197. David Godman

David GodmanDavid Godman has lived in India since 1976, mostly in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. He spent his time there studying and practicing the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. His anthology of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, Be As You Are, is probably the most widely read book on Sri Ramana’s teachings. During his fourteen-year stay at Ramanasramam (1978-92), he managed the ashram’s library, cataloged its archives, and recorded the stories and experiences of devotees who had had direct contact with Sri Ramana.

David is the authorized biographer of two devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi (Lakshmana Swamy and Papaji) who realized the Self in Sri Ramana’s presence and who later went on to become gurus themselves.

He has written and published several other books that contain first-person accounts of devotees who moved closely with Sri Ramana Maharshi and who were transformed by his power and presence.

In collaboration with two Tamil scholars, T. V. Venkatasubramanian and Robert Butler, he translated and edited several Tamil texts including two authoritative collections of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings that were originally recorded in Tamil verse. The three of them joined forces to bring out David’s most recent book, Sorupa Saram, a translation of a poem in which a 15th-century Tamil saint and Guru, Sorupananda, speaks authoritatively of his experience of the Self.

In the 1970s David frequented Nisargadatta Maharaj’s satsangs in Mumbai. In the 1980s he was a regular visitor to the ashram of Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma in Andhra Pradesh. When they moved to Tiruvannamalai in the early 1990s, he helped them to establish and landscape their new property at the foot of Arunachala, the holy mountain where Sri Ramana Maharshi spent all his adult life. For four years in the 1990s, he lived with Papaji in Lucknow and ended up writing or editing five books about him.

In recent years he has written several long articles on Tamil saints, particularly those whose lives and works were often cited by Sri Ramana Maharshi. He is also engaged in a book-length project to bring out the biography and poetry of Guhai Namasivaya, a 16th century Tamil saint who lived on Arunachala and wrote extensively about its power and greatness.

David Godman is married to Miri Albahari, a philosophy lecturer who teaches in Perth, Australia. He is based in India, but nowadays spends part of the year with Miri in Australia.


Discussion of this interview in the Batgap Community Facebook Group

Second BatGap interview with David.

Interview recorded October 12, 2013.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction of Buddha at the Gas Station
  • 00:04:19 – The importance of personal experience
  • 00:08:04 – The ardent desire to pursue Lord Krishna
  • 00:11:30 – Exploring the potential of Ramana’s existence
  • 00:15:38 – The importance of not giving up on work and family
  • 00:19:44 – A long road.
  • 00:23:57 – “Real meditation”
  • 00:27:53 – Don’t expect one person to do someone else’s job, it won’t happen.
  • 00:31:16 – The self that fulfills its mission
  • 00:35:27 – The nature of happiness and self-exploration
  • 00:39:55 – Obsessed with seeing visions of God
  • 00:43:56 – His Topic: Qualifications to Become a Guru
  • 00:47:53 – Definition of Guru
  • 00:51:55 – The natural state of Ramana
  • 00:58:08 – The Role of a True Guru
  • 00:59:58 – The issue of high standards of enlightened beings and direct lineage
  • 01:04:02 – Rick and David’s discussion
  • 01:08:28 – Behavior rooted in the Self
  • 01:12:45 – Addiction beyond the body
  • 01:16:55 – Differentiating Habits: Bandha and Bhoga
  • 01:21:01 – Story: Judgment and characterization of truly enlightened people
  • 01:25:32 – Your uncle and enlightenment
  • 01:30:10 – Fear strikes.
  • 01:34:41 – The attraction of Arunachal Hills
  • 01:38:39 – How to personify absolute truth
  • 01:42:34 – Explanation of heart and “heart”
  • 01:46:45 – To function in this world
  • 01:50:57 – A character in a dream world
  • 01:55:29 – The relationship between physics and consciousness
  • 01:59:45 – Creation, that’s what Ramana means.
  • 02:03:14 – Pop-ups and donation windows