling on a road trip around the east coast for several weeks he asked, if possible, that I visit an old friend of his, an artist he knew from his old Art Students League days. Him having me meet artists was important to my uncle. In my youth he had taken me to meet an artist he worked together with on the WPA, Jackson Pollack. The reason being primarily because at the time Pollack was considered the greatest living artist in America.(see) Now my uncle was telling me the mother of the man I was to meet, although long since deceased, was, according to my uncle's estimation, the greatest woman artist America had ever seen. Her son, my uncle's friend, was George Laurence Nelson, an artist of no small repute in his own right. As it happened Nelson lived in South Kent, the same small community in rural Litchfield County, Connecticut, that Alfred Pulyan and his close knit group of followers lived for years prior to his death.
During that visit to see Nelson, on a whim, I made the decision to find out what became of Pulyan's old compound and possibly cross paths with his teacher. The compound seemed basically abandoned and none of the locals seemed to know the whereabouts of his teacher, where she had gone, or if she even existed. Pulyan's widow, who was a few years older than Pulyan, was in or nearing her early 80s and, according to those who said they had some contact with her, had slowly become somewhat hazy in her memory. The artist who had been on the compound, of which I only knew his first name and of whom Nelson was not familar with, had as well, wandered off into the hinterlands --- leaving no trace.
Considering the circumstance of how they lived I suppose it is not totally out of character that no one in the vicinity of Pulyan's old compound knew anything about his teacher. It is odd however, that while I was there in 1965 no one at the compound, including Pulyan, seemed to know anything about her either. Other than maybe likening her Awakening experience to that of the female Zen adept Chiyono from time-to-time they were not talking --- nor did they divulge any information about her to others or even to each other, including me, under even the most innocent and casual of conversations. Nor too initially, when I first came to the compound, was she talking. In so saying, even though she seemed to know my circumstances and by inference I have extrapolated that she knew I had study practiced under my mentor, anything else I may have learned or happened across, like with my mentor, I continue to respect her anonymity.
There are a couple of things I am willing to share that might shed the spotlight on her background. One day in passing I overheard her say that she was friends with, or at least knew or was in contact with one Mary Farkas. Farkas was a Rinzai Zen Buddhist and longtime director of The First Zen Institute of America in New York City. Farkas was either coming to or had visited the compound. I neither saw her or met her. I know Farkas did do some writing on and off over a period of time and for those who may be so interested, it is possible a serious researcher might be able to unearth or come across a tidbit or morsel of information about Pulyan's teacher. Farkas died in 1992. I never contacted her to see if she knew the whereabouts of or what happened to Pulyan's teacher.
When Farkas was initiated into things Zen it was through a man eventually to be given the Zen name Sokei-an. Sokei-an was the first major Zen Buddhists in America and the formost purveyor of Zen in the general New York area. In 1928, when Farkas was just 17 years old and yet to stumble upon the scene, Sokei-an became a full-fledged Zen master receiving Inka Shomei from his teacher Sokatsu Shaku. It is my opinion that Pulyan's teacher, who was around 24 years old at the time got caught up in the brewing Zen stew close to that time as well, although it is not known how long, if at all, she remained in the milieu.
It is from that contact or rubbing of shoulders with that brewing Zen stew, however long or fleeting, that set into motion things spiritual bubbling to the surface for the young neophyte. Which brings us to the second aspect of Pulyan's teacher I am going to share. One day when just the two of us were discussing me and my background she revealed a rather interesting tid-bit of information regarding herself and her background that, if accurate and through what I am about to present, an astute researcher might be able to pinpoint much more on her.
First, Pulyan's teacher was already vaguely familiar with the background of myself I discussed with her, having heard it at one time or the other from my mentor and of which is fully outlined in THE MEETING: An Untold Story of Sri Ramana. Briefly, for you the reader unfamiliar with the story, as a young boy visiting the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, according to Ramana and the scribes recording it, my 'mental barriers were reduced to nothingness' only to end up then a few years later having that same experience becoming veiled to me through nothing less than a series of deeply unfortunate circumstances.(see) However, Ramana, after through his grace had, from a mere spark, ignited a spiritual fire and reduced my mental barriers to nothingness was not about to let ANY spiritual traveler, little boy or otherwise, slip back into the day-to-day quagmire of the Samsara world. So said, in what was for all practical purposes a classical case of resurrection, Ramana personally interceded and implemented, for him, the rarely used supernormal perceptual states known in Sanskrit as siddhis:
"He looked right into my eyes from a few feet away and somehow TIME SEEMED TO SLOW, maybe even stopping altogether. 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."
