The scrutiny of the hand-written inscriptions found in a 1935 edition of the book Self-Realisation, bought on Ebay, takes the author on a journey of inspiration and expectation. (continued from the Nov-Dec 2011 issue)
FOR who could fail to love old Chadwick? It's the sheer size of the man, the mixture of gentleness, strength and that certain endearing shyness. It's his luminous kindness, and that boyish enthusiasm which so often seems to have led him into a sort of clumsiness. But above all, we love him because of his own absolute and unswerving love for Bhagavan. He may not have been a great scholar or poet, and he may have put his size thirteen foot in it from time to time, but he had that unthinking adoration and trust which are all a devotee really needs. The moment he first arrived in the Ashram, all his best and worst qualities were on display, as he hastened to prostrate before Annamalai Swami, apparently on the assumption that the first Indian he set eyes on would have to be Bhagavan. When he was taken to the Hall and introduced to the real Bhagavan, that same boyish eagerness asserted itself again, as he launched in with his first question about why Christ had cried out on the cross, then kept Bhagavan talking for hours — blissfully unaware that he was offending all the other devotees by remaining seated on a chair. Bhagavan Himself, of course, was not offended, any more than He was on the occasions when He visited Chadwick's room and, far from getting up to welcome Him, Chadwick remained seated and carried on with what he was doing.
In some superficial ways, Chadwick seems to have been ill-suited to ashram life, and perhaps it is this that most endears him to me. He couldn't sit cross-legged, but was so determined to meditate in Bhagavan's presence that he was prepared to strap himself up in that ridiculous cotton belt. From what one can gather, he didn't sink then into deep samadhi for hours on end. Despite the fact that he had devoted his life so wholeheartedly to Bhagavan, he found it very awkward to prostrate before Him in public, and resisted doing so for as long as he could. It must be difficult for any Indian to understand just how reassuring a rather conventional Englishman like me finds it to know that such a figure was there, so close to Bhagavan and at the centre of the Ashram in so many ways. Not only had Chadwick trodden this foreign road before me, but he had remained perfectly sane, eminently practical and, in a strange way, reassuringly English.
If I find it hard to express my gratitude to Chadwick, I find it even more difficult to express my gratitude to Bhagavan for loving him as He did, for accepting him just as he was, and for doing so in such a very public way. For in accepting Chadwick, Bhagavan was somehow accepting and welcoming all we clumsy Westerners. His open declaration that Chadwick was an Indian who had had some desire to be reborn in the West, but that they had been together before, was really quite remarkable — especially as Bhagavan almost never revealed anything about people's previous incarnations. I do not for a moment flatter myself that He might have said anything similar about me. All the same, whenever I think of Him declaring that Chadwick was 'one of us,' I can't help feeling that, in some way, He meant the reassurance to apply to other Westerners as well.
The fact is — and I know I am about to reveal my own abysmal lack of spiritual development — that I am just ever so slightly proud of Chadwick. When I read about him defending Bhagavan against that visiting missionary, intervening in 'his stentorian voice' to correct his reading of the Bible, I can't help feeling he was somehow thundering on my behalf, as well. I take a particular boyish delight in that silly game he played of using the fan then pretending he hadn't been doing so the moment Bhagavan turned round — and, because Chadwick is part of me, I am somehow personally flattered that Bhagavan took it all in such good part. Similarly, I take ridiculous pride in the fact that 'my' Chadwick is one of the few people I can think of whom Bhagavan specifically named as having appeared in one of His dreams. Whenever I read of some little triumph like that, an unenlightened part of me wants to punch the air, as if my team has just scored a goal, and cry: 'Good old Chadwick!'
None of this, I hope, gives the impression that I think Chadwick was at my own humble level of development. This is a man, let us remember, who had worked out for himself the basic principles of advaita and the technique of self-enquiry before he'd ever heard of Bhagavan — an extraordinary achievement by anyone's standards. He was the first devotee of any nationality who was allowed to build himself a home inside the Ashram and settle there permanently.
This clumsy Englishman who couldn't even cross his legs was also the one who eventually assumed responsibility for reinstating the Sri Chakra Puja at the Mother's Shrine and reviving the Veda Patasala after Bhagavan's death. These are sacred trusts, and if Chadwick was the one who ended up bearing them, it can only be because Bhagavan knew he was the best person for the job. The fact that I can so easily imagine myself pumping Chadwick's hand and slapping him on the back is perhaps less an indication that he was down on my level than a testimony to the simplicity and humility of a man in a high spiritual state.
Perhaps that was why he recognised Bhagavan so quickly, went to Him without the least hesitation, and never seems to have felt the slightest desire to see anybody else. It's hard to imagine good old Chadwick indulging in a dalliance with Aurobindo, Papa Ramdas or Krishnamurti, or even feeling a compelling need to set eyes on Gandhi. In this, he almost bears comparison with the adoring Muruganar himself, although I do seem to remember that Chadwick once left Bhagavan's presence to go on a trip somewhere, and Muruganar always refused to do even that. Chadwick also shares with Muruganar, and indeed with all Bhagavan's foremost devotees, the distinction of never having been tricked into believing he might be some sort of guru himself. For those who have recognised Ramana Maharshi understand that there is only one Guru they or anyone else will ever need.
