Monday 6 August 2007

ARUNACHALA AND RAMANACHALA - K. Subrahmanian

By K. Subrahmanian

THE Maharshi and Arunachala embody the same principle of stillness. The Maharshi too was achala, the stillness of Awareness. He was the utsava vigraha, the hill the mula vigraha. He never moved away from Tiruvannamalai, from the day he arrived there in his sixteenth year till he merged in its light in April, 1950. As the hill is rooted in the earth, Sri Ramana is rooted in the Self. The hill still draws people to it. Sri Ramana too, unmoving, draws people towards himself. Even people who had not seen him during his lifetime are drawn towards him and the hill.

The Sage appealed to humanity through silence. This silence, like the hill's own silence, is more potent than the eloquence of preachers. It brings about silence of the beholder's mind. It is not the negation of speech but the pure awareness which is the source and end of all sound.

Going round the hill is recommended by Sri Bhagavan, as this physical movement results in mental calm. Strangely enough, one feels no fatigue in going round the hill. Going round Sri Bhagavan was thought equal to going round the hill and was found by some to yield the same mental calm. However, he discouraged this practice. The hill and the Maharshi are two forms assumed by the formless Self.

Smaranad Arunachalam -- If one thinks of Arunachala, one gains liberation. Like Arunachala, Ramana too brings en- lightenment by ending the illusion that the body is oneself. The hill is Lord Siva himself. And Ramana lived and moved as Sivananda. And he is present still as we sit in silence in his Ashram or walk round the hill.


Monday 30 July 2007

Beloved Bhagavan - Swami Ramdas

By Swami Ramdas

What shall I say of Him who towers high,
A veritable Everest of spiritual glory,
A resplendent sun who sheds light on all.
He is our soul, our life and sole refuge.
The sage par-excellence dwells on the Sacred Hill,
Arunachala, the abode of holy ones, the Rishis.
His compassionate eyes pour forth nectar on all He sees,
Drowning us in a sea of joy and ecstasy.
Our lives are aflame with divine wisdom
At a moment's touch of His world-redeeming feet.
He is God Himself who walked on earth.
His grace and delight enter our hearts,
Transforming us into His beauteous image.
He belongs to the dizzy heights ;
Still He stands firm on the earth of ours
To redeem and save those who behold
His face reflected in the mirror
Of His toe-nails, which glow with celestial radiance.
The care-worn go to Him and become
Free and cheerful like children at play.
The earnest aspirants approach Him
To return deeply permeated with knowledge eternal.
Verily, to be in His presence is to know
All that exists is Himself, His grandiose being and form.
His unfailing power of love is most potent;
How He draws me to Him is a mystery.
O Lord! like a rudderless boat adrift
On that vast ocean of the world, I wandered
Hither and thither seeking in darkness
The supreme light and goal that liberates life
From galling bondage and depthless sorrow.

Lo! Thy grace drew me to Thy feet
And I came to Thee a vagrant and a beggar.
Thy very sight was burning with the all-consuming
fire of the world.
The instant my head touched Thy holy feet
The fever of my soul left me for ever.
I felt lightness and freedom and peace;
Then Thine eyes, redolent with Thy Infinite Grace
Tenderly looked on me and I was thrilled.
I stood before Thee, a figure of pure bliss,
Fully bathed in Thy divine halo.
Now, I am Thy child, free and happy.
My face is suffused with smiles drawn from Thee.
My life is entirely enlightened
With Thy Love, Knowledge and Power.
Thou art my Mother, Master and Friend, my only
Beloved.
All glory to Thee! All glory to Thee!

YEARS OF GRACE

By R. Narayana Iyer

I first saw Bhagavan in 1913 at the Virupaksha Cave. But it was in 1936 that I really met him. When I reached the Ashram and entered the hall, Bhagavan pointed at me and said, "He has come from Madras". I thought myself very fortunate in having been blessed by his attention immediately on my arrival. That evening while sitting in the hall, Bhagavan looked at me intently for about five minutes. It was an extraordinary experience. The experience, the feeling, remained long after I returned home.

I took voluntary retirement from service in order to pursue the spiritual path and shifted my family to Tiruvannamalai so as to be near Bhagavan. One day while trying to meditate in the presence of Bhagavan I just could not fix my thoughts and became restless. In the meantime a boy who used to come daily and give a performance of numberless prostrations gave us a super show that day. Bhagavan rebuked him,
"What is the use of your prostrations? Control of the mind is real worship."
Somehow these words had a tremendous effect on me.

