Raja Iyer


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.



By Sampurnamma

IN 1932 I went to Tiruvannamalai with my sister and her husband Narayanan. We found Bhagavan in a palm leaf hut built over his mother’s Samadhi. Dandapani Swami introduced me to Bhagavan saying, “This is Dr Narayanan’s wife’s sister”. The days that followed were days of deep and calm happiness. My devotion to Bhagavan took firm roots and never left me. I was able to sit for long hours in Bhagavan’s presence without any mental activity and I would not notice the passing of time. I was not taught to meditate and surely did not know how to stop the mind from thinking, It would happen quite by itself, by his grace. I stayed for twenty days. When I was leaving, Bhagavan took a copy of Who am I? and gave it to me with his own hands.

I came back to Ramanasramam after a period of absence and I was asked to help in the kitchen. Bhagavan helped us in the kitchen, I soon learnt with his guidance the Ashram way of cooking. Bhagavan’s firm principle was that health depended on food and could be set right and kept well by proper diet. He also believed that fine grinding and careful cooking would make any food easily digestible. So we used to spend hours in grinding and stewing.

He paid very close attention to proper cooking. He was always willing to leave the hall to give advice in the kitchen. He would teach us numberless ways of cooking grains, pulses and vegetables. He would tell us stories from his childhood, or about his mother, her ways and how she cooked sampurnam (sweet filling).

He was very strict with us in the kitchen. His orders were to be obeyed to the last detail. No choice was left to us to guess or try on our own. We had to do blindly as he taught us and by doing so, we were convinced that he was always right and that we would never fail if we put our trust in him. When I think of it now, I can see clearly that he used the work in the kitchen as a background for spiritual training. He taught us that work is love for others, that we never can work for ourselves. By his very presence he taught us that we are always in the presence of God and that all work is His. He used cooking to teach us religion and philosophy.

In the kitchen he was the master cook aiming at perfection in taste and appearance. One would think that he liked good food and enjoyed a hearty meal. Not at all. At dinner time he would mix up the little food he would allow to be put on his leaf — the sweet, the sour, and the savoury - everything together, and gulp it down carelessly as if he had no taste in his mouth. When we told him that it was not right to mix such nicely made up dishes, he would say, “Enough of multiplicity, Let us have some unity”.

It was obvious that all the extraordinary care he gave to cooking was for our sake. He wanted us to keep good health and to those who worked in the kitchen, cooking became a deep spiritual experience. “You must cover your vegetables when you cook them,” he used to say, “Then only will they keep their flavour and be fit for food. It is the same with the mind. You must put a lid over it and let it simmer quietly. Then only does a man become food fit for God to eat”.

One day he gave me a copy of Ribhu Gita and asked me to study it. I was not at all anxious to pore over a difficult text good only for learned pandits, and asked to be excused, saying that I did not understand a single word of it. “It does not matter that you do not understand,” he said, “Still it will be of great benefit to you”.

He would allow nothing to go to waste. Even a grain of rice or a mustard seed lying on the ground would be picked up, dusted carefully, taken to the kitchen and put in its proper tin. I asked him why he gave himself so much trouble for a grain of rice. He said, “Yes, this is my way. I let nothing go to waste. In these matters I am quite strict. Were I married no woman could get on with me. She would run away”. On some other day he said, “This is the property of my Father Arunachala. I have to preserve it and pass it on to His children”. He would use for food things we would not even dream of as edible. Wild plants, bitter roots and pungent leaves were turned under his guidance into delicious dishes.

Once someone sent a huge load of brinjals on the occasion of his birthday feast. We ate brinjals day after day. The stalks alone made a big heap which was lying in a corner. I was stunned when Bhagavan asked us to cook the stalks as a curry. Bhagavan insisted that the stalks were edible and so we put them in a pot to boil along with dry peas. After six hours of boiling they were as hard as ever. We wondered what to do and yet we did not dare to disturb Bhagavan. But he always knew when he was needed and he would leave the hall even in the middle of a discussion. As usual he did not fail us, and appeared in the kitchen. He asked, “How is the curry getting on”? “Is it a curry we are cooking? We are boiling steel nails”, I exclaimed laughing. He stirred the stalks with the ladle and went away without saying anything. Soon after we found them quite tender. The dish was simply delicious and everybody was asking for a second helping. Everybody except Bhagavan praised the curry and the cook. He swallowed one mouthful like medicine and refused a second helping. I was very disappointed, for I had taken so much trouble to cook his stalks and he did not even taste them properly. The next day he told somebody, “Sampurnam was distressed that I did not eat her wonderful curry. Can she not see that everyone who eats is myself? And what does it matter who eats the food? It is the cooking that matters, not the cook or the eater. A thing done well, with love and devotion, is its own reward. What happens to it later matters little, for it is out of our hands”.

In the evening before I left the Ashram for the town to sleep, he would ask me what was available for cooking the next day. Then, arriving at daybreak the next morning, I would find everything ready - vegetables peeled and cut, lentils soaked, spices ground, coconuts scraped. As soon as he saw me he would give detailed instructions as to what should be cooked and how. He would then sit in the hall awhile and return to the kitchen. He would taste the various dishes to see if they were cooked properly and go back to the hall. It was strange to see him so eager to cook and so unwilling to eat.

As a cook, Bhagavan was perfect. He would never put in too much or too little salt or spices. As long as we followed his instructions, everything would go well with our cooking. But the moment we acted on our own we would be in trouble. Even then, if we sought his help, he would taste our brew and tell us what to do to make the food fit for serving. Every little incident in our kitchen had a spiritual lesson for us. We thus learnt the art of implicit obedience while perfecting our culinary skills under Bhagavan’s guidance.

On my way from the town to the Ashram and back, I had to walk in the dark along a jungle path skirting the hill and I would feel afraid. Bhagavan knew this and once said to me, “Why are you afraid, am I not with you”? Chinnaswami, Bhagavan’s brother and the manager of the Ashram once asked me whether I was not afraid to travel alone in the dark.

Bhagavan rebuked him saying, “Why are you surprised? Was she alone? Was I not with her all the time”? Once Subbalakshmiamma and myself were going round the hill early in the morning chatting about our homes and relatives. We noticed a man following us at a distance. We had to pass through a stretch of forest, so we stopped to let him pass and go ahead. He too stopped. When we walked he also walked. We were quite alarmed and started praying, “Oh Lord! Oh Arunachala! Only you can save us”! The man said suddenly, “Yes, Arunachala is our only refuge. Keep your mind on him constantly. It is His light that fills all space”. We wondered who he was. Was he sent by Bhagavan to remind us that it was not proper to talk of worldly matters when going round the hill? Or was it Arunachala Himself in human disguise? We looked back but there was nobody on the path. In so many ways Bhagavan made us feel that he was always with us, until the conviction grew and became part of our nature. Those were the days when we lived on the threshold of a new world — a world of ecstasy and joy. We were not conscious of what we were eating, of what we were doing. Time just rolled on noiselessly, unfelt and unperceived. The heaviest task seemed a trifle. We knew no fatigue. Commenting on our early completion of work in the kitchen on one occasion, Bhagavan pointed out, “The greatest spirit, Arunachala is here, towering over you. It is He who works not you”.

Bhagavan’s Sayings

A traveller in a cart has fallen asleep. The bullocks move, stand still or are unyoked during the journey. He does not know these events but finds himself in a different place after he wakes up. He has been blissfully ignorant of the occurrences on the way, but the journey has been finished. Similarly with the Self of a person. The ever-wakeful Self is compared to the traveller asleep in the cart. The waking state is the moving of the bulls; samadhi is their standing still (because samadhi means jagrat-sushupti, that is to say, the person is aware but not concerned in the action; the bulls are yoked but do not move); sleep is the unyoking of the bulls for there is complete stopping of activity corresponding to the relief of the bulls from the yoke.



Recounted by Chalam

1. This happened about two years before Bhagavan’s Maha Nirvana. One morning Bhagavan was in the hall surrounded by devotees from many lands. It was time for lunch and everybody was hungry. Some were already in the dining hall, waiting for Bhagavan to come. At that time Bhagavan was suffering from severe rheumatism in his knees, which were swollen and gave him severe pain; to get up he had to rub them first to remove the stiffness and it would take some time. At last he got up slowly from the sofa, and leaning on his walking stick, was about to go through the doorway when he noticed a village milkman, wrapped in a cotton shawl, with a mudpot hanging on a strap from his shoulder. Bhagavan stopped, looked at him and exclaimed, “Look, is it not Chinnappaya”? “Yes, it is me, Swami,” the villager replied with devotion and respect. Bhagavan asked him, “How are you? Are you well? You have come to see me? Very well. But what is in your pot? Have you brought some koolu (gruel)”? “Yes Swami, I have brought some koolu”, replied the milkman shyly. “Then come on, let me have it”. Bhagavan put away his stick, cupped his two hands together and bent forward holding his hands near his lips. The milkman started pouring the porridge from his pot in a thin stream into Bhagavan’s hands, as he sipped it with his chin between his wrists. The poor man’s face was beaming with joy and Bhagavan was drinking steadily, as if the grey porridge was nectar to him. The dining hall was full of hungry and somewhat angry people. One of them came out to see what could be the cause of the delay in Bhagavan’s coming, and when he saw what kind of lunch Bhagavan was taking, he exclaimed, “How unfair, Bhagavan. We are all waiting for you and you are late for the sake of this peasant”! Bhagavan grew indignant. “What, do you all think that I am here for your sakes only? Do I belong to you? Did you care for me when I was on the hill? Nobody wanted me then, only the shepherds, who would share their koolu with me.” And he went into the dining hall followed by the milkman and his pot.

2. On a moonlit night some devotees were going round the holy Arunachala Hill, chanting the Vedas. Suddenly they saw a leopard standing right in the middle of the road and looking at them. The singers were paralysed with fear. They could neither sing nor walk ahead or run away. The leopard looked at them quietly for quite a long time and then slowly crossed the road and disappeared into the jungle. The devotees thanked their stars, completed their round of the hill and, after returning to the Ashram, related their adventure to Bhagavan, who listened carefully and said, “There was no reason for fear. The leopard is a jnani who came down from the hill to listen to your chanting the Vedas. He went away deeply disappointed because out of fright you broke off singing. Why were you afraid”?

3. In front of the temple dedicated to Bhagavan’s mother a magnificent hall was built and a gorgeous sofa carved from a single block of black granite was placed in the hall for Bhagavan to sit on. When all was ready he was requested to move from the old hall to the new one. Bhagavan refused. A stone statue of him was being carved and he said, “The stone swami will sit on the stone sofa”. And it came true. Bhagavan used the stone sofa very little and only for the sake of the large gatherings which were brought by the news of his fatal illness. When he was no more in the body, the statue was enthroned in the new hall and there it is now.

4. Once somebody brought Bhagavan a wounded dove. Bhagavan held it in his hands for some time and then asked the devotees gathered in the hall, “Who will take good care of this bird until it is quite well”? No offer came. Some time back the Maharani of Baroda had presented a white peacock to the Ashram and everybody was eager to take charge of it. Bhagavan looked around and started talking to the dove, “What a pity you are not a peacock. You are a mere dove, a useless little thing, not a costly bird presented by a Maharani. Who wants you? Who will care for you”? The dove was kept in the Ashram in a clumsy cage, became well and flew away. But the lesson of universal compassion remained.

5. An old Telugu man with a long beard, an iron pot and chopper for cutting wood made his abode in the Draupadi temple. He would beg some food in the town, boil something or other in his iron pot on a small fire of wood cut with his chopper and eat it during the day. For hours together he could be seen standing and looking at Bhagavan. He would spend the night in the temple, which was dilapidated and abandoned and surrounded by jungle. Once Chalam found him standing all alone in front of the temple and gazing at Arunachala. “I sleep here”, he said when Chalam asked him what he was doing in the forsaken temple. “What, sleeping here all alone? Are you not afraid”? exclaimed Chalam. The old man seemed indignant. “Afraid of what? Bhagavan throws his light upon me. All through the night I am surrounded by a blue radiance. As long as his light is with me, how can I be afraid”? The incident made Chalam deeply humble. Bhagavan’s love and light was given in full measure to a poor old beggar, while those who pride themselves on being his chosen disciples are left high and dry because they have themselves to attend to.

6. A devotee wanted to take a photo of Bhagavan together with Ganapati Muni. Bhagavan consented, and a carpet was spread near the well, on which a sofa was put for Bhagavan to sit on. Ganapati Muni sat down at his feet, but Bhagavan asked him to sit by his side. Ganapati Muni was reluctant, but Bhagavan lifted him up and made him sit on the sofa. The photo was taken, and some prints were made and distributed among the devotees. The Ashram authorities came to know about it when it was all over and, quite naturally, were indignant, for sitting on the same level with one’s Guru was a serious breach of custom, implying a claim for spiritual equality. The negative and the prints had to be given up. But the man who had taken the photo refused to surrender his copy. It did not bring him any luck; shortly after he committed suicide. The question why Bhagavan forced Ganapati Muni to sit on the sofa was never answered. Maybe it was his way of bringing the deeply hidden weaknesses of everybody to the surface.

7. We were sitting one morning in the hall in deep meditation. Suddenly there was the sound of the tap-tap of a stick. A tall blind Muslim was trying to find the entry to the hall with his stick. I helped him to come inside. He asked me in Urdu where Bhagavan was sitting. I made him sit right in front of Bhagavan and told him, “You are now sitting just in front of Bhagavan. You can salute him”. The Muslim told his story. He lived near Peshawar and he was a moulvi (teacher) of repute. Once he happened to hear somebody reading in Urdu about Bhagavan and at once he felt that Bhagavan was his spiritual father and that he must go to him. Blind as he was, he took the next train and travelled thousands of miles all alone, changing trains many times, till at last he reached Ramanasramam. When asked what he was going to do next, he said. “Whatever Bhagavan tells me, I shall do”. His immense faith made me ashamed of myself. How little did the man hesitate to place his life in the hands of a South Indian swami. And what a mountain of doubts and hesitations I had to wade through before I came to Bhagavan’s feet in earnest!

8. Echammal was one of Bhagavan’s earliest devotees. She regularly brought food to him when he was living on the hill. Her property went to help his devotees. She practised yoga assiduously and died when in a yogic trance. When Bhagavan heard the news, he said, “Oh, is it so”? After Echammal’s body was burnt, Shantamma came into the hall and told Bhagavan that the cremation was over. He said, “Yes, it is all right”. And he added after a while, “I warned her not to practice yoga. She would not listen. Therefore she had to die unconscious and not in full awareness”.

9. During Bhagavan’s last days, just after an operation, he was kept in a room under doctor’s strict orders that he should not be disturbed. A guard was placed to enforce the orders. A sadhu arrived asking for an audience. The guard explained the situation and assured him that his request could not possibly be granted. The sadhu went to the office and pressed for an audience, saying that he must leave the same day and that he could not wait for Bhagavan’s recovery. The staff also could do nothing against doctor’s orders. The sadhu sadly started walking from the office towards the gate, when to his amazement and great joy he saw Bhagavan standing on the narrow veranda in front of his room. The sadhu came nearer and they gazed at each other silently for about ten minutes. The sadhu went his way and Bhagavan returned to the room.

10. People who expected the Supreme to be uniformly monotonous, acting in an invariable and stereotyped way, could not find their bearings when they had to deal with Bhagavan. He never reacted twice in the same way. The unexpected with him was inevitable. He would deny every expectation, go against every probability. He seemed to be completely indifferent to whatever was going on in the Ashram and would give an immense amount of care to some apparently insignificant detail. He would be highly critical of the Ashram manager’s passion for improvement and expansion and yet take personal interest in the work of the carpenters and masons. He would scold his younger brother soundly, but would rebuke anybody who came to him with some complaint against him. He did not even want to hear about the money coming to the Ashram, but would read carefully the incoming and outgoing letters. He would refuse his consent to a certain work, but if it were done against his wishes, he would earnestly cooperate. When asked to agree to the building of the temple, he said, “Do as you please, but do not use my name for collecting money”. Yet he would closely watch the progress of the work and wander in the night among the scaffolding, with his torch in one hand and his stick in the other. When the Sri Chakra was placed in the sanctum of the temple, he went there at midnight and laid his hands on it. He would deny all responsibility for starting and developing the Ashram, would refuse to claim it as his property, but signed a will creating a hereditary managership for the Ashram. He would refuse all treatment when asked, but would swallow any medicine that was given to him without asking. If each well-wisher offered his own remedy, he would take them all at the same time. He would relish some rustic dish and would turn away from costly delicacies. He would invite people for food, but when asked for a meal he would plead his helplessness in the matter.

Sometimes he would take a man to the kitchen and cook and serve him with his own hands. He insisted that beggars should be fed first, but would say that the Ashram was for visitors, not for beggars. He would be tender with a sick squirrel and would not outwardly show any feeling when an old and faithful devotee was dying. A serious loss or damage would leave him unconcerned, while he may shout warnings lest a glass pane in a cupboard should break. Greatness, wealth, beauty, power, penance, fame, philanthropy — all these would make no impression on him, but a lame monkey would absorb him for days on end. He would ignore a man for a long time and then suddenly turn to him with a broad smile and start an animated discussion. To a question about life after death he would retort, ‘Who is asking’? but to another man he would explain in great detail what death was and what the state of mind was after death.

It was clear that all he did was rooted in some hidden centre to which none of us had any access. He was entirely self-directed, or rather, Self-directed.

11. Once Bhagavan fell down and was injured. The Ashram people wanted to call a doctor, but he would not allow it. A woman in the hall started weeping. “Why do you cry”? he asked. “I am sorry that you do not allow us to call for a doctor”, she said. Bhagavan sighed, “Oh well, call in the doctor. In this place I have no freedom”.

12. Bose and Yogi Ramaiah were accompanying Bhagavan up the hill. While they were waiting for him to return, Yogi Ramaiah told Bose that a cement platform would be useful for Bhagavan to rest on. On his return Bhagavan was told of the idea and he said, “Don’t. If you construct a platform, somebody will erect a temple”.

13. Once Suryanarayana’s wife asked Bhagavan whether he had ever seen God. He replied, “You see your Self just as you see me”. Suryanarayana complained bitterly, “I am spending every minute of my time in the repetition of your name and yet I am without peace”. Bhagavan gently rebuked him and said, “Come on, you do not expect me to hide your peace under my pillow”!

14. Once a devotee asked Bhagavan, “Have you seen Shiva, Nandi and Kailas?” Bhagavan replied, “No, never. But the Self I see every moment”.

15. Somerset Maugham, the famous English writer, came to the Ashram to meet Bhagavan. He fell ill, probably due to heat, and Chadwick arranged a comfortable bed for him in his room. Bhagavan heard about it and came to see Maugham. They just looked at each other silently for about an hour. When Bhagavan got up, Chadwick asked Maugham whether he would like to ask anything. “What is there to speak about”? he answered. “Yes, there is no need for words”, said Bhagavan, who then returned to the hall. Maugham too departed soon.

16. Bhagavan was very ill. Hundreds of people had come to see him, but he would not look at anybody. Nartaki was saying that Bhagavan looked at her each time she came. Chalam asked her how it happened. She said, “Each time, before coming to Bhagavan, I said within myself, ‘Bhagavan, do look at me’. And he would always look at me”. Chalam tried the same and it worked!

17. A man was telling Bhagavan that he learnt one type of yoga under one master, some other type under a different master and so on. The dinner bell started ringing. “Now learn the yoga of eating under this master”, said Bhagavan, and took the man to have his dinner.

18. A lady devotee prayed to Bhagavan, “My only desire is that you may always be with us”. Bhagavan exclaimed, “Look at her, she wants us all to turn into stones, so that we may sit here forever”.

19. Bhagavan’s mother had a hard life when she came to live by the side of her glorious son. She was a very orthodox lady, full of prejudices, superstitions and possessive pride. Bhagavan would be ruthless in destroying all that stood in the way of her emancipation from ignorance and fear. He succeeded wonderfully and gave his mother videha mukti (liberation at the moment of death), which is by far the most common form of realization with the majority of earnest aspirants. One of her pet aversions was onions, which are taboo to Brahmin widows. She would refuse to cook onions. Bhagavan would show her an onion and say, “How mighty is this little bulb, that it can stop my mother from going to heaven”! The mother would cry her heart out in some corner. But he would only say, “Cry, cry, the more you cry, the better”. It was supreme love, eager to bestow the supreme good, and merciless with every obstacle, however sacred or rooted in tradition.

20. A friend from Bombay came to have a look at the Ashram and to find out what it was all about. He had little faith himself, but wanted to know what exactly drew people to Bhagavan. He would get hold of this man and that and keep on asking all sorts of questions. A Norwegian sadhu lived at that time near the Ashram and we went one evening in search of him. He lived in a small cubby hole, meant for a bathroom. He slept and cooked his food there. It was wonderful to think that an educated European had accepted this kind of life just to be near Bhagavan. With his beard, long hair and weather-beaten face he looked old, but in reality he was quite young. During his university years he had studied comparative religion and thus was attracted to India and to Indian philosophy. Even in Norway, whenever he would meet an Indian he would question him eagerly, only to discover that Indians on the whole knew very little of their glorious heritage. This had only strengthened his desire to go to India, meet the people who knew, and learn from them. He tried hard and got a job as a lecturer in religion in one of the North Indian colleges. He joined and in his spare time was searching for a Guru. He was told that he could find one only in the Himalayas. He roamed the mountains and at last he found somebody who agreed to guide and instruct him. The Norwegian was very reticent about his Guru and would tell neither name nor place. But he gave up his job, joined his Guru in the mountains, learnt sankhya yoga under him and was told to do sadhana for four years and then come back. How was he to live for these four years? Again he got a job, this time in Bangalore. A fellow traveller in the train advised him strongly to go and meet Bhagavan before he took up his duties. He broke his journey, saw Bhagavan and could not leave. In Bhagavan’s presence his sankhya sadhana became very vigorous and speedy. He had no money and just stretched every copper. He did not feel the need to return to the Himalayas. He said he would go on till the goal was reached. We returned wondering at Bhagavan’s mighty power which attracted all, however small or great. Our Bombay friend felt that there might be something in the Ashram beyond his ken and grew very humble.

21. When Bhagavan was living on the hill, a big monkey came one day when he was having his food, and sat near him. Bhagavan was about to put a morsel of food into his mouth, but when he saw the monkey he gave it the morsel. The monkey took it, put it on the plate and gave Bhagavan a square slap on the cheek. “What do you mean, you fellow? Why are you angry? I gave you the first morsel”! exclaimed Bhagavan. Then he understood his mistake. It was a king monkey and he had to be treated in the right royal manner. Bhagavan called for a separate leaf plate and a full meal was served to the king, who ate it all with dignity and proudly went away.


IN Tinnanur, an ancient town in Tondai district, there dwelt a Brahmin, Poosalar by name. His mind forever fixed on Siva’s feet, he grew in love and learning day by day and spent his all in service to His devotees.

Wishing to build a temple to the Lord, he tried to raise funds. But try as he might, he failed. In grief he pondered, “What shall I do?” He resolved at last to raise within his heart a temple to his Lord. From far and near he fetched in fancy, little by little, stone and metal and other building material.

Skilled masons and sculptors too he engaged and instructed in thought. And at an auspicious hour, he dug the ground and laid the foundation stone. Devoted, busy, sleepless even by night, he watched the temple grow, part by part and layer by layer, gateway, tower and central shrine, all planned according to the rules of Agama, and wrought in detail with the minutest care. On top of the domed turret over the holy of holies he installed a stone a cubit long. And so with hard, steady effort of the mind, he completed the structure, plastered chinks with lime, dug wells and tanks, put up the outer walls and fixed in his mind the auspicious day and hour for consecrating the shrine and installing the Presence.