Even though the event transpired in a small, remote, onetime stage stop in America on an island off the coast of California thousands and thousands of miles away from India, Ramana, paralleling many of his several fully recorded and known translocation or bilocation experiences, was there. What he was doing was replicating what happened less than a few years before at the ashram, only in 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 matches I had seen previously on the floor and struck the flame to light the lantern. 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 Ramana 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 Ramana, was gone --- gone from any memory. The light rekindled itself. That is, Ramana returned through the use of Siddhis 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.
After refreshing Pulyan's teacher with my meeting with Ramana as presented above, she inturn told me of her similar or like experience wherein out of the blue Ramana appeared before her via what could be nothing other than translocation. That event is recorded as actually happening in several places in Ramana lore, most notedly in the extensive three volume set titled Nothing Ever Happened by David Godman on the life of Sri H. W. L. Poonja (1910-1997), AKA Poonjaji or Papaji. The same episode appears a second time in Poonja's somewhat abbreviated biography under the chapter titled Meeting Ramana Maharshi as sourced below. Poonja has been said to have been one of the foremost disciples, devotees, followers or advocates of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and his principles. So said, Poonja, who became a respected spiritual teacher in his own right, is considered to have been the real thing. So too, he was not some mystic saint in some far off place masked in ancient lore either, but a modern day personage that forthrightly reported his own 1944 personal experience involving translocation between himself and Sri Ramana, an experience so recorded by the scribes that leads directly to the mention of Pulyan's teacher and the translocation event she experienced. Poonja says:
"(A) sadhu appeared at our door, asking for food. I invited him in, offered him some food and asked him the question that was uppermost in my mind. ‘Can you show me God? If not, do you know of anyone who can?
"Much to my surprise, he gave me a positive answer. ‘Yes, I know a person who can show you God. If you go and see that man, everything will be all right for you. His name is Ramana Maharshi."
The sadhu went on to give Poonja detailed directions on how to get to the Ramana ashram clear across the country in the south of India, such as what trains to take, where to change trains, what stations to go to, etc., which, when Poonja followed them, they were accurate down to the letter.
As soon as he arrived at the ashram and settled in he took off across the compound to look for the man who could show him God. When he got to the meditation hall and looked in he saw, sitting on a sofa, the SAME man who had visited his house in the Punjab. Poonja again:
"I was disgusted. 'This man is a fraud,' I said to myself. 'He appears in my house in the Punjab, tells me to go to Tiruvannamalai, then hops on the train so that he can get there before me.' I was so annoyed with him I decided that I wouldn’t even go into the hall where he was sitting. Mentally adding him to the long list of frauds I had met on my first pilgrimage round India, I turned on my heels and went off to collect my bags."
A long time Ramana devotee interceded in Poonja's potential departure, telling him, in an effort to convince him to stay:
"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."(source)
Of course, as it turned out, Poonja was right in his ability to discern that the man in his house that evening and the man on the sofa in the meditation hall WAS Sri Ramana. The long time devotee turned out to be one Framji Dorabji whose devotion to Ramana and life at the ashram can be found starting on page 677 of The Human Gospel of Ramana Maharshi. BUT, what is important to us here is that the 'Some girl from America came here once and told a similar story' as told by Dorabji to Poonja, that is, translocation to America being involved, was the SAME GIRL that turned out to be Pulyan's teacher. I know because after arrival at the Pulyan compound I spent a good portion of the aforementioned summer almost entirely in the presence of either Pulyan or his teacher, although it must be said I was most fortunate to be personally afforded a great deal of individual time by Pulyan's teacher. During one of our discussions late one night when I brought up my experience at the stage stop she responded by telling me of her own translocation experience between herself and Ramana, describing it so closely that it was easily recognizable as being the same translocation experience mentioned by Framji Dorabji.