There are many instances of Bhagavan's compassion that have graced my life. My wife died of small pox. On that day it rained in torrents. I was afraid that the cremation would be delayed. Bhagavan sent some Ashram workers to help me. When Bhagavan was told that the rain was too heavy for the funeral, he said, "Go on with it, never mind the rain". When the body was taken to the cremation ground, the rain stopped, and when the body was burnt to white ashes, it started raining again!

A few days later my daughter was singing in the hall.

Suddenly she stopped and then, after a pause she continued.

Bhagavan asked,
"Why did you stop in the middle? Was it the grief for your mother? Why do you grieve for her? Is she not with Lord Arunachala?"


In 1942 I had to arrange for the marriage of my daughter. I had a suitable boy in mind, but he raised some objections. Anxiously I showed his letter to Bhagavan, who said, "Don't worry, it will come off". Soon afterwards the boy himself came and the marriage was celebrated.

After Bhagavan left the body I spent two years in my village and then came to the Ashram again. There were difficulties in my spiritual practices, but I felt Bhagavan's guidance very clearly.

I had muscular rheumatism at that time and wrote to my son, who was coming from Madras to bring some medicine. He however forgot. The next day Sundaram's brother, coming from his village brought the very medicine I wanted. I asked him how he had thought of bringing them. He told me that he saw them in his house unused and that it occurred to him that it might be of some use to me. It dawned on me that it was Bhagavan's love for us that filled our lives with miracles.

On another occasion a nerve in my leg got inflamed. I was all alone and puzzled, when unexpectedly, Sundaram came from his village. When I asked him why he came, he said, "I just felt like coming". From the very next day I had high fever and Sundaram nursed me for a fortnight. Who could have arranged all this but Bhagavan?

During the years after Bhagavan left his body I felt His continued guidance very clearly. How carefully he watches over every legitimate need of his devotees!


Referred Resources: Virupaksha Cave

Sunday 29 July 2007

ETERNAL BHAGAVAN - Shantammal

By Shantamma

MY search for a Master who would lead me to salvation began when I was 40 years old. It was ten years later, in 1927, that I went to Tiruvannamalai in the company of three ladies. When I went to Ramanasramam, Bhagavan was seated on a cot in a grass-thatched shed. As soon as I saw him I knew that he was God in human form. Muruganar, who was a native of Ramnad like me, was by his side. I bowed to Bhagavan and said, "Today I am blessed. Please grant that my mind does not trouble me any more". Bhagavan turned to Muruganar and said, "Ask her to find out whether there is such a thing as mind. If there is, ask her to describe it". I stood still, not knowing what to say. Muruganar explained to me, "Don't you see? You have been initiated in the search for the Self.

We stayed for forty days. We would cook some food, and take it to the Ashram. Bhagavan would taste it and the rest was given to the devotees. In those days, Bhagavan's brother Chinnaswami was cooking in the Ashram. Often there were no curries or sambar, only plain rice and pickles. Though I wanted to stay on until Bhagavan's birthday, my companions had to leave. When I went to Bhagavan to take his leave, He asked me to wait a day longer for the newly printed Upadesa Saram . The next day he gave me a copy with his own hands. The thought of leaving him broke my heart and I wept bitterly. Bhagavan graciously said, "You are going to Ramnad, but you are not leaving Arunachala. Go and come soon".

Fortunately by his grace I was able to attend the next jayanti. It was the experience of every devotee that he who is determined to visit him, finds that all obstacles somehow vanish. This time Bhagavan was seated on a sofa in a newly built hall. He was explaining something from Ulladu Narpadu to Dandapani Swami. When he saw me his first question was, "Have you a copy of this book? I asked them to post one to you." How my Lord remembers us by name and how loving is his personal attention to our needs. From dawn to dusk I stayed at the Ashram and engaged myself in its chores.

After the celebration, the guests were leaving and I felt that I too would have to go. I gathered sufficient courage and told Bhagavan about my deep desire to stay on. "As long as I am with you Bhagavan, my mind is at peace. Away from you, I am restless. What am I to do"? He said, "Stay here until your mind gets settled. After that you can go anywhere and nothing will disturb you". It seemed miraculous when minutes later I was asked to stay and cook for two months, as Chinnaswami who was cooking for the Ashram was sick and had to leave for Madras for treatment. Thus I came to stay -- not for two months, but forever.

