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

A DAY WITH BHAGAVAN

By P. L. N. Sharma

IN 1932 I had the good fortune to attend a conference of coop- erative organisations which was held at Tiruvannamalai. It enabled me to see the holy Arunachala hill and also pay a visit to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. When I saw him he was in his hall, reclining on a couch. The hall was clean and cool and the sofa was well covered with coloured shawls and a tiger's skin, but Bhagavan himself had only a loin cloth on his body and nothing more. In the subdued light of the hall his body shone like burnished gold and his eyes were luminous, full of flashes of some very intense inner life. The more I looked at him, the more his face seemed to be radiating a mysterious light, the source of which was somewhere deep within. I found myself unable to guess his mental state. I could not make out whether he was aware of the world or not, whether he saw me or not, whether he was in some yogic trance or in contemplation of something quite beyond my vision and knowledge.

The hall was full of silence, serenity and peace. About twenty people sat on the ground, apparently in deep meditation. When the bell rang for the midday meal, he invited us all with a nod of his head and we followed him to the dining hall. After food I was asked to clean the spot where I had eaten and take away the banana leaf which was used as a plate. Anywhere else I would have taken it as a sign of disrespect; but I told myself that it may have been a necessary lesson and swallowed my pride.

The next morning I went again to the Ashram and sat near the door facing Bhagavan. Some government officer, accompanied by a retinue of peons, entered the hall and at once started telling Bhagavan how corrupt the government servants were, how they abused and misused their positions, how they quarrelled and fought among themselves making the administration inefficient and unreliable, how he had been entrusted with the task of cleaning up the government machinery and how he was busy fighting against all the evils of the world. He complained that in his loyalty to his superiors, who had given him their confidence, and in his anxiety to make a success of himself, he had lost his peace of mind and had come to ask Bhagavan to make him calm and contented. It was clear that he thought himself to be a very important person whose request must be promptly met. After he had finished talking he looked expectantly at Bhagavan, as if saying, "Now it is your turn to show what you can do".

Bhagavan did not even look at him. The clock was striking hours, but Bhagavan was completely silent. The officer lost patience, got up and said, "You are silent, Bhagavan. Does it mean that you want me to be silent too"? "Yes, yes", said Bhagavan, and that was all.

On the last day of our conference all the delegates went in a body to Ramanasramam and sat in the hall before Bhagavan. Sri Veruvarupu Ramdas, the President of the conference, addressed him, "Bhagavan, we are all social workers and disciples of Mahatma Gandhi. We have all sworn our lives to work for the removal of untouchability from our religion and customs. Be gracious to tell us what your views are on the subject". Again there was no reply from Bhagavan. One could not even make out whether he had heard the question. Time was passing. The delegates were getting tired of sitting quietly and began whispering to each other. The situation grew embarrassing. Sri Yagnanarayana Iyer, the principal of Pachayappa College in Madras, got up and said, "Bhagavan, our question concerns worldly life. Perhaps it was improper to put it to you. Kindly forgive us". "There is nothing to forgive", said Bhagavan quite readily, and with a bright smile.

"When the ocean is surging and carrying away everything before it, who cares what are your views or mine?"
The delegates could not find much sense in the answer. Only the great events a decade later gave meaning to it.

On the fourth day of the conference I went to the Ashram all alone, with the intention of asking Bhagavan a personal question. I was told by others that in Bhagavan's presence doubts get cleared spontaneously, without the need of questions or answers. Nothing of the kind happened to me. On the three previous days I tried to catch his eye, but could not. Several times I got up to ask a question, but was not encouraged and sat down again. On the fourth day I managed to address him, while he seemed to be looking into some infinity of space. "Bhagavan, my mind does not obey me. It wanders as it likes and lands me into trouble. Be merciful to me and tell me clearly how to bring it under control". Even before I completed the question Bhagavan turned to me and looked at me affectionately. He spoke to me most kindly and his words sparkled with meaning:

All religious and spiritual practices have no other purpose than getting the mind under control. The three paths of knowledge, devotion and duty aim at this and this alone. By immersing yourself in your work you forget your mind as separate from your work and the problem of controlling the mind ceases. In devotion your mind is merged in the God you love and ceases to exist as separate from Him. He guides your mind step by step and no control is needed. In knowledge you find that there is no such thing as mind, no control, controller, or controlled. The path of devotion is the easiest of all. Meditate on God or on some mental or material image of Him. This will slow down your mind and it will get controlled of its own accord.

Somehow I felt satisfied and there was deep peace in me when I looked at him for the last time.