So, how does the timeframe for all of this play out? I have written elsewhere that in 1928 Pulyan's teacher was around 24 years old, meaning she would have been born in 1904. Framji Dorabji arrived at the ashram in 1937. Poonja showed up in 1944. At the time of Poonja's 1944 arrival Framji was able to tell Poonja 'Some girl from America came here once and told a similar story' (i.e., the translocation by Ramana). That opens about a seven year window IF Framji was an actual witness to having seen her arrive because of the event. If such was the case, Pulyan's teacher would have of course, had to have been at the ashram sometime during that same time period. How Framji frames his statement, that an American girl 'came here once' for me seems to indicate it was sometime well before Poonja's 1944 arrival, closer to or within a few years of 1937, most likely before the war. If such was the case, that would put her at the ashram between say 1937 and 1940, making her age-wise, somewhere in her early to mid 30s.
During that same time period any number of high profile personages visited the ashram including British playwright and author William Somerset Maugham, American socialite Mercedes De Acosta, American Guy Hague and the English woman M.A.Piggot, who, although it is patently not so, is invariably cited or given credit as the first woman disciple from the west to have visited Ramana at the ashram.(see) Each have been recorded and mentioned over time one way or the other in the annals of the ashram, but nothing shows up at the same level about an American girl during that same period (or at any other time) who would fall within the qualifications laid out for her thus far. However, although I personally feel she was most likely NOT there during the 1937-1940 period, at least on a high profile basis, that does not necessarily mean she wasn't there. She could have been in and out of the ashram many times and not have been set aside in an outstanding way like many thousands have since the establishment of the ashram.
I have, over the years --- by sort of Monday morning quarterbacking --- been able to backtrack in my mind and extrapolate tiny morsels of information from my synapses recalling vague references she made during casual conversations and in the process put together a clearer picture, a picture that tends to negate the above scenario.
I have written that in 1928 she was in New York City coming into contact or rubbing of shoulders with the brewing Zen stew that was beginning to bubble up during that time. In 1929 the stock market crashed and not only the country but the whole world began to fall fiercely into the Great Depression of the 1930s. A few years before, after wandering around Europe for a couple of years my mentor showed up in India, his arrivel being recorded as being sometime around mid-year of 1925. However, it was the fall of 1928, three years later --- after the passage of his so-called missing years --- before he showed up at the Ramana ashram. It was for his birthday two years later he went up to his forest retreat and reached full Attainment, that being his thirty-first birthday and the fall of the year 1930.(see)
On Monday, October 29, 1929, one year before my mentor's Awakening experience high in the mountains of his forest retreat, the bottom of the stock markets fell out, closing down 40 percent from its all time high. On that one single day investors lost 14 billion dollars and by the end of the year two months later, 40 billion dollars in investments had virtually disappeared having simply gone up in smoke.
It is my belief that it was sometime in that 1928-1929 period, albeit well BEFORE the October 29th crash, that the translocation experienced by the one-day-to-be Pulyan's teacher occurred. Most likely the same instructions given to Poonja were given to her and, like Poonja, having no clue she was being confronted by a full on translocation experience, was deeply inspired to follow the instructions and go to India and eventually the Ramana ashram. In doing so she showed up during the exact same period my mentor was there, and it was there I believe the two met.
People jump up and down all over the place when I say such things because they cite the fact that there is little or scant evidence that my mentor or anybody like him stayed at or visited the ashrama for any length of time if at all (especially an American woman --- Framji Dorabji's documentation stating otherwise notwithstanding). They point out almost everything that ever happened to, about, or around Sri Ramana and the ashrama was written down or recorded in some fashion, yet except for what W. Somerset Maugham has to say and perhaps myself, little else if anything shows up anywhere that seems applicable to my mentor. Often cited as an example is Guy Hague. Hague shows up in photos with the Maharshi, on film, is mentioned in the official ashrama publication and shows up prominently in Mercedes De Acosta's book. There is none of that for my mentor or a young American woman.