The Pallava King had built in the city of Kanchi a mighty granite temple and appointed a day for the grand ceremony of its consecration. But, on the night preceding, the Lord appeared to the King in his dream and said, “Poosalar, my friend, has laboured lovingly for many months and raised a temple for me in his heart, and 1 must be there tomorrow at its consecration. So postpone your temple ceremony to some later day”.

The King awoke, eager to visit Tinnanur and greet this favoured servant of the Lord. He reached the place and enquired of the people, “Whereabouts is this temple built by Poosalar”? But they all said, “We know of no such temple”. Then he sent for the leading Brahmins of the town and asked them, “Who is this pure and perfect man, this Poosalar”? They answered, “A Brahmin of that name does dwell in this town. We shall go and bring him, Sire”. But the King would have none of it. Instead he went himself to the man’s house and falling at his feet, asked, “Where is your famed temple? Today, know, the Lord comes there to dwell. And at His bidding too have come, to meet you and greet you on this day”. Staggered by this speech, the Brahmin said, “If the Lord pleases, the world shall know,” and told the King the story of the building of the temple thought by thought. The King heard it all, fell again at the good man’s feet, and marched back to Kanchi, accompanied by his army with drums and trumpets. Poosalar regularly performed the daily pujas in his ideal temple in the prescribed manner and in the end attained the feet of the Lord.

Varanasi Subhalakshmiamma


By Varanasi Subhalakshmiamma

ONCE we went on a pilgrimage to Kaveri Pushkaram and on our way back we stopped at Arunachala. We were told that a young Brahmin saint was living on the hill for the past ten years. The next morning we went up the hill along with the others. We found the young swami near Virupaksha cave. As soon as I saw him I was convinced that God Arunachala Himself had come in human form to give salvation to all who approached him.

The next time I visited Bhagavan he was living at the foot of the hill. He was seated on a couch and about a dozen devotees were sitting on the bare floor. We sat in silence for ten minutes and returned to the town. Bhagavan’s presence gave me the experience of inner silence and mental stillness, but away from him I could not regain it and I spent a year vainly trying to free myself from all thought. But soon I got a chance to visit Tiruvannamalai. I met Bhagavan the same day. The next day after the midday meal Bhagavan was explaining a verse from the Bhagavad Gita to Sri Yogi Ramaiah. As no one else was in the hall, I gathered courage and asked, “What is Atma? Is it the limitless ether of space or the awareness that cognizes everything”? Bhagavan replied, “To remain without thinking this is Atma and that is Atma, is itself Atma”. He looked at me and I felt my mind melt away into nothing. No thought would come, only the feeling of immense, unutterable peace.

Several times I was invited to work in the kitchen, but I felt that the Ashram ways were not orthodox enough for me. One day Bhagavan’s own sister asked me to take her place in the Ashram kitchen as she had to leave for some time. I could not refuse. Though I was very happy to work in the kitchen directly under Bhagavan’s supervision I wanted to go home. I left and after a year returned to Ramanasramam to discover that I belonged there. Yet I would feel restless, thinking that I should spend my time in meditation. One day Bhagavan looked at me intently and said “It looks as if you are still hankering after meditation”. I replied, “What have I got except endless work in the kitchen”? Bhagavan said with deep feeling, “Your hands may do the work but your mind can remain still. You are that which never moves. Realise that and you will find that work is not a strain. But as long as you think that you are the body and that the work is done by you, you will feel your life to be an endless toil. In fact it is the mind that toils, not the body. Even if your body keeps quiet, will your mind keep quiet? Even in sleep the mind is busy with its dreams”.

Regarding the need to fast as enjoined by scriptural texts Bhagavan explained, “It does not mean that you should starve. You need not torture the body. It only means not giving the body more than it needs. With your mind, hold on to enquiry and just keep the body going so that it does not become a hindrance. For this, pure and fresh food, simply prepared and taken in moderation is a great help”. Once I prepared curds and served it to Bhagavan alone while all the others were served buttermilk. The moment he saw the curds on his leaf he looked at me. That look scorched me to the very depths of my soul! When we went to take leave of him in the evening he turned away his face from me. He stopped taking buttermilk. I suffered agonies and remorse for disobeying Bhagavan. At last I got a chance to ask for his forgiveness and prayed that he should start having his buttermilk again. He said, “No, no, why do you worry? I happened to have a cold and is not buttermilk bad for colds”? That very afternoon Echammal brought some curds and Bhagavan said, “Tell Subbalakshmi not to suffer. I shall have my buttermilk”.

Once five or six devotees sat down before Bhagavan and sang a hymn in praise of the Guru. He got up in the middle of the recitation and went away, saying, “Prayers and praises will not take one far. It is the merciful look of the teacher that bestows true knowledge”. I felt elated. But the next day he said, “Unless one becomes a six-month old baby, there is no hope for him in the realm of Self-knowledge”. My heart sank. Although I lived in the presence of Lord Arunachala Himself, I was far from becoming an infant.

I made a habit of offering him a few dry grapes whenever I came from the town. He disliked all formal devotion. One day when I gave him the grapes, he started scolding us, “Why all this show of respect and devotion? Who taught you all this hypocrisy? Can’t you just be natural? What is needed is a heart, pure and sincere. How can you please me with a show”? It went on for quite a long time. Addressing Muruganar, he complained that our devotion was shallow and its expressions cheap. He told some stories about false disciples, “They take their Guru in procession and parade him before the crowd. When they have done with him, they dig a pit and ask him, ‘Will you get into the pit yourself or shall we push you in’”? That day even Muruganar was afraid to do the usual prostrations to Bhagavan, who continued, “When people come here they are quite sincere, but as soon as they settle down they become the masters of this place. The swami must do their bidding and ignore their mischief; in return for their prostrations the swami has to put up with all the mess they create around him. They think it is his duty to carry them on his head”.

During the meal I would pour rasam (soup) into Bhagavan’s hands. He would sip it slowly and when his palms were empty I would fill them again. One day he asked me to pour rasam over the rice and go. He would not cup his hands as before. I thought I had offended him in someway and asked Santammal to find out the reason. Bhagavan told her, “When she serves me, she makes others wait”. Despite my remonstrations he never took rasam again in his palms. Bhagavan wanted us to learn well the lesson that God is present in every being in all his glory and fullness and must be given equal reverence. He would ruthlessly sacrifice the little comforts we so loved to provide for him, as soon as he noticed a trace of preference. The law that what cannot be shared must not be touched was supreme in his way of dealing with us.

Separative and exclusive feelings are the cause of the ‘I’ and therefore the greatest obstacles in the realization of the One. No wonder he was exterminating them so relentlessly.

One day I saw him grinding black gram. We always felt ashamed when we saw him working, but when we offered to take over, he would get cross and stop coming to the kitchen, which would make us sad; for in the hall he belonged to everybody but in the kitchen he was our own. That day I summoned courage and asked him to let me grind the gram. To my astonishment he got up and said, “Yes, finish it. I was waiting for you to come”. When I finished grinding and went back to the kitchen I saw him boiling pumpkin in a huge cauldron. The day was hot, the fire and the steam rising from the cauldron were hot and Bhagavan was bathed in perspiration. So it was to save me from this tiresome work that Bhagavan invited me to grind for him! The stew was boiling vigorously and a piece of pumpkin fell on Bhagavan’s finger. The next day we saw a big blister and when somebody asked about it he replied, “Oh, it is only a ring. I wanted some jewellery”. Thus I learned not to interfere.

Nothing brought to the Ashram could be wasted, not even when it was obviously useless. In this Bhagavan was adamant. A pious offering was Arunachala’s own property and had to be looked after. Even the water in which bitter gourd was boiling could not be thrown away. With salt added it would be taken to the cows.

One had to live and work with him to know what a great teacher he was. Through the trifles of daily life he taught us Vedanta in theory and practice. He led us with absolute wisdom and infinite kindness and we were changed to the very root of our being, not even knowing the depth and scope of his influence. Sri Krishna in his mercy became a cowherd to teach simple milkmaids the way to salvation. Similarly Bhagavan, the same supreme being in another form, took to cooking in order to save a few ignorant women.

The Lost Sheep

Poovan, a shepherd, says that he knows Sri Bhagavan since thirty years ago, the days of Virupakshi cave. He used at times to supply milk to the visitors in those days.

Some six years ago he had lost a sheep, for which he was searching for three days. The sheep was pregnant and he had lost all hopes of recovering her, because he thought that she had been set upon by wild animals. He was one day passing by the Asramam, when Sri Bhagavan saw him and enquired how he was. The man replied that he was looking out for a lost sheep. Sri Bhagavan kept quiet, as is usual with Him. Then He told the shepherd to help in lifting some stones, which he did with great pleasure. After the work was finished, Sri Bhagavan told him, “Go this way”, pointing the footpath towards the town. “You will find the stray sheep on the way”.

So he did and found the lost sheep with two little lambs. He now says, “What a Bhagavan is this! Look at the force of his words! He is great! He never forgets even a poor man like me. He remembers my son Manikkam also with kindness.

Such are the great ones! I am happy when I do any little work for Him, such as looking to the cows when they are in heat”.

- From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, No.296, 16th December 1936.




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 l?” 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 1, how does the practice of yoga begin in muladharas?

In yoga shastra, anahata chakra is the fourth, and muladhara 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 realises 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”.



By P. L. N. Sharma

IN 1932 I had the good fortune to attend a conference of cooperative 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.


Dr. K. Subrahmanian

Dr. K. Subrahmanian's genuine love and devotion, insight, compassion and selflessness formed a vortex that drew hundreds of devotees from Andhra Pradesh into the shining presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi. In 1979, he founded Sri Ramana Kendram in Hyderabad and continued to nurture it until his final day in January of 1998.

The following is an extract from "Dr. K. Subrahmanian (1928-1998), A Tribute", a book publish by the Hyderabad Kendram in his memory. Dr. K. Subrahmanian relates in his own words about his early years and how he was naturally drawn to the Maharshi, and also some anecdotes from his uncle's life.

Coming into the Ramana Fold

Presentation Convent, the school that my father worked for, used to prepare children for taking the Cambridge University examination. The school was run by Irish nuns and almost all the children were European girls. My father was the only male teacher for a number of years. In the 50s, one more male teacher was appointed to teach Hindi.

As the winter vacation was during Dec-Jan every year, my parents would go from Kodaikanal to Tiruvannamalai to attend the Jayanti function. My father used to take English vegetables grown in Kodaikanal to the Ashram for the Jayanti celebrations. After attending the Jayanti, my parents would go to my father's village, Melvayalamoor, which is about 20 miles from Tiruvannamalai. I was taken to Sri Bhagavan when I was two years old. My two younger sisters and I used to be taken almost every year to Sri Ramanasramam for the Jayanti celebrations. In our case we could say we were seen by Sri Bhagavan first. We were conscious of seeing him much later.

My uncle, who looked after our lands in Melva-yalamoor, was also a great devotee of Sri Bhagavan and Nayana [Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni]. Both in my house and in my uncle's house there was always a picture of Sri Bhagavan in the puja room. If not every day, almost every week, there used to be some discussion or the other about the life and teachings of Sri Bhagavan. From childhood I was brought up in a Bhagavan-charged atmosphere.

Viswanatha Swami visited our house and stayed with us for several days together on numerous occasions. Later, when I was teaching at Madras Christian College, he stayed with me a couple of times. He used to spend much of his time talking about the glory and grandeur of Sri Bhagavan and Nayana. He taught us a number of devotional songs. He had a melodious voice and could sing beautifully.

Hearing from my father, uncle and Viswanatha Swami that Sri Bhagavan used to read the letters written by devotees to him, as a boy I used to write to him occasionally, seeking his blessings. As there was no high school in Kodaikanal, my father sent me to study at Sir P.S.Sivaswami Iyer High School, Tirukattupally. I studied there for four years between 1941-45, from III Form to VI Form, and stayed in the hostel attached to it.

Talking to Sri Bhagavan

In 1941, I was taken by my uncle to Sri Ramanasramam. We had bought some mangoes and my uncle said that I should put them on the small stool near Sri Bhagavan's sofa. I went into the old meditation hall along with my uncle and put the mangoes on the floor and prostrated before Sri Bhagavan and sat near the window that now overlooks Sri Bhagavan's samadhi. My uncle sat next to me. When I was looking at Sri Bhagavan, Sri Bhagavan asked my uncle, "Who is this?" My uncle said, "He is my brother's son. He is studying in III Form." Then Sri Bhagavan said, turning to me, " So you are the person writing letters to me." I had a strange feeling of awe, coupled with great joy. I said in a low voice, "Yes." Sri Bhagavan said, "Does your father send money to you so that you can write letters to me?" and laughed. I wasn't quite sure whether Sri Bhagavan was being sarcastic or made the remark in a light vein. I sweated for a while, continuing to look at him. As it was early in the morning, there were only two or three devotees in the hall. When we came out of the hall after some time, my uncle, who had been a frequent visitor to the Ashram for several years, said, "You must consider yourself very lucky. Sri Bhagavan usually does not ask `Who is he?' It is a rare thing."

Observing Sri Bhagavan

Till 1950, I used to visit the Ashram a couple of times every year; the frequency however increased between 1948 and 1950. I attended the Kumbhabhishekam of the Mathrubhuteswara Temple. It was an elaborate, solemn affair. After the Kumbhabhishekam was performed, in the evening arati was offered to the deity in the temple and was brought to Sri Bhagavan by Chinnaswami, Viswanatha Swami and President Venkataraman. I was sitting very close to Sri Bhagavan in the meditation hall attached to the temple. It was a moving sight when Sri Bhagavan extended his hands and touched the arati with great reverence, closing his eyes.

Soon after each operation was performed on Sri Bhagavan's cancer, I used to visit him. Sometimes I used to cry uncontrollably looking at Sri Bhagavan from a distance. As far as Sri Bhagavan was concerned, he was ever the same serene, blissful Self. He behaved as if the cancer belonged to somebody else.

The last time I saw Sri Bhagavan was on 7th April, 1950, exactly one week before his nirvana. When I heard the news of Sri Bhagavan's nirvana at Kodaikanal, on 14th April, 1950, I did not break down, nor did I feel depressed. I felt a peace—a peace that was totally unexpected. Viswanatha Swami, whom I met a month later, also said that he enjoyed an indescribable peace at the time of Sri Bhagavan's nirvana. He was one of the few who were inside the room at the time Sri Bhagavan merged with Arunachala.

I was taken to Sri Bhagavan as a small boy and I visited him many times later on, but I never put even a single question to him. I listened to others asking questions and Sri Bhagavan's replies to them, but I never felt inclined to ask a question even once. The only thing I used to do was to sit close to him and take leave of him after prostrating to him. Most often he would nod his head or say in Tamil, "sari, sari" (O.K, O.K.).

Occasionally I used to think that it would be good to read Sri Bhagavan's works in his presence. I tried a couple of times but I could not read anything in his presence. I was either looking at him or meditating.

Close Encounters with Sri Bhagavan

Sometime in 1949, when Sri Bhagavan was still in the meditation hall, I sat at the entrance looking at Sri Bhagavan from outside. His shoulder was bandaged because of cancer. I thought to myself: "I have been coming to the Ashram so often. But I have had no experience of real meditation. Sri Bhagavan has not granted me this experience." Thinking along these lines, I kept looking at Sri Bhagavan for a considerable time and then closed my eyes. I do not know how long I was in that state. When I opened my eyes I found that the meditation hall was empty. Sri Bhagavan was not there on the stone couch in the meditation hall. Sri Bhagavan and the devotees must have gone past me as I was sitting at the entrance. When I realised that I had been sitting when Sri Bhagavan went past me, I was horrified. I felt how disrespectful I was. But suddenly, I realised that Sri Bhagavan, out of his unbounded grace, granted me an experience whereby I was completely oblivious of my surroundings.

Even today, I am unhappy that I did not get up when Sri Bhagavan and his devotees went past me. Sri Bhagavan gives us rare experiences when we least expect them.

