Two days before I was due to return to New York, I decided to go to Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram, which is only two and a half hours away from Pondicherry. The name of my taxi driver was Bishwanathan, which means ‘Lord of the world’. I have never seen such a nice driver.
The first thing to greet me when I arrived at Arunachala was a peacock. It was so beautiful, but the sound of the peacock was something else! How could God give such beauty to the peacock and such an unpleasant voice?
I took very nice pictures, right in front of the main building and also I used my video camera. The entire Ashram was full of peace, peace, peace. Then I took off my shoes and entered into the main meditation hall. There were six or seven pictures of Ramana Maharshi and a large statue of him. This statue is most sacred. People were going around the statue but, poor me, because of my knee, I was able to go around only once.
I sat down on the floor to meditate. The atmosphere inside the meditation hall was so sublime. The devotees were bowing down and prostrating themselves before the statue.
Then I wanted to go to the cave where Maharshi actually meditated when he came to Arunachala. When I went there fifteen years ago, I saw the cave and I had a very good experience. In 1956 and 1958 I also walked there. But this time it was impossible. They said it was a forty-five minute walk away and I was unable to go more than a few steps.
My taxi driver said to me, “They may be wrong. You speak English and the President of the Ashram also speaks English. Let us go and ask him."
Since the driver was begging me, I went to the President’s office and asked, “May I come in?” The President was not there, but another gentleman was inside. He said, “Do come in.”
I went into the room and asked him how long it takes to go from the main building to the cave. He answered, “Forty-five minutes.” Then he asked me, “Is this your first time?”
I said, “No, this is my fourth time. In 1956 I came for the first time and then I came again in 1958.”
“1956 and 1958!” he exclaimed. He could not believe it.
Then I added, “About fifteen years ago, I also came here. So this is my fourth visit. Now I live in America.”
He asked, “In 1956 and 1958 where were you living?”
I told him, “I was at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.”
He said, “My God! By the way, did you know Dilip-da?”
I was so happy to answer his question, I said, “I used to bask in the sunshine of his affection.”
The gentleman said, “Please sit down, please sit down. I have to hear stories about him.”
I said, “I can tell a great many stories.”
He said, “You have to sit down and tell me. I am a great admirer of Dilip-da.”
I said, “Dilip Kumar Roy is immortal.”
He went on, “Then you have to take tea.”
I replied, “No, thank you. Today I have already taken tea three times. It is not good to take too much.”
He insisted, “No, no, you must take some tea. Then I will take you to the place where Ramana Maharshi used to eat with us.”
I said, “I would be so happy to see it.”
He insisted on bringing the tea and then he showed me the place where we were supposed to go and drink it. Alas, there were so many steps. I said to him, “Please forgive me. I will not be able to climb up the steps because of the condition of my knee.”
He said, “All right, then let us drink the tea here in my office."
So we sat in his office and drank the tea. He was asking me so many questions about Dilip-da, the Golden Voice, and I said many, many nice things about him. The gentleman was so pleased to hear them. Then he, said, “Now kindly tell me about yourself.”
I began, “My name is Chinmoy Kumar Ghose.”
He was dumbfounded. He said, “Sri Chinmoy? Sri Chinmoy?”
I said, “Yes, my name is Sri Chinmoy.”
“Then you are the one we read about in the Indian Express and The Hindu?” he asked.
I said, “Yes, I am the one.”
He was so excited and delighted. He said, “The President would have been so happy to meet with you! Now he is out of town. If you could stay here overnight, he could meet with you tomorrow when he returns.”
I said, “That means you are the Vice-President.”
Very humbly, he said, "I am nobody, I am nobody.” Then I asked him his name and he told me it was Mani Ramanan. He and his older brother, Sundaram, who is the President, are the direct descendants of Ramana Maharshi.
Originally, I had thought of going there for only half an hour, but I spent over two hours. Mani was so kind to me. At one point, he asked me, “What do you think of our Ashram?”
I answered, “I have been to so many spiritual places. I live in America, in New York. In America, sound is sound and silence is silence. Here, around the temple and in the vicinity of Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram, I wish to say that the silence is such a deep silence. But inside the sound also I feel silence.”
Mani looked at me. So I added, by way of explanation, “Sound is sound and silence is silence. But here at Ramana Maharshi’s place, even in sound, I feel such peace, such joy. I see men and women passing by and I see such peace in their faces. There is so much peace. Here in sound also I feel silence.”
Then he was very, very happy. At the end of our conversation, he said, “Now we have to take pictures to prove that you were here.”
So the taxi driver took our picture. Then the Vice-President walked with me to the car. He said, “I am so happy, so happy and so fortunate that you came here.”
As I returned to Pondicherry, I was swimming and swimming in the sea of ecstasy. In the car I wrote a poem in Bengali dedicated to Ramana Maharshi.
TCE 27. 11 June 1999↩