|Meeting Nisargadatta Maharaj|
|A devotional account by Swami Paramatmananda
A devotee of Ammachi (Mata Amritanandamayi) brought Swami Paramatmananda's book "On the Road to Freedom:
A Pilgrimage in India" to my attention. Swami Paramatmananda Puri is the monk-in-charge at the Mata Amritanandamayi Center in San Ramon, California, where he gives regular classes. Swami Paramatmananda kindly gave me the permission to reproduce the relevant pages on his meeting with Maharaj.
At this juncture, I came across a book entitled, I am That, a collection of conversations with Nisargadatta Maharaj, a Realized Soul living in Bombay. I felt that his teachings were identical to the Maharshi’s and as I had not seen the Maharshi during his lifetime, I entertained a strong desire to see someone like him. Going to Bombay seemed out of question, so I wrote a letter to Maharaj explaining my physical, mental and spiritual condition and requested his blessings. The very next day, after I had posted the letter, a French lady came to visit me. She had read the same book recently and had decided to go to Bombay and see Maharaj. I told her of my desire and my inability to travel.
“You could take a plane to Bombay. If you like, I will help you to get there,” she said.
I thought that this must be godsend and immediately agreed to her proposal. She had read many books on the Vedanta philosophy which states that there is only one Reality and the world being a manifestation of That. It is all but impossible to attain that consciousness without a one-pointed devotion to God or Guru and a complete purification of one’s body, speech and mine including one’s actions. Ananda, as she was called, felt as most pseudo-nondualists do, that nothing else is necessary except the superficial conviction that oneself is That. In the name of being that Supreme Truth, such people indulge in every kind of undisciplined, irresponsible and sometimes immoral activity. While we were on the way to Madras in a taxi, she questioned me, “Why all this discipline, rules and regulations? Even devotion to God is unnecessary. All of these things are only for weak-minded people. You should just go on thinking ‘I am That,’ I am That,’ and you will realize the Truth of it one day.”
“I think that you have overlooked an important point in the philosophy of Vedanta,” I objected. All of the texts and teachers of that school thought insist that, before one even takes up the study of it, one must have certain qualifications. A child in kindergarten cannot possibly do justice to a college textbook. He may even pervert the meaning. In the same day, before one takes up the study of practice of Vedanta, the mind should be rendered unmoving to such extent that the reflection of the Real can be seen therein. Holding on to that reflection leads one to the original. If the reflection is not visible, what is one to fix his mind on in the name of oneself being the Truth? Thoughts, feelings, body? We are already doing quite a lot of mischief with this small, perishable body. If we start to think that we are the Supreme Being, what will we not hesitate to do? What is a demon or a dictator but one who feels his little self to be equal to, or greater than God? There is not even a trace of bad in the Supreme Reality and one who had not given up such negative qualities as lust, anger and greed cannot be taken to be one who has realized the Truth. A safer course would be to consider oneself as a child of a Realized Soul or of God. To benefit from being the child of such a one, we must try to approximate his character. Only if we can do this, will our mind gradually become pure and unruffled by passions and the Truth will be seen, and not until then.”
You are still weak-minded. You will see when we get to Maharaj. He will tell you to throw all this mushy sentimentalism overboard,” she retorted, somewhat irritated. I had already met a number of people like her and knew there would be no value in arguing, so I kept quiet.
Reaching Bombay, a friend took us to Maharaj’s apartment. Maharaj had been a dealer in cigarettes as a young man. One day, a friend of his took him to see a famous holy man who was in Bombay. The holy man initiated Maharaj into a mantra and also told him to purify his mind by getting rid of all thoughts and holding on to the sense of being, or “I am.” He practiced this intensely for three years and after many mystic experiences, found his mind merged into the Transcendent Reality. He stayed on in Bombay doing business and instructed those who came to him in spiritual matters. He was now in eighties and lived with his son in a three room flat. He had also created a small loft in the living room where he spent most of his time. It was there that we met him.
“Come in, come in. You are coming from Arunachala, aren’t you? Your letter came yesterday. Are you enjoying peace near the Maharshi?” Maharaj jovially asked me, motioning me to sit near him. Immediately I felt an intense peace near him, a sure sign for me that he was a great soul.