On another occasion, when I was an 18-year-old student, around noon or so, I was walking towards the meditation hall. The new meditation hall was not there then; the whole place was an open ground. I was thinking of something and walking with my head down. When I neared the well, I looked up and saw Sri Bhagavan standing at a short distance and talking to a devotee. I was taken unawares as I did not expect Sri Bhagavan to be there. Sri Bhagavan who was talking to the other person, looked at me sideways. I stood still, as I did not want to disturb Sri Bhagavan in any way. When he looked at me that way, I felt a powerful light penetrate me and engulf me. I experienced a bliss that I had not experienced before. I was in that state for about twenty days.

My uncle, V. S. Srinivas Iyer, did his Intermediate at Voorhese College, Vellore and became village Munsiff of Vailamoor village and worked in that capacity for over forty years. He saw Sri Bhagavan even as a student. In the early days, there used to be very few visitors to the Ashram, which was then just a thatched shed. Before he met Sri Bhagavan, my uncle had come under the influence of Kavyakanta and had taken upadesa from him. This fact is mentioned in the Sanskrit biography of Kavyakanta, Vasishta Vaibhavam, written by Kapali Sastry.

The first question that my uncle put to Sri Bhagavan as a young man was, "Is it true that Ravana had ten heads." Sri Bhagavan replied, "How does it help you to know whether he had ten heads or not?" My uncle said, "Nayana says it is all false." Sri Bhagavan replied, "Nayana has studied a lot and has come to certain conclusions. What do I know?" On another occasion my uncle asked Sri Bhagavan when he was going round the Hill, "Bhagavan, Nayana did tapas for the freedom of this country. Do you think we will get freedom?" Sri Bhagavan said, "Why do you ask me? Am I an astrologer?" After some time, Sri Bhagavan turned to my uncle and said, " Why do you worry? There is a Supreme Power which carries the whole burden. Our job is to do our work and submit to it."

Once an Ashram deer was attacked by some animal and the wounds turned from bad to worse. Sri Bhagavan sat near the deer and held its face in his hands, looking at its tearful eyes. Sri Bhagavan sat like that for a couple of hours. Chinnaswami asked my uncle who was standing close to look after the deer and relieve Sri Bhagavan. Sri Bhagavan heard this but did not make any response. Sri Bhagavan sat there till the deer breathed its last. That was the compassion that Sri Bhagavan had for that deer. Soon after, Sri Bhagavan went to the hall. There is a Samadhi for the deer in the Ashram.

When the Mathrubhuteswara Temple was being constructed, Sri Bhagavan used to help the construction workers by lifting the bricks and offering them to the mason. When my uncle saw Sri Bhagavan doing this type of work he was astonished. Sri Bhagavan said to my uncle, "I am doing construction work."

He Said, "It is not for the sake of the husband, my dear, that he is loved, but for one's own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife, my dear, that she is loved, but for one's own sake that she is loved. It is not for the sake of the sons, my dear, that they are loved, but for one's own sake that they are loved.... It is not for the sake of all, my dear, that all is loved, but for one's own sake that it is loved. The Self, my dear Maitrey, should be realized, should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. When the Self, my dear, is realized by being heard of, reflected on and meditated upon, all this is known." — Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapt. IV, verse 6

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter


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 enlightenment 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.

Only He Can Make Us Think of Him

Sri Bhagavan once said that even to think of God, we must have the Grace of God. There is no real quest without Grace. When we think of Him, when we meditate on Him, we are not doing anything of our own accord. He makes us think of Him and meditate on Him. We can't take any credit for this ourselves. We are not doing these activities, we are made to do these. The moment we are fully conscious of this, we shall be utterly humble. Whatever happens during meditation, happens because He makes it happen the way it happens. So there is no cause for joy or sorrow.

Sri Bhagavan once said that even to think of God,we must have the Grace of God. There is no real quest without Grace. When we think of Him, when we meditate on Him, we are not doing anything of our own accord. He makes us think of Him and meditate on Him. We can't take any credit for this ourselves. We are not doing these activities, we are made to do these. The moment we are fully conscious of this, we shall be utterly humble. Whatever happens during meditation, happens because He makes it happen the way it happens. So there is no cause for joy or sorrow.

Sri Bhagavan never said, even once, that he thought of Arunachala. He said that Arunachala made him think of Arunachala and that he was grateful to Him for that. In Verse 3 of Arunachala Padigam Sri Bhagavan says: "I had no idea of thinking of you at all. And yet you drew me with your cord of Grace..." In Verse 49 of Aksharamanamalai, Sri Bhagavan says; "Wealth benignant, holy Grace that came to me unsought..." Everywhere Sri Bhagavan talks about the Grace that was showered unsought. He didn't seek Arunachala, but Arunachala chose him. Sri Bhagavan talks of his own utter insignificance and of the majesty, grandeur and glory of Arunachala. In Verse 5 of Arunachala Padigam Sri Bhagavan says, "From out of all the creatures in the world, what did you gain by choosing me? You saved me, did you not, from falling into the void and you have held me firmly fixed at your feet. Lord of the Ocean of Grace, my heart shrinks in modesty even at the thought of You. Long may you live, O Arunachala, and let me bend my head in praise and worship of You."

Whenever we feel depressed at not progressing in our sadhana despite our efforts, we must remind ourselves that we are not doing any sadhana of our own accord but that He is making us do it out of His Grace. It is up to Him to do what He wills with our sadhana. We cannot choose Him, only He can choose us. The Kathopanishad says: "This Atman cannot be attained by the study of Vedas or by intelligence, nor by much listening. It is gained by him alone whom it chooses. To him this Atman reveals its true nature." (1.2.23)

We cannot choose to do or to avoid sadhana. When chosen, we must be grateful and humble and not complain about the results. We must leave everything to Arunachala who, Sri Bhagavan says, will not stop until He makes us still like the holy Hill itself, once we turn to Him (Decad 10).

We are made to turn to Him through His Grace. It is through His Grace also that we think of Him and it is for Him to do what He likes with us and our sadhana.

Barbara Rose


By Barbara Rose

RAMANA is the saviour of this life. At the mere thought of his name there is a burst of harmony inside this physical frame which reverberates and joins in the song of the heavenly spheres and the song of the most minute life-unit, wheresoever that consciousness extends! That name and harmony form the theme and background to every breath and motion. Thanks to them, the perceived world becomes a place of remembrance.

Slowly we learn to look through the peep-holes of the circus tent to the quiet beyond. Slowly comes the strength to focus not on the scenes of the fleeting wonders of the mind, but to see with our hearts more and more. Happily, to see the blue sky and to let its vastness fill us till the mind becomes serene. Peacefully, to hear the tiny songbird, insignificant to the grand organ of sight, but so much in tune with what IS.

The faith grows, the trust grows, thanks to the grace of Sri Bhagavan. He is the mother, tirelessly gentle, ready to cradle the devotee in caring arms when it bruises itself so often because of stubborn vasanas of the past. He is there to hear the prayer of which the tongue and heart never tire, “Please help us to love more in our hearts each day”. He is the father, ever watchful and ready with the reminder of what we are here for, reminding us that our one and only freedom is in remembrance, in being with him and in him.

Thank you for your guidance, Bhagavan. It is in everything. The blessings pour in. They are for all nature. They are for me. They are for all humanity.

Jean Dunn


By Jean Dunn

BHAGAVAN Sri Ramana Maharshi was requested by Vasudeva Sastri in 1912 to allow his birthday to be celebrated by his devotees. Bhagavan refused to be drawn into our illusion and, as do all his actions and words, his reply on this occasion serves as a guide to bring us out of illusion into reality:

You who wish to celebrate the birthday, seek first whence was your birth. One’s true birthday is when one enters that which transcends birth and death - the Eternal Being.

At least on one’s birthday one should mourn one’s entry into this world (samsara). To glory in it and celebrate it is like delighting in and decorating a corpse. To seek one’s self and merge in the Self - that is wisdom.