Monday 23 July 2007

SHRI BHAGAVAN'S GRACE

By Gouriammal

MY father was always an earnest devotee of Sri Bhagavan. Whenever he happened to be at Tiruvannamalai on an official visit he never missed going to see Bhagavan. At that time Bhagavan was residing at Virupaksha Cave. My father would sometimes take me with him. I think I was seven years old when I saw Bhagavan for the first time. But it was much later that I came to stay close to Ramanasramam. Thus I got many opportunities to meet and talk to Bhagavan.

Once I asked Bhagavan what I should do to be on the spiritual path. He said,
"Do what you want to do but keep doing it; don't remain doing nothing. Repeat the name, or think deeply or seek the source of your `I' consciousness, do Atma Vichara but keep working on yourself. This is very important"
.

One instance of his grace to his devotees is his recommendation of two songs from Tiruppugazh to help them get their daughters married. The devotees of Bhagavan believed firmly that it was enough to sing the two songs from Tiruppugazh before Bhagavan to have the marriage arranged in the best way possible. There is another song in Tiruppugazh in which God is invited to come to the house as a newborn child. When anyone approached Bhagavan praying for a child he would tell them to sing that song.

I stayed at Ramana Nagar, where my house was situated, for eight years. Those were the most memorable and fruitful years of my life. How sweet they were and how many miracles happened before my very eyes! Once Dr Sreenivasa Rao was telling Bhagavan how good it would be for him to eat more pineapples, when somebody entered the hall with a heap of pineapples on a tray. On another occasion, Bhagavan was mentioning one Gajanana Sharma who used to stay with him some years earlier and enquired about his present whereabouts and doings. At that very moment the Postmaster entered the hall and in the mail there was a letter from Gajanana Sharma with photos and details about his life, Ashram, and disciples. Bhagavan said, "Look at this, how wonderful! I was telling about him just now and here it all comes".

On another day a well-meaning but ignorant devotee insisted that Bhagavan should take the glass of orange juice that he had brought. Bhagavan was annoyed at being treated partially and said,
"If you give anything to me without giving it to all, it will be like poison to me"
. When the devotee said that next time all would be given orange juice, Bhagavan said, "What is the use of giving because I tell you? You should know by this time that they are all myself and what you give them you are giving me". Bhagavan disapproved of any difference made between him and others.

Once my sister's five-year old son was bitten by a snake and in desperation she brought the child to Bhagavan. The doctor had given up hope and the boy was perspiring profusely and was in great pain. The child was already stiff with glazed eyes and was breathing heavily. The mother of the child was weeping all the way and carried him to Bhagavan. When Bhagavan saw her he said, "Don't weep, don't weep. It is nothing". He passed his hand over the child and within a few minutes the boy recovered his senses and sat up. They sat in the hall for some time but as it was late in the evening the mother was told to take the child home. As she was leaving she saw a Muslim devotee on the porch in front of Bhagavan's Hall, murmuring his prayers. By profession he was a snake charmer and a snakebite healer. When he saw them he said, "The boy was dying of snakebite, but since you were going to see Bhagavan I kept quiet. Now the child is safe, but the poison is still in his body and I had better chant some charms to get it out". He chanted some prayers and then asked them to go. Bhagavan had saved the child but wanted the snake charmer to take the credit.

Ramana Sadguru

By Arthur Osborne


To feel, to know, to be the Christ within -- Can there then be love for Christ on earth, Walking like men, seen as a man is seen? Seek not to argue; love has greater worth. Love makes man kin.

With the Beloved. Such have I known, Him of the lustrous eyes, Him whose sole look Pierced to the heart, wherein the seed was sown Of wisdom deeper than in holy book, Of truth alone Not to be learned but lived, Truth in its hour To sprout within the heart's dark, wintry earth And grow a vibrant thing, then, come to power, To slay the seeming self that gave it birth, Or to devour.

Heart of my heart, seen outwardly as one In human form, to draw my human love, Lord Ramana, Guru, the risen Sun, Self manifest, the guide of all who rove, Lost and alone.

In tangled thoughts and vain imaginings, Back to pure Being, which your radiant smile, Full of compassion for my wanderings, Tells me I always was, though lost this while In a world of things.


Referred Resources: Virupaksha Cave

A LIFETIME WITH BHAGAVAN

By T. K. Sundaresa Iyer

IN 1908, when I was 12 years old, Bhagavan was living in Virupaksha cave. My cousin, Krishnamurty, used to go to Bhagavan every day and sing songs of devotion and worship before him. One day I asked him where he went everyday. He told me, "The Lord of the hill himself is sitting there in human form. Why don't you come with me"? I too climbed the hill and found Bhagavan sitting on a stone slab, with about ten devotees around him. Each would sing a song. Bhagavan turned to me and asked, "Well, won't you sing a song for me"? One of Sundaramurti Nayanar's songs came to my mind and I sang it. Its meaning was:
No other support I have except thy holy feet.
By holding on to them, I shall win your grace.
Great men sing your praise, Oh, Lord.
Grant that my tongue may repeat thy name even when my mind strays.
"Yes, that is what must be done", said Bhagavan, and I took it to be his teaching for me. From then on I went to him regularly for several years without missing a day.

