The Professor and the Sage – Part 1
Professor N.R. Krishnamurthy Aiyer Speaks:
I am now ninety-two years old and I first met Sri Ramana Maharshi in the summer of 1914, when I was just a boy of sixteen. We were then on a pilgrimage to Tirupati and had halted in Tiruvannamalai, from where my grandmother hailed. We were not strangers to this town.
In the pilgrim party there were half a dozen boys, all of whom were about my age. We all decided to go up to Virupaksha cave. The Maharshi was then residing there and was attentive to all the activities of us youngsters. I noticed his gaze particularly focused on me.
We were all playing with the conch shell. The sadhus used to blow this shell like a horn when they went into town to beg for alms.
One after the other, we attempted to blow the conch shell. No one prevented us from doing this, and I noticed an encouraging smile from the Maharshi. This was my first visit.
Some eight years later, I came to Tiruvannamalai to visit my sister, who was married there. One evening, two companions and I went to visit Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni up on the hill where he had his ashram. What can I say about that great seer of Mantra Sastra?
I was just then out of college after finishing my masters degree in physics. I presented to Kavyakanta the latest views of Einstein, Planck and others in regard to the constitution of matter and the universe. He gave a patient hearing, and then said, “Can you put it in a brief way?” Answering in the affirmative, I went on explaining that there is a continuum in which time and space are involved, wherein particles change into waves and waves change into particles and all can dissolve into a single unitary medium. That is the prospect of the future.
He listened patiently to all this and said, “the world picture is in that frame,” and after a pause he exclaimed, “chitram, chitram !” These words mean ‘picture’ – you may call it a movie-picture. Those words sent a thrill through my body, through my whole frame. I suddenly felt disembodied. I was myself the whole space in which the pictures were placed – this body being one of the pictures. This experience lasted for a brief eternity. When I came round to myself we took leave of Kavyakanta.
The next day we had a meeting with Bhagavan. This was about the time he arrived at the present site of Sri Ramanasramam (1922). There were no buildings at all, except for a small shed covering the samadhi (grave) of the Mother.
Bhagavan was seated on a bench under the shade of a tree, and with him, lying on the same bench, was the dog named Rose. Bhagavan was simply stroking the dog.
I wondered, among us Brahmins the dog was such an animal that it would defile all purity. A good part of my respect for the Maharshi left me when I saw him touching that unclean animal – for all its apparent cleanliness and neatness it was unclean from the Brahmin point of view.
I had a question for the Maharshi. At that time I was an agnostic. I thought nature could take care of itself, so where is the need for a Creator? What is the use of writing all these religious books telling ‘cock and bull’ stories, which do not change the situation.
I wanted to put to him straight questions: is there a soul? Is there a God? Is there salvation? All these three questions were condensed into one: Well sir, you are sitting here like this – I can see your present condition – but what will be your future Sthiti? The word Sthiti in Sanskrit means ‘state’ or ‘condition’.
The Maharshi did not answer the question. “Oho,” I thought, “you are taking shelter under the guise of indifferent silence for not answering an inconvenient question!” As soon as I thought this the Maharshi replied and I felt as if a bomb had exploded under my seat.
“Sthiti, what do you mean by the word Sthiti!” he exclaimed.
I was not prepared for that question. “Oho, this man is very dangerous, very dangerously alive. I will have to answer with proper care,” I thought.
So I said to myself, “If I ask him about the Sthiti or ‘state’ of the body it is useless: the body will be burned or buried. What I should ask him is about the condition of something within the body. Of course, I can recognize a mind inside of me.” Then I was about to answer “By Sthiti, I mean mind,” when it struck me what if he counter-questions with “What is mind?” This I am not prepared to answer.
As all this was passing through my mind he was sitting there staring at me with a fierce look.
I then questioned within me, “What is mind? Mind is made up of thoughts. Now, what are thoughts?” I landed in a void. No answer. I then realised that I could not present a question about a mind which did not exist!
Up to that point, the mind was the greatest thing that existed for me. Now I discovered it did not exist! I was bewildered. I simply sat like a statue.
Two pairs of eyes were then gripping each other: the eyes of the Maharshi and my eyes were locked together in a tight embrace. I lost all sense of body. Nothing existed except the eyes of the Maharshi.
I don’t know how long I remained like that, but when I returned to my senses, I was terribly afraid of the man. “This is a dangerous man,” I thought. In spite of myself, I prostrated and got away from his company.
Go to Part II: https://luthar.com/professor-and-the-sage-part-2/
Source: Maharshi Newsletter May / Jun 1991