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My Travels to See the Mahatmas

by R. Casava Pillai (1)

I now feel it my duty to state the particulars regarding my 1882 travels up to and over the Himalayas and their object.

To begin with, I shall have to go so far back as the year 1869, when I was only about 17 years old, and was reading in the Sydapett Anglo-Vernacular School.  I was, at the same time, in the habit of attending the Sunday discourses of the Protestant preachers at Sydapett and St. Thomas Mount Mission Schools. These discourses, aided by the entire absence of my parents --- not to mention the easy road to Heaven, promised by the modern Christians, "by the simple faith in Christ that he is the Son of God, and that he died for us" --- turned my youthful head, and I was determined to become a convert to Christianity.

About that time my father happened to come to Madras. I informed my father about my determination, and he, in vain, tried his best to persuade me to change my mind. We parted that night in tears. I went to bed with a fervent prayer to God "to open my eyes and show me the Truth."

That memorable night, which I shall never forget --- the 21st of July 1869 --- I had a dream.  I cannot say it was exactly a dream, because I was not fully asleep. 

I saw a figure, a majestic figure in the very likeness of the great Mahatma Morya (whom I have subsequently seen on the other side of the Himalayas and whose portrait is now to be seen in the Adyar Theosophical Society head-quarters).  He had a book in hand, which he gave me.  On my opening it, I found an English translation of the paragraph in the Upanishads, "Prana or Pranava (Om) is the Bow; the Atma, the Arrow; and the Brahman, the Mark." 

He then recited to me the corresponding Sanskrit --- "Parnodhanuswarohyate Bramhatallakshyamuchyate" --- and, in the most impressive manner, told me that "the Aryan Sages by practicing this have become Muktas, and not by simple faith in any person or God."

He added further --- "My child, do not be hasty, the labors of many births alone entitle one to Moksha."

On this I awoke, and could not sleep the whole night.  The result was I had to change my resolution of becoming a convert to Christianity.

The next morning when I went to school, a friend of mine, Chetty, happened to bring a tract of translations of the Upanishads (thinking it was a copy of Niti Chandrika, of the same size, by mistake) from his uncle's library. When I asked him for the text-book, he placed the copy of the translation in my hands, and on opening the book I found the very exact translation of the Upanishads above quoted, meeting my eye!

I begged my friend to lend me the book, which he did.  The perusal of this book and other translations of the Upanishads, &c., made me thoroughly give up the idea of embracing Christianity, and showed me the superiority of Hindu religion over all other religions.

In 1873, on a certain night, I saw the same Mahatma in my dream presenting me a Tamil book, and after saying it was by "Ramalinga Paradesi," he disappeared. This Ramalinga Paradesi was the celebrated Sage in Southern India, who was then at Vadalore --- of whom mention is made in the Theosophist for July 1882.

I sent for the book, and used to get the philosophy contained in it explained to me by a friend of mine who has been his disciple. It was from this author that I learnt the philosophy of the Seven Principles in Man and the cosmogony of the world, which have of late been more clearly, and from the more Western scientific point of view, set forth in A. P. Sinnett's "Esoteric Buddhism."

It is after reading this author and the later work of Mr. Sinnett that I could understand the same sublime, but more mystical philosophy, contained in the "Maha Narayana" and other Upanishads about the "Dhyan Chohanic" solar Pralayas and the number of planetary chains in each solar system.

In 1874, I had to go to Madras, and then, while in my uncle's house, met a very famous Astrologer, well-versed in "Nadi Shastram."  He was relating the past, present, and future of the lives of my uncles and others.  I asked him "what was in my mind, and if that would be realized, and when"?

The object of my thought at the time was the personage who had twice before appeared before me in my dreams, and presented me with books, and given me certain instructions as to whether I would ever attain true knowledge; and this was known to no one else present there.

The Astrologer for a while considered, and said "the object of your thought is now beyond the Himalayas and within two years exactly you will see one, but your ignorance will then prevent you from reaping the benefit of his visit at the time. But you need not be sorry for it, as in your 32nd year, you will see him in the flesh, and he will take you under his protection from that date."

In 1876, I had again occasion to go to Madras owing to certain heavy family calamities. In route to Madras from Sydapett in a jutka, I was brooding over the fact that the whole responsibilities of a very large family had devolved on my shoulders.  The Jutkawallah stopped the carriage near Tenampett on the road-side, and went to buy something in the bazaar close by.

