The Spiritual world is entirely governed





  The Spiritual world is entirely governed
by sound and speech.




  The Spiritual world is entirely governed
by sound and speech.
It begins in the word "Om"



Leon MacLaren

  The Spiritual world is entirely governed
by sound and speech.
It begins in the word "Om"



Leon MacLaren
1910-1994

  The Spiritual world is entirely governed
by sound and speech.
It begins in the word "Om"

Mr MacLaren’s Conversations with Shri Shantananda

Leon MacLaren (LM) came to visit Shri Shantananda Saraswati through his relationship with Dr Francis Roles, the leader of the Study Society. After Dr Roles was introduced to Shri Shantananda, LM began a correspondence in the early 1960’s, which led to his first audience with Shri Shantananda in 1965. Thereafter, LM visited Shri Shantananda every 2 or 3 years until his death in 1994, and his audiences were tape recorded, translated into English and transcribed for him by his student, S.M. Jaiswal. LM edited these transcriptions and made them available to his students in the SES, at first through oral presentation, and beginning in the late 1980’s by releasing the transcripts directly. These records are collectively known by his many students as “The Conversations.”

These Conversations are poetic, insightful and inspiring. Much of the early Conversations consist of an exposition of the system of Advaita Vedanta, which LM gradually passed on to his students in SES. Only late in their relationship did LM shift inwardly from being a “questioner” to being a “disciple” with a full appreciation for what his relationship with Shri Shantananda might actually mean for real spiritual work, a change which appeared to take place in two steps, starting in 1985 and accelerating in the early 1990s.

While some invest these documents with great importance and treat them as an all-encompassing revelation of “The Teaching”, in general, the MacLaren – Shantananda Conversations are a highly idiosyncratic and partial exposition of the Advaita philosophy, substantially lacking in exploration of meditation and the emotional side of the human being, as befitting the character and needs of LM. Despite the claims of some of his former students that the Conversations are “all that is needed”, these transcripts are mostly limited to an intellectual appreciation of Advaita, a disciplined lifestyle based on the Laws of Manu, an important contemplative practice known as “reflection”, and in the last few audiences a profusion of beautiful statements regarding the true unity of the Self.

Most importantly, these transcripts obviously cannot impart the direct instruction and inspiration of a living teacher, who can guide one directly and specifically, a critical need for most students of Advaita after the beginning phases. Nonetheless, these verbatim records of a remarkable student and his equally remarkable teacher are an inspiring and valuable exposition of some aspects of Advaita Vedanta. They are an equally valuable history of the spiritual growth of LM over the 3 decades of his meetings with Shri Shantananda, a topic which will also be explored in the several essays to follow.

Other Westerners also visited Shri Shantananda, including Dr Roles (for the Study Society), William Whiting (for the School of Meditation), and other more junior members of these various spiritual organisations. Transcripts of these various audiences circulate unofficially in a vast, underground, ‘samizdat’ collective, passed back and forth between followers. While these documents can be difficult to find, recently some of the transcripts have begun appearing on the Internet. The best method at the moment to access these documents is to contact someone who was a senior member of one of the organisations mentioned.

The copyrights for all these various documents are complex and often contested, involving at the very least the rights of the discussants, translators and editors, and in some cases their heirs. Secondary claims are often made by the organisations which arose around these men, as well as by their students claiming the right of use on a spiritual basis. To date, only the Study Society has demonstrated both the generosity and universality of spirit to allow the publication of some of the transcripts of Dr Roles’ audiences and correspondence with Shri Shantananda, which compilations include Good Company, The Man Who Wanted to Know God, and Prayer.

The MacLaren – Shantananda Conversations are catalogued by followers according to the year of occurrence and the sequential day numbers of the particular meeting during that year’s audience, followed by the sequentially enumerated questions and answers on that day. This has given rise to the shorthand YYYY.DD.QA, allowing direct specification of a particular question and answer. 