Sri Bhagavan had no reasons of his own for anything he did. All was for our benefit. By ‘our’ I mean all of us who have been drawn to him and all those who in the future will be drawn to him. What was he teaching us by this verse? What does it mean, “Seek first whence was your birth”? Aren’t we all aware of who our parents are and the date of our birth? Yes, but that is the date of the birth of a body and the parents are the bodies from which this body is born. Are we the body? If so we will surely die. What did Bhagavan do when, as a youngster of sixteen, he was faced with the overwhelming certainty of immediate death? By a deep enquiry he discovered that he was not the body, that he was never born and would never die. That was his true birthday, when he “entered that which transcends birth and death — the Eternal Being”. He was reborn as the spirit Immortal. Ignorance had vanished and he knew his true identity — the Eternal Being. The illusion that he was a body in time and space died. We can only imagine that state, but because of Bhagavan, we know that it is possible for us also to attain. In truth, as he tells us, there is nothing to attain, only question the illusion and it will disappear.

“To seek one’s self and merge in the Self, that is Wisdom”. How to seek one’s self? Bhagavan has told us repeatedly to enquire, in every situation, whatever happens, “to whom is this happening?” “Who am I?”, to keep our attention focused on this ‘I’. Gradually our mind will lose interest in the magic show of the world and our own self will grow stronger. We have so many concepts about everything — our self, the world, God, and even the Absolute. These concepts we have gathered from others and made our own, thereby imprisoning ourselves. No one else binds us, we bind our self with bonds of illusion. The mind tends to be satisfied with words. If we can name a thing, we think we know it; we fail to seek the meaning of words. Bhagavan was uncompromising in his insistence that we need only remove illusion; no effort is needed for realization because it is already there. By persistent enquiry, ignorance will vanish. This is wisdom. We have great joy and good cause for celebration in the birth of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great sage whose presence will guide us out of our ignorance to wisdom. Although the body has died, the truth which is Bhagavan, our own Self, lives eternally.

Kumari Sarada


By Kumari Sarada

Life pours forth from the incomparable grace of Thy steady and shining eyes”. The light which pours forth from Sri Bhagavan’s vibrant eyes gives meaning and fulfilment to our lives. His serene presence draws us in silence and envelops every tiny detail of our daily existence. I too have partaken of his extravagant grace, my parents having been drawn to Bhagavan even before I was born. His loving grace and gentle smile solve all my problems, answer every question and clear all confusion. His presence, I feel, is the source of perennial joy for me. Our Master is an ocean, and blessed as I am, I am eager that all should share my blessedness. To satisfy such sceptics as may look down upon this subjective experience and in my eagerness to share my joy I would like to emphasise the objectivity and universal applicability of Bhagavan’s method of Self-enquiry, which will stand always as the simplest solution to every problem. I say this because Selfenquiry as taught by Sri Bhagavan only requires keen, alert and constant search for one’s own identity, by observing the source of the I-thought. Since the mind is a bundle of thoughts and all thoughts revolve round the I-thought, watching that thought introverts the mind back to its source, the Heart, our true identity.

The process of Self-enquiry is scientific and does not demand blind faith. On the other hand, constant awareness, alertness and keen, continued questioning is advocated. Ah! There is still scope to criticise - it is far too dry and intellectual! It is hridaya vidya, the knowledge of the Heart. One who is aware of the power of the immensity of the Heart through Self-enquiry experiences its presence in every activity so that even a routine activity like reading a newspaper is an act done with total absorption and spontaneity. Every act is natural — how then can it merely be intellectual or dry? The alertness to every minute of life is not an intellectual process but an awareness and aliveness of being which responds fully in all naturalness and hence most appropriately.

The method which Sri Bhagavan has taught and the perfection it implies appear too simple to be accepted by the mind. The human mind, which has conquered many complicated fields through scientific research, prefers not to accept the fact that in such a simple method lies the answer to everything. When Copernicus explained simpler orbits of the planets, he was burnt at the stake. Many may prefer to go in for things complicated and ornate, for the mind can revel in the glory of mastering such techniques.

Sri Maharshi’s teaching, easy as it is, gives no scope for this pride of mastery. Yet the method is attractive to the mind, because the mind is the fulcrum of Self-enquiry.

Self-enquiry as taught by Bhagavan Ramana is the greatest adventure as it is the adventure into the world of the spirit. It includes the adventure of science in its rational analysis, that of the explorer, as it explores the very nature of one’s being. And it is the adventure of the artist in its spontaneous creativity. What does it create? It creates and infuses life and beauty into our routine habits of existence. It is the simplest of methods but, being the greatest of adventures as well, it does not allow us to wallow in ease.

Why Ramana? Because his life was the living of this method, not in order to practise what he preached, not as an intellectualisation, but out of the spontaneity, the naturalness synonymous with Self-enquiry. I say naturalness because, Self-enquiry implies the constant awareness of our true nature.

Douglas E.Harding


By Douglas E. Harding

THOUGH I lived in India from 1937 to 1945 I did not, alas, get to see Ramana Maharshi. In fact, I knew almost nothing about him at that time. Since then, however, he has become one of the great influences in my life. I would like to acknowledge in this article, with immense gratitude, what I owe to him.

But first I must set on record, briefly, how things stood with me when, in 1959 in England, I first came across Arthur Osborne’s books about Maharshi. I had already seen Who I was. Back in 1943, when I was still in India, I had noticed the absence here of anyone and anything. Leading up to that vision I had for some years been inquiring, with growing intensity, into my true nature. In the main, this research had taken the thoroughly Western form of investigating how I appeared to observers at varying distances — from the normal human range of a few feet all the way down to the angstrom units of physics, and all the way up to the light-years of astronomy.

Clearly what my observers (including myself standing aside from myself) made of me depended upon their distance from here, how far off they happened to be. At great distances they saw this spot as some kind of heavenly body; in the middle distance they found a human body; at closer range (when suitably equipped with microscopes etc.) they discovered infra-human bodies — cells, molecules, atoms, particles ... In some sense I was all this, and more. How marvellous, how mind-boggling! But it only underlined, and did nothing to answer, the real, question: what lies right here, at the center of all these bodily shapes, these regional impressions of me? What is the reality of which these manifold views are mere appearances? It seemed unlikely that the scientist would ever get to the ultimate particles or waves, the basic substance, but would just go on unveiling, layer by layer, progressively featureless manifestations of that ever-elusive substratum. Yet this substratum, if any, was me, and therefore absolutely fascinating. I was stuck. How to penetrate to this central Unknown, which defies the inspection of the most brilliant researchers, armed with the subtlest of instruments.

Then, suddenly, I realised how silly this question was. How could I be accessible to them; how could I be inaccessible to myself? What outsiders make of me is their business; what I, the insider, make of myself is my business. They are the experts on how I strike them at x feet; I am the expert on how I strike myself at zero feet. I had only to dare to look at this Looker, here! What I saw then was, and is, the clearest, the simplest, the most direct and obvious and indubitable of all sights — namely the Space here, speckless, unbounded, selfluminous, vividly awake to itself as at once No-thing and the Container and Source of all things.

In the years that followed this discovery I had it for breakfast and dinner and tea. I soaked it up, lived with it, explored it, worked out some of its endless applications and implications.

And I tried, by every means I could find or invent, to share my delight with others. How miserably I failed! Some folks were intrigued, even me a fairly harmless eccentric, if not actually crazy. But what did it matter? Endorsement from way out there of what lies right here — this was as pointless as it was lacking.

All the same, I confess I often felt frustrated, lonely, and (very occassionally) discouraged. Not that I could ever doubt the actuality of what I saw myself to be here, and certainly I never questioned my own sanity. It was the world’s sanity that I questioned! I got on as best I could, very much on my own.

And then, in 1958, I started reading seriously the early Zen masters — and felt lonely no longer. Here were friends who described what was unmistakably my own experience of myself as void. O joy! And, on the heels of this delightful company, came Maharshi himself.

Why, I ask myself, did he become so important for me? Why is he still, for me, superb? What, specially, have I to thank him for? Firstly, I have to thank him for the gift of encouragement, a precious gift indeed. Not for confirmation of what I see (only I am in a position to see what’s right here); not for his support (right here is the support of all things); not for friendship or even love (unless one can be friends with oneself). I am having difficulty in saying what I mean by the kind of encouragement he gave me when I needed it most. Perhaps I should call it - his darshan. Anyhow, from then on my dedication to the One I-am was complete. No more wavering, no periodical discouragement, no other real interests than This.