One day I wondered why I was visiting him at all. What was the use? There seemed to be no inner advancement. Going up the hill was meaningless toil. I decided to end my visits on the hill. For a hundred days exactly I did not see Bhagavan. On the hundred and first day I could suffer no longer and ran to Skandashram, above Virupaksha cave. Bhagavan saw me climbing, got up and came forward to meet me. When I fell at his feet, I could not restrain myself and burst out in tears. I clung to his feet and would not get up. Bhagavan pulled me up and asked, "It is over three months since I saw you. Where were you"? I told him how I thought that seeing him was of no use. "All right", he said, "maybe it is of no use, so what? You felt the loss, did you not"? Then I understood that we did not go to him for profit, but because, away from him there was no life for us.

Once I wrote two verses in Tamil, one in praise of the Lord without attributes, the other of the Lord with numberless forms. In the latter I wrote, "From whom grace is flowing over the sentient and insentient". Bhagavan asked me to change one letter and this altered the meaning to, "Who directs his grace to the sentient and the insentient". The idea was that grace was not a mere influence but could be directed with a purpose where it was needed most.

Whenever I went up the hill to see Bhagavan, I used to buy something to eat and take it with me as an offering. One day I had no money. I stood before Bhagavan in a dejected mood and said, "This poor man has brought nothing". Bhagavan looked at me enquiringly and remarked, "Why, you brought the main thing. All else is unimportant". I wondered, not knowing what I had brought. "Don't you understand? You have brought yourself", laughed Bhagavan.

Once I got an offer of a job at Sholapur to teach Jewish refugees. It carried a good pay. I intimated my consent and received an appointment order by wire. I showed the wire to Bhagavan. "All right, go", he said. Even before I left the hall, I felt gloom settling over me and I started shivering. My heart wailed, "What are you doing? You are going away from the presence of your Guru"! I went back, fell at Bhagavan's feet and cried, "I cannot go, I cannot leave you". Bhagavan laughed, "Look at the man! He has been here for twenty years and look at the result. He thinks there are places where Bhagavan is not and he refuses to go there"! He ridiculed me mercilessly and told me to pack off to Sholapur. I was getting ready to start. A very rich Seth came to the Ashram with a hundred questions, all on paper. Bhagavan replied to them all, but in Tamil. The Seth noted down the oral translation of the answers. The next day a big car appeared before my school and I was told that I was wanted in the Ashram. Bhagavan told me to see the Seth and see that there were no mistakes in his translation. This work took me six hours. I was offered thirty rupees for my trouble. I refused the money, saying that it was Bhagavan's work and no money should be offered for it. He referred the matter to Bhagavan. Bhagavan ordered me to accept and added, "Now you have enough money to go to Sholapur". On my way I fell ill at Bangalore with high fever. It was increasing from day to day. I wired to Sholapur expressing my inability to start work and the fever disappeared the next day! I was without a job and without money when I returned, repentant, to Bhagavan's feet. The bitter lesson was learned: I should not have been tempted by the job in the first instance.

Years passed. I was married and led a well-ordered family life as laid down in the scriptures, studying the Vedas, worshipping ancestors and deities in the prescribed way, and feeding the five kinds of living beings. I was associated with political and religious activities and used to go from village to village teaching the Periya Puranam; yet I would find time to visit Bhagavan quite often.

Nayana

About 1920, Kavyakanta Ganapathi Shastri came to reside at Tiruvannamalai. Everyone used to address him as `Nayana' (father). He became the President of the Tiruvannamalai Town Congress Committee. From my early days I was in Tilak's movement and did not see much future in Mahatma Gandhi's programme. One day I said to Nayana, "I do not expect much from political activities; without God's grace no action will prosper. To ask for grace is our main task. People like you, who are blessed with grace in abundance, should use your spiritual powers for the uplift of the world and liberation of the country and not waste your time in speeches". He liked the idea and asked me to stay with him and pray to God for grace. He made me study the Vedas and taught me verses from the Rig Veda, with their meaning. Mahendra societies were started all over India and I was made the General Secretary. Their object was to win freedom for our country by purely devotional means, like rituals, prayers, and personal and collective penance. We managed to register about ten thousand members.

Nayana mainly stayed in the Mango Tree cave on Arunachala and used to visit Bhagavan off and on. Nayana used to discuss sastras [?] with him and get his doubts cleared. He was a mighty scholar, while Bhagavan was just literate, yet Nayana would say, "Without Bhagavan's grace, the intricacies of the scriptures are beyond one's power of understanding. One word from him makes everything clear". When Nayana would see someone sitting in front of Bhagavan, meditating with his eyes closed, he would scold the devotee saying, "When the sun is shining in front of you, why do you need to close your eyes? Are you serious or do you only want to show what a pious fellow you are"? Those were happy days indeed, and I was blessed with many visions of deities and divinities. It was all due to Nayana's powers and Bhagavan's grace.

Peacock and cobra

At Skandashram a peacock would follow Bhagavan everywhere. One day a huge black cobra appeared in the Ashram and the peacock attacked it fiercely. The cobra spread its hood and the two natural enemies were poised for a fight to the death, when Bhagavan came quite near the cobra and said, "Why did you come here? That peacock will kill you. Better go away at once". The cobra immediately lowered its hood and slithered away.

Vilakshanananda Swami

There lived at that time a great Vaishnava guru, Vilakshanananda Swami. He was well advanced in yoga and had the power of attracting crowds. I went to see him one day and he asked me to take him to Bhagavan. With thirty disciples, he appeared before Bhagavan and just stood, neither bowing nor joining his palms in greeting. For ten minutes he stood motionless, and then fell flat at Bhagavan's feet. Tears were flowing from his eyes and he said, "This head of mine has never bowed before a human being. This is the first time and bless me that it may also be the last". Coming down the hill he met Nayana. They started talking and during the discussion Nayana told the swami that divine powers should not be used for public shows and propaganda. This must have had its effect, for Vilakshanananda Swami never left his residence again.

Uma Sahasram

Once Nayana was composing his magnum opus called Uma Sahasram, a thousand verses in praise of Uma, the power aspect of Shiva. He had written seven hundred, and three hundred still remained. Nevertheless, he had already fixed the date for the book to be offered to the Goddess and had sent out invitations to friends and devotees all over India. Hundreds of people had gathered, but on the eve of the day fixed, the three hundred verses had yet to be written. In the evening Bhagavan asked Nayana whether he would postpone the function. Nayana replied in the negative and said that he would, by the grace of God, have the verses written before the next morning. He had four people sit before him with pen and paper and started dictating a verse to each in turn. Bhagavan was present, sitting with eyes closed, apparently quite oblivious to all that was going on. Nayana appeared possessed with some tremendous fervour; he was dictating without break and without hesitation; the verses were flowing from his mouth in a torrent. By midnight the work was completed. Bhagavan, who until then was sitting motionless with his eyes closed, opened them and asked whether all had been written down. Nayana, who seemed unconscious of his surroundings when he was dictating, instantly replied that he had dictated everything exactly as inspired by Bhagavan. When he later read what was dictated by him, he was amazed and exclaimed, "Oh, how wonderful! Only Bhagavan could produce such beauty. I was only his mouthpiece". They were so perfect that no improvement was possible.

In 1926 Nayana went to some place near Belgaum for a course of austerities and, when leaving, he handed me over to Bhagavan's care. Later he wrote, "Sundaresa must be feeling lonely and sad since I left him. May Bhagavan be especially kind to him". Showing this letter to me, Bhagavan said, "Better keep near me. You see, I must be able to produce you and hand you over to Nayana when he comes back and claims you". Since then I lived in the Ashram. I would teach at school everyday, and at the end of the month, hand over my salary to my wife. This was my only contact with my family.

In 1929 I got tired of the relative shaplessness of my inner life and asked Bhagavan to give me some clear instructions as to what direction I should proceed in my spiritual practice. He gave me Kaivalyam to read and explained to me the inner meaning of some sacred verses. From that time until 1938 I gave myself completely to spiritual life. I did my duty at school and supported my family, just as something that had to be done, but it was of no importance to me. It was wonderful how I could keep so detached for so many years; it was all Bhagavan's grace.

Vision of Ramachandra

On my thirty-sixth birthday I wrote a poem in which I complained that the vision of the glory of God had not yet been given to me and gave the poem to Bhagavan. He read the whole of it very slowly and carefully, as he usually did, and then asked me to sit down and go within myself. I did so and soon the physical world disappeared and in its place I saw an all- pervading white light. An inner voice told me to ask what I would like to see. I wanted to see the divine Ramachandra, and suddenly I saw the coronation of Rama as king in the minutest detail, with shapes and colours, clear and alive beyond description. It lasted for about an hour and then again everything was normal. Some time later, Bhagavan asked me whether I had read Dakshinamurti Asthotharam. I said I had not, and was told to read the last few verses in the book. Bhagavan added that Rama and Dakshinamurti are the same Great Being.

