Dr. Paul Brunton (1898-1981), a British journalist, attracted by Indian mysticism first visited India in 1930.
Author of eleven books, he has emphasized the value and importance of the Self within us. He is generally considered as having introduced meditation to the West. He once wrote: “Sri Ramana was a spiritual torch carried to the waiting souls in the West. I was only the unimportant ‘link-boy’, the humble carrier.”
During his first visit, among many saints and yogis, Brunton also met Sri Ramana. He stayed for a few weeks in an improvised shelter very close to Sri Ramana’s Ashram.The number of full-time devotees being limited at that time, Brunton had ample opportunity of observing the Maharshi at close quarters and interacting with him. He provides a dispassionate, illuminating and intimate account of the Maharshi’s divinity and its impact in his A Search in Secret India published from London in 1934. (The experiences with Sri Ramana Maharshi alone have been published as the “The Maharshi and his Message”.)
Paul Brunton says:
There is something in this man which holds my attention as steel filings are held by a magnet. I cannot turn my gaze away from him. I become aware of a silent, resistless change, which is taking place within my mind. One by one, the questions which I prepared with such meticulous accuracy drop away. I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me; that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest. I perceive with sudden clarity that intellect creates its own problems and then makes itself miserable trying to solve them. This is indeed a novel concept to enter the mind of one who has hitherto placed such high value upon intellect.
I surrender myself to the steadily deepening sense of restfulness. The passage of time now provokes no irritation, because the chains of mind-made problems are being broken and thrown away. And then, little by little, a question takes the field of consciousness. Does this man, the Maharshi, emanate the perfume of spiritual peace as the flower emanates fragrance from its petals? I begin to wonder whether by some radioactivity of the soul, some unknown telepathic process, the stillness which invades the troubled water of my soul really comes from him. The peace overwhelms me.
The Maharshi turns and looks down into my face; I, in turn, gaze expectantly up at him. I become aware of a mysterious change taking place with great rapidity in my heart and mind. The old motives which have lured me on begin to desert me. The urgent desires which have sent my feet hither and thither vanish with incredible swiftness. The dislikes, misunderstandings, coldness and selfishness which have marked my dealings with many of my fellows collapse into the abyss of nothingness. An untellable peace falls upon me and I know that there is nothing further that I shall ask from life.
The Sage seems to carry something of great moment to me, yet I cannot easily determine its precise nature. It is intangible, imponderable, perhaps spiritual. Each time I think of him a peculiar sensation pierces me and causes my heart to throb with vague but lofty expectations.
I look at the Sage. He sits there on Olympian heights and watches the panorama of life as one apart. There is a mysterious property in this man which differentiates him from all others I have met.
He remains mysteriously aloof even when surrounded by his own devotees, men who have loved him and lived near him for years. Sometimes I catch myself wishing that he would be a little more human, a little more susceptible to what seems so normal to us.
Why is it that under his strange glance I invariably experience a peculiar expectancy, as though some stupendous revelation will soon be made to me? This man has freed himself from all problems, and no woe can touch him.
The Sage seems to speak not as a philosopher, not as a pandit trying to explain his own doctrine, but rather out of the depth of his own heart.
I am not religious but I can no more resist the feeling of increasing awe which begins to grip my mind than a bee can resist a flower in all its luscious bloom. The [Maharshi’s] hall is becoming pervaded with a subtle, intangible and indefinable power which affects me deeply. I feel, without doubt and without hesitation, that the centre of this mysterious power is no other than the Maharshi himself.
His eyes shine with astonishing brilliance. Strange sensation begins to arise in me. Those lustrous orbs seem to be peering into the inmost recesses of my soul. In a peculiar way, I feel aware of everything he can see in my heart. His mysterious glance penetrates my thoughts, my emotions and my desires; I am helpless before it.
At first, his disconcerting gaze troubles me; I become vaguely uneasy. I feel he has perceived pages that belong to a past, which I have forgotten. He knows it all, I am certain. I am powerless to escape; somehow, I do not want to, either.
I become aware that he is definitely linking my own mind with his, that he is provoking my heart into that state of starry calm, which he seems perpetually to enjoy. In this extraordinary peace, I find a sense of exaltation and lightness. Time seems to stand still. My heart is released from its burden of care. Never again, I feel, shall the bitterness of anger and the melancholy of unsatisfied desire afflict me. My mind is submerged in that of the Maharshi and wisdom is now at its perihelion. What is this man’s gaze but a thaumaturgic wand, which evokes a hidden world of unexpected splendour before my profane eyes?
I have sometimes asked myself why these disciples have been staying around the Sage for years with few conversations, fewer comforts and no external activities to attract them. Now I begin to understand – not by thought but by lightning like illuminations – that through all those years they have been receiving a deep and silent reward.
Hitherto, everyone in the hall has been hushed to a death-like stillness. At length, someone quietly rises and passes out. He is followed by another, and then another, until all have gone. I am alone with the Maharshi! Never before has this happened. His eyes begin to change; they narrow down to pinpoints. The effect is curiously like the ‘stopping down’ in the focus of a camera lens.
There comes a tremendous increase in the intense gleam which shines between the lids, now almost closed. Suddenly, my body seems to disappear, and we are both out in space! It is a crucial moment. I hesitate – and decide to break the enchanter’s spell. Decision brings power and once again I am back in the flesh, back in the hall. No word passes from him to me. I collect my faculties, look at the clock, and rise quietly. The hour of departure has arrived. I bow my head in farewell and depart.
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi