By Voruganti Krishnayya
A strong, desire to meet Sri Ramana Maharshi was born in my heart after my unforgettable meeting with Nayana -- Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri. During my first visit to Ramanasramam I spent three days with Bhagavan. He was a great Mahatma but his ways were very simple. Most of the cooking was done by him in those days. The Ashram lived from hand to mouth and usually only rice and vegetable soup were prepared. When I was about to leave I asked the Maharshi, "Bhagavan kindly show me a good path".
"What are you doing now"? he asked.
"When I am in the right mood, I sing the songs of Tyagaraja and I recite the holy Gayatri. I was also doing some pranayama [?] but these breathing exercises have upset my health".
"You had better stop them. But never give up the advaita drishti (non-dual vision)".
At that time I could not understand his words.
I went to different places and I found that people placed conditions for my spiritual progress. Only Bhagavan asked for nothing, found fault with nothing. In truth there was nothing in me that entitled me to his grace. But it did not matter with Bhagavan. He wanted me, not my goodness. It was enough to tell him, `I am yours', for him to do the rest. In that way he was unsurpassed. Those who gave themselves to him and trusted him and did his bidding were overwhelmed by his immense solicitude and kindness.
In 1930 I visited Ramanasramam for the second time and stayed a month. Our life was very simple at that time. Bhagavan would talk quite freely with us every night after food. The devotees would ply him with questions on philosophy and metaphysics. In the evening he would sit on a wooden cot near the well and gaze at Arunachala in deep silence. His face would glow with an inner radiance which would appear to increase with the deepening darkness. We sat all around him, either silently or singing songs. The silence and peace at those hours were quite remarkable. At night after dinner all the inmates of the Ashram would collect around Bhagavan and then he was our own, telling stories, answering questions, dispelling doubts, laughing and joking. We never knew how late it was until Madhavaswami would go behind Bhagavan and give us signs that it was time to allow Bhagavan some rest.
Who is chanting mantra?Once I asked him, "You told me to repeat the Gayatri. It is too long. Also I am expected to know its meaning and to meditate on it". Bhagavan said, "Who asked you to bother about the meaning and all that? I have only asked you to see who is repeating the Gayatri, or who is the japi". Bhagavan did not limit his teaching to the one question `Who am I?'. He invariably adjusted his advice to the needs of the devotee. He would say, "Sooner or later the question `Who am I?' will have to be faced. All that leads to this question is good. By itself nothing else is fully effective, for Self-knowledge comes only through Self-enquiry, but other methods purify the mind and help it to see its own limits. When the mind comes to the end of its resources and stands baffled before the unanswerable question, then a higher power takes charge of the mind and the Self stands revealed".
Give me your sinsOnce a visitor started weeping suddenly and cried out that he was a horrible sinner who could not reform himself. He asked Bhagavan if there was any hope for him and declared that Bhagavan was his Guru and as his Master he must save him. On his insistence Bhagavan told him that fees were due to the Master. The man said he would give him all his merit and whatever good he had done. Bhagavan told him that was not enough and demanded his sins too. The man was aghast and refused to offer his sins. But Bhagavan was adamant. He said, "Either give me your sins along with your merits, or keep both and don't think of me as your Master". Finally the visitor surrendered and declared that he was giving away all his sins and their results to Ramana. Bhagavan said, "From now on there is no good or bad in you. You are just pure, Go and do nothing, neither good nor bad. Remain yourself, remain what you are". A great peace fell over the man and over us all. He was never seen in the Ashram again.
This was not an isolated incident. To everyone who deplored his sins Bhagavan said, "What do you know about yourself? What do you know about good and evil except what is in your mind? When you see that the mind invents everything, all will vanish. The good will vanish, the evil will vanish and you will remain as you are". Thus Bhagavan was most tender with people who thought themselves for some reason or other to be miserable sinners, and went to him torn by repentance.
Mr and Mrs SyedBhagavan's grace and compassion for his devotees was evident in impossible situations. For instance Dr Syed a great Muslim scholar and his wife were devotees of Bhagavan. Mrs Syed continued to follow her faith in the ways and conventions of the Muslim religion. She would hide herself in one of the rooms and implore her husband to ask Bhagavan to come and see her. It was an unusual request but such was Bhagavan's grace and compassion that even this was granted. One day Mrs Syed felt a deep desire to invite Bhagavan to their house for food. Syed was not brave enough to utter his wife's prayer to Bhagavan. It was unthinkable. But his wife did not leave him in peace. Unable to resist her pressure Dr Syed hinted her wish to Bhagavan who smiled and kept quiet. She was certain that Bhagavan would grant her wish if the matter were put before him in the proper spirit and form. At last, while Bhagavan was going up the hill, Syed and his wife stood before him and told him her desire. Bhagavan just laughed and went up the hill.
Disappointed, both Doctor and Mrs Syed started a row in their house, each accusing the other that the request was not made in the proper manner. Finally Dr Syed told her, "The truth of the matter is that your devotion is deficient. That is the reason why Bhagavan refused". She was deeply affected by those words and she sat in meditation throughout the night. She wanted to bring Bhagavan to dinner by sheer intensity of prayer. During the early hours of the morning she must have dozed. Bhagavan appeared to her in a dream or vision and told her, "Why are you so obstinate? How can I leave the Ashram and come to your house for food? I must dine along with others, or they won't eat. Besides, as you know, people are coming from distant places, facing a lot of trouble to see me and to have food with me. How can I leave all these guests and come to your place? Feed three devotees of mine and it will be the same as feeding me. I shall be fully satisfied." In her vision she saw the three devotees whom she had to invite.
One was Dr Melkote, the second Swami Prabudhananda and the third was myself. She told Dr Syed about her vision and he invited all three of us for dinner to his house. We had to accept the invitation when we heard the whole story. At the same time we were assailed by doubts and anxiety as it was a serious breach of convention for us Brahmins to dine in a Muslim house. Dr Melkote spoke brave words to me and said he took it as Bhagavan's direct order. Despite these brave words Dr Melkote was perplexed. We were worried about the cleanliness of the kitchen and the utensils, about the authenticity of the dream, about the reaction of the Ashram Brahmins and so on and so forth. The next day when the bell for dinner rang we three went before Bhagavan and bowed. Bhagavan did not ask us the reason, but merely looked at us. Instead of going to the dining hall with others we marched out of the Ashram, passing in front of Chinnaswami who, O wonder! did not ask us why we were going out without taking food.
Mrs Syed had taken great trouble over the dinner. She would not allow the servant girl to enter the kitchen. The food was excellent, prepared with great love and devotion. After the meal she offered us betel with her own hands. This was something unusual, for a Muslim lady offers betel only to her husband or a fakir. As Dr Melkote said, "In her eyes we were fakirs, the forms Bhagavan took to go to her place". When we returned to the Ashram, we were astonished that nobody enquired why we had not been present in the dining hall, where we had gone or what we did in a Muslim house. How wonderfully does Bhagavan protect those who obey him!
Funds for Mother's TempleWhen the construction of the big temple over Bhagavan's mother's Samadhi was about to be started, Bhagavan was asked to give his permission and blessings for collection of funds. He replied, "I am a hermit. I do not want money to be collected in my name for the purpose of building temples. I am not in need of temples, nor do I wish to see them built. If you want a temple, do not go and beg for money. If funds come unasked entirely on their own then go ahead". Bhagavan never asked for anything and did not like his name being used for collecting money, however praiseworthy the purpose.
Thus there was never an incident or occasion when we were not reminded of the supreme truth that only the Self remains. Whether it was a matter of cooking or of kindness to dumb animals and birds or a case of philosophic discussion, Bhagavan always impressed upon us the unity of all Being.
Who am I?