This has been written by Elizabeth Lok, an American Devotee of the saint known as Ramana Maharshi. She refers to him by the title “Bhagavan” here:
When did I first hear of Bhagavan? It is difficult to imagine a time when one had not. Yet I think it was from Brunton’s book Message from Arunachala (first read in the late 40′s), and many good talks with a friend of Brunton’s. Then in 1950 there was the article in an American magazine describing Bhagavan’s last days.
These sources gave no more than an elusive awareness of something I wanted avidly to learn more about. A pilgrimage to Arunachala became-and remains-an unfaltering and deep desire. Imagine my feelings around ten years later when my beloved sister De Lancey Kapleau was able to do just that! And was good enough to write fully about it and send me Osborne’s book on Bhagavan’s life!
I read through her description of her stay at the Ashram with mounting excitement; read and reread it. Then devoured the book. The last chapters were read late at night when the children and my husband were all asleep, and my heart nearly burst for joy, while grateful tears sprang from my eyes. When I closed the book I sat still for some time, then quite spontaneously prostrated myself in gratitude. Later, in bed, thinking of my sister’s letter, I felt an earthy pang of envy that she, not I, had reached the Ashram. You know the sort of thing: “Oh how wonderful-just imagine-I wish it had been I.” The jealousy surprised me, a little, but when I recognized and acknowledged it I had to laugh at the jealous one, and said to myself: “But you fool, if your sister went there of course this was part of her karmic pattern. For you, and for anybody, if Arunachala exists anywhere it must exist most truly in the hearts of those who are open to it. So the significance is always within oneself.”
At this the field of my vision was lit by a great glow of golden light, and my heart expanded in almost unbelievable joy. The joy deepened and glowed into an incredible depth of peace, which wells up again as I write this.
A few weeks afterwards I was thinking still of Osborne’s book, and particularly recalling the beautiful experience of the disciple who felt the pressure of Bhagavan’s hand on his heart, in blessing, while far from the Ashram and Bhagavan. Again a swift little pang of envy, and again a self-scolding: he to whom it happened had made himself ready for the reception of such Grace, and it could happen only to the heart which was ripe for it.
The darkness of the night around me became utterly black, and in my mind’s eye I caught a fleeting glimpse of Maharshi’s wonderful face. At the same moment I felt a sharp pressure in the chest, just to the right of the breastbone. Everything merged into unutterable peace. I was able to dwell in that peace for several days, during which time errors, disharmonies, misunderstandings, impatience and fatigue became impossible, and my family, who knew nothing of what had happened, responded radiantly in an unbroken harmonious and loving glow. The peace gradually receded, of course, but from that time conscious effort is opening my heart to Bhagavan and I could almost always restore it.
Around this time my mother was taken to a hospital, where she lived for her last three remaining years. Having small children, no household help, and the vagaries of public transportation made it difficult for me to visit her regularly. I have always been deeply fond of my loving mother, and grateful to her for her warmth and enthusiasm. As her body weakened she was much in my thoughts. I was concerned that for years she had feared death, and while my grasp of spiritual things was tentative, I felt that somehow perhaps one might help. So often at nights or in quiet moments I would think of her, wishing her, willing her peace and love and courage with all the strength of my heart. And while I didn’t speak of it, I found that she felt and responded to this. In sending love to her this way the ordinary small surface rumplings of disagreement and awareness of each other’s small failings completely disappeared, and we felt ourselves very closely united by love in a very real and freeing sense.
One afternoon on a hospital visit, my mother, who had been rather ill, drifted in and out of sleep while I was with her. I sat very close by, cradling her head in my arms, and while she drifted out, wishing her love and peace with all my heart. I nearly trembled with the intensity of effort. At one point she opened her eyes. As I looked at her it was not my mother’s hazel eyes into which mine looked, but Bhagavan’s deep brown ones. And from them flooded peace and love without measure, unfathomable wisdom and bliss, until everything disappeared into a vastness of love and peace. There was no mother, no daughter, no hospital room-only that profound peace which passeth all understanding.
Slowly-I don’t know when-it receded. But at that time I knew that my mother was soon to die, and would pass in peace. And I believed that it would be granted to me to be with her at the end. It took place within a week, and I was by the bedside watching a frail body struggle its last, while strongly aware that its soul watched with me, wondering but unafraid. How deep was my gratitude.
It has not been my privilege to have known Bhagavan while he was among us as a man, nor yet to visit the Ashram or to walk on Arunachala. But Bhagavan, the Ashram and Arunachala are eternally ready to fill me whenever I truly turn my heart and open it to them.