How I came to the Maharshi: By Papa-ji (H.W.L Poonja)
I have been a visionary from childhood. When I was only five years old I already had visions of Sri Krishna. At first I thought every one could see them. I once said to my mother: “Look! He’s standing there!” but she explained to me that only I saw him.
When I grew up I joined the army. However my desire for God-experience grew so strong that after some years I resigned and decided to devote my life to sadhana. I wanted to become a sannyasin but could not because I had a wife and children to look after.
I started visiting Swamis and asked each one point blank: “Have you seen God and can you show me God?” I would allow no hedging. If they began to talk around it I said: “Please give me a straight yes or no.” I found no one who could answer `yes’ and returned to my home in the Punjab feeling very depressed.
One day my wife was just serving my midday meal when a sadhu came and stood in the doorway. I invited him in and told her to serve him food too and then asked him whether he could direct me to a Swami who could show me God. He told me that I could find what I was looking for from Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai.
It was the first time that I had heard of the Maharshi or of Tiruvannamalai, so I wrote down both names. But how was I to get there? It was right down in the South, and my funds were almost exhausted. However, the next day I saw an advertisement in the paper for an ex-army man to run a canteen in Madras. I applied and was at once given the post and my fare paid.
When I got to Madras I said that I must first pay a visit to Tiruvannamalai before taking up my duties. Arriving there, I dumped my bedding in the Ashram dormitory and went into the meditation hall; and who should I see there on the couch but the sadhu who had visited me at my home in the Punjab!
I decided that he was a fraud. He had been travelling about India boosting himself and had then taken a train back and arrived before me. So I got up and left the hall. I got my bedding and was just putting it back on the horse-cart that had brought me from the station when a devotee asked me why I was leaving so soon. I told him and he said: “It must be a mistake, because the Maharshi has never left this place since he first came nearly fifty years ago. Either it was someone else you saw or he appeared to you by supernatural power.” So I was back to the hall.
As soon as I had an opportunity to see Bhagavan alone I asked him my usual question. I added: “It’s a bargain. I am willing to pay any price, even my life, but your part of the bargain is to enable me to see God.”
At first he sat silent, but I said “That’s no good; I don’t understand silence. Please give me a straight answer.”
Then he said: “I can enable you rather to be God than to see God.”
That puzzled me. I had very little understanding then.
A few days later I went for a walk in the rough country at the foot of the north slope of Arunachala and fell into a state of ecstasy during which I again had a vision of Sri Krishna. When I got back I told Bhagavan. He asked me: “can you see Krishna now?”
I said, “No; only when I have a vision.”
So he said: “What is the use of a God who comes and goes? If he is a real God he should be with you always.”
That shocked me. Again I almost lost faith in him, but some of the devotees explained to me. Before I left for Madras I asked Bhagavan for a mantra but he did not give me one. I asked him for permission to take sannyas, but he refused.
However, shortly after my return to Madras he appeared to me in a dream and gave me a mantra. Soon after this I had a vision of God in human form. This was followed by a great change in me. I lost interest in all the ritual and incantations and breathing exercises that I had been doing up to then. For instance, I used to get up at three o’clock in the morning to attend to my statue of Sri Krishna. All such things ceased to interest me. I was very worried about this. I thought it meant I had become an atheist.
At the first opportunity I went to Tiruvannamalai. I told Bhagavan about the change that had come over me and how I had lost interest in all the ritual that I had been practising regularly for so many years past.
Bhagavan looked steadily at me for some time and then said something to me in Tamil which I was told, on enquiry, meant “You, that is me, that is Bhagavan.” These words sank into my heart and I experienced the most wonderful feeling of bliss I had ever known.
It was from this time that I began to understand Bhagavan and his teaching.