Tales from the Path
Glimpses up-close, "mine eyes have seen . . ."
Inspiring visits with the greats from seekers.
This page is by Dhanya (
* )

Ammachi and Shri Ranjit Maharaj

Several years ago, I was privileged to host and help organize Shri Ranjit Maharaj’s satsangs in my local area. Ranjit Maharaj was a co-disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj. They had the same guru, Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj.

Ranjit Maharaj, in the tradition of his guru, taught the way of understanding, as the way to “final reality”. He once remarked, “What can embracing do for you?” Perhaps he might not have approved of Ammachi’s method of hugging people as a means of knowledge. I don’t know.

Maharaj was 84 when he first traveled to America. He visited us four years in succession. Though I originally went to see him out of curiosity because of his connection with Nisargadatta, I quickly came to understand that he was a true master in his own right, and to appreciate his kindness, simplicity, complete honesty and incredible patience. 

Maharaj was totally uncompromising in his teaching. He never budged or digressed to make things easier for us. Most of the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. I tried very hard, but I just couldn't understand him. Still, I was drawn to him by his kindness, and in my heart I trusted that he was telling the truth. He had many stock phrases which he used over and over again to try and break through our ignorance and take us up to the “door” of final reality, through which no two can enter.

One benefit of traveling with Maharaj or hosting him was taking part in the early morning arti. This arti is performed to awaken the guru. The words were directed to his guru, but perhaps one could as well take the words of the arti to be directed at awakening the guru within.

At the end of the arti one of the ladies would sing a beautiful song. The refrain is “Chidananda Roopha Shivoham Shivoham.” The translation is, “I am Eternal Bliss, I am Shiva.” The song goes on to list all of what one is not. For instance, “I am not the mind, …ego...nor consciousness,… not the five elements …not envy, anger, craving, attraction, ….virtue, sin…joy, sorrow…death, birth,…father, mother…guru, aspirant. I am beyond concept, beyond form…I am neither liberated nor in bondage. I am Eternal Bliss, I am Shiva.” 

We would then sit for a few quiet moments with Maharaj, the words Shivoham Shivoham resonating in the silence. This time was very precious to us, a rare moment to sit quietly with Maharaj before beginning our daily chores of cooking, cleaning and setting up for satsang.

When I said goodbye to Maharaj at the airport in April of 1999, I knew that most likely I would never see him again. Each time he had visited us he seemed a bit weaker. When I received the news in October of 2000 that he had a stroke in India, it seemed clear that he would not remain in his body much longer.

In November of that year Ammachi was holding her programs at a venue very close to my house. I would go in the morning, come home in the afternoon and return in the evening.

One afternoon, I returned home from Amma’s program, checked my e-mail, and saw a letter saying that Maharaj had left his body that day in Mumbai. Even though I had felt I would never see him again, the news was shocking to me. I cried when I realized that I would never again look in his eyes or experience his kindness.

Later that day I went up to Amma’s program. Many of Maharaj’s other students were there, as well as those of us who had organized his satsangs and hosted him. We were all very sad, feeling slightly bereft. 

Every evening Amma sings devotional bhajans. They are very beautiful and are usually directed to a particular deity. Although I usually enjoyed the bhajans, that night I just wasn’t in the mood. 

Sitting there feeling sorrowful, my friends and I were deeply moved when we recognized these words being sung, “Chidananda Roopha Shivoham Shivoham”, and then slowly and rhythmically the whole of the advaitic song followed.

Afterwards I asked Amma’s disciples if she often sang that song. “No,” they replied, “hardly ever.”

Dattatreya, the archetypal guru is said to himself have had 24 gurus. Some people hold that everything is the guru. Some people have one outer guru whose guidance leads them to the truth of who they really are. Some people say the satguru lies within. Neem Karoli Baba once told a friend of mine, “There is only one guru.”

Who can say what it meant that that song was sung that night? Those of us sitting together who had been with Maharaj were profoundly moved, and our eyes were wet with tears. Perhaps it was the Self’s way of reiterating what Maharaj often told us, “You don’t die. Only the body dies. Nobody dies and nobody is born. What is never born and never dies is the Reality.”

To me it appeared as “guru’s grace”, but if you asked me to point to a particular entity or place as guru, I would not be able to do that. Nor would I try.

Tales Index

* – This is an expandable set of pages. If you've been to see any of my listees and would like to tell your story, send it in (Feedback) and i'll be happy to put it up. Pages can be attributed or not, according to the author's wishes, though i will want to have some sense personally of where s/he is coming from.
See also Satsang Reports, a related series of impressions of satsang providers on tour, ie in a more "formal" setting.

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