One day Bhagavan was explaining to me the meaning of some abtruse Vedantic verse. It was half past ten by the clock in the hall. But I was completely absorbed in the subject and forgot all about my school. Suddenly Bhagavan reminded me that it was getting late. "But no school today", I exclaimed, "today is Sunday". Bhagavan laughed, "Is this the way you work? Today is Monday. Hurry, your headmaster is waiting for you at the gate". I ran to the school and, to my surprise, I found the headmaster waiting for me at the school gate, looking towards the temple. When I came near, he said, "Well, probably you forgot that it is Monday and perhaps Maharshi had to remind you about it". I admitted that that was exactly what had happened and we both had a hearty laugh!

There was a proposal to print all that Bhagavan had written in Tamil. A preface was needed but nobody came forward to write it. Even learned pandits did not feel confident and backed out under some excuse. The talk was going on in the hall all day long and Bhagavan was watching. At about half past ten in the night he called me and asked me why I should not take up the preface. I said that with his blessings I would do it. "It will be all right", said Bhagavan. Immediately I started writing and finished the preface in an hour. While writing I felt a silent influence as if someone was guiding my pen. At two in the morning Bhagavan was up and I showed him the preface. He was quite pleased and asked me to go to sleep. From the door he called back and asked me to revise the last sentence which said, "It is hoped that those who go through this book will attain divine salvation, which gives peace and happiness". Bhagavan said, "There is no question of hoping. The reader will definitely attain salvation", and told me to correct the sentence accordingly.

Couple from Peru

A couple from Peru, husband and wife, came to the Ashram once and were telling Bhagavan their story; how after reading about him, they felt that he was Christ Himself reincarnated, and wanted above everything else to meet him. They were not rich and had to save from their wages, a little every week. After a few years struggle they sailed to India in the cheapest possible way.

The journey lasted some months and gave them a lot of trouble, but at last they had arrived. Bhagavan listened carefully to the very end, and then said, "You have travelled a long distance and experienced so many hardships. You could have meditated on me there with the same result, and the added satisfaction of seeing me in Peru". Bhagavan's words sounded strange to them and they could not get their meaning. In the evening Bhagavan was inquiring about Peru and her people, how they looked, lived, and worked. The Peruvian couple were telling him about the capital, the seaports, the industries and commerce of their countrymen. When they were describing a place on the seashore, Bhagavan asked, "Is not the beach paved with marble slabs, with coconuts planted between"? The two were astonished and asked Bhagavan how he came to know such details. He replied, "Why do you ask how I came to know? Understand once and for all that time and space do not exist apart from the mind and that the heart is not bound by them". Then they understood that, with Bhagavan's grace they could have him at their own place.

Mahadeva Ayyar

A devotee of Bhagavan, one Mahadeva Ayyar, was suffering from hiccups in Madras for over a month. His daughter wrote to Bhagavan praying that he should help her father. Bhagavan told us to write to Mahadeva that dry ginger, powdered, and mixed with brown coloured sugar, would cure the disease. At the same time he enquired of Madhavaswami, his attendant, whether this mixture was available at the Ashram. Madhavaswami brought the bottle with the ginger and sugar mixture in it. Bhagavan took a pinch and gave a little to each of the people present in the hall. I said, jokingly, "Well, there is no need of writing to Mahadeva Ayyar. He must be free of hiccups by this time". The letter with the prescription was sent the same day. The next day, a letter came from Madras saying that Mahadeva's hiccups had vanished at 1.00 p.m. the day before. It was exactly the time when Bhagavan was taking his share of ginger powder!

On a Shivaratri day, after dinner, Bhagavan was reclining on the sofa surrounded by many devotees. A sadhu [?] suggested that since this was a most auspicious night, the meaning of the verses in praise of Dakshinamurti could be expounded by Bhagavan. Bhagavan gave his approval and all were eagerly waiting for him to say something. He simply sat, gazing at us. We were gradually absorbed in ever deepening silence, which was not disturbed by the clock striking the hour, every hour, until 4 a.m. None moved or talked. Time and space ceased to exist. Bhagavan's grace kept us in peace and silence for seven hours. In this silence Bhagavan taught us the Ultimate, like Dakshinamurti. At the stroke of four Bhagavan asked us whether we had understood the meaning of silent teaching. Like waves on the infinite ocean of bliss, we fell at Bhagavan's feet.

One day when Bhagavan was staying at Pachiamman Temple, Rangaswami Ayyangar, a devotee from Madras, arrived on a hot noon and went to bathe in the pond in front of the temple. It was at that time a forest area and rather lonely. Bhagavan, who was talking with his devotees, suddenly got up and went towards the pond. A cheetah was drinking water on one side of it, unnoticed by Rangaswami. Bhagavan looked at the cheetah for some time and said, "Now go away and come later. The man may get frightened if he sees you". The cheetah looked at Bhagavan, looked at the devotee, and went away.