You have to remember, when my mentor first visited the ashrama the Bhagavan had only just come down from Arunachala by a few years and located himself at the foot of the sacred mountain not far from Yama Lingam, the third of the cardinal point lingams. Until then he had been secluded in a small cave about 600 feet above and behind the present day ashrama called Virupaksa Cave for sixteen years (1899-1916) followed by another six years in Skandasramam Cave (1916-1922), about 200 feet above that. During all that time he was attended to by very few people and little was recorded by anybody, especially in English, until well after the fact except possibly for a short series of letters by Frank H. Humphreys appearing as articles in a publication called the International Psychic Gazette in England. When things did begin to be written down the information was scattered and incomplete, often from memory and usually revolved around the person doing the writing and THEIR experiences and interactions with Ramana and not that of somebody else. In that my mentor didn't write about himself, at least for public comsumption or publication, that aspect of recording went undone. In those days the ashrama wasn't anything like it is now or even how it turned out to be only a few short years after his stay. At the time it was not much more than a mud and thatched hut stuck amongst a bunch of rocks at the foot of the mountain. It wasn't until much later when the ashrama was more established with more permanent staff that extensive records began to be kept. By the time Maugham visited the ashrama in 1938 and Guy Hauge arrived for his stay some sixteen years after Ramana came down from the mountain, the place was huge with permanent buildings and offices, an oversize kitchen to feed the multitudes and growing so large that it even had the need for its own dispensary.
If you have had the opportunity to go through my various online offerings you will find located in a variety of places that I have studied under, met and interacted with many highly respected teachers and members of the Enlightenment community --- including of course, my own mentor, as well as Sri Ramana Maharshi, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Swami Ramdas, Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, Shunyata, Alfred Pulyan, and Wei Wu Wei, all of whom, except Wei Wu Wei, show up in Enlightened Individuals I've Met. Most of it has not been of my own making but somehow came about on its own. For what reason or why I cannot say as I do not know. However, meeting the teacher of Pulyan was an extraordinary experience.
A few years before my mentor sent me to Pulyan's compound, while in the military, in the court of a Laotian warlord, I was requested to participate in, without many options to opt out or do otherwise, a ceremony that circled around the heavy use of opium. Dressed in local garb I layed on the floor on my side with a thin, three-foot long pipe, attended to by an ancient man that assisted me through the various paces. A couple of times afterwards, on my own and with others, I partcipated in a much less formal ritual called "chasing the dragon," but instead of a pipe, using a matchbox. That was ages ago. Those days, as well as any other such youthful indiscretions, are long gone and long over. The thing is, when the effects of the opium took over, it was like I had disappeared or no longer existed, having melded into the larger whole. Yet my eyes still took in, in a very high super-clear intensity, all of my surroundings. Where or what my eyes were connected to or how they were able to work or record my environment --- and for me to still know about it I don't know --- as there did not seem to be a back of my head or even a head.
Early on I can remember engulfed and removed from everything, but still looking down and seeing my toes barely sticking out of what seemed to be a wavering silver or mercury surface spreading out before me with a shimering reflection almost mirage-like with me somehow floating without weight or body. It was warm, embracing, enticing, and euphoric.
When I first met Pulyan's teacher that was the way it seemed to me. Warm, embracing, enticing, and euphoric --- with no back to my head and what there was of me, if there was a me, melded into the whole.(see)
The question often arises, why would Pulyan's teacher, if Enlightened to the level reputed and responsible for assisting Pulyan to full Attainment, choose to remain unacknowledged? A well established contempory female spiritual teacher born as Michele Mumford in Liverpool in 1952 and calling herself Pratima and said to have reached Fulfillment of the Absolute under Poonja, during a question and answer interview along a similar theme, offered the following:
So many women in the past have been hiding their spiritual wisdom.
"It cannot be hidden, it shines forth naturally in everyday life. They just didn't have the opportunity to share it with many people. It's not that long ago since women were burnt at the stake for their wisdom. These days, I know many women who are totally resting in the understanding of their true nature, but they choose not to be so verbal about it. Some of them are deeply quiet and content within themselves. They have no desire to take their understanding out into the market place. After all the message of Ramana and Papaji is essentially: be quiet."(source)
In the end, about both Pulyan and his teacher, I like what W. Somerset Maugham wrote at the end of his book The Razor's Edge about his central character Larry Darrell following his Awakening experience:
"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."