During that period in the history of the Ashram, Bhagavan used to be active working both in the kitchen and outside. He would clean grain, shell nuts, grind seeds, stick together the leaf plates we ate from and so on. We would join him in every task and listen to his stories, jokes, reminiscences and spiritual teachings. Occasionally he would scold us lovingly like a mother. Everything we did, every problem we faced, was made use of in teaching the art of total reliance on him.

The European

One morning a European came in a horse carriage to the Ashram and went straight to Bhagavan. He wrote something on a piece of paper and showed it to Bhagavan. Bhagavan did not answer, instead he gazed at the stranger steadily. The stranger stared back at him. Then Bhagavan closed his eyes and the stranger also closed his. Time passed and the whole atmosphere was silent and still. Lunch hour struck but Bhagavan would not open his eyes. Madhavaswami, the attendant, got Bhagavan's water pot and stood ready to lead him out of the hall. Bhagavan would not stir. We felt afraid to go near, such was the intensity around him. His face was glowing with a strange light. Chinnaswami was talking loudly to attract Bhagavan's attention. Even vessels were banged about, but all in vain. When the clock was striking twelve Bhagavan opened his eyes. They were glowing very brightly. Madhavaswami took up the water jug; the European got into the carriage and went away. It was the last we saw of him. Everybody was wonderstruck at the great good fortune of the man, to have received such immediate initiation from Bhagavan.

Maharaja of Mysore

Once the Maharaja of Mysore visited the Ashram. He asked for a private interview. Of course, Bhagavan never allowed such a thing. Finally it was decided that Maharaja be brought in when Bhagavan was having his bath. Trays and trays of sweets and other costly presents were laid at Bhagavan's feet. For ten minutes the Maharaja just stood looking and then prostrated before Bhagavan. Tears flowing from his eyes made Bhagavan's feet wet. He told Bhagavan, "They made me a Maharaja and bound me to a throne. For the sin of being born a king, I lost the chance of sitting at your feet and serving in your glorious presence. I do not hope to come again. Only these few minutes are mine. I pray for your grace".

Lakshmi in samadhi

Once the cow Lakshmi came into the hall. She was pregnant at that time. It was after lunch time and Bhagavan was reading the newspapers. Lakshmi came near and started licking the papers. Bhagavan looked up and said, "Wait a little Lakshmi", but Lakshmi went on licking. Bhagavan laid his paper aside, put his hands behind Lakshmi's horns and put his head against hers. They stayed thus for quite a long time. All of us watched the wonderful scene. After sometime Bhagavan turned to me and said, "Do you know what Lakshmi is doing? She is in samadhi". Tears were flowing from Lakshmi's eyes. Her eyes were fixed on Bhagavan. After sometime Bhagavan asked her, "Lakshmi, how do you feel now"? Lakshmi moved backward, reluctant to turn her tail towards Bhagavan, and went out of the hall. On the fourth day she gave birth to a calf. The man with whom she was staying in town brought her with her three calves and left them in the Ashram for good. Lakshmi and her three calves came into the hall and lay down beside Bhagavan's sofa. He said, "All these days Lakshmi had to go back in the evening and she used to be in tears. Today she is delighted for she need not go away anymore. She knows that her home is here now. We have to look after her. Look at her with what self- assurance she has stretched herself out"!

The Harijan

In the early days of the Ashram, a harijan used to stand near the well and accompany Bhagavan whenever he went up the hill. One day Bhagavan called him near and said, "Go on repeating `Shiva, Shiva'". It was very unusual for an untouchable to receive this kind of initiation. He could never have secured it without Bhagavan's infinite grace. After that the man disappeared.

Vision

Once I related to Bhagavan some vision I had and he said:

Yes, such visions do occur. To know how you look you must look into a mirror, but don't take that reflection to be yourself. What is perceived by our senses and mind is never the truth. All visions are mere mental creations, and if you believe in them, your progress ceases. Enquire to whom the visions occur, who is their witness. Free from all thought, stay in pure awareness. Out of that don't move.

Kitchen and other stories

A visitor while taking leave of Bhagavan expressed a wish that Bhagavan should keep him in mind as he was going very far away and would probably not come back to the Ashram. Bhagavan replied:

A jnani [?] has no mind. How can one without a mind remember or even think? This man goes somewhere and I have to go there and look after him? Can I keep on remembering all these prayers? Well, I shall transmit your prayer to the Lord of the Universe. He will look after you. It is his business.