One Mr Knowles came to pay his respects to Bhagavan.

Being well versed in Eastern and Western philosophy, he used to have long discussions with Bhagavan. One day the discussion was about the condition of a realised person. In the heat of the discussion Mr Knowles asked whether the Bhagavan who was talking to him was a reality or not. Everybody was eagerly waiting for a reply. Clearly and loudly Bhagavan said, "No, I am not talking". Mr. Knowles was quite satisfied. He said, "Yes, Bhagavan is not talking to me. He never talks. He only exists. That is all".

Glasses for Bhagavan

An optician from Madras visited the Ashram. Chinnaswami wanted him to examine Bhagavan's eyesight and prescribe glasses. The optician found that his own glasses suited Bhagavan well and offered them to him. They were bifocals for near and distant vision, a beautiful and costly pair. Bhagavan said that he only needed reading glasses and that a simple pair of spectacles would do. Chinnaswami wanted the best for Bhagavan and insisted that Bhagavan accept the bifocals. I took them again to Bhagavan, but he refused to touch them. I was rather anxious to please Chinnaswami and pleaded with Bhagavan to use the bifocals. He looked at me intently and said, "When I do not want them, why do you press it"? I went away disheartened. This happened just before Bhagavan's birthday celebrations.

From the moment I left Bhagavan I felt a burning sensation inside, and although I was busy with preparations, I was racked with pain. On the third day it became so unbearable that I ran into the hall, packed at that time with devotees, and fell flat on my face before Bhagavan and cried, "Bhagavan, forgive me. I blundered when I tried to force those glasses on you. You got angry with me and it burns like fire. I can bear it no longer. I know it is my karma [?] and not your will that punishes me, but have mercy and help me". Bhagavan, who was gazing into space immersed in bliss, turned his luminous eyes on me and said calmly, "What is all this? Who is angry? Sit down quietly; everything will be right with you". I wept like a child, and within a few minutes the pain disappeared.

One day I asked my wife to prepare some rice pancakes and added in fun that all the broken ones should be offered to God. It is not difficult to make rice pancakes and usually they come out whole. My wife was a good cook, yet when I came home I found all the cakes in pieces. To please my conscience I took them to Bhagavan and told him the story of Lord Shiva who took the shape of a coolie and undertook to work and be paid in crumbled rice cakes. From that time there were no whole cakes to be had until he had been worshipped. Bhagavan enjoyed the story, tasted some of the cakes and had the remainder distributed to all.

The Broken Egg

The attendant, Madhavaswami, used to dry Bhagavan's towel on a bamboo tied between two trees. On one end of this bamboo a bird had built a nest. One day, while removing the towel, Bhagavan dislodged the nest, which fell down. One of the three eggs rolled out and cracked but did not break. Bhagavan told Madhavan that a grievous sin had been committed and examined the egg with pity and repentance. "The poor mother will think that the egg is broken and will weep bitterly. She will surely curse me for having broken her egg. Can this egg be mended to hatch a young one"? He wrapped the damaged egg in a piece of cloth and put it back in the nest, and every few hours he would take the egg in his hands, look at it for some time and then put it back, wrapped in its piece of cloth. All the time he was murmuring to himself, "Will the crack heal? Will the egg hatch"? With such care and compassion Bhagavan nursed the egg for a week. On the eighth day Bhagavan exclaimed like an excited child, "Look, the cracks have gone. The mother will be glad. Let us watch and see when the little one will come out". The egg was watched all the time and the little thing finally appeared. Bhagavan took it in his hand tenderly beaming with joy, showed it to everybody and finally gave it back to its mother.

One Amavasya (new moon day) all the Ashram inmates were sitting down for breakfast in the dining room. I was standing and looking on. Bhagavan asked me to sit down for breakfast. I said that I had to perform my late father's ceremony on that day and would eat nothing (Usually the ceremonies are performed to enable the ancestors to go to heaven). Bhagavan retorted that my father was already in heaven and there was nothing more to be done for him. My taking breakfast would not hurt him in any way. I still hesitated, accustomed as I was to age-old tradition. Bhagavan got up, made me sit down and eat some rice cakes. From that day I gave up performing ceremonies for ancestors.

Bhagavan makes Iddlies

Once Chinnaswami got very cross with me and I felt quite nervous about it. I could not eat my dinner and the next morning, feeling unreconciled and yet hungry, I told Bhagavan, who was preparing rice cakes, that I was in a hurry to go to town as some pupils were waiting for me. "The cat is out of the bag", said Bhagavan. "Today is Sunday and there is no teaching work for you. Come, I have prepared a special sambar for breakfast and I shall make you taste it. Take your seat". So saying, he brought a leaf, spread it before me, heaped it with iddlies and sambar and, sitting by my side, joked and related funny stories to make me forget my woes. How great was Bhagavan's compassion!

