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How I Met Ramesh: The Way Existence Mysteriously Led Spiritual Seekers To Ramesh Balsekar

How I Met Ramesh: The Way Existence Mysteriously Led Spiritual Seekers To Ramesh Balsekar

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How I Met Ramesh: The Way Existence Mysteriously Led Spiritual Seekers To Ramesh Balsekar

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Jun 30, 2017


Spiritual Master Ramesh Balsekar used to speak about a concept called 'Reversing into the future'. We usually believe in a linear time sequence: because 'A' happened so 'B' happened and because 'B' happened 'C' happened and so on. But according to his concept, it worked exactly the other way around. Because 'C' had to happen, 'B' had to happen and because 'B' had to happen 'A' had to happen. Anybody who happened to meet Ramesh would aver that the proof of this concept lay in the way they were mysteriously led to meet him...a stranger mentioning his name; chancing upon a flyer nailed to a telegraph pole; reading a book authored by him which was left face down by a co-passenger on a flight; a bookshop owner recommending to a random shopper that he should meet this 'Guru from India'; accompanying a friend and staying on to becoming a fan; and so on and so forth. In one particular case, someone actually made a checklist of attributes he was looking for in a Guru - if and when he found him - and he was miraculously led to Ramesh who just happened to tick off every single criterion! These stories of how spiritual seekers happened to meet Ramesh - no, how Consciousness was led to meet Consciousness - are fascinating not just because they reveal the mysterious ways of Existence but also because they often denote the culmination of a long journey for many of them. In Hanuman Chalisa, there is a line that so wonderfully encapsulates Hanuman's love and devotion to Ram: 'Prabhucharitrasunibaykorasiya' - 'Ever eager to hear stories about Him'. Yes, the stories themselves are so deeply satiating.

Jun 30, 2017

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How I Met Ramesh - Yogesh Sharma



How I met my Guru

In September 1979, I quit my job and began searching for a teacher like Ramana Maharshi.

I went to an ashram in the suburbs of Mumbai and enquired if they knew of a Self-Realized person. The head of the Ashram, a very kind person, asked me to stay at the ashram for a few days. I did not show any interest in the activities of the ashram. Two days later, the swami called me to his room, took out a hidden copy of I Am That and told me that Nisargadatta Maharaj was the man I was looking for. I thanked him for his courage and honesty and left the place.

The next day I met Nisargadatta Maharaj at his residence. It was good for my heart to meet a simple man who had an extraordinarily simple teaching. I had suffered enough of self-pity with J Krishnamurti’s teaching.

A few days after meeting Maharaj, my friend and I decided to go to Ramanasramam. When I informed Maharaj about it he promptly said, ‘Don’t go. You won’t get anything there.’ However, my friend was very keen to go to Tiruvannamalai, so we decided to go anyway.

At the Ashram we met an old barber who said he used to shave Ramana’s head every full moon day (Pournima). We gladly offered our head to him.

On coming back to Mumbai we met Maharaj, who asked us, ‘So what did you get at the Ashram?’ I pointed to my shaven head and said, ‘This is all I have to show you, Maharaj.’ He laughed heartily and asked me, ‘Who do you think sent you here?’ I admitted it was Ramana’s grace.

I went to Maharaj for a year. At the end of it, one evening, he shouted, ‘I am not his Guru. His Guru will arrive at the appropriate time. He has to learn to accept whatever happens as God’s will or his destiny.’ Then he gave one of his big smiles which lit up the room. (Later, when I told my Guru about this incident he said, ‘It was divine intervention.’)

Soon after this event my mother was detected with cancer and I was busy taking care of her. A few months later I realized that I had forgotten about Maharaj and rushed to meet him only to learn that he had passed away.

This shook me and I began walking aimlessly for an hour or two. I later remembered that there was some talk about the book I Am That. I read the book but did not resonate with it.

I forgot all about seeking the Truth and got involved with my family and profession. In the process I made a fortune and lost it. After that I started judging, blaming and whining about a few happenings within the family. When my mother heard about this she said, ‘It hurts me deeply when you say how much you have done for others and what they have done back to you. From now on, do whatever you want to do without expecting anything in return.’

This outburst from her made me remember Maharaj’s teachings. I immediately accepted her as my Guru. After a few weeks of singing bhajans and reading books about saints from Maharashtra, I had the urge to meet my Guru. Maharaj had assured me that one day I would meet my Guru.

After days of desperate seeking, neglecting my work and having a few beers to try and get rid of my suffering, I told my wife, ‘It would be convenient if I found a Guru next to the Race Course (I work there). He must be a disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj, speak in simple English and conduct satsangs in the morning.’

My wife was really worried. ‘Why don’t you go back to work? We have two children to raise.’

After a fortnight I visited a spiritual bookstore in South Mumbai and asked the manager, ‘Do you know any disciple of Maharaj who conducts satsangs?’

‘Of course I do. Ramesh Balsekar!’


‘A Happening’

When Mahatma Gandhi passed away, Albert Einstein wrote, ‘Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a man in flesh and blood ever walked on the Earth.’

