Who is my Guru?

Thanks to Sri Venkatesan for the article…


Spiritually advanced friends of Paul Brunton used to request him to advise as to how they could further progress in their sadhana. Brunton used to advise them to go to India and have darshan of His Holiness at Kanchi. To a few of them, he would be specifically guiding that they should, after having the darshan of His Holiness, go to Arunachala and stay at Sri Ramanasramam and add that would help them spiritually enormously. Some of them have met me and revealed this to me.

One such close admirer of Paul Brunton was a young Muslim businessman – A. Haji. He used to live in the USA. Whenever he visited India, he would visit Kanchi without fail and have darshan of His Holiness. Since he was an intellectual, he was drawn to Sri Bhagavan’s Direct Teaching of Self-Enquiry. At a particular stage, he fell into a dilemma of having to choose between Ramana Maharshi and His Holiness as to who his true Guru was.

He also wanted clarity on what form of meditation was meant for him, though he was doing some form of spiritual practice.

He narrated to me the experience he had once in the presence of Kanchi Shankaracharya: “A frail old man sitting in a cramped wooden box, draped in a thin orange cloth and crowned with a wreath of tender green leaves: my first impression of the Shankaracharya! The box is his palanquin, with the carrying poles on two sides detached. He spends much of his time inside this tiny room, no larger than a big refrigerator. Yet he seems quite comfortable in it, sitting crossed-legged, gazing out of the open door at his visitors. He even has a bookshelf inside the palanquin. I can only see one eye and a part of his face,steadily looking at me. Not a word is said. In a few minutes he draws shut the sliding doors of the palanquin. He has effectively retired, even though the palanquin is in full view.”

I quickly carry my precious foreign friends’ letters to the Mutt’s manager. He is cordial and reassuring: ‘I will read the letters to him at eight.’ I glance at my watch and it is 7 a.m. I return to the audience chamber. There are about twenty people standing behind the bamboo barricades, gazing at the Shankaracharya, who is peering back at them from his palanquin.

A Tamil matron standing in front of me is pleading with the Shankaracharya. I do not understand Tamil, but I pick up a key Sanskrit word. She is pleading for moksha – liberation from the endless round of birth and death. With hands prayerfully folded, she becomes more and more impassioned, finally breaking into tears. The Shankaracharya gazes at her compassionately, wordlessly, all through her performance, and is moved to raise his right hand in the abhayamudra – the gesture of ‘fear-not’. The woman leaves, apparently reassured.

The Shankaracharya talks softly in almost a hoarse whisper, and mostly to his attendants. He asks questions in sign language punctuated with a few words. The attendant then repeats the question and relays the answer back to the Shankaracharya.

“I lean against a bamboo pole for support. Many devotees walk by. They bring their problems, victories and sorrows to the Shankaracharya. He listens intently to his attendant, voicing these messages of humankind. Often, he asks questions. He is hard of hearing and the attendant must shout loudly. A young boy, hardly twelve, folds his hands in prayer in front of the Shankaracharya, and at the urging of his mother, rattles off a longish prayer.

The Shankaracharya asks a question. On hearing the reply, a smile suddenly appears on the Shankaracharya’s face. He seems more than happy.”

I grow weak in the knees. I cannot stand there any longer. I look at my watch. It’s, only 7:20 a.m. I go to the back of the crowd and find a seat from where I can see the Shankaracharya. My tiredness refuses to go away. I find that if I lean my head against the wall, I am quite comfortable.

I open my eyes. It is already ten minutes past 8. I have been asleep for almost an hour! I stand up to stretch, silhouetted against the bright sky. The Shankaracharya immediately points a finger at me: ‘Where do you come from?’ The question is shot at me through the attendant. ‘I come from America,’ I answer, surprised by this sudden turn of attention. ‘When did you land in India?’ he asks. ‘I arrived on the 24th of last month,’ I quickly guess.

Then a short silence. ‘Do you have a question for the Shankaracharya?’

I decide to first seek advice about my meditation, postponing that crucial question I had decided to test him with, namely, ‘Who is my Guru?’ As if echoing this, the attendant queries back, ‘Who is your Guru? Who do you think of in your meditation?’ I find myself answering, ‘Ramana Maharshi’. This is a strange turn of events. I have just answered my own unasked question without the least hesitation, almost as if, at some deeper level, I already knew the answer. Then my question on meditation is answered. I am advised to discontinue my current practice and concentrate on focussing my love and attention on my Guru.

The Shankaracharya ends the discussion with a very Indian shaking of his head from side to side, which seems to say: ‘All is understood and will be taken care of.’ With his right hand raised in blessing, he gently motions me out of the audience chamber.

Spiritual seeker: As narrated by A. Haji (Riaz Padamsee) to Shri V Ganesan Author: V Ganesan
Source: Meetings with Sages and Saints
Photo captions:

1) Paramacharya seated inside the Mena
2) Businessman

Categories: Devotee Experiences

1 reply

  1. jaya jaya sankara hara hara sankara. janakiraman. nagapattinam

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