AND NOW THIS:
If you have taken the time to read Footnote  you would have learned that sometime before the summer at Pulyan's compound found me in the then wide-open railhead city of Chiang Mai, located in the far northern reaches of Thailand. There, after meeting a Chinese Buddhist monk, the two of us left on foot traveling high into the mountains through Laos, Burma, and on into the mountainous regions nobody knows who they belong to, basically retracing the steps of the ancient Chamadao, the Tea Horse Road.
After days and days of travel, of which most or all is fairly well articulated in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery, we ended up going our separate ways, he turning toward wherever he was going, me being left outside the gates of a remote, ancient, dilapidated Zen monastery --- a dilapidated monastery perched precariously high up on the side of some steep Chinese mountain situated somewhere along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau.
In Zen there is a phrase, hsing-chiao, which roughly translates into and means 'traveling on foot.' In Zen, hsing-chiao is a major part of the so-called Third Phase, which consists of sending the learner traveling from one hill to another, from one school to another, studying under one master and then another.(see)
One day, after I had been at the monastery some months, an ancient Zen man come down out of the mountains stopping for a visit. For some reason, after he left, the old man continued to gnaw away at me. Under my request, in adherence to hsing-chiao, the Zen master gave his blessings allowing me to seek him out. Going to and from his abode was a very arduous several day trek, most of it through rugged and steep very high altitude territory. A good portion of the trail followed along side a series of streams that may or may not have been the same one, that was sometimes rushing and other times placid depending on the steepness or flatness of the terrain.
On the second day out returning from his abode, high along the edges of the Himalayas and miles away from any civilization or where people should be, I came upon a lone person scooping water from a stream. The person turned out to be a somewhat mysterious young Caucasian woman from America by the name of Hope Savage, age 28 or so, who had been traveling all over India, Nepal and adjacent countries for some five years, and in her own way could almost rival Pulyan's teacher. For more please see:
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.
CODE OF ETHICS FOR SPIRITUAL GUIDES
SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL?
FALSE GURU TEST
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
Years before I began study-practice in things Zen under my mentor he had Awakened to the Absolute under the grace and light of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It was only after years of begging that my mentor relented to oversee my endeavors along the path. Then, well before I thought I was ready, he came to me one day and told me he would be moving soon and I would be on my own. The pressure of the multitudes were crunching down on him and he sought a more solitary lifestyle. Several things happened in my life before we were to cross paths again. For one, I spent more time than I am able to recount Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery high in the mountains along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Secondly, prior to my return to the states, possibly as an effort by the people I was traveling with to detox me back to normalcy after my time in the monastery, I stayed at the Mahasi Meditation Center in then what was then Rangoon, Burma, now called Yangon, Myanmar. The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, the center's meditation master and Principal Preceptor in those days sole interest was guiding the center and anyone so interested in expanding the knowlege and use of the same meditation method developed, used, and taught by the Buddha --- Vipassana Meditation.
Taken together you would think that would have been enough for anybody, but not my mentor. It was not that he didn't like any of it, although he was not too receptive to the mystical aspect underlying the monastery stay -- i.e., Gyanganj and any time-warp aspects therein (in the west Gyanganj is mostly associated with Shangri-la or Shambhala) --- he was just insistant that I at least see Alfred Pulyan thinking I was burning the candle too fast and too quickly at both ends --- with NO positive result --- something I personally questioned the validity of. Please see:
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
It is well known from a long verbal history of followers and eyewitnesses, as well as for example from a number of highly valid and respected writers and authors such as Sri Ramana adherent David Godman, that in the last 54 years of his life Ramana NEVER traveled more than a mile and a half away from the base of his holy hill, Arunachala --- that is, traveled via what most would consider "in the traditional sense." Even so, he did have several fully conscious and fully recorded bilocation experiences he rarely discussed wherein he was translocated from his ashram in a matter of minutes to devotees many, many miles away.
Translocation or bilocation notwithstanding, throughout his life, especially so to outsiders, the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi never exhibited the slightest interest in the instrument or method of use behind such experiences, namely Siddhis, occult abilities, or psychic powers. His personal belief was that a Realized person may not necessarily have Siddhis initially, but may later seek or acquire them after realization (i.e., Queen Chudala in the Yoga Vasishtha). He also said that some Realized persons need not have any siddhis.
