Sadhu Arunachala

Major A.W. Chadwick (Sadhu Arunachala)

The author was a well-known and ardent devotee of Sri Bhagavan, who stayed at the Ashram for over a quarter of a century without any thought of return to England. He used to spend many hours in meditation adhering strictly to a regular time-table. He was a model of steadfast sadhana which he kept up after Bhagavan’s Mahasamadhi till the end of his life in 1962.

RAMANA MAHARSHI WAS UNIQUE in that he was an out and out advaitin. There were no half-measures with him. Now to be an advaitin of this description is extremely difficult. While for most of us, it is all intellectual gymnastics, for him it was his life. At the early age of sixteen he had realized the Self, and had never swerved from it or come down to a lower function ever after. When he was asked about his movements in the temple and his period of mounam, if his state had not become more stabilized as a result of this sadhana he emphatically stated that, “No change had occurred, nothing new since then had ever happened. It’s the same now as then.”

But for himself he saw nothing wonderful in it. It was the natural state and it was really strange that others should find any difficulty in realising or being it themselves. “You are the Self ”, he repeatedly said, “nothing but the Self. How can you be anything else? There are not and cannot be two selves, one to know the other. Just be yourself!”

Put like this, of course, it sounds easy but experience teaches us another tale. Every word is true, but vasanas are so persistent and desires of such long standing that they get in the way and prevent the pure vision. Habits are deep within us and refuse to be rooted out. Countless are the number of existences lived in the past with which we have been associated. Just to sit quiet and forget them even for a moment seems impossible. Rather does it seem to cause those long forgotten existences to bubble up and fill the mind with their inanities. Yet sitting in his presence the thing became so transparent that one was convinced for the time being, that all troubles were ended, and one was forced back on oneself in spite of all obstacles. And this was the wonder of his presence. It was not in the few words he set on paper or the verbal instructions he gave to sincere enquirers that his real teaching lay but in his silent presence. Then questions would drop away unasked, difficulties of meditation vanished and the mind became still. It was unbelievable how easy it suddenly became. Not only the effect of his presence but the shining example of himself, left indelible marks on those who had the good fortune to spend some time with him. There was no use in saying it could not be done. Here was one who had done it. One might tell oneself that the state could be nothing but one of blankness and convince oneself that it was not to be desired but here was he, exhaling bliss which overflowed out of its superabundance to even the meanest of us sitting there with him. It was marvellous! Was there ever another like him? What silent power! And what a fountain of hope!


BHAGAVAN WAS DEEPLY interested in the construction of the shrine built over his mother’s samadhi. He attended every function in connection with it, placing his hands in blessing on the various objects that were to be enclosed in the walls. At night, when no one was about, he would walk round and round the construction consecrating it. That he should take such a demonstrative part in anything has a very deep significance. It was extremely rare and has been doubted by many, but I myself was an eye-witness to these things and can vouch for their truth.

He took a personal interest in the cutting of the Sri Chakra Meru in granite (pyramidal form), which was installed in the completed temple and is regularly worshipped. This is about one and a half feet square and proportionately high. At the time of the kumbabhishekam on the penultimate night before the sacred water was poured over the images, he personally supervised the installation in the inner shrine. It was an extremely hot night and with three charcoal retorts for melting the cement adding to the heat. It must have been intolerable inside the airless cave of the inner shrine. Yet for approximately one and a half hours Bhagavan sat there telling the workmen what to do.

On the last night of the function he went in procession, opening the doors of the new hall and temple and passing straight up into the inner shrine, where he stood for some five minutes with both hands laid on the Sri Chakra in blessing. I happened that night to be at his side the whole time. This was unusual, as I deliberately avoided taking a prominent part in such things, preferring to watch from the back.

Strangely, something made me keep by him on this occasion and on account of this I was able to understand his deep interest in the temple and especially in the Sri Chakra. It was because of this knowledge that I was instrumental, after Bhagavan’s passing, in persuading the Ashram authorities to institute the Sri Chakra pujas six times a month. The explanation for this unusual action on Bhagavan’s part may be found in the necessity of Siva always to be accompanied by Shakti. The world would stop otherwise. On the only occasion when such a puja was performed, shortly after the dedication of the temple during the life of Bhagavan, he refused to go for his evening meal, but insisted on remaining a witness of it until the end. Someone remarked how magnificent it had been and that it would be a good thing if such pujas could be performed regularly, “Yes, but who will take the trouble?” asked Bhagavan. Trouble is being taken now and it undoubtedly has the blessings of Bhagavan.