It was in the year 1961 (towards the end of November) that my meeting with His Holiness took place. I was then on my third visit of India. Twice, previously I had come to India and had traveled all over the country devoting many months to the quest of a genuine Master of Spiritual Light and though I had been able to meet quite a few so-called saints (many of them being famous even in the West) still my heart remained dissatisfied, for they certainly did not measure up to my conception of a real God-man. I had begun to doubt even the existence of such a God-man in India. Nevertheless, I decided to embark on a last trial, one last quest.
This time, I did not go about in the usual way, viz., by asking, enquiring, checking etc., but devoted much of time to silent concentration and praying for Divine Guidance.
I wanted to start my quest from Madras this time. One day, after an hour or so of intense prayer to God (that He may lead my steps in the right direction) I decided to leave the room and to go out for a walk on the beach. As I was passing through the hall of my hotel I was unexpectedly stopped by a South Indian gentleman who addressed me like this: "The Master you are looking for is not far from here. His name is.....". and it was then that I heard for the first time mentioned the name of His Holiness Sri Sankaracharya! Amazed by this evident :lead" - though still a little skeptical, I decided to follow it. But the nice and helpful gentleman was unfortunately not able to give me the exact whereabouts of the Saint. He just knew he was in some small village in South India, and that was all he could tell me. I left Madras, but it turned out to be quite an elaborate quest. For I got the most contradictory answers to my questions. No two answers were alike, though the people seemed very friendly and eager to volunteer all they knew about the whereabouts of the great man. It was extremely frustrating and irritating! I spent quite some time chasing the elusive and ever-fleeing Saint, until I finally finding him, perhaps even doubting the very existence of the man.
And then, one night as I was lying on my bed in one of those rather depressing railway retiring rooms, there was knock against my door. As I opened, there stood a young taxi driver. He would take me to Sri Sankaracharya, he said, for he knew exactly where to find him. For some strange reason I trusted the young man and just told him to be ready to leave very early next morning. My trust turned out to be well placed! After only a few hours of driving inland, following a very small and dusty road, we arrived (it was almost 10' clock) at a small temple near a village called Elayattankudi.
The numerous Brahmins present immediately reassured me that I had finally reached the goal of my quest. "I have come long was to seek His Holiness" said I.
"Yes, yes. He is expecting you!" came the incredible answer.
People had warned me that it would be difficult to be received by the Saint, and that even in the event that he would receive me, I'd probably have to wait for a long time! Well, in less than five minutes, I was standing before His Holiness!
I felt immediately that I was standing in the presence of real Greatness. What simplicity, what peace, what silence! A strong wave of veneration walled up from my heart. At last through GOD's mercy I had found what I had been looking for all these years! Although Sri Sankaracharya could not possible have heard of me before or known me in any human way, he nevertheless seemed to know everything about me. It was extraordinary! He did not need to ask me all those questions that I had been accustomed to answer in the presence of all those other so called saints, such as, "Where are you from" What do you do? Why have you come to India" - questions that made them appear to the more like curious reporters rather than omniscient saints! Here was a man who could see through me and read my mind like an open book without having to ask one single question! A wonderful sense of peace descended on my soul as the great and gentle man proceeded to answer all my conscious and my unconscious questions, without my having to ask them verbally! A sense of genuine and deep love for this loving man flooded my heart and my feeling of tremendous gratitude as I listened silently to his wonderful words. What a memorable hour this was!
Before I left, he blessed me and asked me to concentrate on him that very evening at 8 O' clock, when I would be back in Trichinopoly. Furthermore, I had to promise that before leaving India I would write to him and tell him about my further experiences in India!
That same evening back in Trichy I discovered the real meaning of the word "blessing"! As I was concentrating (as agreed) on His Holiness, I suddenly felt such an terrific spiritual strength that it almost overwhelmed me! What a concrete and tangible experience that blessing was!
Once should not be astonished at my enthusiasm provoked by the experience of real blessing! Up to that moment in Trichy I had been thinking of blessing only in terms of the empty, meaningless forceless gestures of Western priesthood and Popery! But this was the revelation that the blessing of a true Saint meant a transmission of tremendous spiritual power, a power as real and tangible as electricity and not just the meaningless sprinkling of water on things, animals and people!
I have not seen the Jagadguru since, but our spiritual contact has never been interrupted. Sometimes I write and the amazing thing is that his answer invariably strikes at the vital point of each question, leaving me awed at the incredible insight of the Great Master!