The greatest of yogis have descended upon earth to unchain man from eternal suffering. One of them was Paramahamsa Yogananda who wrote the eternal spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi and the other was Ramana Maharishi whose silence instilled in seekers the unspeakable joy of absolute awareness that Hindus who seek liberation identify with easily. The Maharishi, therefore, was a self-realised yogi. His clear, precise and to-the-point espousal of a spiritual philosophy lives on since his death in the holy hill of Arunachala in Thiruvannamalai on which nature thrives and the full moon, most beautiful on Shiva nights.
Ramana is an avatar with a vast transnational following like any globe-trotting Mahatma. His photographs can be seen on walls inside devotees’ homes as do other gurus’ devotees who have photographs of their holy ones placed for potential devotees to see. He asked seekers of self-revelation to hunt for the ‘I’ or the ego. Ramana was egoless, as Brahman on earth cannot be imperfect. To people who desire liberation his words are gospel truth. They find solace in reading them because they are words from the mouth of someone immersed in the transcendental. It is believed that he spoke through silence, yet his words, brimming with life, have the power to break silence apart. They make people dance in bliss.
Yogananda was from North India. His stories have ever been read by those on the path. They carry with them an archaic, charming, irrepressible urge to chronicle our own stories which we do not know unless we take pen to paper. From him the colonial, post-colonial and spiritual merge and wallow in rapturous despair: why would a self realised person want to put himself in words? If he had been self-realised, he would not have written down himself, would he? The truth is that avatars have different missions and each of them is unique in their own way.
To Yogananda the spiritual contained the material and despite the presence of revelation within him, he was deeply immovable in front of the supreme self; an act of surrender is just performance after all. The video archives tell us that both met, so does an interview published in Talks with Ramana Maharishi. What Yogananda revealed to us is the immense significance of Indian spirituality, one philosophy in particular, like Ramana’s, which since Vivekananda’s time had gained prominence. Even modern philosophers like it, but cannot get hold of it completely because of the glamorous Charvakas who seem to be taking Western and Eastern philosophical texts by storm.
Advaita vedanta is unanimous on its insistence that we are divine. Both these gurus were walking Vedantins and when they met there was a rare display of unconcealed emotion. It amazes me as to why self-revealed people would want to interview themselves. God talking to god is “mirror mirror on the wall” looking into the mirror on the opposite side. Could there be an ulterior motive? Certainly the motive was for people like us who are trapped within our bodies, to which Vedanta will say, “give it up by destroying the mind.” Ramana would agree. We are pulled to their words for inspiration, dreaming, and spiritual practise by virtue of living in the world, finding a way out of the delusion we created by ourselves for ourselves.
My question is: why would two self-realised beings want to meet? Take a look at other meetings. Mata Amritanandamayi and Shree Maa from Devi Mandir, Sathya Sai Baba and Raja Rajeshwari Amma from Mysore, and the list goes on. Ask any devotee of a self-realised person and they will tell you that innumerable times have Brahman selves met their own kind to continue the divine play of the gods. The skies create spaces for such meetings and they are fated hundreds of years before those very beings are put into flesh for the making of unbroken transcendental experiences and devotee-guru binaries.
When mortals meet to greet or play non-divine games there are no mirrors. We wear curtains to conceal our identities, real selves that we wish to hide from the world. Sometimes the wish to be seen as our innate selves takes a political formation. You are a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew and I shall venture to converse with you as my body has its own labels that ascribe to politics certain principles of understanding. Beyond the curtain we hide these identities not to underscore divinity but to rid divinity of itself. We hide identities owing to our false perceptions of appearances. We do it to perform the great ego drama.
Inside these performances there is light and a deep fascination for the internal. Would we interview our selves? Nope. But we can interview an idol in a temple. Which is what I did yesterday using my camera. I went to the inner sanctum of a temple downtown and placed my camera in front of Lord Muruga after securing permission from the head priest. When I switched it on, I asked the dressed statuette all my questions. I got all my answers in silence. Even god, when he is placed in a temple, is eternally silent; and when a mortal interviews him he remains even more. Thank god the idols do not speak – if they did, television would have ruined them.
By Pramod Ramachandran