In this state of mind, I was seated in the carriage, when I felt a hand over my shoulders from behind.  The sensation that was produced in my mind and body was something heavenly, so pleasant, and at the same time so solemn, that I could not utter a word.  While in this state, I saw a man from the window of the carriage, and He placing his blessed hand on my head told me in plain northern Hindustani with an admixture of Sanskrit:  "My son, be not grieved --- you will have better days --- and, in the meanwhile, you have my blessings."

With these words he walked away; and I recovered from my abstract mood, perceived Him going into the "Parveta Mandapam" compound adjoining the road, and then he was out of sight.

The Jutkawallah having returned, drove the carriage towards the Black Town. As the carriage was approaching Neil's Statute, the idea --- that the person who appeared before me, dressed in white, as a Punjabi, might be the Sage or Mahatma, predicted by the Astrologer in 1874 --- flashed in my mind.  I at once got down from the carriage, and almost ran back to Tenampett.  I entered the compound, and searched for Him, but in vain; nor could any one there give me any traces of Him.

As I had to leave Madras that very night, I could not make any further search. He was no other than my most revered Guru Deva, who is now known as Mahatma Kut Humi to the Theosophical world.

Between 1876 and 1880, I had occasion to learn the secrets of the Adwitah Philosophy under two teachers. When I had any doubts, and was not satisfied with their interpretations of the Philosophy, and was very anxious about it, on 4 or 5 such occasions I had the good fortune to see the last-mentioned Mahatma's blessed face in my dreams. When His countenance was smiling and gracious, I would take it as favorable, and if not, otherwise. On one or two occasions he cleared my doubts by word of mouth.

In 1881, I had the good fortune to come in contact with a chela, who was then in the lower stages of his spiritual development at Nellore. His friendship with me brought me in contact with Brother Damodar K. Mavalankar, early in 1881. Just at this time, the familiar and sacred face of my Guru Deva used to appear before me oftener in my dreams, and with a more gracious and approving countenance.

Early in 1882, under the auspices of the chela I have above referred to --- who then happened to be at the head-quarters of the Theosophical Society at Bombay --- arrangements were made for the organization of the Nellore T.S. Branch.

On an application from the members here, Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott arrived at Nellore, and this branch was opened.

While the Founders were here, I received, for the first time, a letter from Mahatma Morya, addressed to me and some Theosophists, containing certain instructions as to the management of this Branch, &c.

During this time Narayana Swamy Naidu, G. Subbia Chetty Garu (Madras T.S. Branch), Singaravelu Mudalyar (Guntar T.S. Branch) and I were present in the Apstani Hall.  Madame Blavatsky was writing at the table, and we were seated.  On her telling us that she felt the presence of her Guru in the room, we all looked up, and then within a minute or two, a letter fell before us from the ceiling in broad daylight.  There were no contrivances or trap-doors to perform the phenomena at the time.

That very day, an hour afterwards, in the presence of about a dozen or more persons (both Theosophists and non-Theosophists), the subject of conversation was to know a certain date.  One of us (I believe it was G. Subbia Chetty) suggested that Madame might be requested to give us an almanac, and another suggested that it should be one, not available at Nellore. Then all of us joined in the request.

Madame Blavatsky remarked, that she would try, as a high chela, Jwalkool, was present in his astral body somewhere near. We were all seated in the same hall, and a verandah adjoining opened to the roof with nothing but the sky overhead. She then called out for the chela to make us a gift of an almanac, and within 3 or 4 minutes one "Almanac for 1882 and Diary Phoenix" were flung at us with some force as if it fell from the sky overhead.  This was handed to me by Madame Blavatsky, and it is with me still.

Madame Blavatsky told me, while she was at Nellore, that the "Brothers had spoken to her about me, and that they were watching me long before this," and I replied "that I knew it to be the case."

It was after this that I really thought more seriously of the appearance of the Mahatmas before me in dreams and otherwise.   I then began to concentrate my attention upon the beautiful features of my most revered Guru Deva, whom I then knew to be Mahatma Kut Humi. It was not in vain I did so. Within four or five days I had a response to my prayer.

