David Godman (born 1953) is widely acknowledged to be one of the leading authorities on the life, teachings and disciples of Ramana Maharshi, the renowned Indian sage who lived and taught for more than fifty years at Arunachala, a sacred mountain in Tamil Nadu, India. In the last twenty-five years David Godman has written or edited fourteen books on topics related to Sri Ramana Maharshi.
David Godman was born in 1953 in Stoke-on-Trent. His father was a schoolmaster and mother a physiotherapist who specialised in treating physically handicapped children. He was educated at local schools and in 1972 won a place at Oxford University. It was sometime in his second year there that he found himself getting more and more interested in Eastern spiritual traditions. Then, one day, he took home a copy of Arthur Osborne's 'The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi in his Own Words'. Reading Ramana's words for the first time completely silenced him.
He says, "It wasn't that I had found a new set of ideas that I believed in. It was more of an experience in which I was pulled into a state of silence. In that silent space I knew directly and intuitively what Ramana's words were hinting and pointing at. Because this state itself was the answer to all my questions, and any other questions I might come up with, the interest in finding solutions anywhere else dropped away. I suppose I must have read the book in an afternoon, but by the time I put it down it had completely transformed the way I viewed myself and the world."
Early years at Sri Ramanasramam
David Godman first visited the Tiruvannamalai ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi in 1976. For eight years, between 1978 and 1985, he was the librarian and archivist of the ashram. In the early 1980s he also edited The Mountain Path, a journal published by Sri Ramanasramam.
In the mid-1980s he edited Be As You Are, an anthology of Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings which is now published by Penguin. This best selling book has been continuously in print since 1985. Translated and published in at least twelve foreign languages, it is the text through which most people outside India are introduced to Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings.
Visiting Nisargadatta Maharaj
In the late 1970s he made many visits to Nisargadatta Maharaj, the renowned advaita teacher who lived in Mumbai and died in 1981. His lengthy online account of his experiences there has been widely appreciated and reposted.
With Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma
In the early 1980s he started to visit Lakshmana Swamy, an enlightened disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, in his ashram in Andhra Pradesh. At the instigation of Lakshmana Swamy he wrote a book (No Mind – I am the Self) about the lives and teachings of Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma, the latter being Lakshmana Swamy's own enlightened disciple. When Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma decided to move to Tiruvannamalai in the late 1980s, David Godman looked after and helped to develop their new property, which was located close to Sri Ramanasramam.
Working with Annamalai Swami
In 1987 David Godman interviewed Annamalai Swami, a devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi who worked at Sri Ramanasramam between 1928 and 1938. The interviews were eventually published as Living by the Words of Bhagavan, a book which chronicled Annamalai Swami's eventful and devotional relationship with Sri Ramana Maharshi. In the late 1990s David Godman also edited Final Talks, a book of Annamalai Swami's teaching dialogues.
In Lucknow with Papaji
In 1992 David Godman began to visit Papaji (Sri H. W. L. Poonja) a disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi who had made many visits to Sri Ramanasramam in the 1940s, and who later became a teacher in his own right. In 1993 David Godman moved to Lucknow, the city where Papaji lived, and spent the next four years chronicling his life and teachings. In 1993 he edited Papaji Interviews, an anthology of interviews that various journalists and visitors had had with Papaji in the early 1990s. Later that year, in co-operation with Jim Lemkin, he brought out Call Off The Search, a documentary that focused on Papaji, his devotees and his teachings. An extensive filmed interview that Godman had with Papaji, entitled Summa Iru (Keep Quiet) was also brought out as a separate documentary that year.
In late 1992 Papaji asked Godman to be his official biographer. Over the next four years Godman did extensive research on Papaji's life and the result was Nothing Ever Happened, a three volume 1,200-page biography. In 2007 David brought out a new volume of Papaji's teaching dialogues entitled The Fire of Freedom.
Research and writing in Tiruvannamalai after 1997
When Papaji died in 1997 David Godman returned to Tiruvannamalai. Between 1999 and 2003 he was engaged in a project to record the lives and experiences of devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi. These narratives were eventually published in a three-volume series entitled The Power of the Presence.
Between 2003 and 2008 David Godman, along with Dr T. V. Venkatasubramanian and Robert Butler, worked on translations of Tamil poems by Muruganar that had recorded Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings in Tamil verse. These were eventually published in two books: Padamalai, which was brought out in 2003, and Guru Vachaka Kovai, which came out in 2008 .
David Godman, Dr T. V. Venkatasubramanian and Robert Butler also cooperated on a translation of two books that contained Ramana Maharshi's teachings: Sri Ramana Darsanam, a Tamil account by Sadhu Natanananda that explained Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings through a series of anecdotes and lectures, and Sri Ramana Puranam, a long Tamil poem, jointly authored by Sri Ramana Maharshi and Muruganar, that is modelled on the ‘Siva Puranam’, the first poem of the Tiruvachakam by Manikkavachagar.
In the last few years David Godman has worked with Dr T. V. Venkatasubramanian and Robert Butler on more translations of Tamil mystic poetry, particularly that composed by Hindu saints who have been associated with the sacred mountain of Arunachala.
David Godman now lives on the southern side of Arunachala, about 5 km from Sri Ramanasramam. He is currently working on translations of Tevaram poetry (Tamil poetry written between 500 and 800 AD) and translations of the poetry of Guhai Namasivaya, a poet-saint who lived on Arunachala about 400 years ago.
- Be As You Are (edited): Dialogues between Ramana Maharshi and visitors. This is the most widely read book on Ramana Maharshi's teachings.