Excerpts from the known Conversations between LM and Shri Shantananda will be enumerated as follows on this series of essays:

1965 Conversations – Days 1 through 11, as follows: 
1.1 – 1.13, 2.1 – 2.5, 3.1 – 3.3, 4.1 – 4.7, 5.1 – 5.9, 6.1 – 6.5, 7.1 – 7.4, 8.1 – 8.13, 9.1 – 9.7, 10.1 – 10.3, 11.1 – 11.12

1967 Conversations – Days 1 through 10, as follows: 
1.1 – 1.11, 2.1 – 2.11, 3.1 – 3.4, 4.1 – 4.8, 5.1 – 5.11, 6.1 – 6.10, 7.1 – 7.12, 8.1 – 8.18, 9.1 – 9.7, 10.1 – 10.8 (Final Blessing)

1971 Conversations – Days 1 through 9, as follows: 
1.1 – 1.8, 2.1 – 2.7, 3.1 – 3.7, 4.1 – 4.7, 5.1 – 5.7, 6.1 – 6.7, 7.1 – 7.5, 8.1 – 8.14, 9.1 – 9.15 (Final Blessing)

1973 Conversations – Days 1 through 9, as follows: 
1.1 – 1.6, 2.1 – 2.8, 3.1 – 3.9, 4.1 – 4.14, 5.1 –    5.10, 6.1 – 6.9, 7.1 – 7.6, 8.1 – 8.6, 9.1 – 9.12

1974 Conversations – Days 1 through 9, as follows: 
1.1 – 1.4, 2.1 – 2.2, 3.1 – 3.7, 4.1 – 4.3, 5.1 –    5.6, 6.1 – 6.6, 7.1 – 7.4, 8.1 – 8.10, 9.1 – 9.2 (Final Message)

1976 Conversations – Days 1 through 11, as follows:
1.1 – 1.5, 2.1 – 2.7, 3.1 – 3.7, 4.1 – 4.8, 5.1 –    5.5, 6.1 – 6.8, 7.1 – 7.6, 8.1 – 8.7, 9.1 – 9.4, 10.1 – 10.7 (Final Message)

1978 Conversations – Days 1 through 8, as follows:
1.1 – 1.6, 2.1 – 2.5, 3.1 – 3.4, 4.1 – 4.4, 5.1 –    5.5, 6.1 – 6.5, 7.1 – 7.6 (Questions from Doctors’ Group), 7.7 – 7.8 (Astronomy and Mathematics Groups), 8.1 – 8.7 (Astronomy and Mathematics Groups), 8.8 – 8.9 (Economics), 8.10 (Final Blessing)

1980 Conversations – Days 1 through 9, as follows:
1.1 – 1.4, 2.1 – 2.4, 3.1, 4.1 – 4.6, 5.1 – 5.4, 6.1    – 6.7, 7.1 – 7.8, 8.1 – 8.6, 9.1 – 9.5 (Final Blessing)

1982 Conversations – Days 1 through 5, as follows:
1.1 – 1.5, 2.1 – 2.10, 3.1 – 3.7, 4.1 – 4.8, 5.1 – 5.11

1985 Conversations – Days 1 through 6, as follows:
1.1 – 1.5, 2.1 – 2.7, 3.1 – 3.6, 4.1 – 4.4, 5.1 – 5.5, 6.1 – 6.5 (Final Message)

1987 Conversations – Days 1 through 7, as follows:
1.1 – 1.5, 2.1 – 2.4, 3.1 – 3.6, 4.1 – 4.5, 5.1 – 5.6, 6.1 – 6.6 (plus Message regarding transformation 6.7), 7.1 – 7.5

1989 Conversations – Days 1 through 6, as follows:
1.1 – 1.10, 2.1 – 2.7, 3.1 – 3.4, 4.1 – 4.7, 5.1 – 5.9, 6.1 – 6.8 (Final Blessing)

1991 Conversations – Days 1 through 6, as follows:
1.1 – 1.5, 2.1 – 2.3, 3.1 – 3.4, 4.1 – 4.4, 5.1 – 5.3, 6.1 – 6.5

1993 Conversations – Days 1 through 5, as follows:
1.1 – 1.7, 2.1 – 2.5, 3.1 – 3.7, 4.1 – 4.5, 5.1 – 5.8 (Final Blessing)

The essays which follow will each take one of these years, summarize the discussion, excerpt key passages and attempt to put that Conversation into the overall perspectives of LM’s spiritual growth and the events of that period. Given the open nature of this effort, remarks, suggestions and contributions emailed to this site at leonmaclaren@gmail.com and titled “Conversations” will be included in further essays and used to revise and expand already posted essays.

Gallery