In one of Ramana's most well documented bilocation experiences --- and the most interesting --- Ramana biographer Arthur Osborne writes in Ramana Maharshi And The Path of Self-Knowledge (York Beach: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995, pages 96-97):
"One day, some years ago, I (Sri Ramana) 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."
The reason I say the above translocation experience is the most interesting in regards to Ramana --- and to that of other bilocation or translocation experiences --- is because not only was it documented on Ramana's side, it was also documented by the person on the receiving end of the translocation, Ganapati Muni . Osborne writes:
"About a year after his first meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapathi Muni experienced a remarkable outflow of his 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. Ganapati 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."
Other examples of bilocation experiences between Ramana and devotees include those of Paul Brunton and Robert Adams. Brunton had numerous visitations by Sri Ramana similar to the experiences described by Ramana in relation to Ganapathi Muni. Nearly all of Brunton's experiences occurred in England thousands of miles from the ashram, with the last occurring some fifteen months AFTER the holy man's physical death in 1950. The sage appeared before him and told him that they had to part. Brunton experienced no further similar visions after that.
In a biography of sorts of Adams by a former student, friend, and person in his own right, Edward Muzika, it is written that by age seven Adams, who lived in the United States at the time --- again thousands and thousands of miles away from the ashram --- was experiencing Siddhis that involved Ramana. According to Muzika, on more than one occasion, Adams, in his pre-teen years, was confronted by a man with white hair and white beard that "spoke to him in a language he could not understand." Muzika, speaking of Adams, goes on to say:
Years later, after his awakening experience, he was looking through a book on the teachings of Ramana Maharshi when he saw that sage’s picture. "I was shocked!" he said, "The hair on my head and neck stood straight up. The little man who had lectured me all those years was Ramana!"
In another thousands of miles away example of Awakening in both time and place, Lee Lozowick, also an American (1943-2010), has said that the spiritual heir to Swami Ramdas, the venerated Indian holy man Yogi Ramsuratkumar, was the source of his Awakening --- an Awakening that occurred at least ONE FULL YEAR BEFORE he ever met the yogi in the flesh in the first place. In an interview Lozowick was asked how it could be possible that someone would be the source of somebody else's Awakening that occurred before they ever met? Lozowick responded with:
"Well, to a spiritual master there's no such thing as the past, the present or the future. To us everything happens very linearly. In 1975 this shift of context happened for me. In 1976 I met Yogi Ramsuratkumar (i.e., for the first time). In 1983 I really dedicated myself to him as my teacher. But to him when Jesus was born might be fifty years in the future. And some person that to us hasn't even been born yet, to him is like a living, breathing presence. Time is completely malleable. So for a master like Yogi Ramsuratkumar the past, the present and the future are completely interchangeable, and he can shift them around at his will. I can't describe that according to a law of physics although I'm sure that's possible. But that's how it is."
Translocation and bilocation is not a phenomenon exclusively relegated to gurus in some far away eastern culture either. In a western sense, as it shows up in biblical tradition, Jesus, although it may not be presented as such to the common lay-person, was often disappearing and reappearing out of nowhere. Two of the most straight forward examples are found in Luke 24 and John 20. To wit, Jesus disappeared after talking with two disciples he met on the road to Emmaus only to reappear to a different group shortly after(Luke 24:31-36). He appeared to the disciples again in a room where the doors were closed, which implies he either walked through a wall or materialized basically out of nowhere in front of them (John 20:26). In John 14:12 Jesus made the assertion that WE could do the things he did saying, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also."
In 1944 Poonja, aka Poonjaji or Papaji, was given directions on how to get to the Ramana ashram by the sadhu that appeared at the door of his house in the Punjab. The following instructions, as told by Poonja, is what he was given:
"He gave me detailed instructions: ‘Take a train to Madras. When you get to Madras, go to Egmore station. That is where the metre gauge trains leave from. Take a train from there to a place called Villupuram. You have to change trains there. Then catch a train from there to Tiruvannamalai.’"
