How a “Chela” Found His “Guru”1
(Being Extracts from a private letter [written by S. Ramaswamier] to Damodar K. Mavalankar, Joint-Recording Secretary of the Theosophical Society.)
Theosophist, December, 1882
. . . When we met last at Bombay I told you what had happened to me at Tinnevelly. My health having been disturbed by official work and worry, I applied for leave on medical certificate and it was duly granted. One day in September last, while I was reading in my room, I was ordered by the audible voice of my blessed Guru, M——— Maharsi, to leave all and proceed immediately to Bombay, whence I had to go in search of Madame Blavatsky wherever I could find her and follow her wherever she went. Without losing a moment, I closed up all my affairs and left the station. For the tones of that voice are to me the divinest sound in nature; its commands imperative I travelled in my ascetic robes. Arrived at Bombay, I found Madame Blavatsky gone, and learned through you that she had left a few days before; that she was very ill; and that, beyond the fact that she had left the place very suddenly with a Chela, you knew nothing of her whereabouts. And now, I must tell you what happened to me after I had left you.
Really not knowing whither I had best go, I took a through ticket to Calcutta; but, on reaching Allahabad, I heard the same well-known voice directing me to go to Berhampore. At Azimgunge, in the train, I met, most providentially I may say, with some Babus (I did not then know they were also Theosophists since I had never seen any of them), who were also in search of Madame Blavatsky. Some had traced her to Dinapore, but lost her track and went back to Berhampore. They knew, they said, she was going to Tibet and wanted to throw themselves at the feet of the Mahatmas to permit them to accompany her. At last, as I was told, they received from her a note, informing them to come if they so desired it, but that she herself was prohibited from going to Tibet just now. She was to remain, she said, in the vicinity of Darjeeling and would see the BROTHERS on the Sikkhim Territory, where they would not be allowed to follow her. . . . Brother Nobin, the President of the Adhi Bhoutic Bhratru Theosophical Society, would not tell me where Madame Blavatsky was, or perhaps did not then know it himself. Yet he and others had risked all in the hope of seeing the Mahatmas. On the 23rd at last, I was brought by Nobin Babu from Calcutta to Chandernagore where I found Madame Blavatsky, ready to start, five minutes after, with the train. A tall, dark-looking hairy Chela (not Chunder Cusho), but a Tibetan I suppose by his dress, whom I met after I had crossed the river with her in a boat, told me that I had come too late, that Madame Blavatsky had already seen the Mahatmas and that he had brought her back. He would not listen to my supplications to take me with him, saying he had no other orders than what he had already executed, namely—to take her about 25 miles, beyond a certain place he named to me and that he was now going to see her safe to the station, and return. The Bengalee brother-Theosophists had also traced and followed her, arriving at the station half an hour later. They crossed the river from Chandernagore to a small railway station on the opposite side. When the train arrived, she got into the carriage, upon entering which I found the Chela! And, before even her own things could be placed in the van, the train, against all regulations and before the bell was rung—started off, leaving Nobin Babu, the Bengalees and her servant, behind. Only one Babu and the wife and daughter of another—all Theosophists and candidates for Chelaship—had time to get in. I myself had barely the time to jump in, into the last carriage. All her things—with the exception of her box containing the Theosophical correspondence—were left behind together with her servant. Yet, even the persons that went by the same train with her did not reach Darjeeling. Babu Nobin Banerjee, with the servant, arrived five days later; and they who had time to take their seats, were left five or six stations behind, owing to another unforseen accident (?) at another further place, reaching Darjeeling also a few days later! It requires no great stretch of imagination to know that Madame Blavatsky had been or was, perhaps, being again taken to the BROTHERS, who, for some good reasons best known to them, did not want us to be following and watching her. Two of the Mahatmas, I had learned for a certainty, were in the neighbourhood of British territory; and one of them was seen and recognised—by a person I need not name here—as a high Chutuktu of Tibet.
