It wasn’t for a couple of years before I retrieved my Ramana Maharshi book from John, not until after he had died in fact. This was in 2011 which meant I would have lent him my copy of Talks With Ramana Maharshi in 2008 or something like that. I was in his bungalow in Clayhall, East London, clearing out his bedroom with Leigh, his son and my work colleague in the small company we ran together, first in Walthamstow and then in Ilford, going all the way back to 1989. By 2011 the company was entering its last phase of existence which on a business level meant five years of pain before we finally pulled the plug in 2016. We did this by way of going into voluntary liquidation, after which things changed overnight, seemingly rendering the previous 27 years’ work if not completely redundant then something pretty close. Anyway, all that lay in the future, so back to 2011.
I remember standing in John’s bedroom and staring at his bookshelf full of titles directly over his bed and in the middle of which was my Ramana Maharshi book. To be honest I’d forgot I had even lent it to him, but as soon as I saw it, picked it up and saw the face of Ramana on the cover, I told Leigh it was mine and that I would be taking it back. Leigh hardly noticed what I was saying, I think he was still trying to negotiate the emotional minefield which is grief, all at a time which was still only a couple of weeks after John’s passing. He also had little interest in his father’s collection of books on various Eastern religions anyway, if they had been books on cookery or gardening then it might have been a different story.
It was odd to have seen my book sitting there in the middle of John’s bookshelf, odd by way of the fact that when I got home I opened it up and started to read it straight away, cover to cover over the next couple of weeks. Essentially Talks With Ramana Maharshi is a collection of dialogues which he had with various people from different parts of the world who made the journey to his ashram in South India over a period of four years or so in the 1930s. The core subject matter of these conversations is Advaita Vedanta, or non-duality, the illusory phenomenon of the individual “I” or ego and how to then live your life in realisation of that fact. In places it is not an easy book to read, mainly due to matters of translation and antiquated language, however it is still more than possible pick up the gist of it. If that happens you might find yourself on a plane to India, southbound into the heart of Tamil Nadu and the town of Tiruvannamalai in order to enquire further. This at least was what happened to me, staying at the ashram to make enquiry by way of meditation, then going back for more when time and circumstance allowed.
Funny how it all came about for me; a book on a shelf, a book which I’d forgotten I had, the face of Ramana Maharshi on the cover and the look on his face which spoke to me. Now that is a look which I will never forget, even if it took the death of a man for me to remember.
Forgot I had it
But in a room it was there
What was long ago
Rests now within those cupboards
Scented with sadness
A soundless station
Of non-receipt awakened
Changed the game for me
Saw the object
And took a spine off the shelf
Held and felt it dear
Formless living is
Thoughts are a river
Prophetic or magnetic
You must let them go
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One thought on “Face of the Guru”
What a beautiful story. Ramana’s wisdom embraces us all through his silence