This part is written by Ratanlal Joshi
This is a free translation of an article in Hindi which appeared in the June 1980 issue of Kadambini, Vol.20, No.8. The writer of the article, Sri Ratanlal Joshi is a noted Hindi scholar. In his quest to know the meaning of life he came in contact with thinkers, philosophers like Schweitzer, Einstein, Sartre, Aurobindo, The Mother, Camus and others. But in Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi he found, as he says, “The end of my quest, the fulfilment of my life.”
ON account of ill health I had been feeling weary and melancholy for quite some time and this had made me shun company and become disinterested in life itself. I tried my best to overcome this feeling. I started re-reading those books that had once interested me; brought about drastic changes in my daily routine; for some time, dropped all rules and became a profligate and a libertine. But the weariness did not abate, and the burden of life continued to grow heavier.
Worried, my family accepted my doctor’s suggestion that a change of place and climate might do me good, and soon I was transported to Mahabaleshwar.
On reaching the holiday resort, I started a routine of morning and evening walks. Mahabaleshwar at that time looked splendid in its natural virgin forest beauty and its dozens of rivers flowing down the mountain to the plains.
One day, during one of my early morning walks, I found myself on a narrow footpath. I kept happily walking on until, feeling tired, I sat down on a rock and gave myself up to a reverie encouraged by the murmur of the river. I woke up from that reverie to find that I had slept through the day and it was evening. Puzzled, and feeling slightly disoriented, I tried to walk back the way I had come, but soon found myself hopelessly lost in the forest. Then suddenly, I saw at a distance a man sitting on a big rock. I went towards him intending to ask him the way but he rose and walked away. Confused as to what to do, I simply followed him.
A half an hour’s walk brought us to a thatched hut with two dogs tied outside. When on seeing me, the dogs started barking, a well-built man who seemed European, came out of the hut. In his left hand was a lantern and in his right a book with the title, Maha Yoga.
The stranger seemed astonished to see me and stood still for a moment. As for my reaction, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many emotions assailed me, each simultaneously fading and fusing into another. With folded hands I walked forward and offered my respects to the gentleman. He smiled a very sweet, encouraging and reassuring smile and embraced me and took me into the hut. “I shall make a bed for you,” he said. “You must rest.”
He rolled out a mattress on one of the two cots in the room, arranged the pillow and sent the old man away with some instructions. I lay down thankfully. My host then lit the stove and heated some water. Soon the old man returned with two others, one of them holding a kamandalu (pot made of dried gourd) and the other, a fruit-laden mango branch. My European host boiled the milk, washed my hands and feet with the hot water and offered me the mangoes. The fruits, ripened on the tree itself, were small but delicious. After giving me a large cup of hot milk, he advised me to go to sleep. I just went on doing whatever was told, like an automaton.
As I slowly sank into a deep and peaceful sleep, I noticed that my benefactor was wearing the Saivite symbol of the three thick horizontal lines drawn in ash on his forehead and that he himself was gradually going into meditation.
It was already bright morning when I awoke to the sounds of a low-pitched prayer. It was my friend, the European gentleman, still sitting at the head of my bed and watching over me with concern. I tried to sit up but was gently pushed down again and told in an anxious voice: “You have high fever. You were delirious last night. Please do not get up yet. Continuous prayers are being offered at the shrine of Bhagavan. He will soon make you alright.” Settling me comfortably back in bed, he resumed his chanting. I listened carefully to the sounds and syllables. He was chanting Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya. As my eyelids again drooped heavily, I suddenly perceived Bhagavan Ramana’s benevolent figure clearly in the bright rays of the sun entering the hut. Soon the hut seemed to be filled with effulgent images of Bhagavan. It was as if each time “Om Namo” was chanted the words created another image of Bhagavan. It was an unforgettable supernatural experience.
I looked at my host. Tears were pouring from his eyes. I looked at his tears and felt them washing my troubles, doubts and sins away. I felt clean, liberated. And without any volition on my part, the story of my life poured out of me. My host sat listening quietly. At the end of the narrative he said calmly: “Now you will be all right. Your treatment is in the able hands of an expert doctor. You took the correct decision when you made up your mind to come here.”
Then, in his courteous and graceful manner, he told me his story. He was Arnold Sedderling, a Polish citizen. On May 21, 1935, he had left home when his doctor told him that he was suffering from a malignant growth in the intestines and that he had only another eight months to live. Sedderling had discontinued all treatment and decided to die in peace and solitude.
“One of my greatest wishes was to meet Sri Ramana Maharshi before the end came and learn from him all about birth and death,” said Sedderling.
He had disembarked at Bombay and come to Mahabaleshwar. His health, in the meanwhile, had deteriorated further. One day, feeling extremely weak and tired he had come out of his hotel and entered the Mahabaleshwar temple. He had stood in a corner leaning against a pillar watching the Shiva Linga being bathed continuously by the waters of the sacred rivers.
“Suddenly,” said Sedderling, “I saw Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi himself standing in the place of the Sivalinga. Was it a hallucination? I wondered. Rubbing my eyes again and again, I looked intently at the spot. It was true, it was indeed Ramana Maharshi for whose darshan I had come all the way from Poland in my helpless physical condition. I also saw his extended hand of protection and heard him say to me: ‘Stay here. I shall come here for your sake’.”
That was his experience.
For another two days I stayed with Sedderling. Then as soon as my fever subsided, I returned to my hotel in Mahabaleshwar. In the next three weeks, I regained my old vigour and felt fit and happy. I went to see Sedderling once again but missed him as he had gone out to distribute medicines to the tribals, a service he had dedicated himself to. Coincidentally enough, that day was May 21 which was his 75th birthday as well as the day he had left home – the great ‘out-going-day’ in his life. With all his other activities, however, he had promised himself that he would visit Sri Ramanasramam every year to have darshan of Bhagavan. “And I return every time,” he had said to me, “with a fresh understanding of life.”
Afterwards when I went in search of Sedderling in 1975, I could not find him. Six or seven months later he visited my house en route to Poland to get his books published. Two of his books were on Ramana Maharshi written in German. I do not know when he returned to India. Letters to his sister simply elicited the reply that Sedderling had returned to India to spend his days incognito.
My desire to see him again brought Sedderling to my home one day, but strangely, I was away at Ramanasramam that day. By the time I returned he had already gone back to the Ashram. We could not meet each other. Nevertheless, I have no doubt we will certainly meet again one day, somewhere, somehow because our association is part of a triangular integrality, the third side holding us together, being none other than he who had brought us together – Bhagavan Ramana.