After the devotee departed, Bhagavan turned towards us and said:

People imagine that the devotees crowding around a jnani [?] get special favours from him. If a Guru shows partiality, how can he be a jnani? Is he so foolish as to be flattered by people's attendance on him and the service they do? Does distance matter? The Guru is pleased with him only who gives himself up entirely, who abandons his ego forever. Such a man is taken care of wherever he may be. He need not pray. God looks after him unasked. The frog lives by the side of the fragrant lotus, but it is the bee that gets the honey.

When I cooked, Bhagavan would come to the kitchen to taste the food and see whether the seasoning was just right. Once he said, "The Maharajas employ special taste experts and pay them huge salaries. I wonder what will be my pay". "I am a beggar Bhagavan, and all I can offer is my life", I said, to which Bhagavan nodded his head lovingly.

In the kitchen there were no proper jars for storing foodstuffs and everything was kept in tins and pots which would leak and spill and render the floor slippery. Once I scrubbed the kitchen floor carefully. Bhagavan on seeing it congratulated me on the neatness in the kitchen. I sighed, "What is the use Bhagavan? People will come, spill oil, scatter flour and the kitchen will be the same again. We must have proper jars and containers". Ten days later they called me to the hall. Attendants were opening wooden boxes and there were six beautiful jars. "You wanted jars, now you have them", said Bhagavan. On enquiry it was found that some railway station master had booked them in the name of our Ashram for no ostensible reason. Such mysterious coincidences occurred almost daily, both at the Ashram and in the homes of devotees.

One day, when I was still new in the kitchen, I served Bhagavan with a few more pieces of potato than the rest. Bhagavan noticed it and got very angry with me. He turned his face away and did not look at those who were serving food. In the evening the women working in the kitchen would take leave of him. Usually he would exchange a few words with us. That evening he called me near and asked:

"What did you do today"?

"I don't know Bhagavan. Have I done something wrong"?

"You served me more curry than you served others".

"What does it matter. I did it with love and devotion".

"I felt ashamed to eat more than others. Have you come all this way to stuff me with food? You should always serve me less than the others. Do you hope to earn grace through a potato curry"?

"Out of my love for you I committed a blunder. Forgive me Bhagavan".

"The more you love my people, the more you love me", said Bhagavan.

A good lesson was learned and never forgotten. Many mundane occurrences in the kitchen and in the dining hall during meal times showed us the silent ways in which Bhagavan pointed out to us the path of realization. Bhagavan was a stern task master and one had to implicitly obey him. Each day was a day of trial and lesson in spirituality. Those who have not lived through it cannot appreciate the deep spiritual effect of these anxieties and conflicts. Our `I' would hurl itself against the rock of truth and the rock would not yield. The `I' had to yield and in that yielding was the highest blessing. His anger would sometimes seem to shatter us to pieces, and blessed are they indeed who have seen in His wrath His utmost grace.

One day there was talk about a devotee having come under the influence of another Swami. Bhagavan said:

Once a man has surrendered his life here, he belongs here. Wherever he may go, he shall return. For him this is the door to liberation.


Referred Resources: Ulladu Narpadu / Reality in Forty Verses
Upadesa Saram/Essence of Instruction

SRI RAMANASRAMAM - Lokammal

By Lokammal


MY intense desire to go to Ramanasramam was fulfilled when I got a chance to go to Tiruvannamalai along with some friends. We arrived in the evening and took shelter for the night in a dharmashala. The next morning we went to the Ashram which at that time was a mere thatched shed. I looked at Bhagavan and could not take my eyes off Him. I even forgot to offer him the fruits I had brought with me. That was my first meeting. As my friends returned from Tirupati I had to leave for home. When I asked Bhagavan permission to go home he exclaimed, "What, you are going"? I told him all about the trouble I had at home for wanting to come to the Ashram. I said that I had no attachments and prayed to him to keep me at his feet.

Bhagavan was at that moment reading Upadesa Saram.

Muruganar came in and Bhagavan said to him, "She wants some instructions to take home with her. Read this to her". He gave him his copy of Upadesa Saram and Muruganar read out some points for me. Before leaving I asked Bhagavan to give me the book. Bhagavan said if this copy were given away the Ashram would be without a copy. Just then Somasundara Swami told Bhagavan that he had a copy which he would give to the Ashram and requested Bhagavan to give me his copy of Upadesa Saram.

