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

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

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

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

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

After lunch I went to Somasundaram Pillai who showed me my mistake. I came to Bhagavan and recited the verse correctly. “Who has shown you the mistake”? he asked. “It is useless to do so. Only when you yourself have found out where you were wrong will it remain firmly in your mind and you will have the knowledge and the capacity not to go wrong again.” On some other occasion Bhagavan gave me Vasudeva Mananam to read. I finished the book and brought it back to Bhagavan. “Have you read it”? he asked. “Yes, I did, but I understood nothing at all”. “That does not matter. We remember even if we do not understand at the moment. We may come to understand much later. We may think we forgot it, but nothing of real value is ever forgotten.” said Bhagavan graciously.

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

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