My wife used to prepare some food every afternoon and bring it to the Ashram. Bhagavan often asked her to break this habit, but she would not. One day he said, "This is the last time I am eating your food. Next time I shall not". The same day Bhagavan was telling us how a certain dish should be prepared. The next day my wife brought it all ready. Bhagavan remembered what he had told her, but what could he do against her imploring look? He tasted her dish and said that it had been prepared very well. Such was his graciousness towards his devotees.

My second son was lazy and not at all good at school. The time for his final high school examinations was rapidly approaching and the boy's sole preparation was the purchase of a new fountain pen! He brought it to Bhagavan and asked him to bless the pen with his touch so that it would write the examination papers well. Bhagavan knew his lazy ways and said that having hardly studied, he could not except to pass. My son replied that Bhagavan's blessings were more effective than studies. Bhagavan laughed, wrote a few words with the new pen and gave it back to him. And the boy did pass, which was a miracle indeed!

In those days I was attending to the foreign correspondence of the Ashram. I used to show Bhagavan the draft of every reply, get his approval, give it the final shape and despatch it. We used to receive some very intelligent and intricate questions. These questions and the answers would have formed a very enlightening volume. One day an office copy of such a reply was used for wrapping some sweets and it fell into Bhagavan's hands. He raised a storm, sent for me and told me plainly what he thought about such misuse of spiritual records. I was very frightened and at the same time sorry for the condition of the foreign correspondence files. I tried to find out who took the old files to the dining hall, but nobody would confess. All blamed me, the last man in the chain!

Chinnaswami started building something and needed money to complete the work. He made a plan that the Maharaja of Mysore should be approached by some senior members of the Ashram, introduced by Sri Sundaram Chettiar, the retired Judge. I was asked to put the matter before Bhagavan and obtain his blessings. Knowing Bhagavan's dislike of such things, I was very much afraid of him, but still more of Chinnaswami. Finally I did it indirectly, by drafting a letter to the Judge and explaining the matter to him. This draft I took to Bhagavan for perusal. Bhagavan read it and threw it away, saying with scorn, "Always asking for money. We think of money every moment and waste our lives for it. What have I to do with money"?

The town municipality was divided in its attitude towards the Ashram. There was a group supporting the Ashram and another group vilifying the Ashram and creating trouble. A tax was imposed on the Ashram and we protested. At every meeting of the municipality the matter was raised, hotly discussed and left undecided. One day when the subject of the tax was to come up again for discussion, I was asked to attend and defend the Ashram's interests. I could only pray to Bhagavan, "You are the ruler in the hearts of all including those who abuse the Ashram". To my surprise not a single person opposed me at the meeting and the tax was repealed.

Individually these incidents may appear trivial and insignificant, but collectively they are impressive. They created the atmosphere in which he lived, in which every day would bring new mircales of power, wisdom and love. Bhagavan gave us a tangible demonstration of God's omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. Our sense of `I' would burn up in wonder and adoration on seeing his unconditional love for all beings. Though outwardly we seemed to remain very much the same persons, inwardly he was working on us and destroying the deep roots of separateness and self-concern, the greatest obstacles on our way to him. A day always comes when the tree of the `I', severed from its roots, crashes suddenly and is no more.

Birth Place - By T.P.R.

It was the command of Sri Bhagavan that I should go to Tiruchuzhi and see the house where Bhagavan was born. It was then in someone else's possession. Sri Bhagavan gave me all minute details about Tiruchuzhi and what places I should see: the temple, the tower on which he played, the mantapam, the school, the tank. He particularly instructed me to meet some very old people there who would still remember him. Bhagavan also wanted to know whether pujas in the temple there continued to be performed with prasadams and other offerings on the customary scale. I had the unique experience of visiting these places and noting down all details required by Sri Bhagavan. On my return, when I gave my report in writing, Bhagavan took enormous interest in reading it aloud to devotees in the hall. In the last paragraph of that report I had made an appeal to Sri Chinnaswami, Bhagavan's brother and Sarvadhikari, that his duty would not be complete if that house did not come into the possession of the Ashram and that it should be renovated and kept as a pilgrim centre for all Ramana devotees. Sri N.R. Krishnamurthi Iyer was of great help to me in all these undertakings. Thereafter Sri Chinnaswami took a lot of interest and the house was eventually bought and now it is in the possession of Sri Ramanasramam. The house was named by Sri Bhagavan as Sundara Mandiram.