The first days of her arrival Madame Blavatsky was living at the house of a Bengalee gentleman, a Theosophist; was refusing to see any one; and preparing, as I thought, to go again somewhere on the borders of Tibet. To all our importunities we could get only this answer from her: that we had no business to stick to and follow her, that she did not want us, and that she had no right to disturb the Mahatmas, with all sorts of questions that concerned only the questioners, for they knew their own business best. In despair, I determined, come what might,2 to cross the frontier which is about a dozen miles from here, and find the Mahatmas, or—DIE. I never stopped to think that what I was going to undertake would be regarded as the rash act of a lunatic. I neither spoke nor did I understand one word of either Bengalee, Urdu, or Nepaulese, nor of the Bhootan, or Tibetan languages. I had no permission, no “pass” from the Sikkhim Rajah, and yet was decided to penetrate into the heart of an independent State where, if anything happened, the Anglo-Indian officials would not—if even they could—protect me, since I would have crossed over without their permission. But I never even gave that a thought, but was bent upon one engrossing idea—to find and see my Guru. Without breathing a word of my intentions to any one, one morning, namely, October 5, I set out in search of the Mahatma. I had an umbrella, and a pilgrim’s staff for sole weapons, with a few rupees in my purse. I wore the yellow garb and cap. Whenever I was tired on the road, my costume easily procured for me for a small sum a pony to ride. The same afternoon I reached the banks of the Rungit River, which forms the boundary between the British and Sikkhim territories. I tried to cross it by the aerial suspension bridge constructed of canes, but it swayed to and fro to such an extent that I, who have never known in my life, what hardship was could not stand it. I crossed the river by the ferry-boat and this even not without much danger and difficulty. That whole afternoon I travelled on foot, penetrating further and further into the heart of the Sikkhim territory, along a narrow footpath. I cannot now say how many miles I travelled before dusk, but I am sure it was not less than twenty or twenty-five miles. Throughout, I saw nothing but impenetrable jungles and forests on all sides of me, relieved at very long intervals by solitary huts belonging to the mountain population. At dusk I began to search around me for a place to rest in at night. I met on the road, in the afternoon, a leopard and a wild cat; and I am astonished now to think how I should have felt no fear then nor tried to run away. Throughout, some secret influence supported me. Fear or anxiety never once entered my mind. Perhaps in my heart there was room for no other feeling but an intense anxiety to find my Guru. When it was just getting dark, I espied a solitary hut a few yards from the roadside. To it I directed my steps in the hope of finding a lodging. The rude door was locked. The cabin was untenanted at the time. I examined it on all sides and found an aperture on the western side. It was small indeed, but sufficient for me to jump through. It had a small shutter and a wooden bolt. By a strange coincidence of circumstances the hillman had forgotten to fasten it on the inside when he locked the door! Of course, after what has subsequently transpired I now, through the eye of faith, see the protecting hand of my Guru everywhere around me. Upon getting inside I found the room communicated, by a small doorway, with another apartment, the two occupying the whole space of this sylvan mansion. I lay down, concentrating my every thought upon my Guru as usual, and soon fell into a profound sleep. Before I went to rest, I had secured the door of the other room and the single window. It may have been between ten and eleven, or perhaps a little later, that I awoke and heard sounds of footsteps in the adjoining room. I could plainly distinguish two or three people talking together in a dialect that to me was no better than gibberish. Now, I cannot recall the same without a shudder. At any moment they might have entered from the other room and murdered me for my money. Had they mistaken me for a burglar the same fate awaited me. These and similar thoughts crowded into my brain in an inconceivably short period. But my heart did not palpitate with fear, nor did I for one moment think of the possibly tragical chances of the thing! I know not what secret influence held me fast, but nothing could put me out or make me fear; I was perfectly calm. Although I lay awake and staring into darkness for upwards of two hours, and even paced the room softly and slowly, without making any noise, to see if I could make my escape, in case of need, back to the forest, by the same way I had effected my entrance into the hut—no fear, I repeat, or any such feeling ever entered my heart. I recomposed myself to rest. After a sound sleep, undisturbed by any dream, I woke and found it was just dawning. Then I hastily put on my boots, and cautiously got out of the hut through the same window. I could hear the snoring of the owners of the hut in the other room. But I lost no time and gained the path to Sikkhim (the city) and held on my way with unflagged zeal. From the inmost recesses of my heart I thanked my revered Guru for the protection he had vouchsafed me during the night. What prevented the owners of the hut from penetrating to the second room? What kept me in the same serene and calm spirit, as if I were in a room of my own house? What could possibly make me sleep so soundly under such circumstances,—enormous, dark forests on all sides abounding in wild beasts and a party of cut-throats—as most of the Sikkhimese are said to be—in the next room with an easy and rude door between them and me?