Secondly, I have to record my gratitude to Maharshi for his insistence on the ever-present accessibility, the naturalness, the obviousness, of Self-realisation. Many a time I had been informed, and had read, that Enlightenment is of all states the rarest and the remotest and the most difficult - in practice, impossible - and here was a great sage telling us that, on the contrary, it was the easiest. Such, indeed, was my own experience, and I had never been intimidated by those religious persons who were careful to tell me that I couldn’t see what I saw. Nevertheless it was for me marvellously refreshing to find that Maharshi never sent inquirers away with instructions to work for liberation at some distant date.

It is not, he insisted, a glittering prize to be awarded for future achievements of any sort: it is not for earning little by little, but for noticing now, just as one is. Other sages, of course, have stressed the availability of this, but here Maharshi is surely the clearest, the most uncompromising, of them all. How wonderful to hear, him saying, in effect, that compared with Oneself all other things are obscure, more or less invisible, fugitive, impossible to get at: only the Seer can be clearly seen.

I suspect that it was because of this renewed assurance - Maharshi’s insistence on the present availability of Self-realisation — that it became possible for me at last to share this realisation with a friend, and then with several friends, and now with many friends. Today, I won’t accept that inquirers can fail to see their Absence. I don’t any longer ask them whether they can see this, but what it means for them. My job is to point out the Obvious, theirs to evaluate it. It is true that among the many who see, only a few surrender at once to What they see. This is not, however, the end of the story, and in any case the words ‘few’ and ‘many’, are inapplicable here. The problem of sharing This with others never was a problem. What others? — as Maharshi would say.

Which brings me to my third debt to him. I thank him for his uncompromising attitude to people’s problems. For him, all the troubles that afflict humans reduce to one trouble - mistaken identity. The answer to the problem is to see Who has it. At its own level it is insoluble. And it must be so. There is no greater absurdity, no more fundamental or damaging a madness, than to imagine one is centrally what one looks like at a distance.

To think one is a human being here is a sickness so deep-seated that it underlies and generates all one’s ills. Only cure that one basic disease — mistaken identity — and all is exactly as it should be. I know no Sage who goes more directly to the root of the disease, and refuses more consistently to treat its symptoms. WHO AM I? is the only serious question. And, most fortunately, it is the only question that can be answered without hesitation or the shadow of a doubt, absolutely.

To sum up, then, I thank Ramana Maharshi above all for tirelessly posing this question of questions, and for showing how simple the answer is, and for his lifelong dedication to that simple answer. But in the last resort all this talk of one giving and another taking is unreal. The notion that there was a consciousness associated with that body in Tiruvannamalai, and there is another consciousness associated with this body in Nacton, England, and a lot of other consciousness associated with the other bodies comprising the universe — this is the great error which Maharshi never tolerated. Consciousness is indivisible.

The Value of Book Learning

Once some very learned Sanskrit scholars were sitting in the old hall discussing portions of the Upanishads and other scriptural texts with Bhagavan. Bhagavan was giving them proper explanations and it was a sight to remember and adore! At the same time, I felt genuinely in my heart, ‘Oh, how great these people are and how fortunate they are to be so learned and to have such deep understanding and be able to discuss with our Bhagavan. Compared with them, what am I, a zero in scriptural learning?’ I felt miserable. After the pundits had taken leave Bhagavan turned to me and said, “What?”, looking into my eyes and studying my thoughts. Then, without even giving me an opportunity to explain, he continued, “This is only the husk! All this book learning and capacity to repeat the scriptures by memory is absolutely no use. To know the Truth, you need not undergo all this torture of learning. Not by reading do you get the Truth. BE QUIET, that is Truth, BE STILL, that is God”.

Then very graciously he turned to me again and there was an immediate change in his tone and attitude. He asked me, “Do you shave yourself?” Bewildered by this sudden change, I answered, trembling, that I did.

“Ah, for shaving you use a mirror, don’t you? You look into the mirror and then shave your face; you don’t shave the image in the mirror. Similarly all the scriptures are meant only to show you the way to realization. They are meant for practise and attainment. Mere book learning and discussions are comparable to a man shaving the image in the mirror”. From that day onwards the sense of inferiority that I had been feeling vanished once and for all.

Ursulla Muller


By Ursulla Muller

IN the night of December 21-22, 1964, I was told by the Lord Himself:

Within you I fulfill my word; Behold I am creating all anew.

These words arose out of the boundless depth of blissful silence and faded away again, leaving naught but an unlimited expanse. Throughout the night these words were repeated at long intervals until the young day was breaking.

At that time, I had been meditating already for about six years in accordance with Sri Ramana’s teaching. All the same, and especially at first, I felt I was not mature to receive such a communication from the one Father of all, and there was none to whom I would have dared speak of this new spiritual experience. Yet, in spite of the hardship of those days, I was always aware of the gracious hand of Sri Ramana whose glorious renewal of ancient lore had made me tread the blissful path to Arunachala Siva. Thus, I was able to realize in course of time that the Lord alone is the doer, within and without, while I was to stay silent to allow the divine in me grow and the poor ego decrease.

During my sadhana there was always Bhagavan Ramana’s guidance. He had for instance advised me to stop reading unnecessary things, at times with an apparent sense of humour, as can be deducted from the following incident.

Once after meditation late in the evening, I had gone to bed. In order to improve my knowledge of the English language, I would read some pages in English before sleeping. That evening I was going to have a short look into a copy of the Readers’ Digest. However, being tired, I was not able to read but was staring at some text in the booklet without taking in its contents. Suddenly I felt Bhagavan Ramana looking in smiling surprise over my shoulder at the text I was reading. Only now I cognized the heading of the article I was staring at, which was, Famous Recipes of German Housewives, a topic I for sure would not have selected consciously from the table of contents. It was now my turn to laugh silently at myself and to end the mistaken enterprise by switching off the light.

Again there was Sri Ramana’s loving guidance when I was physically and spiritually exhausted on account of having undertaken a new task without considering carefully enough, my daily meditation practice as well as my demanding part time office job. Having started hatha yoga at a yoga school, Ramana Maharshi wanted me to go on with my daily hatha yoga exercises despite my fatigue, as I learned from the following incident: One early morning, while sitting on the carpet ready to start my exercises, yet feeling tired, I suddenly found myself kneeling at the feet of Sri Ramana touching them with my forehead in utter devotion. Immediately I knew in my heart that I was to continue my regular exercises without considering my body’s condition. I have been following Bhagavan’s advice strictly until this day and am much better now.

On the other hand, when I was too fatigued for sitting in padmasana posture for meditation, Bhagavan taught me that silence alone is important and not the physical posture observed along with it. Subsequently I learnt to sit comfortably in an easy-chair during meditation time. This has been a great help for my continuous sadhana during the past years, and I gratefully bow down at Sri Ramana’s holy feet.

Kinder far art Thou than one’s own mother. Is this then Thy all-kindness, Oh Arunachala? My newest experience of Sri Ramana’s unceasing grace is only some days old. I had to stay at home on account of a sudden, serious cold and felt miserable, supposing that my hatha yoga practice might be too poor. Two or three days later, still in bed, I happened to take in hand an old copy of The Mountain Path and open it on page 117 where my eyes fell exactly on the passage, “Bhagavan’s feet are ever over your head”. A wave of bliss ran through my mind and body and a little later I could think of going on with my sadhana again.

May Sri Ramana’s grace be with all of us!

* * *

Sayings of Sri Bhagavan

A crippled disabled Brahmin came and complained: “O Bhagavan, right from my birth I have been suffering. Is it due to my past actions?”

Sri Bhagavan said:

We have to say that it is due to past actions. Then, if one asks what is the cause of those past actions, we have to bring in previous past actions and so on with out end. Instead of
enquiring into karma or actions, why not enquire whose karma it is? If we are the body, then let the body ask the questions.

When you say, you suffer, it is your thought. Happiness is our natural state. That which comes and goes is the ego. We think we are miserable, because we forget our essential nature, which is Bliss. Even an emperor, in spite of his wealth and power, often suffers because of his disturbed mind. The sage, who does not know where his next meal will come from, is ever happy. See who enjoys Bliss.