Referred Resources: Tiruchuzhi

Saturday 21 July 2007

MAHARSHI'S TEACHINGS AND MODERN SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT

By K. K. NAMBIAR

BHAGAVAN Sri Ramana Maharshi has taught us that eternal happiness is one's real nature and the best way for realising it is for the Self to be itself. In other words one has just to be. Abiding as the Self, which is Pure Consciousness, is the greatest happiness, perfect and permanent. Any other form of so-called happiness, obtained from external sources is illusory and evanescent. It might go the way it came. So, the pursuit of the Self by the continuous quest "Who am I?" is the safest and surest way to dispel ignorance and remain as the Self.

I had once approached Bhagavan and asked him about the different locations suggested for concentration in various srutis, e.g., between eyebrows, tip of the nose, heart centre, muladhara, etc. Bhagavan who was reclining on the couch, got down and took out a copy of Sri Ramana Gita, from the rotating shelf nearby and opened it right on the page containing the sloka:

If the Heart be located in anahata chakra (heart chakra), how does the practice of yoga begin in muladharas?

In yoga shastra, anahata chakra is the fourth, and muladhara (root) is the first and lowest of the six centres in the spinal chord.

It looked like a miracle when the book opened on the right page; but such experiences are common to devotees of Sri Bhagavan. He added in Malayalam, "Why should one desirous of coming to Tiruvannamalai first go to Kasi (Banaras) or Rameswaram and then come here? Why not straight to Tiruvannamalai instead of the long detour"? I felt a great sense of remorse when Sri Bhagavan had to point out this sloka from Sri Ramana Gita to me. Though I had with me a sacred treasure, a volume of Sri Ramana Gita in Malayalam in Sri Bhagavan's own handwriting, given to me with his blessings, I had not closely studied it, or tried to put into practice the instructions contained therein. The whole of the fifth chapter entitled hridaya vidya deals with the technique of meditation and elucidates points regarding the respective functions of nerve centres, nadis, etc.

Also, at the daily vedaparayana at the Ashram in Sri Bhagavan's presence, the verse appearing in Mahanarayana anuvakam at the end of Purushasuktam underlines the above instructions:

The Hridayam (the heart which is the place of meditation) resembles an inverted lotus bud. A span below the throat and above the navel. . .

So, the continuous quest Who Am I?, guided by the grace of Sri Bhagavan, who is always with us, will lead one to the Heart centre, the seat of Consciousness, which is neither within nor without, all pervading and eternal This supreme awareness is all that IS, and abiding therein is the ultimate goal.

Let us now have a look at recent developments in scientific knowledge At one time the world around us was supposed to consist of matter, made up of molecules and atoms. Physicists chased them further and broke them down to nucleus, electrons, quanta, waves, particles and fields. Einstein said that the universe of our experience consists of matter and energy in a space-time-continuum He established the famous equation E= MC2, where C is a constant representing the velocity of fight. Matter and energy became interchangeable. Max Planck, famous for his quantum theory, added a further dimension to this, stating that it is consciousness that is fundamental and that matter is derivative of consciousness As a corollary even space and time are only concepts of our consciousness. Thus scientists are veering round to the conclusion that since every object is a sum of its qualities and these qualities are perceived by us the whole objective universe of matter and energy, atoms and stars does not exist except as a construction of consciousness.

Yoga Vashista says:

All things that exist everywhere are experienced by us; there is nothing here anywhere which has not been experienced by us.

Bhagavan has told us that the world as such is not real It is real as Brahman or Consciousness. The world we see and experience with our senses is a product of the mind; the mind is part of the ego, which rises from Pure Consciousness, which is the same as Reality. One has to realise That and just BE.

The Other Worlds

Someone enquired of Bhagavan: "People talk of Vaikunta, Kailasa, Indraloka, Chandraloka, etc. Do they really exist?"
Bhagavan replied: "Certainly. You can rest assured that they all exist. There also a swami like me will be found seated, and disciples like this will also be seated around. They will ask something and he will say something in reply. Everything will be more or less like this. What of that? If one sees Chandraloka, he will ask for Indraloka, and after Indraloka, Vaikunta and after Vaikunta, Kailasa, and then this and that, and the mind goes on wandering. Where is shanti? If shanti is required, the one correct method of securing it is by Self-enquiry and through Self-enquiry Self-realisation is possible. If one real- ises the Self, one can see all these worlds within one's Self. The source of everything is one's own Self. Then this doubt will not arise. There may or may not be a Vaikunta or a Kailasa but it is a fact that you are here, isn't it? How are you here? Where are you? After you know about these things, you can think of all these worlds".

- Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, By Suri Nagamma, p.46.


Referred Resources:
Sri Ramana Gita
Who am I?