Yes, I wanted it to be Chadwick. A book that had been sent from the Ashram to England in 1936 was clearly a treasure, but knowing it had been sent by Chadwick would make it priceless in my eyes. At first glance, it seemed the odds were in my favour. A Search in Secret India, the Paul Brunton book which first spread Bhagavan's fame in the West, had only come out in 1934. Before that, as far as I knew, there had been no English visitors since Humphreys, in the early part of the century. Our Mystery Devotee must have been one of the very first to pack his bags and set off in search of this intriguing 'Maharishee'. The fact that he could describe Tiruvannamalai as 'the place in which I am living' must have made him one of a very small group indeed.
The dates fitted well. Chadwick arrived at the Ashram in November, 1935. By the time the book was sent, in August of the following year, he would have been living there for nine or ten months — long enough to get into that pleasant routine of visiting the temple for meditation at the shrine of Krishna, then walking back through the forest archway for an evening in the Old Hall. Perhaps it had also been long enough for him to start looking on the place as home, and to realise that he might never return to England. Could it have been this great realisation that prompted him to send the book back to his parents? If it now seemed that he might never see them again, he would have wanted to do everything in his power to make them understand the reason for his decision, which might have seemed to them at best foolish, and at worse traitorous. There might already have been an exchange of letters between India and England, in which he explained his decision and they remonstrated with him, and that would certainly fit with the tone of the dedication on the opening page. Sending the book might have been his last-ditch attempt to make them understand. Surely once they had actually seen Bhagavan's picture and read some of His teachings, Chadwick's parents would appreciate why their son could never now leave His side ....
But if the dates fitted perfectly, and though Chadwick had been one of a very few Westerners in the Ashram at the time, there were other incongruities that made me uneasy. The first and most obvious was the idea of Chadwick having parents alive at all. There is no mention of them in A Sadhu's Reminiscences. As far as I could remember, Chadwick there describes having a farewell stay with his sisters before he set off for India, not his parents. A quick look back at the opening of the book confirmed that this was right. Then, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to search the entire text at the press of a button and discover that there was not one mention of anybody called Russell.The Mystery Devotee had a mother, a father and what looked very much like a brother. These people were still alive, and still loomed so large in his life that he had taken the trouble to send them a book from India in an attempt to make them understand why he had moved there. But the Chadwick of A Sadhu's Reminiscences, if his parents are still alive, doesn't even deem them worth a mention. He doesn't tell us how they reacted to his decision to leave, or describe any scene of farewell. The fact that he does specifically mention saying goodbye to his sisters had naturally led me to assume, on previous readings of the book, that his parents were dead and that those sisters were the only family he had left to see him off.
Will you not let me go?
Like some insidious druggist you would make
Me come with craven pleading to your door,
And beg you of your mercy let me take
From out your potent wares a little more.
Will you not let me go?
Here, in an alien land I pass my hours,
Far from my country and all former ties.
A restless longing slowly me devours
That me all wordly happiness denies.
Will you not let me go?
Will you not let me go?
You tell me, "Yes, I do not keep you here."
That's but your fun. Why else should I stay?
While months pass by and mount up year by year
So that it seems I'll never go away.
You do not let me go.
Will you not let me go?
Nay, I'm a fool, I cannot if I would.
I am your slave, do with me what you will.
That you should all deny, well, that is good.
If it so pleases you. I'll speak no ill.
Refuse to let me go!
Will you not let me go?
I'm only sorry wax beneath your hands.
You've striven long to mould me into shape.
Your endless patience no one understands;
Your boundless love there's no escape.
You'll never let me go.
12. More imperturbable than the Hill of Gold (Meru); more unfathomable than the ocean; more patient than the immovable Earth, the Mother of all, he is a paragon of self-control, far removed from even the whisper of excitement.
13. Spreading grace like the friend of the blue lily, the moon; bright like the lord of the lotus, the sun; by his abidance in Brahman (the state of pure Being) he reminds one of his Father1 under the banyan tree; firm like a rock is this my younger brother.
14. Even now in the thousand-petalled lotus in the head there shines Devasena (the senior consort of Kumara), lovely in looks and in mind, in the form of auspicious thoughts; yet he is free from the faintest scent of desire. Though thus he is a householder, he is the King of ascetics.
15. A giver of boon to the devotees; the guru even of the great Ganapati, the master of mantras; like the celestial tree, he assuages the anguish of those who seek the shadow of his feet.
16. He is a re-incarnation of (Kumarila) Bhatta, praised by assemblies of scholars, the author of "Tantra Vartika", elixer of the Vedas, brilliant with various ingenious ideas; in this birth, however, he elucidates the teachings of the Vedas alone.