When seekers and students of Advaita will read about Ramesh Balsekar in the years to come, they will scarcely believe that a man such as him was one of the last living masters of the 20th century, during the peak of kalayuga.

And I still find it difficult to believe that I was one of the privileged few to have been touched by him, in flesh and blood, during the past six years. Most of the spiritual knowledge is usually obtained second hand, from books, hearsay, interpretations. I got my teaching first hand.

During my twenty-five years long search for the answer to the question, ‘Who Am I’, Ramesh Balsekar’s name popped up time and again, but it never stuck. I travelled around the world, meeting gurus, teachers, masters; attending discourses, lectures, workshops; visiting ashrams, monasteries, retreats; devouring scriptures, books, articles. But the answer eluded me.

Upon my return to India in 2004, one day I found myself in the Philosophy section of Oxford Book Store. Ramesh Balsekar’s Sin & Guilt was staring at me. Instinctively my hand pulled it out, and before I knew it, I had read the book cover to cover, over numerous cups of tea at the Cha Bar in Oxford. I went back to the bookshelf, and emptied it out of every title by Ramesh Balsekar. I contacted Zen Publications, got the telephone number for Ramesh, spoke with him right away, and found myself on the hot seat in Sindhula on Gamadia Road off Peddar Road in South Bombay, the next morning at 9am!

That was the end of my long search.

That was the beginning of a new life for me.

I lived on Peddar Road before I went to the USA in 1982. How was I to know that the answer to my question, that took me around the world, was right around the corner from where I lived! It was not meant to happen a day earlier than that hot, sunny day in April 2004 when I found myself at Ramesh’s feet. The happening happens when it is meant to happen.

Ramesh was a happening.

Blessed are we who experienced this happening.

That itself was a happening for each of us.

One of the first things that struck me from the time I called Zen Publications to get his contact details was the ease and informality with which almost everyone was addressing him by his first name. Even though I had lived in the USA for 22 years, where first name is the norm for almost everyone except one’s parents, I had retained my Indian ethos and identity that disallows the use of first name for anyone except someone younger to oneself. And here was this guru, teacher, and master in his mid-80s being addressed by his first name! But instead of revolting, I found it endearing, with no barriers of formality. The story goes that during the early years of Ramesh’s daily morning satsangs, a gentleman from abroad asked Ramesh how should he address him. Ramesh replied, ‘Why, my name is Ramesh!’

Adi Sankaracharya wrote thousands of verses explaining Advaita. The Upanishads run into hundreds of pages. Lord Krishna himself took eighteen chapters to get it across to Arjun. Osho, the last living master and Advaita teacher of our times along with Ramesh, was prolific to the point of being obsessive about explaining ‘You are the witness’. Ramesh needed just 45 minutes each morning to explain, ‘You are not the doer’.

A teaching so simple, that it completely floors you the first time. This cannot possibly be the answer to the question, ‘Who Am I’. But how could it not be? The question itself is so simple. How could the answer not be so! Simplicity begets simplicity. This frail, small built man in his simple white kurta pajama was simplicity personified himself. From his simple mind and self, came this simple answer. And when it did, it resonated with the only words Buddha actually uttered after his nirvana, ‘Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer.’ Zen at its simplest, profound best!

Whenever I mentioned about Ramesh and the daily morning satsang and my own awakening to any one, they would refer to him as my Guru. I felt strange. Does one address one’s Guru by his first name? Does one feel like embracing one’s Guru instead of touching his feet? Can one think of enjoying a beer or a shot of whiskey with one’s Guru instead of accepting panchamrut? Does a Guru crack jokes and laugh heartily like a child? Does one walk into a Guru’s bedroom unabashedly and have a quick chat?

Ramesh turned the concept of guru on its head. No saffron robes, no beads, no ash, no mantras, no miracles, no prasad (only cold coffee sometimes!), no assistants surrounding him, no donation box at the entrance, no airs. He was like RK Laxman’s common man, like any of us. He still shed away the darkness for me as the word guru implies. He still showed me the path and lit it with his simple teaching. No, he was not a guru to me; he was a friend, guide and philosopher... he was like a child, playful, innocent, and funny; anyone could access him, in person, on the phone, in writing. There were no expectations. There was just unconditional love and compassion. He was faithful to his wife for 60 plus years, to his employer for 40 plus years and to his teaching for 30 plus years.

People attending his satsang from all parts of the world asked him questions on family, relationships, sex, business, money. He talked about art, culture, politics, sports, finance, and religion. No topic was taboo. There were intense discussions on consciousness, rebirth, and free will. There were the typical inane questions, ‘Ramesh, I do not get along with... what should I do?’ He brought it all down to the highest common denominator in five simple words, ‘You are not the doer’! It resonated and echoed constantly, until it became a mantra, like ‘Om’, part of one’s breath. And there it sits with me too.

Ramesh Balsekar, in his physical body, is no more – who cares!

Ramesh, the Teaching, will always be there – I care!

Dear Ramesh,

True to your teaching, there was pain in the moment, followed by pleasure from the bliss of your teaching.