Although it may be somewhat easier nowdays, in the 1930s and 1940s, especially for westerners uninitiated to Indian culture, getting back and forth to the Ramana ashram was not a simple task. Arriving by ship in Bombay then traversing the country by train to Tiruvannamalai does not leave a whole lot of options ONCE you get in the southern portions of the sub-continent. That is to say, if continuing to travel by train, after arriving in Madras, there really was no other option but to transfer from the broad gauge railroad across town to the metre gauge railroad at the Egmore Station in order to get to Tiruvannamalai. An example is found in the quote below FOOTNOTE: The Saint, so sourced at the end of the quote, relating William Somerset Maugham's travels in 1938 to see the Maharshi:
"In Maugham's case I think traveling period was a matter convenience, comfort, and for sure, first class. It isn't told how he got from the ship to Madras, nor is it mentioned how he returned from the ashram after meeting with the Maharshi. We are only told how he got there from Madras and what a rough trip it was. By whatever means he arrived in Madras, it was no doubt, first class. So too, he probably had prearranged departure reservations by train to see the Maharshi, leaving from the Egmore station in Madras on the metre gauge railroad, then switching trains in Villupuram and on to Tiruvannamalai."(source)
In the early 1930s with the United States and other industrialized countries and their general populations falling on increasingly hard times because of the Depression, you would think traveling to India during that time period would be difficult. While it is true it very well may have been difficult, India itself, except for isolated pockets, never pulled itself out of extreme poverty --- so, relatively speaking, even an American enduring hard times at home COULD live fairly well in India if they had any amount of money. That's what happened in my mentor's case and most likely what happened for Pulyan's teacher as well. Before the Depression it was the Roaring 20s and people, at least the middle class and above, were flush with cash, travel was easy. My mentor was already in India at the time of the market implosion and Pulyan's teacher was, I am sure, thanks to Ramana's translocation prior to the crash, well on her way, if not actually there.
Except possibly by me --- as mentioned above --- Pulyan's teacher gets almost no applause or recognition. However, she continues to inspire a great deal of interest in some quarters not only for her role in Pulyan's Awakening, but also because of being a woman. Many have come forward with suggestions as to who she was. Often a fairly high profile mover in east coast and New York City Zen circles, a woman by the name of Mary Farkas, is mentioned as a potential possibility.
The problem with Farkas is most of her life, especially so her adult life, has been recorded in one fashion or the other over time because of that fairly high profile. So said, it would have been very difficult for her to have been absconded on Pulyan's Connecticut compound for any length of time as has been reported for Pulyan's teacher without someone knowing about it. Besides, even though Farkas was a longtime follower and advocate of Direct Transmission through her association with the major Zen adept Sokei-an and, was herself, an ordained Rinzai priest as well as the longtime director of The First Zen Institute of America, it has never come forward that she was Enlightened.
All of them, from Sokei-an in lineage to Mary Farkas to Alfred Pulyan and on to Richard Rose and Pulyan's teacher, were all advocates of "direct transmission." Sokei-an, as the prime mover in their advocacy, in his own words, says:
"I am of the Zen sect. My special profession is to train students of Buddhism by the Zen method. Nowadays, there are many types of Zen teachers. One type, for example, teaches Zen through philosophical discourse; another, through so-called meditation; and still another direct from soul to soul. My way of teaching is the direct transmission of Zen from soul to soul."
For more on Mary Farkas, her background and writings, click HERE. For her biography click HERE.
British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham, who authored the book titled The Razor's Edge that chronicled the life of the person that eventually became my Zen mentor, relates the following regarding his own experience using opium:
(Maugham) describes the experience after smoking opium by saying that the mystery of life, of creation, and of the transcendental was within his reach – but that the pleasure of knowing that it was within his reach was so great that he could not be bothered to stretch out his hand to grasp it.
For more about the coming about of the meeting the warlord, et al, please visit Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery.
