RS: I think you quote Papaji as saying that he met only two
Self-realized people in his entire life, Sri Ramana and a Spanish priest. But he also met
Nisargadatta Maharaj. Does this mean that he didn't think Maharaj was Self-realized? Can you
shed any light on this?
DG: When I first talked to Papaji in 1992, I asked him how many
he had met in his life. He scratched his head and came up with three names: Ramana Maharshi,
a Sufi pir he met in Madras and Tiruvannamalai, and a wandering mahatma who lived in the
forests between Tiruvannamalai and Bangalore. When I got to know him better, he would
sometimes add names to the list, and Nisargadatta Maharaj was one of them. He went to see
him many times in the 1970s and was very impressed with him. J. Krishnamurti also made the
list, although Papaji didn't think much of him as a teacher. The Spanish priest never
appeared on his list. Papaji said he was the best Christian he had ever met, but he never
said he was enlightened.
This list might expand or contract according to his mood or memory,
but it never exceeded seven. These were all people he had met on his travels. What I found
curious about this was that he never ever included any of his own disciples on this master
list, an omission that might lead one to infer that none of his disciples had actually
attained the final sahaja or natural state of the jnani. This is both interesting and
paradoxical since many of his disciples were told very categorically by him, "You are
enlightened. You are free." When I wrote his biography, I recovered several thousand
letters Papaji had written to devotees all over the world. I would say that at least
fifty of them could produce a hand-written letter from Papaji congratulating them on their
In the vast majority of cases these experiences were temporary. I often
wondered why Papaji was so enthusiastic about these temporary experiences, and many
other people felt the same way. Lots of people asked him about this, but I don't know
anyone who got a straight answer, including me. When I asked him about this phenomenon,
he said that he lived in the silence and that when silence spoke, it always said the most
appropriate thing, even though it might not be factually accurate. He added, "I have spent
all my life in that silence. I have learned to trust what it says."
Implicit in this
statement is a recognition that Papaji is sometimes telling people that they are enlightened
when he can see clearly that they are not. He trusted the source of these statements, but he
could never give a good explanation of why the silence was making him say these things.
RS: Here's a question from a reader which I pass along to you:
"Papaji says that the only thing that needs to be done is to stop all effort. When this
happens, there is quiet and a sense of egolessness. But in that state, it is possible to
ask "Who am I?" and find an observer whose source is yet to be found. In other words, in
that state, it seems that self-inquiry is still needed. Does this mean that Papaji is
teaching something different from Ramana Maharshi? What is the connection between this
effortless state and the state of abiding in the heart?"
DG: When Papaji said in satsang, "Make no effort," he was trying to put the person in front
of him into a state of no-mind in which no effort is necessary or possible, since the "I" has
temporarily gone. He was not trying to put the person in a halfway stage in which further
effort is needed.
Here is a paradox for you. Ramana Maharshi realized the Self without any
effort, without being interested in it, and without any practice, and then spent the rest
of his life telling people that they must make continuous effort up till the moment of
enlightenment. Papaji spent a quarter of a century doing japa and meditation prior to his
climactic meetings with Ramana, but when he began teaching, he always insisted that no effort
was necessary to realize the Self.
Papaji's attitude to self-inquiry was, "Do it once and do
it properly." Ramana's was, "Do it intensively and continuously until realization dawns."
Although you could never get Papaji to admit that there were differences between his
teachings and those of his Guru, they clearly didn't agree on the question of effort.
regard to the question of the difference between the effortless state and the state of
abiding in the Heart, I would refer to Lakshmana Swamy. He agrees with Ramana that hard,
continuous effort is needed up till the moment of realization. He also says that by effort
the mind can reach the effortless thought-free state, but no further. If that state has
been achieved, and if one has the good fortune to be with a realized Guru, then the power
of the Self will pull the mind into the Heart and destroy it. In the effortless state, mind
is still there, but when one abides in the Heart it is gone.
Papaji conceded that meditation
and effort had a limited use. He would sometimes say that intense meditation would earn
the punyas or spiritual merit necessary to have the opportunity to sit with a realized being.
Once that has happened, effort is no longer necessary. In fact, it is counter-productive.
When one meets the Guru, the power of the Self that is present in an enlightened being's
satsang takes over and gives the results and experiences that the mind is ready for.
probably appears to be confusing and contradictory. The teachers I have written about
disagree profoundly on the question of effort and its role in Self-realization, but they
all agree that being in the presence of a realized being is the greatest aid to enlightenment.
I can say from my own experience that when one is in the presence of such beings, mind drops
away of its own accord.
