This popular book, recounting the author’s visit to the Ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi in 1949, was first published in 1953. It has been out of print for many years and is now republished in a limited edition by Sri Ramanasramam.
In Days of Great Peace inspired many westerners to seek spiritual guidance from Sri Ramana Maharshi in the years following His Mahasamadhi.
Through a narrative that is both simple and profound, the author takes us on his journey to the quiet hermitage of the renowned Sage of Arunachala in South India. Basking in the radiance of the ‘Great Rishi’, his mind turns inward, following the path of Self-inquiry of ‘Who Am I?’ He describes, with perceptive insight and emotion, how in the gracious presence of the Master, thoughts are stilled and one rests calmly in the thought-free, egoless state, which he calls ‘samadhi’. Before his final farewell of the holy Sage, he establishes the link of love that binds him to the Guru in an embrace that leads inevitably to final emancipation.
Mouni Sadhu has left us a small treasure in this book. Readers will remember and cherish it through-out their lives.
When you have a dream, your mind creates all the people and events in it. They have no reality apart from you, and their creation takes nothing from you and their re-absorption adds nothing to you; you are the same after as before. It is something like that with the manifestation of the universe.
You cannot be outside the Spirit or other than it, because there is no other. If you discover the real self of you behind all thoughts and feelings, it is Spirit, the Self of all; Whether you discover it or not, only the Self is.
Why, then, should one trouble to discover It? Because by breaking through illusion of a separate individuality and discovering the One Self, suffering and frustration is avoided and strife replaced by a vibrant Peace, sorrow by a luminous Bliss.
The Oneness of Being is the ultimate truth behind all religions and all occultism and esoterism, although some may have lost sight of it. It is known in Hinduism as ‘Advaita’, Non-Duality. The three Western religions and some schools of Hinduism have veiled it behind the less direct teachings of a Personal God who creates and rewards and punishes. Their teaching is true but not the ultimate Truth. So long as the ego persists in the illusion of its own reality, the Self is the God who creates it. The Self drawing it back is the Love of God for his creature. The law of karma, that is of cause and effect (‘They shall be paid back to the uttermost farthing’) is the reward and punishment of God. The mind can be in a state of consciousness that is heaven or that is hell according to its past thoughts and deeds. Therefore no exponent of Advaita denies the truth of the religion of a Personal God; only for those who are willing to understand he explains that this is not the ultimate truth.
Advaita is not a philosophy; understanding it mentally is only a preliminary to seeking true understanding through the spiritual guidance of a Master. Through the world today it has become difficult to find a true Master, as it has been in the West for several centuries past. In the midst of this darkness, Sri Ramana Maharshi, called by his disciples Bhagavan or ‘The Divine’ dwelt on earth among us to guide all who turned to him from all religions. He is the Light and the Truth; he was the Man in perfect Oneness with the Spirit, always, in speech and action no less than in silence and inaction; and he dwelt here to guide those who turned to him from darkness to Light.
Mouni Sadhu had spent half a lifetime searching for truth or for guidance to truth before he was drawn to the feet of the Maharshi and his search for a Master rewarded.
Small wonder that he was lifted up to ecstatic experiences. Many who seek and some, perhaps, who have not yet realized the need for search or the possibility of anything higher than the life of body and mind, will be encouraged by the account of his experiences. Although they can no longer approach the Maharshi in physical form as he did, his Grace is outpoured on all those who turn to him and no effort of their will be wasted.
For all such, this book may be more than a curiosity; it may be a light kindling a responsive light in the heart and pointing the way where all seemed darkness before.
Most of the people in this world have no faith in spiritual values. To them the human mind is all in all, and this leads them to a variety of reflections and speculations. Some of them call themselves skeptics, other agnostics and yet others pride themselves on being pure materialists. The truth is veiled by our own ignorance. We do not carry our search after it far enough.
Having exercised our intellect up to a certain limit we feel there is no hope for further discovery or investigation. This attitude of the mind is the result of the study of Western systems of philosophy which, from the Eastern point of view, is barren, and leads us nowhere, beyond speculations and guesses at truth.
Whereas Eastern philosophy, more especially the Indian system of thought, affords some genuine hope for an earnest aspirant on the path of search for truth. Almost all the ancient thinkers, saints and sages have pointed out an unfailing practical path by pursuing which, one may free oneself of all doubts and uncertainties and realize the meaning and purpose of life. Their method of approach to truth is fairly scientific. They do not dogmatize nor play upon the credulity of our faith. They simply point out a path and lay down certain definite conditions for attaining it.
The final success on this path depends entirely on the aspirant’s own effort and self-investigation. The first obvious condition is earnest desire, unquenchable thirst to drink the water of life. In answer to a question as to what are the requisite qualifications of a disciple, Sri Ramana Maharshi once stated:
‘He should have an intense and incessant longing to get free from the miseries of life and to attain supreme, spiritual Bliss. He should not have the least desire for anything else’.
The second is a ceaseless effort with careful and close observance of rules of conduct and the cultivation of the virtues of dispassion and discrimination. The third is the search for a Sad Guru, a genuine teacher who may rightly and successfully guide the aspirant to his destined goal.