In a footnote on another page, refering to my stay at the warlord's compound, I explain how I was initially brought to his attention in the firstplace because of my volunteer efforts to assist some local tribespeople. From that I was invited to join in a rather large gathering for dinner which lead to the opium ritual:
"(W)hile other low-ranking members in the military contingent I was with were off trading cheap hand-mirrors and pocket combs for favors with the local tribeswomen, in that we were allSheep Dipped I had gone off on my own volition passing myself off like some Peace Corps volunteer rather than a heavily armed GI, to lend a hand in repairing and building an irrigation ditch and fresh water conduit that supplied drinking water to one of the villages."
What is laughable about it all is my youthful naivete. Here I was, being said by others (and possibly thinking so myself) I was like some Peace Corps volunteer lending a hand building a fresh water conduit to supply drinking water for one of the villages --- when actually it came out later that the increased water supply offered by the conduit was just exactly what was needed for the successful operation of a newly established heroin refinery, including the ability to increase the output level of product.
The Mahasi Meditation Center is located in what was once called Rangoon, Burma, now called Yangon, Myanmar. It was founded in 1949 by a group of highly involved Buddhist adepts, including the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw Agga Maha Pandita, whose sole interest was in expanding the knowlege and use of the same meditation method developed, used, and taught by the Buddha.
The center is a massive twenty acre compound exclusively for the participating in and the learning of that method, Vipassana Meditation. Those who seek admission to the center undergo full-time meditation regimen for six to twelve weeks which is considered an appropriate period of retreat for one to gain a basic knowledge and experience into Vipassana meditation.
Amazingly enough, for those who may be so interested, for foreign meditators, the entire period of their stay for study-practice at the center --- six to twelve weeks --- is FREE, including both full boarding and lodging.(see)
The following excerpt is how it appears in full as found in Volume I of Nothing Ever Happened and records mention of the girl from America coming to the ashram who "told a similar story" (i.e., of translocation by Ramana). The writer is David Godman, speaking is Sri H. W. L. Poonja:
It was 1944 and I was thirty-one years of age.
I followed the sadhu's advice and travelled by train to to Tiruvannamalai. On disembarking there I discovered that the Maharshi's ashram was about three kilometres away, on the other side of the town, so I engaged a bullock cart to take me and my belongings there. As soon as we reached the ashram, I jumped out of the cart, put my bags in the men's dormitory, and went off to look for this man who could show me God. I peeped in through his window and saw, sitting on a sofa inside, the same man who had visited my house in the Punjab. I was disgusted.
'This man is a fraud,' I said to myself. 'He appears in my house in the Punjab, tells me to go to Tiruvannamalai, then hops on the train so that he can get there before me.'
I was so annoyed with him I decided that I wouldn't even go into the hall where he was sitting. Mentally adding him to the long list of frauds I had met on my first pilgrimage around India, I turned on my heels and went off to collect my bags. As I was preparing to leave on the same cart that had brought me to the ashram, one of the residents accosted me and asked, 'Aren't you from the North? You look like a North Indian.'
I found out later that he was called Framji and that he owned a cinema in Madras.
'Yes, I am,' I replied.
'Haven't you just arrived?' he asked, noting that I was making preparations to leave. 'Aren't you going to stay here for at least a couple of days?'
I told him the story of how I had come to be in Tiruvannamalai, and concluded by saying, 'This man has been travelling around the country, advertising himself. I don't want to see him. I came here because he said there was a man here who could show me God. If this man really does have the capacity to show me God, why did he not do it in my house in the Punjab when he came to see me? Why did he make me come all this way? I am not interested in seeing such a man.'
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. Are you sure that you have not made a mistake?'
'No,' I answered, absolutely sure of myself. 'I recognise the man. I have not made a mistake.'
'In that case,' he responded, 'please stay. I will introduce you to the manager and he will give you a place to stay.'
I went along with his suggestion merely because my curiosity had been aroused. Something strange had happened and I wanted to find out exactly what it was. It was my intention to confront the Maharshi in private and ask for an explanation of his strange behaviour.
Notice Framji said, speaking of Sri Ramana, "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." How it breaks down for us here is, just as in the case of Poonja wherein Ramana, through his power, managed to manifest himself in the Punjab, he, through his power, managed to manifest himself for some girl from America.
That some girl from America was Pulyan's Teacher.
NOTHING EVER HAPPENED: Volume I
MEETING RAMANA MAHARSHI