With love and gratitude,

Pradeep Darooka


‘All are Welcome, Nobody is Invited’

‘More than the art of living is to perfect the art of being lived.’

– Ramesh Balsekar

The year was 2001. The month April. I had gone to Mumbai to attend a meeting of my Delhi-based organisation. With me was my head of finance of the organisation, Shailender Tandon. Interestingly, Shailender and I shared a common interest: subject of spirituality. Both of us spent time discussing spiritual masters, their unique teaching and its application to daily living. In Mumbai, we would find time after work to visit Chetana book shop at Kala Ghoda, in South Mumbai, not too far from our hotel. As we browsed and looked at various books on spirituality my eyes would be drawn to those on Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi.

Ramana Maharshi and his teachings had a special impact on me. As I recall, it was sometime in the year 1997 when I was at the Delhi airport (I am based in Delhi) and when I was due to take a flight to my then organisation ABB’s office in Bangalore, I chanced upon the book Be As You Are by David Godman which detailed the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. I bought this book and did not keep it down till I completed it in the flight and thereafter.

This book answered most of the doubts that cropped up on and off in my mind on topics relating to the metaphysical and spirituality. It had various topics ranging from life’s purpose, the concept of karma, rebirth, creation, satsang and its benefits, destiny and freewill, death and the way to realise one’s true nature. What made the book all the more absorbing was its easy-to-read question and answer format. As I leafed through the book, I found answers to most of my doubts. However, one question continued to trouble me. This related to the response given by Bhagavan to a query on the role of free will and destiny.

Quite clearly, Bhagavan Ramana was unequivocal on the inevitability of the play of ‘prarabdha karma’ (that part of karma that is bound to happen, as experienced by an individual in his or her lifetime). Ramana was clear that as long as one identifies with one’s body the prarabdha karma, or course of events to be experienced by an individual, has to be gone through. However, he also clarified in the book, that if one was not attached to the body and the sense of individuality (ego), the happenings to the body do not trouble the person. In a query probing this issue, Ramana Maharshi’s answer was, ‘If you want go to the fundamentals, find out who you are, by going within, the freedom for which one always has.’ ‘You are always free; beyond free will or destiny, destiny governs only the body,’ was Sri Ramana’s response to the query on the role of freewill. When asked, ‘Why is it that human beings have the free will to go within?’ the response purported to have been given by Sri Ramana was, ‘This is the niyam (natural rule or law). God’s ways are inscrutable.’

While not doubting the Master’s clear response to this query raised by one of his devotees, I felt a need for a further validation on this point from a living master or sage. On my regular annual visits to Sri Ramanasramam, I would try and seek clarifications from well-read and wise devotees of Bhagavan. Partially but not completely satisfied with these, I let this subject be in my mind for a while.

Scene rolls back to 2001 and a weekend with Shailender in the month of April...

Both of us decide to take it easy during the weekend before our next meeting on Monday. On Saturday, we embark on a trip to Ganeshpuri, abode of the renowned spiritual Master, Nityananada. The experience is wonderful and it rejuvenates us as we learn about the teachings and life of this great Master. On our return to Mumbai we spend a quiet evening. Post dinner, Shailender suggests that we go across to meet a ‘modern and engaging spiritual teacher and a guru to many’… he says that this elderly gentleman, a retired senior banker by profession, gives a daily talk or satsang of around an hour and a half beginning 9am. The talks are more in the nature of an informal dialogue, amidst wit, humour and light banter. The gentleman’s name is Ramesh Balsekar, an octogenarian around 84, his place of residence is named ‘Sindhula’ and is in a prime locality of Mumbai – Gamadia Road, close to Breach Candy Hospital in the posh South Mumbai locality. I am intrigued and curious and readily agree to Shailender’s proposition.

After breakfast on Sunday, we set out on foot towards ‘Sindhula’ just about three to four kilometres from our hotel. As we reach the place, I find a group of people gathered at the entrance to the building which is fairly well kept and impressive, understandably so, given its up-market location. We take a vintage lift onto the fourth floor flat. As is the custom, we remove our footwear outside the door on a shelf and place it alongside those of others, all neatly stacked in rows.

Two things instantly leave a striking and remarkable impression on me as I enter Ramesh Balsekar’s house. One, the munificent face of a Spiritual Master whom I hold in the highest of esteem in a framed picture placed prominently on the side of the wall close to the entrance – that of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi! Another is an intriguing inscription… ‘All are Welcome, Nobody is Invited’! We are seated and wait for a few minutes. Soon enough, in comes an elderly gentleman of medium height, light complexion and a lean frame, a broad smile lighting his face. The first thing he does is pay his obeisance to the picture frame of Sri Ramana – I later gather that this is a routine that Rameshji follows every morning prior to the start of his satsang, as he holds Sri Ramana as the ultimate sage whose clarity of understanding was unparalleled. I later gather how Sri Ramana’s crisp and clear answers to ticklish queries had also answered certain doubts of Rameshji especially on the concept of ego and its relevance to a sage.

I soon find

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