It may be added that the ancient Hindu scriptures and the Upanishads have already given us necessary directions as to the path and its achievements. But the truth that is to be found by this definite scientific method is eternal, as acknowledged by the ancient sages, and needs to be testified to by living witnesses from time to time.
It is these sages who have taught us the reasonable assumption and the logical conclusion that only a living teacher can teach us the Upanishadic truth, not the Upanishads themselves, because they are just words and little more, while the living teacher is an incarnation of the truth we seek.
Mouni Sadhu, the writer of the book In Days of Great Peace, published in its non-English editions under the title On the Path of Sri Ramana Maharshi, seems to have fulfilled all these conditions as far as it is humanly possible. As an earnest seeker he pursued several methods of God realization as taught by various schools of yoga, occultism and mysticism and finally came to his supreme Master and Guru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi who, finding him well equipped with the necessary qualifications enumerated above, granted him His Grace, eradicated his ego-sense (as reported by the author himself) and finally helped and guided him to discover his own eternal and ever-abiding Self.
From our point of view there are two kinds of rational faith in the reality of Spiritual life.
1. An indirect faith which we have to have from the experiences and verdicts of such dauntless seekers after truth as had the courage, endurance and iron will to struggle through the thorny path of self-relization and whose words, according to their antecedent and personal integrity, have to be trusted.
2. Faith drawn from direct experience – a thing which no one can possibly doubt or deny.
Mouni Sadhu’s book serves as a precious evidence of indirect faith which we have closely and correctly to investigate and ascertain for ourselves. The careful and punctilious author has committed his inexpressible inner experiences to writing as faithfully, accurately and humanly as possible. It is left to us now to make use of it, to the limit of which we are capable.
Actuated by the sense of selfless service and his desire to share with others his experiences and convictions, as a result of his direct knowledge, he has embodied his thoughts and feelings in the form of this fascinating, altogether inspiring and highly instructive book. The earnest readers will find in its perusal not only evidence of one who has crossed the shore of illusory samasara but enough food for thought and inspiration.
The first edition of this book was published in October, 1952 under the title In Days of Great Peace … Diary Leaves from India. Following the advice of numerous friendly opinions and many favourable reviews by experts in India and the West, it has been decided to make the revised version slightly longer by some additional chapters based on my old diary and to change the subtitle.
In expressing my own experiences it has seemed best to use as simple a form as possible, avoiding technicalities and classical yogic terms, which might tend to confuse the student if he is not acquainted with them. In conveying spiritual matters, it is necessary to avoid overburdening the mind, for it distracts the attention, and the main message is not absorbed.
As well as the words of Sri Maharshi spoken in my presence, I have used quotations from the published teachings of the Sage, which were revised and acknowledged by him. They are:
Self-Realisation. Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi by B.V. Narasimha Swami, third edition, 1936
Maha Yoga by ‘Who’, third edition, 1947
Maharshi ‘s Gospel, fourth edition, 1946
Five Hymns to Sri Arunachala by Sri Maharshi, third edition, 1946
Spiritual Instruction and Who Am I ?, two small books compiled from the teachings to his early disciples between 1900 and 1902.
Since Sri Maharshi passed away from the body on 14th April, 1950, some ‘new’ interpretations and quotations of his sayings have appeared in books written by former inmates of the Ashram. They may be correct, but I prefer to limit myself to the above-mentioned works approved by the Master himself. I have given the reader an account of what I myself experienced, taking full responsibility for the accuracy of what I have written.
The teachings of the Sage, passing through the consciousness of each student, must vary in accordance with each one’s development, zeal and practice. The teaching itself is so simple that there cannot be any great variation in its main theme, but individual interpretations can differ on unessential points. The truest interpretation is that which arises in the heart of the pupil under the grace of the Master.
True realization does not come from any mental study of the letter of the teaching, neither is a man drawn to attempt the ‘Direct Path’ because of the accuracy of any biography of the Rishi.
At the beginning of this century a Western Master said: ‘One who leaves this earth spiritually blind, will remain so after death’. That is to say, the fact of leaving the body does not, of itself, bring spiritual enlightenment. Sri Maharshi often emphasized our need to attempt to experience realization here and now, and no spiritual Master ever contradicts another: Saints and Yogis realize the urgency of the matter, and do not postpone it to some future, unknown state.
Since realization is nothing more than the raising of our consciousness to the level of reality-spirit-self, which means transcending the so-called ‘normal’ consciousness of the brain-mind or ego, there must inevitably occur some forms of super-consciousness or Samadhi. These ecstatic experiences are necessary before the final perennial sahaja samadhi can be attained. In the west, some call these samdhis ‘initiations’.
When Sri Maharshi was asked why he did not pass through these ‘initiations’ in his life, but almost immediately reached sahaja Samadhi, he replied that one who has reached the summit – must have passed through all the previous initiations in a past life.
So we may accept the fact that these spirritual experiences are necessary before we can reach the state of the ‘Liberated’, the Rishi, the Jivan Mukta, or simply, the Master. The terms are synonymous.