After this first visit I used to come to the Ashram often and stay for a month or two. One day I was asked to cook some dhal (split pulses) and some curry for the next day. I came very early but Bhagavan was quicker than me. He told me that the dhal was ready and that I had only to prepare the curry.

Very often we found ourselves caught in the trap of outmoded customs and conventions that discriminated against the less fortunate, especially women and the lower castes. Bhagavan was strict in treating all equally. He often said, "The Ashram does not see any differences. There are no untouchables here. Those who do not like it may eat elsewhere. At Skandashramam there used to be the same trouble with mother. She would not give food to the man who brought us firewood. She would insist that I eat first, then she would eat and then the woodcutter could have the remnants left outside the Ashram. I would refuse to eat until the man was decently fed. At first she would not yield and would suffer and weep and fast, but I was adamant too. She then saw that she could not have her way in these matters. What is the difference between man and man? Am I a Brahmin and he a pariah? Is it not correct to see only God in all"? We were all astounded. The rebuke went deep into our hearts. We asked Bhagavan to make our minds clear and our hearts pure so that we would sin no more against God in man.

One morning I was singing a Tevaram Song in front of Bhagavan and read one verse incorrectly. Bhagavan noticed it and asked, "Is it written like that? Better read it again". I read it wrong several times. At last Bhagavan said sternly, "Find out by yourself where you made the mistake. I shall not correct you. If I do, you will not learn to see where you are wrong and you will repeat the same mistake again and again". Kunju Swami was in the hall and wanted to help me. But Bhagavan ordered him to keep quiet. Then K.V. Ratnam begged Bhagavan to show me where I was wrong, but he refused firmly, saying, "No, I must not do it. She is reading it incorrectly again and again because her secret wish is that I should correct it". I went on reading the passage trying to find out where I was reading it incorrectly. It was nearing noon and I had to help serve lunch. When I was about to go to the kitchen, Bhagavan told me to sit down. He said, "No, you cannot go. First find out your mistake. You must not just run away. Better sit down". The bell rang for lunch. Bhagavan got up from his sofa and went to the dining hall.

After lunch I went to Somasundaram Pillai who showed me my mistake. I came to Bhagavan and recited the verse correctly. "Who has shown you the mistake"? he asked. "It is useless to do so. Only when you yourself have found out where you were wrong will it remain firmly in your mind and you will have the knowledge and the capacity not to go wrong again."

On some other occasion Bhagavan gave me Vasudeva [?] Mananam to read. I finished the book and brought it back to Bhagavan. "Have you read it"? he asked. "Yes, I did, but I understood nothing at all". "That does not matter. We remember even if we do not understand at the moment. We may come to understand much later. We may think we forgot it, but nothing of real value is ever forgotten." said Bhagavan graciously.

Once we had only some dried vegetables for the soup to eat with our rice and I did my best to make it palatable. After the meal I asked Bhagavan how he liked the soup. He replied, "What is taste? It is what our tongue tells us. We think the taste is in the food itself. But it is not so. The food itself is neither tasty nor tasteless, it is the tongue that makes it so. To me no taste is pleasant or unpleasant, it is just as it is."

Bhagavan's sayings

One day when the doctor was dressing Bhagavan's arm, they chatted about taking photos. Bhagavan said, "In a pin- hole camera, when the hole is small, you see shapes and col- ours. When the hole is made big, the images disappear and one sees only clear light. Similarly when the mind is small and narrow, it is full of shapes and words. When it broadens, it sees pure light. When the box is destroyed altogether, only the light remains.


Referred Resources: Upadesa Saram

Thursday 26 July 2007

GLIMPSES OF SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI

By Raja Iyer

IN 1911 when I was in the high school in Tiruvannamalai, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi was living in Virupaksha Cave. At that time we boys would climb the Arunachala hill in small parties to visit Bhagavan. He was usually found sitting on the elevated place outside the cave. He would smile at us as a sign of recognition and would allow us to sit at his feet and sing devotional songs to our hearts' content. When the singing was over, we would share with him the food we had brought and wash it down with the cool water from a spring just above the cave. We would then return home in high spirits.

After high school I used to stay with Bhagavan whenever I felt like it and eat and sleep there. By that time, he had left the cave which was too small for the crowd that came to see him and moved a little higher to Skandasramam where the devotees had built some terraces and huts. Echammal, Mudaliar granny and a few others made it their duty to bring cooked food up the hill regularly for Bhagavan. This enabled some of us to stay with him permanently. The food was meant for him, but there was enough for all. He would not allow any discrimination in matters of food. It was shared equally and what remained was consumed the next morning. Nor were there regular hours for food. We would sit down for food when there was food and when we felt the need. Bhagavan would not eat food from the previous day; but he was willing to cook for all and he made me his kitchen boy.