“Do you know what I mean by peace?” he asked. “When you put a donut in boiling water, a lot of bubbles will come out until all of the moisture in the donut is gone. It also makes a lot of noise, doesn’t it? Finally, all is silent and the donut is ready. The silent condition of mind which comes about through a life of meditation is called peace. Meditation is like boiling the oil. It will make everything in the mind come out. Only then will peace be achieved.” This was a very graphic and precise explanation of spiritual life if I had ever heard one!
“Maharaj, I have written to you about the spiritual practices that I have done until now. Kindly tell me what more remains to be done,” I requested.
“Child, you have done more than enough. It will be quite sufficient if you just go on repeating the Divine Name until the goal is reached. Devotion to your Guru is the path for you; it should become perfect and unbroken by thoughts. Whatever may come to you, accept it as His gracious will for your good. You are hardly able to sit up, aren’t you? It does not matter. Some people’s bodies become sick like this when they sincerely do meditation and other spiritual practices. It depends on the physical constitution of each. You should not give up your practices but persist until you reach the goal or until the body dies, “ he said.
Turning to Ananda, he asked, “What kind of spiritual practice are you doing?”
“I just go on thinking that I am the Supreme Being,” she replied in a somewhat proud tone.
“Is that so? Did you ever hear of Meerabai? She was one of the greatest lady saints ever born in India. From her childhood she felt that Lord Krishna was her Beloved and spent most of her days and nights in worshipping Him and singing songs about Him. Finally, she had a mystic vision of Him and her mind merged into Him. She thenceforth sang songs about the glory and bliss of the God-Realized state. At the end of her life, she entered a Krishna temple and disappeared in the sanctum. You should walk in the same path as her if you want to achieve the Realization,” Maharaj said smilingly.
Ananda turned pale. Maharaj had pulverized her mountain of Vedanta in one stroke! She could not speak.
I may talk about Vedanta to some of the people that come here,” Maharaj continued. “That is not for you and you should not pay any attention to what I am telling others. The book of my conversations should not be taken as the last word on my teachings. I have given answers to the questions of certain individuals. Those answers were intended for those people and not for everyone. Instruction can be on an individual basis only. The same medicine cannot be prescribed for all.
“Nowadays people are full of intellectual conceit. They have no faith in the ancient traditional practices leading to Self-Knowledge. They want everything served to them on a silver platter. The path of knowledge makes sense to them and because of that, they may want to practice it. The will then find that it requires more concentration then they can muster and slowly becoming humble, they will finally take up easier practices like repetition of a mantra or worship of a form. Slowly the belief in a Power greater then themselves will dawn on them and a taste for devotion will sprout in their heart. Then only will it be possible for them to attain purity of mind and concentration. The conceited have to go a very roundabout way. Therefore I say that devotion is good enough for you,” Maharaj concluded.
I was time for lunch, so we left Maharaj to himself. As we were leaving, he asked me if I would be staying for some days in Bombay.
“I don’t know. I have no plans,” I replied. “Very good. Then you come here this evening after four,” he said.
The evening saw me back in Maharaj’s room. He asked me to sit near him. Though I had known him only for a few hours, I felt as if I were his own child, that he was my mother or father. A European came and put a large currency note in front of Maharaj.
“Please take it back. I am not interested in anyone’s money. My son is there and he is feeding me and looking after my needs. After you attain some peace of mind, there will be enough time for these things. Take your money, that it! He exclaimed.
With great difficulty I sat and watched what went on until seven o’clock. I felt fully satisfied and peaceful and thought that I could not possibly receive anything more than Maharaj had told me. I thought of going back to Arunachala the next day. I mentioned it and asked him for his blessing.
“If you feel like that, then you may go. Do you know what my blessing is for you? Until you leave your body, may you have full devotion and surrender to your Guru.” Maharaj looked at me compassionately. Moved at his kindness, I started to cry but controlled myself. Even then a few tears trickled down my cheeks. He smiled and gave me a piece of fruit. He then got up and taking a huge pair of cymbals, started to sing devotional songs in praise of his Guru. I bowed down to him and went to rest in my room.
|From the book
"On the Road to Freedom:
A Pilgrimage in India, Volume 1"
by Swami Paramatmananda Puri
Mata Amritanandamayi Center
San Ramon, California
|Note: The Swami met Ammachi a few months after his encounter with Maharaj.|