When it became quite light, I wended my way on through hills and dales. Riding or walking, the paths I followed are not a pleasant journey for any man, unless he be, I suppose, as deeply engrossed in thought as I was then myself, and quite oblivious to anything affecting the body. I have cultivated the power of mental concentration to such a degree of late that, on many an occasion, I have been able to make myself quite oblivious of anything around me when my mind was wholly bent upon the one object of my life, as several of my friends will testify; but never to such an extent as in this instance.
It was, I think, between eight and nine A.M. and I was following the road to the town of Sikkhim whence, I was assured by the people I met on the road, I could cross over to Tibet easily in my pilgrim’s garb, when I suddenly saw a solitary horseman galloping towards me from the opposite direction. From his tall stature and the expert way he managed the animal, I thought he was some military officer of the Sikkhim Rajah. Now, I thought, am I caught! He will ask me for my pass and what business I have on the independent territory of Sikkhim, and, perhaps, have me arrested and—sent back, if not worse. But—as he approached me, he reined the steed. I looked at and recognised him instantly . . . I was in the awful presence of him, of the same Mahatma, my own revered Guru whom I had seen before in his astral body, on the balcony of the Theosophical Headquarters!3 It was he, the “Himalayan BROTHER” of the ever memorable night of December last, who had so kindly dropped a letter in answer to one I had given in a sealed envelope to Madame Blavatsky—whom I had never for one moment during the interval lost sight of—but an hour or so before! The very same instant saw me prostrated on the ground at his feet. I arose at his command and, leisurely looking into his face, I forgot myself entirely in the contemplation of the image I knew so well, having seen his portrait (the one in Colonel Olcott’s possession) a number of times. I knew not what to say: joy and reverence tied my tongue. The majesty of his countenance, which seemed to me to be the impersonation of power and thought, held me rapt in awe. I was at last face to face with “the Mahatma of the Himavat” and he was no myth, no “creation of the imagination of a medium,” as some sceptics suggested. It was no night dream; it is between nine and ten o’clock of the forenoon. There is the sun shining and silently witnessing the scene from above. I see Him before me in flesh and blood; and he speaks to me in accents of kindness and gentleness. What more do I want? My excess of happiness made me dumb. Nor was it until a few moments later that I was drawn to utter a few words, encouraged by his gentle tone and speech. His complexion is not as fair as that of Mahatma Koot Hoomi; but never have I seen a countenance so handsome, a stature so tall and so majestic. As in his portrait, he wears a short black beard, and long black hair hanging down to his breast; only his dress was different. Instead of a white, loose robe he wore a yellow mantle lined with fur, and, on his head, instead of a pagri, a yellow Tibetan felt cap, as I have seen some Bhootanese wear in this country. When the first moments of rapture and surprise were over and I calmly comprehended the situation, I had a long talk with him. He told me to go no further, for I would come to grief. He said I should wait patiently if I wanted to become an accepted Chela; that many were those who offered themselves as candidates, but that only a very few were found worthy; none were rejected—but all of them tried, and most found to fail signally, especially —— and ——. Some, instead of being accepted and pledged this year, were now thrown off for a year. . . . The Mahatma, I found, speaks very little English—or at least it so seemed to me—and spoke to me in my mother-tongue—Tamil. He told me that if the Chohan permitted Mdme. B. to go to Pari-jong next year, then I could come with her. . . . The Bengalee Theosophists who followed the “Upasika” (Madame Blavatsky) would see that she was right in trying to dissuade them from following her now. I asked the blessed Mahatma whether I could tell what I saw and heard to others. He replied in the affirmative, and that moreover I would do well to write to you and describe all. . . . .