Then Bhagavan's mother and his younger brother Chinnaswami came to live with him. The mother started a regular household. Devotees would bring rice and other provisions and all partook of the frugal meals, oftentimes consisting of some rice, buttermilk and pickles.

While in Skandasramam, Bhagavan used to build walls, embankments and stone and mud benches, the poor man's furniture in India. Once he was plastering a wall with mud. Bespattered with mud, with a rag tied round his head, he looked like an ordinary labourer. Some visitors came up the hill in search of Bhagavan and one of them shouted, "Hey coolie, where is the swami who lives hereabouts"? Bhagavan looked round and said, "He has gone up the hill". A visitor protested that they were told that he could be found there at that hour. Bhagavan shrugged his shoulders and said, "He has gone up the hill. I can't help it". While the disappointed visitors were going down the hill Echammal met them. She told them that the swami would not go anywhere at that time. She offered to show them the swami. In the meantime Bhagavan had washed himself, smeared his body with sacred ash, and was sitting in the classic yogic padmasana posture. The visitors greeted him very reverently but were all the time looking for the coolie. After they left Echammal asked Bhagavan why he had played a joke on them. He said, "What else could I do? Do you want me to go around proclaiming, `I am the swami', or to wear a board, `This is Sri Ramana Maharshi'"?

While Bhagavan was still at Skandasramam he often went round Arunachala. We used to take with us what was needed for cooking some food by the roadside. Food was usually cooked at Palakottu and what remained was taken along and eaten at Gautama Ashram, which we would reach at about nine in the evening. We would sleep there, get up early in the morning and walk to Pachaiamman Temple, which was, according to Bhagavan, the most spiritually charged of all the Pachaiamman temples. Bhagavan used to walk round the hill so slowly that a walk with him was like a festival procession. We would reach Skandasramam by ten or even later.

Though I was married I was not interested in family life.

My wife also passed away sometime after marriage and I was free to roam about and live as I wished to.

I am not by nature a willing worker but for the sake of staying at the Ashram I was ready to work. Bhagavan had come down from the hill after his mother's samadhi and an Ashram grew around him. I did odd jobs like collecting flowers for worship, drawing water from the well, grinding sandalwood paste etc. For sometime I was performing the puja at Bhagavan's mother's shrine.

One day Chinnaswami asked me to take up the preparation of the morning iddlies, the steamed rice and pulse cakes common to South India. This gave me a chance to become a permanent resident of the Ashram. In preparing iddlies I achieved such excellence that visitors commented that nowhere had they tasted iddlies comparable to those of the Ashram.

Once the workers in the kitchen asked me to grind some pulses to a paste. Try as I might I could not do it. I was told not to leave the kitchen without finishing the job but I just refused to continue. Bhagavan heard the quarrel and advised me to add some salt. When I did so the grinding became easy, and eversince the dislike for grinding left me completely. Very often Bhagavan would work with us side by side cutting vegetables etc. He kept a watchful eye on me and taught me the right way of doing everything. He was very particular about avoiding waste. He showed me how to use a ladle so that not even a drop of food would fall on the ground, how to avoid spilling while pouring and how to start a fire with just a few drops of kerosene. If all this were not a part of my spiritual discipline, why should he have bothered? When we prepared iddlies we would send him two, steaming hot. He would eat one and give the other to the people present. At breakfast everybody would get two iddlies and a cup of coffee, But Bhagavan would take only one iddlie, counting as his first, the one he took earlier.

In 1937 a post office was opened in the Ashram and I was made the Postmaster. On the first two days Bhagavan came to the post office and did all the stamping. Prior to that I used to bring the mail from the town post office to the Ashram.

"Oh, the postman has been made the Postmaster", remarked Bhagavan. I thus had the opportunity of serving Bhagavan and the Ashram for several years.

In whatever manner and at whatever level the devotee approached him, he responded in the same way, fulfilled his needs and made him happy. Bhagavan showed us tangibly to what extent all devotion will find its way to him, whatever its level, provided it is sincere.