The blessed Mahatma from that time forward used to give me instructions in my dreams --- not exactly dreams --- but a state of half-wakefulness.  For want of a better word I call them dreams.  In one of the dreams (about the end of May), I fervently prayed to Him that I might be allowed the happiness of seeing Him in his physical body.  After a moment's consideration, the Guru Deva replied that I should have to cross the Himalayas alone.

From that moment forward I took the "Diksha" (vow). After the expiry of about four months, and as soon as my private affairs would allow, I started for Madras.  I left Madras on the evening of the 11th September 1882 by the mail train, and reached the Theosophical Society's head-quarters at Bombay on the 13th September.

On the 14th, in the afternoon, in the presence of Madame Blavatsky, Madame Coulomb, Tukaram Tatya, Damodar K. Mavalankar, and another Theosophist, I received a letter which fell on my head from the ceiling.  It was from my Guru.

That very night while I was going to bed in Col. Olcott's room, with all doors closed, and in good lamp light, I was startled to see coming out of the solid wall the astral form of my most revered Guru Deva.   I prostrated before him, and he blessed me and desired me in good Telugu language to go and see him beyond the Himalayas. The conversation that passed between us is too sacred to be mentioned here. He disappeared in the same way as he appeared.

On the following day, the 15th September, myself and Madame Blavatsky started for the North.  We both, along with Babula, reached Chandernagore on the morning of the 19th by the mail train.

I there left Madame Blavatsky and her servant near the Railway Station,  and crossed the Hughly River by a boat to the other side, and walked about 5 miles to the Nalhati Station, and then took the mail train for Siliguri, which I reached on the 20th early in the morning.  I then took the rail for Darjiling which place I reached about evening and met Babaji Dharbagirinath.

We were both together until the 28th. We travelled together, both on horse-back and on foot in Bhutan, Sikkim, &c. We visited several "Gumpas" (temples).  I had to cross and recross the Ranjit River more than twice, by the swinging bridge as well as the ferry boat.

In the course of these travels, just about Pari or Parchong on the northern frontier of Sikkim, I had the good fortune and happiness to see the most venerated Masters Kut Humi and Morya in their physical bodies (the very identical personages whose astral bodies I had seen in my dreams, &c., since 1869, and in 1876 in Madras, and on the 14th September 1882 at the head-quarters at Bombay).

I have also seen a few advanced chelas, and among them, the blessed Jwalkool who is now a Mahatma.

On the 26th September, we both having heard that Madame Blavatsky and Ramaswamy Iyer had come to Darjilling, and was putting up in Parvati Churn Roy's bungalow ("Willow-Cot"), we met them there.

I took leave from Madame Blavatsky and my other friends at Darjiling on the 28th, and took the train for Siliguri.  On the 29th, I got the train for Calcutta, and reached the place on the morning of the 30th.

I started that night for Gya and reached the place on the 1st October. Here I received a letter from my Guru Deva in the usual occult manner. On the 2nd, I started for Allahabad.  I stayed at Allahabad on 3rd and 4th, and left on the evening of the 4th for Jubbulpore by mail train which I reached on the 5th. On the 6th I took the mail train for Bombay.

I intended to stay a day or two at Bombay, but the telegrams and letters that were waiting for me from Madras did not allow me the option. I reached Madras on the morning of the 9th October 1882.

On my reaching Nellore on the 16th, a meeting of the members of the Nellore Branch Society was convened.  I informed my brothers how I had seen the astral body of my Guru at the Bombay head-quarters, and also how I had been blessed in being allowed to see, and be in company of the Most Revered Mahatmas.

In conclusion, let me say that I am, owing to the grace of my Guru Deva, in direct correspondence with Him and have received several letters from Him since 1882, and that even so late as January 1885 I received a letter directly from Him, permitting me to publish an account of my travels.


(1) This article has been abridged from the two-part article titled How a Hindu of Madras Interviewed a Mahatma at Sikkim and originally published in The Indian Mirror (Calcutta), Vol. XXV, March 3, 1885, p. 2 and March 7, 1885, p. 2.  

The extracts given above have been transcribed from the original article but some material has been silently deleted.  The text has also been somewhat edited with some explanatory words, phrases and sentences added from time to time to the original text to make the overall narrative more easily read. The additions have not been placed in brackets.

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