Sunday, January 18, 2015

A series of new videos on Ramana Maharshi

Last winter I agreed to tell stories of Bhagavan, his teachings and his devotees while a French-Canadian film maker Henri Jolicoeur filmed me. After receiving permission from the president of Ramanasramam, I gave talks and told stories in many places that had been associated with Bhagavan: the Arunachaleswara Temple, Skandashram, Virupaksha Cave, Guhai Namasivaya Temple, Gurumurtham, Pavalakundru, Pachaiamman Koil, the Old Hall, the ashram dining room, the Mother's Temple, and so on. I also visited Palakottu and told many stories of the devotees who had lived there during Bhagavan's lifetime. These included accounts of Viswanatha Swami, Annamalai Swami, Ganapati Muni, S. S. Cohen, Guy Hague, Ramanatha Brahmachari, Munagala Venkataramaiah, Kunju Swami, Lakshman Sarma, Paul Brunton and B. V. Narasimhaswami.

The project was plagued by multiple technical problems. Henri's rather expensive camera broke down at one point and ended up being sent to Singapore to be fixed since there was nowhere in India that seemed to know what to do with it. Some of the remaining film was shot on a smaller replacement camera, but when Henri returned to Canada, a hard drive crash damaged some of the files beyond repair. A few of them only survived as low-resolution flv files on Youtube, whereas other talks disappeared completely. When Henri lost the services of the editor who normally helped him to edit his videos, I volunteered to take over the editing process, even though I had no knowledge or experience of doing this kind of work.

Fortunately, serendipitously, Bhagavan sent me two devotees who were professionals in their field: Merlyn Haycraft, a professional short-documentary maker from London, and Jordon Loder, a professional sound engineer who had come to Tiruvannamalai for a few months. We set to work, salvaging what we could. A few weeks ago my brother-in-law, Martin Sammtleben, a professional photographer, visited me. This gave me the opportunity to refilm some of the portions that had gone missing, and re-record the sound tracks of talks where there was too much hiss, or the words were undecipherable. 

The first results of our efforts were posted on my Youtube channel yesterday and this morning: a 37-minute video that tells the story of Lakshmi the cow, and a 28-minute film that tells stories connected with the Old Hall that Bhagavan lived and taught in for many years. Over the next few weeks I hope to post many more videos, hopefully at the rate of about one a week.

I apologise in advance for the amateurishness of some of the films. Film-making is not one of my skills, and I have been thrust into this job through the circumstances outlined above.

If you like these films and want to be notified when more are released, you can subscribe to my Youtube channel and receive a notification when any new films on Sri Ramana are uploaded there.

Finally, here are my first two offerings:

At some point in the near future I will add French, Spanish and English subtitles to the video of the Old Hall. If anyone reading this would like to provide the text for subtitles in any other language, I can provide a pdf of the script that has an English transcript, and the times when each sentence was spoken. 


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Extracts from my Books

Over the last year or so I made a couple of stuttering and ultimately failed attempts to upgrade my site ( The design and coding were done twelve years ago and are now in need of a major overhaul. I am about to begin another attempt but as a stop-gap measure I recently made a new site that contains extracts from all my books, along with information on where they can be obtained. It can be viewed here:

The site was made from a template provided by a company called Wix. It is simple and easy to use and I can recommend it to anyone who wants to put out a site, but who doesn't have any knowledge of coding.

Since there is a built-in feature on the Wix site that enables blogging and the posting of photo galleries, slide-shows and videos, I plan to use it to add photo and video presentations. To start the ball rolling I have uploaded a gallery of photos that were taken by Eliot Elisofon when he visited Tiruvannamalai in 1949:!photo-2/cos9

Eliot Elisofon was the photographer who took the photos for the article on Bhagavan that appeared in the 1949 article in LIFE magazine. He took many additional photos that were not included in this article. I have collected all the ones I could find and put them together in this slide show. It runs automatically, but you can stop it with your mouse to see captions or expand the photos.

The 'Photo' section also contains a collection of old black-and-white pictures of Arunachala that I have collected in recent years.!photos/c1i7j

I love old photos of Tiruvannamalai and Arunachala and have many more that I will post in future presentations.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Guru Vachaka Kovai in Telugu

A couple of days ago I was presented with one of the first copies of a translation of Guru Vachaka Kovai in Telugu. It was the full text of the version prepared by T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and myself, minus the introduction and the end material. This is the cover:

I have been assured by a devotee in Hyderabad, who has translated Bhagavan's books into Telugu himself, that the translation is a good one.

I was gratified to discover that this edition, which has been brought out by Ramana Bhakta Mandali, Bangalore, has been initially published as a free offering to devotees. Only a hundred copies have been printed, and these are being distributed, free of charge, to Telugu devotees and to Ramana centres in Andhra Pradesh. If this initial offering is a success and meets with the approval of Telugu devotees, it is hoped that a second and more commercial printing can be made.