The White Peacock


Bhagavan seems to have developed a fancy for the white peacock which devotees think to be the incarnation of the late Madhavasami, his old attendant who died about two years ago. Today (18-6-1948) the famous cow Lakshmi died. Some believe that she was a disciple of Bhagavan in her previous birth. They draw this conclusion from her birth, the events of her life, her great attachment to him, etc. After finishing the history of Lakshmi, Bhagavan takes up that of the white peacock, which had been brought from such a great distance as Baroda. It was born in October 1946, three months after the death of Madhavasami (July 1946) and brought to Madras in April 1947 by the Maharani of Baroda and to Ramanasramam by Mr David MacIver on the same day.

Bhagavan then watched the peacock's movements. It used to go to the cupboard where books were kept and touched its glass door with its beak in a straight line from east to west, as if scanning the titles of the books. Secondly it used to appear in the hall and quit it at the very hours when Madhava used to come and go. Thirdly it used to sit in the very places where Madhavasami used to sit and, like him, used to visit the office, bookshop, library, etc., also at the hours he used to visit these places. Its habits used to be a copy of Madhava's. Hence the conclusion of several devotees that he was Madhava reincarnated.

From Residual Reminiscences by S.S. Cohen.


Referred Resources: Virupaksha Cave
Death of Madhavaswami
Deliverance of Cow Lakshmi

Tuesday 24 July 2007

BHAGAVAN'S COOKING

By Sundaram

WITH the death of my wife the bond between me and my family snapped. The desire to serve God had been in my mind for quite a long time. I gave up my job. I had heard a lot about Bhagavan. So I decided to go to Ramanasramam. Immediately after my arrival I was fortunate to be taken on the Ashram staff. I was looking after the Ashram's correspondence. Still later I was asked to work in the kitchen. There I had the good fortune to work under Bhagavan's direct supervision.

I was suffering for long from Asthma. It gave me a lot of trouble while cooking, but I never mentioned it to Bhagavan. I felt that I should endure it to the very end.

Bhagavan used to prepare various kinds of chutney, usually made of coconut with fragrant herbs and condiments. He was very fond of using the cheapest and most commonly found herbs and seeds and was a wizard in making wonderful dishes from the simplest ingredients. When something unusual was ready, he would give everybody in the kitchen a pinch to taste and we would take it with eyes closed, deeming it to be prasad. On one such occasion he gave me a pinch of some chutney and said, "This is medicine for you". Without giving much thought to it I swallowed the titbit and soon realised that I was completely cured of asthma.

Once somebody complained to Bhagavan that the Ashram food was very pungent. He said, "When sattvic food is essential for spiritual practice how is it that the Ashram food is so heavily spiced"? Bhagavan explained that as long as the ingredients were pure and prepared in a pure place and in the proper way, seasoning was a matter of taste and habit and did not make food less sattvic.

An unwritten rule in the Ashram demanded that until the last meal was served and cleared, the workers should attend to their duties only. Sitting in meditation or in Bhagavan's hall was strongly discouraged. The manager argued, with good reason, that devoted service to the Ashram was itself spiritual practice of the highest order and no other practice was needed. He would not allow us to linger in the hall during working hours, which was often tantalising because of the interesting discussions and happenings that were going on there. When we would sneak in and hide ourselves behind people's backs, Bhagavan would look at us significantly, as if saying, "Better go to your work. Don't ask for trouble".

At night, after dinner, we would all collect around Bhagavan. The visitors would have left by that time and we had him all to ourselves. We felt like a big family collected after a day's work. During this short hour Bhagavan would enquire about our welfare, chat with us, make us laugh, and also give instructions for the next day.

With time I realized that working with Bhagavan in the kitchen was not mere cooking, but definitely a form of spiritual training. The first lesson in spiritual education to learn, and to learn for good, is to obey the guru implicitly without questioning or using one's own judgement in the least. Even if we knew a better way of doing it, we had to do it exactly as the Master told us. It might have appeared that by obeying him the work would be ruined, but still one had to obey. One must master this art of instantaneous and unquestioning obedience, for the secret of realization lies in this utter surrender and renunciation of one's own judgement.

Bhagavan himself was an excellent cook and made a point of teaching us to cook properly. Cooking is the most rewarding work, for good cooks are usually poor eaters, and all profit goes to others. That is probably why Bhagavan selected cooking as a training ground for some of his devoted disciples.