17. He is the Master who composed "Arunachala Pancha Ratna" (Five Gems on Arunachala), the quintessance of Vedantic utterances, brief like the sutras, but all-comprehnsive and filled with hidden meaning.
18. Though not at all trained in the language of the gods (Sanskrit), and unaquainted with poetry, he is yet the author of works wherein crowds of brilliant ideas trail behind the inspired expression.
19. Again, this boundless genius is another advent of the Master-poet (Jnana Sambandha), the twice-born Tamil child who, drinking the breast-milk of the Mother of the Universe, sang in dancing tunes the praises of Siva.
1. Siva as Dakshinamurty who through silence dispelled all the doubts of his four venerable older seekers.
2. Ganapati: the poet thinks of himself as the elder son and of Sri Ramana the younger son of Siva.
You, your family and friends are invited to join us in celebrating the 132nd anniversary of the birth of Sri Ramana Maharshi.
11 A. M. Saturday 14 January 2012
86-06 Edgerton Boulevard
Jamaica Estates, NY 11432-2937
Born in 1927, V. Ganapati was the son of Sri Vaidyanatha Sthapati and Smt. Velammal. His father was the builder of the Mathrubhuteswar Temple at Sri Ramanasramam. In this concluding article, the late, internationally renowned V. Ganapati Sthapati tells of his father's intimate association with Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swamigal, the Paramacharyal of Kanchi, and the blessings he bestowed on both of them.
THE interaction with the Paramacharyal of Kanchi
Paramacharyal was very much impressed and touched by my father's sincerity and knowledge. He was sad to find that these divine traditions of such potiential remained unrealized in the Indian social hierarchy. This is the seed that my father sowed in the fertile heart of Paramacharyal which later sprouted into a movement at llayattankudi where he ushered in Sadas called "VEDA AGAMA SHILPA VIDHVAT SADAS". This movement later worked wonders. It helped to restore the spiritual message of the Vastu Vedic Culture in the soil of its birth.
Let me now turn to my father and his illness. Having lost all hopes of reviving my father from a dreadful disease, I ran to llayattankudi and told the Paramacharyal of his plight. He was then in the midst of a large gathering of devotees and philanthropists in Chettinadu. On hearing that the Sthapati was dangerously ill, he emerged out of the gathering and took me away from the place and asked me to walk with him. The crowd was following at a distance. The Acharyal did not inquire about my father and talked only about my education, employment, my ambition in life. I did not like this as I was worried and wanted him to offer remedial advice for my father's health. Furthermore, I did not go to him for anything personal. I was in Government service at the time, with a well-defined future.
Finally, far from the crowd, we reached a lonely temple built over a samadhi into which he entered, leaving me behind at the threshold. He did not ask me to come inside, nor did he ask me to stay outside. It was 10 O'clock in the night. The crowd waited with me till midnight and then quietly melted away. I stood there all alone in the precincts of the samadhi.
I thought I should wait patiently for his return and receive his blessings and advice before taking leave of him. I felt as if this waiting was a test. I was feeling very uneasy there alone at 12:30, the dead of night. This was a samadhi temple, an adhisthana of another Acharyal. A kind of fear gripped me as the clock struck 1:00 A.M. I was hungry too. At that moment the Paramacharyal emerged from inside the temple and called: "Where is that boy?"
"Here I am", I said. He beckoned me to His side and took me to the corner of the temple prakara and then started his enquiry about my father. After listening to me for fifteen minutes, he put into my hands a couple of broken coconuts. He walked with me empty-handed into the temple, and it still remains a mystery to me where he got the broken coconuts. Then he blessed me saying, "You will prosper and be happy." But not a word about my father. He repeatedly said that I would be happy. I interpreted these words of Paramacharyal as bad for my father and something good for my future. My father passed away after a few months.
It was only after this, in 1965, that the Paramacharyal conducted the Veda Agama Shilpa Vidvat Sadas (gathering of Sthapatis, pandits and scholars). I was asked to take a leading role in the Shilpa Sadas, though there were a number of senior and experienced Sthapatis assembled for the Sadas. I was asked to speak on "Sthapati and his contribution to Indian culture and civilization" by Paramacharyal. His idea in asking an youngster to speak about the tradition while more experienced Sthapatis were then available, was not only to encourage the younger generation but he believed that the younger generation of shilpis was the future hope for the spiritual culture of the Vastu tradition to flower again. I took inspiration for this and endeavored to live up to his expectations. Whenever there was a difficult problem, he advised the clients only to approach me, thereby influencing me to keep myself knowledgeable with all the details of Shilpa Shastras. This encouragement qualified me to become a more useful member of the society. And if at all I have some insights in the hoary tradition of Vastu Veda, it is only because of this indirect direction he gave me during the formative period of my Sthapati profession. I owe much to paramacharyal and I bow to Him, with folded hands.