- No Mind – I am the Self: Biographies and teachings of Lakshmana Swamy and Mathru Sri Sarada. Lakshmana Swamy is a direct disciple of Ramana Maharshi who realised the Self in his presence in 1949. Mathru Sri Sarada is his disciple. She realised the Self in Lakshmana Swamy's presence in 1978.
- Living by the Words of Bhagavan: A biography of Annamalai Swami, a devotee of Ramana Maharshi who worked closely with the Maharshi in the 1930s and early 1940s. The book also contains dialogues that Annamalai Swami had with visitors in the late 1980s.
- Papaji Interviews (edited): A collection of interviews that various visitors had with Papaji (H. W. L. Poonja) in the early 1990s. Papaji is an enlightened disciple of Ramana Maharshi. The book also contains a lengthy introductory account of Papaji's early life and his association with Ramana Maharshi.
- Nothing Ever Happened: A three-volume biography of Papaji (H. W. L. Poonja)that chronicles his life up to the early 1980s.
- Final Talks (edited): Dialogues between Annamalai Swami and visitors to his ashram that took place in the last six months of his life.
- The Power of the Presence (edited): A three-volume series that contains first-person accounts from devotees whose lives were transformed by Ramana Maharshi.
- Sri Ramana Darsanam (translated and edited): Originally written in Tamil by Sadhu Natanananda, a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, this books gives little-known incidents from Ramana Maharshi's life, along with comments on their significance.
- Padamalai (translated and edited): This is derived from a long Tamil poem of the same name that was written by Sri Muruganar, a devotee of Ramana Maharshi. It contains teachings of Ramana Maharshi recorded by Muruganar in Tamil, along with extensive supporting quotations from other sources that contain Ramana Maharshi's teachings.
- Ramana Puranam, composed by Ramana Maharshi and Muruganar, translated and edited by T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman: This is an annotated translation of a long poem that is the introductory section to Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai, a collection of devotional poetry by Muruganar.
- The Fire of Freedom (edited): A collection dialogues between Papaji and people who visited his Lucknow home in 1991.
- Guru Vachaka Kovai by Muruganar, translated by T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler, and David Godman and edited by David Godman: This the most authoritative collection of Ramana Maharshi's spoken teachings.
Call off The Search. A documentary that chronicles Papaji’s life, his teachings, and the experiences of devotees who spent time with him in the early 1990s. Distributed by Avadhuta Foundation, Boulder, Colorado.
Summa Iru. An Interview between Papaji and David Godman in which Papaji lays out some of the key elements of his teachings. Distributed by Avadhuta Foundation, Boulder, Colorado.
Who Am I? A documentary made in 2008 and directed by Suniti Kala for Hooper Productions. It was broadcast on SABC (South African Broadcast Corporation) in their ‘Issues of Faith’ series in 2008. The documentary features the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Papaji and Nisargadatta Maharaj while simultaneously covering David Godman’s relationship with all three teachers.
- New Lives, ISBN 978-81-86569-49-8, published by Indica Books, 2004
- A Dialogue Between David Godman and Maalok
- Integral Yoga Magazine, Fall, 2007
- An Interview with Rob Sacks
- Introduction to An Interview with David Godman by Rob Sacks
- Review of Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
- Remembering Nisargadatta Maharaj
- An Interview with David Godman by Rob Sacks
- An Interview with David Godman by Rob sacks
- David Godman, Living by the Words of Bhagavan p. 4-5
- Dialogue Between David Godman and Maalok
- An Interview with David Godman by Rob Sacks
- David Godman, Nothing Ever Happened Volume One, page 9
- Papaji’s Avadhuta Foundation
- Padamalai, The Mountain Path, 2003, volume two, pp. 10–28, volume four, 55–58
- The Mountain Path, Vol 45, No 4, October 2008, p. 65
- Guru Vachaka Kovai, The Mountain Path, Aradhana 2007, pp. 93–100
- Bhagavan's role in the editing of Guru Vachaka Kovai, The Mountain Path, Deepam 2007, pp. 93–100
- Bhagavan and Thayumanavar, The Mountain Path, Deepam 2004, pp. 49–66, Jayanti 2005, pp. 31–46, Aradhana 2005, pp. 35–43
- Bhagavan and Manikkavachagar, The Mountain Path, 2005, pp. 67–80, Jayanti 2006, pp. 77–87, Aradhana 2006, pp. 89–97 Aradhana 2006, pp. 67–76
- Prabhulinga Leelai, The Mountain Path, Advent 2005, pp. 87–106
- Upadesa Tiruvahaval, The Mountain Path, Deepam 2006, pp. 51–58, Jayanti 2007, pp. 63–72
- Arunachala Saints
- Guhai Namasivaya
- Be As You Are, ISBN 0-14-019062-7
- No Mind – I am the Self
- Living by the Words of Bhagavan
- Papaji Interviews, ISBN 0-9638022-0-8
- Nothing Ever Happened, ISBN 0-9638022-5-9
- Final Talks, ISBN 0-9711371-8-1
- The Power of the Presence (Part 1), ISBN 0-9711371-1-0
- The Power of the Presence (Part 2), ISBN 0-9711371-0-2
- The Power of the Presence (Part 3), ISBN 0-9711371-2-9
- Ramana Darsanam
- Padamalai, ISBN 0-9711371-3-7
- Ramana Purananam, published by V. S. Sundaram, India, 2006, ISBN 81-8289-059-9
- Fire of Freedom, published by Avadhuta Foundation, Colorado, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9638022-6-2
- Guru Vachaka Kovai, ISBN 978-0-9711371-8-9