So each of us must experience this eventually, but at the lowest level the accounts differ, according to individual differences. But the knowledge that others have known them is in itself encouraging to prospective students of the truth of Self.
And this is the only reason for the appearance of this book. When it is asked ‘What gave you these experiences?’ the only answer which can be expressed in words is this: ‘The absolute certainty that the path exists, that the goal can be reached and that the Master alone can lead us to it’.
It was also asked ‘What happens to disciple afterwards, when he is separated from the Master’s physical form?’
All I can say is that the connection with the Master is never severed. In a mysterious way he leads his followers forever. Some found that their progress was faster after he left the body, than when they were able to sit in his physical presence.
The Master blesses the seed which he sows in us, and time does the rest, in accordance with the pupil’s worthiness of His Grace.
Here we find the reason for an apparently strange fact, that the Master often sends his pupils out into the world, away from the Ashram, that their progress may be completed outside.
After being raised in the hot-house, the plant must continue to grow in the outer air. But the sun which shines on it is still the same.
I am extending my cordial thanks to Miss Nona D. Lucas of Melbourne and to Mr. Gerald J. Yorke of London, whose invaluable co-operation has helped me to improve the text of the present edition.
My visit to one of the last great Rishis (Sages) of India, known during these past forty years as Sri Ramana Maharshi, was planned four years ago. But the post-war conditions were not favourable to foreign travel, especially if one had to use sea routes and not the speedy airways.
Yet I reached the Ashram in time. In spite of the serious illness of the Sage – everyone realizing that he would soon have to leave this world in which he had lived for over seventy years – it was as easy to approach him, and even to ask questions as before.
But on the whole, visitors were not so anxious to put questions to the great man as to be in his immediate presence. The teachings of Maharshi have been expounded by himself in several short works and many others have been carefully annotated and published by his disciples. Hence his teachings were available for study and were usually read by people before coming to the Ashram. To hear what they already knew was not the chief desire of those who came from so many different parts of the world.
It was the presence of the holy man that attracted, like an invisible and powerful magnet, those who were fortunate enough to have been shown the way to him by the decress of providence.
This diary has been written sporadically. I simply tried to make notes in short hasty sentences on scraps of paper, in many cases neither titling nor even dating them, for time somehow seemed to have ceased to exist in this strange corner of the world. I simply wrote down, without any plan, my spiritual experiences, moods, and states of mind as they came day by day when I was sitting at the feet of Maharshi.
I brought from my previous wanderings ‘in search of truth’ a good deal of mental ballast in the form of various theories of occultism and fragments of the teachings of other Masters. That is why, when I tried to express in words the new inner and transcendental experiences which I had in the presence of Maharshi, they took, in spite of myself, the shape of certain ready-made mental moulds of ideas and even sentences.
No human words can ever express that which we call Truth, Spirit, or God. Yet those who have trodden the path of search before us have left some traces of their experiences in the sacred scriptures of all the religions of the world. We find in them words of such power and beauty that any attempt to seek better form for That which is formless is vain and futile. The words of the great teachers and guides of humanity are streams of power and light. No wonder that every being who finds himself in the presence of one of them enters, as it were almost unconsciously, into this stream.
Often after meditation in Maharshi’s presence, short classical sentences, like spiritual axioms, came spontaneously to my memory. Some of those which were used as ‘Mottoes’ for my diary, have been made into the sub-titles of chapters in this book, as to me they were so much more significant than mere dates.
I have not tried to write down any of the ‘teachings’ of Maharshi, as they can be found in many books. My purpose is to record that which the latter do not yet contain, namely, the real experiences of an average man, who wanted to know for himself what the presence of a great Sage means and what its influence is. I had read so many descriptions by pupils who were clever in classifying the qualities and teachings of their Masters, that I should have known, at least in theory, what may be expected in the presence of one of Them. But all theories, all acquired knowledge, falls into dust when one stands face to face with a perfect man. They become as superfluous as the complicated western dress with its collar and tie in the merciless heart of his part of India.
Among the many pupils of Maharshi, now scattered all over the world, Indians are the most numerous. Why is obvious. For so many years, they have been nearer to the light; they have had the best opportunities of getting into touch with the Sage and of understanding his teachings. Many among them are really advanced. Many have lofty and important spiritual experiences. But these our brethren –Indian yogis – do not like to talk, still less to write, about their highest flights; instead they prefer to discuss the paths which guide man to these mystical experiences. They undoubtedly have good reasons for such an attitude. First of all, they believe that anything they could possibly say has already been said by the Master, and that no one can do it better than he. And next, Indians have unlimited confidence in the decrees of the Most High. They firmly believe that His is the full responsibility for His creation. Holding such a view, they do not feel any urge to work for the uplifting and improvement of this world. The Westerner, on the other hand, has an innate urge to share his own discoveries and experience with others, if he feels that such may be of some use to them. So he writes.
I think that both Indians as well as Westerners are to a certain extent right in their respective points of view; only the tasks and ‘missions’ of both are different.
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