It was Bhagavan's order that the leftovers should be used as stock for the next day's breakfast. Iddlies with sambar being the standard breakfast at the Ashram, the leftovers from the previous day would come in handy. Bhagavan would come into the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, warm the leftovers, dilute it and add some more ingredients for the morning sambar. The injunction against taking food from the previous day was very much respected among the higher castes. He insisted that avoidance of waste overrules everything else, and he would never permit God's gifts to be thrown away. As to giving leftovers to beggars, it was not practicable, for he insisted that beggars be given the same food as everybody else and not some inferior stuff. Even dogs had to be fed from the common meal, and first, too!

Every morning just before breakfast Bhagavan would enter the kitchen. The vessels containing coffee, iddlies and sambar were kept ready, covered and shining bright. He would lift the lid, look inside and say, "This is coffee. These are iddlies. This is sambar". We all felt that this consecrated the food before it was distributed to the visitors and inmates.

Once he came to the kitchen before dawn and put some of the previous day's soup on the fire for heating. Some leaves were washed and cut and he told me to mix them in the soup and continue mixing until they lost their bright green colour. For a long time he did not return. The leaves would not change colour, the soup was getting dry and I was afraid there might be no sambar for breakfast. Bhagavan came in just before breakfast. "What, you are still mixing?" he asked with a bright smile. He was pleased that I had implicitly obeyed him and asked me to continue mixing. The gravy was ready in time and was delicious.

Once Bhagavan was frying a large quantity of condiments in a big iron pan over a strong fire. I was standing beside him when he quietly asked me to remove the pan from the fire at once. Probably he saw that more heating would burn the spices. There was nothing nearby to hold the pan with, so I caught the pan with my bare hands, lifted it and put it on the ground. I was not at all afraid to touch the hot iron, nor was I surprised that I could lift it without feeling its weight. The surprise came later when I realized how utterly impossible was all that had happened. It was a striking instance of the power of obedience to one's guru.

Sometimes I was fortunate enough to be able to serve food to Bhagavan with my own hands. I studied carefully how I should serve to please him and was very alert and careful. Yet he would be more alert than me and notice the slightest mistake.
"Why did you serve me more than usual? Do I need more food today than yesterday? And why do I get more sweets and dainties than others? How do you dare to make distinctions?"
People nearby would plead for me. "No, Bhagavan", they would say, "Sundaram did not serve you more. Look, we got as much as you did". But Bhagavan would not be easily appeased. "You do not know, the ego is strong in him. His giving preference to me is the working of his ego". I could not find out where I was at fault, but I took his scolding as a kind of blessing and would not worry.

The women working in the kitchen were so orthodox that they could not accept the previous day's food. Once when some leftover sambar was taken to a devotee's house, a special ceremony was ordered to purify the house. On hearing that Bhagavan told the ladies, "Call the purifiers and get your kitchen purified. I shall never more enter your kitchen". The women, for the sake of their orthodox customs, lost Bhagavan's constant presence, company and guidance. It was a real tragedy. Each devotee in the Ashram believed that Bhagavan was God Himself who had come to purify and bless him and put his feet firmly on the path to liberation. Yet when God Himself went against their religious customs, they would rather cling to their customs than to God. Blessed were those who had no other rule but obedience to Bhagavan. It was clear that he was trying to teach us the simple lesson that in his presence no rule was valid except the rule of absolute surrender. But it was not an easy lesson to learn. Again and again old habits and loyalties would assert themselves and make us pit our will against his, to our greatest harm.

Bhagavan was not a rebel or a reformer. He did not discourage people from following their religious customs at home. But in the Ashram he would not take all customs for granted. In the Ashram he was the religion and the custom, and those who forgot it had to face his very strong will.

APOLOGY TO HORNETS

One day a disciple said to Bhagavan, "When you stepped on a hornet's nest, mistaking it for a bush and the hornets attacked your leg and stung it badly, why did you feel remorse for what had happened only accidentally, as if you had done it intentionally?"

Bhagavan replied:

When I was stung by hornets in revenge
Upon the leg until it was inflamed,
Although `twas but by chance I stepped upon
Their nest, constructed in a leafy bush;
What kind of mind is his if he does not
At least repent for doing such a wrong ?

The story relating to the above is as follows:
One day when Bhagavan was climbing about the Hill as was his wont in the early days of his sojourn in Tiruvannamalai, his leg struck against a hornet's nest and disturbed the hornets. They attacked him in a body and stung his leg and thigh very badly so that it became terribly swollen and painful. Bhagavan expressed great sorrow for what he had done unwittingly. He would not move from the place till they had finished the punishment and flown away.

Refer Apology to Hornets
Referred Resources: Apology to Hornets