The awakening of Pratima
Paula Marvelly: Tell me about the time when you first met Papaji?
When Papaji walked into the room, I just knew that I had met the master of my life. Having had many masters before, I knew this man was something different. He had this incredible, all-encompassing love that just radiated out of him. When he looked into your eyes, it was as if he were looking right into your very soul. He could see everything about you in that moment — he could see every personality trait, every weakness, every positive aspect about you. And he loved all of us. He loved me so much that I felt totally accepted for who I was and loved unconditionally. I had never experienced such unconditional love before.
My parents were very loving but I had never known such a depth of love like this.
So, at every opportunity, I would go up to him in satsang and ask him questions, spend hours and hours waiting at his home to see if I could go in and sit with him, eat a meal with him, watch television with him, anything... It was absolutely an obsession. Every other interest I had in my life just dropped away. All interest, even for men — and as a young lady this had been a dominant interest in my life — totally became a distraction. I didn't want anything to do with anything that would take a moment of time away from the love of my life, which was Papa.
Satsang was the opportunity to ask any questions, air any doubts and just go up and be close to him and look into his eyes. I still had a lot of spiritual questions, so slowly over the next 18 months, I asked him all the questions I possibly could. Sometimes I would go up a lot, which took a certain amount of courage — there would be between 60 and 200 people in the room and later 300 or more. So you would go up to the front and actually sit in front of him and occasionally he would let you sit next to him on the podium. Usually you would end up laughing so much or crying so much — but usually tears of joy.
Papa was such a tease! You never knew when you went up to ask him a question whether he was going to shower love on you and praise you and say, 'Yes, very good, this is it,' or whether he was going to cut your head off with a metaphorical knife. Sometimes you would go up and think that you had asked this great, simple, innocent question and he would just scream at you because in some way you were being stubborn or your ego was getting in the way. He had many devices and tricks to wake you up. So whatever you individually needed, he would find some way to help you to get out of your stuck concepts and rigid ego identification. He could somehow sense just what you needed and he would just say the right words that would cut through all the nonsense. Sometimes he would be ruthless, shocking, terrifying. To go up was absolutely nerve-wracking because you didn't know what was going to happen.
I went to Lucknow whenever I possibly could but it was about a year and a half before I actually felt like I didn't have any questions left. Finally the questions dried up. There were a series of wake-up calls or perhaps one could call them 'realizations'. There was never one single moment when it was like, "Wow, this is it!' It was like one day he would say something and then one whole load of concepts would be kicked out of the door and then the following week there would be something else — again I would realize that I couldn't hold on to any firm ground any longer. It was like the ground was kicked from under my feet. In the end, I was struggling to dig up some vague doubt or something I could ask him and of course, after a while, I didn't have any anymore.
PM. To return to you and your own experience with Papaji — I know that essentially nothing has happened to you but could say what has apparently happened?
Ha! No, nothing really has happened. Papa used to tell me that nothing needed to change. There has been the simple recognition that who I am is not this body or this mind, not these emotions or these feelings. That who I am is untouched by any of these quickly changing phenomena. That who I really am is the place from which all phenomena arise, which is consciousness itself. There is the recognition that there is no separate individual here to be free. That which lie here and everywhere are just manifestations of consciousness, unquestionably perfect just exactly as they are. With that, all doubts and fears disappear.
There has arisen this acceptance of everything just as it is and so mind has become quite silent. I find I'm not interested in its ramblings, so there is not much there to concern me. This gives a simple, warm contentedness that's very ordinary and very loving, a naturalness. You refreshingly being you! When the mind is quiet we are satchitananda - truth, consciousness and bliss. It's our birthright but it s just shrouded over with concepts and beliefs. Somehow they have lost their hold and life is blissfully ordinary and gets on with itself without me doing anything about it. It is such a blessing. I am eternally grateful to my beloved master for this.
PM. Is there then a point in time when this understanding arises?
There may be a certain point in time or there may not be. Every individual's awakening is totally unique to them. There are no rules. This is the danger that many people come up against when they believe that there must be a sudden moment of realization — a thunderclap and bells ringing. It wasn't my experience. My experience was a very gradual flowering, a very gradual falling away of all the identifications with things and people that I had before. I once asked Papaji about this in satsang. I said, 'Papa, you say that realization only takes a second but could it also be a gentle flowering?' And he said, 'Up to you! Whatever you want.' So if you are waiting for some drastic thing to occur like the difference between night and day — one minute you're like this, the next you're different — this may never occur. The belief that some kind of phenomenal change has to happen is actually a postponement, preventing you from allowing yourself to just rest in who you are already.
PM. I have heard that personality and ego still operate hut there is another level of perspective.
There are no levels. It's just that you no longer identify with your personality, your ego, as who you are — that's the difference. As long as you've got a body and a mind, personality and ego will always be there in some form. If you didn't have an ego, there might be a truck coming and I would yell, 'Paula, watch out!' and you wouldn't turn around. This is ego. It is required, it is necessary. The difference Ramana Maharshi said, between an ordinary man's ego and a sage's ego, is rather like with the remnants of a burnt rope. The rope still looks like a rope but when you kick it, it just falls apart - it looks the same but it's got no substance.
For me, it was rather like all the identification with this personality slipped gradually out of the back door without me really noticing. I might look back after a month or two and notice that my personality had not reacted in the same way as it would have done previously. Sometimes it hadn't reacted at all. Mind had not activated any thoughts, so I hadn't bought into it and made a whole story around it and slotted it into a particular hole that meant 'this' about me.
So personality and ego are still here and you may react as you always have done but the mind isn't interpreting situations in the way that it used to. It is quiet. So anger may arise, sadness may arise, but you're not feeding it, you're not picking it up and entertaining it in the same way as you have been conditioned to do. Ego, which is mind, starts losing its weight, so thoughts arise - but who's bothered about them in this moment? There's no one here judging it or believing the mind's ramblings to be true.
Original interview here