David Godman explains his memories about Nisargadatta Maharaj:
Harriet: From what I have heard ‘feisty’ may be a bit of a euphemism. I have heard that he could be quite bad-tempered and aggressive at times.
David: Yes, that’s true, but I just think that this was part of his teaching method. Some people need to be shaken up a bit, and shouting at them is one way of doing it.
I remember one woman asking him, rather innocently, ‘I thought enlightened people were supposed to be happy and blissful. You seem to be grumpy most of the time. Doesn’t your state give you perpetual happiness and peace?’
He replied, ‘The only time a jnani truly rejoices is when someone else becomes a jnani’.
Harriet: How often did that happen?
David: I don’t know. That was another area that he didn’t seem to want to talk about.
I once asked directly, ‘How many people have become realised through your teachings?’
He didn’t seem to welcome the question: ‘What business is that of yours?’ he answered. ‘How does knowing that information help you in any way?’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘depending on your answer, it might increase or decrease my level of optimism. If there is a lottery with only one winning ticket out of ten million, then I can’t be very optimistic about winning. But if it’s a hundred winning tickets out of a thousand, I would feel a lot better about my chances. If you could assure me that people are waking up here, I would feel good about my own chances. And I think feeling good about my chances would be good for my level of earnestness.’
‘Earnestness’ was one of the key words in his teachings. He thought that it was good to have a strong desire for the Self and to have all one’s faculties turned towards it whenever possible. This strong focus on the truth was what he termed earnestness.
I can’t remember exactly what Maharaj said in reply except that I know he didn’t divulge any numbers. He didn’t seem to think that it was any of mine or anyone else’s business to know such information.
Harriet: Maybe there were so few, it would have been bad for your ‘earnestness’ to be told.
David: That’s a possibility because I don’t think there were many.
Harriet: Did you ever find out, directly or indirectly?
David: Not that day. However, I bided my time and waited for an opportunity to raise the question again. One morning Maharaj seemed to be more-than-usually frustrated about our collective inability to grasp what he was talking about.
‘Why do I waste my time with you people?’ he exclaimed. ‘Why does no one ever understand what I am saying?’
I took my chance: ‘In all the years that you have been teaching how many people have truly understood and experienced your teachings?’
He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, ‘One. Maurice Frydman.’ He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t follow it up.
I mentioned earlier that at the conclusion of his morning puja he put kum kum on the forehead of all the pictures in his room of the people he knew were enlightened. There were two big pictures of Maurice there, and both of them were daily given the kum kum treatment. Maharaj clearly had a great respect for Maurice. I remember on one of my early visits querying Maharaj about some statement of his that had been recorded in I am That. I think it was about fulfilling desires.
Maharaj initially didn’t seem to agree with the remarks that had been attributed to him in the book, but then he added, ‘The words must be true because Maurice wrote them. Maurice was a jnani, and the jnani’s words are always the words of truth.’
I have met several people who knew Maurice, and all of them have extraordinary stories to tell about him. He visited Swami Ramdas in the 1930s and Ramdas apparently told him that this would be his final birth. That comment was recorded in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi in the late 1930s, decades before he had his meetings with Maharaj. He was at various stages of his life a follower of Ramana Maharshi, Gandhi, and J. Krishnamurti. While he was a Gandhian he went to work for the raja of a small principality and somehow persuaded him to abdicate and hand over all his authority to people he had formerly ruled as an absolute monarch. His whole life is full of astonishing incidents such as these that are virtually unknown. I have been told by someone who used to be a senior Indian government official in the 1960s that it was Frydman who persuaded the then India Prime Minister Nehru to allow the Dalai Lama and the other exiled Tibetans to stay in India. Frydman apparently pestered him continuously for months until he finally gave his consent. None of these activities were ever publicly acknowledged because Frydman disliked publicity of any kind and always tried to do his work anonymously.
Read More: Remembering Nisargadatta Maharaj – III