I must impress upon your mind the whole situation and ask you to keep well in view that what I saw was not the mere “appearance” only, the astral body of the Mahatma, as we saw him at Bombay, but the living man, in his own physical body. He was pleased to say when I offered my farewell namaskarams (prostration) that he approached the British Territory to see the Upasika. . . Before he left me, two more men came on horseback, his attendants I suppose, probably Chelas, for they were dressed like lama-gylongs, and both, like himself, with long hair streaming down their backs. They followed the Mahatma, as he left, at a gentle trot. For over an hour I stood gazing at the place that he had just quitted, and then, I slowly retraced my steps. Now it was that I found for the first time that my long boots had pinched me in my leg in several places, that I had eaten nothing since the day before, and that I was too weak to walk further. My whole body was aching in every limb. At a little distance I saw petty traders with country ponies, taking burden. I hired one of these animals. In the afternoon I came to the Rungit River and crossed it. A bath in its cool waters renovated me. I purchased some fruits in the only bazar there and ate them heartily. I took another horse immediately and reached Darjeeling late in the evening. I could neither eat, nor sit, nor stand. Every part of my body was aching. My absence had seemingly alarmed Madame Blavatsky. She scolded me for my rash and mad attempt to try to go to Tibet after this fashion. When I entered the house I found with Madame Blavatsky, Babu Parbati Churn Roy, Deputy Collector of Settlements and Superintendent of Dearah Survey, and his Assistant, Babu Kanty Bhushan Sen, both members of our Society. At their prayer and Madame Blavatsky’s command, I recounted all that had happened to me, reserving of course my private conversation with the Mahatma. . . . . . . They were all, to say the least, astounded! . . . . . After all, she will not go this year to Tibet; for which I am sure she does not care, since she saw our Masters, thus effecting her only object. But we, unfortunate people! We lose our only chance of going and offering our worship to the “Himalayan Brothers” who—I know—will not soon cross over to British Territory, if ever again.
I write to you this letter, my dearest Brother, in order to show how right we were in protesting against “H. X.’s” letter in the THEOSOPHIST. The ways of the Mahatmas may appear, to our limited vision, strange and unjust, even cruel—as in the case of our Brothers here, the Bengalee Babus, some of whom are now laid up with cold and fever and perhaps murmuring against the BROTHERS, forgetting that they never asked or personally permitted them to come, but that they had themselves acted very rashly. . . .
And now that I have seen the Mahatma in the flesh, and heard his living voice, let no one dare say to me that the BROTHERS do not exist. Come now whatever will, death has no fear for me, nor the vengeance of enemies; for what I know, I KNOW!
You will please show this to Colonel Olcott who first opened my eyes to the Gnana Marga, and who will be happy to hear of the success (more than I deserve) that has attended me. I shall give him details in person.
S. Ramaswamier, F.T.S.
Darjeeling, October 7, 1882.
1. Published by permission. [ED. Theosophist.]
2. I call the especial attention of certain of my anxious correspondents to this expression, and in fact to Mr. Ramaswamier’s whole adventure. It will show the many grumblers and sceptics who have been complaining to me so bitterly that the Brothers have given them no sign of their existence, what sort of spirit it is which draws the Adepts to an aspirant. The too common notions, that the mere joining of our Society gives any right to occult instruction, and that an inert sentimental desire for light should be rewarded, arise from the lamentable ignorance which now prevails with respect to the laws of mystical training. Gurus there are now, as there have always been in the past; and now as heretofore, the true Chela can find among them one who will take him under his care, if like our Tinnevelly Brother he has determined “to find the Mahatmas or—die!”—D. K. MAVALANKAR
3. I refer the reader to Mr. Ramaswamier’s letter in Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, pp. 72 and 73, for a clearer comprehension of the highly important circumstance he refers to.—D.K.M.