Rev. Father Thomas Merton.
Abbey of Gethsemani,
Trappist, Kentucky, U.S.A.
Please pardon me for writing to you without knowing you personally, but I have read a quotation from your letter to the editor of a South Indian quarterly - "The Mountain Path" and have also been informed of the use that certain people try to make of it.
It so happens, that I too am a writer on psychological and spiritual themes (so far, six of my books have been published by leading publishers in both the U.K. and U.S.A.) and am Catholic born and bred. I have always been interested in the spiritual development of Man and have sought for it along many paths. In 1945, I encountered and studied the philosophy of the contemporary Indian saint and sage - Ramana Maharshi, and in 1949, I received an invitation to visit his Ashram for several months, in order to obtain first-hand knowledge of him.
I found a saintly and extremely wise man, simple as he was, without any traces of egoism or pride, or even the desire to 'convert' anyone. It was his powerful spiritual radiation which attracted a man to him.
The Prior of the St Vincent de Paul Monastery (Headquarters at Rue de Sevres), where I spent a long retreat before leaving Europe in 1946, and who knew of my interest in Maharshi - as I did not hide anything - told me, that the Catholic religion does not say that there is no salvation apart from it. He also went on to say that even people who know nothing about Christ may be saved, if they have led a pure life and been devoted to the Supreme Being.
And I found full confirmation of this when I saw the Maharshi, seeing in him many features common to our Saints, especially certain ones whom I revere like St. Jean de Vianney (Cure d'Ars) and St Francis of Assisi.
The Maharshi was very gracious to me and it was in his presence that my love and understanding of Christ grew far beyond the admiration I had always had since my early childhood for the Redeemer, Who died for us on the Cross. The influence of the Indian Sage was so great, that I was told by an intellectual Catholic couple, that when they prayed to Christ while sitting at the feet of the Maharshi, they had the best prayers of their lives.
I Have Collected all his original teachings and writings, published during his lifetime, which he himself perused and corrected before they were printed by the Ashram's ruler (his brother). Therefore there cannot be any doubts about their authenticity and truthfulness. But Sri Maharshi was not so happy about his place of residence, surrounded as he was, mostly by fanatical Hindus and neurotic Europeans and Americans, and once he even said that if he left and settled in any other place, people would still build another 'ashram' around him. So he remained there until his death at Tiruvannamalai. What I could foresee, judging from the attitude of the inmates and many undiscriminating visitors, happened after his departure.
They try to deify the Maharshi, putting him above Christ and Buddha, ascribing sayings to him which he never pronounced, and changing what he said, for, under the present corruption of Eastern life, nobody can say what is truth and what is not, unless one takes the trouble to compare everything with the original texts, printed before 1950 (when the Maharshi died). However, I personally do just that.
On returning to Western life in the autumn of 1949,
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I started writing about what I had received from the Maharshi's spirital message. He was a firm admirer of Christ, and for me his words about Him are the most beautiful and intuitional I have read (see page 143 of the enclosed book). Mr. F.H.Humphreys, a former Deputy Commissioner of Police at Vellor in 1911, who became a disiple of the Maharshi, described his experiences in a worldknown report (also printe in "Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi", 1936) and a few years later became a Caholic monk in England. Mr. P. Brunton, who wrote the first book about the Sage ("A Search in Secret India") also gave an account of his experiences in it. Now, the son of the late Swamy Niranjananda (brother of the Maharshi) a Mr. Venkataraman, has taken possession of the whole property, including the buildings, of the former Ashram, as if the wealth collected by his father from the offerings to Maharshi, was not sufficiant for the whole of their very large family. He now concentrates on getting new sources of income, one of them being the quarterly "The Mountain Path", edited by A.Osborne, a retired school master from Calcutta, who is married to a Polish Jewess and dominated by her. She has not tried to conceal her hatred for Christ (even her children have objected about her attitude) and Christianity in general. O. and V. started to 'edit' Maharshi's teachings and sayings in this way, and in his "Talks" (published shortly after his death and written by and eminent disciple and honest man), Venkataraman inserted the alleged saying of the Maharshi, that "Christ and Buddha were only second class teachers". I have a copy of this first edition.
When I contacted the venerable author (then in Calcutta) and objected about such an impossible quotation, he immediately denied authorship of such a nonsensical saying and wrote to Venkataraman (sending Me a copy of his letter) enquiring as to why he had added this unauthentic sentence, and demanding its deletion from any subsequent editions of his large work (3 volumes), which consequently were later cleansed of the untruthful words.
But Venkataraman and Osborne have never forgiven me for such 'interference', which was done because of widespread indignation among readers of the book here, who drew my attention to the matter.
With the passing of the years, the deformation of the Maharshi's saysing, etc. has gone further, culminating in Osborne's 'edited' "Teachings of Ramana Maharshi", which you know. A large percentage of the texts are 'over-edited' and changed in the direction desired by Osborne and Co. and are often inconsistent with the original authentic works of and about Maharshi, which were accepted by him and which express his real teaching by himself. Of course, this can be unbeatably proved.
They never quote Maharshi's saying about Christ and his admiration for our Lord, and in the Series of the silly "Sagittarius" articles in the "Mountain Path" and many others, one can easily find the subtle and persistent effort to minimize and ridicule the Saviour.
It is a well-known fact, that in general, middle class Hindus are inimical to Christianity, although the true intelligensia are not. But the latter do not co-operate with the former Ashram's sectarian activities.
I am also enclosing a recent review, written by an Indian scholar, for a most influential periodical. I have more of them and they are friendly, although I never denied my Christianity nor betrayed Christ like many Europeans did in the Ashram's vincinity, by accepting Hinduism merely to please the native.
When my recent work - "Theurgy" appeared, Osborne & Co. published the enclosed 'review', untruthful in every sentence and Osborne delcared my quotations from Maharshi to be erroneous, quotations which he knows are in the literal form given in Maharshi's teachings. He even used the same quotation on p.104 of his own compilation - "Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self-Knowledge" which book, incidentally, is simply a deformed an untruthful version of the original basic book by Narasimha Swamy - "Life and
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Teachings of Ramana Maharshi". In his book Osborne 'edits' the sayings of the Master as he likes, in order to obtain quite a different sense from the original meaning. Once when I objected to the publication in "The Mountian Path" of the former Ashram's advertisements inviting the public to send them 10 rupees for 'pujas', to allegedly "secure the grace of the late(!) Master and all kinds of imaginable boons", Osborne replied, that "even the Catholic Church charges money for its services and sacraments, so why is it wrong for Indians to do the same". When I answered that no Catholic Sacrament is sold for money, he did not even bother to reply to the correction.
Osborne & Co. will initially flatter anyone whose opinion may 'raise' their dubious standards in the eyes of the world, as he did with his comment on your remark, printed in the July issue of "The M.P.". But then they will use it in a perverted sense, not bothering about the truth of it, everthing being aimed at discredititing Christianity.
I am writing all of this in order that "Audiatur et altera pars" for, as Thomas a Kempis truly says, the Truth is in the Lord, and is the Lord. Too many lies are abroad in this critical and perhaps fatal epoch, and even if not all can be warned, it still seems to ba a duty for those who are on the side of Truth, to raise their voices, even though they might be disregarded or misinterpreted.
Yours sincerely and repectfully