RS: In his book Relaxing Into Clear
Seeing, Arjuna Nick Ardagh
says, "In the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the ease with which
Self-realization can occur. Indeed, a kind of 'epidemic' has begun in the West whereby the
awakened view is becoming increasingly available." It seems to me that Arjuna is referring
here to glimpses, not Self-realization, and I wonder if they are any more common today than
they have been in India for millennia. Perhaps the real difference is that Indians didn't
regard these glimpses as particularly unusual or worth noting.
DG: I don't think that there is an epidemic of Self-realization in the
West or anywhere else. I think full realization is a rare phenomenon. There are certainly
more people who think that they have realized the Self, but I think that they are deluding
RS: According to some Western advaita teachers who claim to
follow Sri Ramana's teachings, Self-realization is a two-part process. First, there is an
awakening, a temporary experience of non-duality and egolessness. The second step is to
stabilize the experience of this awakening, or in other words, make it permanent. But when
I read about Mathru Sri Sarada in your book No Mind - I Am The Self, I seem to get a
completely different picture. In her case, a permanent awakening experience may have
been necessary, but by itself was not sufficient. For her, Self-realization happened
only when her mind descended into her heart center and dissolved permanently. I get the
impression that she could have remained in the "awakened state" indefinitely without this
descent into the Heart. Would you comment on this?
DG: When egolessness is there, there is no one left who can stabilize
or lose the experience. These experiences come and go. They go because the
vasanas of the
mind reassert themselves. When they arise and take over, you resume the practice again.
This is the classic prescription of the Gita, and it is also what Ramana taught. Stay
awake, stay mindful, and whenever you catch the mind straying, take it back to its source.
With regard to Mathru Sri Sarada, I think you are referring to the experience she had just before
she realized the Self. She felt that her mind had died because she was temporarily abiding
in the Heart, but her Guru, Lakshmana Swamy, could see that her "I" was not dead, which meant
that this was a temporary experience. She was talking about her experiences and genuinely
felt that her "I" was dead, but it was not a real, permanent awakening.
A few minutes later,
with the help of her Guru, the "I" went back to its source and died forever.
There was no fully awakened state prior to this experience. The final death of the "I"
in the Heart was necessary to complete the realization process
RS: Can you name any people who are teaching today who are
DG: I could hide behind my earlier statement and say that I am not
qualified to say who is enlightened and who is not. That is true, but I have absolute faith
that Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma are in that state. I don't want to make comments about
RS: What plans do you have for future books and other works?
DG: I am working on a third volume of The Power of the
I hope to see it published in a few months. After that, I have a project to translate and
publish some of Muruganar's poetry from Tamil into English. He recorded many of Bhagavan's
teaching statements in short Tamil verses, and most of them have never been translated.
This will be a major undertaking that may take a year or two. I also hope to get back to
working on Papaji in the near future. I particularly want to edit the Lucknow satsang
dialogues from the early 1990s. That's a big job, though, and would probably take years.
I recently volunteered to make a book of all Sadhu Natanananda's writings on Bhagavan for
Ramanasramam. I will fit that in between all my other projects.
When I sit down in front of
my screen in the morning I often have no idea what I will be working on ten minutes later.
I might look at something I have edited recently, move on to something else, and then find
another chapter of another book that suddenly grabs my attention and interest.
Or I might switch the machine off and go outside and do some gardening instead.
I have come
to the conclusion that Bhagavan brought me to Tiruvannamalai to write about him and his
disciples. I have learned this the hard way. I went back to England twenty years ago,
hoping to earn enough money to come back to India and not do any work here. Nobody was
willing to hire me to do anything. I even flunked an interview for picking up litter in
the London zoo. But as soon as I had the idea of writing a book about Bhagavan,
everything fell into place. Though I had never written anything in my life, I was given
a contract by a major publisher and sent back to India to write about him. That's how
Be As You Are came into existence.
A few years before that I gave up editing the
magazine and went to Andhra Pradesh to be with Lakshmana Swamy. My intention was just to
meditate there. I had had enough of writing, but within a few weeks of my arrival he
asked me to write No Mind - I am the Self. Whenever I do work on Bhagavan or his disciples,
everything goes well. Whenever I try to do something else, so many problems come up,
nothing ever gets accomplished or completed.
Having learned this from experience, I have
now surrendered to this destiny. I enjoy the work, and many, many people seem to appreciate
the books. I asked Papaji years ago whether writing all these books on Bhagavan was a
distraction for the mind.
He replied, "Any association with Bhagavan is a blessing."
I took that as an instruction to carry on with the work.
RS: Thanks very much for this interview, David. I learned a
lot from it, and you have been extraordinarily generous.