If any Telugu-speaking devotees want more information about this book, they should contact

C. L.Giridhar, General Secretary, Ramana Bhakta Mandali, Bangalore,
No 377, F- Block, 12th Cross, 16th Main,
Sahakara Nagar, Bangalore –560092

This is latest in a long line of books by Muruganar that have been subsidised by dedicated devotees. In the 1930s and 40s Ramanapadananda raised money to publish Muruganar's works in Tamil. I wrote about his efforts a few years ago on this blog:

In the late 1970s Professor Swaminathan persuaded the New Delhi government to bring out all Muruganar's unpublished verses, which were being edited and compiled by Sadhu Om, in a subsidised series. The resulting nine Tamil volumes of Sri Ramana Jnana Bodham went on sale at a remarkable Rs 10 per volume. 

After Ramanapadananda handed on the responsibility of publishing Muruganar's Tamil books to Sri Ramanasramam, it reprinted several of Muruganar's titles, knowing that they were unlikely to cover their costs. T. V. Venkatasubramanian told me several years ago that he had edited one of these books for the ashram. When he asked about a year later how many copies had been sold, he was told 'About ten'. That wasn't the full extent of the distribution: many copies were given away to Tamil devotees who had the necessary literary skill and interest to go through the text.

When we (Venkatasubramanian, Robert and myself) brought out our own English version of the Guru Vachaka Kovai, two devotees heard about our project and offered to subsidise the book for readers in India who might not have been able to buy the book if it was sold at a commercially viable price. These large subsidies have enabled me to sell copies to the Ramanasramam bookstore at a price that, per copy, is less than the cost of printing the book.

Some of my other books have also found unexpected sponsors. Many years ago a Korean Zen monk, Daesung Sunim, came across a copy of Be As You Are and decided to translate it into Korean. When he had finished, he contacted Penguin in London and asked for the right to publish the book in South Korea. Penguin had already given the rights to a Korean publishing house, which was not interested in bringing out Daesung's translation. He consulted a lawyer who informed him that if he printed the book himself and gave it away free of charge, he would not be violating the rights of the South Korean publishing company. In South Korea monks are often sponsored by industrial companies. Daesung found a business house that was willing to pay for the printing, and he received a big enough donation to print 5,000 copies. Daesung then went on a tour of Zen monasteries and gave away a free copy of Be As You Are to every Zen monk in South Korea who wanted to read it. For several years afterwards I would occasionally be accosted and greeted by Korean Zen monks in Ramanasramam. They were immediately recognisable by their grey tunics. Most of them didn't know a word of English, but that hadn't stopped them from making a pilgrimage to Ramanasramam.

While I was finalising the first printing of Padamalai, I gave it to a devotee to proof read. 

She didn't find many errors, but when she returned it, she asked, 'How much will this cost to print?'

When I told her, she wrote me a cheque for the full amount. Reading Muruganar seems to affect some people that way.

Not all translation stories have such a happy ending. Most English books on Bhagavan manage to cover their costs, but translations into other languages often struggle to find customers and publishers. I have several friends who are sitting on manuscripts of Ramana books, which they have translated themselves, that no one wants to (or can afford to) print. If reading these stories has inspired any potential patrons, let me know, and I will put you in touch with devotees who need help with their projects.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Video Interviews

I have been in Colorado, USA, for the last few weeks, staying with my wife who is currently working near Denver. Here I am a couple of days ago, standing in front of a herd of elk who had come down to a picnic area just outside Rocky Mountain National Park.

The day before I went to this park I did an interview with Rick Archer for his site 'Buddha at the Gas Pump'. Rick interviews a different spiritual writer or teacher every week and posts the interview on his site. All the interviews he has done can be found here:

His interviews are also posted on Youtube. Here is our conversation, which covered a wide variety of topics:

A few weeks ago Michael James was also interviewed by Rick. This is his interview:

There are several more videos of Michael talking about Bhagavan on his Youtube channel:

A few months ago I also started a Youtube channel and loaded up a few videos that were mostly made in my old house about ten years ago. I also added some extracts from a South African documentary on modern advaita teachers that I featured in a few years ago, and a clip of Annamalai Swami. The channel can be found here:

Here is one of the videos I posted. It is a short talk I gave about Robert Adams' early life and his relationship with Bhagavan:

I hope to add several more videos in the coming weeks.

If you want to comment on any of these videos, there are three possible places. There is a forum on the site where viewers can comment on the weekly video. There are separate forums for mine and Michael's interviews. It is also possible to make comments under the videos on the Youtube site. And, of course, you can also leave a comment on this blog.

I will be back in Tiruvannamalai soon.